I always get jittery in May. It’s the month that reminds me my stay here on earth is temporary. The first time I got the message I could say, “It hit me like a truck.” Only, it was a car speeding down 5th Avenue; a double lined road in the small town of East Northport where I grew up. I was 13 and crossing the street after a friend had given me a ride half-way home. I remember I was thinking, I really must practice the piano today. That was all that was in my head at the moment of impact. My right hip met the right fender of the car and I flew through the air. I don’t remember the flying part. I woke up on the road with a crowd gathered around me. My shoes had been blown off by the impact. Someone in the distance was screaming, “She’s dead, she’s dead.” I could barely comprehend and just lay there. I wished, actually prayed, this was all a bad dream. I hated being the center of attention. My eyes slowly focused on a pair of beige paten-leather boots that stood by my head in line with my eyes. They were well-worn with nicks at the tips and scuff marks. I knew them immediately and instead of comfort, I felt dread when I saw them. I knew then this wasn’t a dream.
I was lying in the middle of the road and there was a man by my left shoulder. He told me not to move. I couldn’t have even if I had wanted to. “Mam is this your daughter?” The beige boots answered, “Yes, that’s Mae.” I must have been unconscious for a while as it is a good 5 minute drive from my parents home to the spot I now occupied. My dad was there too only I didn’t know it then. He was under the car that hit me fetching my shoes. My father is very practical and wouldn’t let a perfectly good pair of shoes go to waste.
I was scooped up by a shovel, put on a stretcher into an ambulance and then taken to the hospital. During the ride, I was asked inane questions. “What day is this? What’s your name? How old are you?” I know now they were testing me for brain damage. Back then, they were annoying me as I wanted only to disappear into the stretcher…
No bones broken, just severe bruising and cuts. I couldn’t walk right and was sent home that night to recover. My brother’s room was on the first floor of our house and I was put in his bed to convalesce with a cow bell from Switzerland by my side. My mother thought it would be a good idea for me to ring it when I needed help. That lasted all of a day as the ring rattled all of our nerves.
The night I came home from the hospital, I had my first realization I would die. It hadn’t occurred to me until then and I shivered in fear at the thought. Everyone in the house was asleep. In the darkness, the fear closed my throat and I nearly drowned in the sadness that enveloped me. I made it through that night and wouldn’t have that feeling again for another 35 years. It would be May again and this time the blow would come over the phone. “I’m so sorry but the core biopsy came back that you have cancer.” The doctor was so matter of fact. We talked for a bit as I drifted into shock. I already had a lumpectomy scheduled for mid month. Little did I know then that by the end of the month, we would be scheduling my mastectomy.
A year later at the end of May, I went to the gynecologist for a check-up. Bleeding between periods had me on edge. The doctor took a biopsy of my uterine wall. I would learn in June that the cells looked suspicious. By the end of that month, I had my hysterectomy. This time they didn’t find cancer, only cells behaving badly. “Good news,” my surgeon said with a smile, “We caught it just in time.” My throat still closes in the night as fear wraps coldly around me. I hate the idea of my life ending.
May begins in a few days. If I could skip the month, I would. Fingers and toes crossed I will avoid the hot seat. Fingers and toes crossed that maybe, just maybe this will be a dull year. With any luck, I’ll have another 35 years of dull days. Fingers and toes crossed, I’ll even take just 20.