In some versions of the fairytale Cinderella, as told by the Brothers Grimm and not Walt Disney, the wicked stepmother throws two shovelfuls of lentils into the hearth ashes and commands Cinderella to pick them out if she is to go to the ball. In other versions, it is linseed (flaxseed) that is hurled into the ashes. What is thrown is not important. What is important is that Cinderella is given the impossible task of separating the small beans or seeds from the grit and ashes.
Cinderella cannot complete the task, but she does not have to. Instead, the turtledoves who nest in the tree over her mother's grave and the other birds of the air fly down and quickly peck out the clean from the dirty, the food from the cinders.
I have been back from my trip to the Mayo Clinic for two weeks now. There is still a medical issue to sort out and I still have to sit down with my oncologist at month's end to discuss the next line of treatment. All the same, I have a good idea of where I am at and what lies ahead. The relapses are coming more closely together and the branch I am way out on is getting thinner and cracklier.
I have been sharing the story with those closest to me. At times I tell the tale with a large dash of bravado. Sometimes I tell it more quietly. Sometimes there are tears. Judith reached over and held my hand while I talked. Mel leaned her head against my shoulder. Margo put her arm around me when both of our voices broke.
The one universal response is "what can I/we do to help you?" It is said with fervor, it is said with love, it is said with commitment, it is said in any number of ways, but it is always the same. "What can I do to help you?"
My answer is always the same. Right now, nothing really. But the day will come when Warren and I will need a helping hand or some friendly assistance. And that is when all these wonderful people in my life, the ones already flocking around me, will descend upon my lifer like Cinderella's birds and pick the good of the ashes.