Everyone ignored me as I filled up my car. All the other people filling theirs looked okay, just going along living their lives. I was just another guy putting gas in his car. They should have noticed me. I was well into my chemotherapy. All of my hair was gone, even my eye lashes.
I was so weak it was difficult to walk from the car into Walmart, and then I had to walk up and down the aisles with rest stops along each one. I never asked for help from the employees. You get that “I’m new here” gaze as they quickly scan the aisle markers coupled with “This isn’t my department,” followed up by either “I think it’s on aisle ten” (everything’s on aisle ten) or “Let me get someone from this department.” Then they disappear.
I’m already tired enough. Who wants to wait on someone else, who’s going to end up going to ask the manager? Who wants to traipse over to aisle ten only to lose your religion when you find ten is not it?
That was what I was thinking, standing at the Mobil station. No one took a second glance at me and my hairless, silky-smooth head. I was just another guy getting gas. I realized that none of these people know I’m suffering the effects of Vinblastin, Vincristine, Mustard, and whatever else the doctors are filling me up with. Not only did I feel like a steaming pile of fill in the blank. I was suffering mentally. I thought: I may not make it. I may leave Les with our one-year-old daughter, Eleanor. What are they gonna do when I’m gone?
How Many Suffer?
Then I looked again at each one of those people ignoring me. My chemo-muddled mind had one clear moment. How many of these people are suffering just like me and I can’t tell? They looked as if they were just going along living their normal daily lives, but I couldn’t be certain.
How many were suffering the loss of a loved one? How many had a miserable marriage and contemplating breaking up their families? Who had a sick kid in the hospital? Who was all alone day and night? I couldn’t tell.
Standing at the Mobil, there was all of beautiful humanity and I was a part of it. Among all those people, even in my sickness, I may have been able to lift up and encourage some, while others may have been able to lift up and encourage me. We all suffer individually, but self-sacrificing Love (but I repeat myself) makes us one. We all need someone, anyone, to come and shoulder our burdens, to lift us up, to unite their suffering to ours, pray for us, and in that moment become family.
Travis Jones is a blue collar dad filling up his journal for his girls.