I’m a creature of habit. I take great comfort in the rituals and traditions of everyday life. There are certain routes I like to take–usually out-of-the-way and less traveled. I like to do certain things in a certain order. I usually walk Kallie on the same exact walk and mutter very bad things when someone and their dog cause us to change course. (My Chow hasn’t learned what “aloof” is yet despite of my best attempts to show her.) It’s almost Rainman-esque. But I gotta be me.
When Ken was undergoing radiation therapy or chemo, there was a specific route I would take on the drive to Creticos Cancer Center. On a tiny street that straddles the Metra train tracks not too far from our apartment, we discovered some kind of drawing on an access ladder up to the tracks. It looked like a monster, so we named it “Munstah”–that’s just the way we said it. And each day, as we drove to and from treatment we would try to remember to greet Munstah. Mornings were easier, because it was fresh on our minds, and Ken wasn’t weary or sick from treatment. One of us could be mid-sentence and the other would greet Munstah. It sort of became a game to see who would remember to greet him first.
I noticed on a drive recently that Munstah was gone. Like he’d never been there. I even pulled over the car and looked around, thinking I might have gotten the spot wrong and perhaps it was covered up by the wild flora. But, alas, Munstah was gone.
I haven’t taken that route very often since Ken died–except on the few visits I’ve made to the Creticos to deliver home-baked goodies to the nurses and staff who I admire so much. I’d driven past it a few other times greeting it in the way we used to, and probably many more times so lost in thought, I paid little attention to the ritual. Or purposely didn’t acknowledge Munstah like so many things I didn’t want to acknowledge after Ken died.
For some reason the ritual of greeting Munstah popped into my head the other day. And it felt like our drives past him couldn’t possibly have been two years in the past. So often I think of the little in-jokes and games Ken and I played, and how it was a ritual we derived so much pleasure and laughter from. It was part of him, and something I think he shared with many people in his life. He was verbal and thoughtful and creative.
I’m not so certain I’d have cared about the ritual of greeting Munstah if I were on my way to be poisoned for eight hours or to lie uncomfortably for 30 minutes to achieve a position so I could be radiated for 30 seconds. But he did. He was ever-present in every moment–a quality I admired then when I could bear to consider it, and one I admire even more greatly now. One I try so hard to embrace. And one that I still find so elusive at times.
I found this image of Munstah via Google Maps. His face is blurred. Ken would find that funny.