This photo here is a map (not to scale) of Millwood, where we live. It is not a gated community—yet. Would a gate at the single point of entry and exit to the neighborhood perhaps help boost the severely diminished property values of our outmoded '80s-designed suburban enclave? Some think it might.
Gate or no gate, it was a pretty quiet, safe place to be a kid. It is now a pretty quiet, safe place to be a cancer patient. And we are getting to know the neighborhood on a very intimate level.
We walk around Millwood at least once a day (see route in photo). Many times twice. Aside from needing some activity to digest the mass quantities of food I've been stuffing into my body the past week, it's really about the need for a change of scene. To be out of the house. To be going to point B from point A, even if point B really is point A to begin with.
(Annie has never lived in Suburbia before. For her, each trip around the loop makes her feel like she's living in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It has something to do with the landscaping. She keeps saying she needs to watch it again now that she lives in California. That she's going to see it through a whole new set of eyes.)
I feel I know what the other Millwoodians must be thinking. There go those two girls, pacing through the neighborhood again. Where did they come from? Who are they? Are they smoking weed? And then we disappear, around the corner at the end of the block, only to be seen again the next day, in the same outfits...
When we're not rollin' through the streets at a slow pimp pace, we bring beach towels onto the front lawn and have what we call "yard time." Sometimes we read, sometimes we nap, one time we listened to Abbey Road, but mostly we just sprawl around and chitchat with our new friends, the Ladies of the Cul de Sac.
Living in the house to our left is Wilma. She and Annie hit it off big time last year when she and her husband Bill came to vacation with my parents at the Island. Wilma calls our yard time "hanging out in Santa Cruz," and she comes over to lend me books, or show us the ladybugs she's releasing into her garden that evening, or just shoot the breeze. I don't know if she knows it yet, but she's Annie's new best friend.
Directly across the street lives a woman named Luann, a tall, quiet woman with excellent style and a dry sense of humor. She and my mom have become besties in the past few years, and are ever scurrying across the street to visit/help/hang out with another, especially if it's an American Idol night. Luann is also not a stranger to our yard time. Not only does she tolerate the view of us spread out like greasy pandhandlers right out front of her living room window, she has also come over to offer her DVD collection and introduce us to her six-year-old grandson. She is one classy lady, that Luann.
Lupe lives diagonally across to the left. She is the third in my mom's flock of lady friends. She makes some mean tamales and yesterday brought us a batch of homemade paella. She has spent the least time hangin' with us in the yard, but I'm pretty sure that's because she has a busier life than the rest of us.
The Ladies of the 'Sac are an older crowd than we're used to running with, but we sure do appreciate their company.
When yard time wears thin, or the sun goes behind a cloud, sometimes we go a little further afield and truck around Visalia in my High School Ride, a navy blue 1990 Isuzu Trooper (see photo) My dad has been babying that car for 21 years, and it drives like the day we bought it. It's still a lumbering beast of a car, but now it's like a cool, vintage lumbering beast.
We just roll down the window, get some '90s jams on the radio (a little Will Smith here, a little Tupac there, a little TLC on the side), and it's like being in a time machine. The car feels like an extension of me that got disconnected long ago—driving it is like being reunited with a phantom limb. I feel like I could drive that car around these streets in my sleep.
And this, right now, is what cancer looks like for me. Walking around the neighborhood, driving around town, singing along to the music, and laying under a straw hat in the sun. I mean, I still have hive outbreaks and emotional breakdowns and less-than-champion moments, but overall, things are pretty mellow. It's not a walk in the park, but the walking certainly helps.