Adam Warner: Husband
Produced by Sean Cole and Ashley Ahearn. Edited by Nick van der Kolk. Special thanks to Aaron Henkin, Sarah Lu, and Eva Wolchover,PLAYLIST
Song – Artist – Album
Telescope – Tristan Perich – Compositions
Elevator Up (Intro) – Solvent – Subject to Shift
Plasma is for Lovers – Lobisomem – Brightest Solids
Amazon Bike Tits – Megabats – Goes to a Lemon
Moog River – Funki Porcini – On
The Clap Song – Touane – Awake
In Case of Sorrow – Akamu – Ström
Intervales Theme – Javelin – No Más
17:14 28 Nov. 2009 – Shinobu Nemoto – Improvisation Air 1
15:24 15 June 2010 – Shinobu Nemo – Improvisation Air 2
If You Have an Enemy – Leafcutter John – The Housebound Spirit
Mittermacht – Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Oceanview – Atlas Sound – Bedroom Databank Vol. 2
So how often do you run?
This past week has been really bad, but usually I try to go at least three times a week. I haven’t run in like four days… Today might be rough.
What do you think about when you’re running?
I guess the stuff that I have to get done… That just takes a while with this trip, or what I’m gonna write about next, or… You know, it’s a really good way for me to sort through my to-do list.
Have you ever been a runner?
No, I’m not a runner.
It must be love…
Yeah, it definitely is love.[Number 4 – Live in at least five different countries. So far I’ve only got Canada and Korea]
Megan and I met in 2007 on a friend’s roof.
Where was this?
This is in Seoul, South Korea.
And why were you there?
She and I were both English teachers. Our mutual friend, whose name is Joanna… I met Joanna my first day in Korea, and from the second day she started talking about her best friend that was coming over to live and teach. From the beginning, she said “You can’t date. You can’t date. You’re not allowed to date this girl.” We had a really big group of friends that were all really tight, and she was concerned that it would ruin the friend dynamic.
So, naturally, when somebody says that, of course you want to explore that. It seemed like such a ridiculous thing that our friend was making a huge deal about us not being able to date, so I turned it into a big joke, and would send this girl that I didn’t know at all just like really weird e-mails and stuff that didn’t make any sense; or like lyrics to really cheesy pop songs.
When Joanna was telling we weren’t allowed to date, before Megan came to Korea, I sent her the lyrics to this song:[Last night I had a dream that we went to Disneyland.
We went on all the rides, didn’t have to wait in line.
I drove you to your house, where we stared up at the stars.
I listened to your heartbeat as I held you in my arms…]
San Dimas High School Football Rules, by the Ataris was the lyrics to that song that I sent her.[Nothing could go wrong any time that I’m with you…]
You’re blushing right now, for the record…
Yeah… Thanks.[…or leading up to that first kiss]
I think when they wrote this song… I hope that when they wrote this song that they were joking, because it’s so ridiculous.[These are the things that make me free.
I feel like I’m stuck in “Stand By Me”]
That was my intention, anyways… It was like a joke.
So you meant it ironically…
Yeah, I totally meant it ironically.[I’d even have Wayne Newton dedicate this song to you]
It is kind of a funny way to start dating, to joke about starting to date.
Yes, it was totally… We spent like two months joking about dating, and then she got there and we dated like a month later.
I wonder if the joking… If that sort of gave you guys like a common ground to begin with, do you know what I mean?
Yeah. Yeah, I think that did form some sort of bond, or something that I don’t know if we would have had otherwise. Well played by me….[Just dump your boyfriend and go out with me.
I swear I’d treat you like a queen.]
She liked wearing dresses a lot. It’s nice when girls wear dresses… It just sounds dumb to say that… I think it’s a different aesthetic…
… as opposed to pants.
Yeah. Yeah, and it’s really comfortable and easy. There’s nothing wrong with women wearing jeans, believe me; I think women look great in jeans, but…
You’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger is what you’re saying.
I mean, I saw her pictures and stuff, and I knew that she was pretty, but I don’t know… I was definitely like taken aback, and I was definitely intimidated. My friend that was leaving the following day ended up talking to her way more than I did. I did the introduction and that was about it that night.
You couldn’t deal with more yet…
Yeah, not yet. It was too much.
We went on like our first real date, I guess you could call it… It was still like in a group setting. We sort of like, we split off at the bar… She and I just split a pitcher of whatever terrible beer that they serve in Korea. I don’t know, I think after that night both of us were fairly certain that we liked each other and wanted it to, like, be something. Yeah, it was really natural.
You say that as though she was your first girlfriend, like the vagaries of nature were at play.
I’m just, I think I’m largely confused by women, but… No, I wasn’t… I mean, I’ve dated other people before and it just didn’t feel the same.
How did it feel different?
It just… I don’t know, I had that uh-oh moment, or whatever you wanna call it, when we would hang out and that to me signaled that this might be more than just a casual dating relationship.
We developed this habit of getting on city buses and just riding it to the end of the line. In Seoul the transportation is so cheap… You go really far outside the city, too, so you get to see really interesting, crazy parts of Korea, so we’d just hop on a bus and ride it to the end.
Megan found a brochure for this place called The Eight Wonders of Danyang. They played it up like it’s a huge deal. They had tons and tons of brochures about this place – it’s totally underwhelming. They have a mystical waterfall, and you get there in that town… I mean, it’s a rock face, and they literally flick a switch and it turns into a waterfall, like water comes out of it. They pump water up there from the river, and shoot it down the face of this rock, and they have lights underneath. That’s the big waterfall in town.
They had a crossbow range there. It was an actual crossbow that you could shoot at balloons. It was awesome, it was so awesome! So I won Megan a stuffed bear, or something stupid.
That’s incredibly dangerous.
It was so sketchy… It was great! There were no tourists there, there were like two hotels and one of them had holes in the roof…
So that was your place only…?
Yes, I think that was our one-year anniversary, or we just decided that that was our anniversary time.
Do you remember the first time you guys exchanged I love you’s?
Yeah. In the beginning we had a little bit of a rough patch, and I think it was overly dramatic on both of our parts back then. She was upset in the background, and I was upset, and I didn’t want to talk to anybody. Joanna called me and she kept telling me, “She keeps saying she loves you,” and stuff.
Really? So she told you through Joanna.
Yeah, that was the first time… But then, like 20 minutes later she actually came over and said it. And I don’t know, I was surprised by it. I wasn’t uncomfortable with the idea, I was just surprised that she said it before I did, I think. But then I said it, a month later, after we went to this Mexican restaurant with a bunch of our friends, in the cab ride home. I told her, “You’re really important to me and I love you.”
So what was the squabble about that was happening in the background?
I really like movies a lot, so I would download them and just want to watch it right then and not wait for anybody. So I would watch a movie without her… She really didn’t even care about the movie, she just wanted to watch it with me. It was stuff like that that we would fight about. We were having an argument for like five minutes, and then we wouldn’t talk for one, and then we’d be fine. It was just kind of like I gotta get it out.
You wouldn’t talk for one minute?
One minute, yeah. Just be quiet, and then…
That is the shortest silent treatment I’ve ever heard.
Our fights were really sad. We didn’t have epic blowouts where people are, like, throwing stuff.
The next summer, in 2008, she felt a lump and then she wanted to get it checked out. Everybody, of course, is like, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s not going to be a big deal.” I remember being a little – definitely worried… Your mind naturally kind of goes in every direction possible to maybe try and prepare you for all of the outcomes. So yeah, I was definitely scared, but I really honestly didn’t think it would be anything.
She rode the hour-long bus from Seoul to the airport and met me in the airport, and then we rode the hour-long bus back in. She’d already had the biopsy, so we went in to talk to the doctor about the result of it. I wasn’t being irrational or anything I didn’t think. I thought they would tell her it was nothing, I expected that. We sat down in this little office, and…
Korean doctor, yeah. I mean, he didn’t speak perfect English, so he didn’t want to… I think he didn’t want anything to be lost in translation. He wanted to be very honest, and be nice, and be comforting, but you know… He struggled. He just says like, “You have – it’s bad. This is not good, you have like a…” you know, he just kind of danced around it for a second, and then just said it. “You have breast cancer.”
She immediately went into the I-have-to-know-everything-about-this mode, so I’m fully prepared for it and I have control over this.
Right that second?
Right that second. It was like a switch. Her head didn’t drop, she was just like instantly, “Okay, I’m going to deal with this now, and this is how we’re going to do it.”
And I was trying to find something to throw through his computer. She wanted some time with the doctor alone, to sort of discuss what it meant, and what kind of treatment, and how severe it was, and all that, and I just… I just sat in the lobby and, I don’t know, went kind of numb, really…
What was going through your head?
I don’t know, how unfair it was, or how frustrating it was that that happened to her. Yeah, just how unfair that was, I think… So after she was done with the doctor, we went downstairs and had to pay for all the X-rays and all that stuff. Then we left and went and sat outside for a while she called her parents and I called my parents.
What did you say to your parents?
I think I just said that Megan had breast cancer, and that was probably it.
And do you remember what your parents said?
I think they were pretty stunned, and they just said that it will be okay. I was just thinking that we had to leave Korea as soon as possible, for treatment and all that. She went back to Petrolia, and I moved back to DC.
Wait, so she was in Canada. You weren’t even in the same country.
No… Yeah, it was not easy at all. I had to fly to Detroit and either rent a car or get picked up and then drive across the border, and get hassled by the border guards, and then drive another half hour to her house. The healthcare in Canada is awesome, and healthcare in the States is really good if you have a job that will pay for your healthcare. I didn’t have that, so she couldn’t move here.
All of 2009 was, like, breast cancer treatment. She had a mastectomy. When they were doing that, they found more cancer cells than the lymph node in her armpit, so they removed all of the lymph nodes, mostly as a precaution. They wheeled her into the room and I just, like, walked in. I’m sure that they wanted us to be patient about it, and let her come out of whatever drug-induced fog she’s in because of sedatives or whatever… But you know, I’d had enough of waiting at that point, so I just sort of like walked into the room and made sure that she was all right.
It took probably a month for the surgery to heal, and then they started her on chemo right away. It’s pretty intense trying to do chemo. Your fingernails turn really yellow, and some of them almost came off, which is pretty normal for it. It’s gruesome and it’s awful.
And she dealt with it.
She definitely… She more than dealt with it. She documented the whole thing in a blog. It was like a really straightforward, honest approach to what happens when you’re young and you deal with breast cancer. She couldn’t find this on her own, she wanted to put it out there to help other people, so other people would get encouragement and insight. So she’d been documenting the whole thing; she put pictures of the scar that she had on her chest, or what her hair looked like when it’d all fallen out, or her fingernails. I think that took a lot of strength to do, and it was really important for her to do that, so that somebody else along the way would see it.
Cancer is awful, and it’s especially awful for women because the things that they go through, like they lose all the things that outwardly make them a woman, and it’s so unfair. Any woman that goes through breast cancer treatment is like a superhero. Women are held up to this standard where they have to look a certain way, and they have to have long, wavy hair, and have perfect hourglass figure… Breast cancer treatment just destroys all of that. It really tears you down.
She’s pretty self-sufficient. She often times was comforting me more than I was doing for her, making me feel better about it.
That’s so interesting… I mean, it’s like on top of needing to go through her own emotional gantlet, she’s sort of navigating you through yours.
Yes, but she was that much stronger. It wasn’t a huge burden to her to take care of people. This thing that you love, this perfect thing that you went out and found, that is all yours, and loves you just as much as you love it is now being dissected and taken apart… It just felt really unfair, and sad, and like I feel guilty.
Because it didn’t happen to me, and it happened to her, I don’t know…
So what happened next, you did chemotherapy, then radiation?
After radiation she had periodic check-ups and those came back clear. Her hair started growing back, and she was really excited to have haircuts and get a job… Last winter, when she and I came out here, my parents live in an RV and were camping on the beach in San Diego. She came and spent San Diego and met all of my family out here. That was a great trip, yeah.[Number 17 – Get married. No pressure, Adam]
How did marriage first come up?
I’d been thinking about it for a long time…
Before or after the diagnosis did you start thinking about it?
Probably after, when we moved back. I didn’t make very much money, so I couldn’t save. I was just paying bills, basically, so I didn’t really have enough money to get her a ring or anything…
Although you don’t necessarily need a ring in order to get married…
No, that’s true. But you search your whole life for the perfect person, you know what I mean? Like, your other half. And I found that. I wanted everything to be perfect for her.
I got my grandmother’s earrings – she had these huge earrings that had four diamonds on them, and I had them make that into… It was a pretty hefty ring, because they were really big earrings. I sort of felt bad about that, but… I mean, it looked really awesome.[Number 21 – Go ice skating in the Rideau Canal]
We went to Ottawa for the weekend. It was just like a big family weekend… You know, go up and hang out and check out Ottawa, and we wanted to go ice skating on the Rideau Canal. So I’d planned to propose on the canal… It was this huge, awesome, perfect, romantic thing that I had worked out. Then we get there and it’s like 50 degrees, and all of the ice had melted…
I didn’t want to leave Ottawa without proposing to her. I proposed in the hotel room, at like seven in the morning, when we woke up. She was an early riser and would get bored, so if you didn’t wake up then she would start poking you. But I tricked her into getting me a water bottle. I told her I was really thirsty and wanted some water, and she’s like, “What? You’re just as far from the water as I am, you can do that yourself.” I was like, “I don’t feel like it.”
That’s so lame.
Yeah I know, that was really weak. It was the best that I could do on the spot. She came back in with the water bottle, and I had put it on her pillow… She’s like, “What is that?” “It’s a ring.” She’s like, “Well, what’s it for?” “Well, it’s for you. Will you marry me?” “You’re an idiot.”
It was not like the smoothest thing ever, but that was… I mean, our relationship was always like me being really goofy and not doing things the way that they’re supposed to be done, or they just don’t work out well and I look like an idiot basically, so…
So you weren’t on one knee?
On the bed, I was. She was standing up, so I was still on one knee, but on the bed, so we were at the same level.
The ultimate reason for getting married is that I definitely knew that I wanted to be with her forever. She was, no question, the best thing about me, because she brought out things that I didn’t know about myself that were really positive and good. She challenged me to make myself better.[Number 11 – Complete the ‘Weekend to End Breast Cancer’ 6 km walk in Toronto]
In January 2010 she started getting headaches, really bad headaches that just wouldn’t ever go away. She went into the doctor, they did CT scans, or MRIs, or whatever. It had metastasized, it had come back as two tumors in the back of her brain.
When breast cancer comes back in the brain, it’s sort of… I mean, it’s basically unreachable. We knew that it was terminal, we just didn’t know how long.
It went downhill really, really quickly. Yeah. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital, and we were there, and the doctor told us what was going on, and everything. They gave her the choice of going back home, like, making her comfortable enough to go back home, or passing away in the hospital, and she chose the hospital.
Why, do you think?
I think because she didn’t want to make it hard on her family to be in the house. She didn’t want anything negative associated with her bedroom, or any part of the house. She didn’t want her family to feel that… Yeah, until the end she was taking care of people, the very end.
Me and her mom and her dad were in the room with her when she passed away.
Was she coherent when she talked?
Yeah, she wanted to know how long, and her dad said not long. She told her mom it was going to be okay, and then laid back and was totally comfortable, and went to sleep… It was weird. It was really strange.
I read your most recent blog post and I was like, wow… I was thinking something along the lines of, “I can identify with a fraction of a fraction of that feeling,” do you know what I mean? Because I felt like it’s the worst possible breakup, times one billion.
Yeah. I actually thought something similar when I was trying to quantify the feelings, or whatever… But this is different, this is very, very… I mean, I don’t want to diminish what it’s like to go through a breakup because it does suck, but this is like really insanely tangible pain, like physical… My stomach… I remember right when she passed away, I remember not being able to stand up. I was bent over sobbing and not being able to right myself. I couldn’t stand up because it hurt so bad. That literally feels like being crushed, getting hit by a bus, being run over by a train. It’s instantly leveling… Yeah.[Number 26 – Travel to India to volunteer with children]
I’m in Jaisalmer, which is furthest city West you can go before you hit Pakistan, and there’s just like cattle, and goats, and pigs, all wandering around the town. Every couple of weeks a few guys will come out and round up a whole bunch of pigs, like ten of these pigs and put them in a net, and haul them off to the bigger hotels that are outside this city, for the tourists and foreigners’ ham and bacon in the morning. It sounds like there’s people outside, pulling the skin off an animal; it’s the most blood-grueling squeal I’ve ever heard. I didn’t know pigs had it in them. They literally live in the sewer system, the open thing. They spend all of their time rooting through the sewers; it’s a pretty gross cycle of food, I would think.[Number 7 – Master the following: sewing, knitting and crocheting. I’m on my way with knitting and sewing…
Number 6 – Spend at least a hundred hours volunteering. So far I’m up to 40 hours.
Go to an NHL game – I don’t really care where, I just want to go.
Number 10 – Read at least 12 books a year]
The first thing that I thought of right after she passed away, right outside the hospital – this was the first moment of clarity that I had…[Number 23 – Get some darn shiny, nice, new glasses]
…Megan had this list of goals, and she posted on her blog a list of things that she wanted to accomplish before she passed away.[Number 8 – Become part owner of a bed and breakfast with Adam.
Number 12 – Own a little cottage by a lake.
Number 2 – Learn another language.
Number 20 – Go snowshoeing.
Number 1 – Hold a Ph.D.]
It was the one thing that I knew that I had to do. I didn’t have necessarily a purpose before, other than to be with Megan and make her happy every day. I think this is subconsciously a way for me to still feel like I’m connected to her.[Number 13 – Take the train across Canada]
I don’t know what I’m supposed to or going to come to as far as conclusions, or things that I’m supposed to work through on the train. I’m honestly really kind of scared to be alone with my own thoughts.
I knew that I’m on a pilgrimage of some sort. I don’t know what I’m trying to explain, or find, or feel, or search for. I know that I want to do these things and keep writing about them for the exact same reason that Megan initially put this out. I myself can’t find resources, other than really lame hundred-page books from the seventies that you find in the library about what to do with grief now. I want other people to be able to relate in a very real way, and I want to be completely honest about all this stuff, like Megan was.
That’s the most comforting stuff for me, when people tell me, “This is probably the worst thing that will happen to you. It’s not going to get better any time soon.” That does so much more for me than somebody who says, “Time heals all wounds.” That’s so worthless, it’s so worthless…
This is a hard question to ask, but I guess I wonder – maybe this just isn’t something that you’ve thought of yet, but I wonder if doing this, fulfilling the goals on the list and that kind of thing will make it even harder down the road to kind of move on… You know, perhaps, eventually someday meet somebody else, whatever it is… Do you know what I mean?
I do know what you mean. I think… I don’t think – I know Megan wants me to be happy, I know that she wants me to move on, she’s tried to talk to me about it…
You mean, lately?
No… Okay, she tried to talk to me about it before she passed away. She would try to bring it up and be like, “I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to be upset and go live by yourself in a shack in the woods, and drink yourself to death.” I know that she wants that for me, but I don’t… None of that feels right right now, so I’m not going to do that… Completing her goals, trying to finish these things for her, because of her – that feels right. It might make it harder, but I honestly don’t want to look for something better. I don’t want to move on, I don’t want to feel better about it. I don’t want to pretend like this isn’t a thing for me anymore. I still want to feel upset, and feel broken hearted, and… Yeah.[ – Oooooh….
– Too much pressure, Adam? Too much pressure?
– Too much pressure….
– You’re ridiculous. You’re ridiculous.
– Oooooh… Wow…]