The Real Life Test

Chapter Eleven
Moving Plans

August 1994


Chapter One: 1993
Chapter Two: November 30-December 16
Chapter Three: December 17-January 1
Chapter Four: January 1994
Chapter Five: February 1994
Chapter Six: March 1994
Chapter Seven: April 1994
Chapter Eight: May 1994
Chapter Nine: June 1994
Chapter Ten: July 1994
Chapter Eleven: August 1994
Chapter Twelve: September 1994
Chapter Thirteen: October 1994
Chapter Fourteen: November 1994

Monday, August 1

At 8:00 the phone rang; it was Cindy. "When would be a good time for me to come over?"

"Umm... how about 9:30?" I had to wash my hair this morning. But I dressed and made up with time to spare. I just wore shorts and a little novelty shirt with gingham and calico heart pattern.

Cindy, in "Sam" mode, arrived on time and I said hello to her spouse who was driving. I would take Cindy back later so they could catch their flight.

Cindy got to meet all my roommates and we all enjoyed our time together. I got out some of my old pictures from 1991-1992 when I had first "come out" with my gender conflict; Cindy remembered many of them.

I went into great detail about my plans and dreams for my new life. Cindy understands me as well as anyone. We share a strong spiritual faith and a similar geographic and educational background.

Of course, Cindy/Sam remains fairly muscular since hormones are not an option at this time. I had a lovely Carole Little size 14 transitional dress for early fall; it was now much too big for me, but should fit Cindy well. She was delighted for the gift.

We exchanged big hugs and I drove her back to the rendezvous point. Thank goodness for our long distance E-mail friendship; I know I can always be close to Cindy.

My application for hospital medical staff in Phoenix arrived and I spent some time just figuring out how to complete it. It'll take a day or two, but matters seem to be moving rapidly enough now.

Theresa called from work, and wanted me to go to dinner with her tonight. This news made Margaux nervous. She knows how stressed I am over this move and the prospects of everyone accompanying me. As I dropped Margaux off at work, she reminded me to stand by my decisions.

Gail arrived from work in time to go to dinner with us. With her present, Theresa did not feel open to discuss her plans with me; so the dinner at Lucky China was not as difficult as it might have been. Unfortunately, we still have not resolved the issue. Tomorrow I will get more advice from Dr. Powell about it.

Tuesday, August 2

After a morning of housecleaning, practicing my T'ai Chi, and answering mail, I put on my plaid Talbot's sundress for my session with Dr. Powell. Driving over to Smyrna has become more difficult with the interstate road work. I'm glad I won't be doing it much more.

Dr. Powell was even more emphatic than Lynn and Jerry Montgomery. He doesn't want me burdened by reminders of my past life, and he sees Phoenix as the opportunity for a complete fresh start. He is confident of my ability to succeed (as am I). At the end of the session he typed a letter to Dr. Schrang, giving his consent for my surgery. This "surgery letter" is a coveted possession for every pre-operative transsexual person, and I was quite pleased to get it.

Afterwards I typed a letter of my own, to be given to each of the girls. Here is the text of it:

Tuesday 8/2

Dear Theresa, Margaux, and Gail,

Perhaps writing this letter will be the best way to communicate with everyone and be assured of saying my piece without forgetting anything.

These next few months are going to be a time of change, and we all need to know where we stand. I think you all know how much I care about each of you. I really do feel like the "Mom" in this household, and I am proud of my three grown daughters.

But, after all, we are all grownups and we have some major life decisions to make. This particular decision, the move to Phoenix, is my life-changing move. I am responsible for its success or failure, and I want desperately for it to succeed. It will be very stressful at best, with the surgery followed so soon by returning to practice.

I need to make the initial move on my own; finding new life circumstances, new job, new friends, new church... I need to begin by living in the real world with all my past baggage behind me.

As I have said before, I can't tell anyone what they will or will not do. You may wish to come to Phoenix on your own; but I am not ready for a roommate situation in my first months there. The obvious exception to this rule is my immediate postoperative period, when I would benefit with some help in my recovery. More about that in a moment.

Gail: you already have some good plans for completing school and making money here. They will work! Stay with the plan and get your surgery. Then you will be free to go anywhere you wish, and I'd love to see you visit me and look for prospects if that's what you want.

Theresa: you also need to complete some unfinished business here. We've talked about it. I have trouble telling you these things face to face, and I apologize for that. But I want you to pay off your obligations, and that includes the Z-car; then save up enough to pay your way for a month, while you stay with me looking for a job and a place of your own.

Margaux: You need to get your driver's license and make money to buy cheap reliable transportation. I do think there are job opportunities for you in Phoenix, and you should plan on spending time researching them, just as Gail and Theresa.

Margaux, I would like for you to come help me recover, if you are willing to do so. You have the nursing experience and have done this before. It will mean being away from Atlanta for about a month, but I will support you during that time in return for your care.

We will all need to vacate this condo by the end of September. My plan right now is to have the movers here on Monday, October 3. Angela and I will put it on the market for sale at that time.

These requests may sound unreasonable; I hope not. But for now I must not have any permanent roommates until I get very well established in Phoenix. If I can't take care of myself and ensure my success, I won't be much help to anyone else.

Please consider them in the spirit they are offered, a spirit of love and concern for each of you. I want our remaining time here to be as warm and happy as any time we have spent.

Much love,

Now if I can just get the nerve to give a copy to each of them. After all this, I will probably end up talking to them anyway.

Tonight I barbecued some pork tenderloins and we watched The Lawnmower Man. I have had the opportunity these months to catch up on a lot of movies I've missed during the stress of transition.

Wednesday, August 3

Today I finished my application for hospital staff privileges and mailed it in. I think all my paperwork is in progress now. It's just a waiting game.

Most likely I will not give out this letter to any of the girls. I talked with Gail today, and she knows she needs to stay here and finish school. She still may come out West once she has had her surgery; and she would be most welcome at that point.

It was so difficult to talk to Theresa. I tried to tell her "it's best for me to be there by myself, at least for now," but I felt like such a hypocrite. You see, she senses I want Margaux to come to Phoenix with me. Right now, she thinks it is just to help me recover from surgery; but the truth is, I would be very happy if she chose to relocate and find work there.

For her part, Margaux is very interested in the move. She is starting to make some preliminary contacts to see the status of design in Phoenix. What she has seen so far is very positive.

If she could accompany me to Phoenix when I go looking for an apartment, it would really help her. Finances may prevent that, however.

Thursday, August 4

Remember the old joke about the three greatest lies? One of them was "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." One was obscene. The third was "Your check is in the mail."

I was walking back from the mailboxes with a stack of bills and didn't even notice it the first time around. The window envelope from Paul Revere Insurance Company barely revealed the words, "pay to the order of" above my name.

Now I was paying attention. I tore the envelope open. There it was, in all its beauty: my disability check. Eighteen thousand dollars.

My surgery money.

Now I wouldn't have to borrow, or to raid my Individual Retirement Account. I cried and gave a prayer of thanks.

There was one slight problem. The check was printed in such a way that I didn't see it at first. The "pay to the order of" was listed as Brian Anderson. My name was listed as policyholder. This should confuse them at BankSouth. I took a copy of my name change decree along with my check to the bank.

As it turned out, I didn't need it; not today at least. They accepted my deposit without any question.

Friday, August 5

I found information on "friends fly free" in a travel brochure. I had forgotten about this two-for-one ticket plan certain airlines are sponsoring. The idea took shape quickly: My employer is paying for my ticket and hers is free; this looks like an ideal trip opportunity. Margaux was all in favor of it also. She decided to find out all she could about graphic art companies in Phoenix, and write or call them to schedule interviews. I told her I would look into it when I return from Savannah.

At my electrolysis session, Barbara invited me to hear her sing with the Capital City Opera Guild later this month at a Buckhead restaurant. She will be singing a solo from The King and I called "My Lord and Master," and in the chorus on several other numbers. I am excited over seeing my dear friend showcase her musical talent.

Saturday, August 6

Another letter from Paul Revere Insurance arrived today. I hesitated to open it; what if they wanted their money back? Of course, they did not. It was a refund of the premium I paid for the period December 1993 to June 1994, when I was disabled.

This insurance company has really come through for me. This will probably be all I get from them, since they know I was able to work in June. Still, they have made it possible for me to pay for my surgery and get through these last months before I start work in Phoenix. They expect me to get back to work and pay their premiums again; and I'm sure I will do that.

Sunday, August 7

Today was relaxing. Our pastor is back from vacation and full of great new stories. After church I had lunch with the girls and worked on my journal.

It rained (Surprise, surprise) so we stayed in tonight. I read in my AAA guidebook about Savannah and packed my bag. Dr. Victor called to confirm directions on how to get to my condo tomorrow.

Monday, August 8

Dr. Victor was to pick me up at noon. I had time to get a manicure first; sorely needed, since I had lost two of the tips this past week. I've gotten accustomed to having nice nails.

He arrived promptly in his Cadillac and helped with my luggage. We stopped for a snack between Atlanta and Macon, then it was a straight drive to Savannah. I learned that the three members of the Victor family were all physicians, and were European emigrants who moved here in the 1970s. He received his residency training in Alabama and lives there now, but has a chain of weight reduction clinics in two states.

I listened with a very open mind. My experience last month in Athens convinced me this approach was effective. Now I would learn the details of the plan.

Dr. Victor took me to supper at the Old Pink House, one of Savannah's landmark restaurants. There is a legend of a ghost haunting the basement. Of course, we had to have dinner in the basement, but were disappointed to see no ghost.

After dinner we strolled the Savannah riverfront and had coffee in one of the riverfront cafés. I listened to him a lot, talked about myself a little, and realized: this is how a date should be. I am so relaxed and at ease. Never in my past life was I comfortable in a situation like this, not even after years of marriage.

And (gasp) I can charm a man! I know instinctively how to look in his eyes, how to laugh and wrinkle my nose, how to take his hand when crossing a busy street. He was obviously having a wonderful time too.

Tuesday, August 9

I awoke with the alarm and was ready for breakfast with Dr. Victor before going to the clinic. We arrived at 9:00 sharp and I met his staff: Marsha, Mary Anne, and Dianna. Dianna is the receptionist/cashier. Marsha and Mary Anne are the clinical assistants, and alternate their duties morning and afternoon. One will call the patients back, weigh them, and do a brief interview and diet counseling. Then the other one brings the patient in to see the doctor, and dispenses the proper amounts of the medications the doctor prescribes.

Dr. Victor does dispense his own medicine, but I know what all the pills are. He uses low doses of phentermine, phendimetrazine, and diethylpropion. All are safe when used as directed in such low doses. I observed him over the course of the morning, and we had seen over thirty patients by lunchtime.

"Well, Dr. Allison, do you feel comfortable with the practice as you see it?" he asked. I did indeed. I already knew his practice patterns, and I didn't intend to deviate any from them.

He needed to return to Alabama to take care of some personal business, but made it clear he would stay if necessary. I could tell he felt as confident as I did about my ability. We shook hands and he was gone, leaving me as the Savannah weight control doctor. Thank goodness Daniel and Yeager covers my liability, I thought.

I really didn't have any problems. Marsha was discreetly helpful when I had any questions, and we saw another forty patients that afternoon. We finished around 7:30, and I took a taxi to the airport to pick up the rental car Dr. Victor had arranged for me. I didn't try to get out and about further that night, and rested for the next day's deluge of patients.

Wednesday, August 10

Today was not quite as hectic. We stopped seeing patients at 5:00 rather than 7:30, and I saw about 45 or 50. At the motel, I changed out of my shirtdress into shorts and a tee. I had made plans after work to see the tourist sights. Since Dr. Victor had already shown me downtown and the waterfront, I decided to drive on out to Tybee Island.

The drive was picturesque, with lots of bridges over marshland. Road signs indicated "turtle crossing." There was still plenty of sunlight left when I arrived a little after six.

Tybee has a seedy charm which I find quaint, but many people would dismiss as run-down and shabby. The motels are mostly "Mom and Pop" operations, with the occasional Best Western. There are no high rises on the beach, such as you see at Hilton Head or Destin. This place has a long way to go before 1996, if they hope to host some of the Olympic events.

At any rate, I parked in front of some of the T-shirt shops and walked the block to the beach. The tide was incoming, and the late summer crowd was enjoying the surf. Couples and families nodded or ignored me; single men, especially older single men, spoke in a cordial manner. I walked for about a mile, to the place where the "private, no trespassing" signs began, before turning around.

I felt a stinging sensation on my right calf and reached back to swat, but the insect was already gone. Two raised welts identified the sand flea bites. I ignored the itching; at least it wasn't a jellyfish.

I toweled off at the car and had a supper of stuffed flounder at one of the storefront cafés before returning to Savannah and watching television back at the motel room.

Tybee and Savannah: Been there, done that.

Thursday, August 11

Savannah has been a nice place to visit, but I definitely wouldn't want to live here. The humidity is awful. The bites on my right calf have had a little hemorrhagic reaction and look rather ugly, but at least they don't itch or hurt. I'm sure they will involute promptly.

I saw another thirty patients, including quite a few who are new to the clinic. It was gratifying to be able to give them their initial instructions and start them on their medication and diet. I'm confident I did a good job for Dr. Victor. These days have certainly changed my opinion of weight control clinics. They work! We saw our last patients just before 1:00 P.M. I said goodbye to the staff and started the long trip back to Atlanta.

When I finally arrived, everyone was still at work. I checked my mail and was surprised to find a letter from the bank. "Dear Dr. Allison... we have not yet made available the funds from your recent deposit. This is because the check was made out to a different person than yourself. Please contact us." Whatever. I'll go bounce their reality check tomorrow.

I had to return the rental car to a Budget office on Roswell Road and catch a city bus back to the intersection at Roswell Mall. The walk home from there was about two miles, but it was good exercise for me. I need to be doing as much physical activity as possible before surgery anyway.

Friday, August 12

Surprise: the branch officer at BankSouth didn't bat an eye when I showed her the copy of my namechange. She said, "That's fine. Just let me call Paul Revere and see if the check has cleared." It had, and my funds were made available. "Thanks, Dr. Allison, and good luck," she wished me.

If only all encounters could be so positive.

Here's my strategy for credit purchases before I move: I plan to buy what I need at Rich's and Macy's, and charge my store credit cards. Since those stores are not located in Phoenix, I can pay the bills off gradually and not worry about running up more bills.

I also can do that at Roberds for my furniture. I shopped Roberds today and found an oak bedroom suite from Dixie Furniture which I loved. I've always had dark wood, cherry or mahogany, and I am excited about the lighter wood. I ordered a chest of drawers, mirror, and two night tables. The salesman, very helpfully, investigated and found out where I can buy Dixie furniture in Phoenix.

After ordering my furniture, I went to a travel agent in the shopping center nearby and ordered our plane tickets on the two for one package deal. We will be flying on Wednesday, August 31, and returning on Labor Day, September 5. That will give me enough time to find an apartment, and Margaux should have plenty of time to look for work too.

Saturday, August 13

I worked up quite a sweat at T'ai Chi; August is no time for the air conditioner to be having problems. I do think I will be able to finish learning the entire 24 movement form, however, before I move. I'm proud of my progress. So many people who started the first class with me last spring gave up on it, but I wanted it badly enough to keep working. And now people tell me I move more gracefully just doing my daily activities.

In response to a request from Sheryl, I wrote a letter to the bank back in Jackson asking them to transfer Mark's funds to an account strictly in his name, now that he is over 21. I had to sign "Brian Anderson." It's such a strange feeling now; who is this person? It's hard to remember being him.

The rental movie tonight was Theresa's choice: "Reservoir Dogs." I must say, Theresa and I have different tastes in movies. That was one of the most gruesome and violent films I have ever seen. Ugh. Theresa and Margaux had eaten pizza at Mellow Mushroom earlier, and Margaux felt really sick afterwards. I don't know if it's Zoloft or food poisoning.

Sunday, August 14

I resisted the temptation to turn off the alarm and sleep through church. We had communion service today, and I wanted very much to be present. For some reason, communion in the Methodist church seems more personal to me than "the Lord's supper" in the Baptist church. I think it's because the pastor serves us each individually. At that moment it's as though I am the one on whom Christ is concentrating; I am the one identifying with his death and new life.

One thing about my current church is much like my previous one, however. Both are very large churches, but they have not lost their personal touch. I feel loved, and I know I have many friends there.

I will miss Roswell United Methodist Church when I move. But I suspect there are equally good churches in Phoenix.

Margaux still feels terrible. She thinks she got ergot poisoning from a bad batch of pizza dough, but I'm afraid it is the Zoloft. I am going to ask her to leave it off for the time being.

Tonight there was a knock at the back door. I looked and saw the two young boys who live three doors down from us in this building. "Mother is sick. She's having terrible stomach pains. Could you please come and check on her?"

Of course I could. I found noting to suggest obstruction, so I gave her some of my samples of Ambien hypnotic medication. I suspected she would sleep it off and feel much better tomorrow.

Monday, August 15

All my patients feel better. The lady down the block (I still don't know her name) was well enough to get out and drive today. She told me how much she appreciated my house call.

Margaux is slowly improving. She still has lots of stomach cramping, relieved now by antacid. Her appetite is somewhat better, but not yet back to normal. I bought her some Campbell's Creamy Chicken Soup. "Yum, Jewish penicillin," she joked.

Tuesday, August 16

I called early and reserved a place at San Gennaro Restaurant for tonight's performance by the Capital City Opera Guild, "A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein." It didn't matter that I would be going by myself. The fee was $45.00 (a price too high for me to see Billy Joel and Elton John here later this week), but it was worth it to hear Barbara's solo.

I wore my green linen jacket and black and white print loose pants with a white silk blouse. I felt very appropriately dressed among the opera spectators. The dinner theater was excellent; they served a different wine with each course of the meal. By the time I had my Sauvignon Blanc with the antipasto, Chardonnay with the salmon penne, and Merlot with the main course, I was ready for a little coffee.

The musical numbers were delightful. I enjoyed selections from Carousel, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and Flower Drum Song. Barbara's solo from The King and I, "My Lord and Master," was lovely. I laughed when ten of the women came out as nuns for "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria." Most moving of all, however, was an alto solo on "You'll Never Walk Alone." It was worth the ticket.

My reserved seat turned out to be at a table with several delightful couples. They were all longtime opera and Broadway fans; they were members of the same Jewish congregation in Cobb County; and - most interesting of all - I was seated next to a cardiologist! We talked shop during the meal and I had a wonderful time. This is my element; this is the type of society where I belong.

Wednesday, August 17

Ants! The rainy weather has driven them inside. We are trying to be clean in the kitchen and not leave food out; but still they have gotten in through cracks around the door. I couldn't spray ant poison in the kitchen, but I sprayed all around the door and baseboards, and killed the rest by hand. After two hours I felt I had control.

Today's highlight was a visit to the Atlanta Public Library downtown. Margaux gave me a guided tour. It's one of her favorite places. Indeed I was impressed. The ease of finding information is unparalleled in my experience.

We found a microfiche of the Phoenix telephone directory and copied numerous pages. She found listings for graphic artists, design studios, and computer graphics. I looked for churches, both Methodist and Baptist (well, you never know, maybe Baptists in Phoenix are different); and T'ai Chi schools. It was a productive trip.

Later Margaux started calling some of the numbers and making plans for interviews when she goes out with me. It's obvious she would like for this to work out; and so would I, truthfully. I feel no pressure from Margaux, and I always enjoy being out in public with her, as she does with me. Maybe it will work.

Thursday, August 18

I made the final selections on the apartments I want us to tour when we go to Phoenix. There are three in north Phoenix and two in Scottsdale. Living in an apartment will be best for the first six to twelve months, until I have a little money for a down payment and can know in what part of the town I want to purchase a home.

We will stop by Arizona Insights on our way in from the airport on Wednesday the 31st when we arrive. Stacey will give us the orientation presentation and video then. Our appointment with the realtor is on Friday morning. That will give us Thursday and Saturday to arrange appointments for Margaux.

Sunday we want to take a day trip up to Sedona. We aren't interested in the New Age aspect of the town, but the natural beauty. People say the light out there makes colors more vivid: redder reds in the rock and bluer blues in the sky. I'm anxious to find out if it is so.

Tonight Gail and I ate at home, while Theresa picked up Margaux from work and they went to Outback Steak House. Fortunately, Margaux's appetite has returned. Theresa is really putting the pressure on Margaux to remain in Atlanta and live with her once I move. This is not something Margaux wants to do; but gently convincing Theresa of that fact is nearly impossible. It will be uncomfortable at best.

Friday, August 19

I told Barbara again how much I enjoyed her opera guild performance. She was so pleased I had come. Electrolysis is getting easier and easier; we finished fifteen minutes ahead of schedule today. We actually scheduled all my remaining appointments until I move. The last day she and I are going to lunch together. I told her, "I won't wear any makeup that day; I'm planning on crying."

She laughed and said "I will too, I'm sure."

I've really grown to love and appreciate Barbara. I'll miss her much. Before I leave Atlanta, I will have 160 hours of electrolysis. Probably I will need a few more, but I'm sure I can find someone in Phoenix.

Today I gave Margaux a major driving lesson. Her learner's permit expires at the end of this month, so we have to get her license prior to going to Phoenix. She will be ready. All we need to work on is parallel parking. We ran several errands to the grocery, drugstore, Barnes & Noble bookstore, and post office. She is very pleased with her developing skill.

She worked on presentation packets to send to design firms in Phoenix. The packets are expertly done, and I think she will make an excellent impression. We got the first two in the mail tonight.

Later Robert and Jeanne came over. They wanted to go to the Otherside, and asked us to accompany them. Margaux declined so she could do some work on her computer, but I decided to go with them and Theresa. It proved to be very uncomfortable; Theresa didn't make conversation and just smoked and drank the whole time. It was different from the times she and I had come to the Otherside last winter.

It's as though Theresa and I feel uncomfortable in each other's presence now. I really care for Theresa and I don't want it to be this way, but I can't continue indefinitely as we have been doing. There are just too many differences.

Saturday, August 20

I remember one of my friends in medical school who swore that Vitamin B-12 shots gave him more energy. We all were unbelievers at the time. But now, facing the need for all the energy I can get, I eyed Margaux's new bottle of B-12. "May I try a cc.?" I asked her.

She was glad to see me ready to try alternative therapies. "Of course."

The aqueous solution was much easier to draw up and self-administer than the oily preparation of progesterone I give myself every two weeks. In my role as "group home nurse," I drew up syringes of estrogen/progesterone and B-12 for Margaux too.

She's feeling much better and her appetite is back. The Zoloft took a few days to wear out of her body.

Perhaps it was autosuggestion, but I had a great deal of energy at T'ai Chi.

I made an appearance at group therapy today to pick up my second opinion surgery letter from Dr. Mauger. Now I will send both letters, along with my cashiers' checks, to Dr. Schrang next week.

Jerry Montgomery asked me if I would be willing to give a lecture and serve on a panel for the Southern Comfort Convention. Of course, I agreed to do so. He said Dr. Sheila Kirk, who usually gives the lecture on hormones, would not attend this year, so they are hoping I will give that extremely popular lecture. Oh well, it's far enough away from Phoenix, I think it will be safe.

We had another late bedtime tonight. Gail wanted us all to go to Revolution, a club in Buckhead which is one of her favorites. So into my car went Gail, her boyfriend Josh, Theresa, and Elena. Our friend Felice had come to the house in her Mazda Miata, and so Margaux rode with her. After the club we walked down the block to Taco Mac for a late night treat. It was nearly three when we returned.

Sunday, August 21

Predictably, I slept late and missed church. I didn't want to miss, and felt a little guilty. But when you have as much preparation as I must have, you can't get up at 10:00 for a 10:30 service.

I decided to make it a home-cooked meal day for my little flock. We all sat at the table for brunch, when I prepared a puffy omelet with ham and cheese sauce; and at supper, when I served country fried steak, wild rice, and green salad. I amaze myself sometimes with my cooking.

Margaux and I got in a lot of driving practice today. She drove on the Interstate, in heavy traffic, and did well. She is almost ready for her license.

After supper Theresa announced, "That's it, I have had enough of being patient with Sheldon. I am going over to his house and throw myself shamelessly at him." And so she did. While I worried over what he might say or do, she proceeded to show Mr. Sheldon Houseman just what it was she had done on her summer vacation.

She came back much later with a smile on her face. "Miss Becky... you definitely need this in your life."

Monday, August 22

Well, maybe I do need it in my life. Today I made my last major plans to get it: I withdrew the money from my account and got three cashier's checks. They were made out to Dr. Schrang, the Theda Clark Regional Medical Center, and the Anesthesiology Group. I added my letters from Dr. Powell and Dr. Mauger, enclosed them with a letter to Dr. Schrang telling him I would see him on October 10 in his office, and sent them by certified mail.

I returned home and told Margaux of my major step. "Well, I have paid for my pussy," I laughed. She remembered sending in her material to Dr. Seghers, and congratulated me heartily.

Later this evening we went out driving and had supper at California Pizza Kitchen. When we returned, Theresa, Gail, and Josh were waiting outside for us. They had gone out and forgotten their house keys! They were upset at themselves, but I think they learned a lesson in responsibility.

Tuesday, August 23

The telephone kept me busy today. Someone from Walter French's office called to tell me they would be sending a package by FedEx, with all the data I would need to familiarize myself with the breast implant case. I didn't tell them I was already rather well read on the subject, since I would be having it done to my own body in less than two months. I will drive to Jackson on Friday and return next Monday.

Kristin, my CompuServe friend from Milwaukee, called. She wants to pick me up at the Milwaukee airport. We will get to spend some time together; then she will take me to Dr. Schrang's office on Monday and get me settled in. When I am discharged eight days later she will pick me up and let me spend the night at her house before I fly back to Phoenix.

I am so fortunate to have such good friends; even friends I have never met.

Finally I talked to Sheryl, working out some business with closing that checking account of Mark's. I told her I would be in town over the weekend. She is busy directing a wedding on Friday and Saturday, but wanted us to get together Sunday afternoon.

I really will be glad to see Sheryl. However, I no longer have any illusions about the "good old days". It's like that Streisand - Redford movie, "The Way We Were." We remember the good times and forget the bad. I will enjoy my visit with Sheryl, but the truth is: these are the good old days.

Anyway, she still calls me "Brian" on the phone.

Wednesday, August 24

Margaux was throwing herself into her work all day, without much of a break. I made us some soup and cornbread for lunch, and got a lot of work done myself. The FedEx package arrived; I read over all of Walter's material on the breast implant settlement, and formulated a custom history and physical form to use in my interviews.

At 3:00 Mr. Larson from North American Van Lines came to take an estimate on our contents for the move. He reassured me they would take expert care of my breakable items. We discussed moving dates, and I told him the only absolute was that I had to be moved in by Saturday, October 9. We settled on packing Thursday, September 29, and moving the next day. That way they will make use of the weekend days, and we will arrive Sunday or Monday in time to move in.

We will have to leave before Southern Comfort is over; but neither of us mind. We will be there long enough to visit with Dr. Seghers and to serve on our panels. Certainly we don't need the social times at the convention.

Thursday, August 25

Today was a "personal day," taking time for Becky. I had my electrolysis at 10:00, followed by my final visit to Dr. Silver, and ending with a fresh French manicure at The Ultimate Nail.

Dr. Silver was so pleased. "Would you give me permission to use your 'before' and 'after' slides in my presentations?" I was thrilled, because I've seen some of his other success stories, and it's so gratifying to be considered as one of them.

He reminded me to let him know my address when I moved. "I love to vacation and go to meetings in Arizona," he said. "I will give you a call next time."

As he dictated, "this is the final followup note on Rebecca Allison, who had surgery a year ago," I had a little chill up my spine. How, in one year, have we come so far. I love my life.

Tonight I told Margaux, "This is your last lesson before we get your license. It's parallel parking time." We found a space on the street in between two pickup trucks. I demonstrated it once for her, and said, "Okay, see one, then do one." And she did. I was very proud of how quickly she picked up the technique.

"Oh, Becky, I'm a driver now. Thanks to you." She was so pleased. Her father, years ago, had told her she didn't have the skills to be a driver. What a stupid remark, but it undermined her self confidence and kept her from learning for many years. I felt a real sense of accomplishment for teaching her.

Friday, August 26

It's hard to find a lot to say about a day spent driving solo across Alabama and Mississippi. I found myself hoping Margaux would follow through on her intention to make the drive to Phoenix with me.

I arrived in Jackson and checked into the Coliseum Ramada Inn. It is an older motel, one in which I have attended many meetings, but never stayed as a guest before. The accommodations were adequate- except for the ants in the bathroom, which were immediately destroyed by the housekeeping department. "I feel right at home," I laughed to myself.

I was on time at the law offices. The receptionist for the building remembered me from my visits to Bettie, who has office space there also. Linda was interested in my plans for moving: "I'd love to live in Phoenix."

I saw my first three patients and took their histories. It's an experience which will make me think cautiously about getting the implants. These women are very unhappy with their surgery, mostly because of the development of multiple symptoms since the operation. Most have joint pain and soreness, fatigue, and irritability; some have had capsular contracture.

I have to remember they are a small minority of the total number of women who have had breast implants. I'm still not going to cancel the augmentation!

After work I went to Northpark Mall for supper and shopping (no, I didn't see anyone I knew.) I was fatigued from my traveling and turned in early.

Saturday, August 27

My body is still on Eastern time, so by 7:00 I was up and showering. I dressed casually for Saturday in my denim jumper, knowing I could look professional enough in my lab coat. I arrived at Walter's office in time to be waiting on him, and on our one patient for the day. She had driven down from northeast Mississippi with her husband and granddaughter, so she was very appreciative of my working her appointment in.

After completing my evaluation I told Walter I would see him Monday morning. Then, as in June, I found myself back in Jackson for a weekend. What to do?

It's really true: you can't go home again. It's not home anymore. I thought of all the people I had known before. Who really wants to see me, I wondered. For some of my friends, I had good visits and an appropriate closure in June. To see Alan or Arnie now would be anticlimactic. I will call Carrie, and Lee, later, and visit them if it seems appropriate.

As for the rest: I don't know where they stand about me. If I called them, I would risk rejection. I've had enough rejection; I surely don't want to invite more. They have had access to my address and telephone number through the office, and have chosen not to contact me.

Maybe in a couple of years I can come back for a visit, and wounds will be healed enough that I will not reopen them.

So, I did something I never did when I lived in Jackson, something more tourists than natives do. I visited the Mississippi Museum of Agriculture. It has always been praised for its depiction of our rural past, and I found it to be interesting enough to deserve a couple of hours. The environment was pleasant and, in some ways, reminiscent of my early childhood in the Delta.

Later I had a club sandwich downtown at the Mayflower Cafe, another Jackson landmark. I spent a little time browsing the bookstores and the department stores at the mall, then bought one of the reduced-price tickets to see the movie The Client. It was particularly enjoyable for me, with the action taking place in Memphis and New Orleans, my home turf.

I did call Carrie, but she was very tired after returning from Houston where her brother is hospitalized. We had a good, long visit by telephone. Afterwards I relaxed and enjoyed an early bedtime for a change.

Sunday, August 28

Methodist or Baptist? I asked myself. I was up and ready in plenty of time for either. I decided on First Baptist; after all, it's my home church, and I always got a blessing from the services there before. I wore my white ribbed silk tee with a navy skirt and my green blazer. Miss Preppie. I fit right in.

I encountered numerous people with whom I had been close friends in the past, but didn't get a look of recognition from anyone. Not even from Marcia, whom I walked right by less than six feet away. The service was inspirational. Dr. Pollard preached from the story of the prodigal son.

I wish my family would welcome me back in such a way. But, as they say in Mississippi: Wish in one hand and spit in the other. See which hand fills up first.

After lunch I gave Sheryl a little time to rest before I called her. We set a time for around 5:00, giving me time to relax also. I tried on several outfits and finally decided to wear the skirt and tee I had worn to church. This would be Sheryl's first time to see me in a skirt. I didn't want to be provocative, but I also wanted to be honest with her. I'm not going to wear jeans just for an androgynous look for her. My hair was styled nicely, better than in March, and my earrings were easily visible. This is me, Becky, I thought as I drove to north Jackson.

I bought her a potted pink hydrangea for a "happy". That's the name we used to give to little presents we gave without a special occasion. When she answered the door she seemed very pleased with it.

We ended up talking about everything - friends, relatives, Mark. Mostly Mark. She updated me on his summer and the beginning of his school year. We did finally get around to talking about ourselves, but there were no angry words. I hope we are truly past that.

Finally around 10:00 it was time to leave. I squeezed her hand as I told her how much the visit meant to me. I knew she wouldn't feel comfortable with a hug, so I didn't try. I would have loved it, however. I told her I might try to visit briefly when Margaux and I came through on the way to Phoenix. Then I was driving away and returning her wave.

It was so good to see her, to sit in her den, in the chair I used to sit in to watch television. But it's no longer my home, and I neither desire nor am able to go back. My course is the right one for me.

Of course, I won't pretend there were no tears on the drive back to the Ramada Inn Coliseum.

Monday, August 29

Finally, checkout time arrived. I left early to spend a few minutes with Lee Frances. She had a cinnamon roll and coffee for me. The time passed too quickly and I hugged Lee tightly, not knowing when I would see her again.

At the attorney's office the patients were scheduled tightly, one every thirty minutes. No one failed to keep her appointment. They were a diverse group. Some had atypical rheumatic syndromes, with pain in multiple joints which developed after their implants. Others had had capsular contractures and some had had to have their implants removed. None were happy.

I had to remind myself the great majority of women with breast implants are very happy with their results. This is not enough to frighten me away from having my implants.

I worked until nearly six, and set out on the road for Atlanta. In Meridian I stopped for fuel and fast food ("Eat here and get gas"). When I dragged into the condo well after midnight, everyone was still awake. I gave a brief summary, promised more later, removed my contacts, and collapsed.

Tuesday, August 30

Today was a day of (mostly) rest in between my travels. My only commitment was for electrolysis. Barbara and I set Monday, September 12, as the date for my permanent lip liner.

I am a bit concerned over how Theresa will react to our trip. She still has ideas of going to Phoenix, but I just don't think it would work out for all three of us to try to live together further. She and Margaux seem to be on each other's nerves quite a lot. I myself get along with them both, but the threesome doesn't work. Of the two, I think Margaux will stand to benefit more from a move. Theresa has a steady job, and her likelihood of finding something as good in Phoenix is not as great as Margaux's.

Convincing her of this may be more difficult.

Central Credentialing of Arizona wrote me, inquiring about a few items I failed to explain clearly enough on my application form. They especially wanted to know about the time when I was not doing any medical practice early in 1994. I decided to answer their questions in person.

Margaux and I packed our suitcases and tried to get a good night's rest for our flight around noon tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 31

"I'm so ready to leave this place," I complained as we circled the parking garage for the third time.

"What makes you think any other airport is better?" Margaux laughed. We abandoned the garage and finally found a place in the south cottonfield (or so it seemed), about a half mile from the terminal. "Thank goodness for suitcases with wheels," we agreed. We reached the gate just in time to join the line to board the plane.

After that it was all smooth sailing. Margaux felt it, just as I had, when the plane was coming in for a landing. "Look at the mountains, right in the middle of town. Oh, I'm going to like this."

We exited Sky Harbor Airport without difficulty and drove to the office of the Arizona Insights relocation company. Stacey and Ellen had arranged for a video tour and a question and answer session. I was very impressed with their knowledge of practical points for new arrivals. For Margaux, they had brochures and portfolios from several of the design firms. I could tell they spent much time on preparing for us.

We found the motel and began making phone calls. Margaux lined up several visits for interviews. I called Wanda at the recruitment office. "I told you, if you offered me the job, I would take it," I laughed.

"I'm so glad you did," she said. "Can you and Margaux meet us for lunch tomorrow?" We agreed to meet at noon at the dining room of the Crescent, one of Phoenix's many fine hotels.

By early evening we were hungry and ready to explore the area. Our motel was in the north central area, close to several of the apartment complexes I had already planned to see. We did a drive-by inspection of these properties and found them all very satisfactory, with stunning views of the Squaw Peak preserve area. I think we can find an apartment without much difficulty.

We had supper at a lovely Mexican place with a humorous pun for a name: Aunt Chilada's. Despite the humor, the food was quite good. Afterward, we rode up to the Pointe resort at Tapatio Cliffs. At the highest point you can see downtown Phoenix in one direction, and the North Valley in the other. If we weren't already hopelessly in love with the Valley of the Sun, this view was the crown jewel to make us want to stay and never leave.


© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison

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