Return to Sender

One day James McGrath arrives at my house. Out of nowhere, his name begins to show up next to mine on a subscription label and solicitation letter to a journal I have subscribed to for years. Because my name is also on the envelope, I am technically not breaking the law when I open up the letter to find out that he not only pays for my subscription but also contributes an additional $198.00 a year.

My kids mock me, “Ooooohhhh, Mommy. Who’s James McGrath? Is he your boyfriend?” When I do not have an answer, their sideways glances indicate that even though they are joking around, they, too, are unsure of this man’s mysterious arrival.

I alert the journal about their mistake. In a long-winded phone message, I explain to an answering machine that James McGrath is not my husband, not my partner, not my friend, not my boyfriend, not even my side jawn. But no one seems to be listening because month after month, he continues to show up.

I research his name. Is this the James McGrath, known as “The Beast,” from Season Two of American Ninja Warrior or the voice of Wizzy in Boss Baby? Or the deceased Philadelphia police officer who dressed up as an undercover grandmother? Or the California man who stole nearly $1 million in nine separate bank heists in 1994? Maybe he is the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature.

Since James McGrath inexplicably arrives every month, he is now the one to shoulder our losses, indiscretions, and anxieties. One child, instead of finishing her math homework, blames James McGrath for stealing her motivation. Rather than turning off her YouTube video, the other contends that “James McGrath wants me to keep watching.” And I, too, blame him for hiding my car keys in my coat pocket, burning the toast, and forgetting to pay the car registration.

James McGrath is a breast cancer recurrence. Women are often blindsided by metastatic breast cancer showing up at their door, especially if a recurrence happens years after an initial diagnosis, and many have no idea why or how it happens. Statistics cite that between 20-30% of women with early-stage breast cancer develop metastatic disease, and the five-year survival rate is 29%. So far, I am at three years and one month.

Currently, on my THINGS TO DO list, which makes me feel in control of my life, I have starred: *Call journal again. Let them know of their mistake.* This time, I will not leave a message but insist that I speak to someone who can help me. I will explain that even though James McGrath wants to pay my bills, co-parent my children, and soak in scalding hot Epsom baths, I would rather he not. But we all know that he is here to stay.

One response to “Return to Sender”

  1. Yes James, so fun to read. J


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