Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bubble Wrap

Today at work as I was winding my way through the maze of cubicles, I suddenly heard a very familiar sound. It is a sound that I haven't heard in months. It is a sound that I previously had sworn I could absolutely do without. It is a sound that always worked my last nerve. It is a sound so aggravating that when I would hear it in my home I would immediately go looking for it's source. It is a sound that usually led to Michael. It is the sound of BUBBLE WRAP!

Bubble Wrap was created by two engineers, Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, in 1957. They were trying to invent a plastic wallpaper with a paper backing. Their idea failed, but along the way they realize their invention could be used for packing material. Thus, giving birth to what is now known around the world as Bubble Wrap.

Just before writing this post I looked up "bubble wrap" on Wikipedia. It says that because bubble wrap makes a recognizable "popping" sound when compressed and punctured, it can be used as a source of amusement and to alleviate stress. This certainly was the draw for Michael. He had several little nervous traits such as nail biting, finger tapping and making a popping sound with his lips. Aside from the nail biting, I found these to be quite endearing. Playing with bubble wrap was something he initially found funny to do, especially when he knew that it bugged me. As he quickly learned, it was a sure fire way of getting my attention. Often I would hear the annoying sound, follow it's lead, and find Michael waiting for me with a devilish grin. The popping of bubble wrap was also something that helped him alleviate stress. One of the side effects of the steroids he had to take was a feeling of agitation. When this would come on he needed something in his hands that he could manipulate, and bubble wrap was definitely one thing that did the trick.

So as you may guess, Michael loved bubble wrap. Anytime we received a package he couldn't wait to see what the item was packed in. When we got married many of the gifts were mailed to us with lots of bubble wrap, especially our fine china. In further reading about "bubble wrap" on Wikipedia, it says that 'the bubbles provide the cushioning for fragile or sensitive objects.'

If you were to ask friends of Michael to describe him, a word many would use is "sensitive." The slightest gesture of kindness could evoke a wonderful loving look from him. When something was troubling him he could get very quiet. When he was like this I would put my arms around him, hold him tight, and feel his tensed body quickly relax.

When I first met Michael I would have never thought to describe him as fragile. It's frightening how quickly things can change. The day he received the news that there was a mass in his brain, I received a phone message from him stating that he needed me. His voice was breaking up, and there was a fragility that I had never heard before. In the days that followed we found ourselves in a hospital instead of the cruise to Mexico we were scheduled to be on. My strong guy was suddenly fearing for his life, and I was charged with keeping him together. In the last two years we learned the true meaning of the word "fragile." And in his final days this was defined even further.

It's funny that in reflecting on all of this, one might think that this familiar sound would evoke feelings of sorrow. Yet quite the contrary. As I walked through the office, and was surprised by the very familiar sound, a warmth came over me. It stopped me in my tracks, and I heard myself laugh out loud.

Pure joy.


If you look to the right of my page you will find a bubble wrap widget that allows you to pop some bubbles. I will leave it there for a brief period in honor of Michael.


  1. i am so glad you can now laugh at the sound of bubble wrap. i absolutely love bubble wrap and introduced my two children to the eccentric joy of the choice: do we pop them one at a time like in a "row, row, row your boat" type of round or do we just go crazy and fill the air with wild popping sounds. to this day i've had complaints from my son's girlfriends and my daughter's new husband has learned to just sigh and go with the flow. bubble wrap is magic.

    i'd like to say that i'm sorry Michael became so fragile and you had to go through that type of death with him. my mother died of cancer when i was 20. it was fast in comparison to most cancers. i quit college and gave up my apartment to live with her at hospital so she wasn't alone. got my mail there. 6 months of watching her become more and more afraid. all the long talks that usually started at 1 in the morning and would last all night long. she could nap during the day. i could only attempt sleep. i changed her colostomy bag for her. ran out to buy pretty caps to hide her lost hair. held her while she cried over the fact that my dad only came twice a month to see her. and we talked about death. i walked from hospital to the public library for books on faith, heaven, dogma. you name it, i read it to her. and i secretly snuck out and talked to the nurses who knew more about death and those moments before than, i felt, most men of the cloth knew.

    it is a memory burned into my brain. those days and nights. those talks. her eyes. after mom i had to do it twice more. my father and my stepmother.

    my Dragon died suddenly, fast, and what seemed like violently. between these two types of death, well, i just don't know. but i understand your words in the paragraph where you speak to Michael's cancer. and i think i might can glimpse what you did not write. it's just, i don't know if it's even close, but i understand a small part of this kind of pain but only from being the sole person standing with my mother, then watching my father and his new wife. not the same as a spouse. but i am on speaking terms with cancer.

    you are in my heart, my thoughts, and my prayers.

  2. Dan, I just had great fun with the bubble wrap, I put it on "manic mode" and popped every bubble for you and for Michael... I hope you couldn't hear it ;-) The girls who sit near me asked what the noise was and I said, "what noise?" - wicked, I know!

    It gave me joy to hear that you laughed about it. Those little things that could bring us sorrow, but inexplicably bring us joy!

    Love to you, my friend

  3. Your images of the fragility that lie within us were very touching to me. I imagined that you were the bubble wrap protecting Michael and supporting him through his illness. It is a very fitting and fun tribute to be able to pop some bubbles. I am grateful for whatever small doses of lightness come my way during this week. I think Michael would very much approve. And I am so glad that joy in remembering came out instead of sorrow when you heard the sound of the bubbles popping.

  4. Isn't it wonderful the each time a sound or scent evokes something other than sadness for us? There will plenty more that trigger sadness, but I am so glad you were able to hear joy in the bursting of bubbles this time around.