I have so many pictures of our kids, but this is the only one I have of us together…Remember when I stopped by to visit you on my way back from the doctor’s office, after I had gotten my cancer diagnosis? I knew you’d just had surgery, but we didn’t realize until then that we both had cancer. It was so terrible to discover that we were both going through the same thing, but it was also a comfort to have a friend who truly understood.
Remember how we texted back and forth comparing appointment schedules, biopsies, and scans, and how we tried to fit in visits in between? Remember the time we spent together as you were undergoing chemo treatments? Sometimes we chatted, sometimes I just sat next to you while you slept. Sometimes we continued our conversations over lunch after your infusion was finished.
Remember when you had your son drive you to my house to visit me after my surgery? You were still weak from undergoing treatment, but you wanted to bring food to me. Remember how you asked, “Are you ok with pig feet?” Yang! Could you tell I was having a bit of a panic attack trying to figure out how to politely say that I didn’t think I’d be able to eat pig feet?! (I’m so sorry)! Remember how when I was worrying about what was going to happen to me you texted me: “I am together with you“? Yang, even though we can’t see each other right now, I am together with you too. Thank you for being such a good friend to me. When we see each other again, let’s take another picture together, OK?
Just a quick note today…Remember the Lunar New Year party you had at your house a couple years ago? It was both exhilarating and terrifying! I wrote about it here…
If I had a lantern to light this evening, my wish would be for good health: for you, for my own family, and for everyone around the world who is suffering right now.
Thank you for being a light in this exhilarating and terrifying life, my dear friend. We’ll get through this dark night together.
“Though we are far, our hearts our near.”
Yesterday I had my scheduled “Be Well” visit, one of the many annoying assaults to my dignity that I must endure, like a pigeon pecking a button for a pellet, to earn a lousy (taxable) $600.
A slim, bright-eyed doctor strode into the room. He looked all of twelve years old.
“So! Let’s talk about your Be Well goals for the year!”
I was taken aback. “Oh! I actually have been thinking about those all week, but I’m still working on them. I promise I’ll have them by my next phone appointment with my Be Well Advocate though.”
“Mmmhmmm,” he said with his fingers poised over the keyboard, “But I have to put them into the system, so let’s go ahead and work on those now.”
“NOW?!” I said in a mild panic, “Well, OK. I will…ummm…try to exercise four days a week.”
“Good one!” he said with an encouraging smile, “One more.”
“I’m blanking. Do you have any suggestions for me?” I asked.
“How about…I will meditate three times a week for five minutes. That seems easy enough, right?”
“Yes, but…shouldn’t it be something that I would realistically do?”
I continued to muse out loud, “I know I should lose some weight, but I also feel like the goal should be something that would actually be achievable…”
“Drink less?” he proposed.
“I don’t drink.”
“Eat less sweets at work?”
“I don’t eat a lot of sweets.”
“Eat a greater proportion of vegetables at meals?”
“I don’t eat meat.”
“Well! You’re just perfect.”
Exasperating medical health professionals is one of my special talents.
Until this year, it used to be the case that instead of going to a doctor, the Be Well program would require you to move through stations set up around a large conference room. At one station you would get weighed and measured. At another station you would get your blood drawn. At the final station, a nurse would interpret your results and give you recommendations to improve your health.
One year, a well-meaning nurse tried to get to the bottom of my high cholesterol numbers.
“Do you eat a lot of sugar?”
“No, I really don’t.”
“Do you eat a lot of fried foods?”
He started to look at me with suspicion.
“I don’t eat meat, just fish occasionally.”
His eyes narrowed and he asked, “Fatty foods?”
“Not really, although…I do eat cheese,” I conceded.
The nurse pounced: “You MUST. EAT. LESS. CHEESE.”
Now, under pressure to come up with something, anything, I blurted out to the doctor: “OK, I have my second goal!” Forgetting all my scruples about setting a goal that was both realistic and achievable I announced: “I will eat less cheese.” I cringed as the words spilled from my lips, fully confident that no stupider-sounding goal had ever been set in the history of the universe.
Doogie Howser exacted his revenge on me.
“Hah! That’s the exact opposite of MY goal. My goal is to eat MORE cheese. I fantasize about quitting medicine and becoming a cheesemaker! But my wife says I have to pay off all my med school loans first.”
Well, I suppose we all have our crosses to bear.
Shutterfly has jumped on the “Memory” wagon and I love it…Last week they emailed me these photos from a Christmas card photo shoot ten years ago!
We’re going to see that no-longer-little-sprite-on-the-right very soon…I just bought his train ticket. He’ll be home for the holidays from his first semester of college by the end of the week!
For the blooper reel:
Arlington Princeton Philadelphia
My daughter’s soccer team was playing in a pre-season tournament in Arlington this weekend. Serendipitously, The Wolves, a Pulitzer-nominated play about a girls’ high school travel soccer team, was having its final run this weekend at the Studio Theatre in DC. My sister got tickets for the three of us and we decided to tell my daughter only that she had a surprise in store.
I picked her up early from school on Friday to make sure we would beat the traffic and make it to DC on time. As we walked to the car, she asked, “So are you going to tell me now what the surprise is, or are you going to make me wait until we get there to find out?”
“You’re just going to have to wait till we get there,” I said, “But remind me…you’ve never had an allergic reaction to any anesthetics, right?”
She merely smirked and rolled her eyes at my clumsy attempt to throw her off the scent.
It took me to Ruckersville to come up with a second gambit: “Hey! You really like organ meat, don’t you?”
“What’s organ meat?” she asked me, not even looking up as she tap tap tapped away on her phone.
“You know…like, intestines, brain, heart, liver, kidney…,” I said, forcing down the wicked laughter that was bubbling up inside me.
“I’d gladly try organ meat,” the little saucepot replied serenely, not even glancing up from her phone, “but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat it.”
“DAMMIT!” I cursed inwardly, frustrated by the girl’s infernal insouciance.
I brooded over the problem all the way up Route 29 until we reached Culpeper, when a devious idea began to form in my brain.
“You did remember to bring a fancy dress and your nice shoes, right?” I casually asked.
My girl whose standard uniform consists of sweatpants and a t-shirt dropped her phone and whipped her head around to look at me with a horrified expression: “Wait, WHAT?!”
Ah, sweet victory!
“OK, you really got me that time,” she said. We collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter, and I could finally relax for the rest of the trip!
Our first stop was the W Hotel and the POV rooftop lounge:
Everything was delicious, but I’m going to dream about the Buñuelo Fritters for the rest of my life. They tasted like impossibly scrumptious, warm air.
The play was amazing!
The tournament didn’t begin until the late afternoon, so we had all morning to relax…
Grandpa & Grandma tested out the new leg massage contraption their favorite son sent them…
Lunch at Rice Paper, Grandma’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Eden Center in Falls Church:
My girl’s own cheering squad, including her grandparents, my sister, and my BFF, turned out in the bitter cold to root for her team…
The girls advanced to the finals with two wins under their belts.
Because of Daylight Savings, we woke up ten minutes before we had to leave for the first game of the day.
We raced out the door with my dad, who decided to play hooky from church to join us on the field. I can’t emphasize enough how exceedingly rare and hardly-to-be-believed-bordering-on-miraculous this was.
Good thing they won!
A repost in honor of Valentine’s Day…
Thanks to our church, which hosted a Parents’ Night Out yesterday, my husband and I were able to go out on an extremely rare date night. Our daughter fit the target age for the participants, and I somewhat eagerly enlisted the boys to be helpers. My husband brought the kids from home and I left work so that we could all meet up at the church at 5.
As we signed the kids in, the kind adults who were supervising the evening asked, “So what are you guys going to do on your date?”
“Uhhh…we’re not really sure yet,” I admitted, “but I guess we’ll go out to dinner.”
“Where do you guys usually like to eat?”
I’m pretty sure they weren’t asking about our dashes into Subway between soccer and piano practices, or to Panera on a Saturday in the middle of a day of running errands with a minivan chock full of kids…It’s the kind of question that would be easier to answer if a date night was something that happened more frequently than say, the appearance of Halley’s Comet in Earth’s atmosphere.
The last time we had a regular date night was fifteen years ago, when we were married with no children. We were both singing in the church choir and practice was on Thursday evenings. I was pregnant with our first child at the time, (the boy who is now 6 feet tall), and I was always ravenously hungry. We would go to Ruby Tuesday, which was both close to our rehearsal, and had a menu that met both of our needs. While my husband demurely nibbled at his salad bar dinner, I would devour every last bite of one of those Pantagruelian platters groaning with three different kinds of meat. You know…the kind that would only be appealing to obese middle-aged men and me in my pregnant, callow youth.
Yesterday, as we got back into the car, we giddily pondered our restaurant options as wondrously as if we were contemplating a rare and precious diamond. We made a spur of the moment decision to go to an Italian restaurant, because we can be crazy like that. We showed up at 5:30 with all the other geriatrics.
As I sat there in the warm and elegant ambiance, I drummed my fingers impatiently, my eyes darting around, wondering if the bread would arrive in my lifetime. After gulping down the bread and an appetizer that we rashly ordered in our expansive mood, we were both full.
“I guess it’s too late to cancel the rest of our dinner, right?” I asked.
We had a couple bites of our main courses, but took most of them home in boxes. This would have never happened in our Ruby Tuesday days! After polishing off my meat slab platter, I’d still be picking croutons off my husband’s salad.
Dinner was done and we still had a couple of hours to go before we had to pick up the kids. The restaurant is right next to Trader Joe’s, so that’s where we headed next. We got into an intense debate about the merits of Trader Joe Honey Nut O’s versus Honey Nut Cheerios.
“Their version tastes much better than Honey Nut Cheerios,” my husband told me, “It’s less sweet.”
“Well, it may taste better, but the misplaced apostrophe is burning my eyes,” I replied.
As we rang up our purchases, we still had an hour and a half before we had to pick up the kids.
“Well…what should we do now?”
“Oh, I know! Let’s go to CVS and pick up my prescriptions and get Epsom salt,” my husband said.
“OK, Gramps! Let’s do it!”
As my husband was paying for our purchases, I remembered I had a $5 coupon attached to a CVS receipt that was floating around in my purse. I pulled it out and tentatively showed it to the cashier. “Would we possibly be able to use this?” I asked doubtfully.
“Sure!” she said as she tore it from my receipt.
As we walked back to the car, we were both jubilant. My husband said, “I can’t wait to try my Epsom salts!” I said, “I think this might just be the best day of my life. I feel like I just won the jackpot! This is the first time in my whole life that I’ve actually been able to use one of those CVS coupons. I’m so inordinately happy, I think I could dance a jig right here on the sidewalk! Could you smell the scent of victory, crackling like ozone in your nostrils when I got to use my coupon? Because I sure did!”
Flush with my unexpected success, I had another idea…
“HEY! Let’s go to the CoinStar at Harris-Teeter!”
We drove over to the grocery store and my husband obligingly lugged in the heavy container full of change that I had stashed in the car.
Have you ever used CoinStar? It’s mesmerizing to watch the sum grow from piles of pennies that have just been lying around the house. We didn’t want the magic to ever end. After emptying our container, we pulled out every last penny from our pockets and wallets until the clinking of the coins finally stopped.
“Wow. This is the best date ever,” I said with a sigh of contentment, “First, the coupon and now this!”
It was now 8 o’clock.
“We still have half an hour. We’re supposed to pick up the kids at 8:30.”
“Yeah, but I’m sure it will be fine to pick them up early. And then we can get home, so I can try my Epsom salts.”
And that’s what we did.
And it was good. Really, really good. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky…
Read the rest of Starfish, by Eleanor Lerman here.