Thursday, September 2, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Timbre—Colors of Love
Before I go on, I must tell the story of the 79 Ford Festia. It was the first near new car that Mary’s had purchased on her own. It was a cute little thing, and in a day when gas was equivalent to about four dollars a gallon today, she had made a good choice. It was the little red car that could and it got at least thirty miles to the gallon. She was quite pleased that she only had a year before she would pay it off and then it would be hers, free and clear.
The sad part was the paint. Already, just two years into the aging process the car looked like it was old. It wasn’t chipped or dinged much, just flat; dull and lifeless. One evening I was teasing her; she ought to rub a little luster back into its lifeless look. In Mary’s innocence’s she claimed she had washed the car when it was needed but had never understood the call for to wax. Anyone younger than about forty has probably never waxed a car for the reason car wax was first invented. The reason behind that assumption is that automotive paints beginning in the early eighties changed from acrylics to urethanes. The monthly ritual of car wax became a thing of the past.
Perhaps a brief understanding of the language of love might be helpful before I continue. Me; I demonstrate love by service. It’s hardwired into me somehow and I’ve never become very efficient in the other languages. Mary on the other hand likes thoughtful little gifts as one of the ways she hears recognizes my love. The album, card and yellow rose that I had covertly placed in her car had made a big impression. But I thought I was about to deliver the mother of all tokens of our growing friendship.
One evening, prior to Mary’s trip to Zions Park, we thought it might be nice to buff her car. We went to my shop and began working together to give the car some luster. As we worked I realized we were only making a temporary fix and got the brilliant idea we should just apply a new urethane clear coat that would be a permanent fix. Mary was anxious to help and insisted on diving right in. I gave her some very fine sandpaper and detailed instructions to help her avoid sanding through the paint into the primer. Five minutes into our procedure Mary polished the paint to the bare metal. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and really didn’t want to repaint the entire car so we decided a gold pinstripe might be nice. I did the rest of the sanding, after I gave Mary a ride home.
The balance of the night was spent taping windows and bumpers, and preparing the little red car for a face lift. By morning the car shone as bright as the cute little owner that drove it. I picked Mary up early, drove her back to the shop, and delivered the car. She was delighted. Its new luster had a tinge of gold pearl that gleamed in the rays of the sun, but still seemed pail to the shining face of its owner.
July 17, 2010
We just returned from our first colorful excursion in the Seabreeze. We started a little late last night. Mary had picked up a half a shift for someone at work who had been ‘desperate’ and returned home about a quarter to seven. Austin was the last one to arrive at seven thirty. He had the pizza, so it wasn’t optional to leave him behind. Daniel was ahead of us in his new; previously owned Toyota 4-Runner.
American Fork Canyon was our destination, close, convenient, and familiar. We had planned on finding a nice secluded spot near the river, to build a campfire, sit in the cool night air, roast some marshmallows, and make Somores. Right! I haven’t been up the canyon on a Friday night lately. Wall to wall cars, dist a half inch thick on everything, every campground full to the brim, and we’re in a 32 foot motor home.
Kinley had been our local Betty Crocker from the moment she woke until the moment we pulled from the curb. She had been busy packing everything we needed or might need on our simple overnight excursion. For example; she had packed her suitcase with two weeks of clothing and had filled the cupboards with nearly 20 pounds of dog food, in gallon size zip lock bags, for Slim. He needs about a cup of dog food a day. We had full packages of Q-tips opened and scattered on the floor, enough books to fill a library bookshelf—so “we could read on our trip together”—and Kinley had gotten online and had thoughtfully printed a map and brochure of the ‘Skyway Camping Resort, only 2 hours away from New Your City.’ If there was ever a possibility of anyone else with the sweet purity of Kinley in this world, who enjoys the simple pleasures of life like she does, their family would be blessed as ours has been blessed.
By about four-o-clock in the afternoon, and with a little patience, I began to write lists for Kinley to work on, all in the final preparation for our trip. She packed hoses around the house and filled the water tank, loaded food in the fridge, gathered toilet paper and paper towels. Single handedly, she nearly packed everything we needed for the trip.
I think the ambient temperature yesterday was near 100 degrees. The motor home was 120 degrees before I started the generator and air conditioning at about ten to seven in preparation to leave. It cooled to at least 105 by the time we piled in to hit the road. Ken, Mary, Austin, Kayshia, Kinley, and yes two dogs—Slim and Kayla. Some people love dogs. I used to be one of those people. My love of dogs went away when the term went from dog to dogs, dog hair, dogs in the house, licking, poop on the carpet, barking, dogs in beds, children fighting over who gets the dog tonight, six hundred dollar vet bills—because the dog ate a fish hook—nasty letters from neighbors, poop on the lawn, holes in the grass, dead baby ducks—I could go on for at least another page but I won’t. I ‘love’ the dogs, because my wife and children love them. Someday the children will be gone and then the dogs will only visit.
By the time we pulled off the freeway we had cooled to a mild 95 degrees. Both dogs were wedged into the space between Mary’s knees and the dashboard—or on her lap with there wet noses and panting tongues pressed indiscriminately against the window. Did I mention dog saliva on my pants, arms and windows is one of my favorite things?
Cars and SUV’s were backed up a hundred yards, waiting to pay the six dollar fee at the US Forest Service toll booth when we arrived. I guess our first hint of trouble should have been the “All Campgrounds Full” sign that hung from the booth. No worries; we had everything we needed right there in the motor home. The second sign of trouble was, “No Camping Outside of Designated Campgrounds.” The real problems started when it appeared like we would need to find a place to turn the thirty-two foot monster around on the one lane dirt road with the river on one side and the shear mountain wall on the other.
Daniel lit out ahead to try to find a spot near Granit Flat. After our eighteen point turn and a trip part way back down the rough dirt road, we waited at the Tibble Fork turnoff toward Granit Flat. At last Daniel’s return gave a glimmer of hope that we might find a single parking spot in the upper campground. Dusk had turned to darkness as we lumbered up the mountain road. Winding curves, kids on four wheelers, motorcycles, and narrow patches made the short drive into a white knuckle ordeal.
After realizing the campground was no better than the Wal-Mart parking lot, and after another eighteen point turn, we were pointed back down the canyon with the church parking lot in mind. It was the turn off to the equestrian parking area that turned us from the main road. The signs that said, “No Over Night Parking,” and “Equestrian Parking Only” were of little deterrent. Nether the signs or the piles of horse manure stopped us from setting up camp in the only semi-secluded spot on the mountain. There were no marshmallows, soothing sounds of the river passing by, no campfires, cool night breezes and staring up at the stars, and no Somores. It seemed a little fruitless.
I suppose it was that one single hour before bed that really counted. We were gathered around, yawning and joking; that now that we had arrived, it was time for bed. It was Kayshia that pulled out the Apples to Apples game. There we were laughing and teasing, winning and losing, but mostly; doing what families are designed to do best, sharing the strength of our roots with each other as we prepared to enter a new season in the never-ending unexpected changes of life.
I lay on the small hard bed in the back of the motor home knowing that with the anxious dogs sharing floor space, the smell of the hot generator and horse manure wafting through the open windows, and the constant movement from the five bodies all jammed into the same space with the paper thin walls, it would be a very restless nights sleep. Mary climbed from her knees and rolled under the sheet. She reached over and lovingly rubbed her hand across my chest and said, “Thank you dear, this is exactly what I needed.”
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
July 14, 2010
Today is the first time I have seen this beast drag Mary down. Yes there have been tears and fears; questions and worries, but this evening it all seemed to pile up. It was like the load was just too heavy to hold as we sat across from each other in the office and talked. I held her in my arms. I wished I could take it away and make it mine. But, it is what it is . . . so I will do all that I can and sometimes just listening is all that I can do.
Her brother Steve and his wife Jenny and there six children are here on a visit from Idaho. Jenny has been like a sister the last few years. They have been out shopping for wigs. Something that looks as much like her hair as possible. The wig shop lady told her is just seems a little less frightening to have your hair sitting on the dresser when the day comes that the real hair falls out.
Mary also went to see the plastic surgeon today. That was the hardest part. They discussed options that would make her feel the best through the Chemo and radiation, something temporary and then a more permanent solution after radiation. I wasn’t with her for the appointment.
Steve rented a movie, something to make everyone laugh, and now, in the other room, it seems to be doing the trick.
Joann and Tammie were two of Mary’s best friends. One day in the early summer of 1981 the three of them decided to go camping to Zion’s National Park in Southern Utah. They packed their things and off they went. I don’t believe I knew anything about the trip until John Tangelson showed up on my doorstep. John and I were friends and he was engaged to be married to Joann. When I realized he seemed a little blue I said, “You look like you lost your best friend.”
He replied, “I did. She left for Zions Park this morning.”
“Zions, what’s she doing there?”
“No, didn’t Mary tell you?” He knew we had been dating because we’d doubled a few weeks earlier.
“I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Joan, Mary, and Tammy just decided to go camping.” I could see John was already feeling a little incomplete without Joan.
“So you came here to pout?”
“No, I came to see if you want to take a ride to Southern Utah and find them?”
“A ride? It’s four hours away.”
“I know and I can’t afford the gas.” John was a starving student. He drove a big boat of a car and gas prices were out the roof.
I laughed, “So, you want the two of us to ride my bike to Zions and find your girl?”
“You have a stake in this too,” he said.
“I don’t have any claim. She might not like me showing up unexpected.” I wanted to go, but I didn’t. If Mary wanted me to know she was leaving, she would have told me.
“Blame it on me,” John said in desperation. “Tell her I made you go.”
It didn’t take much pleading to convince me. Mary was my girl; she just didn’t know it yet.
We strapped our sleeping bags to the bike and put our gear in the saddle bags, cranked up the music and adjusted our helmets. I owned two bikes. One for the road and one for the dirt and we were on the road. It was near dusk when we arrived at the park entrance. We crept past every campsite we could see, and then drove from campground to campground inspecting spot after spot until late into the night. Mary owned a cute little red Ford Fiesta. If it was there, we would have found it.
“They aren’t here,” John finally conceded.
“You’re sure they were coming to Zions?”
“That’s what Joann told me.” John was disappointed.
We soon found ourselves lying on the hard ground, staring up at the midnight stars. The following morning John insisted on a new search of each campground. Our efforts delivered the same results. We later learned that the girls had found a dirt road off the beaten path and driven down it. The spent night under the same midnight stars only a quarter mile from where we had spent the night.
July 15, 2010
The lab called today. It’s not good news. Mary is Her2 negative. This will make fighting the cancer more difficult. There has not been a good long term treatment developed for the triple negative receptor yet. This makes reoccurrence nearly three times more likely. We are especially grateful that we caught it early. Because it is still so small, this increases the odds of long term survival.
There was some encouraging news. The MRI reports came back. The cancer has not spread to other portions of the breasts and the tumor is the same size they have anticipated.
We are going camping this weekend. The motor home is about to be used. It will be a quick get away because Mary is working someone’s second half on Friday.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Her inception took place one hot summer day in 1980. Her delivery took months. It wasn’t a typical birth. It was more like a long drawn out C-section. The operating room was filthy and smelled of paint fumes and metal filings. It didn’t take place in a hospital, but a body shop. The doctors weren’t doctors at all, but a bunch of sweaty young guys with air chisels and hand grinders. Her mother was a 66 Chevy Impala two door hard top—and her daddy—well let’s just say the International Harvester Company put out an early vehicle that resembled the modern four wheel drive Suburban. We stripped him to the frame and left the essential ‘manly organs’ in tact, you know, the motor, transmission, transfer case and differentials. The first thing the Chevy lost was her top; she became a new sexy hard top convertible. Top-on in the winter and topless in the summer. The red tuck-and-roll bench seats were perfect for the drive-in, or a pile in. After we mated the two it looked like a monster truck on estrogen and she took a step ladder to climb aboard.
Who knows what we were thinking. Probably the same thing any twenty-one-year-old single dude would be thinking—‘babe magnet.’ Problem was, she was the babe and she drew dumb young men to her like a man magnet. We called her The Beast. She was a money pit. She had big wheels and tires, new interior, paint, computerized state of the art control center, and a soft cover for the rain.
July 13, 2010
My ‘babe’ had her first Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan today. Before the procedure, the receptionist called to schedule and asked Mary if she was closter phobic. Mary didn’t think so, but considered taking something to help her remain calm. I explained to her it wasn’t so bad. She just needed to close her eyes and relax. They gave her an IV with contrast so they could get the best result. Mary’s paternal relatives have an extensive history of cancer, so the oncologist is running the BRCA gene specific battery and taking as many extra precautions as possible.
She had to lay topless, face downward with her breasts pulled down for the scan. At first she was so tense she thought the ‘beast’ was running before it even started. However, after she put in her earplugs, it didn’t take long for Mary to relax. She said she actually fell asleep a few times. I’ve seen her fall asleep half way through a sentence before, so it didn’t surprise me.
The giant MRI starts out with a click, click, click . . . click, clunk . . . clunk . . . clunk, clunk. There’s no rime or reason to the sounds, but the monstrous machine is intimidating no matter how you look at it. Thank goodness for modern technology.
They sent us home with a CD of the inside of Mary’s breasts. And of course the first thing I did when we got home was to put it in the computer and ‘check it out.’ Sometimes I think I‘m pretty smart. Looking at the inside of someone’s body is not one of those times. Even though I know where the tumor is, I couldn’t distinguish between healthy tissue and the cancerous beast lurking inside.
I think it was our fifth or sixth date that included The Beast. It was a drive up American Fork canyon. The top was off and Mary clung tightly to the arm rest on far side of the vehicle. We were still miles apart. Had I known then what I know now about Mary; a trip in a 4x4 was not a treat. She’s never liked the instability, or the big machines. She was a good sport, it was just the distance between us I didn’t like. I’d suggested she could scoot a little closer, but she wasn’t having any part of it.
It was the nature of the gravel base, the ride, and the angle of the road that got things moving up and down—oddly enough, just on the passenger side. We were making a sharp turn on an up hill slope, where the road had been severely wash boarded. The Beast bounced, and then bounced again with a little more force. Mary began to laugh. I know that laugh now after thirty years of marriage. It is typically perpetuated by something embarrassing or something that makes her uncomfortable, but is still very funny. It’s almost contagious. By the third bounce we were both laughing and it was the force of that bounce that finally broke Mary’s vise-like grip from the passenger door’s armrest. The fourth bounce had her air borne, her arms scrambling for something to hang onto. But it was the fifth bounce than landed her precisely by my side with her arms wrapped tightly around my neck.
“There’s more than one way to scoot you close,” I chuckled.
We hiked that evening to a little place we call Silver Lake. There’s an aspen tree on the bend, just above the last steep climb of the hike, and on its east facing trunk the words are carved ‘Ken + Mary.’ I’m not quite sure how, but I had the nerve to implicate a relationship worth carving in a tree. Mary reluctantly went along with my vandals’ act and let me carve her name next to mine. She was worried the tree might suffer from the deep scar. I told her not to worry, the aspen tree is tough and vigorous and gains strength from the trees that surround it and tie their root systems to each other. It would be just fine.
July 13, 2010
We met Dr. Jennifer Tittensor this morning. Did I actually spell that right? I better check. Yep. She specializes in breast surgery. She called her staff in early so she could fit Mary into her tight schedule. Lindsey (formerly Dickenson, a daughter of one of our close neighbors) is the Dr.’s Nurse practitioner—and she’s expecting her first child in less than a month. She met with us first. Lindsey told us what a great person Dr. Tittensor has been. Just the act of bringing the staff in early told me the story, but it was even better when we heard it from a friend. We were also reminded of our neighbor who passed away just a year or two ago from breast cancer. It was disclosed that same office staff had seen her too.
There we were, Mary and Ken, sitting in a surgeon’s office, a new bend in the road of life, with a long steep climb ahead, both waiting to see how deep the carving of a breast might be. Mary was worried about the horror stories she’d heard of someone going into surgery for a lumpectomy and coming out with a mastectomy. I can only imagine the anxiety those thoughts might have created.
Mary was told to strip to the waist. I asked her if she wanted my striptease ensemble again. I got a sharp “no”. I complied. Lindsey returned and we went through the routine of health history, how long ago the lump was discovered, family history, and so on. Then we waited.
When the Dr. Tittensor arrived she immediately apologized for being late. With not much difference in height between the two women, she thrust her hand forward and vigorously shook Mary’s hand. I was next. She introduced herself and her slight accent and mannerisms reminded me a little of Holly Hunter in a much more wholesome style. Her long dark hair was pulled into a tight pony tail and I imagined her as a girl trotting around the arena on her father’s ranch in the not so distant past.
With the pleasantries in the past, the doctor methodically explained the details of what we should expect; surgery, three weeks of recovery, four months of chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. On the day of the lumpectomy she would install a portacath through her neck and down near the heart. It would be much more convenient than many needle pokes into the veins, and quite often the veins have a hard time through Chemo.
With so much information it is hard to digest it all in such a short period of time. There’s the Her2, reconstruction surgery, lymphedema, how Chemo will effect her body, and will there be a surprise mastectomy if something new is discovered during the lumpectomy?
The doctor was cordial and answered all our questions one at a time. No, there would not be any surprises. She never started a lumpectomy and then turned it into a mastectomy. She said that we were still waiting for the pathology for the last data on the Her2, if it turned out positive it would make the fight easier than if it turned out negative. Some reconstructive surgery would take place during the lumpectomy and some would be after the radiation because radiation can actually shrink the breast tissue two sizes. We would learn more after we met with the plastic surgeon.
Lymphedema is always a concern. It is desirable to leave as many of the lymph nodes intact as possible. Lymphedema takes place when the nodes are not present to remove the fluid that builds in the tissues. It causes swelling and pain. Dr. Tittensor said that she would try first to find a sentinel node, or two, and see if cancer is present. If they were clear she would leave the others intact. If not, she would take the group near the arm pit to have them examined. This is important in establishing the staging of the cancer so Chemo treatment could be decided.
Mary has been reluctant to tell her friends about this traumatic event. She doesn’t want the big C on her chest where only her breasts have been. I reminded her about the aspen tree. The roots of aspen trees interlock with each other becoming one system. Each tree gains strength from the connection to another. I know that Mary’s friends and family, neighbors and co-workers will unite with her, with us, to give her the strength she needs to help her through this heavy task.
Many years passed and one day we planned an early Saturday morning family excursion to Silver Lake. The day arrived and we loaded our daypacks and water bottles into our Ford Expedition 4X4 and headed up the canyon. We had big kids and little ones, strong young men and little girls, all helping each other as we trudged up the rugged trail. The little ones grew hot and exhausted while the men were anxious to reach the top. I remember clearly the vivid pictures of two little children hoisted onto the shoulders of their big brothers, helping hands stretched out as we each worked together to reach the top. And there, on the bend, just above the last steep climb of the hike, and on its east facing trunk, the aspen, the words still roughly visible Ken + Mary to which were added the words + Jake + Daniel + Chrissy + Austin + Kayshia + Kinley.
When we reached the top, the mountain air was crisp and cool and the water of the lake ice cold. We were at the base of timberline, the last place on the mountain peak where the trees could grow. The boys stripped to their underwear and dared take a frigid dip in the clear water. We laughed and played, told our children the story of their parents date, the night their mother was forced to sit close to dad. We shouted at the ridge tops and listened to the echoes of our voices, a time so shortly past.
Dave Fisher stood in the doorway with a silly grin plastered across his face. The smell of cheap cologne wafted into the room as the cold air from the open door swept past me leaving me feeling like I’d somehow been standing there in nothing but my underwear. Dave was my motorcycle riding buddy, we’d met in the fall of 1980 at the same young adult group where I’d met Mary. He was tall, dark, and handsome and had an inner confidence about girls that I had never quite mastered. Dave was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Mary, completely innocent of any wrong doing, was still in shock trying to figure out how to explain the entire situation—and the roommate—well she was enjoying the entire spectacle way too much. It only took a second for me to get my clothes back on before I turned to Mary’s roommate, flirted a little, and reinforced my invitation to the upcoming activity. I wished Dave and Mary good luck on their date and shortly found myself sulking into my apartment—defeated—yet a champion for skillfully averting a very awkward situation for all involved. Dave didn’t have a clue and the roommate; well she’d just had the wind blown from her buxom sail.
It was early March before Dave and I rode again, one of those unseasonable spring days that followed a melting snow. Most of my hopes had been dashed as I had watched Mary and Dave seem more serious about their relationship through the previous months. There still flickered a glimmer of optimism that kept me returning to the weekly meeting in the hope the Dave would fall gently flat on his handsome face. Dave strapped down his helmet and I led out. My body shop was not far from the foothills and made a good starting place for our ride. After an exhausting climb to the mouth of Slate Canyon we parked our bikes and pulled off the helmets.
“How are things with you and Mary?” I asked.
“We broke up a couple of weeks ago,” Dave replied.
My heart jumped. “Oh! Too bad.”
He gave me a rehearsed excuse for the split and I gave him my condolences. Our conversation somehow landed us back on the night in Mary’s apartment. I teased him about his cheap cologne and I told him why I was there that night. Dave nearly laughed himself off his bike. He’d been wondering why I was in Mary’s apartment and flirting with her envious roommate and why everyone had been so tense, and now it all made perfect sense.
“You need to ask her out,” Dave finally suggested.
“Who, the roommate? Not a chance.” But I knew who he meant.
“No . . . Mary, you two would be great together.”
“Na, I wouldn’t want to step on your wounded toes,” I replied, knowing I could get him to encourage me on.
“No, it’s over between us. She’s a sweetheart. You should do it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely,” Dave said as he strapped on his helmet. “I’ll race you back to the shop.”
My bike was faster and lighter, could jump higher and further than ever before. “My patience might just pay off,” I thought, but I knew the competition would be tough. “Maybe that’s why Dave was done, maybe he was setting me up for failure, just like him.” I soon left Dave in a trail of dust.
High school dating was my failure. During and shortly after—on the occasion when I dated—I’d dated two kinds of girls. Once in a while I’d get “lucky” and meet a beauty queen who would agree to go out with me because of my nice cars. Girls had always been a lot of work and I had always been sure someone else would swish them away. The relationships were always stressful and one sided. I also dated other girls who were less than beauty queens. One in particular, who’s inner beauty was so bright that the physical beauty didn’t seem so important. Her name was Julie Anderson and we spent a great deal of time together. We never had any chemistry between us, so instead of any kind of physical relationship, we became best friends. It was a unique relationship. She talked about her other dates when she was with me and I talked about my other dates when I was with her. We developed a love for each other, something I had never felt with a girl before. We taught each other social skills; she taught me more than I taught her. After we had been apart a year or two, I realized that the kind of affection we felt for each other was what I wanted to feel toward a future spouse. I knew it would be tricky because somehow the physical attraction put chemistry into motion and then . . . kabam, the next thing you knew you were up to your lips in chemistry.
I had already decided that the last thing I wanted to do was mess up the relationship between Mary and me with my lips. I already had enough trouble just opening my mouth, the last thing I needed, if I wanted to develop a lasting relationship, was to stick my lips into the mix. Little did I know that Mary was sick and tired of empty relationships without commitment. She had decided that she would never date exclusively again until some guy had put a ring on her finger.
Our first real date was early in the spring if 1981, dinner at Heaps Brick Oven. That night confirmed that Mary’s inner beauty matched her outer beauty, and I wanted to be a part of her life. Somehow in my clumsy way, I managed to impress her because she had felt a tinge of kindness toward me too. No worries, I managed to muck it up by inviting her out and for the next weekend and then I failed to show up. (This is one of those funny areas where we both differ. My recollection was that we ought to get together again, and hers was a confirmed date.) Regardless, I didn’t show. Mary tells me she even saw me with another girl that night. Talk about in the dog house. She thought I was a “player;” a bad boy. She’d seen my other car and beard and long hair. She’d given me the benefit of the doubt and I’d proven otherwise. I hadn’t had a chance to tell her the car, and beard and hair was all part of my police informant job. She had a newly formed opinion of me and it wasn’t good.
It was like a slow crawl out of a dark hole to get a second date. I hadn’t a clue what I’d done wrong, and she was going to make me work for it. It took at lease two or three dates, a meal I cooked for her in my own kitchen and my stories of undercover police work to win her trust again, but I still wasn’t out of the woods. She was dating several guys, writing to one who was selling books in Canada for the summer, and she was working nights, part time, at the local theater with Steve. He was the one that worried me the most. He seemed as good a friend to her as I was. I’d never met him and had envisioned some Don Juan of European decent, with chiseled hard features and thick accent who was competing for her love.
One night she told me that she loved to garden. That was my chance to occupy one more evening with her and limit her evenings from the competition. My suggestion to start a garden was well received, so once a week, off we lit, to plant and hoe and weed and water the newly sprouting friendship. It was on one of those evenings, while we sat on the grass in the shade of a giant elm tree, she told me about her plan to travel across Europe with Steve. She attempted to explain how they would stay in hostels, the guys in one side and the girls in another. She was so excited and animated as she explained her dream to venture into the unknown, seeing new places, sights, feelings and experiences. I listened carefully but somehow the only thing I heard was “with Steve.” And then I let my lips and mouth get me in trouble.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a nice single girl like you to be traipsing across Europe with a single guy . . . it just wouldn’t look good,” I blurted out.
“What do you mean?” her expression was one of those looks I’ll never forget and have only seen on occasion when I’ve done something really stupid. “Is that really how you feel?” she demanded.
I couldn’t very well back out of my statement and just blurting out “I’m starting to love you and, and. . . . and I would be so jealous if you were with Steve in Europe,” didn’t seem like an appropriate thing to say either. Besides, we hadn’t even kissed. Who was I to tell her how to live her life; that I should be the one to kill her dream of touring Europe? Who was I . . . the bad boy who drove a death dealer car and worked as an undercover police informant trying to give her instructions on moral issues? Who was I to judge her and how it might look to others? That’s the first time I ever got it from my girl. And she really let me have it.
“If that’s how you feel . . .” she took a deep breath. “I don’t ever want to see you again,” she muttered. “Maybe you should take me home.”
Fortunately I wasn’t as generous with the ride home as I had been with my advice. I spent the following hour trying to patch little tiny Band-Aids on the giant open wound I had inflicted with my sharp tongue. The hour after that was spent figuring out where I had gone wrong and letting her know that I valued her friendship. I’ve never been one of many words—from my mouth that is—but I was doing my best. Mary settled down and perhaps listened to what I was trying to say rather than what my lips were saying. Somehow I managed to get the message across, despite my disability to say what I really wanted to say. Things were back on track, but somehow a tiny subconscious switch had been flipped that let Mary know there was more to our friendship than met the eye, and especially the ear.
Days turned into weeks, and I had become successful at occupying as many of those evenings per week as she would allow. One night I was feeling particularly sentimental about our developing friendship. I purchased an album that seemed fitting and drove my big Honda road bike downtown to the theater where Mary worked. With my automotive skills, I quickly unlocked her car door and left a single yellow rose, a little note, and the album on the seat of her car. I locked the door and was gone. I later learned that Steve had walked her to her car after work. When she opened the door and saw the gifts she immediately thanked him for the token. He denied the act. Mary pressed on, besides who else had access to her car keys while she was at work? Adamant denial terminated the praise, but Steve had unintentionally been dealt the first blow of defeat in the war for Mary’s friendship. It was a few nights later that the ultimate battle was lost.
Mary tells the story the best, but as yet, she hasn’t read this love story and therefore it is up to me to relate the details. Steve had asked her out, and of course had to come to the apartment complex to pick her up. Mary says she was a little uptight as they descended the stairs toward the parking lot. She was watching closely, hoping I wouldn’t be seen, or see her with him. My car was not in sight. She managed to make it to the parking lot. Then she climbed into Steve’s car before I pulled into the lot. There I was. I climbed from my car. I looked so happy. She says that without a second thought she ducked. She didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Steve figured it out too. Sorry Steve, you’ll just have to get “overture,” she’s my girl now.
July 11, 2010
I told my bishop about Mary’s cancer today. Mary doesn’t want her friends and neighbors to know about it yet. A big C painted across her chest and everyone feeling sorry for her. As I explained the details I attempted to stop my quivering chin and watering eyes, all without success. Men don’t usually share moments like ours. Those kinds of moments are supposed to be for women, not tough old engineering contractors like me. I’ve found a way to help my wounded heart heal. I love to write. It helps me sort out my tender feelings and organize them in a way so my lips can’t get me in trouble.
Bishop Glover suggested that Mary shouldn’t wait too long before she shares the news with her friends. He reminded me of power of prayer, love and concern that would combine as friends learn and unite in love and prayer for her good. I told him that she understands and the close family has already joined in that process of support.