Saturday October 06th 2007, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Life

I mention in my book about doing swim therapy in the early years of my lupus. A detail that didn’t get mentioned was my friend Conway.

Conway was recovering from surgery for bone spurs growing into his neck from having broken it years earlier playing basketball with his kids. So, I would swim laps while he would walk back and forth across the narrower end of the pool, then I would go over to where he was; he would lean back against the edge of the pool, kick his legs gently in the water and tell me stories. We hung out Monday through Friday, an elderly man and his memories and a young mom who wanted to know what it was like to go through all the stages of life she hadn’t seen yet.

He was the best buddy of my mom’s older brother. Small world. They had enlisted in WWII together and had lucked out and been assigned together.  He loved to make those around him laugh, and he liked to tell stories on my uncle for me.

For instance. My uncle had bought a diamond in anticipation of proposing to his girlfriend and had showed it to Conway first: Conway guffawed, told him it was too small and to go exchange it for a bigger one. And my uncle did!

He had a heart attack. I had almost no experience then with the whole subculture thing of hospitals–they intimidated me. I heard that they’d moved him from the ICU to the step-down unit where he could have visitors, and it seemed important, so I got over myself and the vastness of Stanford’s maze and went to go find him.

He was grumpy and growly when I got there, which surprised me; I had never seen him like that. He was one of the wisest, kindest old men I knew. Fairly quickly, though, he recovered his sense of humor and was his own sweet self again, a relief to both of us.

I walked back to my car with a huge sense I could not explain, and still can’t quite even now for how strong it was: that my going had been one of the more important things I’d ever done. That I had made a difference. The intensity of the feeling made no sense to me and I argued with it, thinking I really hadn’t done much; I’d been there maybe 20 minutes, not wanting to wear him out. Someone else had come in when I was coming out, giving him a chance to tease me to his friend, and I imagined he was a pretty popular patient.

Much later, when I was critically ill at Stanford myself, I came to understand far better how much strength is conveyed to a patient by the immediate presence of people who care about them. Physical and emotional strength, in a direct person-to person transfer that makes a huge difference to a degree only a very ill patient can know.

While I was off at my 20th high school reunion, 10 years ago, he had another heart attack, at that pool, and he passed away. I was 3000 miles away and missed his funeral and have always regretted that. His wife Elaine, the kind of woman whom I wanted to be like when I grew up, moved to San Diego to be near her kids, and then she passed away too.

Fast forward. Fourteen months ago my older son met the future love of his life when she arrived in town from her home in San Diego in anticipation of starting law school.

Yes. Conway and Elaine’s granddaughter. We had no idea. If only he were here now to tease my son with that story about my uncle and that ring. I guess I’ll have to do it for him.

19 Comments so far
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How wonderful for you all that they met. Bless them! I hope they have a wonderful life together.

Comment by vicki 10.06.07 @ 2:26 pm

What a wonderful story. I have never seen your knitting “in real life”, but I do so enjoy your sharing your real life with your wonderful gift of storytelling. You are quite talented at both – thanks for sharing your gifts. T

Comment by Tammy Morrow 10.06.07 @ 7:53 pm

Wow is it a small world. I’ll have to tell this story at the wedding I’m leaving to attend in a few mintues! lol

Comment by Gigi 10.07.07 @ 3:56 am

now, that is a cool story.

I’m also laughing because you already seemed to be related to everyone. You weren’t related to Conway, but now that’s going to be blown…

Comment by Johnna 10.07.07 @ 11:43 am

Alison, that is such a touching story. I needed to read a story of something good coming after death. It gives me some hope as right now I feel so stricken with grief. Thank you.

Comment by Amanda 10.07.07 @ 2:45 pm

Sing with me,”It’s a small world after all….”

Comment by Carol 10.07.07 @ 3:33 pm

Your stories give me goose bumps! I am continually amazed at the “connections” we find in our lives. What a blessing… 🙂


Comment by Bev 10.07.07 @ 5:49 pm

Wow that truly is amazing! Clearly they were meant to meet and be together. How blessed they are.

Comment by Allison 10.07.07 @ 11:22 pm

[…] so here it is.  For Conway’s daughter-in-law and Kim’s mom.  As I wait for the doorbell to ring.  No Comments so […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.15.08 @ 12:58 pm

[…] is also where our friends Conway and Elaine invited us to the wedding reception of their son fourteen years ago, where we first met another of […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 06.01.08 @ 8:22 pm

[…] years ago, our friend Conway told me that one of his sons and his family had been visiting, and were just going out the door for […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 07.03.08 @ 11:54 am

[…] many stories out of those parties…  Conway asking a new member of the group, trying to make conversation, how many children she had.  I […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 12.15.08 @ 6:06 pm

[…] think of the ten-year-old granddaughter of our older friends Conway and Elaine that I met at their youngest son’s wedding reception; that cute little girl, who […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 12.26.09 @ 6:07 pm

[…] was while I was in Washington DC for my 20th high school reunion that my friend Conway, my uncle’s friend too from WWII, had another heart attack, this time at the pool where, on a […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 08.13.10 @ 10:57 pm

[…] Conway had had that exact same ring, and clearly wore it enough that she remembered it. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.03.11 @ 11:06 pm

[…] he started into his tale, I knew exactly who he was talking about: I’d read the biography by the man’s son about his father. Then he named the name. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 10.02.11 @ 7:54 pm

[…] side. I so love these good people. I chatted with one of her uncles who did not know I had known his father so well, and as we talked, he showed me the ring he wore that his namesake father’s father […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 06.03.13 @ 4:35 pm

[…] in the slide show there was a photo of Jean and her husband with Conway and Elaine that got me right there. It took me by surprise how fiercely I missed those three and it was mixed […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 02.07.16 @ 12:01 am

[…] were memories in those pages and he’d wanted his late friend Conway’s kids to have a copy and there we were. Probably the best Christmas present we could possibly pass along […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 11.08.17 @ 11:46 pm

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