So hurry up already by taking it easy
Woke up in the night aching and wondering how on earth the bed got so painfully hard–oh. It’s a fever, and oh fun, the brainstem doesn’t want me to breathe on my own (not an entire shutdown, but too close), so, an autonomic nervous system flare to go with. Same old same old, diagnosed fifteen years ago with a blood pressure reading of 63/21 during a tilt table test. Y’know, that’s the lupus symptom I like the least.
But then I did okay today and am hoping that that’s the worst of it.
Meantime, a closeup of the flowers on one side of the second peach tree, with the third, fourth, and fifth peaches soon to burst out in tandem while the honeybees next door were zooming all day around their hive near the fence like electrons around a nucleus, radiant in the sunlight.
Maybe I can get the latest purple cowl off the needles tonight–there are only a few rows’ worth of yarn left in that skein.
We have tickets for our friend Russ’s concert Saturday that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and I really need to be fine by then.
I love that yarn stores across the country were reporting shortages of pink yarn, and that Malabrigo dyed extra due to the demand, sure that it could not arrive in time but people were asking for it anyway.
I laughed at reading that the chunkier yarns went first. Well, yes, you can knit those faster.
The original pattern, for which the New York Times said Malabrigo Rios was the recommended yarn, was as simple as it gets: knit a length with ribbing at the ends, fold it in half and sew the sides and let the ends of the square stick out for the ears once you fit it over a round head. The beginneriest beginner can do it.
I loved the photo someone posted of a planeful of women on the way to the march in DC, some with their hats on for the camera. I grew up in the DC area. I remember the marches and the hitchhikers along the roads afterwards, the sense of being part of history even as an onlooker. I fervently wish I could be there, heck, I wish I could be at the local one but I just cannot risk the sun time with my lupus.
Not to mention that my friend Diana’s memorial service, saved for after the holidays so that people would be able to come, is tomorrow. Diana herself would have changed the date in a heartbeat had she known about the march but it is what it is and I will be cheering her on her way and her loved ones in their grief. And that is how we create the changes for the better around us: one person at a time in each moment as it comes and to the best of our abilities.
I love that Kate at Dragonfly Fibers, in my husband’s hometown of Kensington, MD, posted a picture of 1,500 donated handknit hats, many of them with a note from the knitter to the wearer. She had volunteered to be a distribution point. These had filled her van and she had that many more to put in.
Every single one has been spoken for now.
I love that the project has sparked an interest in knitting nationwide. I love that some entrepreneur designed one fast and got it out there with more realistic ears, mass produced, even if it was $35 and they’d forgotten in their rush to even say what the fiber content was. (So, probably acrylic.) The more hats made, the greater the chance that everybody could have one.
I just couldn’t quite love the idea of putting the Donald’s worst denigration of women on my own personal head. But after the marches tomorrow, I imagine every one of those handknit hats (and maybe even those manufactured ones) is going to be a treasured family heirloom and a proud story for the great grandkids to come. I imagine the knitters of the donated ones and the wearers finding and befriending each other, having already together promoted the ideals our country stands for.
I just so much love that everybody’s doing what they’re doing.
I got requests, and then more requests, and then I would have had to make three for those guys and then for these other guys too and and and there just seemed to be no way to do it right–my heart was with them but if I stopped knitting the afghan I might never return to it. It was a little overwhelming, knitting-wise. I bailed.
I finally wish I’d at least made one, too.
Don’t have any chunky pink but I can double the strands…
At the post office
I had two packages to mail, one heavy, long, and awkward, the other small and easy. As I pulled into the wait-for-a-spot lot at the post office there was this moment of, oh, right. It’s December.
People were pretty crowded together in that long line and I finally said to the guy behind me, not that he had but that I was afraid he would, “If you bump into me I *will* fall down.”
He apologized and backed off a little.
They processed I think two people in the ten minutes after that.
One of my quirks is that if I stand still a long time my low blood pressure starts to drop. Which does not help when you are holding heavy things. And did I mention that just for fun I had a brain MRI immediately before this errand? (Effects from that fall three weeks ago finally got me to let the neurologist run that test.)
Finally I stepped forward apologetically and placed the two packages on the table that the line starts alongside, saying first that I hoped nobody would mind if I put these down?
Note that I still have the black strips of velcro hobbling my rightmost two fingers together, and yesterday I went back in to the doctor to ask if I’d broken my foot, too? Because it’s sure not getting any better. She sent me to the podiatrist, whose take on the x-rays was, Probably. We are waiting on the radiologist. The foot was actually still swollen (I hadn’t noticed or I’d have gone in sooner) and she told me to keep an ace bandage wrapped around it for a week. She decided against the boot only out of fear that with my balance issues it would make me fall again.
So yeah, I was waiting on that line hand and foot, trying to hold that eight pounder and the cane in the other hand and and and. Yeah. That table up ahead looked really good to me.
A man further forward who turned back to say sure, put it down, took one look at me and offered to switch places in line. I was quite surprised, and then I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was.
It was amazing to see all the stressed faces in that line visibly relaxing on the spot. The place felt different now.
A few minutes later, the man whom I’d asked not to bump me finally got up to the end of that long table, where he went searching for a pen so he could fill out a form without holding everybody up once he could get to the clerk–but the chain ended in nothing. Gone.
I fished through my purse till I found my Lisa Souza Dyeworks one and handed it to him. Paying it backward.
He gave it back when he was done and struck up a conversation. He was genuinely curious about my wavery unsteadiness, and I explained briefly the car accident and the neurologist saying it had severed the connections between the balance and visual centers of the brain, so, more visual stimulation, more trouble standing. (Sitting I’m fine.)
Had it happened locally? Yes, on X street where they’ve since changed the traffic patterns to separate away the school traffic (in part in response to my being sandwiched there.)
By this point we were friends. He looked me in the eye and asked, carefully, Maybe it’s time to consider a walker?
I’ve been resisting that, I admitted, looking back into his.
And in that moment at last I knew. Yes, there are times I do need one. Yes I’m way too young for that sort of thing, but yes, life happens and I do not want to break any more bones. Richard had brought up the subject just yesterday. This man’s question felt like a confirmation.
Not sure I can pull off doing two hands on a walker and one on the Costco cart but that’s where I most need one, but, anyway. You heard it here first. I admitted it here first.
I fished through my purse again and turned back to the guy who’d given me his place in line: a colorful parrot finger puppet, in thanks.
His face lit up: My little girl will love this!
They called me over.
I had not been able to find a box that was long enough and had had the brilliant idea that I could fit two large padded envelopes over the thing, one from this direction one from that and overlapping and taped in the middle and that would do the job nicely.
Why did you do it this way? The clerk asked. Then I have to charge you by the pound! Take it home and put it in a box and then I don’t have to charge you so much! Maybe I could find you a box, do we? No, we don’t have, take…
I motioned towards that long line and said I didn’t want to make people wait as she fussed over the thing. (And I REALLY did not want to again stand a long time holding that package. I wasn’t entirely sure I could.)
She was, in a word, slow.
(Please just charge me whatever it has to be and get me out of everybody’s way.) I was trying not to re-stress.
She took my money at last and at long last I was done.
The man who’d given me his spot was by now the next person up and he stepped forward to take my place with the most beautiful smile on his face towards that clerk that seemed to radiate for the whole world. And he saved me all over again.
Hanging out at the branch office
Slower growth than summer’s but still coming along there.
Meantime, the neighbors kept a compost pile for years near the other side of the fence from my mango tree.
They weren’t trying to be part of the amateur beekeeper trend, but one day a swarm liked that spot and moved right on in. I don’t think they try to harvest any honey, they’re just glad to be doing their part in supporting the population. Even if inadvertently.
Which, when they told me, explained why I get so many.
Now that the weather is chilly at night a few of those honeybees are getting their feet snagged on my frost covers again, not quite making it back to the hive for the night. Or sometimes it looks like they just got there when I arrive in the morning.
I can’t pull them off. Too close to the stingers and I don’t want to dismember the poor things. I don’t want to walk across the yard to put the cloths away and have a bunch of upset bees around me, either. So I give the underside of the cloth a good pat with an extra layer or three of fabric between us to free them, one by one; a flick if that didn’t do it.
It was good and sunny by the time it was warm enough for the day’s grand unveiling and I grabbed the big straw hat by the back door on my way out.
And so the usual routine. Six this time–off you go. Sometimes they fly free, sometimes they plummet, needing energy and warmth or (I hope not) dead. But always, always, they are ever so polite about it to the big human thwacking around their feet.
Most of today’s simply fell to the ground. The birds would soon be checking for snacks.
Stepped just inside as I shut the door behind me while reaching for my hat.
I had just long enough to wonder what burr-type thing had fallen from where to have landed on my hat or was it falling apart? My favorite! But I had seen no such thing moments earlier and it didn’t feel like broken straw edges.
Nor do straw edges bounce up and down in your hand in agitation as one’s hand closes to grasp them. Mine quickly opened and I stared, and one upset honeybee, very much invigorated and very much alive, made its quick escape to parts still unknown within the house.
And still it hadn’t stung me for all I’d put it through.
May I be as forgiving and slow to anger against the stings of yesterday’s election. I can only pray.
Three skeins per row today, four tomorrow.
I threw out some fruit that we hadn’t eaten soon enough and it was particularly sweet as well as having gone bad.
Our city-supplied composting bin is out the side door just off the kitchen and under the overhang so that I don’t have to walk out in the sunlight to deal with food scraps. Lupus and all that.
This morning: this.
Can a raccoon jump that high? Onto a surface like that? (Too big a jaw, too fast and too nighttime, I don’t think it was squirrels.)
Did it climb a tree, jump down onto the house, and then jump off the overhang onto the lid? We’ve had raccoon paw prints on the skylight so we know they can get up there–jumping off the roof, though, I’m far less sure of.
But however it got there, that lid would be so easy to lift, so easy to open, to reach right into that fruit, if there weren’t this…this…darn deadweight sitting on top of it.
Did it get in to all that delicious rottingness inside?
That one I can answer: not yet.
Mel and Kris time
I was thinking that after this weekend I could tell the rest of the story.
Only, it turns out there was a lot more to it than I had anticipated.
Back at Stitches West in February, my potter friend Kris told me that not only did they have sheep at the farm they’d bought, but her son had learned to spin and he had a wheel now.
He was there helping her and they surprised me with the great gift of a skein of his very own handspun yarn. From their sheep! So cool.
This is Kings Mountain Art Fair weekend, where I’ve seen Mel and Kris every year since long before they started going to Stitches.
But that new head injury. It’s certainly not bad, but not pushing it is a good thing. Richard wasn’t up to doing that much walking yet–parking is all car-by-parallel-parked-car along the narrow mountain road there with many many many people coming. Michelle couldn’t make it and it would just be me. Which normally I wouldn’t mind.
So I did the only thing I could do: I said a prayer and asked, if I shouldn’t go, please help me feel bad or hesitant about it and I won’t. If I should, please help me feel reassured, because I honestly don’t know what the most-right thing to do here is.
I very much felt reassured. It was a bit of a surprise. I had thought that waiting till the last day of the fair made the most sense, for that matter, but felt like, no, today. Don’t miss out. Go.
Huh. Okay, then. I really wanted to see my friends and feeling that it was okay to helped a lot. (That’s also why I had to be careful in that prayer, so that I was actually listening to the guidance I was asking for, not just hearing what I wanted the answer to be.)
I had wanted to surprise them back with something made from their wool, meantime, because nobody could treasure it like the ones taking care of the sheep it had come from. One large skein of aran weight: a cowl seemed the sensible thing to do for potters and farmers. It could keep one of them warm while leaving them free from having it blowing around in their way.
The yarn refused. It wanted to be a hat.
I started to cast on for a cowl.
I cast on a hat.
I made that hat. I put it in my purse last night to make sure I wouldn’t forget it.
I came around a curve in the hillsides of 280 and found myself driving into a dense fog as I approached the mountain pass and marveled, This is summer. That’s winter looking. It’s way too early for that. (It was bright and clear not too many miles away at home.) It softened the light, which rested my brain from the sharp reflections that otherwise would have irritated it. It was beautiful and it was perfect. As I drove upwards and turned left towards the fair at the spine of the mountain, there were splashes of raindrops from both trees and sky.
Rain here is the distilled essence of ocean: warm summer showers are not even a concept, locally, and I can remember trying to convince my then-young children that such a thing existed. If it’s raining in northern California it’s chilly, and for the first time that I can remember, it was cold at the fair. That forecast of 67 up there was way off–my thick turtleneck and sun jacket and wool knee socks were not enough at 52 degrees but not so bad as to get me to walk the quarter mile (I got a really good spot!) back to my car for the spare fleece jacket that’s always in there. (There’s a chartered shuttle bus for the really-way-out-theres.)
Mel had one on himself but he was still cold. Kris was comfortable in her jacket, but he was in sandals and his socks and warmer clothes were simply out of reach while they were working their booth.
So much for waiting till they’d rung up my purchase before surprising them–he needed that hat now, and I pulled it out. I told them, referencing their son, You guys are all going to have to work out whose this is.
They laughed. They loved it. Mel not only wore it, he doubled over the cuff for extra warmth and I was glad I’d knitted it to a good length so he could, and I could because they’d given me a generous amount.
If I’d waited till Monday like I’d half-planned, then…
If their son hadn’t felt like sharing what he’d made, and when he did…
And yet all that had happened and it had come out exactly right. Mel kept marveling at the chill, exclaiming, In California! On Labor Day weekend!
The show ended for the day and as Kris pulled the covers over their booth, Mel walked my purchases all the way to my car for me. I in turn drove him to where fair vendors are required to keep their vehicles, well away–and to where his socks were. He was then to drive back to Kris to pick her up, but just before he got out of my car, I told him this:
I get to wake up every morning to beautiful art, to Kris’s and your talent, your skills, your colorwork, and your love in my home and it makes every day of mine better and I just wanted to thank you. It makes such a difference.
Come to think of it, I need to go tell my sister that, too. (Edited to add: done!)
One might think, in these days of social media, that one might never lose track of an old friend. But I did after she moved away a few years ago. She’s a nurse, so over the years she’s understood better than most what some of the medical stuff I’ve gone through has been like and she knows she can tell me about her own.
To my great delight and surprise she was back visiting today and we were passing in a hallway before church started, finding ourselves suddenly together with time and in a spot that was mostly alone to chat in for a moment.
I asked her about that transplant list.
She so loved being able to tell me this: she’s not on it now. They’d tried something new, her lungs had plateaued, and she wasn’t needing to replace them. (There’s always the subtext of, for now, and we both knew it, but when you get good news you revel in it for every possible day you’ve got it. It was an understood thing.) She mentioned a few ridiculously strenuous activities that she wasn’t planning on doing anytime soon, but hey!
I tell you. I went into that church meeting just really, really, really happy.
Then later in the day I headed out the door not to buy, it being our Sabbath, not to make others work for me, but simply to be present. I’d gone in yesterday to buy that one last souvenir skein already.
Purlescence was throwing itself a going-away party. I figured sharing the love was what the day was all about and that there would be a lot of it there, and oh, was there. So many people I haven’t seen in so long–we all wanted to see each other and share the experience, that community in that place one last time. The friendships will last, it’s the meetups that will be harder to come by.
It was good. It was sad. It was wonderful–because it means Kaye and Sandi will now have time to do all that creating that they’ve been teaching so many other people to do for these last ten years. It’s their turn.
And I thanked them yet again for that big basket that had showed up on our doorstep seven years ago filled with cards and best wishes and get-well gifts when I was so very very ill. A lot of people had pitched in on it. I’d felt I had to live to use that buffalo yarn they’d surprised me with just to justify their doing such a thing, if nothing else.
And so I did.
Tuck and Patti
That blouse I ordered last year turned out to be a little bright for me but I never sent it back, and this morning, somehow that turquoise-blue seemed just the thing. I had reasons for wearing something else but it just announced it was it and it was just plain bossier about it than I was. Eh, okay, then, no biggy. (One of those moments you notice after the fact when it all comes together.)
A few days ago, an ad in the local paper caught Michelle’s eye when I was pointing something altogether different on that page to her: she saw not the planning commission story but the small-box notice from the city that the last of the free concerts in the park for the summer was going to be Tuck and Patti. She couldn’t go, but she definitely thought we should.
And we definitely agreed. It would start almost late enough for the UV not to be an issue, too.
And then I forgot all about it.
We got home from grocery shopping and Richard asked, What time does that start? Do you still want to go?
I would have missed it entirely. I’d forgotten. We should eat dinner…
No, said he, if we want to sit somewhere decent we should run.
Okay, good thing we had ice cream at Smitten on the way home, it would have to hold us.
It was going to be closer to the Bay than we are and it always cools down a lot at night in this area anyway–I delayed us a moment while I went searching for a cowl that matched that blouse. I was sure I had one.
I did, some hand-dyed Colinette silk bought at Purlescence. Pretty stuff, if a bit bright for me; one of those yarns that leaps out at you and says it will be the most perfect thing for…someone… I always thought it would look better on someone larger and darker than me, and pulling it out of its ziploc this evening I found I’d never even woven the ends in. It had never been worn. Richard waited patiently while I did a quick job of that. (Photo of one of the snipped-off pieces.) And then while I grabbed a heavy sweater. He’s a good one.
I always come away from listening to their music wanting to be a better person and we own I think all of their albums. I’d seen them once before, when they played on the plaza at City Hall to thank the town for getting their career started, and at the end that day, when the crowd had thinned and mostly gone, Tuck asked me, clearly sure he did, Where do I know you from?
Around town, is all we could guess.
But it left me feeling a bit of a connection to the both of them.
Loved loved loved hearing them tonight. They went off the stage setup to the back at the end and I was surprised that there were some people wanting to take their picture or say hi but the crowd wasn’t entirely swamping them yet.
I’d already been thinking I needed to say it in as few words as possible so as not to hog their time. The experimental med that could have killed me on the spot, having no real choice–and yet. I had.
Seeing that I wanted to say something, those closest to me gave way and nodded me forward.
I took off that long cowl and said to Patti: “I knitted this silk. I was in the hospital thirteen years ago trying really hard not to die. Your words, ‘I won’t give up, my path is clear’ were part of my soundtrack. Thirteen years!” as we hugged each other.
She took my hands in hers and asked me, her face full of emotion, “And what was your name?”
And Patti? If you see this and that’s not your favorite color combination, tell me what color you’d most like and it will come to be.
Five filled in, nine left
IRhythm, it turns out, has nothing to do with music.
Me, Tuesday evening: So it’s really cool, see, the new ones, you don’t have to have a landline to phone in the results every night and there are no wires or anything! (Having done this twice before in 25 years.)
Richard: That means memory has improved and gotten cheaper.
Me: Not to mention the rest of the technology. (Wondering if this was my friend Alan’s startup, it being his kind of thing. Silicon Valley can be a small place.)
I said to the tech at the time, Tell me, how does it stay on for two weeks? I have to change my stoma barrier for my ileostomy every three days or it starts to give way. Granted, it’s got digestive enzymes coming at it all the time, but still, three days vs. two weeks? Doesn’t the skin shed it by that point?
It should hold, he answered. If an orange light comes on that means it’s not right against the skin and if that happens we need you to tape it on. Do you have anything that would hold it well…?
Uh yeah I’ve got some old stoma barrier stuff I can cut up no problem there.
They saw that pulmonic heart valve being officially “moderately” antsy on an EKG once years ago. The next time they EKG’d it it was fine. I’ve had a right-bundle-branch block, I’ve had it almost disappear while I was on an anti-tumor necrosis factor med. Lupus is ever the hit-and-run disease.
To back up a bit: I had a longstanding routine appointment Monday with the cardiologist and a cardiac cough episode that happened on cue the day before got his interest. “You haven’t had that for awhile, have you? You go sometimes six months without an episode.” (Meaning, you and I both know how hard it is to catch this in the act.)
Yeah, I do usually get a bit of it in the summertime though because there’s always a little more UV exposure no matter how careful I am.
Then he said all these soothing and comforting things about how it wouldn’t damage my heart.
And then he ordered the heart monitor, which was installed the next day after the insurance agreed. It came with a booklet to make notations in about when, much how, and how long and I was assured it was okay to write down more than what it had room for if I had too many incidents.
Five days. No orange light yet.
But again, this is all same-old same-old and I’ve debated saying anything here at all. Till I realized that the next time I have to go on the latest and great in heart monitors I’ll want to look up when the previous time was. So you’re stuck with this. Sorry about that.
With love from London
Before I forget. Actually, I wasn’t there because it was held outside in the sun, but Richard went and helped flip pancakes at the Fourth of July celebration at church Monday morning. I knew the old veterans that would be stepping forward in turn to say where and when they’d served, and I knew there would probably be younger ones that might surprise me to see them in uniform, too.
But hey, lupus, and so you get this report second hand.
He told me who one of the speakers was–a young dad who’s here for grad school and because his wife grew up here.
It took me a moment as it sank in. A Brit?! On the Fourth of July?
Richard was grinning as he recounted the tale. The guy had started off by taking a good, appraising look all around and then back to his audience with, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”
And then he’d said some of the things he’d found that he liked about America.
People in the stores call him sir all the time. That would never happen back home!
You can have all the water you want at a restaurant.
He named a particular fast-food joint.
(And actually, at one of those drive-ins, his little boys can come inside and watch the people slice the potatoes and then fry them up and hand them to them to eat. High entertainment for small children while still at the pace of the actual food.)
The Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska
Sam, a knitter herself these days, asked us if we wanted to see the musk ox while we were there? She’d never been.
Hey, couldn’t keep her from having that experience, right? And so Saturday we went to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer and took their walking tour of the grounds.
Domesticating a species takes 250 years, they told us, and we’ve had 50 so we’re on our way but we’re not there yet–so please don’t put your hands past the fences.
(A few days later at a different farm we would be told, as reindeer walked freely among us and looked us in the eye while licking alfalfa from our hands, that the difference between caribou and reindeer was that the reindeer had been domesticated for about 250 years. Alright, I see where that number maybe came from.)
Parents were asked to keep small children close so as not to spook the animals into thinking small creature=wolf. On the flip side, when the man who set up the farm with its first set of animals 50 years ago was approached by a small dog, the musk ox had taken their human’s small size relative to their own as meaning he was defenseless and they closed ranks in a circle around him as they do to protect their young, horns pointing outwards and ready to charge the threat on his behalf.
The white along the tops of the spines of many of them: the guide said they weren’t sure but they think that’s to reflect the sun away during the summers so they don’t overheat.
The curves in their horns? Those tell you about how old the animal is. Short and stubby, you’ve got a young’un; the next year they start to turn forward, and at I think she said four you get those iconic half loops in front. Most of theirs have their horns trimmed to protect the humans but she pointed out this one old guy over there that had the full set.
Back in the museum/gift shop, my sweet husband was the one who picked up the musk ox-topped knitting needles and asked me if I didn’t need these? Then the grampa in him wanted me to take a soft little stuffed one home. And we couldn’t come all this way without some qiviut. We just couldn’t.
We’d just been told about the musk ox playing with a fifty-pound ball given to the farm after the oil pipeline had been built, y’know, something for the animals to play with or rub their backs on or something.
They’d managed to get it rolling down the hill, and bam! Right through the fence! Oops.
So for now, mine is playing with a ball. It’s a deep red. It’s a mere ounce, because I just could not bring myself to spend that much more money on yarn when a single ounce would make me just as ecstatic.
The book? While we were out in the fields (yay sunblock and hats and I’ve been holding my breath but no major flare yet) I’d asked them if they had it and explained that Donna Druchunas, the author, had been the text editor for my own knitted lace book.
They were delighted at the connection and told me enthusiastically, Oh yes! It flies off our shelves!
I had previously wondered what on earth was holding me up that I hadn’t already bought it. Now I know. It was waiting for me to support the husbandry of the very animals Donna had written about as well as Donna herself with that purchase. It was worth the wait.
She saved the day and neither of us knew it at the time
1. That Black Jack fig tree planted March a year ago has a tiny fig for fall growing at almost every leaf junction and one single big spring fig left that the squirrels didn’t quite get to before I clamshelled it away from them.
I’ve never picked a fig before. I assume I wait till it’s darkened (given the variety) and softened, right? Still hard as a rock.
2. Somebody went to the AT&T baseball park in San Francisco a few days ago and put their drink down in the cupholder attached to their seat.
And–sorry, couldn’t get the link to the photo to work, it’s inside a Yahoo group–a fledgling peregrine falcon landed and perched on the edge of that clear plastic cup, its talons huge and in each other’s way. A small red straw poked out between its big yellow toes, its big eyes taking in where it had suddenly found itself.
3. And most important to me. My friend Carol is a knitter whom I get to catch up with every year at Stitches and, when I’m lucky, by random chance at Purlescence during the year. She worked on the recovery post-earthquake and tsunami of the nuclear power plant in Japan (side note to my local friends: that Carol.)
Ever since I met her years ago I’ve been trying to put my finger on just who she reminds me of. And now I know.
Yesterday I was off to see my much-loved Dr. R, the doctor who saved my life in ’03, to wish him well in his imminent retirement. I left early because there was no way I was going to be late for that one.
Which means I had time.
I stepped off the elevator to a very surprised face as someone did a double take at seeing mine. A lupus event damaged my visual memory years ago: I was stuck on, Carol? Wait. That’s not Carol. So, so close, but no. I know I know…!
As the woman in great excitement started catching up with me almost instantly the question was settled. Heather! I hadn’t seen her in 24 years! She’d been a lifeguard at the therapy pool where I met Don Meyer and his wife Amalie the year my lupus was diagnosed.
“Your face is the same! It hasn’t changed!” Heather exclaimed.
Everybody who had attended that now-closed pool had to have a prescription to get in and everybody knew it: for the most part the people there were the types who looked out for each other. It was a good place.
I told her I’d run into Don a month after Amalie had passed and that because of that, he’d had some support in his last five years. (I didn’t add that his son had moved in at the end to take care of him nor about his setting up a blog with our encouragement here and all the interaction he got from that–sometimes the details are too many and need to wait for later, so I’m putting these in here and hoping Heather sees it.)
Amalie was gone. Don was gone. She took that in, sorry to hear it.
I got to see happy photos of her sweetheart and her son.
And I’m just now realizing I can’t believe I forgot to tell her that Conway? Remember my tall, large, stooped, slow-moving, cheerful friend Conway who used to chat with me every day after his exercises? They’d thought he had ALS. Turns out he’d had bone spurs growing into his neck and spine, which they operated on and he started to regain mobility before he died. From a heart attack at that pool. I was across the country at my 20th high school reunion, but I’m told the lifeguards, joined soon after by the paramedics, did CPR for 16 long minutes trying to save him. She might well have been one of them.
If you read this, Heather, his widow moved to San Diego to be near her grandkids. Then she passed. Then her granddaughter there went off to college–and met my son: and they are the parents of my three sweet little grandkids, ages 1, 3, and 5.
I got to see Heather today.
Who told me who her favorite doctor was, so much so that she drives in from across the Bay to be seen by her.
I asked Dr. R. whom I should go to should my Crohn’s come back; he demurred a bit and asked which others had I seen–at the hospital, the clinic, whom had I liked best?
It had been seven years since my surgeries but Heather had reminded me of that one that had done my throat endoscopy and I said her name.
He was pleased. He told me she was very good and that I would be quite happy with her.
And between my experiences and Heather’s, I knew he was right.
And I probably would not have thought of her first had I not run into my old friend, been recognized by her, and had the time to talk.
Since when were there no direct flights? What happened to them? I had to take Salt Lake to Phoenix to home.
I’m very glad now I did.
As I sat in the first airport yesterday a man walked briskly up and asked if I minded if he sat next to me. There was a small gap between the two seats and of course, no problem, and his friend appeared a moment later and sat down on the other side of him. He too appeared to be the outgoing type.
Which is probably how the woman who sat down a few minutes later next to that guy suddenly burst into tears and sobbed out her story, all pretense of control in public dissolving away.
After a few minutes I leaned over to the man nearer to me and told him, “I’m hearing impaired. I can’t hear what she’s saying and I don’t want her to feel isolated.”
He said he couldn’t hear it all either but that there had been an accident in Moab and one of her loved ones was involved. “Bad one,” he added quietly, “I heard about it. One person died.”
We looked at each other, so sorry.
He decided I could be trusted with his story and that it was the place to tell it: his infant son had seemed to be fine…till suddenly at six months old he was in the hospital needing heart surgery. They had had all these wires and things attached to him and the sight of it was just so hard.
His baby boy reached his arms to his daddy, his whole body pleading fervently, Hold me Daddy. I need you.
And he wasn’t allowed to.
They wheeled his son away.
He had had to go down to the hospital’s garage to deal with the car (move it, feed the meter, I wasn’t sure, but the incongruity of the importance of it to those who manage such things was just blowing him away in those moments) and as he stepped into that garage it just washed over him that this was life. It was out of his control. All he could do was live it and do the best he knew how and it was enough.
“It’s in the hands of God,” I answered.
He held me in his eyes, affirming.
“My son’s fine now; you’d never know it. He likes to play basketball.” He laughed a little, the joy at the possibility measured against the memory’s pain.
I told him, “Two years ago, we got the call no parent wants,” and I described a little about my daughter’s being hit on the freeway. Physical therapy is a necessary and ongoing thing, still–but worth it.
He took that in.
I started digging around in my purse that at times like these just seems too big. Hmm. Maybe I did give it. But no, it was bugging me, so I looked again–and I found it. It had to be that one. For whatever reason out there it really had to.
I grabbed my cane and walked over to the woman who’d been crying. In my hand was a small very vivid pink knitted octopus with a tiny black hat (I have to wear a hat in the sun, lupus and all that) and that pink was very much the color of the shirt she was wearing. “This is silly, but,” I said in a quiet voice that affirmed that no it was not as I opened my hand and offered it to her.
She reached for my arms and I into hers and we held each other.
This which I have goes with that which you have. I see you.
As I sat back down in my own seat the young man to the other side of me, who up till then had seemed engrossed in his phone, touched my shoulder ever so gently. I turned to see him and he told me, Thank you.
Last call for flight # (whatever) to City (whatever).
We were at gate 14. The two men who’d started the conversations suddenly realized that this whole time they’d been in the wrong place and grabbed their bags and dashed across the aisle to gate 15 in time. Close!
You know they were where they were supposed to be when they were needed right where they were with us.
The airline pre boarded me and I sat on the second row where I wouldn’t slow too many people down.
The woman who’d gone through so much this past weekend went past a few minutes later, saw me, and made sure I saw her telling me, Thank you.
I wanted to thank her. She’d let me.
The young man who’d touched my shoulder, he came down the aisle a little after. I was ready for him. A small alligator, and bless him, his face lit up in gratitude that he would have the perfect memento of all of us strangers wanting to come together for her in those moments as he accepted his small finger puppet.
I had to enlist the help of the young woman sitting in the middle seat to get it to him and explained, “He was very kind.”
“Do you give those to everybody?” she asked, amused, having no idea as far as I know of the context of all that.
I considered a half second. “Pretty much!” and found her one.
She loved it.
Balm of Gilead
We had stake conference today, which is when a group (i.e. a stake) of wards (i.e. congregations) all come together for a really big joint meeting. Happens twice a year.
Parking is a bit of a zoo and it lets out at noon: a bad time sun-wise for a lupus patient to have to take a long walk, and so as is our usual we decided to get there about forty minutes early.
And as is our usual I brought something to work on before the meeting started, the cowl I’d begun right before we’d left for Salinas yesterday. I was quietly working away on it when the stake president walked by, shook our hands, pointed to the project in my hands and said, We’re going to be talking about that.
Okay, this I wanted to hear.
He spoke last in the two-hour meeting and in the course of his talk he told the tale, sharing a few more details with me afterwards, knowing I’d be interested. (Not so much so as to give away any hint of who it might have been; he simply chuckled fondly when I eagerly offered to share yarn or at least my sources of the good stuff. I’m sure if she wants to know, he’ll make sure she finds me.)
A woman had come to him for counseling. She had had some experiences that had left her struggling with an unwanted sense of bitterness. She had come to him seeking a blessing.
And after hearing her out, he offered up that prayer with her.
And in that prayer he found himself, quite to his surprise, telling her she needed to knit.
That was it. Just, she needed to knit.
I asked him afterwards, Was she someone who used to and her hands had bothered her and she was hoping for healing? Or…?
No, he smiled at me, she never had. This was new.
Now, as he said to the congregation, My mother doesn’t really knit. My wife and sister don’t really knit, I mean, they have, but they don’t… And my daughter has, a little. (He was struggling to describe a Knitter with a capital K without having really experienced one personally, but he knew there were such people and that those who were would instantly understand, and probably everybody else who knows a real Knitter. Or Crocheter for that matter.)
I asked him, So did she?!
Oh, yes! And he told me how she’d made things for all her friends and had created so much happiness around her by it. As he said it, he knew that I would know exactly what that would be like. Even though he doesn’t really know me.
But he knows that I knit, and he understood.
Well, that certainly worked.
He called me at about 4:30: there was a meeting about to start, please pick him up an hour late.
I checked the UV index: a grand total of zero. January, you’re wonderful.
I had enough lupus-friendly sun time to get out there and prune all four peach trees. A little more off the top here, trim this side a bit more… No pictures because there just wasn’t enough light by the time I finished, but I am quite pleased. I did it and it looks good and all the growth buds are pointing in the right directions and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
And we’re off to a good new year.