Saturday, September 4, 2010

You just never know

I'm just home from a local farmer's market where I met up with my new friend. She sells home-baked pastries and original artwork from a table she has set up at the market. Ron came along too and met her for the first time.

Funny thing is, this is only the second time I've been in her company. The editor for the Westford Eagle asked me to do a column on Gail a month ago. Gail and I exchanged a couple of quick emails and I was to meet her at her home to do the interview while she baked for the farmer's market.

The day I was to interview her was the day after my mom went into the hospital in great pain. This is when the cancer journey started for us and I had to be at the hospital when the interview was to have taken place. I informed my editor and she found a replacement.

I emailed Gail and told her I was sorry that I had to bail on her but that someone would cover for me. From there, this email friendship grew quickly. She was supportive and kind. She was also funny and shared my love for Julia Child's chocolate mousse. She suggested we meet for tea.

Two weeks ago we did meet. Gail had sent me a picture of herself so I'd recognize her. She confessed that her son asked her what she was doing meeting a complete stranger for tea and how did she know this would "work"? Gail responded, "She's a people person. I can tell. It will be fine."

And so it was. We spent 2 1/2 hours (which seemed like about 5 minutes) chatting over tea and coffee at a local coffee house. It was like we'd been friends forever.

These moments have happened in my life fairly frequently and I am always amazed at how two complete strangers can connect in such a short amount of time. And sometimes the bonding happens over email or telephone.

It really makes me want to kiss the sun that shines on me. It's one of the things I love most about life. You just never know where your next friend is coming from. People who fill your heart with joy, and respect your thoughts are always just around the corner.

I think the key is to be open to it. To not be afraid to share some of your spirit with a stranger. To let your guard down a bit and feel comfortable enough in who you are that people will like you when you are yourself.

The gift of connecting with another human being whose random presence sparks your own happiness is proof to me that the world is always turning towards hope.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Right-hand people

Me, mom, and our Thanksgiving teamwork in 2006

I kept waiting for things to "settle down" before I wrote this post. But, another lesson in life: Every moment is an opportunity for change.

Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a couple of weeks ago during surgery. She is now facing chemo with hopes that she can get one more year with us. We'll see how she does with chemo and then she can decide.

She's been her usual amazing self through all of this. Realistic but still positive. Enjoying each day she has like it's her last. But she's always lived that way.

Through all of this anxiety and worry and grief, I've discovered many things about myself. First and foremost, that I can be there for my folks when I need to be. It's not pretty and I need to rest when I can, but I can do it. Whew.

I am the oldest daughter in my family. I have an older brother, Joe, and a much younger sister, Lisa. When I was about 9 years old, I gave up going out on Halloween. I found it to be a bother. Trying to walk in the dark with a mask on and not trip on curbs was a hassle. Though I love(d) candy, it wasn't worth the aggravation. I wanted to be home - with my mother - handing out candy to the younger kids. So, my brother continued to do trick-or-treating, and I stayed home.

It was around this time that my sister was born. I had always prayed for a sister and, when she arrived, I devoted myself to her. I did it, not just for me, but for my mom. I was her helper. Taking Lisa for walks, helping with diapers (this was pre-Pampers), feeding her, and keeping her occupied.

Whenever my mom was going through a tough time, like when she lost her mother and then her father (after an 8-month nightmare in a Boston hospital), I stepped up. Barely a teenager myself, I would take over making meals for the family, clean the house, and take care of Lisa - without ever being asked.

The look of relief on my mother's face and the complete trust she had in me were my only and greatest rewards. Nothing's changed since then.

Joe and Lisa love mom as much as I do. They support, help, and care for her every day - even if they can't be there for doctor's appointments and hospital emergencies. We are a team and I'm proud of how we've come together to support our folks and each other.

This is a heartbreaking, stressful time in my life yet I feel some sense of relief that mom and I spent our time together building this relationship of mutual trust. She calls me her "right-hand man" and always has.

When I lie awake at night, thinking about how my life experiences have led me to this moment in time, I'm seeing how my 51-year relationship with my mom has prepared me. And I find myself wondering if the universe always had a master plan.

When the time comes for me to say goodbye to her, I will know that I have always done everything I could for her. There will be no regrets.