My first trip this summer allowed me to spend time with friends — good friends. These were people who knew me before…before I was married, before my parents broke up, before I was…me. These people know the ins and outs of my personality. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt where I’m coming from. Some of them can read my mind. That makes communication easier. When I walked into a room with one of them, I didn’t have to explain my facial expression, my tone of voice, or why I was in the room. They got my jokes. They loved my clothes. They noticed that I’ve lost weight. Let’s face it, once you’ve been a complete dork around people — the way only junior highers know how to be dorks — you can’t really embarrass yourself any more. If people still like you after that, well, they’re friends for life.
I went to sushi with some of my precious extra kids — and they bought, because they’re adults now. Scary. At least they have good taste in food. They learned that from me. Smirk.
During this trip, I got to hold the hand of the woman who was “the mom” for me and my friends when we were in high school. She had alzheimer’s disease, and yet for one moment she almost remembered me. I think she did. She talked about the job she got for me while I was in college. She died a month later. That was a beautiful, heart wrenching moment, sitting with my precious friend explaining to a doctor that mom couldn’t come home again. Dealing with a doctor who was doing his best not to be helpful…including refusing to acknowledge a seizure that happened in front of him. How anyone could turn away from a patient who was seizing and pretend not to notice…and call himself a health-care professional? I’m lost. He told us he had no idea why she was having seizures. Two months later, my friend learned that this was a common side effect about a month before death in alzheimer’s patients. That information would have been good to have.
During that trip, I also met a ghost. Now to be clear, I don’t believe in ghosts. This was an evil spirit that had made itself at home in one woman’s life. That woman had happily passed beyond this life into the next many months prior, but this creature–like a clump of mud knocked off her shoe–was left laying on the doorstep. I was stunned. How could someone as wonderful have had…that thing hanging around her? I looked back over her life and realized — ah, that’s where it was hiding. Good people step in mud puddles, too. I made that spirit angry, because I had come to destroy what little hold it had left on the remnants of her life. Nasty thing. Ew.
It made me want to wash every pair of my metaphorical shoes, check the lining of my spiritual garments, and do some heavy duty house-cleaning. I feel the same way when I find a flea in my house.
I came home from that trip and the sudden lack of close friends hit me like an icy wave. There wasn’t anyone I could call and invite out for coffee. No one who would drop everything and make time to do something fun. I’ve heard people bemoan our modern busy-ness, but there in the whirlwind return to “real life” I was stunned. With everything that has gone on in my life over the last 10 years, I haven’t let anyone get close enough to see me. I was praised my a counselor once for my self control, but in that moment of silence in the heart of my personal storm, it wasn’t something to praise. It was simply sad. I’ve tried to reach out to a few women since my return, but I have to admit — I’m bad at being a friend. Maybe that’s the mud hanging on the hem of my dress — that spirit of isolation, that feeling of being alone. Add one more thing to my list of things to do over the next year — and then move it to the top of the list.
Do you get the idea that this trip was an emotional roller coaster? During the trip, I also wrote the synopsis for a novel and finished revisions on the first 10 pages of a submission. So much for being too busy to write. My computer died during that trip. Thanks to my precious father in law who gave me my Christmas present early — a netbook — I was able to keep working. When the stress of needing to get the submission in the mail — I had a deadline for a class I was taking — one of my friends came and sat with me, reading the story and laughing in all the right places. When I was fussing over the final product, she quietly slipped over to the counter of the mail store and paid for my printing and mailing. That gift of support touched my heart and will be significant later in the story of my summer.
So, with the demon vanquished, the story submission sent off, and feeling strong, I drove across two states in one day–returning home to my family and the novel I wanted to finish.