I woke up at 3:00am yesterday filled with anxiety. A friend’s father has been struggling with a long-term health issue and at 3:00am my mind decided that the issue required my immediate attention, so there I lie at that ungodly hour, fraught with foreboding and a full bladder.
At 6:00am I found my daughter sitting in the hall, mortified that she had uncharacteristically wet the bed with her best friend sleeping next to her. She was so exhausted that she just didn’t wake up. That happens when you party like a rock star at a gazillion back to back sleepovers. Then my son woke up and realized that he’d done the same thing. Everyone passed out and just peed where they lie. It smelled like the Rolling Stones tour bus.
When I looked in the bathroom mirror I discovered the ice cream that I had used to comfort myself the day before made me break out, which was cool, since I’d been planning to take the promo picture needed for an upcoming show. I was going for a hip and semi-youthful vibe and nothing says “youthful” more effectively than pimples. Even Loreal Excellence Creme in light auburn can’t compete with that.
I thought to myself, Aha! Those feelings of anxiety were about giant chin pimples and loads of laundry, and breathed a sigh of relief, which wasn’t easy because the pimple on my chin was blocking my oxygen supply.
And then I got a call about my friend’s father, who had a health crisis from which he wasn’t expected to recover and I realized that laundry and epic breakouts were the least of my worries. Periodic weeping commenced and continued all day. If you’ve ever seen a red-chinned woman sob while folding piles of laundry you know it wasn’t pretty. Definitely not the day to take a promo picture.
Ever met someone’s family and liked them immediately–even wished fervently in an obsessive but completely uncreepy way that they were your family? My friend Sabra’s family is like that. Everyone loves them. They remind me of my own family minus the baggage–the family of my imagination, with all of the love and humor and none of the addiction. Her mom, Lynn works in hospice care and health research. Her dad, Al was a professor and researcher at a University. They were in the Peace Corps in Africa when my friend was born and then they trekked across the continent with their newborn. One of their Peace Corps friends read an African prayer at my friend’s wedding. How cool is that?
My dad stepped on my dress repeatedly as he walked me to the altar and then turned me down for the father/daughter dance, which is awesome in its own way (because it makes for a good story), but it’s no African prayer.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I sat next to Al at a dinner party to celebrate his and Lynn’s visit. Across from us sat a woman who had some extremely negative views on prenatal medicine. She had never been pregnant but she had a friend who was and had accompanied that friend on a doctor’s visit, which clearly made her an expert.
I wish I didn’t have to work so hard for my expertise. Shoot, I wish I had some expertise.
Anyway, she took the opportunity to demonize, at length, the medical and scientific community to which Al had dedicated his working life in the most arrogant of ways, while instructing me on how I should proceed with my pregnancy. Al smiled and was good-natured about the whole exchange, though his medical knowledge dwarfed hers and she was being rude. I mostly kept my mouth shut because I was busy imagining my water glass hurtling toward her head. Sabra told me later that Al had remarked that I’d handled the exchange very well.
In actuality he was the one who handled the exchange, but he gave me the credit. That epitomizes the kind of man he was: kind and engaging, intellectual without being arrogant, unassuming and generous. And when someone of that caliber likes you in return, you feel validated. Or at least I do, because sometimes I see myself in the reflection of the eyes of those I really respect. If those eyes are myopic and mistake me for being more bitchin’ than I actually am, it’s Christmas for my self-esteem.
Now this incredible person has come to the end of this leg of his adventure, his family is suffering and all I can do is tearfully write a blog post, awkwardly extolling his virtues. Well I never said our association was mutually rewarding.
Thank you, Al, for the privilege of your acquaintance. My life is richer having known you. Safe travels. Wherever you go, they will be lucky to have you.