Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Love & Loss

I vaguely remember being infatuated.  That glimmer of wonder when he seems to like me in return.  Where - regardless of the action or distraction - where the very thought of him curves my lips into a silly smile.  When - even in the middle of a meeting stressful or boring - there's this fluttery hope and happiness.

My life of late has been the opposite of that.

I started to feel better.  We knew Mom's cyst was normal, though painful.  I had returned to work, busily filling in files and approving plans, when Aunt called about an hour after Mom's mammogram had been scheduled.  And I frowned as soon as I heard her voice.

"The cyst is fine," she said and went into detail while I waited with stomach clenched.  "But there's something abnormal in the other breast."  I remained silent while she said it was small and likely a calcification.  Eyes closed, I waited and willed myself to process this.  To say something hopeful and encouraging and loving and strong.

"Katie?" Mom finally spoke.  "Are you OK?"

"OK," I confirmed.

Aunt talked of biopsy dates and times and I assured them I'd be home for it.  So Chienne and I packed up and headed south a day later.  And at every turn - every other thought - there was cancer.  Tentacles reaching from the malignant core to entangle every breath and memory and hope.

Brother traded with Aunt in the waiting room - I released her hand for his while I waited for Mom to emerge from Radiology.  Brother and I took her for breakfast and chatted.  Then I took her home and snuggled her under multiple blankets on the couch, settling into Dad's recliner and keeping watch while she slept and I took conference calls.

I was driving north - Mom and Chienne in the backseat - the next day when I called Radiology for the third time to inquire about results.  Thinking of how I'd wept at Sunday School when I realized that God doesn't hate me - sometimes bad things just happen, I begged him - the breathless please, please, please, please, please kind - to let it be a calcification.

Voice shaking, I gripped the steering wheel and gave praise and thanks after the doctor confirmed it was benign.  No cancer.  Not this time.  And I listened to Mom make calls and giggle her relief while continuing the commute to my house.

So when yet another friend lost her job yesterday, I sat quietly while the remainder of the team expressed their outrage and shock.  Bad news seems to have lost some power over me, at least for the moment.  But I've grown somewhat skilled at listening to the too-long pauses after I ask how friends are.  The uncertainty.  The unfairness of it all.  The thought that all the work - the learning and practicing and extra hours and minor victories - being in vain.

But when this friend didn't answer her phone, I frowned.  And found myself in my Jeep, searching for her apartment to be sure she'd not hurt herself.

She hadn't - buzzing me in and answering the door with a sweatshirt unzipped over a black bra.

"I can't do it," she told me, gesturing at her front and beginning to sob.  I prioritized hugs over proper attire and we stood there - me in my coat still cold from the bitter winds and her warm from where she'd been curled up under covers and misery.  And I whispered that it would be OK.

I helped her zip her sweatshirt and joined her on the couch, looping my arm though hers and holding her hand while she cried.  And I looked at the spots on her cheeks - visible without make-up - and thought of how very delicate we all are.  How frail we must seem.  How a mere puff of bad luck can topple us.

"I don't know what to do," she finally said and I nodded.

"You grieve," I finally replied.  "And you find your balance again and decide what you want and try to get it.  I know you feel alone.  Rejected.  Afraid.  But you have people who love you and talent and opportunities that haven't been revealed just yet.  And I'm sorry - so very sorry - this happened.  It's not your fault and you don't deserve it and it's terrible and awful and wrong.  But you will battle back.  As soon as you've rested and cried a bit more."

I left after a little while when another friend appeared, driving back to work and settling in to type on that laptop between glances at places I've been and people I've loved.  And tonight, quite frankly, I ache - head, body, heart.  Because we are resilient as we are fragile.  And I continue to have hope, I suppose.

But it all seems terribly difficult of late.  And that silly giddiness seems to have faded into memories as I find myself waiting for the next disaster to strike.

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