Nobody Fights Alone

I’d driven by the building hundreds of times. I had no reason to go to that place. Thank God I didn’t need what they were selling. It wasn’t that the building wasn’t attractive, because in fact, it’s a beautiful brick structure designed to give you a sense of serenity, but you do not go if you don’t have a reason. I had a reason in June of 2015. That’s when I was diagnosed with cancer and after all of those years of driving by that place, I actually had no choice. I had to walk through the automatic doors to meet my Oncologist.

Two years have passed and now I go through those doors because I want to. I’m drawn to the cancer center. I spend time painting rocks with inspirational sayings written on them. I load the rocks into a basket and deliver them to The Cancer Center at least twice a week. The wire basket that stands one foot tall sits on a table just outside of the pharmaceutical window. A hand printed sign hanging on the basket encourages Chemo patients to take a rock. I’m sad to say that to date, I’ve never been able to fill the wire basket. The rocks go too fast. Other women in my community help me with this project and still, we can’t meet the demand. I’ve been told that patients are seen holding their special rocks as they sit back and receive treatment. I’ve witnessed some things at The Cancer Center during my drop offs that I can only type about. I’m unable to verbally tell these stories because they are too emotional. I look forward to sharing these precious memories with you.

Goodbye Stranger

“We are going over to Donna’s house tonight. She rented videos and she’s going to order pizza for you two.” My Mom yelled as she came down the hall with a laundry basket full of clean clothes. Her Dr scholls shoes clomped as she walked. I always wondered how ladies could walk in the wooden sandals but my Mom did it with grace and she never complained.

Donna was a nice lady with deep set dark brown eyes that were almost black. Her eyelids were sunk in. You could see all of her facial bones. Her black feathered hair draped over her ears and covered part of her cheeks. I got nervous each time she struck her personalized Zippo to light her Viceroy cigarette. It was like a waiting game to see if Donna’s hair was going to go up in flames. My brother and I always watched. Thankfully, Donna had a technique. She would swoosh her hair elegantly to the right as the three inch flame came out of the small torch. The silver lighter would hit the metal kitchen table with a cling like the sound of a church bell. But Donna wasn’t a church going lady and that was just fine with me. I was only seven but I envied Donna’s lavender eyeshadow and dangling earrings. She usually wore white tops but I thought she should wear black to match her hair. And besides, I thought she was an undercover witch posing as pharmacy technician.

My brother and I bundled up. It was a typical October night in West Roxbury Massachusetts. We could see our breath which meant that we were going to write on the inside of the windows of Mom’s blue Chevette. We’d draw smiley faces and hearts with our pointer fingers. Mom never complained but every so often she’d hand us a bottle of Windex and paper towels and we would clean our art only to start over the next time we got in the car and it fogged up.
“Mom, I draw better than Mike.” I said as I looked at my brother and laughed.
“Be nice Sherry. He’s two years younger than you.” She said as she glanced in the rear view mirror. I stuck my tongue out at my brother and he punched me it return. I pulled off his stocking cap and he pulled my hair.
“Mom, please turn up the radio!” I begged.

Looks like it’s over, you knew I couldn’t stay
She’s coming home today
We had a good thing, I’ll miss your sweet love
Why must you look at me that way?
It’s over
Sad eyes, turn the other way
I don’t wanna see you cry
Sad eyes, you knew there’d come a day
When we would have to say, “goodbye”

As I stared out the window at the tall buildings in the city, I sang those words with all my might. I imagined I had Donna’s feathered hair and a Viceroy in one hand and a microphone in the other. My parents had divorced two years prior but I held no anger or sadness. I was glad they separated. I had more opportunities to meet people and see different places because Dad lived in the country and Mom had moved to the city. And just like Robert John, the artist sang, “you knew there’d come a day
When we would have to say, goodbye.” People split up. People divorced and people died. I had that down in my notes by seven and none of it scared me.

“Pizza and VHS tapes for you two rugrats!” Donna shrieked as she opened the storm door. She welcomed us with open arms. She gave us red lipstick kisses on the forehead and lifted us off the floor. We ran to the kitchen for paper plates, pizza and Tupperware cups full of Coca Cola. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was in the video player. I hopped into the recliner and my brother onto the love seat. I pulled the gold chain on the lamp to darken the room.
“That’s no good for your eyes kiddo’s!” Donna said as she popped her head through the beaded curtain that separated the kitchen from the living room.
“Donna, we like it like this! It’s like being at the movies!” I insisted. We got our way and watched our movie as we inhaled pepperoni pizza, Nonpareils and Whoppers malted milk balls. Each time the movie would get quiet, I could hear my Mom and Donna laughing. My Mom was happy therefore I was content. I wished that we could stay forever in the moment but before we knew it, the Grandfather clock struck twelve. It was late. My brother had fallen asleep with his head on the arm rest of the orange and brown floral couch. He had chocolate at both corners of his mouth. He’d have to brush his teeth good. Mom wouldn’t allow us to skip a night of cleaning our pearly whites. That was a rule.

“Give me a hug Sherry.” Donna said. My Mom stood in the kitchen with my brother draped over one shoulder and her Candies purse on the other. The Chevette was outside warming up. I made my way to Donna in my pink coat and white hat with the fake rabbit fur trim. She smiled and blinked her eyes. One of her fake eye lashes had parted from her lid. It was flapping around and it reminded me of a carton I watched where a man’s wig came flying off. I didn’t want to see Donna’s eyelash peel completely off. It would’ve given me a nightmare right after watching a movie about Santa Claus. I focused on Donna’s feathered hair and not her eye.
“Sherry, listen to me. I’m going to move soon and I won’t see you kids anymore. I’ll stay in touch with your Mom and she promised she’d mail me school pictures. I’ll call when I can but long distance is expensive so the calls will be short. I want you to remember something. Look into my eyes.” She demanded. I look at her wandering eyelash and then directly into her pupils.
“Kid, you are special. Life is not going to be easy but I see potential in you. Be a good girl, listen to your parents and grow up to be a productive woman.”
“I want to feather my hair and wear purple eyeshadow just like you Donna.”
“You can do anything you want to do. Go out and be a free bird Sherry.”

Lisa & Gracie: Part Two

“Do you want me to contact Lisa?” Christa asked.
“No. Not yet.” I said as I leaned back against the kitchen counter and crossed my arms. I kicked a piece of dry cereal that had emerged from under the stove across the floor and stared at my foot. I wished life were as simple as the cartoon smiling sushi rolls on my socks.
“I’ll call her whenever you want me to.” Christa said as she quietly left the kitchen. A best friend knows what you are feeling. A best friend knows when you just need a bit more time to sort out your thoughts. Christa was giving me that time but my sweet dog Gracie couldn’t wait much longer. She was confused. In the past twenty four hours, she had fallen several  times and was struggling to walk. I had to get my mind right in a time that my fur baby could not.
I thought back to the days of the kids giving Gracie baths in the baby pool on the deck. They would suds her up and spike her hair. They would rinse her with the garden hose and just when they’d least expect it, Gracie would shake and send water sprinkling down all over my laughing children.
I remembered the day when the three kids took Gracie on a walk after school. She was a young dog who had skip in her step. My son Jeff was holding the lease as Monica and Natalie walked with them. Gracie spotted a squirrel and jerked the leash. Jeff held on and the force of the tug dislocated Jeff’s shoulder. The kids ran home to tell me what had happened. Jeff was pale but all three of the kids were laughing. Gracie was bouncing along beside them. She seemed to be laughing too.
“Mom! Gracie saw a squirrel and Jeff held onto the leash and me and Natalie heard a pop and all of the sudden, brother’s arm was extra long!” Monica said as she gasped for air and laughed hysterically.
“Mom, she’s not kidding. Jeff’s arm was hanging down. His hand was almost at his knee.” Natalie said as she laughed with tears in her eyes.
“Wait, Jeff’s arm was extra long? Jeff what happened?” I asked.
“It happened so fast! Gracie saw a squirrel and the next thing I knew, I felt a pop and pain. I put the leash in my other hand, whipped my hurt arm in the air using the force of my body and it just went right back into place!” Jeff said. He said it hurt but he was proud he didn’t lose our dog.

I walked to the laundry room. I stared at my Gracie who was asleep on her hot pink fleece blanket. I recalled all of the late nights when she would wake up the entire household because she heard a raccoon in the trash barrel which was on the exterior wall of where she slept. I stared at the mud splatters on the white walls and was reminded of running to the backyard to rescue her from thunderstorms. I observed the dry dog food that had slipped out of her bowl, the dog hair in her brush, the unopened Milk bones and the red leash. I gripped the door frame and took the biggest breath I could. I wanted to inhale her soul and merge it with mine.
“Christa!” I yelled. “Call Lisa. Make the appointment.”

“Please fill out these few forms. Don’t worry about the back of the second page. Sign and date on all of the yellow marks and we will have a room soon.” The receptionist said. I took a seat and began the paperwork. I hadn’t seen Lisa yet but I knew it was only a matter of time. I quickly scribbled answers to all of the questions. An older couple walking a stocky little Bulldog came in as I was finishing the paperwork.
“Jasper, leave that lady alone.” His owner said as Jasper came over and sat on my foot. He looked up into my eyes and I smiled at him.
“Come on Jasper.” the man said. “I’m sorry Mam. His breath will kill a mule!”
“It’s fine Sir. Let him stay.” I said. Jasper sat on my foot until it was his turn to get on the scale. I believe pets are able to feel the pain in a human. Jasper knew I was hurting. He was trying to comfort me.

“Sherry, how are you?” Lisa asked as she emerged from a door marked Private.
“I’ve been better. This is tough. We lost our other dog just over a year ago. Gracie never recovered form the heartache of the loss. She’s been sad ever since and now she’s had a stroke. She’s ready. As for us, not so much but we don’t believe in allowing her to suffer.”
“We are going to place a soft blanket on the floor. Go ahead and bring her in. We are going to lock the doors and close the office. You are the last appointment of the day.” Lisa said.

Christa and Amber were in the parking lot with Gracie. I motioned for them to come up to the entrance. The three of us and our sixty two pound Shepard Husky mix walked quietly to room number two. A tan blanket was laid neatly on the floor. Gracie paced the room, she was nervous and so were we. The veterinarian explained that she was going to give Gracie a shot to calm her down. She said it would burn. We laid our hands on Gracie’s course fur to embrace her for the small burst of pain. She flinched and turned her head to look at her rear. Within seconds she was calm and resting quietly on the comfy blanket. Sitting on the cold floor, I bent over and got close to her ear. As she began liking her nose and getting drowsy, I whispered, “Do you remember when you were a little bitty baby? I found you at a pest control service. A lady had you hidden under a coffee table. I heard you bark from beneath a navy blue table cloth. I wasn’t the only one who heard you, the landlord did as well. He told the lady to get rid of you. He was stern and said there was a no pet policy. She was sad and panicked. She’d found you on the street. She promised she’d have you at the pound that afternoon but instead, I got off of work early and met her before she left for work at the local pizza place. That’s the day you became mine. Saved by grace.

Gracie was snoring by now. The vet asked if we needed more time. We did not. I asked that they please move quickly. A needle was inserted in her arm and two vials of fluid were pumped into my pet. I held her face and watched life leave her body. I looked at the doctor and asked, “Is she gone?” The vet listened for a heartbeat and there was none. I looked back into the face of my fur baby and her eyes were open but lifeless. With one gentle swipe of my hand, her eyes were closed. Our faces were red and soaked with tears. Lisa stood close to the wall, rocking back and forth wiping her own eyes.

Lisa made us a clay paw print as a reminder of our beautiful pet. Gracie had a wonderful life filled with people who loved her. Lisa is employed at the vet’s office and she’s furthering her education. She intends to remain in that line of work. It’s amazing that even in times of crisis, God will direct you to the people you need at that particular time. Lisa knew Gracie for most of her life. The love in that room that day was immeasurable.

Silver Strands

I’ve been her exterminator for 11 years. She’s 72. She retired from her career as a nurse two years ago. And that’s all I knew until today.
“Come sit Sherry.”

Her kitchen is burgundy with a teddy bear wallpaper border. Baskets of candy and cookies make it feel comfortable.

“Sherry, I know a lot about you but I’m very quiet. I never want to draw attention but sometimes it’s necessary to lift another.”

I stare into her pale blue eyes. She wears a cross around her neck that lays on her grape purple T-shirt that has “World’s Best Nana” screen printed in white.

“Sherry, I’m an 8 year breast cancer survivor. I did 45 rounds of chemo and underwent 38 radiation treatments.” 

I gasp, fold my hands and place my arms on the table. Palms clutched. She has my full attention and she deserves it.

“It was late September, the Oncologist told me I’d lose my hair. It was gray and landed at the back of my bra strap. I believed I’d be the exception but I heeded his caution and had my hairdresser cut my silver strands to shoulder length. I went and sat in the chair and took my first treatment.” She said and she paused. 

I gave her time. I was willing to give her hours because I knew something big was coming.

“Sherry, on October 1st, I went and sat on my front porch swing. I was wearing a red sweater. It was chilly that day and the wind was blowing. It was three days after my chemo treatment. I was watching the birds at my feeders. I needed time to think and that’s when it started. The wind picked up and my hair began to blow away. Little by little, strands just up and parted way from my head. At that moment, I got very strong. I didn’t cry. I said, why not me? I’m no better than anyone else!”

By now my jaw has dropped. I’m soaking up her strength like a sponge. I said nothing because there are times it’s best to be silent.

“Sherry, I sat there alone and for one hour, I pulled out all of my hair and let the wind take it. I wanted the birds to have it to make beautiful nests for their young.”
This is how I maintain my strength. It’s because I’m surrounded by people who have gone before me.

7:44

Wednesday morning, June 21st, the anesthesiologist entered the room.”Mrs. Lambert, you indicated that you are allergic to Valium therefore I’m not going to start the IV until you are in the OR. You are going to see and remember quite a bit right up until I put you out. Are you ok with this?”

“Yes Sir. Thank you. Please make sure you wake me up when it’s over.”
I kiss Donnie as they put the side rails up on the bed. The nurse adjusts my hair net. And just like that they grab the bed and it’s rolling down the hallway. 
“7:44” the nurse says.

“7:44” the doctor says.

I take it all in. The room looks like a spaceship and the six people in the room are dressed from head to toe in white with clear shields over their faces. 

“Mrs. Lambert, we need you to move over to this table.”

The operating table is skinny and I’m certain it will not hold my rear end and I let them know. We laugh as they strap my arms down. I can see my body in the overhead light. I’m shaped like a a T. 

“7:46” the nurse says.

“7:46” the doctor says.

“Mrs. Lambert, I’m going to start the medication. You won’t be awake much longer.” He says.

My heart rate picks up and I look at all of their faces. “I’m still awake, don’t cut anything open until I’m asleep please!”

“7:48” the nurse says.

“7:48” the doctor says.

“I’m fading!” I tell them. “Please fix me, thank you in advance.” I said. And the next thing I remember was the bed rolling into a room where my family was waiting to greet  me. 

Cancer and the effects it has on a body are terrible. Life isn’t pretty but it sure is beautiful.

Lisa & Gracie: Part One

The call came one summer day. It was nearing the end of the breakfast hour as I sat in my company vehicle at a stop light in front of McDonalds. I watched the cars pile into the drive through in hopes of getting their hash browns and biscuits prior to the menu flipping over to fish filets and Big Macs. I was busy. I sipped my choice of poison, Diet Coke.  I didn’t have time to eat. I had a busy day ahead of me. My cellphone rang just as the light turned green. I answered the call. It was my son.
“I need to tell you something.” He said. “My girlfriend is pregnant.” I was silent. I thought back to all of the dinner table talks about teenage pregnancy. We would pass the potatoes and talk about the fact that I myself was pregnant at fourteen. I wanted my children to take full advantage of their youth and not have that type of responsibility early. We talked about STD’s and birth control but life happens and we make the best of it. My son was nineteen at the time. I still loved him but I knew he had a hard road ahead of him.
“Jimmy, I know you have a full time job but I want you to go out and get a part time job as well. Do it right now. You are going to need all the money you can get your hands on.” And I hung up the phone. I needed to digest what he’d said. We were no longer passing the potatoes around the dinner table. There was a baby due in six months.
I started stock piling the disposable diapers and wipes before we ever met the baby’s Mother. By September we had accumulated a closet full of items for the child that would arrive in March. My memory kept bringing me back to the birth of my own child, Monica. I wanted to help Jeff and Lisa. My son was still working two jobs and putting money in the bank. While his friends were partying, he was working. The time came for us to be formally introduced to Lisa. She was a petite young lady with a bright smile and long dark hair. We’d get to know her more over the next few months prior the birth of our first grandchild.
“Lisa, what is your dream job?” I asked.
“I’d love to a veterinarian one day but that plan will be put on hold for now. I’m not going to finish school at this point. I’m just going to work.”

John entered the world on a March day, seven years ago. Born to two parents with brown eyes, his were bright blue. He was a little baby with soft brown sprouts of hair. Wrapped in his swaddling blanket, I remember wishing he would stay that small forever.

The relationship between Jeff and Lisa did not work out but to this day, they still co-parent John in a manner that makes us proud. John is intelligent and he loves pizza. As he grows and learns, we can see that he has a knack for drawing. He loves geography and history. He is social and caring and makes some of the funniest faces I’ve ever seen. John is kind to animals. He loves our new kittens and always looked forward to giving our dog Gracie, a treat. Two weeks ago, my son Jeff showed up unexpectedly. He had John with him. I pulled my son to the side, “Gracie has had a stroke. She will be put down at noon today. We need to tell John.” I said. Jeff was quiet for several minutes.
“John, you need to come say goodbye to Gracie.”
“Why Dad, were is she going?”
“She’s sick. It’s time for her to go to heaven.” Jeff said. John walked slowly to the dog room which is our laundry room. He stared at Gracie and told her everything was going to be alright. It was heart wrenching. I put my hands back in the sink water and began scrubbing the breakfast dishes. I looked out the widow at the plum tree knowing I’d never see my dog beneath it again. I swallowed my tears.
“John, go give Mimi a hug and a kiss. We are going home now.”
“I love you Mimi and I’m sad about Gracie.” He said.
“I know honey but it’s going to be ok. We are going to bring Gracie to a special hospital and guess what John?”
“What Mimi?”
“Your Mom will be waiting at the door when we get there.”
“Mommy? You are going to my Mommy’s job?” He asked.
“Yes. Your Mommy will be in the room. She’s known Gracie for a long time too.”

Joan

Leaving the doctor’s office today, I was thinking of what I needed from the grocery store. Taco seasoning, milk and a few other odds and ends. The grocery store is one mile from the doctor’s office but when I put the key in the ignition of my truck and heard the words to a good song, I decided I would take a little drive. I’d go to another store. One that would allow me to sing with the wind in my face. I needed some think time. I just received the good news that I was two years breast cancer free. I was smiling and thankful.
The parking lot was scattered with fifteen to twenty cars. It was nearing the lunch hour. This was an opportune time to get in and out of the store. I grabbed a mini cart, the kind they make for a lite load of groceries. I pushed my way up to the main entrance and as the automatic doors opened, the cool air rushed my body. The chill was like a warm hug from a snowman. I welcomed it.
I’m a creature of habit and I like my own grocery store but I really needed that drive. I was now standing in a store that I’m not quite familiar with. The layout is not the same although they are in the same chain. I made my way to what would be the dairy section in my store but I found myself staring at Swedish fish, Reese cups and ring pops. I threw some Reese cups in the cart. I was off to a bad start. I stared at granola bars and fruit snacks. I was in no rush. I added more selections to the little cart. Going through the aisles, I was scanning the inventory of my own pantry in my head. What else could I pick up to make a full meal? Kielbasa. That’s what I wanted. Now I had the task of finding it. Birthday cake Oreos jumped in my cart along the way, as well as ham steaks. So much for just a few items. I was almost there. Kielbasa and sausage had to be up there with bacon. And that’s when I saw her. The lady in the black, gray and red floral print shirt. She was marking off her grocery list with a short #2 pencil. Her hair was salt and pepper gray and she stood with a slight hunch. Her red flats caught my eye as the lighting from the store danced off the patent leather. I was drawn to her. I know this feeling well and I never ignore it.
“Hello there! I came in here for three things and look at this cart!” I said. “I’m thinking I should have gotten the full size one!”
“I don’t need much. It’s just me.” She said.
“Yum! I love that brand of hash browns.” I said as I grabbed two packs for my own stash.
She smiled. She had something under her nose and at the corner of her lips. It looked like toothpaste but I certainly wasn’t going to mention it.
“Can I share some happy news with you?” I asked.
“Please do.” She said.
“I just left the doctor and I’m two years breast cancer free.”
Her eyes got big and she wiped the corner of her mouth. “I’m sorry, I just had a new tooth screwed into my jaw and I cant stop this spit from leaking out.”
“No worries at all! Are you feeling ok?” I asked.
“Oh yes Dear, I’m well. I’m glad I have the means to provide myself a new tooth. Times are expensive.” She explained.
I agreed as I looked at the groceries in our carts. I thought about how fortunate we both were. She dropped her list and her #2 pencil in the baby seat section of her cart right next to a bag of peppermint lifesavers. She scanned the surrounding area and when she felt safe, she moved in very close to me.
“Did you say two years breast cancer free?” She asked.
“Yes Mam, that’s why I think these birthday cake Oreos just happened to jump in my cart. They wanted to celebrate.” I laughed.
She reached her arms out and placed them on my elbows. Her diamond wedding band was loose and dangled close to her knuckle. “Honey, I’ve got you beat. I’m 85 years old and I’m a twenty three year ovarian cancer survivor. How do you like that?” She winked and smiled. Her new tooth seemed to twinkle.
“This is amazing. I’m so glad I had this time to talk to you. It’s always wonderful to talk to another survivor.” I said.
“My name is Joan. I come here several times a month. Do you live right around here?”
“No. I just wanted to drive for a little bit. I go to the other market most of the time.” I said.
“Let me give you some advice from an old lady and tell this to your friends as well.” She said. “Your smile will keep you alive longer than your frown. And always go with that feeling in your gut. The one that tells you to go somewhere you are not familiar with. Just like you did today.”

Dancing With A Praying Mantis

I don’t believe that any two people on this earth come together and say “I do” with the thought that one day they will get divorced. But it happens and life goes on. Looking back, I’m glad my parents didn’t stay together although at five I would’ve given anything for them to make it work. It took me years to realize that my Mom and Dad were two very different people. They did have one thing in common though, they both danced. Dad had a few country moves and Mom liked the disco.

It was shortly after moving into a new home that I noticed things were not going smoothly between my parents. I tried to focus on my doll that peed her diaper, my metal roller skates that I wore over my sneakers and my Disney movie projector. My toys helped to  keep my mind off of reality. It was late in the seventies and times were good. I was soaking up life at the young age of five. Diana Ross, Dolly Parton and Earth Wind and Fire were my radio friends. Car dancing was the best, either in my Mom’s blue Chevy Chevette or my Dad’s white Monte Carlo with the black roof. Life was always more fun riding in the front with one parent or the other.

Mom moved into an apartment and Dad went to stay with a relative. We lived with Mom but would go to visit Dad on Saturday mornings and return on Sunday evenings. I had a new bedroom at the apartment that overlooked another unit behind us. We lived on the third floor and I had a great view of people and action. Spring and summer in Massachusetts are kind to the body and soul. You can sleep with the windows open most of the time and that’s what we did.

I woke late one Friday night to a praying mantis sitting on my pillow by my head. I could clearly see him by the light that filtered into my room from the outdoor electrical pole. I was terrified. He was inches from my face and his hands clasped together. Thinking I was and on my death bed I quickly and quietly went to my Mom’s room to graphically explain that there was an emergency in my room. A large creature was praying for me but it had to go. She gently removed it and placed it outside. She covered me up and kissed me goodnight for the second time. I tossed and turned. I figured there had to be more where he came from. I could not sleep.

My Mom had the best record collection as far as I was concerned and she took all of the vinyl’s in the divorce. Dad kept his 8 tracks. I was no stranger to music. As I laid there in my bed, I heard to words to Carly Simon and Santana coming through my window. I stayed still for awhile and just listened but eventually made my way to go and take a look. There was a grand party across the way at the next unit. It was taking place in another third floor apartment which gave me the honor of a perfect view. I slide my window open as wide as it would go. I crossed my arms on the sill and got on my knees. I watched the men and women laugh and sing. A lady with feathered hair and a blue sequin dress was smoking a cigarette and holding a glass as she drank and talked to a man wearing a low cut shirt and bell bottom pants. People shuffled in and out of the slider door that lead to the balcony. I observed the fun and laughter but my favorite part was the dancing.

I watched them as long as I could. They had more energy then me because they were grown up’s. I was a little kid that needed sleep. My overnight bag was already packed to go to my Dad’s in the morning. I checked all around my pillow to make sure there were no more praying bugs. I climbed into my bed, laid down and thought, when I grow up, I’m going to dance.

 

Hero’s have blue hair, Dedicated to Angela Warden Pascale

My two and a half year old granddaughter had a busy weekend packed full of fun. She visited an amusement park for the first time. She was in route to our house to tell us all about it. As she walked down the side deck of our home, I saw her smile first and her purse second. A small toy animal head was poking out of her hard shell handbag.
“What do you have in there?” I asked. She proudly removed a blue pony with long locks of hair just a shade lighter than the plastic body.
“Did Mumma get you that prize?” I asked.
“Um hum!” She responded as she sat down on the deck to stroke the pony’s blue hair.
“Mom, we all played games at the park and combined the tickets to get her that pony! It took two hundred of them to get our hands on that thing! I could’ve bought that at the dollar store!” My daughter said as we all laughed but my laughter was quickly going to turn to silence. I would soon find myself whipped into a place of remembrance, sympathy and pain all because of a little blue pony with long curly hair.

We spend many hours on our back deck. Some of the best talks, some of the deepest discussions and many decisions have been made on the deck. It’s a getaway. From that spot, I can hear the sound of the fountain in our pool. I close my eyes and envision a vacation destination. Important discoveries are made out there on the deck.

“Mimi, Hewp!” She yells because she can’t say help.
“What’s wrong Jade?”
“Mimi, put it back peas!” She is beginning to panic. I freeze. I honestly cannot move as I watch her. I need a rescue from God. I’m beginning to shake. I feel anxiety run through my core. Jade is combing the curly blue locks of the pony’s mane with her fingers and the hair is falling out onto the deck. She’s picking it up and setting it back on top of the pony’s head. I’m spinning. My mind is rolling like an 8mm film. I can see all of my friends who have undergone chemo. I can see their hair falling out and the agony of wanting to “put it back”. I take the pony from Jade. Her face is distraught. I can’t tell her that Mimi can fix it. I’d be lying. Its pulled out from the roots.
“Jade, hair falls out sometimes.”
“No Mimi.”
“I know. It’s sad but your pony is still so pretty!”

As the evening came to a close, we picked up Jade’s toys and brought the dirty dishes inside. I put a few caps on markers that she’d taken out and I made one last glance. I noticed a large clump of blue hair rolling across the deck like a tumbleweed. I grabbed it and weighted it down with a flower pot. I wanted to keep the memory close for a little while.

Jade came back this evening. She didn’t have her purse and she didn’t bring her blue pony. She had Minnie mouse and The Foot Book. It was nearing bath time when she spotted the hair under the pot. She did not ask, she reached up and took the hair. She ran to her wagon which serves as her outdoor toy box. She grabbed her bag of shells and dumped them out. Jade then placed the blue hair in the bag. That bag went with her to the tub where she removed the curly locks and washed them with shampoo. The blue strands are still on the edge of the bath tub and they will remain until they either wash away or she doesn’t want them.

Fourteen working at Burger King

My first job was at Burger King in Buzzards Bay Massachusetts. It was located just off a rotary on Cape Cod. I was fourteen and needed a work permit. I was excited to get my feet in the door to make just over four dollars an hour. Each shift I worked, yielded one free meal. It doesn’t take long to get sick of the food you work around.
I started off making the fries. It was an endless routine. I stood on the cushiony, slip free black mat and dropped basket after basket of fries. This was Cape Cod. It was July and the beach homes were occupied, school was out and people were on vacation. The local campsites were full. Burger King was beyond busy.
I was the fry master. I also had to cook onion rings but they weren’t as popular as fries. My burgundy polyester shirt was grease stained and my navy blue visor kept my hair out of my face. I wore a name tag and I thought I was the bomb. The name tag was ordered from a corporate office. I was a somebody. I was the fourteen year old fry and onion ring hustler and I was learning work ethic.