Welcome to the Team

Posted: August 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cancer, Drink, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Mom, Other Mothers, Parenting | 7 Comments »

I have a public service announcement.

The next time you find yourself about to tell someone, “I don’t know how you do it!” please hit your internal Pause button. And while the world is freeze-framed, ask yourself whether whatever it is that the person is doing that’s wowing you so much is even something they want to be doing. Or ever imagined they’d have to do.

Then, before hitting Play and returning to live-action life, decide whether or not to open your trap.

Like, right after my mom died. Amidst effusions of sympathy (that I truly did appreciate) people would say things like, “Personally? I just couldn’t deal with losing my mother.” Or, “You and your sisters caring for your mom like you did. I just don’t know how you did it.”

The thing is, it wasn’t like we signed up for a maternal cancer crisis like you do for the NFL football package on DirectTV.

How do you do it? I don’t know. You just do it because you suddenly find yourself in the shit-sucking situation of having to.

So Saturday. Footloose and giddy with a sitter home with the kids, Mark and I skipped up to Napa to celebrate Surh-Luchtel Cellars’ ten year anniversary. An occasion which, as you might imagine, requires one to drink excessively so as to not hurt the winemaker-hosts’ feelings.

At one point in the party, a point where I’d amply soaked in the fine Surh-Luchtel product, I met the First Lady of the winery’s local Mama friends. And all loose and boozy as I was—though God knows my social skids need no greasin’—I blathered and fawned over one woman’s great haircut.

It was super short and fabulous. One of those styles that the topography of my head and the girth of my schnoz would prevent me from wearing. A look few women go for, and fewer pull off well.

Me: “Blah blah blah known Shelley for 17 years, blah blah blah perfect day for this party [panting boozy wine breath], blah blah blah I just love your hair!”

Her: “Oh, thanks. My six-year-old’s getting chemo, so I decided to shave my head when she started going bald.”

You’ll be happy to know that, even in my wine-saturated state, I didn’t start weeping, throw my arms around her neck, and sob and snot on her dress. I mean, it was the last thing I was expecting to hear on that carefree (and did I mention wine-laden?) day. But I just loved the straight-shootin’ matter-of-fact way she told me.

And I immediately wanted to shave my head too.

Tousling her hair she said it’d been growing out, and was actually fairly long at that point. She told me it’s the third time she’s shaved it. The first time, she and her husband threw a party and pledged a donation to a leukemia charity for every person who shaved their head. And forty of their friends did.

At this point, I was casing the catering table for a plastic knife so I could start lopping off my own locks.

I wanted to be her best friend. I wanted to imagine that I could handle the unthinkable misery of a child with cancer with the same degree of spunk and love and strength. All that and her hand bag was really fabulous too.

Our conversation continued with me rambling on about life and cancer and dealing the hand you get and the infinite wellspring of a Mama’s love that brings you to places of being-able-to-deal that you couldn’t imagine you could ever get to, but hey look, there you are.

I wanted her to see me as someone who got it. One of the cool people. Not one of the folks who I’m assuming react to her story with fear and discomfort, stammering out awkward apologies and aw-that’s-awfuls.

But really, she probably just thought I was drunk.

Whatever the case, before I left we exchanged blog URLs. And I found out where she got her purse. (Though, damn it, they only have the tote left.)

I’m sober now and all I can say is, MY GOD, I have no idea how she does it. And I hope hope hope I never have to find out.

It’s comforting knowing a good knee surgeon, a defense attorney, a locksmith—even though you hope you’ll never have to use their services. And now, without even looking, I found myself a model for amazing maternal behavior in the face of heartbreak. Someone who I’d be thrilled to be even one-third as impressive as, given the same situation. A most excellent addition to my team of experts.

Rock on, sister. My heart—and maybe even my hair someday—goes out to you.


7 Comments on “Welcome to the Team”

  1. 1 Lori said at 4:10 pm on August 12th, 2009:

    brought tears to my eyes. one of my close friends from High School has a child with cystic fibrosis, who takes 40+ pills a day just to be able to eat (he’s only 3) and I often do find myself wondering where you find the strength to get through the day. You really captured the admiration that I feel for my friend. well done.

  2. 2 Cheryl said at 5:09 pm on August 12th, 2009:

    You are funny and you write good.

  3. 3 Nell said at 5:35 pm on August 12th, 2009:

    Kristen, touching and timely! We had to navigate a bit of a medical maze with our youngest last week and found ourselves referred to the pediatric oncology ward at Walter Reed…not a place anyone ever wants to darken the door of…As it turns out we’re only facing a minor league illness but the waiting period certainly had me thinking along these lines. I can so easily relate to wanting to be the person who always says the right thing at the right time. It sounds to me like you did just that.

  4. 4 Kyla said at 8:01 pm on August 12th, 2009:

    Great read, Kristin. What an amazing woman and an awesome story. And yeah, I don’t know how anyone can do it. (And I, too, am jealous of those who can pull off a haircut like that! I want it for the sheer laziness factor but don’t dare cuz I’d look like, oh, who knows, but I don’t have the face and features to do it!)

  5. 5 Mary said at 10:31 pm on August 12th, 2009:

    Wow- so well written, I’d never be able to put into words the ravages of emotions that you do. HOW DO YOU DO IT? Great story to share, amazing woman, and I am praying for that little child and her family. Isn’t it true that after you have kids, every kid from then on that you hear about something awful happening to becomes your kid for a brief moment?

  6. 6 Drea said at 7:48 am on August 13th, 2009:

    Beautiful post. It’s amazing how the happenstance meeting of one person can change everything. Life is indeed a bittersweet tapestry with so many thought-provoking threads.

  7. 7 Jeff said at 2:51 pm on August 13th, 2009:

    Hilarious and endearing as always. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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