Monday, April 25, 2005

Warning...this is a long one

Last night I went along to dinner and drinks at a good friend's house. There were about 45 people altogether...we were doing a continuation of celebrating my girlfriend's 40th (you know, the surprise party I went to a couple of weeks ago?). It WAS a surprise and her hubby didn't know about it either (he's soooo bad at keeping even the smallest secret from her, so we chose not to tell him). He did look rather wounded that night and said "I can't believe none of you told ME!". His wife responded with "Oh come on honey, you KNOW I would've found out the same day they told you..you're hopeless at keeping things from me".

Anyway, hubby had tried to arrange a bit of a surprise for her, himself. He had been ringing around asking us about all coming over for a barbeque/party...HIS surprise was to be on the same day, as we'd already scheduled OUR surprise for her. He couldn't understand how come so many people were unavailable to come to his wife's surprise 40th barbeque. To cut a long story short, last night I attended his 'not-a surprise-anymore' barbeque for his wife...coupled with a 'thank-you-so much-for-the-great-surprise-for-both-of-us-two-weeks-ago' barbeque.

I got to catch up with some more people I hadn't seen for a while...and I met a man named Bill, an American with the Foreign Services, who arrived to make what everyone else thought was "the best fried chicken in New Zealand history!"...but to me it was chicken drum sticks...deep fried in vegetable oil...although I did have a taste, the 'deep frying' bit makes me shudder these days.

Amongst my catch up with people last night....were two ladies I'm particularly fond of. I don't get to see either of them very often, and I always leave feeling like I still didn't get enough of them, even if we've spoken for hours on end. One lady is 67 years old (Lady A)...she kinda reminds me of my Dad in some ways. Her dark skin and bright smiley eyes and her amazing zest for life..she has the most terrific attitude about everything. The other woman is 44 (Lady B) and I feel a special kinship with her. She is unique to me in that she always dresses so 'man-ish', works as a storekeeper in a large industrial part of town, driving a forklift and loading huge boxes onto trucks for hours. She works shifts..usually from 6pm to 6am.

Lady A: Has had 6 children. 3 boys and 3 girls. All her children were well respected major league softball players. And her being their mum of course, and a support icon for each of them, was fully involved in anything to do with the Club. She now has 4...3 girls and 1 boy. 10 years ago her oldest son died in a car accident at the age of 25. Over 5 years ago she discovered a lump in her right breast, the doctors operated, removed the cancerous tumor and also took her lymph nodes under the right arm to be sure it didn't spread. A year later, her husband kept losing his balance...he was falling over continuously..the doctor sent him for physio...nothing changed....she got a second opinion...second doc sends him for a scan...he has a brain tumor. He was very sick for a long time, and after several operations and lots of treatment, he is back to being a strong healthy male, 70 today. A couple of years later, her youngest son was involved in a murder-suicide that rocked the core of the softball community. He was 23...had been drinking heavily, narcotics were also involved...he waited for his girlfriend to get home from her night out....and knifed her to death, almost choked her best friend by strangulation, and then stuck the knife in his own chest. She was extremely shocked and humbled by the huge turnout at his funeral. The girl he had killed was also a prominent player in our club...her brother was his best friend and they played on the same team.
Last night she talked with me about her throwing two BIG parties this year...one in July, to celebrate her finally coming off her 'chemotherapy' medication after 5 years....and the other...her 50th wedding anniversary.

Lady B: Has 3 children. A girl of 16, and two boys, 14 and 6. Her middle child was never hers...when he was born she gave him to her sister who couldn't have children of her own. He is 14 years old now, knows that she is his biological mother but calls her Aunty. A couple of years ago she became pregnant....she was leaving the house with her 4 year old one morning...she slipped and fell down the old wooden steps and by doing her best to avoid hurting her 4 year old, she landed on her stomach...she lost the baby....5 months pregnant. She was so filled with anger at her husband for not fixing the steps as she'd been asking him to for months...she didn't speak to him for 3 months, refused to let him touch her and slept with her youngest in his bed for that length of time. Just before Xmas last year, I ran into at the local shopping mall....she was glowing and happy and told me excitedly that she was pregnant once again...this time with twins! I was delighted for her and her husband. She then went on to say quietly that she had been blessed with twins, and felt that her body had 'replaced' the child she'd lost a couple of years ago with the bonus of an extra. Two weeks ago when I met up with her at the 'first' 40th....I was hugged fiercely by her, and confronted with the news that she had miscarried both on Christmas Eve, at 3 months gestation. I felt utterly deflated and helpless.

When I think of these two women, I think about their strength and how, against all odds...regardless of what we do with our lives and what we endure....life continues. At the risk of sounding depressed and lacking any optimism whatsoever...that sucks. But we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off...never forget what's happened, but file it away to grieve another time in private....and keep on going.
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