Sunday, September 18, 2011

Don't You Forget About Me

Recently I had the wonderful experience of spending the long Labor Day weekend with five wonderful women who have known me since I was approximately 13 years old – that’s about 27 years.

Of course there are people I’m friends with on Facebook that I knew in Junior High and high school, although my contact with the majority of them is pay-by-play updates during Packers games, which is great because there was no way on God’s green earth that most of us would have actually spoken to each other during junior high or high school, and the fact that we now comment on the 5/4 defense amazes me: it amazes me that I know what the hell a 5/4 defense is, but I do!

But this group of women that I spent Labor Day with (minus two who couldn’t make the trip and were sorely missed) have known me for so long, I often describe our friendship to others as: They don’t ask me why I am the way that I am. They were there when I was becoming who I am. Which to me, is a statement of unblemished loyalty, and if there’s one thing I am, it is loyal, often to a fault.

In early 2006 I had a “medical nightmare” (complications from a simple gallbladder removal that landed me in a local hospital for six weeks and included a pulmonary embolism, [a blood clot in my right lung], a buildup of fluid around my liver [I have no idea what the fancy-schmancy medical term for that is], a pleural effusion [fluid between my right lung and my chest wall] which required placement of a chest tube for five days.) When my surgeon pulled out the chest tube, his first words were, “Oh no.” Not something that I really wanted to hear. While pulling out the tube, he snapped the tip off and it was lodged somewhere in my back. An emergency CT scan pinpointed its location and I had surgery the next day with one of his colleagues (he had to be in Minneapolis for a conference, you see) to dig around in my back to retrieve it. Pre-op I asked the attending surgeon if he could put the tip in a bag so I could keep it. He flat out told me that that was an odd request. From my gurney in the OR, I flat out told him that it was odd that an experienced surgeon should make such an error. He shut up and I’ve got my chest tube tip in a biohazard bag in my underwear drawer, where most women generally keep anything of value.

Anyway, I’ve still got the card that came with a bouquet of flowers from these friends who have known me before I knew myself. It reads: Thinking of you. Get better soon! Love – followed by five names that I will not list to protect their privacy. The flowers were delivered to my parents’ house because I had to stay someplace that could provide 24/7 care, which left me with two options: my parents or a nursing home. I was 35 years old and could not envision myself at a frickin’ nursing home, so I chose to stay with my parents.

When the flowers arrived, I gently opened the tissue paper and located the card and read it out loud. My mother and I both started to cry. She because those whom she knew as kids still cared enough about her daughter to send flowers when I was gravely ill, and me because that simple gesture assured me that I had a history, that I had deep, strong roots, and that in a world of full of six and ½ million strangers, five people cared enough about me to send flowers and wish that I got well soon. It made me feel as important as the Queen of England, only much more sincerely loved.

So, on Labor Day weekend, we tossed cow chips (or bought tee shirts declaring that we were there to witness the tossing of said cow chips), ate German food we couldn’t pronounce, shared stories on the porch that got us yelled at by the neighbors (hell-raisers to the end, that’s got to be part of our motto!), and spent time eating our way around Capitol Square in Madison and visiting the only known feminist bookstore in the entire state of Wisconsin.

To commemorate this weekend (we were celebrating the fact that we had all turned 40 this year – oy!) some of us made cds with songs that reminded the cd creator of each of the weekend attendees. It seems somehow very personal to reveal the songs each of us chose for each other, so I will not list any song titles here.

After all, some things should remain between friends, shouldn’t they?

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