Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a reprise from four years ago:
SECOND HAND ROSE
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my sisters.
That’s me in the middle on the first day of school. I was six, I think. That would make Christine (on the left) ten, and Claudia (on the right) just shy of nine.
I loved my sisters. Although my mother will tell you that we bickered constantly. And my mother is telling the truth.
Car rides were our particular battleground. My sisters each got a window in the back seat, with my baby brother between them. He played the role of ‘Fence’. I sat in the front between my father and mother. Because no one would sit next to me. Chris still says she won’t sit next to me in the car. She says it just wouldn’t be right.
I look at Christine smiling benevolently at me in this photo. Gee, I never remember her doing that. Her most common look was disgust. She was very grown up and I imitated (and annoyed) her constantly. I read her library books. I played her records (She had a 45 record carrier with Dick Clark’s picture on the front. And Paul Anka records inside.) I drove her crazy. She was the smartest person I knew. Probably still is. And she smiles at me now like that.
Back when this picture was taken, Claudia’s whole mission in life was to make me laugh. Especially in photographs. How she could make me laugh! She was hysterical. At least I thought so at six. I was in constant peril of wetting my pants every time a camera came out. She was the funniest person I knew. Probably still is. She was born the day after Thanksgiving, and we always celebrated her birthday on Thanksgiving Day. For years she thought that we were giving thanks for the joy of her birth. I think we were.
We weren’t rich. But we didn’t feel poor either. We were just like everyone else in the neighborhood. Lots of two-family houses, lots of kids, lots of grandparents – many of whom didn’t speak much English.
With two older sisters, my wardrobe was predetermined. I wore mostly hand-me-downs.
I know many women who say they resented having to wear their sisters’ old clothes. I can understand why – but it’s funny – I never felt that way.
My sisters were my role models. I wanted desperately to be just like them. And I got to be like them a little bit when I put on their hand-me-downs. And it instilled in me the opposite of jealousy.
Oh, I was plenty jealous of my sisters. I wanted those thick curly pony tails. I wanted a later bedtime. But I didn’t have to want their clothes. I got them. And I wasn’t jealous when they got something new. I wanted nothing more than for them to have the prettiest clothes in the world. I was thrilled with every beautiful new dress they got. It was only a matter of time before it was mine.
And this was not only when I was a dumb little kid. I wore Christine’s bridesmaid’s gown to my Junior Prom. And I was delighted to wear that gorgeous dress.
Now that we are older, people constantly remark on how much we look alike. We will laugh about it again yesterday at the Thanksgiving table.
I wanted to be just like them when I was small. And now I am. Can’t do much better than that.
I have an image of Reincarnation that I would so like to be true.
I wish that Reincarnation was a chance to make the Other choices in your life.
I want to be born again in exactly the same circumstances to exactly the same family. But when I come to those pivotal decisions in my life – those “forks in the road”, so to speak – I want to choose the OPPOSITE this time around.
You know… just to SEE.
As I find myself growing older (and ‘find myself’ is the correct expression here, as I am both ‘finding myself’ in the ‘Self-discovery’definition, and in the ‘Holy shit how did this happen’ definition) I am also finding that I am plagued by What-Ifs.
I don’t really have too many big regrets in my life. I am happy and healthy and I have an abundance of good feelings and good stuff.
But I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like had I chosen those other options? I want Seinfeld’s Bizarro World in my next life.
My Same Life. But not the Same. The Opposite.
In my first job after college, my company offered to pay for my MBA. What if I had said, “No thank you. I don’t want to be a business executive?” What if I had gone to grad school for Literature as I originally intended? Would I be living in a cottage by the sea now? Or in some brownstone in New York?
What if I had said “Yes” to that other guy who wanted to marry me? Would I have adult children now? Grandchildren with red hair?
What if I had tried harder to get a teaching position? Would I have been happier teaching high school English than doing financial analysis? Would I drink more?
What if I had stayed in Puerto Rico after I finished my student teaching there? Would I laugh more, dance with more joy? Or be all wrinkly from too much sun?
As I said, I am happy with Life as it is right now.
But how curious I am to try the Opposite too.
I have an image in my head lately that won’t leave me. It seems to be the symbol of my questioning regret.
When I first started to work, I lived in a tiny furnished studio apartment over the garage of some sweet elderly folks. And as I progressed in my accidental career, my income went up, and I decided that it would be nice to have a bigger place of my own, with my own things that I could choose and love.
So I started looking for a new apartment. And I found one. It was half of the first floor of an old Victorian house. Not a mansion, but oh so beautiful. This two-bedroom apartment had floor-to-ceilings windows. The hardwood floors reflected the sunlight that poured through those windows. The living room had built-in bookshelves and a spot that invited a piano. And a charming kitchen with a breakfast nook.
It was 1982. I had been paying $195 per month in rent. But with my raises, I had figured I could afford up to $325 per month. And this lovely apartment was $400.
I agonized and made the practical decision. I turned it down and found a simpler place to live within my budget.
But now, thirty-four years later, I am haunted by those floor-to-ceiling windows. By that breakfast nook.
In my next life, I want to have breakfast in that nook.
Would my life be totally different?
In honor of Veterans Day, here’s a reprise of a post I wrote four years ago.
Thank you, Dad, for your service to our country, and for being the amazing father that you were.
THE SMARTEST PERSON
My father died this past Christmas. Yesterday was his birthday. He would have been 89.
My Dad was a man of great intelligence and corny jokes. As an engineer of precision gauges, he had a PhD mind and a high school diploma.
He sang dumb words to old songs. “It had to be stew. Meat and beans wouldn’t do.”
He was a true war hero; he fought in the Battle of The Bulge during World War II. And although he was proud of his service and loved the army, he hardly ever mentioned the two purple hearts that were stored in the attic.
He was good-looking, and I think in his younger days, he was well aware of it. (I look just like him. But that’s not bragging; handsomeness in a man doesn’t necessarily translate to female beauty.) He was perpetually cheerful. He woke up happy. I never heard him swear, and what is more amazing still–I never in my whole life heard him speak an unkind word about anyone.
On Father’s Day a few years ago, after two martinis, he said that having children was the best thing he ever did.
My mother was the advice-giver in the family. I wrote about her wonderful wisdom in “Beyond Clean Underwear-Advice From Mom.”
But my father gave me a few words of advice too. Very practical advice.
– “When you drive at night, keep your eyes on the shoulder of the road. You’ll stay in your lane, and you won’t be blinded by the oncoming cars.” Thirty-eight years later, I still drive this way. It works.
– “If you need a really big favor, go right to the top. People with only a little bit of power are often stingy with it. People with lots of power don’t have anything to prove. They can afford to be generous.” Just try this next time you need a week off to help a family member, or an after-hours delivery. It’s amazing.
Although I have a million memories, I have only one story about my father to share. I only need one, because it tells you everything you need to know about him, about my mother, about the home I was raised in, and the marriage I was privileged to have as an example.
About thirty years ago, I lived in an apartment with terrible and expensive laundry facilities. So even though I was no kid, I still drove to my parents’ house every other Sunday with a basket full of laundry.
My mother was a nurse, and she often worked on weekends. So that Sunday, I put my clothes in the washer, and sat down with my father to watch the game. (I am quite knowledgable about sports, because even as a little kid, I watched games with my Dad. I didn’t love sports; I loved sitting with him.)
Earlier that week, it had been my parents’ wedding anniversary. It may have been their thirty-fifth.
My Dad told me that they had gone out to dinner to celebrate. Still single at thirty, I had yet to find a man I could stand for very long, never mind marry, and thirty-five years seemed like forever.
“Dad,” I asked, “After all these years, do you still find things to talk about?”
He smiled, and his whole face lit up with pleasure.
“Oh yes,” he said enthusiastically. “There’s no one I would rather talk to than your mother. She’s the smartest person I know.”
Happy Veterans Day, Dad
When I was a junior in high school, I missed the same verb on two consecutive French tests.
This pissed me off – only I didn’t say ‘pissed off’ at the time – I don’t think anyone used that term in 1968. I think we were just easing ourselves into “bummed out.”
In frustration – and in the certainty that the word would appear again to screw with me – I wrote it on the back cover of my French text book. No, I wasn’t defacing school property. Back then all textbooks had covers. You usually started out with a cool blue cover provided by the Bristol Savings Bank, but if you were as doodle-prone as I was, by November, you were using brown paper grocery bags.
And I wrote on my paper-bag covered book:
And here it is, forty-seven years later, and I not only remember that Tenir = To Hold, but I remember the present tense conjugation listed below the verb.
This is an incredible example of how just seeing something every day for a period of time will make a permanent impact on one’s brain.
No studying. No effort. Tenir = To Hold has a hold on my brain. Tenir is indelible.
After all these years.
Why not put that subliminal power to work right now?
I don’t need to conjugate any French verbs at the moment.
But there are lots of ideas that would be beneficial if they ‘tenired’ themselves into my brain.
So today I took a sticky note and put it in a place that I visit repeatedly. My favorite spot, so to speak. My obsession. The bathroom mirror.
I gave some thought as to what would be the best message to subconsciously absorb a dozen times a day.
I chose this:
This is a perfect message to osmose into my soul. And I get a triple bonus:
1. Straighten Up!
Put away the clean laundry.
Pick up shoes.
Throw away the junk mail.
2. Straighten Up!
Walk with confidence.
3. Straighten Up!
And fly right.
This is Part Two of my apology to doctors. I have harbored a grudge for too long that medical folk are in love with expensive procedures. Because of course, I secretly think their number one goal is money, not my health.
But I’ve been seriously wrong a couple of times.
The first – my sweet dentist, Dr. Robert Rafaniello, who postponed some dental work so that my parents wouldn’t have to foot the bill. (See: Sorry, Doc. Part One.)
My second example of an amazingly admirable and ethical doctor was a plastic surgeon I visited more than thirty years ago.
I’m sorry that I don’t remember his name. But I remember his words.
I had dated a bit in high school. Not very much, but I did go to the Junior Prom with a very nice boy. And although I may not have been completely devastated, I will admit to being very disappointed that no one asked me to the Senior Prom. I spent Prom night in my bedroom, feeling horrible. (I wish I could go back and tell that sad young girl that she was prettier and sweeter than she – and those boys – knew.)
An interesting thing happened in college. I developed a shyness I had not felt in high school. I was a serious student, and apart from one rather deranged boyfriend, I never dated at all.
And things only got worse in my twenties. I worked hard and got my graduate degree at night. I hardly spoke to anyone of the male persuasion. I got shyer.
I finished my MBA when I turned 30. And suddenly – I had time. I had never had free time. I hardly knew how to fill it. The first week I read seven novels. And on top of all that free time I acquired at thirty – Holy Cow, I was thirty. THIRTY. How the hell had that happened?
I decided I wanted a boyfriend. Maybe even a husband.
But I didn’t even know how to date. Never mind how to find a date.
But I was a very logical young woman. I shamelessly and deliberately made friends with a very social, very pretty woman in my office. We started to go out on Tuesday and Thursday nights. And I watched her. She was a very accomplished flirt. I was a very good study. I just copied what she did, and by the end of the year, I could flirt. A little.
I didn’t have as much luck in the boyfriend department as my beautiful friend, however. I knew I wasn’t particularly beautiful, but plenty of ordinary looking women found spouses. I wasn’t sure how they did it, but I was determined to better my odds.
One thing my pretty friend had that I did not was boobs (Okay, two things). She was well-endowed. Men very much appreciated her well-endowedness.
I was flat-chested. I remember when I was twelve, looking at women’s bosoms and thinking, “Pretty soon I will look like that.” I believed it. I never thought to take a look at my mother and my older sisters. Boobs did not exactly run in the family. I was no exception.
It hadn’t seemed to matter much. But now that I was in the market for a boyfriend/fiance/husband, I thought it might help.
I chose the plastic surgeon because I liked the building where he had his office. If he appreciated the aesthetics of good architecture, he could perhaps create attractive breasts.
The doctor took his time examining me. I was self-conscious but I figured he looked at tiny breasts a lot, and it was probably no big deal. (literally)
“Why do you want breast implants?” he asked.
“Well, I thought I would like to look a little better. My clothes would fit better, and maybe I’d feel a little prettier. Nicer breasts might give me a little more confidence.”
“Go ahead and get dressed and we’ll talk more in my office,”
And when I sat down in front of his big desk, the doctor had some bags of clear thick liquid in front of him.
“These are implants. They look nice and soft but they often get pretty hard as your body forms scar tissue around them. So they will make you look bigger, but they won’t feel like real breasts.” (Note: Maybe they do now; this was 1983.)
He had me hold one in my hand.
“That would make you about a B cup,” he said.
“It looks big,” I said.
“Here’s the thing,” the doctor continued. “Most women come here for breast augmentation because they’re miserable. They hate the way they look. Their self-esteem is so bad, they can hardly function. Their whole thought process is focused on how bad they think they look. But I don’t see that in you. I see a basically happy woman who would like to look a little better. And this is a pretty serious – and expensive – way to look a little better.”
I had to agree.
And the doctor said, “Why don’t you buy yourself a few really beautiful padded bras? And then come back in a year if you still want the surgery.”
That was half my lifetime ago.
I’m still flat-chested.
And it hasn’t matter one bit.
I am confessing to a strong prejudice.
For a very long time I have held the opinion that doctors will always find something wrong with you, so they can treat you. That is how they make money after all.
A surgeon will of course think you need surgery. An ear specialist will think every kid needs tubes and every person over 40 needs a hearing aid.
And worst is the allergist.
My mother, who had a very long career as a nurse, always told me: “Never marry a doctor. They think they know everything. But if you MUST marry a doctor, marry an allergist.Their patients never die – but they also never get better.”
So I’ve always been more than skeptical at anything the doctor said. I remember once going to a dermatologist for a rash that my family doctor couldn’t seem to identify. My G.P. had sent along all the results from the tests he had already conducted. The dermatologist remarked, “That’s a lot of tests. I don’t exactly know why he did them.” And I replied, “To run up the bill?” The dermatologist did not laugh.
So there it is. I have a very bad attitude when it comes to doctors.
But I remembered two events – both happened quite a long time ago – that negate that bad attitude. And I don’t know why they didn’t influence me more.
But it’s never too late to say you’re sorry.
I’m sorry, all you doctors that have passed or will pass through my life. Some of you might be ethical after all.
Here’s the first incident:
When I was a kid, I had a horrible fear of the dentist. I had been badly frightened by a dentist who. let’s just say, was not great with children. My fear was so overwhelming, that for years, when my mother would take me, I would completely panic and refuse to open my mouth. Oh sure, you could pry it open with sheer brute force (which the bastard occasionally employed), but more often that not my mother would end up taking me home with both of us in tears and my teeth unattended.
But eventually I became a teenager, and I wanted nice teeth. And I wanted them to stop hurting. So one night while doing the dishes, I told my mother than I knew I needed to see the dentist but I was very afraid. My greatly feared dentist had a new younger associate, Dr. Robert Rafaniello, and Mom had heard he was very kind. So she called the office and made me an appointment, explaining that I was willing but terrified.
I went. By myself. My mother dropped me off, saying that I might be better off learning to handle it by myself.
While I was waiting in the chair, staring nervously out the window, I saw a guy in a dentist’s coat glide by – on a skateboard. How bad could he be?
Well, Dr. Rafaniello wasn’t bad. He was wonderful. Sweet and gentle and funny.
“Don’t salivate,” he told me once. “My spit-sink is broken.”
He was honest too. I needed extensive work – fillings and root canals. And when he knew it would hurt, he told me so. He said he would be as quick and gentle as possible, but he acknowledged my pain. And that made it bearable.
I had one tooth that was impacted. My jaw was small, and it seemed there had just been no room for that tooth to descend.
“We’re going to have to do something with that impacted tooth,” said Dr. Rafaniello.
And I think my teeth must have been as terrified of the dentist as I was, because that tooth came in the next month. I was sixteen and I had a new tooth. Only, there still wasn’t room for it, so it came down behind the other teeth. I had a brand new tooth on the roof of my mouth.
The next time I visited Rafaniello, he examined the tooth. “Son of a gun,” he said.
“Does it bother you to have that tooth there?” he asked.
“It did at first,” I confessed. “But to tell you the truth, I’ve already gotten kind of used to it.”
And Dr. Rafaniello said something that amazed me then, and still does now:
“That tooth will eventually give you trouble. It is so crooked, and the placement won’t allow for a good blood supply either. I don’t think that it will stay healthy. But you know, your parents have spent a lot of money on your teeth already, and their dental plan isn’t all that good, and now they’re probably saving to send you to college. Why don’t we just wait? It will probably be years before that tooth bothers you, and maybe by that time, you’ll have a job and your own insurance, and you can pay for it. Let’s give your parents a break.”
Eventually, I had to have that tooth extracted. I was thirty-one. My insurance paid for it.
Years later, when I was well into my fifties and Dr. Rafaniello was approaching eighty, I had him fix a tooth that my current dentist said was unfixable. Ten years later, his fix is still holding.
He knew I was a writer and he told me a little of his life story. He went to college on a basketball scholarship, but was injured and couldn’t play. He lost his scholarship. He thought he would have to quit school, but his adviser got him a job at the university’s dental clinic to earn his tuition. That’s when he decided to become a dentist. His parents didn’t have to pay for it.
And my parents didn’t have to pay for my impacted-then-crooked tooth.
In honor of reconnecting with my very best friend from childhood, here’s a post from 2012 about Doris and one of our favorite games. I hope she will forgive me for my deep, horrible secret:
NOT QUITE RIGHT, DR. FREUD
I was reminded the other day of Freud’s theory that by age six or so, a young girl is devastated by the realization that she doesn’t have a penis. She experiences this as a great loss that affects her for the rest of her life.
I think I read about Freud’s claims when I was about fifteen. I laughed my ass off.
ALL the girls I grew up with thought boys were stupid, and penises were especially stupid. As far as envy goes, I didn’t even think peeing in the snow was worthwhile.
If anything, I felt a little sorry for boys. I figured they must be very jealous of our nice hair and pretty clothes. And what boring toys. Lincoln Logs? Really? When you could have a gorgeous Revlon doll with curly hair and real eyelashes?
As a kid, my favorite past-time was acting out scenes from movies and TV. My friend Doris and I would recreate movies in her backyard. Our biggest problem was that most stories were about boys. Yuck.
We’d stage Shirley Temple movies–Big Three Theatre (Hartford’s Channel 3 at 4:30) had a Shirley Temple movie at least once a week – “Heidi”, “The Little Princess”, “Captain January”. And of course we played Annette and Darlene from the Mickey Mouse Club. Then around 1959, there was “Tammy and the Bachelor” and “Gidget”. I’d sit through two showings at the Cameo Theater, and I was good to go, with near-perfect recall for all the best scenes and lines. Doris never dared to challenge my recollection.
When I was nine we hit the drama jackpot: “Pollyanna.”
For me, “Pollyanna” was the perfect movie. Hayley Mills was so adorable. She had a great accent, and clothes that were supposed to be ugly but were really fabulous. She had long blond hair. She lived in a big gorgeous house but she was an orphan too. And best of all – she had TRAGEDY.
We used Doris’ swing set as the tree that Pollyanna fell out of. We learned to jump off the crossbar of the swing and land in the most delicately terrible (but harmless) way. I must have jumped off that bar two hundred times that summer.
The tricky part about “Pollyanna” was sharing the role with Doris. Pollyanna was really the only girl in the movie. Pollyanna’s sidekick was a BOY. Jimmy Bean was played by Kevin Corcoran, and he was a cute little kid, but I never ever wanted to be the boy. So we took turns. Grudgingly.
But I had a secret. When it was my turn to be Jimmy, I changed it around in my head. I was actually Jenny, who was just pretending to be a boy because the evil orphanage police were looking for me. I was a runaway. I had cut off my hair as part of my disguise. This explained quite well the fact that in actuality I had hardly any hair. This little subplot became for me just as sweet as playing Pollyanna. I think it was the beginning of my fiction career.
I never shared my private storyline with Doris. When I was Pollyanna, she was Jimmy. Period.
Stewart the Cat: “Meow. Ha ha ha. You’re doomed. Meow.”
John Doe the Mouse: “Eek. No no no. Eek eek.”
Me: “Honey, wake up.”
Him: “Unhn. ”
Me: “Honey, wake up.”
Stewart: “Meow. You can’t escape. Meow.”
John Doe: “Eek. Eek. I will run under the bed. Eek.”
Me: “Honey, wake up.”
Me: You have to wake up.”
Me: “Stewart has a mouse.”
Me: “Go get the mouse from Stewart.”
Stewart: “Meow. I’ve got you now, Meow”
John Doe: “Eek eek. Ow Ow. Eek.”
Me: Honey, Wake up! Stewart has a mouse.”
Me: “Get up!”
Him: “What I am supposed to do?”
Me: “Get the mouse from Stewart.”
Stewart: “Meow. Shit.”
John Doe: “Ohhhhh….”
Me: “Thanks, honey.”
Him: “I got out of bed. I think I had a dream.”
Me: “You went to the bathroom.”
Twenty-five days ago, Theo joined our family.
We had been a cat family. We’ve had as many as five at a time. We currently have three.
We’re good at cats.
We have a lot to learn about dogs.
I had a dog many, many years ago (like 45). But although I did a lot of the puppy training, I had loads of help from my parents and my brother and sisters. And to be honest, Sarge was an extremely sweet dog, but not exactly the best-behaved. (“Wanna Go For A Ride?”) So I can’t claim to be an expert.
My husband had a dog – very briefly – more than sixty years ago. So he’s not much help.
But we’re learning.
Here’s what we’ve learned about dogs in the last 25 days:
- There is no such thing as sleeping in. Five AM is now late. Late on weekdays. Late on weekends. I jump out of bed and throw on my sweats and my waterproof shoes and run to Theo’s little pen in the kitchen. I pray to reach him before it’s too late. I’m getting better at it. Thankfully, he is also getting better at it.
- Likewise, there is no such thing as turning in early. No early bedtime after a long day. Theo is a night owl, and he has to pee at 11:00 PM in order to make it through the night. Eleven is late for me. I’m a 10:00 PM baby all the way. (My husband is more like 9:00 PM.) I am learning that there are actually TV shows after ten. I never realized.
- My pockets now contain food. Dog treats. All my pockets. My coat pockets. My jean pockets. Food-filled. I have learned that it is a very good idea to check all my pockets before throwing my clothes in the wash.
- Speaking of the wash – the amount of laundry has tripled. And the little guy doesn’t even wear clothes. However, we use a lot of my husband’s stack of shop towels. Wiping muddy paws, wiping muddy floors, wiping up “accidents”. And of course, I wear clothes. I am a very clean person. I can wear my jeans several times before they need to be washed. Until three weeks ago, that is. Now after one wearing, my jeans look and smell like wet dog, muddy paws, and sometimes pee-pee paws, and sometimes worse. I do lots of laundry. And I check the pockets.
- We’ve lived in our house for eleven years. I thought I knew it well. Including our big yard. But now I know it intimately. I know where the long grass is – and the dip in the lawn that can sprain an ankle. I know where it stays wet all day. I know how many acorns we have. Thousands. I know how to take thousands of acorns out of a puppy’s mouth.
- I am also no longer grossed out by taking a worm out of puppy’s mouth. At least twice a day. Once he is bigger and has a stronger constitution, I intend to let him eat the worms. Handling dog-saliva’d worms is a job with a time limit.
- Fourteen pounds is huge when it is all squirmy. Fourteen pounds can make your wrists ache. And your back. And 14 pounds will soon be thirty-four pounds.
- Cats don’t care if there is nothing to do. In fact, cats prefer it. But dogs need something to do. And they will find something to do. Like chew shoes. I thought my house was quite neat. It is amazing what is lying around. A dog will find a bobby pin, an umbrella, a rather important piece of mail. Lesson: Put your things away.
- Cats are quieter (Yea!), but dogs are happier to see you. Cats sometimes notice you have come home. Dogs go berserk.
- On the other hand, there is ‘happy to see you’ and ‘TOO happy to see you’. See #4 re: pee-pee paws.
- Dogs do not have brake-lights. They can be running ahead of you, and you are both having a grand old time, and then…FULL STOP. See #7 re: wrenching your back.
12. I see everyday tasks in a whole new way. I appreciate a new set of accomplishments. I have a tendency now as I leave the bathroom to say to myself, “GOOD GIRL!”
This summer at the beach, I was standing at the water’s edge as a women was making her way in through the foaming waves breaking at the shore. I watched her struggle to get past the undertow. She lost her footing, regained it, only to lose it again, falling forward. She struggled to right herself just as another wave hit, pushing her backwards this time. She finally managed to plant her feet, and she saw me watching her, and she laughed.
“Please don’t make me have to save you,” I said.
I admire heroes. It must be wonderful to be in the exact right place to make a difference in an emergency – to change someone’s life – maybe save someone’s life.
I can respond adequately in a pressure situation. And I think I would do the right thing if confronted with a true crisis.
But the truth is, I really would rather not.
I’m not the hero type.
It must be a glorious feeling, but if possible, I will pass on the following experiences:
- Donating an organ. If I could help another person get healthy without losing any of my body parts, I think that would be better.
- Shaving my head in support of a friend with cancer. I have a friend who went through chemotherapy. One night over dinner, I confessed that I was shallow enough to think that losing my hair is as terrifying as cancer itself. And my friend agreed. She called it the final insult to her sick body.
- Testifying at a trial. I once sat on a malpractice jury. I hated making a decision that was bound to hurt one person or the other. I saw the “losing” party in the parking lot after the trial. I wanted to give him all the money in my wallet.
- Picking up relatives at the airport in a snowstorm. This is no biggie, right? But please – if the weather is horrible, just stay at the airport hotel until it clears up, okay?
- Taking in strangers after a natural disaster. Hurricanes and tornadoes and blizzards can destroy someone’s home. The people who are lucky enough to be spared should share their homes with the tragically unlucky. And I have shared mine – with my mother.
- Saying a few words at a funeral. I care. I hurt. Most times though, I can’t share it. I could probably write a wonderful eulogy. Maybe someone else could deliver it.
- Retrieving a severed finger and packing it in ice to take to the hospital. We have a friend whose eleven-year-old daughter had to do that when her Dad cut off his thumb with his jigsaw. I can picture my husband cutting off his thumb. I can’t picture myself picking it up.
- Passing messages to political prisoners. I’ve marched against two wars. But that was as a part of a large group. I don’t believe I can be brave alone. I would drop the message in front of a guard with a gun. For sure.
- Delivering a baby… I don’t even like the responsibility of doing someones’ taxes. I can’t even express how much I don’t want the responsibility for a human being coming out of you.
- Talking someone off a ledge. Muhammad Ali did that in 1981. Wow. Can you imagine? How do you know what to say? I could get it all wrong and the person could think “Now I REALLY don’t want to live.” That suicidal person may have had the worst possible life. I do not wish to be the final straw.