UNCLE!

Okay, I give. I can’t stand anymore. This whole thing can be over now. I get through the days fine. I laugh. I make people laugh. I carry on conversations and make decisions. I drive a car and walk the dogs and do laundry and plant plants, some of which have died and some of which have not. But this little pin prick in my heart – that somehow feels like it weighs at least one ton – it getting to be too much for me to carry.  Just as when some unruly nightmare of a person twists your arm behind your back (or pins you down and stuffs dirty underwear in your mouth…) and evilly commands you to “Say Uncle!” I have winced and taken deep breaths and done everything I can think of to ignore or withstand or stop the pain, but I can’t do it any longer, so, UNCLE MOTHER FU#&%ER! Unfortunately the pain doesn’t stop.

The reference above to dirty underwear? Yes, that happened.  And yes, Kelly was that unruly nightmare of a person who was straddling my chest, pinning my hands under her knees stuffing dirty underwear in my mouth. I can still see that grin on her face. I won’t say it was an evil grin, but it was decidedly not playful. It’s funny to me that now I would give anything to have that happen again.  For the record we were kids. I was probably 9 and she was 14. And also for the record, they were mine, and they weren’t very dirty.  It is very possible (i.e. likely) that I had done something horrible to her, like cut the wires to the speakers on  her maroon boom box or worn one of her shirts (without asking) and ruined it somehow.

It wasn’t all dirty underwear in the mouth though. We have alot of great memories. Kelly and I once took  my dad for a hike at the river on Father’s Day when we were in our twenties and the trail began to slope gently downhill along the water and I said, “Let’ s run!” and Kelly broke into a jog, and I said, “No! Really run! Like we’re kids!” and we both started running down the trail, hooting and laughing and jumping over small rocks and making fake motorcycle noises until we couldn’t breathe anymore. After we caught our breath she had a huge beautiful smile on her face and said “Thank you.” It was like a huge stress had been lifted off of her, but at the time I had no idea what that stress might be, and I didn’t ask. This was back in the days when the tension between us was hella thick ya’ll. (If you know Kelly you know the phrase “hella thick ya’ll” would definitely have gotten an eye roll out of her…) I mean a fight could erupt within a nano second over who knew what.

We have a few memories like that. One night we boogied down in my parents’ driveway  to MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This, which we could hear blaring from a wedding at the country club on the property next door. We were capable of having a lot of fun together and I will hold onto those memories as long as I can physically and mentally do so. But the other night while I was doing dishes a different memory popped into my head. I remembered a time when we were able to talk. To simply carry on a conversation – good or bad – but at least we had the option. Now we don’t.  So now my most cherished memories of her include, “that time we could talk, because you were alive.”

Now that I’ve cried UNCLE and this strange and constant little pain that weighs me down has still not gone away I’m not sure what happens next. I guess perhaps it’s time to stop trying to change the pain and instead change something else, like the way I view the pain or carry it or try to numb it. I don’t know. But I’m beginning to have a better understanding of what people mean when they say they used the pain of heartbreak – whatever kind of heartbreak – as motivation to accomplish something.  I can see how it’s a fuel that can choke you if it’s not used, not “burned off” so to speak. I used to try to lighten a mood by telling a friend or loved one who was a little frustrated or angry about something to “Turn it to something else…” as a joke, but perhaps it’s time for me to take my own advice, and take it seriously.

I read a story once of a couple whose two children were killed in a car accident while a trusted neighbor was giving them a ride home from school, and the pain was absolutely unbearable for the couple. They suffered through as best they could until a series of seemingly random events presented them with an opportunity and they decided to do something with the pain in honor of their children, so they opened an orphanage in Africa. And although losing a sister is much different than losing your only children, I can see how the pain of loss is great enough to power a move from the United States to Africa, the building of an orphanage and taking on the work of raising fifty-plus children day after day after day for years and years and years. I can see how the pain could sustain that forever actually, an endless supply of power if properly tapped into. Otherwise, as I have been experiencing, it becomes a heavy wet suffocating blanket that causes you (me) to sink deeper and deeper until I feel like I can’t breathe. Almost like I’m being pinned to the floor while someone stuffs dirty underwear in my mouth…perhaps Kelly was simply trying to prepare me for this.

**

I like to think I’m an exceptionally good person. Not perfect of course – actually rife with flaws – but in general, at the core, a good person. But I recently saw a slice of my character that was not particularly impressive, and I was actually surprised at how shallow I was.  FYI, I don’t count behavior associated with totally justified road rage or PMS in my calculation of how wonderful I am.

Not long ago I had occasion to meet with several people, one of whom was a woman I had never met before, who was flawless. Now I encounter bright, funny, beautiful fellow females on a regular basis and for the most part I don’t feel particularly inferior, and if I do it’s not long before I’ve made sure it’s clear that I’m the funniest woman in the room and that typically trumps all.  But in this case, I am telling you this person was flawless. Not a single blemish on her skin. Perfect hair. I mean shiny and straight and seemingly her natural color. Her attire was a perfect blend of professional and hip and it fit her slim frame perfectly. I felt totally deflated.

Here’s the thing, I know what I look like. Yes I could stand to lose a few pounds, but for the most part I’m not hideous. But I realized that at that moment, in this woman’s presence, I had a much different vision of myself. I saw everyone in the room as they were, and then I saw myself as something of a troll. Not one of those cute ones with bright hair that used to sit atop our pencils, but more like an ogre. A big hunchback ogre in a polyester flowered moo-moo with rough oily skin dotted with whiteheads, greasy frizzy hair, labored and raspy breathing and a runny nose. In truth I did not look like that, but nevertheless that’s what I imagined.

I smiled and nodded as this perfect woman spoke, totally eloquent and intelligent of course, but inside I was trying to lift myself back up. I reminded myself that we all have struggles and you never know what someone is going through. I reminded myself that I am a good person and that while I may have a zit brewing on my chin, I did not refresh my lipstick, and my pulled back hair might have a few fuzzy flyaways, I was fine. I really was so surprised just how quickly and deeply I felt like a total loser. It wasn’t just her appearance, everything was perfect. The way she spoke. The way she carried herself. I doubt this lady rambles when she gets nervous, mostly because I suspect she never gets nervous. She had an answer to every question. A good answer. A smooth answer. She was friendly, but she didn’t seem to have any real concern about what anyone thought of her (that’s code for, I could detect no insecurities). I am not criticizing her for this, I am in awe.  And I am jealous. I wish I was more confident. I wish I didn’t ramble when I get nervous. I wish I could put on an outfit that makes me look like a calm, intelligent, fit, adult woman. I wish my hair was shiny, or at least, not wild. As I sat there listening to her speak I realized I will never be that person, and I sank lower and lower, and the hunch in my back and the grease on my skin and the flowers on my  moo moo got worse and worse. I absolutely hated the way I felt and there was no escape. But then something happened…

I detected a hint of an unpleasant smell. Not a heinous smell and not terribly overpowering, but something floating on the air. And then I slowly realized what it was: she had bad breath. At first I thought, no it can’t be, she’s perfect.  But that’s what it was. This perfect specimen who had it over me in every possible way had bad breath, and I was, I’m ashamed to admit it, instantly elated. My heart soared and I wanted to stand up tall, throw my fist in the air and shout “YES!!!” I was no longer an ogre. I was not perfect, but I was bearable, where I hadn’t been two seconds before.  Although I didn’t get over my elation quite as fast as I should have, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that the fact that I was celebrating this “flaw” was incredibly shallow and hollow.  And also, who’s to say I don’t have bad breath? I know for a fact that after I’ve eaten garlic it’s not good. But the amount of relief I felt at discovering this woman was not absolutely perfect was what was really surprising, as if her “flaw” did anything to cancel out my own shortcomings, particularly those that are weighing heaviest on me right now.

I pride myself on typically being able to identify a life lesson in just about everything. This does not necessarily mean I actually learn anything, but I give myself props for recognizing where I could have learned. But in this case I’m mostly just perplexed. I think it’s clear I need to do more things that make me feel good about myself, and this situation reminded me of that, but honestly I already knew it.  I guess I can be thankful that I don’t often feel quite so inferior, but really I just keep thinking that, yeah, I guess I’m kind of a jerk.  Maybe we all are on some level, but just like her bad breath doesn’t improve my flaws, it doesn’t matter if we are all kind of jerks. I don’t want to be one…I’m a good person. Remember, I said I think of myself as an “exceptionally” good person, so I’m not supposed to be kind of a jerk. But maybe I’m not exceptionally good, and maybe I don’t need to be. Maybe just being good is good enough. It’s not like I danced around the room pointing at this woman chanting “Yuck mouth! Yuck mouth! Yuck mouth!” Maybe it’s not so bad that for a moment I reveled in the fact that she had not-so-fresh breath, maybe I should embrace it. I mean, if I celebrate her flaws the least I can do is celebrate my own, right?

**I wanted to entitle this post “Super Smelly Halitosis Makes Me Feel Bodacious” but I realized that could lead one to believe the post would be about a Mary Poppins-based fetish. While I suspect someone out there has just such a fetish, I do not.

This Do In Remembrance of ME

Dear Leah,

There is something I need to tell you and I hope  with all my heart you will listen to me this time, as I have told you this very same thing literally dozens of times before and you seem to have forgotten yet again. That pit in your stomach the day before you leave for vacation, specifically one that requires you to take an airplane ride, is not a premonition, it’s anxiety. You have a fear of flying. It’s not ideal or desirable, but it’s there. Don’t you remember? You have such a case of it that your doctor doled out a minute number of those little pills that make your brain just mushy enough that you can’t convince yourself that the plane will fall out of the sky or explode?  Every single time you are set to take a flight you feel the exact same way. This bears repeating: EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU ARE SET TO TAKE A FLIGHT YOU FEEL THE EXACT SAME WAY. And yet every single time you are set to take a flight you are certain that the feeling you have in your gut is a bad sign, foretelling tragedies ahead. You really don’t remember that you felt this way last time? Well it’s true. You did. You were wrong. And yet, here I am sitting in front of a computer at 1:44am writing this to you because you were lying in bed (a nice warm comfortable bed that felt something like a non-claustrophobic cocoon might feel) wallowing in that horrible feeling, because it’s different this time…but I was there last time too, and I’m telling you, it’s no different.

Since I am now out of bed, writing this to you, I’m going to share with you a few more things you seem to unremember on a fairly consistent basis. Here goes:

Telling yourself “it will be fine” as you put on sneakers that you know for a fact will give you blisters will not actually make it fine. Yes they are cute and they are exactly what that outfit needs to make you look cuter than you have ever looked in your entire life, but it will not be okay. It will be decidedly un-okay. You will start to feel the pain about an hour or so into the day and, remarkably, you will feel surprised. About an hour after that you will be cursing the shoes, which you really have no right to blame, and by the end of the day you will be wincing with every step you take as your poor little toes turn bright red and layers of skin are sluffed off onto the inside of these f@#$%&* adorable shoes. How cute will you be then, with your hamburger feet?

Also, overfilling the washing machine makes the same thing happen every time.  Layering the clothes in the machine rather than wadding them up and tossing them in might make it look as though there is plenty of room, but please allow me to gently remind you, there is not. The knocking noise throughout the entire wash cycle. The annoying beep that happens when the machine is unbalanced. The sloppy mess of marginally-clean clothes you discover inside the washing machine when it’s done the very best it could but the spin cycle just couldn’t quite get enough water out. All of those things will happen, again and again, when you wash too many clothes at once. It’s perhaps the first scientific fact that you have proven. Congratulations!  Now let us put that experiment behind and move on to greater things, shall we?

Another thing…the answer to the question, “Should I take the extra three minutes required tonight to prep the coffee pot for to auto brew so it’s ready for me when I wake up in the morning?” is always always always YES. I know you’re tired and you just want to get into bed, but please, for the love of every living being in your path in the morning, get the coffee ready the night before. Try to remember that waking up to the sound of a gurgling coffee pot and the aroma of just-brewing coffee are among the top three things to wake up to. Stumbling out of bed and walking straight to the cupboard to get your favorite mug and filling it with hot coffee before you do anything else at all, other than maybe scratching your bum on the way to the coffee pot, is as close to heaven as you will ever get at 6am on a work day. If you are not able to remember this is the truth, please just at least try to trust me on this. I know of what I speak.

I could go on with this list, but I think you get my point. You have knowledge and wisdom. You deserve to use that knowledge and wisdom every day and you deserve the good things that will come along with doing so. You really will enjoy this vacation. You always do because whether or not you see it every day, you are a joyful person. It’s okay to just say no to cute shoes, you’ll still be cute. It’s okay to split that laundry load into two, you’ve got time. And you are worth the extra time it will take to make sure you know the bliss of fresh coffee waiting for you in morning when you roll out of bed. And if you can’t remember those things remember this: You are damn lucky. You are lucky to have the opportunity to take vacations. You are lucky to have shoes on your feet. You are lucky to be able to wash your clothes in your home with hot water using your favorite soap you bought at the store. And you are certainly lucky to have the ability to have coffee waiting for you each morning. Really, my darling, you are beyond lucky, you are kind of spoiled compared to so many on this planet. So please try to remember that. I believe if you remember how fortunate you are you will also remember to use what you’ve learned so far in this life, and I think that will make life better for you and everyone who encounters you. And remember, that’s what really matters.

Sweet dreams,

Leah

Squeeze My Finger

When my sisters and I were little and we had to endure something painful, like a shot at the doctor’s office or the removal of a splinter or the cleaning of a nasty bit of road rash from a spill off of a pink Huffy, my mom would have us squeeze her finger in order to distract us from the pain. As tears streamed down our faces, our mouths wide open with wailing, she would offer up her index finger and say, “Here, squeeze my finger.”  To this day I offer up this same kindness to just about anyone I am near who is in physical pain, which has gotten me more than one queer look from people who cannot figure out what the hell I am talking about, though they may be confusing  my offer with the childhood fun of encouraging someone to “pull my finger.” But it’s one of those things you just learn without knowing you learned it, and without knowing that everybody else did not, in fact, learn the same thing.

It’s likely you did not learn this trick so let me tell you, it works.  Although I can remember sitting in a doctor’s office or on the edge of my bed or on the bathroom counter bawling, I cannot remember anything other than how it felt to squeeze my mom’s finger. The distraction helped me to calm down just a little bit. The pain would lessen and I knew it would eventually pass. As we got older my sisters and I would offer up the same solution to each other, spouses, children, and our niece and nephew, without giving it much thought. It’s just what you do when someone needs a distraction. It takes your mind off the pain and it becomes bearable.

A few days ago as I was getting dressed I was marveling at my ever-increasing frame. I have always been overweight but in the last year I have continually gained weight and I don’t show any signs of stopping. I have been trying to remember to be kind to myself because I am struggling to figure out how to deal with losing my sister, but the downfalls of being large far outweigh the sheer bliss that comes from eating whatever I want, whenever I want. Yet that’s exactly what I do, over and over again. This is not new for me, but it’s worse now. It’s more. It’s never enough.

I have had a few moments of hysteria over my weight gain. I know well enough by now that it’s not a love of food that causes me to eat more than I need to (or want to). I use food. I abuse food. And at the moment I feel totally out of control with it. So the other day I devoted some time to think about why I seem unable to reel it in this time.  After a few minutes it occurred to me that eating is how the adult in me squeezes my mom’s finger. It’s simply a distraction. A way to focus on something else. The problem is, the pain isn’t going way. The moment of feeling the pain dissipate, letting go of my mom’s hand and hopping back on the Huffy isn’t coming like it used to.

Eating helps me ignore the fact that I feel as though my heart is suspended on the tip of a spear inside of me and gaining weight gives me another bit of trouble to focus on, namely my ill-fitting jeans.  Then I don’t think about how much I miss Kelly, and how much I could change if I could just have another chance with her. When I do think about those things it is literally too much for me to handle, so I don’t handle it. It’s like putting your hand to fire – you just have to pull it right back as quickly as you can and grab a deli sandwich instead.

Later that night I lay* on the bed in our spare room and bawled. My husband sat beside me with his hand on my back and I bawled and bawled and between gasps for air I heard myself talking about how much I missed her and how much I regret and how you don’t always get a do-over how this pain is literally too much for me to handle.  I was surprised by some of the things I was saying and I was surprised by the unending stream of tears and sadness and regret and helplessness. Our ability to pretend the pain we carry around with us does not exist never ceases to amaze me.  It’s the elephant in the room. The catatonic elephant that is taking up all the space and all the air in the room, but I’m pretending I don’t see it. I’m in the corner focusing on a box of donuts, trying to decide between sprinkled or jelly filled.

And then, as my husband is rubbing my arm and I’m crying and talking and gasping I hear Kelly’s voice in my mind. She says, “There is snot all over your face.” Then I see her in my mind, turning her head away and gagging.  I laughed a little, which I’m guessing George thought was another gasp, and asked if he’d get me a paper towel.  I was able to breathe a little easier then. The tears slowed and eventually  stopped, and I felt like I had been able to at least see this pain, which I think is the first step in learning to live with it. And I am going to have to learn to live with it.

I’d like to report that since that night I have eaten nothing but carefully-rationed portions of nuts and whole grains, fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables, and lean fish high in amino acids, but that would be a lie. What I have done though is gotten through a few days fully aware of the pain I am carrying with me. Maybe I’ve eaten a little less too, I don’t know. For now I’m just going to make the most of the time I have here by being the best version of myself that I can be – and that includes lots of flaws and mistakes but that’s okay.  There are some things in life you get one, and only one, shot at. Fortunately weight loss is not one of them.

 

*I would normally use the word “laid” here but Kelly was a stickler for this common grammatical error and since she died I have been cursed with the inability to misuse lay, laid, and lie.

Free Hugs

I hope that you have been able to surrender. I hope you are wrapped in a warm blanket, like mom used to do for us. I hope you were wrong, and that there is a God, or some higher power, and I hope they are taking care of you, even though you spent a good bit of time rolling your eyes at the suggestion of their very existence. I hope all of the pain – the sadness, the anger, the loneliness, the fear, the self doubt, the self loathing – has wafted up off of you. I hope you watched it float away and then POOF! disappear in a cloud of dust, and I hope it made you smile. I hope your heart felt full in that moment and that at it remains full, and will remain full for whatever amount of time you will be wherever you are, which I’m guessing is forever, but I don’t know, because I don’t know where you are.I remember that dream. You standing waist deep in the water with a big grin on your face. You were ready to go wherever you were going next, you were looking forward to it, but you wanted to stop by first to let me know you were okay. I’m glad I have that dream, that vision of you with that smile, but it’s been nearly a year and I wish you’d stop by again.

We just passed the one year mark of the day we went to the party in San Jose at Amy’s house. You were so nervous about going, you were so thankful I went with you. Your hair was in what I called your “depression ponytail” and we laughed. I said, ‘Let me do your hair’ and you said, ‘There is nothing you can do with it.’ But there was. We stood in front of the mirror and I took out that God awful scrunchie you insisted upon wearing and brushed your hair. I could see your face, exaggerated grimaces as though I was hurting you and we laughed because we both knew I wasn’t. I put your hair in a low bun and left a wisp hanging down along the side of your face and you smiled and said ‘Thank you Leah’ with an unbearable amount of pain in your voice. I couldn’t take your pain so I blew it off with a high-pitched ‘Oh sure.’ You probably actually would have preferred a big hug, but I’m certain you saw my discomfort so you let it go. There could have been so much love and comfort and peace in that moment, but I couldn’t face your pain, so I turned away with an ‘Oh sure.’ As if to say, ‘It was no big deal,’ but it was. Maybe not to me, but it was to you, and I should have been able to handle that.

Since that time I have vowed to be more open hearted, but I’m not sure I have been. I was rude to the Starbucks barista today for asking me “What else can I get you?” instead of “Can I get you anything else?” Normally this kind of corporate mind play elicits only an eye roll from me and I say “Nothing” but today I said, “I’m sorry, did you just ask what else you can get me?” he said “Yes.” I said, “Did I give the impression I wanted something else?” He snapped “4.25 at the window please,” and then probably went to spit in my drink.

Kelly and I didn’t have a mirror for her to see the bun so I took a picture of it and showed her. She loved it. I have that picture in a locket to remind me to be open hearted and to give people what they need if I can, and to ask for what I need, if I can. Sometimes I wear it, but most days I purposely look right past it when I’m getting dressed because I’m not sure I have the energy to live up to it. But I try. I took a guy with a “FREE HUGS” sign up on his offer on the Santa Monica Pier but he seemed sort of put off by it. I went in for a real hug, the kind I would be doling out if I were standing on the Santa Monica Pier holding up a FREE HUGS sign, but I got sort of a wet noodle response. Poor guy. I must have frightened him. He had no idea that a big load of grief and sadness was coming at him. In those moments I wonder if Kelly is watching. I don’t really believe she is but I do know she would have laughed if she was there.

I hope you are at peace, but the fact that I can’t ask you if you are makes me feel stuck. I’m not sure how to move on without knowing you are okay and my mind gets jumbled. The other morning I was whisking eggs and I surprised myself with the thought “Those poor eggs” because, I realized, that’s how my mind feels when I try to understand where you are and how you are and what the hell just (a year ago now…) happened. But, then I remember that dream and your smile while you stood it the water up to your waist, wearing your down jacket, and I think you gave me my answer. I just need to be open hearted enough to believe it.

 
 

Glass Half Full Kind of Gal?

Some things you carry with you without even knowing it. These can be good things and these can be bad things. I just realized one of the good things I carry with me, and that is a love of watching pelicans fly and, more importantly, dive. I love the way they soar just above the water, their wings pulsing effortlessly. I love the way they hook it around when they think they’ve spotted something worthwhile in the water below, and I love the way they dive, just like that. You don’t get any hint or indication just before the dive, it just happens. Then, for just a second, their big outstretched wings bob on the water and their head is submerged and you think for sure the entire pelican must have broken but then it rights itself, gathers its wings in close and takes off again. I remember first seeing this when I lived in Oakland. I would sit by Lake Merritt and watch the pelicans dive and it was so soothing. So enjoyable. I remember a kind and motherly co-worker asking me what sorts of things I enjoyed doing and I said I love to watch pelicans dive. She asked what else. When I’m done doing that, what else do I like to do. I told her I could watch that for hours. She told me it sounded like depression. I thought, “Depression!? Oh no!” And I’ve thought about that over the years. Was that depression? I don’t know. Maybe. But it was fascinating to me. And now, nearly 20 years later I sit watching it happen again – soar, spot, dive, fly, soar, spot, dive, fly – over and over again. Every time the pelicans dive they look broken, and every time, they get right back up, and sometimes they have a little something they got out of the dive. I could still sit and watch this for hours. Maybe that’s depression, but it sounds a lot like hope to me.

Blind

I miss Kelly every day. Sometimes I will realize that I’ve gone 15 minutes without thinking about her, and the fact that she’s gone, and remembering makes my heart break all over again and the fact that I forgot, even for a few minutes, well honestly there is no single word that I can think of to describe how that feels. It’s like a bubble (made of lead) has burst.  People have told me I’m doing so well, but I’m not sure what that means or if I am. And honestly, whether or not I’m handling this wellhasn’t occurred to me. I’m not trying to make it through the day without crying, I’m trying to make it through the day without stopping. Literally, just stopping – in a grocery store, in a meeting, mid laugh, on a walk – wherever. I fight hard to resist the urge to just stop and stare. I’m still trying to grasp it and even believe it.

This is evident to me when I see or hear things that I want to share with Kelly, and for just a moment I forget that I can’t. This happens every day. At work in one of the bathroom stalls the toilet paper dispenser is a U-shaped bracket attached to the wall and if you look closely, as you’re sitting there with a few moments to spare, you can see the words “Install this side down”. I always meant to tell her about that because it made me laugh. She and I used to laugh at funny acronyms, like FALUC (which has since been revised) and PPFT (which spells the sound a fart makes). The other day I saw STPUD, which I wished I could share with her. Although these moments make me feel like I can keep her with me, they also break my heart, because the truth is she is gone, and that’s what’s so hard to accept.

Well the other day I saw an opportunity to pretend for a moment, a few seconds really, that she was not gone. I went to a work-related luncheon (though it wasn’t really fancy enough to warrant calling it a luncheon and Kelly would be the first to point this out) and the featured speaker was a woman who shared a lot of Kelly’s physical characteristics. Same hair color, same skin tone, similar body, dark glasses. At first it simply occurred to me that she looked a little like Kelly. Then I found myself trying to pretend that it was Kelly. But of course I couldn’t make that work. So I began “adjusting” my vision. It sort of worked, but her voice was not like Kelly’s and it threw me off. I actually became slightly frustrated and I wished she’d stop talking so I could stare at her with intentionally-blurred vision and pretend she was Kelly. Then I realized that if I adjusted my vision and waited for someone to ask hera question I had more luck. As she stood patiently waiting for the question to be finished I could pretend for about one quarter of a second that it was a very blurry Kelly standing up in front of the room. I continued to blur my vision as she spoke, but the moments when she wasn’t speaking were the ones I concentrated on.  I must have done this about a dozen times in the 30 minutes or so that she spoke.

Just about the same time it occurred to me that what I was doing was incredibly sad and a bit unstable, I realized the woman had done a few double-takes in my direction and her words had faltered ever so slightly when she looked my way. I found this a bit curious at first, but then it hit me, my method of “adjusting” my vision was in fact not undetectable.  I didn’t see how this could be possible since it felt like such a slight movement of my eyes, but later that day a friend confirmed that yes, it was indeed quite visible. The poor woman. Every time she looked at me she saw my eyes widen and move slightly up and to the center. Did she think I was making faces at her? Did she think I was having a seizure?

And of course, I wished I could share this story with Kelly.  I think about how I would share it with her. I would need to be sensitive about how I told her the story because she struggled so horribly her entire life with the fact that one of her eyes pulled inward a little.  I wouldn’t want her to think I found the fact that I was crossing my eyes funny, I would want her to know that the funny part was that I was doing this thing I thought nobody would notice only to find out it was totally obvious. I think if I told it right she would get a good laugh out of it. I can hear her laugh, see her face. Sometimes when she laughed really hard she would have a coughing attack and her eyes would water. I might get one of those laughs out of her with this story. If I told it right.

Of course, in order to get a good laugh I wouldn’t tell her the part about how subconsciously I must have known all along that the woman could see a shift in my eyes but that I chose to ignore this because I didn’t want to deny myself the opportunity to pretend she was standing ten feet away from me. Or maybe I would tell her that part. I think she would be very touched by that and although I might not get a good laugh out of her with that version of the story, I would definitely get a big hug, which would be even better. And I promise you, I would never let go.