Editor’s Note: I try to break up my heavy legal stuff with some quick reflections as I continue to have these mini-epiphanies since the assault. I hope they resonate with readers who are in my shoes: Still going through little realizations and life markers through an adjusted perspective.
This past weekend I visited my friend whom I have known for 29 years. We met in kindergarten when I was towering over everyone in the school and she was bald and tiny, with huge blue eyes. I can still see her, after all this time, as we were when we were five. Something about her made me feel very protective toward her. All I knew was that she had been very ill with leukemia and we all had to keep from being near her if we were sick. She had to walk in the front of our class line at all times. She was different. But she quickly became my best friend in the whole wide world.
She was so beautiful, and I was…tall. Together, we were athletic and top students, and we were such a pair. (She never made it past 5’0″ as I soared toward 5’10”.) In the second grade, all the boys in our school decided they were collectively in love with her. And during recess, they would do these run by attempts to kiss her. Well, I was having none of it. She was two years removed from leukemia and she didn’t need to be ill unnecessarily. I would beat the hell out of any and every boy who tried to grab her. I would carry an umbrella and whack them when they got near. This went on for years until the time came where she was just fine with the boys trying to steal kisses. I begrudgingly surrendered my post. (This would also explain a lot about my interaction with guys. In general, I feel they all could use a healthy bop on the head.)
Fast forward 29 years. She is now a pediatric oncologist, helping diagnose babies and children with cancer so that they might live a life like she has. It’s a beautiful story. And I am so proud to know her. This weekend, I got to know her little girl who is just the spitting image of her. And I got to hold her cooing, smiling, baby boy. They are her miracles. There was never a guarantee after her chemo in the early 80s that she’d be able to conceive. But now she has a beautiful family. She is A Fight Back Woman in every way.
On the ferry ride back to my side of the pond, I was struck by two realizations: 1) That we both have fought for our lives and used our experiences to help others not because there is any glory in it, but because we have a matter-of-fact acceptance that this is what we should do because we are lucky enough to be able to; and 2) That being around someone with such quiet inner strength for so much of my life probably influenced me way more than I realized. And if that’s the case, I am glad for it.
Her husband, whom I have known since we were 17, hammers me whenever I see him about the state of my love life. But ever since Italy, it seems he knows enough to give me a reprieve as I have been solely focused on getting my life back. Still, I am pretty sure it will come down to this whenever that special (brave) someone does come along: If I find a boy I don’t want to whack with my umbrella, he’s probably a keeper.