Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Phone Rang at 6

Don't you wish life came with warning signs? That there was time to prepare yourself for what's about to happen? Don't you wish that, when the phone rings - say Friday at 6 - something inside you would say, "Be careful, the next few minutes are going to be hard." Don't you wish that there were things you could do, when there's nothing to do? Things to say, when there's nothing to say?

I had come home from a day listening to a lecture about connections. The presentor, a guy named David Pitonyak, and I met years ago and we spent lunch and one of the breaks catching up. Hearing that his boys, who I remember as 'this high and this high' were now adult men came as a shock. David hasn't aged much, I've aged much. But during his lecture he spoke about connections and making sure that we cared for ourselves, cared for our relationships, that we care for others well, when we care for ourselves well. Deep stuff, but he makes you laugh at the same time.

So I get home thinking about relationships. For complex reasons we have been separated from much of our extended families and over the last few months we've been reconnecting slowly with some. It's been a pleasure building these relationships ... oddly satisfying. One such was with my cousin Christine. Long time readers will remember that Chris came to Toronto for medical testing that was deemed urgent. I hadn't seen her for years (and years and years) but I remembered her well. Very well.

I was a bit in awe of her as a child. She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. The woman that I met here in Toronto was a grown up version of that girl I knew as a child. She is just shy of two years older than me and a beautiful woman still. We met, again, as strangers. A day later we parted as family. I really liked her. We spent the day roaming around Toronto, just doing stuff together. She'd had her test so it was good to take her mind off things.

We lunched in a food court, dined in a restaurant and toured the city in between. For that whole time, we talked. Gossiped about the family. Explored each other's interests. She and Joe hit it off gangbusters and we laughed through the day. Over tea at a bookstore, Christine pulled out a bunch of family pictures. I've always been a picture lover (not a picture taker) and I like little glimpses of others lives. With pride she showed me pictures of her husband, her home and her boys. She looked at the picture of her boys with the eyes that mothers should have when they look at pictures of their children. Lucky kids, I thought.

Well, the phone rang at 6. Christine had had to undergo another operation. It didn't go well. There was nothing they could do. She woke to the news that her life is now in serious peril. I hang up the phone gently. As if clicking off the connection now signaled a connection that would be severed all too soon. I was thankful, for the moment at least, that Christine had connections, had family, had those around her that loved her and whose love would carry her through this last bit of the journey.

And she's got this guy in Baxter, who could do nothing, at ten minutes after six, but bow his head and pray.


Anonymous said...

I will add her to my prayers. How terribly sad.

All 4 My Gals said...

Dave I'll be praying for your cousin too. HUGS

Shan said...

My prayers for her recovery and her family.

Anonymous said...

Its never easy either to give or receive that kind of news as I know only too well.

My husband was diagnosed with oesophagal cancer on May 27th and died on November 27th the same year. Keeping people informed was one of the worst parts - going over and over the same thing with different people - all of whom were upset - to all of whom you felt an obligation to make it as easy as possible. But the constant repetition digs deep wounds in yourself. Especially in our case as he rallied a number of times and we thought he might make it.

Then again I have lost a number of close family and friends where they had to tell me. Neither side of the conversation is easy - but simply having it means that people care and that counts.


Kei said...

Keeping Christine in my prayers too.