Friday, 4:15 pm. South I-15 Friars Road exit. Five short minutes from home after five full days at work. So close to the weekend, to my PJs, a nice dinner in, and some cherished downtime with my pup and my love. Really? Telling Carol about a weekend assignment, I have this sudden fear that I left the folder with all the necessary papers at UCSD. Not in my office where I can easily, though inconveniently, get to it. Instead, it’s sitting on the counter at the UCSD General Store where I set it down when I stopped to make a purchase (darn those M&Ms). In my mind, I try to recall putting the folder in the back of the car, try to feel it in my hand as I walked from the store down Gilman to meet Carol. It isn’t there. I remember the colors of the M&Ms pouring them into my hand, two or three at time. I remember really enjoying them. I don’t remember awkwardly carrying a folder. We stop at a light. I crawl to the back of the car – nope, not there. REALLY?
I put my iPhone into action for something more than cruising facebook or checking the traffic. I Google the General Store, and give them a call. Yes! My folder is there. The store is closed but folks will be around for another couple of hours for a meeting. The nice young man remembers me stopping in and says just to come by. I say, “Darn those M&Ms.” He replies, “Darn that chocolatey, peanutty goodness.” Humor. Levity. I needed both.
Relief. Crisis averted, the tears began to flow. A trip back to work wasn’t in my plans for Friday evening. I’m exhausted. I just need a break. Enter Carol. She is so gentle with me when I get into such a pout, gifted at getting me to refocus and find how to see something not so positive as a gift. Earlier in the week, we had packed our dinner and the dog and headed to the beach to enjoy the warm October evening before the light leaves with the time change. We’ll just do it again. Our errand-turned-adventure started taking shape. We stopped by the house, threw together dinner, grabbed Birdie and then returned to the scene of the middle-aged moment.
A loving nudge from Carol to shift my perspective allowed me to enjoy the ride. Birdie stood the entire time tuned in to everything going on around her. Like Jasmine, she’s a “go dog.” Folder safely in hand, we had a Groundhog Day moment as we once again drove down Gilman to I-5. This time, we got it right. Mission Bay was the scene (two middle-aged women eating dinner in their truck, their dog, a black Standard Poodle, longing for a dinner of water fowl just outside the window). The changing light created spectacular images painting water and sky. All Birdie could do was sit patiently in the truck longing for her time to explore this new territory. Toward the end of our walk, we ran into two friends from UCSD, one a former colleague I hadn’t seen in several years. The gifts kept coming on this Friday night that hadn’t been part of my plan. Things were going my way. Really.
The year I was away from UCSD with a work-induced injury was a difficult time in my life. Dealing with worker’s comp and an insensitive surgeon added to the physical and emotional pain. But during that lemon-filled year, the lemonade flowed endlessly. In the spring, my Uncle Butch lost his battle with lymphoma. Being off work, I was able to be with my mom as she went through the grief of losing her baby brother. In the summer, my cherished companion, Jasmine, succumbed to cancer. Those last few months home with her were priceless. And my dear friend, Claire, was just beginning her battle with lymphoma. Her good days gave us time to just be together, her bad days gave us lessons in love. We all thought she’d beat her lymphoma. The odds were way in her favor, especially with a sibling match for a bone marrow transplant. When she passed in the spring of the following year, that time we spent together was a gift that helped me through my grief.
The older we get, the more we face death. We lose loved ones, we struggle with our own health, we face our own mortality. With Claire, I learned about battling a life-threatening illness and getting through the day with small victories. I didn’t learn these lessons first hand, but because of Claire and too many other cherished friends, I try to embrace what it means to live life as if you were dying. To take the lemons and make the lemonade even in what seems to be life’s most trivial moments. And Carol is there to remind me that mostly, life is full of trivial moments.
So I’ll take those darn M&Ms – with a splash of lemonade. This was yesterday’s tasty “Flavor of the Day” – what’s today’s?