One of these amazing ladies is my friend Row. We met online a few years ago. After some messaging we had a couple Skype dates. She would play Jenga with Bella. How one would ask- who? what? really? Yes, yes they would and it worked. Because things many don't consider- or consider an impossibility become possible when Row is around and it's always an adventure.
A couple years ago, her health was poorly. Things looked very grim. My heart was broken. You meet people who seem bigger than life and to see their mortality- hits hard. My dad was one of those people. When he died, I quietly resigned that death was a part of life. If he could not beat cancer, no one could. It wasn't a fight. There was no battle. It wasn't about winning. It was about living. And dying. Time was the now. You could embrace both life and death gracefully or you could fight and fight and miss the living to avoid the dying. Yet Row recovered and despite many obstacles, she lives with a force I admire.
When Phil and I travelled to Europe- there were many many countries on our list- Ireland, Scotland, Pretty much the whole UK, France, Italy, Germany. It was so painful to narrow it down- but we decided we wanted to actually see the places we visit- not run through whacking people with selfie stick go-pros as we see many other tourists do. We wanted to sit in pubs, enjoy the food- look around at the people. Ireland and Scotland were the first to be eliminated because- honestly if we go- I'd dedicate months to visiting just there. Row lives in Scotland. That was one of the toughest parts- I was eliminating a visit with a friend. So what does she do- she caught a train down to visit us when we were in London. Row has some mobility challenges and uses a wheelchair full time. And she caught a train to London, from Scotland- to have dinner with us. Oh yeah- here's me sheepish. baaaaa.
|Maturity is overrated.|
We go to dinner in London and visit the Victoria and Albert museum with Row and a good friend of hers-an equally impressive lady. There is really something to be said for surrounding yourself with good people. It really makes everything better. It also doesn't hurt to do museums with an art/history major- kind of like our first date- but within minutes it was like we'd been hanging out forever. So when Row said she was going to start planning a trip to Hawaii, I didn't for a second doubt it would happen.
Phil and my mom constantly mention I need to stop making it look easy and Ok when it's not. But here's the thing. When people ask how you are- they want to hear- ok, fine, good. Seriously only really miserable people want to hear you are doing poorly- misery loves company all that jazz- back to the surrounding yourself with good people thing. I don't like to share when I'm miserable and there are a few lucky people who get to be on the inside for it- and I don't think any of them particularly enjoy it. I know Phil doesn't, but well he signed the contract- sickness, health, til death do us part- yada yada. I am a caretaker, so when Row confirmed her travel plans- I immediately went into prep mode because our house is not accessible. At all. And I know Row wouldn't want me to worry and she would just do- but she is precisely the person who I am happy to do for- not because I think she can't - but because I know she CAN but just want to make something a bit easier or more relaxing for her.
I've seen young adults who survived cancer as kids and so much of it becomes their identity. They become a cancer kid. I've tried to walk the line- because you can't go through cancer or any difficult experience without it becoming part of you- especially when it is a constant shadow- like in our family. You know and often feel a connection quickly with the people who have had really hard times, they get it. They can relate on a level others don't. Over the past few months- I've pulled away from Facebook. It is a huge part of my "work" and support, but so much of the other stuff gets old. The constant- look what I'm eating, here's the awesome that is my life, my life is really really hard but look how well I'm handling it....posts. And then those who share the really hard days- some days I'd like to have those days at 100 fold and it would be easier than my day. I know that many times I am no better. I don't like that feeling. I don't like feeling bitter. A week with Row was what I needed.
Now sometimes you need to wallow in the depth of your situation and sometimes you need to lift yourself out of it. Just about everything that could go wrong on Row's travel plans did. Plane delays, lost wheelchair, earthquakes, broken luggage- no pineapples at the pineapple plantation...yet her laugh is contagious and we carried on. I constantly ask- how- how do you keep so happy and laugh it off? It's a choice. We always have a choice and we can choose to laugh it off or be angry and the result is either laughter or anger- how do you want to live?
|Where pineapples SHOULD be....|
My inaccessible house- although challenging- was navigated with skill. I love that my children got to know this incredible lady. Each one of them got to pick a day to take off school to spend with her. Lily and Bella chose the mini island tour- pineapple plantation, waimea falls and Polynesian cultural center. Phillip and Kiera participated in Row's surfing lesson. Yeah- surfing. You heard that right.
|George the Monkey and Bob the Policeman.|
Our mini island trip meant packing the car full of stuffed friends. Like George. Why? because Row said it was ok and it's fun. It was. She was right. It was a great memory for us. One of many that day.
It was a struggle for me to not help push Row's wheelchair- I started trying to think of it as an extension of her space and would I grab someone and push them up a hill? my kids maybe... but generally that is her space and it should be treated as such. The number of times she was asked if she could get up and walk was pretty annoying- but again you laugh it off. I realized as she passed many somewhat able bodied people in electric wheelchair scooters that there is a reason they ask if she could stand. Americans are an interesting breed. As we neared the end of the day- we ventured to do the Boat ride at the PCC. It was an experience and it worked out. And that is how it goes- sometimes things work out- boat rides, and sometimes they don't -no pineapples at the pineapple plantation(seriously).
Phil, Phillip and Kiera took the day off to go to the beach with us. After 11 years here- I have never surfed, don't care to surf, please Phil stop asking me if I want to surf. Yet for all those who want to try- he's willing to grab the boards and give you a steady push into a wave and help you do your thing. I have to say- watching them teach Row the basics of surfing was alternately terrifying and amazing. As it has been watching each of the kids learn. I wouldn't expect any less. And in the end it worked out fabulously- the smiles and experience and no I still don't want to surf, but so glad I could share the experience with a good friend. The laughter at dinner, playing board games, making pancakes. The whirlwind of big experiences conjoined with the day to day.