From the Flight Deck

I prayed on the way to pick up my lunch date,

Please God, give me the emotional strength to wheel her in a wheelchair.

Amen.

I arrived at her house.  Lasso-ing her 40-foot in-home oxygen line, she looked beautiful as she secured herself to the portable oxygen machine. Her hair looked freshly fixed and her makeup impeccable.

She gathered her supplies.

1 portable oxygen tank

1 car power adaptor for the oxygen

1 extra battery for the oxygen tank

1 long cord for the oxygen tank

1 handicap parking placard

1 bottle of water

And her purse.

Without mentioning her newly rented wheelchair, she said, let’s go.

The captain had spoken.

I didn’t question her, and we took off – wheelchair-less.

We drove to the first restaurant, and I pulled my car up to the valet, so she’d have a short walk into the courtyard to sit. An easel holding a sign, Closed Until 4 saved us from the rigamarole of car-exiting and restaurant-entering. We discussed other lunch place options and quickly decided, Lon’s, a hotel restaurant with a patio to enjoy the day’s sunshine.

I drove a few minutes in the direction from which we’d just come and pulled into the hotel’s parking lot.  The valet, busy with other customers, didn’t help us, so we sat in a holding pattern, watching and waiting.  We didn’t want to exit without knowing we had an easy way to enter.

I parked and exited my car, but left the car running – we were dependent on the car to power the cord charging her portable oxygen tank. I approached the valet, questioning if they were open.  He asked, hotel or restaurant?

Restaurant, but we need effortless access -the shortest distance to the outdoor seating. The valet pointed toward the valet parking lot and directed us: Go in there, park your car and take the side entrance to the restaurant.

So that’s what we did.

We gathered all of her belongings, and we walked side/side, slowly into the patio area, about 10 feet. Out of breath, she looked at me with the look I’ve become so familiar – that’s all I’ve got.

I told her to sit down in the nearest seat, and I left her to check-in.  Finding the hostess, I asked if it was ok for us to sit at the table where my friend sat. The hostess said,

Of course –

The valet called ahead and told us that you were arriving.

Sit wherever you’d like.

The hostess led me out to the patio where my friend sat and gave us two menus.

The crew looked out for us.

We ate lunch while the mesquite tree overhead sprinkled its leaves on our table.  She blew her nose, she coughed, and she checked her oxygen.

She requested a to-go box for her leftovers, and we sat in silence. We both surveyed the beauty that surrounded us. The sun began to shine over the top of our table’s umbrella, illuminating her face and making her eyes twinkle.

She said to me,

“Know that I plan to visit you when I’m gone, a lot.”

“I know you will. That’s why I’m creating our place where you will visit.”

*******

An eternal gift, from the flight deck, announcing she’s at ease making her final approach,

and I need not worry.

I can rest assured, she’ll be using her wings with no need for pre-board, and most definitely, be wheelchair-less with wheels-up in the garden that I’m preparing for her landings and take-offs.

Cross-check.

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Words Not Weapons

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After hearing of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, I contacted my German friend, Margrit.

Thirty-six years ago in 1981, my mother and father met Margrit’s parents at a wine festival in Margrit’s hometown, Deidesheim, Germany.  Our two sets of parents shared the ages of their children, and they discovered they had two girls approximately the same age, Margrit and me. Our parents exchanged addresses, and Margrit and I became pen pals.

Our letters tied us together. Even after the tech revolution, we continued to write. Margrit and I’ve adjusted our writing. We still both prefer a handwritten letter, and I could pick Margrit’s beautiful script out of a line-up for sure!  Our letters aren’t as frequent, but with the tech revolution, we’re able to follow each other on Facebook and share photos via messenger. Margrit and I’ve celebrated world events, like the downfall of the Berlin Wall, and we’ve denounced horrors, like the despicable acts of 9.11.

Inspiring this blog entry is Margrit’s and my time on Las Ramblas, celebrating our 25th friendship anniversary in June 2009. Margrit and I walked side-by-side down the peaceful Boulevard, enjoying the summer evening. We people-watched, listened to street musicians and chose a place to stop for a ‘tres bier Grazie.’ 

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We had our photo taken with a Las Ramblas street performer, a larger-than-life gargoyle, who while the camera clicked, leaned in for a kiss, whispering Catalan into my ear. Margrit and I laughed about the gargoyle’s forwardness, and in the years to come, the photo reminded Margrit and me of our harmless, fun-loving encounter with the Gargoyle on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

The photo’s taken during a time when peacefulness accompanied most traveling Westerners.  A time when terrorists weren’t walking into crowded tourist areas with bombs strapped to their backs. A time when people rented cars to get to a destination not to kill people. A time when we guarded our wallets against pickpocketers but didn’t fear for our lives when having coffee or tea in a city square.

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On Thursday, August 17th, the day of terror on Las Ramblas,  I contacted Margrit on WhatsApp. I sent her the news headliner and referenced our 2009 photo:

our moment with the gargoyle is on my mind😩😢

And three days later – quicker than a letter traveling over the Atlantic but slower than pressing send on a social media message or an international texting app – I received Margrit’s response.

Happiness and tragedy are so close together 🙁

A van didn’t bloodily extinguish our lives on Las Ramblas when we were there.  Instead, we had a trustworthy interaction with a gargoyle.  To us, Las Ramblas is a place of inside-jokes and laughter, and now I can’t help but cringe thinking about what Las Ramblas elicits in those who suffered pain, personal loss, and unbearable heartache because of a heinous, despicable crime.

Friends, this isn’t only Barcelona’s terror, this is our world’s worst nightmare unfolding in front of our eyes – the disregard for human life and the desensitization toward violence are crippling our world.

Let’s stop the madness!

*******

Tragically,

Monsters exist

But thankfully, so do pen pals –

To who and what are you paying attention?  Good or evil?

A pen pal uses words not weapons to write a life story.

The world should take a page out of a pen pal’s book.

Remember the adage, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me?’

My hope is within my lifetime, words connect us again, not ill-willed reactions, violent acts or deliberate tragedy.

One can hope and plot our comeback –

One kind word at a time.

 

 

May you find your peace again, Barcelona!

 

 

 

Sight for Sore Eyes

A late spring Saturday night – 6 couples get together for a dinner party in one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever laid eyes on.

My beloved friend, who’s lived and beaten the odds against Stage 4 lung cancer for 2 years and 4 months is there.  She’s now an honorary guest at our cooking group’s dinners and may I say, tonight, she’s a sight for sore eyes!

She’s had her hair done for the evening, and her makeup is flawless. Wearing an airy, blue & white patterned blouse, a white sweater, and white jeans, she’s standing in the hosts’ newly constructed dream kitchen. Guests are touring through the home, and rightfully so, raving about the design and decor.

I’ve taken the tour, so I hunt for the kitchen trash can where I may toss my empty beer bottle while no one’s watching. Discreetly peering behind each cabinet front, I finally find the trash bin and also discover the cabinetry conceals the refrigerators, warmer drawers, freezers, and dishwashers.

Every possible eyesore is disguised.

Guests are milling in the kitchen, choosing their beverages and preparing the food they’ve brought for dinner.

Guests are swapping stories – how are the kids? how’s your work week? what part of dinner did you bring? and even a, who’s new BMW is out on the drive?  

She’s standing on the sidelines in silence.

When she talks, she coughs.

As the drinks flow and the volume rises in the kitchen, the food celebration begins – oysters on the half shell, beef filet on the rotisserie BBQ grill, stuffed portobello mushrooms, spinach salad and caramel-chocolate souffle. A feast fit for royalty prepared in a kitchen fit for a king.

I am watching her.

She’s watching the activity, the conversations.

She’s trying not to cough, stifling it, but she can’t control its persistence. She’s quietly putting a Kleenex up to her mouth and then silently slipping into the back room off the kitchen.

Her Kleenex conceals blood-tinged mucus.

Coughing up blood is the lung cancer’s newest symptom,

and it ain’t pretty.

In fact, it’s downright ugly and upsetting but

brings this thought to light –

All that is downright beautiful is also housing the downright ugly.

People struggle.

We often don’t know others’ struggles – some struggles are more apparent than others, but nothing is perfect, nothing is seamless. We shouldn’t be ashamed or scared of the ugly – for it’s through our struggling, we expose the truth.

We, as humans, often search for the ugly – others’ faults, shortcomings, and secrets but wouldn’t we be more constructive if instead, we all, as a community, opted to share and to celebrate our struggles, so we wouldn’t have to hide?

Instead of looking for the eyesores, we looked at the Sights for Sore Eyes to reveal where strength, courage, perseverance, hope and joy live –

Struggles teach us invaluable lessons –

Genuine moments, like this dinner party, where I see a beauty with undeniable strength enter and leave the room.

That ugly cough doesn’t have her. She’s got it.  She deals with reality but keeps moving, continuing to manage and to celebrate.

Her struggle is real, yet has a purpose.  I tell her story because I’ve been given the gift to watch her, in all her strength and glory, carry on. I am so grateful for her. She’s a

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“Sight For Sore Eyes!”