After my visit with the needle, and before the tacos, I sat in the pharmacy waiting area while charming husband picked up a few things for our allergies. I lounged, as I so often do, and looked at my phone so I could delete and/or read email. These are the emails I save up for times when I have time to kill, emails that deal with tax situations and “what if” scenarios, the sort of thing I’m likely to bypass when I’m in the office trying to actually get work done, but which I’m likely to at least take a look at before deleting, if I’m waiting somewhere.
I call this “continuing education.”
Someone passing by said, “I like your hat,” and I glanced up, only a bit startled, and in front of me, and in the processing of passing me by, was a woman with a purple ballcap. I was wearing a hat that serves me well on days when my hair isn’t cooperating, which is most of them, and it was perched back on my head a bit, not useful for providing any sort of shade or covering any part of my face, both of which are usually a good thing, but it wasn’t about utility, it was about having a hat. I would say it’s all about fashion, but I’ve never been fashionable and I’m not about to start now. Besides, someone would disagree and say my hat was an embarrassment, and then I’d have to retaliate and you can see where that would end up, can’t you?
“I like yours too,” I said, because hers was purple, and what’s not to like?
She whipped it off and ran her fingers over her totally bald head. “I don’t buy hats myself, but people have been giving them to me since this,” and she wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable about having no hair, or at least she didn’t seem to be.
She had stopped, apparently, since if she had still been walking by she would have been long gone by then, but she had stopped, and she and I and the woman next to me, who was also tending to a child, had a short conversation about chemo and radiation. And if the worse that happens is you lose your hair, you’re in pretty good shape.
“Only one more treatment left,” the woman in the purple hat said, and we cheered her on, and we wished her the best of luck with it because, when all is said and done, luck is the one thing we can count on.
Not that it works or that we can count on it, because we can’t, but sometimes it’s all we’ve got.
I left feeling happy about the woman in the purple hat, the woman who was feeling good about life in the midst of her treatments.
Tonight I’m getting on a train, and tomorrow morning I’ll get off the train, and my stepfather will pick me up at the train station and take me back to the house he shared with my mom, and for the next few days I’ll be going through her personal effects, sorting them out and sending things to goodwill, and figuring out what to do with all she left behind.
Mom felt good about life in the midst of her treatments, even when she wasn’t feeling well herself, and even after, once the treatments stopped because they weren’t working, and though she went downhill fast, she still felt that life was good.
Tomorrow’s Mom’s birthday. I’ll take care of her things, and I’ll be there for her husband who’s still looking for his way, and I’ll miss her all over again. I’ll sleep in the bed she died in, and I’ll remember her last few days all over again because I’m there and it’s immediate when I’m there, and not six months ago.
And I’m taking the train because otherwise things happen to me. I run into wildlife, or I blow tires, or I get violently sick and have to stop. I have to stop when I run into wildlife and blow a tire too, so whatever happens, I end up stopping when I hadn’t planned on it. Mom will feel better that I’m on the train. Maybe I will too. Or maybe I’ll roam the train looking for something interesting to do.
If I get into trouble I’ll call. Wait by the phone just in case.