The Docent Class Zoom

Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 3.32.13 PMIn yet another example of, “I didn’t see that coming” I can tell you that Thursday afternoons have now become a predictable highlight of my week. It is the only time that I know for certain that I will gather with people who will stretch my intellect, introduce me to new viewpoints, and engage eagerly when I want to talk or learn of faraway cultures and artistic endeavors. “Gather” is maybe not quite the right word, but each time the Zoom meeting starts I get a little thrill at seeing each and every one of their faces filling my computer screen.

For anyone reading this other than those who belong to those faces on my screen I probably need to explain what a docent class zoom is.  For all of 2019 we were in a class together training to be docents, or tour guides, for our city’s art museum.  We had barely begun our duties as the newly trained docent corp when covid swept through and closed us down.  Now with schools upended, teachers overextended and field trips cancelled we have more questions than answers about where our training will ultimately lead us.

So, for the time being, it is leading us to one another.  The thing about training to be a docent is that you embrace learning and studying and pursuing knowledge.Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 3.21.27 PMAs recent graduates we were excited to share this love of learning with others. Little did we realize that instead of sharing it with the students who show up on yellow buses, we would be sharing it with the familiar faces from class that pop up on our screens.

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I’ve learned to appreciate and accept the unexpected direction my docent training is heading.  For the time being these weekly meetings give me the motivation I need to stay the course even when I really have no idea what the course is.  Seeing these newfound friends, sharing with them, listening to them learning with them and troubleshooting with them is enough right now. The insurmountable problems of the world outside my four walls are silenced and pushed aside for an hour or so on Thursdays. I am certain that when I look back on all the tumult and clamor that 2020 unexpectedly brought into my life I will remember the silver lining of 12 people’s voices virtually coming together to temporarily cancel out the world’s noise.

 

 

Finding the Good

Yesterday the doctor said “Go live your life.”  No more surgeries, no more chemo. Some regular screenings, but the healing and moving on officially starts today.  A colon re-section, as a nurse anesthetist friend told me, is MAJOR abdominal surgery but that is now in the rearview mirror.  Mild chemo is a misnomer.  There is nothing minor about the poison that my husband infused and swallowed. The saving grace was that it was short-lived.  Right now, tests are saying that 3 months did the trick and there is no sign of cancer. He is one of the lucky ones.  We are on the other side of this unexpected disruption to life.

IMG_3797 Cancer makes you feel small in an incredibly large and unfamiliar landscape.  The first days of knowing the diagnosis felt surreal. Life was buzzing all around us yet we had a secret that was making our world stand still. There was a wall between us and everyone else in our lives and we were pressed up against it’s cold hard truth.

After a couple of weeks of processing the shock of a diagnosis,  my husband and I made a conscious decision to share this news.  I look at generations past and how they were more apt to keep the hurt, the sadness, the struggle private.  To put the cloak of hush around your shoulders as you face the world outside your front door sounds incredibly difficult, especially in 2019. The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It has walked in that front door and taken a seat at our kitchen tables, our family room sofas, our favorite chairs. We are connected in so many ways to so many people that, to us, it seemed like it would be an added layer of stress not to share our news.  So, we told our world, either in person, on the phone or through social media that we are now fighting cancer.  And that led us to a conversation with a long lost friend who we happened to see at a holiday party.

Because he saw a Facebook post update, he shared that he is a 4 year survivor and looks back on his cancer as a blessing.  I’m not sure that we are quite there yet, but hearing him so sincerely proclaim this gives me hope that we may be able to have that outlook someday as well.  He also helped me reevaluate.  For weeks we had been saying we are ready for 2019 to be over; but an honest accounting of the last several months reveals many blessings indeed. So many of them have to do with the friends and family who have been there for us in so very many ways.  I have learned the importance of an encouraging word on social media, a text, a phone call, a card in the mail, a kind word in person.  All of the ways people reach out nowadays have helped us power through the last several months.  After we started sharing this we have never felt alone in it and for that we are grateful.

My husband looks forward to the day when his news isn’t the news that prompts a person to start  a conversation with, “We think about you all the time”, or “You are in our prayers.” Feeling surrounded by so many thoughts and prayers is both humbling and extremely touching.  I am certain even just the knowledge of those prayers have helped both of us through the bad days and kept our eyes on the prize of the end of chemo and the beginning of recovery.

IMG_0806As my children were facing the hurdles of growing up I would often tell them to find the good in a bad situation.  Discovering your spouse has cancer feels like no kind of good. It is the worst kind of fear, a lonely vulnerability and permeating sadness all unexpectedly dumped on your doorstep. The script of your life suddenly flips and ready or not you are taken down a path you never planned to travel. But there is goodness in the friends and family in our lives who are willing to show up and walk a piece of that path with us.

We are now on the other side of this time in our lives.  It will take us a good part of 2020 to unravel what we unexpectedly went through in 2019.  But as we emerge changed from this experience I am clinging to my friend’s declaration of cancer’s blessing and grateful for the gentle reminder to continue to focus on all that is good.

The Little Caesar’s Girls

fullsizeoutput_3c64We fit each other into crowded lives that have gone in many different directions.  Our interests and life experiences are not necessarily the same. Decades of adulting has a way of twisting and turning each individual path.  But at one time, many years ago, our paths converged and we found ourselves working at the same college job.  The five of us were waitresses at a Little Caesar’s restaurant in the early 1980s and that seemingly uneventful kid-job resulted in a friendship that spans decades of growing up and growing old.  We’ve witnessed each others’ idealism and doubts, successes and disappointments, and basically LIFE in all of it’s glories and difficulties.  The Little Caesar’s girls as we call ourselves: together we’ve seen a lot.

What is it about this group of girls, (in our minds, when we are with each other we are always girls, never women), that has carried on through 7 marriages, 2 divorces, 13 children, 4 grandchildren, 1 out of state move and too many jobs to count?  All of us can point to other friendships that have come and gone with the ebb and flow of life. The seasons of our lives change and so do the people who share them with us. We have our work friends, our neighbor friends, our work out buddies, our parenting friends.  The Little Caesar’s Girls are none of these to one another yet have stood the test of time when other friendships have faded away. We expect everything and nothing  of each other all at the same time and somehow that has caused us to be there for each other through all of life’s joys and sorrows.

Maybe it’s the fact that when we are with each other we ARE the girls, never the women.  We give each other a free pass to be ourselves, to let our guard down.  This is the group more than any other in my life to laugh with uncontrollably, commiserate with unabashedly, and be myself with unapologetically.  They’ve seen all my layers. The successes and proud moments, but also all the faults, insecurities, mistakes and missteps. And they show up anyways.  When we are with each other, we are the collective of who we were at 18, at 28, at 40 and now at 55 and somehow that gives us a free pass to often act like 10 year olds around each other and not blink an eye.

This tribute does not de-legitimize the other really good friendships we all have outside of the Little Caesar’s Girls. I see many of them lasting for years to come. But at the end of the road, in my quirky imagination, there we are, the 5 of us, sharing a table at the senior care facility dining hall telling the same stories over and over again and laughing just as hard with each subsequent telling.

Like sisters, the Little Caesar’s Girls started out together quite young and we have been in the background of each other’s lives ever since.  There are times we tire of each other, complain about one another and wonder how our friendship has stayed the course; but then we always circle back in no time with an evening of group texting, a dinner party, a night out, a weekend away or a celebration.  Others proclaim how lucky we are to have one another.  And they are so right. 37+ years of memories is a lot to stand on.  Our children all look back on the soundtrack of their growing up years and hear the laughter coming from the kitchen hours after they were supposed to be sleeping.  Recently one of them saw one of our silly facebook posts and her comment was #friendgoals and that one acknowledgement of what we have in each other is the very reminder we need to be ever so grateful for this unique and lasting friendship. The Little Caesar’s Girls have been a part of my adult life from the very beginning of it until now and I know I can count  on them to see me to the end. And THAT is a friendship like no other.  Version 2