Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nothing that a good dose of love and laughter won't help...

For a few hours a couple of times a week, I have the pleasure to hang out with a friend and catch up on some laughter.  I've mentioned her before in my blogs or at least referenced her.  She's my Wednesday morning coffee, Friday night Bingo compadre.  I grin because in all honesty, with the money we spend at Starbucks and Bingo every week, and the lack of return on our investment, we'd be better off having coffee in my kitchen and listening to live music as I've only won $8.50 since I've begun clutching my sparkly ink dobber.

The companionship is truly what it's about as it was painfully brought to my attention last night.

My friend, Judy* and I became friends through our sons who met in grade school. When her kiddo first introduced me, I must admit, I was a judgemental asshole.  I hate that about myself.  Since I've moved to Colorado, I've been working hard at shedding my stuck up, LA attitude but it's been a tough road.  I own it.  Even though I wasn't the "richest of the rich" in my private schools or neighborhood, my family still lived an entitled life.  We stayed in Maui several summers and lived there in an ocean-front condo for a month at a time.  We rented out three story beach-front houses in Ventura County, California and were allowed to invite friends to stay with us.  We were given season tickets, three rows behind the Lakers bench, during the Magic Johnson era and field seats at Dodger Stadium close enough to hear catcher, Mike Scioscia, talking to the umpire behind home plate.  We, I - was spoiled, and as much as I believed I felt empathy towards others, I never truly saw people at eye level until I had to struggle through my own life.  I needed to walk through sub-freezing temperatures in summer clothes, sit across others and sell plasma for money, and move back to my parents saying, "I failed", before I barely figured it out.

So now I get it.  Slowly, after everything, even after coming home to Colorado and being judgemental once again, the light bulb turned on.  Everyone is on the same playing field.  No one is above or below my eye level.  Sometimes it takes me a few knocks but I figure things out eventually.  I'm glad I finally learned this lesson because you see, Judy has Cancer - Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

When I first met her, my assumption (oh, I hate that word!), was that she was a druggie and an awful mother.  Uggh!  I'm so ashamed.  You see, her face was constantly marked up, she was sleeping non-stop, and never around for my son's friend.  Dammit!  I feel like a total asshole as I type this!  She hadn't been diagnosed yet so this explained the constant sleep.  The marked up skin is the result of something else, something personal.  I love her son and referred to him as my third kiddo because at this point, I had him sitting at my dinner table almost every night.  She had no energy to cook for her family.  Her daughter was always at a friend's and her husband was just making due.

Thank goodness she reached out to me.  We talked one afternoon on the phone.  It turned out, she was one of those down to earth, funny, in-your-face, kind of women whom I just absolutely adore.  She's tough and resilient and couldn't figure out why she was so "fucking tired all the time".  I started cooking extra meals for the family.  Offering to have her son come over on the weekends.  Checking in on her.  Taking on some of her laundry.  Then the news hit - the "C" word.  Her iron was non-existent, she was anemic.  They were going into bankruptcy - losing the house.  She needed chemotherapy.  They had no health insurance.  Her dad was in the hospital.  It was an awful time for her.  I'm glad I was there to help.

Last night, after another losing round of Bingo, with dobber ink smeared all over our finger tips, she treated me to an early morning breakfast (this former Los Angelean has $4.50 in her checking account until Tuesday).  She confided in me that I'm her only friend; that outside of her family, I'm all she has.   I audibly gasped.  Our friendship almost didn't come to pass because of one judgemental glance, one ridiculous assumption. She could have been alone through all of this. 

Thank you, God for giving me the grace to stay on the phone that afternoon and listen.

"Ya know I love you, Judy and only a true friend would tell you to go outside and smoke your 'Cancer Sticks', right?"

Judy almost choked on her eggs when I said this.  She laughed loud and hard,  "Totally!"

*Name has been changed for privacy purposes