Old Friends, The Ultimate Comfort Food…

We are a very mobile society. People change careers like they change their clothes and move all over the world as if it were only next door. Years ago, if anyone told me that I would be living in Colorado during the latter stages of my career I would have laughed. But today’s world is far different from that of my parent’s who chose a company and a career and stuck with it all during their working lives. Today families and friends are spread out throughout the world and although in many ways it is exciting in some ways it can contribute to not being able to capture the comfort of feeling at home.

But really, what exactly does the word “home” mean? Some would say home is where you grew up, some would say home is where you live now and others might say home is where the heart is. I say it is a combination of all three. And never was that more apparent than this past week when a bunch of old friends got together for a vacation trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It all started out innocently enough with a bunch of us talking about getting together. Some friends from Chicago visited the Boulder area last year and we discussed the possibility of getting a larger group together to go “somewhere”. And you know how those things often go, lots of conversation and often very little action. But this time it was different. This time the email conversations became more specific – when could we do this, where would we like to go and for how long. The suggestions started, then the schedule conflicts, the counter offers, the semi-decisions, changes of dates, where to stay, and on and on and on until all of a sudden – bingo – we had a plan! But a plan is only as good at the commitment to it and once the first airline reservation was made the chain reaction occurred and everyone was on board.

And although it took time and energy to get it off the ground, we finally did it last week. Nine old friends from Chicago got together, people who had known each other for decades, lived within walking distance of one another, worked together, partied together, stood up to each other’s weddings, helped each other remodel their homes, watched the Bears win the Super Bowl together, celebrated holidays together, went out to dinner together, had disagreements and fights – all those things that are normal human experiences at the time but wind up being so much more than you even realize. All these people got back together for a reunion.

Now reunions can be tricky. As one of our friends said, “I’m not a big fan of reunions. They are created to celebrate the past and I’ve always lived my life moving forward.” And I think for that reason reunions can be disappointing and often bittersweet. But our reunion was far from that. What I discovered during our four days together was even though we had all been apart for a very long time, it was not simply about “reliving” our past relationships but also very much celebrating who we are now and enjoying each other all over again for the gifts we currently bring. And that is true, long lasting friendship – knowing you can move far away, grow progress and change and still say – ” I really like you for who you are now and I still want to be your friend”!

And so we recalled the many things we did together, laughed until our stomachs hurt, drank too much wine, ate great food, reminisced about the old days but also enjoyed each other as the people we are today. We were aware that a lot of time had passed and yet it was as if no time had passed. What a great group of people, old friends and yet new friends. No stronger bond can you create with other human beings and I have no doubt that wherever life takes us in the upcoming years, these bonds will never be broken. I am so proud to have such a great group of friends.

The Chicago friends - photo courtesy of Dan Miller

The Chicago friends – photo courtesy of Dan Miller

The Gang - photo courtesy of Dan Miller
The Gang – photo courtesy of Dan Miller

The Dreaded “C” Word…

Cancer, the dreaded “c” word. I just don’t get it. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to who gets it or when. Old, young, infant, teenager, young adult, senior citizen, it just seems to strike randomly and more often than not in the most unfair ways. My mom died of lung cancer. She was a smoker most of her adult life. In a way she was lucky. Although she continued to smoke the big “C” waited until her early eighties to take its due. One could argue that she had a full life and that we all have to go sometime and that’s true. But cancer seems to take a great deal of joy in testing the fortitude of those stricken by it and those who have to care for them.

I remember so vividly the “drug dance” that needed to be done just to control the pain. Every day the meds are adjusted, every day a little more pain comes into play, every day your quality of life is slowly and painstakingly stripped from you until you lie there, comatose, waiting for death to be merciful. With cancer the cure is worse than the disease. Chemotherapy, radiation, morphine and oxycodone become your everyday life. Zap that cancer, kill its onslaught and in the process destroy good cells, your immune system, your hair, your will to live. I can’t understand why we can invent Viagra but not find a cure for cancer. Maybe cancer is such big business in the medical profession that to cure it would bring modern medicine as we know it to its knees. I just don’t know. All I do know is that I am sick of it. Day after day, year after year, I have watched friends and family deal with, overcome or succumb to the dreaded “C”. It’s time to stop. I wish I had the power to make it go away.

So as my former dance teacher Carol, a gifted woman of beauty and grace begins her final journey toward a place that does not recognize cancer, I can’t decide how I feel. I hate going through this charade again. She has no hair, her left lung virtually useless, she’s bloated, weak and now requiring ’round the clock care. I remember when she was young, vibrant, a gifted and talented dancer who taught me most of what I know about the art of dance. A pure soul that graced everyone she met, beautiful both inside and out and now setting an example of bravery for all of us to emulate. I am angry that she has to go through this. It is not fair.

All I can hope for is that her final days are without pain. The beauty of what she is experiencing is that she knows how people feel about her. They’ve had the time to express their love, to tell her how her life mattered, to let her know that she will live on in their hearts. That is probably the only blessing of being given a terminal diagnosis. We all know we are going to die but we kid ourselves into believing it won’t happen. And if it happens suddenly, we don’t get the time to say those final goodbyes and those final I love you’s. Carol has been given that gift and I know she draws strength from it.

And so, my dear dancing mentor Carol, all I can do is honor you in this blog. Thank you for all the gifts you shared, thank you for pushing me to the limits of my abilities, thank you for your bravery, and thank God for sharing you with all of us. May your final days on earth be painless and peaceful. You are one very special lady who will always live on in my heart!