On Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30am to catch a train to New York City.
I love that train ride, 2 1/2 hours down along the Hudson river. The bumpy ride over old upstate tracks, the spotty wifi, and the view of the Hudson all adds up to a magical trip happening at a delicious pace. And I cannot tell you how much I savor these quiet times where I can sit alone and enjoy knowing that there is nothing else to do other than enjoy moving through space.
On the way down I was completely alone in my train car. I took out my computer, popped in my ear buds and cranked the Hozier album I am currently obsessing over, and got to work editing my new essay about our experience of genetic testing. The essay is a bizarre attempt at explaining the process of finding (and loosing) answers along the journey inward into Esmé’s DNA, requiring my layman’s attempts at explaining the various forms of testing we’ve been through over the years. So, I happily dove into the lonely little world I love to inhabit: explaining the emotional and personal realities generated by having a medically fragile child in the jungle of modern medicine and genetic science.
My dear friend Mieke met me a few hours later in Penn Station. From there we spend a glorious day wandering around New York–eating, shopping, talking. A day like this never fails to amaze and refresh me. I drank a cocktail at lunch at ABC Cocina with no fear about whether it would change my ability to respond to a medical emergency. I walked into stores without worrying about whether Esmé’s chair would fit through in the store layout or if there would be steps. I didn’t really check the time, or head anywhere in a rush, or worry about forgetting something important, or feel compelled to do twenty things at once. I dealt with no one else’s body fluids (thankfully we even avoided that subway car that smelled of pee…).
After our day in the city, we had a night of music. André had gotten us tickets to see Diana Krall at the Beacon Theatre. I wasn’t terribly familiar with her music, so I wasn’t certain what to expect, but the concert was amazing, truly. I especially loved the cover of Tom Waits’s Temptation and Paul McCartney’s If I Take You Home Tonight…and her wry jokes about drinking gin and playing the ukulele. Mieke and I went out briefly for a drink afterward–but we risked me falling asleep at the bar and Mieke having to explain to the wait staff: “It’s been a really big day for her and it is way passed her bedtime!”
The next morning it was already time to head back home again…we made it to my train by the skin of our teeth…hugging goodbye quickly mid-walk to just in time to be the last person through the gate.
On the ride home I found myself thinking about this friendship has lasted from university in Montreal, through her moving across the country and back, through relationships and break-ups, through her establishing an amazing career, through my dissertation, through this journey I’ve been on since having Esmé…and how very fortunate I am to have found such a lovely, thoughtful, funny, and kind friend in Mieke.
It has been hard for me to maintain a lot of my relationships that pre-dated Ez. I think it really comes down to the fact that my life is just really hard to sync up with others. I’m forgetful. I have a dearth of compassion. I can rarely make plans…even more rarely can I keep them…and, in the event that I make it somewhere, I am often only half there anyway–distractedly answering texts and worrying about Esmé. The people I am close to have to follow me into the bizarre and obsessive little world I inhabit.
Being friends with me in real life isn’t easy, truly.
But it has never really been a problem for Mieke and me. We never really skipped a beat. She follows whatever medical story I need to weave for her to understand where I am. She talks about the clothing on Gilmore Girls with me when I cannot stand think about sick kids any longer. She shares the stories of her life and career–which is so very different than mine–with me. She understands when I need to focus on Ez–and distracts me from my distraction when I need it.
Mieke is the kind of friend who I can say anything to. In some respects she is perhaps the person in the world who best knows the inner workings of my brain over the last couple years–because I can tell her those deep fears that you need to say to someone who gets you, but just can’t say out loud to the people who are intimately involved in the daily struggles of keeping those same fears at bay. She knows most of my secrets, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies and loves me anyway. Still, and perhaps best of all, she never shies away from telling me the things I don’t always want to hear, but need to hear (e.g. there is something gross on your face; I know you think you would have gone skydiving given the opportunity, but it really isn’t your personality, is it now?; don’t go into that subway car, it smells of pee).
Time with her always seems to help me re-align.
When I got off the train and met up with my darling daughter and husband again, Esmé seemed to think I had just played the longest game of pee-a-boo ever and spent most of the afternoon and evening laughing at me for re-appearing.
Strangely, I felt the same way…like I had suddenly reappeared, refreshed, remembering who I am again.