Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yes, I did that

The weekend before the initial surgery in 2010 was beautiful.  The autumn colors were in full bloom with vivid reds, oranges, and yellows decorating the northern suburbs of Chicago.  The days were warm, the evenings cool and the air crisp. As luck would have it, we had tickets for the Michigan State versus Northwestern football game that Saturday, and one of my old college buddies came into town for the game. 

He and I and Barbara are big Michigan State fans.  We had lived through the very lean (i.e. “losing”) years while attending MSU, and were relishing the strong team they currently had.  For my buddy to see a live game, however, was a bit unusual…but not for the reasons that you might normally think of. He’s such a big fan that he can’t bear to watch the Spartans lose.  His solution?  He tapes every game and asks his wife to check the score and tell him whether he should watch the game or not.  And, yes, he only watches games that MSU wins.  As a result, he hadn’t watched anything but a taped game in some time.  The thought of watching a game in which they might lose, in addition to a troubling personal issue, added to his pre-game tension.

So the night before the game all three of us went to Bluestone, a local restaurant, for dinner.  Bluestone is one of those great neighborhood restaurants.  The meals are a congenial mixture of comfort food, kid food, and seafood. You can get a nice craft beer as well as a man-sized glass of red wine. The place was normally noisy, busy and crowded on a Friday night, and the football crowd that night had just dialed all that up a notch or three.

So over refreshments, Barbara and I relayed our email stories to him.  Barbara told him how she thought long and hard about how to tell everybody about my tumor without being alarming.  She paraphrased her note with characteristic clarity. She then mentioned a bit about my somewhat funereal email to my old boss. 

His first words were something like:
“You didn’t, did you?”
“Yes, I did” I answered truthfully.   “I sent her an email that thanked her for all her guidance and nurturing over the years, and implied that I expected to die from a brain tumor.”
At first he seemed a bit shocked.  And then, I seem to remember him just putting his head between his two hands, looking down at the table, and laughing-for-crying as he shook his head while saying something like “no, you didn’t really do that…did you?”

And while he had his personal issue, and I had my tumor, the ice was broken.  We imbibed. We laughed. We relaxed.  We were now free to respond to the craziness of the situation and non-verbally say to ourselves, “Tonight we drink, for tomorrow we ride.” (This line is best said in a bad, cowboy-film accent.)
And we did.

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