Sunday Post 151: Visiting Lillian

I remember the day we got the call. It was her brother, Jay, who informed us. Lillian, our nanny for eleven years, had been found on the floor of her apartment – she’d had a massive stroke.

Deep down I was glad it was the year after we’d stopped her employment. Michelle was in kindergarten, and we no longer needed a full time sitter. How much more difficult it would have been had she just disappeared for good twelve hours after she’d left our house.

She kept our kids in our basement playroom – bringing them upstairs for their naps. She started when DJ was six weeks old. Her last day with us was right before Michelle turned five.

When the kids were with Lisa and me for a meal, their clothes were dotted with mashed up peas and spurts of carrots. Somehow with Lillian not a drop of food would they wear on their onesie. I don’t know how she did it.

She taught them their numbers, their colors, and, I believe, introduced them to soap opras. The Young and the Restless was her one hour to eat her own lunch and catch up on the lives of Jack Abbott and Katherine Chancellor. The kids were to nap at that time. And if they didn’t, well, too bad. They’d be subjected to the complexities of life in Genoa City.

One day, at age 4, DJ awoke from her nap and told Lillian that she had seen the hand of God. Said it appeared from behind her bed. That afternoon when I was driving her to her bus stop, Lillian shared the story with me. I brushed it off.

“Bruce,” this wise woman instructed, “God reveals himself in many ways. I think DJ has a special gift. Don’t assume it was her imagination.”

I hadn’t realized how faithful my kids’ second mother was until that day.

She’s in a nursing home now, unable to speak, basically immobile.
She used to talk about how she wanted to be cared for in her old age. “Bruce, will you bring the kids to see me when I’m in a nursing home?”

“Lillian, I promise. You’ll always be a part of our lives.”

The first year after her stroke, I made it a point to drop by on a fairly regular basis. But then Lisa got sick; life got busy. Her commitment to us for all of those years – off of my radar.

Last week I returned. I needed to see her. I wanted to hold her hand and show her our Christmas card – let her see how beautiful the girls she had helped raise were becoming.

It’s hard to communicate with Lillian – well in words. But maybe that’s not what she needs. How uncomfortable for me to be with another human being without a verbal exchange. There I go again – looking at life through my lens. Thinking about me.

There are so many who need a hand to hold. There are so many who need to feel the presence of another.

I can be at home with all three girls upstairs and my house feels full. I can’t see them but I don’t feel alone – I know that they are there.

Maybe that’s all she needs – the presence of someone who loves her – a moving mouth optional.

It’s a tough visit. It conjures up memories of what was – and sadness for what could have been. It’s so hard. And yet, it’s so very beautiful.

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Sunday Post 143: Heather’s Story

I remember when we first learned that Lisa had cancer.  We didn’t have many answers, we simply knew it was a “large” tumor in the lower part of her colon.

I naturally assumed it was Stage IV.  I was right.  It had spread.

I tried to put on a good face, but in the back of my head I knew this was it.  A nurse friend of mine told me of Stage IV colon cancer patients who were beating the odds – 5, 8 years out.

“That’s not long enough!  What about year 9?  Do you know anyone who has survived 9 years??”

Literally every single month I hear of someone else who has been diagnosed with some form of this crappy disease.  Sometimes it seems beatable.  At other times, it just seems ominous.  But what I’ve found is that there is story after story after story of strong people who are kicking cancer’s ass!

While at Duke with Lisa, I ran into an old friend who has Stage IV esophageal cancer.  I said “HAS” – because he is still alive and well, it’s in remission, more than five years later.  It hasn’t been easy, but he’s doing really well!

Checkout this story:

Heather’s Story

Heather took names!  Her body did the unthinkable!  A death sentence?  Not for her – somehow her system responded to the medications and she is living, appreciating life like she never did before.

I haven’t yet met her, but one day I plan to. Part of her new life draws her to spread the word about cancers associated with asbestos – see the facts below.

Many of you are fighting – either yourselves or with those you love.  Cancer is NOT necessarily a death sentence.  There are victorious stories everywhere you turn.  Ha-le-lu-jah!!

Asbestos Facts

Sunday Post 126: Feeling like a Superstar

I look at some people in my life and wonder if they have ever had the opportunity to really be a superstar.  Have they ever experienced the limelight?  Have they ever really felt special?

I had my day to shine!  It was early June, 1977.  There was less than a week left in 6th grade.  I was finishing up elementary school.

I wasn’t a popular kid – unathletic, bushy hair, wearing Husky jeans from JC Penney.  I was funny – a good line every now and then – well-behaved,  and made decent grades but nothing, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

As May approached, students in my class began to think about their acts for the end of year talent show.  Being insecure, it wasn’t an activity I had ever participated in; nor did I aspire to.  But this year, something was different.

I think Willamina Sparrow was the first to approach me.

“Danny, you’re so crazy!  Why don’t you do the Soul Train line with us in the talent show?”

“Willa, what makes you think I’d want to do that?”

“I saw you when we went to the zoo.  You danced to Ruth’s chant.”

“You mean Introduce Yourself?”

“Yeah.  Do it.”

Introduce Yourself was probably the first rap I’d ever heard.  While I was on the black top being lit up by Scotty Cannon’s German dodgeball throw, the girls were all in a circle near the jungle gym singing this song.

I was always willing to crackup a classmate so I obliged, clapping my hands and cutting the fool:

Introduce yourself, un huh, introduce yourself.

My name is Danny – check

They call me  crazy – check it out

My nickname’s Dan Boy – check

There ain’t no doubt  – check it out un huh.

“You crack me up Dan Boy!  Come on.  You can dance.  It’ll be fun.  Roger’s doin’ it, Ruth, Sabrina, George.”

All were African-American kids I’d grown up with over the past six years at Walker Spivey and Glendale Acres Elementary Schools.  I didn’t really have the opportunity to hang out with them after 3 pm, but I sure did enjoy them in class.  Earlier that year on the playground, Willamina had sorted out all the details for me to “go with” Joianna Spears.  I guess I sort of owed her one; Joianna was a hotty.

“Whatever.”

When the day came, I was told to wear a suit.  We were dressing up for this one. Mine was tan polyester with lapels as wide as Texas.  My shirt was silky with brown and tan paisleys, the collar pointed like the Pope’s hat.  Man I wish that style would come back.

We’d practiced twice, the song was Brick House by the Commadores.

The six of us had a standard step – five of us stayed in formation while the sixth moved to the front of the stage and did their own thing.  I was last.  When the Commadores hit Shake it down – Shake it Down Now, I made my way to center stage.  I moved a little to the left and slid back to the right, followed by multiple Elvis like pelvis thrusts.

When the crowd went wild, I did sort of feel like the King.

We were so good, the principal invited us to repeat our performance later that day in afternoon assembly.  My mom could hardly fit my head in the car on the drive back home.

I’m glad I had my day in the limelight, and I can pinpoint a time in each of my kids’ lives where they have felt at least that special.  I wish I could figure out a way to help everyone be a superstar, at least once.

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