As we celebrate the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness month and Halloween together, I have to say, I am looking forward to November… Daylight saving ends. We get an extra hour of sleep. This year my family is the Power Ranger Dino Charge team. My boys recently signed up for martial arts so they’re showing off their moves. My daughter, well…I don’t know what she’s doing except it looks like ballet. I’m holding Photon, who completely disagreed to wear the Triceratops headpiece and be a part of the team. Can’t blame him, it’s not the most comfortable thing to wear. Then there’s my husband…he’s the black ranger, the leader of the group. However, he looks like he needs to use the restroom. But I’m pretty sure it’s also a Kung Fu move. So from my family to yours, have a safe night and celebration. Don’t forget to brush and floss afterwards.
Earlier this week I received a call from a sister of a dear friend. She informed me that my friend has passed away almost 2 weeks ago. She called because she knew her sister and I were close. But she didn’t know how to find me. She found my number in her sister’s contact book and called the office. I’ve only seen my friend’s sister maybe once or twice in the last 25 years or so. My heart sank at the news. When Jessica told me I had a message from the sister, something inside me knew it was not good.
She asked me if I was the “Thien” her sister knew. She described how her sister talks about me and I thought it was funny. Shyly, I admitted to all the details. She proceeded cautiously but didn’t know how to continue so she just blurted it out. She wanted to know if I knew anything about her sister’s suicide. At that moment, I had no idea. I was in shock. But now that time has passed, I remember discussing it with my friend. I was the therapist for her depressed mind. She was the person that was surrounded by sadness. Years I listened to her stories and tried to find a glimpse of hope for her. I don’t always have the answers. But she wasn’t always looking for them, just a different perspective.
Last month, I texted her to let her know she owes me a birthday lunch. Our birthdays are about a week apart. Usually we try to celebrate it together by spending a day together. This just translates into my day off and me making her take a day off or play hooky. One year I actually went to her company for a couple of hours and waited. After that day, she wouldn’t allow me to her workplace anymore. She was embarrassed that I was scanning the place for a “hottie”. She’s single, smart and beautiful. I wanted a guy who was deserving of her. But when you’re the HR director and your crazy friend is the goofball checking out the employees at work, it just doesn’t look right. We don’t get to see each other often, just a few times throughout the year.
I haven’t seen her since summer. We called and texted each other but it was just last month that we reconnected. She said she was busy with work and would reschedule our standing lunch date. Life happened. Time passed. Then her sister called. I’m not going to go into how life is too short. It’s not. It’s what you make of it. I came to accept when it’s time to go, it will happen. I am going to say that when a tough subject matter comes about, you really do have to address it. Suicide is a tough subject matter.
My friend has attempted this before. She was struggling with depression from heartbreak. Then it was family dysfunction. Then it was just life circumstances, which eventually lead to bad choices. I went off to graduate school. I came back to California. She went to graduate school. We reconnected. Then I went off to Florida. I came back. She found me. We’ve been together since. My house became her temporary hospice. But as we age, I noticed I became more of a confidante, a sounding board for her morality as well as mortality. We shared things that if a fly was on the wall, we had to kill it. What I love about this relationship was that it was raw honesty. We were free to express any emotions without judgment, just name-calling. At least that was how I see it.
She was one of my closest friends from my younger years. I care for her more each time I see her. We did fun and crazy things when no one was watching. We ate so much food and went on many “dates” together. I solidified her love for me when I threatened her early in our friendship. She was in awe of my skinny bada** attitude when she could have easily “sat on me” and shut me up. She was chubbier then. After that, I was the “ghetto” child. She was completely dainty. But we were both feminists.
A few years ago, I was driving in the rain and couldn’t see the lanes on the freeway we were on. I kept yelling, ”We’re going to die! We’re going to die!” Instead of helping me look for the lanes, she was laughing in hysterics. She almost peed in her pants. Because she was laughing so hard, it became contagious. That just made the lanes completely obliterated from my view. Which in turn made my screams of death even louder. She ultimately lost it and leaked in her pants. That had to be one of our funniest moments together.
I was always the instant lesbian girlfriend when someone she doesn’t find attractive looks at her. She would whisper words of bodily harm and threats if I were to move as she grabs a body part in full view. We were so different, yet at the same time so much alike. She didn’t want a husband “to divorce” but admired my marriage. She never wanted children because they require a responsible adult, but was a great babysitter and mom to dogs. She was a carefree spirit that I live vicariously through. Her life was full and many times tumultuous. She was extremely considerate, even to a fault. She worried too much about someone else’s opinion and not enough of her own. One guy broke her heart but she was still full of love for her families and girlfriends. No other man could capture and amend those pieces. They were mostly just transients.
She was intense. She cared so much that her heart wasn’t given much freedom to be spontaneous. As disciplined as many of you think I am, around her I was the comedy relief. Typically, I’m just the happy medium that reins her in from the extremes. One day she kept telling me that she wanted to go home because she was lying on my couch suffering from a week old shrimp that she ate without thinking in her apartment. She stated she couldn’t afford my nursing services. I reiterated that I wasn’t a nurse. She will be charged for doctorate services. She cursed my name, as laughter was painful.
I know she is where she wants to be, unbeknownst or not. I’m not sad for her but for myself. I lost a sister I was going to grow old with. As her family gets ready to give her a ceremonial good-bye, I am forever going to hold her in my heart. We joked that she is not allowed to haunt me because I’m such a chicken. But at this moment, I wouldn’t mind a visit. My head will be replaying her memories. I could not keep her from peril but she is safe now. No more worries or heartaches. She finally found the peace she so desperately wanted. Rest well, A. I love you more. Enjoy your afterlife.
Today I delivered one of my more complicated cases to a patient. After about 7 months of almost every dental procedure under the sun, we are finally finished. I cannot tell you how many dawns I woke up early to plan and treat this case, found solutions that were unique to this patient. When we were going through the esthetic phase, I had heartburns. She changed her mind so many times; the lab technicians were pulling their hair out and getting mad at me. But through it all, our patient is happy. That is the most important part. To show her gratitude and wicked sense of humor, she got me this as a thank you gift:
This week my husband went across the giant pond for a business trip. Or, as I like to call it…his vacation. I was left with 3 kids. It truly wasn’t as bad as many would like to believe. If anything, the kids were really good. They listened better and were so much more helpful. We had some of the funniest conversations. For the sake of fatigue, I’m going to shorthand them.
T1- 8 y.o. daughter
T2- 6 y.o. son
T3- 4 y.o. son
I asked my daughter to help me floss her younger brothers. Initially, I had asked her to floss just one of them. But I ended up doing some other things and so I asked her to floss for the both of them.
Me: T1, can you please floss your brothers for me?
T1: Both of them?
Me: Because you have 2 brothers.
T1: Mommy, I didn’t want 2 brothers; I wanted a sister, remember?
Me (puzzled): What?
T1: I wanted a younger sister. I didn’t want 2 brothers.
T2 (sadly): What…you didn’t want me? (Eyes filling up with tears)
Me: T1, see what you’re doing to your brother? You’re making him sad.
T1 (puts her arm around T2 and leaned in to whisper to him): T2, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about him (pointing to T3 who was putting toothpaste on his own toothbrush).
T3 (matter of factly): What? You want me to be a sister? I can’t. I’m a boy.
On the drive home, my kids were so loud in the car.
Me: Okay, if you guys are good, then you can watch a video this weekend. But you have to be good all week.
T2: Mommy, a video is 3 minutes long. There are 60 minutes in one hour, 24 hours in a day. There are 7 days in a week. You want us to be good for a week for a 3 minutes video? That’s not fair. I want a movie.
Another day on the drive home…
T3: Felix (older classmate) took my Pokeman card. He stole it. He said it was free.
T1: Who is Felix? Why didn’t you tell T2? He would get it back for you. He would protect you from anyone who is mean to you. Right, T2?
T2 (hand flying in the air and teeth clenching): Right. I will get your Pokeman card back. If he doesn’t give it back to you, I will tell the teacher on him.
T3: What’s “It’s free”?
Me: It means it doesn’t belong to anyone.
T3: But it belongs to me.
T2: Don’t worry; I will get it back for you. I will get it back from Felix tomorrow.
T1(reassuring her baby brother): If Felix doesn’t give it back to you then I will tell him not to bully little kids, God doesn’t like it. (I will) Make him respect other people’s property.
Then T2 went back to reading his Pokeman book for his siblings out loud in the back of the car. Problem solved. That’s that. That’s what older siblings are for, people!
Silly kids! Little gangsters in the making…
On the way to school this morning, they were laughing and talking over each other. Then we saw a sheriff car.
T3: Shhh….he could hear us. Shhh…
They all immediately shut down. My kids think the sheriff could hear us from their car.