A friend of mine introduced me to the show “How I Met Your Mother” a couple of weeks ago. It’s about a group of late 20-somethings exploring life, love, disappointments and happiness. I had never really watched the show before, but the more I watch it, the more I begin analyzing my life.
It could be the fact that I turned 28 last week. I thought that last year was pretty traumatic. Twenty-seven was the age by which I thought I would have everything in order. I’d be married with at least one kid and have the perfect job. Well, 27 came and there was no husband, no kids, and I’m not at the Washington Post yet. Or writing an award-winning novel. “How I Met Your Mother” finds the characters going through some of those same dilemmas I ponder regularly.
Turning 28 finds me thinking the same things: no husband, no kids, no perfect job. And now to make it even better, I’m only two years from 30, the age that places a shuddering fear in me. Isn’t 30 supposed to be an age where I find my life in great shape and rolling right along? Instead, yes, it’s two years away but I’m not exactly hopeful that I’ll have all my ducks in a row.
I know, depressing, right?
But I’ve noticed something about me. I’ve gotten really comfortable with spending Friday nights at home. I stay pretty busy throughout the week and by the time Friday night comes around, I’m not the old song by The Judds called “Girls’ Night Out.” I’m a slightly tone-deaf tune by Amanda Greever called “Girl’s Night In.”
Have I gotten old before my time? It’s silly, but it’s something I can’t help but ponder. The 20s are supposed to be fun and a little crazy before you settle down, but I’m not sure I’m actually, well, fun, anymore.
So, Friday night I decided I needed to get out. A friend had invited me out so instead of saying no, I got up off my couch and headed out. I saw some faces I hadn’t seen in forever at what was once my favorite hangout. I played darts, learned bumper pool and ended up talking with friends till almost 4:30 in the morning. It was the latest I had been out on a Friday night in a long time.
And honestly, it was fun. Yes, I was up crazy late, but it was fun! It took me back to my early days at The Daily Times. I came to Maryville when I was just 22 and worked a night shift for my first few years here. I was fun and carefree. I wasn’t worried about getting my life in order because 30 was just around the corner. I wasn’t noticing the faint ticking of a clock. In the words of the King of Siam, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Friday night reminded me of the girl I used to be, and I realized how much I had missed her. So as I go into my 28th year, I have to figure out how to blend that wild and fancy-free girl with the woman that I’ve become. It’s not an easy task, as I still dread 30, and it’s closer than ever. Guess all I can do is wait and see.
“Golden Girls” has always been one of my favorite shows, more so now than it when it first aired in the 1980s. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock or a bridge, the show showcased the adventures of three women, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose, celebrating their golden years while living together in a house in Miami. To round out the group, you had Sophia, Dorothy’s 80-something mother, who had a razor-sharp wit. Sure, the show was filled with laughs and hijinks, but the writers still managed to tackle some tough issues in the show.
Take an episode I watched this past week. Blanche, a true Southern belle, received a visit from her baby brother Clayton. She’d been worried about him because he hadn’t dated or been involved with anyone seriously since his marriage had broken up. So, Blanche set him up with a lovely woman, but the date didn’t go so well.
I’ll skip all the details and hit the big finish: Clayton was gay but was scared to death to tell Blanche. He wasn’t sure how she’d react and if she could accept him. It took her some time, but by the end of the episode, which was called “Scared Straight,” she wanted to see her brother happy, whether with a woman or a man.
That episode aired in 1988, and over 20 years later, homosexuality is as big an issue as ever. Maine is the latest state to say no to gay marriage. I liked the phrasing a Time article used: “30 straight state elections.” That’s the winning streak of gay marriage opponents. The article also called gay marriage “an issue that simply will not go away.” Really? Do we expect it to? Sure, election after election is knocking gay activists back a bit, but do we really expect them to simply quit fighting for what they want? It’s not just about the right to marry whomever they please. It’s about rights, period.
A friend of mine recently got a new job. She’s a lesbian and in a committed relationship with another woman, but her boss didn’t know when she hired her. However, on her first day, the boss keeps asking questions about my friend’s personal life and significant other. My friend, getting more uncomfortable by the minute, kept dodging the questions, simply saying, “It’s complicated.” However, the boss wasn’t to be deterred and kept asking question after question, refusing to take a hint. And finally she got the info she craved when my friend came out, saying she was a lesbian and dating a girl.
The boss was shocked but not really upset. However, my friend began to panic about the security of her job because hard as it might be to believe, there are no rights protecting gay people from losing their jobs. Sure, you would think it would be blatant discrimination, but no, there aren’t laws saying so yet.
While the fight for gay rights may be a hot topic right now, the issue dates back a long time. The first actual gay-rights march was held in 1969. Of course, the support for gay rights was as vehemently opposed back then as it is now.
It’s been 40 years since that march, and where are we now? Looking back at those 40 years, we have the AIDS scare of the ’80s, the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in the ’90s, Prop 8 and other atrocities that make me hang my head in shame as one of those straight people of this nation. But in those same 40 years, you have the first marriages to take place in this country. And yes, it may look like a losing battle, but gay rights is gaining more and more support.
I realize that there are plenty of arguments that could be cited on both sides. One can state religious reasons, the other constitutional ones. But I like to look to Blanche of the “Golden Girls.” She wasn’t a fan of homosexuality. She didn’t believe in it, but at her core and in her heart, there was something more important: she wanted to see her brother happy.
Do we really want to live in a society where we choose to see others unhappy? Should my friend really have to be worried about losing her job because her sexuality might not be the “norm?” Should she really have to be worried to let people know the love of her life is another woman, and that one day, she wants to marry her?
I don’t know, maybe I’m just beating a dead horse again. I guess for me, it goes beyond religion and the Constitution. Maybe human rights are the most important reason of all.
I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m a grown-up. I know that sounds silly but as my 30th birthday edges closer — OK, it’s two years away — I’m reminded of all the responsibilities that come with being an adult.
I’m not just talking about paying bills and other responsibilities that come with being an adult, such as cooking, cleaning, et cetera. Being a grown-up is a mind-set rather than just a way of life.
However, the reality we face daily is a harsh one. Money is tight, and we have to cut corners wherever we can. As I type this I’m on my couch, bundled up in a sweater with my cat Mia curled against me, serving as a mini-heater. Each year I try to last as long as possible without turning the heat on to keep my electric bill down for just a little longer. We cut coupons, buy generic, whatever we have to do.
And I look around at my friends and see the majority are getting married, having babies, getting new jobs, etc. My Facebook is flooded with pictures of weddings and babies. I’ve seen folks come and go at The Daily Times in my five-year tenure as they (or their significant others) find a better job just waiting for them in the wild blue yonder. Graphics Editor Anja Smith is the latest to join that group as her last day was Friday.
So yeah, sometimes it’s hard being an adult. I can look at the bills that need to be paid, the apartment that needs to be cleaned, the oil that needs to be changed. It all starts to add up and sometimes I start thinking about that little girl that grew up the baby of the family. I was spoiled, I’ll admit it. Of course, there are those that say I still am, but I’m good with that. I’d be content being spoiled until I’m a little old lady with blue hair.
One thing I think I’ll never grow out of is my geekdom. Laugh if you will but I have Wonder Woman figurines unopened in their original packaging on my bookshelves. I even have comic books from when I was younger. I’m a collector — it’s not that I play with them. And on my desk at work, I have a Wonder Woman action figure next to my computer. She was a gift from my guy in college when I received the head job at the school’s newspaper so she had to come to The Times with me. A glance at the desks of coworkers shows I’m not the only one holding on to my childhood as various toys adorn them.
And sometimes it’s easier to think that responsibilities are few and far between. Sometimes I don’t want to think about the bills piling up, the mortality of those I love or the stagnancy of life.
I realized the other day that I was just 22 when I moved to Maryville and came to work at The Times. I was a fresh-faced kid full of dreams and ambition and a brand-new college degree burning my young fingers. I worked night shift and hung out with co-workers after we got off, often sleeping till noon or so the next day. I’ve never been much of a morning person, so it was the perfect life.
Well, my shift is different these days and that fresh-faced kid isn’t so fresh and dreamy anymore, but she’s still in here. And sometimes she busts out, making me feel as young and care-free as the day I started work here. But slowly reality sets in, and I realize that 30 is just around the corner, and Mom still doesn’t have grandkids. And I start thinking about the future, and where I see myself in five years. It might be in Maryville or it could be a newspaper across the country. Only time will tell. It’s something I think about when I actually remind myself of my age — which is only part of the time.
I had a conversation with my friend Jon that left me both disgusted and dismayed.
I lamented to him that it seems that a good chunk of my friends are getting married, having babies (or getting pregnant), moving and/or getting new jobs. We started discussing the stages of marriage and how having a baby can impact the relationship.
Jon is happily married with two beautiful daughters but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a little jaded. The conversation started going downhill when he noted that women “turn off” as soon as they are with child. He even went so far as to say that women will use sex to get a ring.
But those weren’t the most offensive comments. No, Jon implied something much worse. He started making the argument that women latch on to a mate who can provide security, safety and oh, yeah, a baby. He noted that throughout the course of mankind, women have sought out men because only they can provide the necessities: survival, shelter, protection, food and children.
It was at this point in the conversation that I really started to get irritated. He wasn’t willing to give into the notion that women don’t really need men for any of those things anymore. In his opinion, we still look for a mate that can provide what we want. He spoke of symmetrical figures, health, the ability to provide, et cetera. He said both men and women look for these things. In other (my) words, men look for women who would be a good “breeder,” and women look for men who look “spermy.”
Yes, that’s blunt, but this man had managed to make romantic relationships everywhere nothing more than a means to an end: the continuation of the human race. No, it’s not that I think procreation is the furthest thing from our minds. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately, and I’d love to have a house full of children. However, I don’t look at a potential mate and wonder what his sperm count is nor do I want him to look at me and decide that I have good birthing hips.
I already have commitment issues. I already have trust issues. I’ve never actually had a relationship that wasn’t dysfunctional in some way and now I’m supposed to wonder if he will be the provider and sperm donor every girl secretly wants.
Yes, relationships further the human race. Babies are made and popped out every day somewhere on this planet. However, a man’s ability to give me children isn’t at the top of my list, and I don’t think it was at the top of Jon’s either. In his opinion, we have progressed far enough that we don’t have to specifically worry about whether a mate will be a good provider … that’s just a built-in function in our brains.
Here’s the thing. My ideal man is intelligent, funny, quirky and absolutely crazy about me. Yes, if things go swimmingly, then we will look at the next steps: marriage, kids, a dog and a cat.
To me, babies and continuing the human race are things that simply happen. Every day someone makes the choice not to have children, but on the flip side, every day someone finds out that a baby is on the way. That isn’t met with a “Sweet! The human race isn’t going to end yet!”
Perhaps buried beneath all my cynicism lies a romantic that still thinks boy meets girl and fireworks shoot off in the sky.
No matter how many times I’ve seen “Steel Magnolias” I can’t help but watch it again anytime I chance upon it.
That was the case this past week as I was relaxing on my couch trying to wind down after a Monday at work. You know the kind. As I flipped through the channels I came across the smiling faces of Sally Field, Dolly Parton and company in Truvy’s salon getting ready for Shelby’s big day.
“Magnolias” is one of those movies that never gets old. Maybe it’s because Field reminds me of my mom. Our relationship has its ups and downs, as most mother-daughter relationships do. Or maybe it’s the fact that this movie can always produce tears. Not just a drop or two, but the kind that make you grab a pillow and squeeze it tight. And sometimes a good cry is needed.
Or it could be my kinship with one of the residents of the fictional town Chinquapin, La., the one who I envision myself becoming one day. Ouiser Boudreaux, played by Shirley MacLaine. As she puts it, she’s not crazy, she’s just “been in a very bad mood for 40 years.”
Ouiser is lovable, despite her bad attitude. And she would bend over backwards for those she cares about, especially her best friend Clairee Belcher, played by Olympia Dukakis.
Clairee is the socialite of the town. She’s posh, classy and has more money than she knows what to do with. Whereas I see myself becoming Ouiser, my BFF will definitely be Clairee. It’s fitting, if you think about it.
In some ways, I think I’m already a Ouiser. The older I get, the grumpier I get. I’ve noticed the same thing about my brother, so maybe it’s simply a Greever trait. And the grumpier I get, the less I like people. I also find that I’m much more likely to tell you what I think than I used to be.
I was raised to sugarcoat things. Problems were kept within the family as it was no one’s business but ours. And I grew up hating conflict. I would rather wash and wax your car than get in a fight with you. I was sweet and nice and all those sickly sappy things.
Well now, I’m a grown-up, and things are certainly different. My problems and heart-felt thoughts are aired each week in this column with more than 20,000 people. OK, we have more than 20,000 subscribers but I know that not everyone reads it.
And it’s not that I necessarily enjoy conflict these days, but I don’t avoid it like the plague. I don’t bite my tongue, even when I should. And if I’m grumpy, which is more often than not, you’re going to know it.
As one friend put it, my grumpiness is part of my “charm.” Maybe he’s right and it’s one of my endearing qualities, although not at the top of the list. Maybe it’s as cute as some suggest, but I doubt it.
So instead I’ll just go ahead and prepare to become a “Ouiser” of wherever I finally end up. I’ll be the crazy cat lady that children will taunt and dogs will bark at. But as long as I have my support system of those who love me despite my grumpiness, I can face anything. I think.
I had to use a safety pin one day this week to hold my pants up. I suppose it was a major battle won in my battle of the bulge. After all, it has to be a good sign that my clothes are getting too big for me, right?
And I’ll admit, friends, family and co-workers have all been pretty complimentary when it comes to noticing my weight loss. Or my new hair color. And as of yesterday, cut and style. It’s like I’m becoming a whole new woman, apparently.
But I have to admit that my path to the incredible shrinking me hasn’t been without its bumps. I’m discovering that the more weight I lose, the more I’m noticing my size before. And the more weight I’m deciding I need to lose. Before you jump to conclusions, I don’t have a problem. Not yet, anyway, although I don’t foresee it in my future. My view of myself isn’t skewed or twisted or three times my actual size.
No, every ripple, every bulge, every extra ounce of fat is actually all there and all mine. I claim them all, but I don’t have to like them.
I’d paid $7 for the pants I had to safety pin. They were one of my fabulous clearance rack finds. And they got my head spinning. I still couldn’t get my pin tight enough to suit me. And if I’d only paid $7 in the first place, were they worth saving anyway?
Losing weight means that a lot of my clothing simply doesn’t fit the way it should anymore. A friend of mine said she remembers when her 10s and 12s started hanging on her. She told me that I should just wait till I have to buy a size 4 pair of pants. A size 4 … now that’s a crazy thought.
So, do I go out and buy new outfits? It’s not exactly a cheap endeavor, and as my Mom pointed out, I don’t exactly have the money to go out and buy a new wardrobe. But shouldn’t I get rid of the clothing that simply doesn’t fit anymore? Or do I keep it, just in case I grow back into it? Yeah, I know that’s defeatist thinking, but I’m not exactly the most positive person you’ll ever meet.
Who knew that losing weight would give me all these neuroses? Especially since I’ve already developed enough as it is.
A friend of mine and I were talking today about the comments people make when you noticeably lose weight. Someone kept telling her how fabulous she looks these days, etc. He kept emphasizing how different she looks. He pointed out that she just looks like a whole new person, etc. At this point, it wasn’t flattery anymore. But therein lies the problem. If he really didn’t mean malice, then was he simply going too heavy on the compliments and the niceness overload came across the wrong way? Where is the line drawn?
See? I told you I have neuroses. I’m not good at accepting compliments in the first place. And now they seem even harder to take. Oh, at first, I loved it! It was great hearing people telling me I’m slimming down. But slowly, at some point, the compliments weren’t so flattering anymore, and I started looking at pictures of me at my heaviest. I’ll be honest: I was kind of disgusted. And no, that girl isn’t me anymore, but I still find it hard to be content with my progress.
So yeah, I’m working on losing weight but I’m also working on losing my negative attitude. Apparently the journey to a lighter me isn’t just a battle of the bulge but a battle of the mind. My journey probably won’t end with me in a size 4, but as long as I’m healthy and happy, maybe that won’t matter so much. Keep your fingers crossed.
I grew up in a family of football fans. I’ve cheered on the Vols for years, just like other Tennesseans. I was a Cowboys fan when my brother and mom both cheered on Joe Montana and the 49ers. OK, I cheered Montana and Jerry Rice on, too. Who didn’t?
So it never occurred to me that I could ever become a “football widow.” No, I haven’t gotten married and not told you all, but the phrase is the best to describe what I’m getting at. For those of you who don’t know what the term means — although I think you can figure it out — I’ll make it simple.
Football is an obsession for some. It can apply to basketball or baseball, too, but we’ll just focus on football today. So football season starts, and your man becomes glued to his TV with a remote now a permanent fixture in his body. That is unless he can afford season tickets to his favorite team. Mr. Football Junkie becomes so fixated on watching the ol’ pigskin get tossed around that he suddenly doesn’t have as much time for his significant other and friends anymore.
I’ve seen it happen. My grandfather loves football. It’s one of the things that makes him happiest, I believe. He definitely has to watch the Vols, the Colts and the Titans. But it doesn’t just have to be a team he cares about … he might just watch a random game. Granny got pretty good at tolerating it although I know she had to be bored silly some days. They just celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary this past week so obviously football didn’t create an impasse they couldn’t get by.
And now I’m having to realize that I can’t quite compete with football, either. A good friend of mine, who we’ll call HB here on out, has proven that he will watch pretty much anything. Sunday Night Football … he’s in front of his TV. Monday Night Football … same place. Even a Friday night, and don’t even get me started on Saturdays. But here’s the amusing part. It doesn’t have to a team he gives a flying flip about. With the college teams, it could be no-name schools in Alaska and he would probably still watch it. Seriously.
And then there’s the big game between the Vols and the Georgia Bulldogs, HB’s team. If his beloved Dawgs lose, he will not speak to me for three or so days. And I’ve learned not to make the mistake of telling him that it’s just a game. Any diehard fan knows better than to say that.
So what lure does football hold over a guy that watching a football game is more enticing than yours truly? Especially if it’s some no-name team! Then again, women have been asking this question for a long time, and I’m not sure that anyone has ever found an answer aside from pulling out a whipped cream bikini or something.
Oh come on, I’m sure it’s happened somewhere.
And I do realize that it’s not just women that are left neglected when it comes to the big game. If the Vols are playing, I plan to either be at Neyland Stadium (still trying for that one) or planted in front of a TV somewhere. And I’m sure I’m not the only fanatical female out there when it comes to her team. So don’t get me wrong. I’m not questioning football fandom. I’m questioning football random. There’s a big difference … or is there? I’d love to hear your thoughts so shoot me a line.
Country star Alan Jackson had a country song several years back called “Here in the Real World.” The song talked about hearts breaking, cowboys crying, heroes dying and all of the things that could make a grown man weep. Jackson’s world was depressing as hell, but the real world does seem a little bit bleaker when you compare it to a world where Superman walks the street, Spider Man pinches your behind and honest-to-goodness Ghost Hunters stop and chat with you.
Last weekend was Dragon*Con, which according to the Web site “is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the U.S.” In layman’s terms, there were about 40,000 geeks, fanboys/girls, nerds, dorks, etc. crammed into downtown Atlanta. It was my second year at the annual event, but I still wasn’t completely prepared for what awaited me.
It was a trip a couple of friends and I had been planning for a while. We’d been reading up on the ever-growing guest list, that included not only Star Trek’s William Shatner but Leonard Nimoy as well. Add in Patrick Stewart, John Schneider, the “Ghost Hunters” cast, some “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” stars and the pot kept getting sweeter. Of course, the pot also soured as I realized there was no way that I could afford to meet all of these people.
Shatner’s autograph was $75 while a photo op with him was $80. For Stewart, this was a rare appearance for him so his photo op was $200. For me, the prices were just too hefty, but others were still lining up for a chance to meet an icon.
For me, the appeal of John Schneider held lofty allure. When I was small, I had a huge crush on Bo Duke from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Those golden locks, that gorgeous smile, those eyes you could go swimming in — and that was only from the neck up, although when I was 5, I didn’t appreciate toned muscles or a tight bottom as much as I do now. But I digress. I was enough of a Schneider fan that I even owned his albums. He wasn’t just a pretty face. He became a familiar face to a new generation in “Smallville” when he took on the role of Jonathan Kent, father of the teen who would one day become Superman.
So I knew I wanted to see him in person, but I wasn’t sure that I would fork over my hard-earned cash to meet him or get his autograph. Until I saw him. I think as I described it to one person, it was like the Greek god Adonis was standing in front of me. Schneider has certainly aged well.
Those unruly locks were still golden, the smile still gorgeous and the eyes still swimmy. And below the neck was as fabulous as it had ever been. And holy crunch, is he tall! But my mental drooling was under control until BFF mentioned that he should hurry with me so that I didn’t have a heart attack from meeting him, to which Adonis replied that they would just have to give me mouth-to-mouth. That could have been the best moment of the weekend, folks.
But there were other highlights, such as meeting the “Ghost Hunters” crew again this year. BFF and I even ran into lead investigator Grant Wilson in one of the hotel lobbies, and he proved to be even nicer and more gracious than I’d given him credit. He introduced us to his wife, chatted for a bit and posed for a picture.
There was something about having celebrities brush by you while having costumed heroes and villains swarming around that made my stay in Atlanta seem like a fantasy. For three days, my only concerns were being able to grab Wonder Woman or Superman for a photo. The real world and its horrors and truths was forced to the back of my mind, and I didn’t have to think about work, health concerns or financial problems.
So yes, I enjoyed my weekend of geekdom although it’s been a point of hilarity for some friends, one even going so far as to tell me that her friend called it a “nerdy prom.” That’s OK though … because I felt like I’d been crowned queen.
A while back I wrote a column about a friend of a friend who went to a strip club with her new husband on their honeymoon. I was baffled at both behaviors: that of the husband having so little respect for his new bride and that of the new bride having so little gumption and being unable to say no.
Strip clubs have always been a curiosity factor for me. They hold a mysterious appeal to men and sometimes women. But the question is, why?
As one friend put it, do these people have so little imagination that they need this type of stimulation in their face? I’m not so concerned with lack of imagination so much as how much it actually costs to look but not touch.
If you’re the type that can’t fathom the very notion of a strip club, look at it this way. It’s like taking a shopping trip, paying to try on the most expensive dress and then leaving it at the store. Has your time been well-spent in that endeavor or does it just leave you unsatisfied?
Or as I heard one GUY put it the other night, it’s like paying to go to a restaurant and having a fabulous meal (let’s say steak) placed before you. You can look at the steak and you can drool over the steak but you’re not going to get to see if it’s as good as it looks. On top of all that, you probably have to buy a couple of drinks just to look at your forbidden feast. It gets even more expensive when every few minutes you have to drop another 10-spot.
I love what one of my other friends told me, though. She has a cousin that lives in Las Vegas, and he’s single. His married friends have been strip-club attendees while on a business trip. The cousin, being the single one, is still the one that hasn’t gone. He finds it disrespectful to women (go, friend’s cuz!) while the married guys see no problem with it. I’d love to know what their wives think although I would bet my own 10 that the ladies are clueless.
So what draws men to strip clubs? Is it that fact that every single lady is putting herself through school, no matter what her age? Really, I don’t quite understand why that’s the common excuse for taking off your clothes for money. My school certainly wasn’t that expensive.
What circumstances could possibly drive a woman to that profession? No, I’m not trying to judge. Desperate times do call for desperate measures. And I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have the body to do it. Various strip clubs advertise X number of pretty women and one ugly one. What man in his right mind is going to get excited at the thought of seeing an ugly woman on stage? And how do you feel if you’re the ugly one?
I know that strip clubs hold a certain allure to guys. Hey, you just turned 18 … you can go watch women strip. Hey, you’re getting married tomorrow … you should totally go watch a bunch of women take their clothes off. Hope it doesn’t hurt the honeymoon. Or maybe you can go together WHILE you’re on the honeymoon. Nothing says “I love you” quite like a lap dance from another woman.
I’ll never understand it. There are plenty of other ways to find entertainment that are cheaper and a lot more sanitary. And the ladies at these clubs deserve more respect than this can ever afford them.
Amanda Greever is assistant managing editor for print at The Daily Times. She writes a weekly column in Women’s Times. She can be reached at 981-1163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long-time readers might recall a column from last August in which I talked about my first tennis tournament. My BFF (formerly known as Best Gal Pal — she didn’t like that name) and I went to Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters & Women’s Open.
Her draw was her favorite tennis player Rafael Nadal, of Spain. For me, I didn’t really give much of a flying flip about tennis, but I was excited to go and hang out with her. And then once I got there, I discovered the tourney held a very different kind of appeal for me. I didn’t care so much whether the ball was in bounds or returned … I just enjoyed watching it be hit. Nadal and his opponent Novak Djokovic both managed to look pretty and muscly with each swing of the racquet. And there was something to be said for the “power of the grunt” as I put it last year.
This year’s tournament was this past weekend, but we didn’t go. No, our place wasn’t in Cincinnati. It was at St. Mary’s hospital since her father had been admitted only a couple of days before. He’s been battling cancer for quite a while now, but last week seemed to be a turning point for him.
Don’t get me wrong … we had tickets for the tourney. BFF purchased them months ago. The hotel and rental car were both booked. And honestly, there was a period of time where we thought it would be safe to go for a day. The hope that she would see Nadal play were dashed Friday afternoon, along with the hopes that her father would improve.
I’d gone over to the hospital Thursday night when she called saying he was having heart problems. She was panicked and frazzled so I finished up at work and headed straight over. I hadn’t met most of the extended family before that night but for the next few days, we were destined to spend a lot of time together.
I couldn’t stop thinking about something her mom said. She noted that even in those dark times, it was still good for the family to be together and that she would be thankful for it later on. It would prove to be sweet and healing, even in the face of such grief and sadness.
And you know what? She was right. As I said, it was Friday evening when we discovered he was only going to get worse and the end was near. At that point, it became a matter of waiting. Folks came out of the woodwork to pay their respects and stop by to say hello to this man they obviously thought a lot of.
And in the midst of it all, family members who didn’t normally talk a lot began finding an emotional connection. Conversations began to flow freely and the hugs became more sincere, rather than an obligatory courtesy. Heck, even I became an honorary member of the family as I struggled to find a way to help. I tried to find a way to be a comfort, but I began to realize that sometimes the most comforting thing a person can do is simply be there when needed. They welcomed me with open arms as if I were actually related to them.
Her father passed last Saturday night. It was a moment of great sadness but at the same time, his suffering had finally ended. It’s one of life’s bittersweet moments when your heart is torn between breaking and being lifted up out of relief. Honestly, I think the hospital vigil might have been more painful than the funeral and grave side service yet to come. As her mom put it, there had already been so much emotion during the weekend, it was hard to believe more could be found. But it seems that our hearts can be never-ending wells of hurt, love, pain, joy, etc.
The whole situation made me do a lot of thinking. I began thinking about my own family and realizing I hadn’t been home nearly enough to see them all. And at the same time, I also realized that even in the darkest of times, a light can be found when you surround yourself by those who love you. So when you finish reading this, go call someone you love, or better yet, give someone a hug. Moments like that were meant to be cherished.