Dusty Pages

And now you know the rest of the story…

Every Sunday we would hear those very words coming from the radio on the way to church.  Or maybe it was on the way home from church, it’s been a long time!  Paul Harvey would spin the tail of some person who had done something ordinary but had an impact on many more people than they thought.

Last week, during my down time from that lovely head surgery, I was feeling not so great.  The brain is a horrible thing to experiment on and it can leave a shadow for much longer than the light shines on it.  When my landlady/ other mother slide the packet of paper across the table and asked me to look them over, I assumed it was just another collection of puzzles or equations to continue monitoring how much of me was still here.  But the handwritten pages weren’t her’s, they were one of those ghosts that pop up from time to time.

January 1, 1988 was the date on the first page.  My mind instantly wanted to go for a run, just check out and pretend that the words were jumbled up and I couldn’t piece together the puzzle.  Kathy would have known right away, the joys of her being my friend for 30 years!  The missing pages of a diary I was given 6 moths ago when I first showed up on her doorstep asking if I could stay while dealing with the medical stuff.  A date that meant these were the last things her daughter wrote before entering the hospital later that day, never to write again.

I’m not going to share most of Patre’s thoughts, but there is one that has been bothering me and I need to let it out.  She had been given a chance to attend a specialized program for talented people.  She was nervous about talking to me about it and had hoped that New Year’s Eve would just be the two of us so she could share her concerns with me.  She knew if I applied I’d have a good chance of getting in, but she wasn’t sure.  Lot’s of words about potential and how she wanted to continue helping me get back to being me after the horrible summer I had experienced (broken knee and my first round of cancer treatments.)

Patre didn’t know if I could handle it.  She was willing to wait until the next school year started to go, giving us both a chance to see where life would be.  I didn’t know at the time how much she truly loved me.  It was always great to have her support, to know she would sit in a corner and watch me do something just so I knew I wasn’t alone in my chase for whatever.  How did she know at 16 that I was going to need that kind of help?

New Year’s had been tough since she was already not feeling well.  The night spent on the couch, under a blanket while some of my friends ran around my parent’s house like nutcases.  All she wanted was to sit a talk.  Nothing crazy, nothing subversive that might worry both sets of parents.  That was the thing that always amazed me about her, ideas.  Some were pure fantasy, others dreams of a future that could be both real or illusionary.

She was going to hit the pause button on her future to see if we had one?  The one other thing that my mother loved about her was her willingness to push me to care about school.  My grades were excellent, but my attitude was less so.  I was an emotional mess when she met me.  Young, stupid about girls and life, finished Chemo and just was grumpy and over-cocky about my ability to handle it all.  Women like confidence, but not stupidity!

Kathy wanted me to read these pages because she said it was always about how far you are willing to go to help someone else out.  Knowing that you might have to give up something in order for someone else to see what their path was going to be.  They had talked about it as a family, supported her idea to wait.  (her parents got married right after high school and worked their collective butts off to get through college together!  Their attitude and perspective is different from some other people.)

Sacrifice is a big theme in a relationship.  How far beyond your limit can you go?  Kathy picked up many times where her daughter left off over these decades.  First in high school when I needed a place to think.  The same in college when the stresses of everything got to me.  Plenty of times it was just a hug and cup of tea with her nodding in unison to my talking.  Other times it was a place to sleep when going back to the Frat house meant not getting any work done.

Eventually Kathy told me that the happiest her daughter had been was when she was trying to figure out the puzzle I was, or maybe still am?  That she sleep easier having given Patre a chance to explore every direction without judgement or fear.  It’s something Kathy wants for me, to not be able to understand fear as well as I do.

I now know the rest of Patre’s story.  You know some more of it too.  Those pages tell me lots of things.  While I was dead tired and laying in bed, she was writing about a future she never saw except in her own mind.  Maybe that is why I’m still hung up on the girl, she wanted to see the possibilities of me.  You feel good about yourself under those circumstances.  That same lesson was one I tried with my ex, but I guess I wasn’t as good at it as Patre was.

I’ve said this before and I will continue to hold out some hope for it, maybe there is a chance that somewhere on some level of existence Patre and my little girl are learning from each other about everything!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Express Yourself!.”

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