There you are. There I am. Complaining. Deadlines and obligations. Bills and budgets. The empty nest. My dogs, ages 12 and 14.
And in a flash, none of it matters. Not one bit.
In a flash, I am doing what I shouldn't do: Googling scary prognoses.
There are all kinds of families. Some we are born into. Some we create.
When I moved to Los Angeles, a very long time ago, Rosie cleaned my ex-husband's house once a week. Since I paid Daisy more to clean my much smaller house, I upped Rosie's pay. Best I could do.
When my daughter was born, almost 30 years ago, I asked Rosie for help. Her children were all in school. She was my first and only nanny. She went through the divorce with me, back and forth with my kids. I didn't have as much money; I paid her what I could.
Family. I sent her to English classes. I tutored her for the citizenship exam. I stayed up for days on end when two of her sons were serving our country in Operation Desert Storm, one a Marine, one an Army medic. I fought with the school when it wanted to expel her youngest -- because he had epilepsy. She tells me that I taught her to be strong, but trust me, it was the other way around.
She cleaned houses seven days a week. Never took a penny of welfare. On the books since the beginning.
She told me she didn't need health insurance. This was before Obamacare, when no one would even sell an individual policy for a middle-aged woman. Except Kaiser Permanente. I've heard complaints about Kaiser. You will never hear one from me. Nine years ago, out of the blue, Rosie was diagnosed with lung cancer. In the Kaiser West Los Angeles Medical Center, in the medical director, Dr. Howard Fullman, and his staff, I found not only brilliance but also compassion and community that money cannot buy.
Rosie and I have been together every day for 30 years. Every day for the last nine years, I have worried about her cough. We wake each other in the night, coughing. And every six months, we get the good report. And then, I don't know when it happens, but you start expecting the good report.
No problem in the lungs.
A tumor in the stomach.
In a flash. Dr. Fullman reassures me. God bless him. He is retiring next week, but first he is putting a team together. My daughter took Rosie to the scans this morning; her daughter took off from work to take her yesterday. The rest of the week is my turn. My son brings dinner.
We are family. Rosie is the strongest of us. I am the weakest. So many things don't scare me. Health terrifies me. My sister has had cancer twice, the first time over 30 years ago. The chemo caused heart failure 30 years later. She has the gift of optimism, or maybe it's just how she has learned to survive.
I got my mother's genes: extra helpings of anxiety complicated by depression.
I have been putting one foot in front of the other since I was 15 years old. "This is not about you," my children scold me. They are right. I've had my scares and sicknesses. This isn't mine. Who am I to complain? I am grateful.
But if you have sat in a chair waiting for doctors to call, woken up in the middle of the night in tears, even cried for your own long-dead parents to help you, then you understand how everything can change in a flash.
So before it does, remember to grab for every bit of love and joy. Show your love, not when people need it but when they don't.
An old friend taught me a Hawaiian prayer that she prayed over her son during troubled times. "Be well. Be happy. Be healthy. Be safe. I'm sorry. And thank you."
May God bless my sister Rosie.