Sunday, May 13, 2012

Only What We Can Handle

I know we must play the hand we are dealt, and admittedly I have been dealt a pretty sweet hand - great parents, solid education, excellent health - perfect kids.  I have no complaints.  But I often wonder how true it is that we are only given what we can handle - if that's the case the universe must not think I'm your go-to-gal if it all goes to shit.  A couple months ago my preschooler broke his femur.  He required surgery and for the better part of seven weeks he had to stay off his feet completely. I held it together pretty well as I tried to take care of him while still working from home. But there were moments - more than I care to admit - that I really lost it. Moments when I could not imagine how I would handle a predicament any worse.

This past Friday evening we had dinner with a couple of friends we had not seen in several years. Their lifestyle had been drastically transformed from a lucrative real estate deal a few years ago. So the new fortunate trajectory of their lives, summers in Park City, affluent social circles, many holidays abroad, caused us to drift apart. Then last summer they under went another lifestyle change - a new, less celebratory trajectory. Mic had a biking accident and broke his neck.

I consider myself a pretty open-minded person who is not adverse to the unknown or things that are different, but I have to admit that this dinner had me very anxious.  Mic is a no nonsense guy - not the most emotional person - some even refer to him as an incredibly likable, well,  asshole. He's aggressive, tells it like it is and is one of the most driven people I have ever met - but you can't help but adore the guy - he's kind and funny and would do anything for you.  My trepidation about the meeting had more to do with what his personality transformation may have been more so than his physical one.  Would our dinner conversation leave me (as just about all conversations with him had) wanting to punch him in the face?  His physical being was going to be different, but what about the person - the elements of him that make us love him, yes and the ones that make us roll our eyes and shake our heads.  Would they still be there?  If they were gone how on earth was I going to hold it together? He, nor his wife, needed to deal with someone throwing a weepy pity party. I felt very guilty about my anxiety.  I felt like I was being incredibly self-centered, but just wanted it to "be OK."

With the nice Philly spring weather comes unbearable down-town traffic so when we arrived at the restaurant Mic and Karen were already seated. I took a deep breath and looked up only to see Mic - sitting there as people do when they are waiting for tardy dinner companions. It was Mic. The same old Mic and the only thing jarring about was him was his hair was long-ish.  That was it. I was comforted by the fact that I almost teased him about his hair, but I held back - I didn't want to get too ahead of myself.  The strides he has made are incredible. He put his glasses on to the read the menu - took them off, put them back on. He drank his usual spirit of choice from a stemmed wine glass with championship precision and grace. He ate oysters unassisted and ordered his duck extra crispy, devouring every last bit. We joked, we reminisced, we played the "how old are the kids now" game. Mic interrupted Karen over and over and she gave him a piece of her mind, as always.  Big steps, small steps - Life goes on.

With Mic and Karen's front row seat through the labyrinth of the health care system has given them a very unique, very real perspective on how broken it is. Even with their "gold-plated insurance policy" there have been pitfalls and frustrating stall tactics and unreasonable restrictions.  Our politics are very different.  Mic is a die-hard Republican - I'm a bleeding heart liberal.  By the time dessert arrived we were in the throws of a heated political discussion.  And much to my heart's content - I wanted to sock him one.  As always Mic was a little more than I could handle... thank God.

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