IT’S RAINING. SO WHAT? She’s 4. She has big hair, a whole big bunch of auburn curls. She’s my daughter’s friend. They’re laughing in another room, about to break something.
It’s raining today, and I’m outside, and I’m thinking about her.
I’m watching my manic 2-year-old dog running splashy circles around my world-weary 10-year-old dog, and she barks to the beat of the thunder and dances in the downpour, and I’m thinking about her.
She’s 18. Her hair is pulled back; she’s in a frilly white dress. She’s graduating from high school, and she, my daughter and another lifelong friend pose for a photograph, breaking into smiles, breaking away from us and from each other to college, to lives in different places.
I read a quote recently, one of the sappy sort – you know – of the “if life gives you a lemon … tomorrow is the first day of” sort – you know – the sort that well-meaning people send you online, superimposed over fields of flowers. This one was written on a whiteboard in an Atlanta kitchen.
She’s 37. She has no hair at all. She’s Hallie’s friend, Amanda. She has breast cancer, and that can break your heart. But not if you’re Amanda.
“I’m sort of getting used to having no hair. My reflection and my shadow don’t cease to surprise me and the other night I reached out to move my hair out of the way before laying down for bed – old habits die hard. It made me laugh.”
That’s the kind of update she sends. Not one packaged by some company that designs templates for the soft, fuzzy distribution of hard, sharp news. Not one written by someone else as a third-party observation and interpretation. And, most especially, not one that paints the portrait of a superhero standing strong against injustice – but one that simply talks about others she’s met on this hard, hard journey.
“He talked to me about chemo and gave me some encouragement about how things do return to normal after all the doses are over. He truly feels that having cancer has made him a better man, father, husband. He may have used the word ‘blessing’ in regards to his cancer. He is not the first to say this to me. I am still, a week later, completely overwhelmed by this gesture of kindness. I hope to reciprocate for someone else in the future. I hope that by my going through all of this I can make it easier on someone else one day.”
Amanda is 37. She will be 38. And I’m thinking 98. And she’s taught me a lot about how to deal with the years I have left. Hopefully. Truthfully. Thankfully. And laughing.
By the way, the quote was, “Life isn’t about learning how to weather the storm. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Amanda’s husband, Dave, wrote that on their kitchen whiteboard the other morning. He writes a different one there every morning.
Dave is all right.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m dancing.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.