In an effort to avoid hyperbole, I have tried to keep most of the medical tribulations off of my blog. By now I figure everyone knows the back story. Then along comes a week like last week, where I have to explain it all again to a fresh face. I have to tell the story as quickly and simply as I can. Just enough information that they get the gist of it, but not so much that I become emotionally tied to the telling of the story. I am so tired of having to relive this stuff. It isn't enough that my medical record span a dozen doctor's offices and at least four hospitals... they want more information every time. I feel like I should have a bound copy I can just sign and hand over when I walk through the door.
Having begun with that preface, I want to tell a simple story. A happy story. A story I never expected.
Eleven years and one day ago, I made plans to stop by the Friends of the Library Booksale in Ithaca. I knew that in the morning, a friend of mine would be coming over to help me off-load a lawn tractor I had won on eBay. After we finished moving that beastie, we were going to head down into Ithaca, watch a performance at the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, and then head to the Friends of the Library Booksale.
Anyone who has lived in Ithaca more than a year or two knows full well that October is a cruel month. It can be brilliant and blue, or it can be grey and sleeting. It can piss down rain or sock in with fog. What Ithaca in October promises though, is that the Apple Festival will always be chilly and wet. Eleven years ago was no exception. The weather alternated between constipated spurts of ice and sleet, followed by gusts that pushed that precipitation right up your pant legs and down into your socks. Wet followed everywhere.
In that Ithacation (as we have come to call it), I met Nancy. On the second day, Sunday, of the Friends of the Library Booksale. Our mutual friend had her heart set on finding some Swedish language books, and Nancy had already made a thorough pass over that section and was holding her loot outside when we walked up. Brief introductions were made and my friend quickly ran inside to find what was left of the Swedish section was left.
To this day, I remember looking into Nancy's eyes, noticing her incredibly cool, almost iridescent glasses whose frames seemed to change color depending on how she moved. I saw the scar she had over her left eye and the first thing I asked was how she came by that scar.
I can't remember the conversation in its entirety anymore. I know that I did more listening than I am accustomed to. I know that she and exchanged ideas that we would normally hold close to our chest. I know that I had never heard a more beautiful voice. Folks around me knew that my divorce had knocked me around and then some... so I certainly wasn't looking to fall in love with anyone. I really wasn't interested.
But as she walked away, with her Carhart jacket on, sleeves torn from real use, and her logger boots clodding away... I realized that I wanted to hear more. All through the rest of the day, as my friend and I worked on her projects and cleaned her porch, all I could think about was Nancy. Luckily it was Sunday.
Monday morning came and found me with my head still filled with Nancy's voice. Not just what she and I had talked about, but the melodious reassuring sound of her voice, resonating constantly. By the time the rest of my office staff arrived at the Library I had accomplished my usual morning fare and was beginning the part of the day where I tried really hard to look busy. My dear friend Robert tapped me on the shoulder. When I swiveled my chair around to face him, I realized that he had been calling my name for a while. Robert had known me for just over a year, sharing an office side by side for that whole time. He was the reason I bought my home in Trumansburg. So when he asked me what her name was, I was taken aback. I had to ask him twice what he was talking about.
He said, "whatever her name is, go and find her, because you are useless here." I explained that all I knew was her first name and that she worked in one of the other libraries on campus. He let on that there couldn't be more than a few Nancys working in that library. He then told me that it was imperative that I get out of the office immediately and only come back when I had completed this mission of his. I laughed as I left the library. I was dead-certain that there was no way I would find Nancy. It didn't take five minutes before I found her.
It's been eleven years and I am still there, standing in the sleet, looking into her eyes, every day.