Friday, June 13, 2014

Picturing Home

There has been a definite pattern to the trips I've taken since waking up brain cancer... some have been blatant exception where racing is the reason but without exception, without exception, I have never gone and just taken a trip without making refreshing or making some meaningful human connections. On some of these, I've learned the old adage is true that strangers are just friends you haven't made yet. Some of the people I've met through the Spartan were good to see because are charming and cute and a great part of the recent present and indefinite future. There were 3 friends who had come from Austin with me who had finished their Spartan beast. But it may tell you something that the place I've been to the most since getting cancer is California, the last place that had been a "permanent home," a place I'd given 5 years of my life to for a degree and an internship.

Because Kiana was spending the first couple of weeks of summer for an extended visit with her mom, I stayed almost a week made it up north to wine country (if you want the most amusing theory as to why I have cancer, while I was in college me and some friends stole a bunch of grapes my freshmen year of college, tried to ferment them, having made a deal that we each had to drink a shot. The internet was not what it is now and lets just say our 6 week method of fermenting wines was the worst thing I've ever drank, and I've taken some gross meds and done spartans where I ended up with river water and mud in my mouth. As I put that confession in a public I remember that stealing grapes in wine country is a crime and really hoping there's a statute of limitations from it having happened in 1998). I had done a similar trip shortly before the surgery and had 2 or 3 meals in the area where I'd said, hey I'm going to be here, can you make it and friends and college professors had shown up. In those, I'd taken the classic move that we do now of a big group picture of everyone smiling ;). This time I took a slightly different (and until now secret) goal. I took those pictures with me from the north Cali trip and did nothing except put them in my phone. I had reached out to every single one of those persons trying to make some time with them one on one in California. It was finals week at the college and I was there midweek so I knew that getting too much time was less than realistic but still I dreamed.
There would be some moments where I was staying where I was reminded that supposedly close only counts in horseshoes and grenades, a game I would play with two friends while there, having one on one, or one with family meals (the adage is wrong, close counts so much more, so much more in  relationships but just pick good people to have relationships since you don't want them throwing horseshoes or grenades at you if you get into a good fight. Luckily, I don't have to worry about if anyone around me is good people since only good people could ever put up with me) And so I went to Pacific Union College and got a parking permit and started walking to the three buildings where I'd taken what felt like 90 percent of my classes as I graduated with a BS in Psychology, a BA in Theology suma cum laude with honors. And there college professors I would sit in their office. Some of them had seen the media stuff so I couldn't resist but tell the joke that they had lecture me for hours, given me far more homework and projects than I thought myself capable of. And now what I became known for was putting one foot in front of the other with a little girl... boy had they been a waste of time and money ;). But the dream had come true that while we couldn't help but discuss some of this stuff, these were conversations where there was the beauty that I'd just driven up to see them for the same reason I hope I'll always do for the people I love and appreciate, not because I was having a medical appointment in a few days but just because. Oddly enough there were no pictures this time and it felt more like the normal college conversation you'd have with friends where you just crash into each other talk, say hello, say goodbye. We'd trade stories about kids, politics, cooking and retirement and well let's just say that even the guy who lives as publicly as I do knows that if you don't keep what's personal personal, then it's not personal. 

Did I get to see every friend and professor in those pictures? No, the universe is not that kind to anyone but I hit a higher percentage than the odds are that I have of beating cancer and while I'd hit my fastest spartan beast a few days before, making sure to make more time of these guys was the greater experience.

But even the guy with memory problems got one more beautiful moment that I'll definitely remember. There was a woman who long before she'd met me had lent her place ( to raise money for brain cancer research. She has done it three times for Austin and one time for the Duke race (I'll be raising money for the Brain power5k so be getting your wallet ready). I had won it the first time she had done it by being the lead fundraiser for the Brainpower 5k and she was beyond insistent that I come and bring Kiana which I did over two years ago. It was the first post cancer vacation really after dealing with the messes of then and oddly enough it was a trip I'd take and wake up in an ambulance two days later so it was a little slice of heaven in the middle of some messes, a reprieve and a breath of fresh air. Let's just say it was a special enough meal to where I definitely took a picture with an angel the universe had finally allowed me to meet. 

I don't know how the universe has allowed me to travel so much since winning Gusher but I'm grateful for it. But there was something very cool that made this California trip one of my favorites. This was the first time I'd rented a car in years and my friends left a day before I did but they gave me a hard time about how I kept walking to the passenger side most time (the two running friends that came are among those who had given me the most rides). While it tells you something about my brain that I finally get to rent a car and I use it to drive the most crooked street in the world with Lombard street in San Francisco, the last place I'd park it was at a trailhead. I'd walk up in late spring wearing a jacket to catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge I never had taken in. And then as I got in the car, looking back at the bridge and the vacation knowing I was speaking at a Livestrong Conference the next day, and running a 5k that night and then off to a track meet the day after that, and then spending father's it was just an emotionally touching moment. Because I was both sad and happy to come and go because this trip felt as I got on the plane that I was both leaving and coming home. 

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