It’s darling of you to entertain me while I wait for the Norwegians. After a long week of do-gooding, fancy dinners, and committee meetings, I’m spent. I don’t have the stamina that accompanied my original parts, so I’m hoping there’s one more bottle of celebratory Veuve Cliquot in the ‘fridge, (ooh, Sharffenberger!) and that the children continue to be entranced by creating dragon villages on the computer. Accompany me now as I dip into the gift bubbles and tell you every little thing.
I saw Debby Gammons Thursday night. She was at her post at Zegna, all super-smart looking in her I-buy-for-Tom-Brady outfit. April and I were passing through the expensive stores on our way to a swanky shoe event because April knows people who collect swanky shoes and believe 5 inch platforms are equally suited for hora dancing and Whole Food shopping. (They lie.) Seeing Debby was a feel-good moment for oodles of reasons. First of all, Debby is adorable. As Grandma Karen would say, “…she’s no bigger than a minute,” and her Monica Geller-ness imbues her teeny tininess with a commanding competence. (Debby probably has eleven categories of towels.) Debby also has been my champion for the past year: reading, messaging, and praying. Having someone who is so hospital-corners in my corner felt good… feels good. We will always tease her for her pin straight ways, for running 26.2 miles more often than I floss, and for involving Ralph Lauren cable knits, Hunter wellies, and a toggled coat in one outfit. But Debby is as constant and loyal as she is preppy. Seeing Debby reminded me that many more of these sweet moments are coming: when I get to lay eyes on you good people who have kept in touch with thoughts, words, and deeds. The short quips via social networking were my lifeline last year, but face-to-face is better… especially when that face is Debby Gammons.
Two bottles of wine later, the Norwegians have arrived with Advent Aquavit, milk chocolate, and their sweet Scandinavian faces. Tormod is another friend I’m happy to see in person. Though he hasn’t shown up on these Pages yet, Tormod will be a part of The Family Lee forever. When it was time to assemble a team of surgeons for my care (mutilation), I was mostly concerned about “the help.” Because surgery is best performed assisted, Adam needed to find someone with deft hands and unruffled professionalism. The whole people-I-know-seeing-me-naked aspect of last year ranked high on the List of Things That Unfairly Suck. Tormod was the obvious choice. He’s an excellent surgeon. He’s a husband and dad. He’s Norwegian. It must have been (possibly still is) weird for him to straddle all the imaginary lines drawn between resident and attending, friend and colleague, boss’s wife and patient. But somehow it’s not weird to share duty-free chocolates with him now. That’s a good friend, indeed.
As we close in on the one-year anniversary of my life-changing journey (the dreaded call, December 16th, April’s living room), Maria recently described what it was like for all of those people on the other side of the operating room door. In those moments, I was drugged, terrified, and shielded from their forced involvement in my scary tragedy. I hadn’t thought about how necessary, but how difficult, it must have been for them to wheel me around the hospital without cursing, crying, or calling in sick. But they didn’t. I see Tormod now as my friend, my surgeon, a little bit my hero. He’s so tall and stoic and Norwegian and that made all of the difference.
This week I had the opportunity to pay forward the kindness of the Debbys and Tormods in my life. Dr. Miller was admitted to the hospital and so I spent a few days shuttling Maida around and then, thankfully, driving them both home after he was discharged. It was a privilege to watch these ancient people charming the pants off of everyone and making it home in time to take out the recyclables. They now feel beholden and terribly, terribly guilty about troubling me… even though the only trouble at all is that they won’t stop calling to thank me. But I think it’s wonderful that Maida called for help when she really needed it. In fact, we’re not entirely certain how Maida was able to transmit an “urgent” message into Bernie’s operating room to request a ride home. The ER staff is probably still wondering about the VIP status of this 90-year-old woman who can page the chief of the division for taxi service (and probably shocked that that is exactly how Maida got home). So now I’m feeling a bit like Maida: beholden to the sweet people in my life. Now I have enough distance (and hair!) away from the horror to reflect on the many people who helped make it less awful. And while Maida is likely to thank me with some truly awful trinket from the china cabinet, I’ll use this forum, to tell 300 people about two people at polar opposite ends of the height chart and globe, who I’m so happy to see, who made all the difference.