For some reason, I can't remember dates. I'm never able to remember birthdays, anniversaries or special events. Every year my resolution is to write down the momentous occasions and follow up with a phone call or card. It never happens. Most of my family and friends are appalled that I don't even know my own mother's birthday, or even exactly how old she is.
This is one of my greatest faults, but in a strange way it's my greatest strength. I can't remember a lot of the good things, but I never remember the tragic moments either. One of my darkest days occurred when my closest friend lost her battle with breast cancer. I remember the moment I received the call, but I can't remember the date or even the month, or exactly how long ago it was. I never wanted to know the details of her final moments, I just knew it had something to do with a bathtub.
It had to be at least five years ago, and I haven't been able to take a bath since. I use to love my bubble filled scented baths, but I was always afraid that if I took a bath, somehow my mind would be flooded with tough memories.
Last weekend was the Susan G. Komen race for the cure for breast cancer. I've done this race with a large group of friends and family members in honor of my dear friend for years. She was one of the active participants when she was still with us and I loved giggling with her about how slow we were.
The first race after she passed away, I still attended, but threw away the t-shirt as soon as I arrived home. I don't know if it was anger, denial, or sadness. I didn't want to be reminded of the date printed on the shirt that went along with loss.
This past weekend I was talking to her husband and he said while pinning on his paper racing bib with his participant number on the front, "Well, another year to race and another number to file away." I looked at him and said, "You save these?" He simply said, "Of course I do. I file each one and I think of her and remember the times she was here."
The group looked at me kind of funny when I said, "oh, I can't. I don't even save my shirt. I have no idea why - maybe I don't know how to process it all." My close friend Milissa thought I was a little nuts and said that the shirts are great and she had kept every one.
It gave me something to think about during the run. The 5K was filled with inspiration and tears. I had so much admiration for the survivors. They were all so awesome with smiles on their faces - holding hands, surrounded by their own personal cheering sections. There were custom made shirts that let everyone know they were in the fight together. Old, young, parents and children all came out for the sole purpose of raising money and courage.
My middle daughter actually ended up winning the race (smoked me by nine full minutes.) While everyone was patting her on the back and offering congratulations, my late friend's mom came over with her neck overflowing with gold mardi gras beads. She is always the one that I think about the most often and can feel her pain by just standing next to her. Since she was a long-time survivor herself, she was adorned with the beads to celebrate life. She took off a single strand and gave it to my daughter and said, "When they call your name up on that stage, you wear this necklace and think of my daughter. This is in honor of her. She would be so proud."
I smiled on the outside and turned away so I wouldn't have to explain the tears streaming down my cheeks. She's right. I need to stop pretending to forget dates and memories. I can't avoid everything I find painful. Pretending the painful dates, events and activities don't exist doesn't do anyone any good.
That night I drew a bath and thought about all the fun events we shared. I remembered the endless phone calls and laughter we shared on a daily basis. I remembered the sorrow we shared when I moved 30 minutes away. I remembered the long bike rides and going out for drinks at the local pub. I remembered eating fruit from her parent's garden and throwing plumbs at each other during a wine-filled escapade.
That was one long overdue bath. I'm not sure I'm mentally stable enough to take too many of them, and I'm sure I still won't remember anyone's birthday, but I feel like I made a major step forward.
I miss you dear friend but am so happy that you've given me a treasure chest of amazing memories.