The four of us drove up to Lincoln, RI this Saturday to visit Michael and Carolyn Goldstein. They are very good friends whom we met back in 1993-1994.
Michael was diagnosed with leukaemia and lymphoma about a year ago and has been fighting it. He is very public with his disease, especially since he had been President of the Rhode Island Leukaemia Society for two years and a member for five years before that. The irony was pretty big news, but like always he has been a model of practising acceptance, having a positive attitude, looking for the lesson and living in the moment.
I had known about his disease for a year but had honestly been putting off dealing with it for a while (OK, OK... I was in denial about it). Michael is a good friend, but in the first few years of our relationship I did a lot of psychological transference on him. I couldn't deal with an older man actually liking me, so to defend myself I treated him like crap. I realized recently that in not reaching out to him, it was more of the same b.s. from me. I was also afraid I would break down in front of him. This is a guy whom I've seen cry openly in front of dozens of others, and I've admired his courage and openness; yet I didn't have the courage to do so in front of him. I don't do grief or mourning or loss very well. And I still haven't acknowledged for myself, until now, just how important he is to me.
What changed was Nancy Taylor telling us we ought to go see him. I still struggled for a couple of days---even though I told Nancy I would reach out to him, some part of me was very afraid. But I did call him and offered to make a trip out there. It had been years since our last face-to-face meeting... I don't even remember. So we went this weekend.
He's 12 years older than when I met him... thinner... no hair (from chemotherapy), but the same face as always, the playful smile, the listening eyes, the crow's feet, the quick wit, the hearty laugh... more wrinkles on his forehead. More mellow, calmer, more present (though I didn't think that was possible). Obviously he has to manage his energy more now, and as the afternoon was winding down I could tell he was losing steam... still, he gave time, presence, heart, laughter. Y'know... that real giving stuff.
And right at this moment, the story of the Velveteen Rabbit comes to mind. Michael loves that story, and he loves telling it. I look at his bald head and see all his "fur" rubbed off... but it just makes him all the more real to me.
I hadn't really gotten to know Carolyn before... yet, while I still don't really know her, there is a door open in her that wasn't before. Perhaps it's in her, or in me... or both... at any rate, it's very heart-warming. Her love for Michael is so obvious, and she works so incredibly hard to take care of him. In the past year they raised over $9,500 for the Leukaemia Society, and she ran a marathon in Seattle!
I'm really glad I made the trip, as are Liz, Katie and Zack. If I make it to 65, perhaps I could have an impact on the world as Michael has or take care of myself the way Carolyn does. I'm proud to know them.