Monday, June 6, 2011

Hallmark, This Is Not

Tomorrow is Kathleen's retirement party. For those of you who are new here (and I feel that this is a small number, most of you are the weary and patient and eternally beloved), Kathleen is my friend who was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer last year.
Besides the fact that she was not a smoker, she has also lived a pretty darn healthy life-style for most of her life and yet, when she got this news she did not rend and tear her hair and cry and moan and curse god and say, "Why me? Why me?"
No. She pretty much just said, "Okay. So now what?"
She is, after all, a scientist as well as a Pagan or is it a Possiblilian or is it a Druid? I do not know and I don't think she'd really try to put a label on it either but she's something. Something as in, you'll never meet anyone like her.
At least I haven't.
Since I met her, backstage at the Monticello Opera House when we were both in a production of Casa Blanca, she has, as friends will, changed my life.
She brought chickens into my life, for one thing. Mr. Moon and I diddled and dawdled over the question of whether or not to have chickens and two years ago she just brought us some babies and a sack of baby chicken feed and we never looked back.
We've been in countless productions together at the Opera House and we've talked gardens and she gave me those gardening gloves that have changed my life and she's funny and she gives me courage and when I went crazy three summers ago (or was it four now?) she saved my life by just coming over here and sitting on my porch and talking and pretending that I wasn't insane and soothed my soul like nothing else. She also made soap with me and I hope we do that again soon because I had no idea, until she showed me, that soap, like bread, is not anything you know about until you make your own.
There is no way to even begin to explain all the ways that Kathleen has affected and changed my life, all in good ways, and she is doing very well, despite her diagnosis, because she didn't give up and she went to another town to get treatment and the doctor there is a freaking genius and he fell in love with her too and at this point, she is stronger than I am and that's not a lie.

But she's been working for the State of Florida for thirty-one years and tomorrow is her last day. And they're going to have a party for her, of course. They're inviting not only her coworkers but her friends as well, and so I'll be going, as will be Judy, the third member of our immediate team and also Hank because he works for the state too and is friends with one of Kathleen's employees and also, he knows and loves Kathleen through me.

It's potluck and I have some banana blueberry bread in the oven right now and I hope it's half as good as the loaf I made last week for me and Mr. Moon. Kathleen's having trouble eating these days so I don't even know if she'll have a bite but it's all symbolic, isn't it?
You have to bring food. Births, deaths, retirement parties. Food is required.

I've been trying to make her a card but god knows I am not a good card-maker. Okay. I suck at card-making. I tried to print out a picture of something I thought would represent some of what she has to look forward to, now that she's not going to be tethered to a state job, but I can't get it to come out right and that just pisses me off.

I suppose if I could make the perfect card, it would have on it a picture of porches and chickens and yard-long beans and begonias and cakes of homemade soap and scraps of sequined costumes and oh yes, definitely a picture of Colin diving into my crotch (she directed that play) and also pictures of the sun coming up at St. George Island and full solstice moons and her beloved four-legged kids and Vicki, her best friend from childhood and a map of Spain where she is about to take her daddy for a two-week trip.

And so much more. So much more.

But you know, I can't figure out how to do that and so this is my card for her.

Kathleen- you are retiring from a job. Yes, it's another loss, chosen as it is and yes, in some ways it was thrust upon you but what a serendipitous thrusting it was and now you will have time to do all of the things you haven't had time for before (and what that could be, I can hardly imagine since you already do five times as much as I do while going to work every day) and I can't wait to stand back and see what results.

There will be a new blooming, I think.
Although the flower that is you is already as full blown and gorgeous as any I could possibly imagine.
Well, as always, I will be stunned.

The banana bread is out of the oven. It looks decent. It smells heavenly.

I want to cut into it and eat it but will not. I will save it for tomorrow and I hope that you can enjoy a little piece. Perhaps as we watch a little bit of the "surprise" photo presentation.

I am looking forward to that and I am looking forward a lot more to all the adventures we have before us, whether they are on my porch or on an island or on your deck or in your living room or yard or chicken house. Because I know there will be many more.
Because you are Kathleen and your flame is too bright to be extinguished by a diagnosis, a disease. You have already proved this.

And I love you.
And I am grateful for the placing of you in my life.

"Retiring" is not a word I would ever apply to you. Even tomorrow, I don't think that's the word I'll be thinking of. I think I'll be more apt to be thinking of "free at last."

Free to be, to do, to see, to fly, to blossom again and again and again.

I love you, Kathleen. Happy everything.


  1. It is freedom. I can tell you that. I went through some grave misgivings about leaving my work but once the deed was done (or the last two weeks of it) I was glad. I am still glad. Kathleen will be okay. Another chapter...

  2. Happy Freedom Kathleen! I know you will have great adventures!
    Much love,

  3. I can smell that delicious bread. I have tried many banana bread recipes but think I've found a keeper recently - the secret is 2 tablespoons of applesauce and it makes the bread sooooo moist.

    Best of everything to Kathleen.

  4. Kathleen is amazing. What a wonderful person and friend. I love her picture and her bird hat.

    Can't you make her a card using one of your gorgeous photos you take?

    I hope you have years and years more fun and friendship, I'm sure you will xx

  5. (As one of those eternal beloveds, I can tell you that it was 3, but now almost 4, summers ago. At least, I think so.)

    I love your friendship with Kathleen. I can't believe her strength!

  6. Syd- When I was talking to Kathleen today, I told her about when you retired and how happy you were about it. I am sure that gave her a lift.

    Ms. Fleur- You know she will.

    Deb- Well, enough bananas and there is moistness. Add the blueberries and...heaven. It turned out well.

    Christina- I just printed out the post and will give her that. And I hope she will enjoy it.

    SJ- Wow. Can you believe that? Dang. Bless you darling. I can't believe you're still here.

  7. What a lovely tribute for a lovely woman. Although I am new around here, I am somewhat familiar with Kathleen Of The Soap And The Opera, see, cause I pay attention and keep up!

    I hope you two will pardon me while I idolize you both and make you my role-models for friendship, love, chickens, and how to be genteel and devastatingly funny and beautiful all at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful selves.


    P.S. - For all who love chickens, "Be a Hero For Hens"

  8. Invisigal- Don't forget mean. Kathleen and I can be MEAN too.
    Thanks, sweetie. I'm so glad you're here.

  9. Mary,
    This is such a beautiful tribute to Kathleen. Well said, love.

    I wish you SO MANY good times. I am happy for you to not have to be tied down to a damn job anymore. Enjoy it. I know you will.



  10. Gorgeous picture of Kathleen. So glad she'll will have unscheduled time. A gift she'll treasure when she gets used to it. Maybe a gift to you too since you might have more adventures with her. My best to her. And to you.

  11. What a completely charming picture of you, Kathleen.

    And Mrs. Moon, this post was a trillion times better than any Hallmark card. I mean, really. LOVE.

  12. Congratulations to Kathleen. To have one such friend in a life is a treasure beyond measure. She is truly a treasure, and so are you, Ms Moon, and this is better than any card Hallmark could devise.


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