THE ODDS (Debbie Does ALS)


Tuesday plus

I am enjoying a nice, quiet Saturday afternoon; it's a bit overcast, the bird is tweeting in the bedroom, Stella is waiting patiently for Mama to come home from the beach, I have the house to myself. I've been waiting for this time all week long.

After Tracy's visit I had intended for Tuesday to be a quiet day and evening. When Cecilia told me there was a concert at the 930 Club and that she had a friend who could go with her, what could I do but say yes. She does so much, and this was an opportunity for her to be with her friend. I went to work at my regular time that morning. John brought Cecilia and Ashley to my office just before 4 PM, and we left not long after. The 930 Club -- which used to be at 930 F Street -- is located on V Street, near Howard University. An earlier phone call informed me that there was a "quiet room" for the parents, which turned out to be a downstairs bar that was not necessarily quiet, but reasonable. After standing in line in the sun for about an hour (thank heavens I had changed into a T-shirt and shorts) we were finally admitted. The girls headed for the concert area and I made a beeline for the downstairs bar. After all that sun and sweat, I had earned a nice cold beer!

(A note about the T-shirt and shorts: I was wearing a "Race for McGee" T-shirt and an old pair of JMU gym shorts. The gym shorts look better when they are rolled up couple of times; I was only able to roll properly on the left side, so the shorts were hanging lower on the right than on the left. The shirt was large and, after some time, sweat stained. I had on black flip-flops, which showed my two week old pedicure. I had forgotten to take off my fancy earrings, which looked out of place with my very casual, lopsided, sweaty attire. I was not concerned about my appearance because, as I said to myself, I've wouldn't know anybody anyway.)

Another parent was already there, a man wearing a Maryland T-shirt. I recognized him as someone who had been in line just ahead of us so I said hello. Naturally, I had to inquire if he had, in fact, gone to Maryland -- he had, so we talked a little bit of basketball while I drank my first beer (notice the word "first"). During the conversation, I noticed he had several plastic bracelets around his wrist, including one that was red, so (nosy old thing that I am) I asked what they were for. He said he had lost a sister to cancer, and the bracelets were all related to that. I apologized for being nosy, but he was okay. We conversed about work, about where we had grown up, about our kids, the normal stuff you talk to strangers about. Another woman seated nearby joined in. The conversation turned to running and I learned the man (Neal) was a runner and had done quite a number of marathons. We compared races and he told me he was training for Marine Corps. I had mentioned to Neal and Debbie (our other new friend) that I had ALS earlier in the conversation, and now the conversation turned to my new style of running and how I missed training and running long distances. We didn't dwell on this topic, we turned to other things; very general, very easy.

About this time in walked another mother. She came close to our table, stopped, looked intently at me, and I realized I knew her. In fact, I knew her 30 years ago, we were even bridesmaids in the same wedding. She joined us, so now we were four. The woman sitting next to Debbie also joined us, bringing our number to five. We were forming quite a party!

Beer number two had been consumed by this time, so I was working on a bottle of water. We all decided to order some food -- I had a hot dog, which demanded I get beer number three. Everyone was talking with everyone else; Diane and I were reminiscing and she was filling me in on what was happening with other mutual friends. Neal and I talked more about running, about the place you go when you are running, about the way it changes your life. I gave him my business card and told him to e-mail me; it was my intention to tell him of some really great marathons to run. Diane and I exchanged e-mails so we could arrange to meet for lunch one day.

Three beers being my limit for the evening (almost 5 hours and with food), I grabbed another bottle of water and settled my bill. Knowing that the evening was coming to a close, the conversations began to taper off. The arrival of Diane's daughter was our cue that the concert was over. We all got up and headed toward the staircase to the exit. Promises to e-mail were made -- but barroom promises are rarely kept and I had no expectation of hearing from anyone.

I found Cecilia and Ashley and we made our way home. You know from my earlier post that I did not crawl into bed that night (actually, morning) until 1230. It was a long night, but it really turned out pretty nicely. Despite what I was wearing!

As it happens, those barroom promises were actually kept: Neal e-mailed me and we have exchanged supportive runner-isms, Diane wrote to suggest lunch in the near future. I received a surprise e-mail just a few minutes ago, I think because I had given Diane my address. My former boss, Peter, must've heard from her about my illness and he wrote to tell me he was thinking about me. I will not pretend we have any great affection for each other, but I will take this e-mail at face value.

The bird is no longer tweeting, but the rest remains the same. What a perfectly lovely afternoon.

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