One of my colleagues especially dreaded the move to Houston. He's been so resistant to live here, and feels that his situation is so temporary - that all of his furniture is inflatable. Despite the fact that he very much has the financial means to buy actual furniture, he has an inflatable couch and mattress in his studio apartment. He recently told me about having some of our other transient colleagues over to his apartment to watch football, and while one man was seated on one end of the couch, another man sat down next to him, which catapulted the first one in to the air.
This man lived in Texas before, and has explored every inch of the state, but now his adventurous heart, wife, and young daughter, are in the Appalachians. This past October, we had him over for dinner one night, and a few days later at work he said to me, "You know what? It just dawned on me why I'm in this Godforsaken place. I was brought here because of YOU. Think about it! I have a Suburban so while you are recovering from brain surgery, I can come help you and Charlie however you need. You need someone to shuttle the kids around? Get them from school? Take them to soccer? Dentist? I AM YOUR GUY. You call me anytime you need me, and I'll be there."
And he meant it.
His act of kindness floored me. As did the act of kindness of neighbors and friends - several of whom it felt like we hardly knew that came forth with dinners and offers of help. Some of my other colleagues from California and the mid-Atlantic region sent us five weeks worth of dinner, delivered each Friday to our doorstep. The community of friendship and support that sprung up around us was unbelievable and inspiring and awesome. And what it's taught me is that people want to help. They want to be part of a community, something that is bigger than them.
You know what?? Me, too!!
A few weeks ago at Henry's soccer practice - I noticed that the little sister of Henry's teammate had a cotton ball in her ear, and a bandage on the back of her head. So I mentioned to the mother that her daughter's dressing looked like she was recovering from a surgery I had just had. That led to a conversation, and lo and behold, the mother told me that her little one just had a basal skull tumor removed. Lo and behold ... by the very same neurologist in Houston that removed my basal skull tumor.
And not only that, this family had just moved to Texas. Her husband was relocated for work (I was relocated for work!) and they had previously lived in the Carolinas (I previously - like 25 years ago - lived in the Carolinas!) and within weeks of moving here, they discovered that they had a brain tumor that required immediate surgery. Sound familiar??
We talked for the entire 1.5-hour practice. Drawing upon my own adult experience, I told her what the surgery was like, and what helped me most during my recovery. (Medication. Sleep. Medication. Jane Austen movies.) I also told her that her daughter's hearing would likely return - as mine did - and that awful popping noise would subside after seven weeks, give or take a day. But the pressure in her ear like she was at the bottom of a pool, would possibly remain for the next 6 to 12 months. Or so I've been told, I still have it - nearly four months post-op.
This family? They'll be joining us for dinner at the end of the month.
Later, at the triplet's soccer practice - I was talking with a fellow parent who speaks virtually no English. I speak even less Spanish. But somehow, with the help of the Translator App on our iPhones, we managed to communicate and for the next 1.5-hours, we talked about all kinds of things like, "How do you say ....?" and "Como se dice...?" She desperately wants to learn English, and I desperately want to learn Spanish - so we've agreed to help each other.
This woman and I totally connected and now she is on the way to becoming mi nuevo mejor amigo.
Turns out, the evening was perfect.
With the help of our iPhone App and a father that spoke a little more English than we expected -we had a maravilloso time.
After dinner, we split up in to two teams ... adults versus children ... and we played Pictionary. And we learned a lot of new words in espanol. For example, Charlie without his goatee is a papacita!
My mother did this type of thing a lot when I was growing up ... she opened our home up to everyone, and she always made people feel so welcomed and appreciated. I hope to impart that same value to our own children; open your home to people - be a friend. I'm convinced that to have a friend - you have to be a friend. And the best way to have friends, and build your community, is around the dining room table.
Seven months in and we are really loving Texas. If our moves have taught us anything, we've learned the critically important lesson that you've got to bloom where you are planted.
Aquí está a la floración!
(y pasar los guisantes favor!)
(Translation: Here's to blooming!)
(And pass the peas, please!)