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It was mid-morning and I was having one of those magical writing moments that don’t seem to come nearly enough when I noticed Alex staring intensely. My first reaction was to ignore her, so as not to disturb my fingers on the keyboard. However, she wasn’t having it. Planting herself firmly in front of my brown club chair, she continued to stare without blinking or budging. Looking over the top of my computer screen into her soulful brown eyes, I was reminded of a comment a visiting friend had made a few months prior. “Alex, looks so beautiful you’d never guess her age except for her cloudy eyes.” The comment caught me off guard, and I now found myself looking deep into those eyes. Why hadn’t I noticed? Alex was my ageless baby girl and thirteen years had passed by and I had not given thought to her longevity. Poodles are eternal puppies – such was the case with our Alex.
Jeff and I had lovingly dubbed her “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’.
It was a busy and exciting time. Marriage equality had come to our beloved NYC, and Jeff and I were ecstatically planning our upcoming wedding. It was the happiest time of my life. During this period, my writing seemed almost magical – taking on this life of it’s own. Putting time aside each day to write in that brown club chair became an integral part of my writing process. I determined that Farm Stories would become more than just something I’d talked about for the past 25 years. Staying focused was something I’d long battled to be, and suddenly, somehow through my writing I finally was. Hours would seamlessly pass.
Today, however, Alex wasn’t going to indulge me in my writing time. I asked if she needed to go out? Instead of her typical turning and making her trademark slow saunter to our apartment door, she didn’t move or break her stare. Putting my computer aside, I reached with outstretched arms. Alex gingerly climbed into my lap, resting her chin on my shoulder and pushing her face against mine. At that very moment I knew. Nestled together in that brown club chair for what could have been minutes or perhaps hours, I didn’t want to let her go. We both knew. Alex was sick.
Having shared secrets with girls had been a lifelong practice. Besides what was I going to tell Jeff? That I’d had this epiphany of impending doom for our little girl? I’ve never been one to shy away from confrontation, but this I simply couldn’t bear. Perhaps if we didn’t speak it, IT would simply go away. Perhaps if I kept it secret, it wouldn’t be true. As the weeks passed, it became clear something was indeed wrong and when our doctor called, her words slapped across my ear, disorienting me. Alex had a malignant tumor in her jaw.
A haze fell over us for the next few months. Jeff’s resolve kicked in as it always had throughout the past 24 years whenever we faced adversity. He promised we would make it through this. I had to believe him but I simply couldn’t understand how you can be pulled from having the happiest time of your life into such despair and helplessness. Everything changed and finding a new normal seemed impossible. There would no trying to gain control of the situation, or of our thoughts. Would it be next week? Maybe months? I wanted to spend every moment I could with Alex, and make everything seem okay. She deserved to be calm. Burning my candles and incense was a daily ritual and had to be continued. I always had music playing, only now Alex had become particular-sensitive to sound. Even the softest music would disturb and annoy, and she would make her way into the bedroom to escape.
Until the morning I noticed Barbara Streisand come on. Was it my imagination or did it seem to soothe her? Not being a huge Barbara music fan I quickly downloaded everything I thought calming and created a playlist. Names ‘Alex & Babs’ it played non-stop morning, noon and night for the next several months. Holding The Most Beautiful Girl In The World in my lap in that brown club chair we would listen to that play list over and over. One song in particular that I’d remembered from long ago. It was Alan and Marilyn Bergman lovely lyrics:
When I say always,
I mean forever.
I trust tomorrow as much as today.
I’m not afraid to say,
I love you.
And I promise you,
I’ll never say goodbye…
I finally understood that it was time to live and love in the moment. One day at a time. Because that was all we had. And because when we love, there didn’t have to be a goodbye.