Sunday, December 28, 2014

Closer to the Heart

During the summer before 7th grade I spent three weeks in Florida with my friend Jason. We stayed at his grandparents’ house in Winter Park, just outside Orlando.  It was July, and very hot and very humid, well it least it was for someone who grew up in New England, and who spent her summers on the beaches of Cape Cod and Maine.  Fortunately Jason’s grandparents had a pool and a really cute neighbor, I forget her name, but they both kept me distracted. Our daylong excursions with Jason’s grandfather (I think his name was Saul) brought us to Disney, Sea World, and Cape Canaveral. And even though Jason and his grandparents weren’t very religious, I was still expected to go to Mass. My parents must have said something.  I remember getting dressed for church and latching my new shark tooth gold chain around my neck. It dangled between the v-cut of my brown and tan velour collared shirt as I sang along to Christopher Cross...sail-ing, take me away...  Being a good friend, Jason accompanied me each Sunday.  We rode our bikes across town trying to stay in the shade of the palm and oak trees. The church was air-conditioned.

I returned to Florida last week and spent seven days in Miami helping out a friend. I had been planning on taking a little time off work before Christmas.  I had started my new job nearly a year ago and had only used a few of my vacation days thus far. In fact, most of them were erased as I recovered from my heart procedure in August.  With winter coming early to Maine this year and daylight in short supply, I hoped to find warmth and some sun to recharge my fading batteries and fight off my reoccurring depression. At first it looked like Southern California would be my destination, but just as I was about to book a hotel room and flight, I saw a post on Facebook, a friend was looking for help.

Miami skyline from Mt. Sinai Medical Center
You see, my friend, well we were barely acquaintances until last week, was looking for someone, female, trans if possible, to be with her at the hospital and at the motel as she had and recovered from her gender confirming surgery.  So I scrapped my plans for California, and quickly found a flight to Florida instead. On Tuesday, December 16th, I drove her from our motel in North Miami to Mt. Sinai Medical Center in a rented white Chevy at 7am to check-in.  By the time I paid the parking lot attendant the full price at the end of the day, my friend was recovering in her hospital room.

Me and Marissa
I cannot express how fortunate I feel having been invited to share in such a personal event and earning the trust of a virtual stranger. Don’t get me wrong, as I told my new friend, I was doing this to help her out, yes, but also to experience as close as possible the procedure I too hope to have in the very near future.  As I spent time with my friend, we discovered we had several things in common beyond our trans identity. In addition to our fondness for potato chips, our paths nearly crossed 48 years earlier at another hospital. We both were born at St. Elizabeth’s in Boston, just 28 days apart. Her birthday is February 1, 1967 and mine March 1, 1967. We grew up just 5 miles from each other. 

The night before leaving Florida, I drove north on Route 1 towards Fort Lauderdale to meet another friend for a drink at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.  I had known she was somewhere Florida after reconnecting via email recently, but we hadn't seen each other since soon after our college graduation, 25 years ago.  I sent a message earlier in the week, and wouldn't you know it, she was only 10 miles away from our Motel. With a big smile and a warm hug we  joyfully picked up from where we left off. 

While I don’t believe in the maxim, “things happen for a reason”, I sometimes notice the unexpected intersections and patterns that occur in life and nature, like the Fibonacci sequence found on the palm tree rings I first saw in Florida in 1979 and realization that my new friend and I were also at the same RUSH concert at the Boston Garden 35 years ago on December 6th 1982, trying to sing like Geddy Lee.