Brooke’s Friend

by Bella Rum

I got my hair cut yesterday. This is only about the third or fourth time I’ve gone to Brooke. We’re still getting to know each other. We chatted while she shampooed my hair. I asked her if she had children. She said that she didn’t have any of her own, but was raising two kids. I asked, “A relative’s kids?” The youngest was her husband’s cousin’s son, and an eighteen-year-old girl was the daughter of a friend.

The eighteen-year-old graduated 5th in her class and is off to college in the fall. A wonderful girl. Her mother had a stroke and is in a nursing home. I asked if the mother was young when she had her stroke. Brook said, “No, she wasn’t young. Forty-six.” What? I almost came out of the shampoo bowl. I gasped, “Forty-six is very young, Brooke. Very!”

How can someone think that forty-six isn’t young? If I had to guess, I’d say that Brooke is in her thirties. I guess I’m looking at it from the other side of that number, and forty-six seems very young to me. Taking into account her age-perceiving myopia, I give Brooke huge points for caring for two kids that are not her own. Huge! And she’s a sweet, cheerful, half-full, ‘young’ woman. It turned out that the mother had mental health issues and stopped taking all of her medication. I imagine that contributed to the stroke.

I thought about her for a long time yesterday and Dad, and how different your quality of life is if you have no one to care for you when this kind of bomb drops into your life.

As I swept the patio early this morning, my limbs worked perfectly to do that simple task. How good that felt, much better than yesterday. We cannot maintain that kind of awareness or level of gratitude. We were never supposed to. We were meant to live and do and create, but sometimes we are meant to shuffle our thoughts, lay them out, survey them, and feel the gratitude. Most of us lead lives that are immeasurably better than we imagine.