Two years ago in October, I waited eagerly and nervously in my foyer for Kevin to arrive. We had talked on the phone a week earlier when I had bluntly conveyed my dilemma.
I needed my hair cut and colored. Yet, there was a twist. It was important for me to share with him before he arrived that I’d just had brain surgery, specifically a brain tumor removed; I had large scar and only about a half-inch of hair had grown in thus far. I needed to know if he was comfortable, if it freaked him out, or if it was too much for him. He took the news gracefully and I was relieved.
On that cool October morning, I sat in my kitchen on my bar stool, coffee in hand draped in a salon smock. Chatting with immediate ease with Kevin as he gently combed sections of my hair and did his magic with what was there, I felt immense relief.
I had initially viewed the spoils of an in-home salon experience as just that… spoiled. As I sat while he worked his hands over my scar and cut the small amount of hair covering the bald area, and we talked with ease, I thought about how immensely stressful it would’ve been in a salon. A salon, sitting in public view, having to explain and deal with the drama that always comes with people’s reactions to what happened to my head.
For me, in my kitchen that cool October morning, there was no drama, no curious onlookers, no stress. It was a dignified first step back into the world of normal as I began to piece my life back together. I felt confident in Kevin. I felt the potential of a friendship growing; yet neither of us could have imagined the significance of our first encounter until later that night.
Our phone rang that evening around 9:30pm; a rather unusual time around here. I was surprised to hear Kevin’s voice on the other end and could feel a palpable fear and worry in his voice. He needed my help. He didn’t know who else to turn to and was so sorry for calling so late. His brother was in route to Atlanta in an ambulance after loosing consciousness and a CT scan had revealed a large Brain Tumor. Shit, I thought.
It must be fate he said. Kevin went on to say that our paths were meant to cross. He apologized over and over for calling so late and asking for my help even though we had only met that morning. I felt compelled to help, not because he was asking but because I wanted to.
I could feel his fear, and I understood more than he, what the journey he was starting was going to be like. It was an opportunity to check my own problems, fears and diagnosis at the door and step into a role that had nothing to do with being a patient.
I sent emails, made calls and we talked a lot over the next week, if only simply to check in and let him know I was available anytime and was thinking of his brother, he and his family. It was an unexpected time of healing for me. The experience had awakened an awareness of being an advocate and how rewarding it is to step outside of your own chaos and work toward making someone else’s experience palatable and let them know they are not alone.
For almost two years, every 6-8 weeks, I’ve spent a few hours in my kitchen with Kevin drinking coffee, listening to music, growing our friendship and getting my hair done. I’ve kept up with his brothers treatment regiments, progress, struggles and the impact it’s all had on their family. We’ve shared recipes and favorite drinks, laughed a lot, talked about our children, shared with one another our lives, our hopes and fears for the future and we’ve grown to respect our resilience through it all.
This morning my phone rang and it was Kevin.
His brother had passed away last night and he wanted to come and do my hair if that was ok. Our appointment was scheduled for Monday, but he wanted to close the circle and come over and do it today. We had started the journey together almost two years ago and he wanted to close the chapter together doing what we had done that cool October morning.
At four o’clock, Kevin rolled his silver case into my kitchen, set up his tools and I placed the bar stool in its place and headed for the refrigerator.
I poured two glasses of wine and we hugged. The significance of the moment was not lost on either of us.
After one last hug as Kevin left, he turned to me, thanked me and told me he needed to come here today; that he needed to close the circle. I told him that fate can be a beautiful thing even amid grief.
We are set to begin a new chapter together in 6 weeks. God bless.