“Judge tenderly, if you must. There is usually a side you have not heard, a story you know nothing about, and a battle waged that you are not having to fight.”
― Traci Lea LaRussa
Growing up in New Ulm, my family lived on ” the hill.” There was a stigma attached to said digs, perhaps because that’s where most of the new construction in town was; I’m still not sure. New Ulm folks will know what I’m talking about. “You’re rich. You live on the hill.” I cringed when I heard that, and had I received a nickel every time, I might have been. Here is our mansion.
As I’ve alluded to in an previous post, true to my genetic makeup I was the shy Norwegian early on. Being a willowy 5’11”, I realized at one point that my quiet nature was often mistaken for aloofness. It used to bother me greatly. As I’ve grown older and become more comfortable in my own skin, I’ve long since come to realize that I can’t control what others think of me. I can only be who I am (thank you Peter.)
Fast forward. February 25, 2012.
Looks like a normal, happy family wedding photo, doesn’t it? Truthfully, it was the very best of days. Peter was Andrew’s Best Man. What the lens doesn’t reveal, however, is the haste in which the wedding was planned; seventy-two hours, actually, beginning the day after Peter’s hospice papers had been handed to him. The camera also doesn’t capture our inner anguish, the knowledge that Peter would not be present for future family milestones, or the blessed humdrum of every day . And though it’s there in print, only a select few of us will recognize the missing inch or two in Peter’s stature, the result of the vertebrae which had by then, painfully collapsed, compromised by the disease that would take his life two and a half months later.
I volunteered for several years in pediatrics at MSKCC during the time Peter was undergoing his treatment there. The cancer community was a comfortable place for me through those years. One family in particular stands out in my memory. Their son, then 8 or 9 years old, was being treated for neuroblastoma. His treatment went on for years. He sometimes had no hair, and at other times had a head full of blonde “chemo curls.” During his curly days, he looked like a picture of health. His mom came into the playroom one day, livid that a stranger on the street had rudely commented that her son was too old to be riding in a stroller. You see, when his treatment left him too sick to walk the five blocks from the Ronald McDonald House to the hospital, he would very reluctantly allow himself to be pushed.
I remember taking Kerry for her three-a-day walks the final weekend of Peter’s life. It was a surreal time. Passing people going about their normal business when my particular business was SO utterly far from normal felt very bizarre. Not a single one of them could have guessed that I was going home to sit with a husband who was unresponsive, whose last breath was hours away. Since that day, I have never looked at a single stranger with the same eyes. And I never will.
Please, judge tenderly, if judge you must. None of us really know what burden another carries.
On a much lighter note, while visiting Bailey in Vienna during her 2011 semester abroad, we rode the famous Riesenrad at the Prater amusement park. It’s one of the world’s earliest Ferris wheels. I was terrified. I felt like the freaking thing was going to fall apart. This is my phony “I’m having fun” smile. Bailey knows otherwise.
I was delighted to see it, however, on the cover of a brand new book (a real book you CAN judge by it’s cover,) newly penned by Peter’s childhood backyard neighbor/our adulthood friend. It’s called “The Persian Waltz”.
The book is fantastic. It’s a wonderful, quick read, in the mystery/thriller genre. I could not put it down. In fact, my tax prep has suffered because of it. Now that I’ve finished the book, I can get my papers in the mail. Congratulations, Johnny! Well done. I can’t wait for the next in the Billy Mack series.
Available at the following link on Amazon; paperback and Kindle edition.