Monday, September 12, 2011

The Subject is Life!

Here is a reminder that while you are “doing stuff”, don’t forget to live every minute.  I was reminded late last night via email from an old and dear friend.  We were so young when he and I met.  We really were “just seventeen” when the Beatles were singing that song.

Patrick was born in Ceylon, to very British parents, #3 son in a family of 4 boys and one girl.  Ceylon has since been re-named Sri Lanka – it changed back in 1972.  Sri Lanka is kind of an abomination of the original name of Ceilao (which should have an ~ above the) given by the Portuguese on settling there in 1505.  The island’s history dates back possibly to pre-prehistoric time and one of it’s first written references appears in the Ramayana. 

Well, don’t you wonder about me wanting to write about Sri Lanka history?  Well, I married a Portuguese man AND I have spent enough time in Indonesia to have seen the Ramayana about a hundred times!  Whoo Hoo!   

In truth, I’ve never been as fascinated with history as I have in the past two years.  It is like I have discovered a new subject, and I bore a lot of you with my findings.  I know and I hope you will excuse me, but it is hard to rein me in now and again. 

So back to Pat: we dated briefly then decided to become very, very close friends.  He met my BFF Annie and he was absolutely gobsmacked.  Immediate love at first site.  And, my BFF, being “just seventeen” also, treated him very poorly indeed.

It did not interfere with our friendship one bit.  And Patrick went on through a couple of girlfriends, but he was never really on the hunt.  Then one day when he was thirty five or so, he went to Amsterdam on a holiday and met the most fascinating and enchanting and very young woman, Corrie.  I don’t believe she ever left his side after meeting him.  He stayed in Holland, got a job, married Corrie shortly thereafter and it has been a relationship that I harbor a lot of envy over. I have never had that with a man in my life.  Perhaps briefly:  but it seems it was just courtship antics.  I’m sure on my part as well as my husbands.  They never had children, I believe by choice, and travelled the world on their vacations, working for international aid organizations, something that Dutch people seem to have a genetic propensity for.

I got a dreadful email late last night:  Our Corrie has lung cancer.  She has an 8.5 cm tumor.  I called this morning and caught them working out an appointment with her doctor to schedule surgery ASAP.

Corrie took the phone from Pat and laughed my name in greeting as she has always done.  She wanted to know how I was.  I told her I was so sorry about the cancer.  And Corrie laughed a little more and said something to the effect “You know how it goes; we are on alert now, looking for every beautiful minute of the day.  We are hopeful, Mel, but you too must start looking at this day as one of your last.”

And so Corrie cheered me up.   So I told her that the last time I had anything that was 8.5 cm big I got a bouncing baby boy out of it.  And she howled herself into a coughing fit, and I didn’t apologize.  My goal is somehow to go back to Rijswijk and be with Pat and her again.

This remembrance is bringing back a litany of memories about my first solo journey into the bowels of England as a single woman where I was bombed three times at the Novatel by the IRA.  Then on to an odyssey across the English Channel on a ferry with a Stephen of Nottingham.  We watched Queen perform on the ferry, and he kept on drinking.  I didn’t because I was on my way to Eindhoven to see a girlfriend from Khartoum Days…then on to Pat and Corrie’s the next day.  

Stephen asked me for Pat’s phone number so he could get together with me there. He was young and cute, so I gave it.  What I was unaware of was our ferry was in a storm and our 5 hour journey was well over eight hours already, and Pat had been on the phone to Sirpa in Eindhoven and nobody knew where I was.  I couldn’t call because Europe had already converted their pay phones to cards, not coins.

Stephen and I exited the ferry with his mates, and he and I passed through passport control as newlyweds, kissed good bye and I went off to the no-longer-in-existence train to Eindhoven from Hoek van Holland.  Sirpa was unaware of this detail.  It was past midnight and I should have arrived hours before and been with her knocking back a couple of vodka tonics.  

Instead I was routed to Rotterdam, via Amsterdam (b’bye Stephen!) and up to Eindhoven, arriving at 6:00 a.m.  The money exchange was open so I could finally change money to call Sirpa.   When she came to pick me up, we did get a vodka tonic at 6 a.m.  We sat in a bar booth and had ham and eggs and vodka tonics.

“Melanie, just who is Stephen?”  I was stunned and asked how she knew about Stephen.  

“Well, your friend Pat called me about midnight asking me if I knew who Stephen was.  We were very worried about you being lost or abducted on the trains of Holland!  After all, you were almost seven hours late!”

I hadn’t thought about that.  So I explained, and she laughed, and we went on to have a wonderful overnight visit.  Then I was off to see Patrick and Corrie.  Stephen must have slept it off because he never called while I was in Holland!  

And after a couple of days I stored my luggage at Pat’s, borrowed a duffle bag from Corrie and caught a train to Florence, with…Philippe, an Economics Professor at the University of Milano.  It’s true isn’t it: – we are made to live each day as our last?  Eckhart Tolle is right.  We must learn to live in the NOW.    

(to be continued)

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