Thursday, November 19, 2020

I hope I don't mess up

My art director and I have worked together -- day in/day out, more or less well but not always without friction -- for the last 16 years. Our relationship is close and complicated, because I'm easily exasperated and she can be competitive. But we know each other well and are interdependent.

She has breast cancer. The corona virus makes this more complicated. No one from her family (in California) can fly in. Once chemo begins, she's been warned to keep her circle very small because she'll be especially vulnerable to infection. Her boyfriend has two teenagers that live with their mother. When treatment starts, will he choose her or his kids?

Oh yeah, and it's a rather large lump 2cm x 2 cm. Stage 2. Her oncologist wants to shrink the tumor with chemo to minimize the amount of cutting they have to do when the time comes to remove it.

She calls me a lot, even when she there's no work to discuss. I don't know what to do, exactly. I don't want to diminish what she's going through: the woman does have cancer. On the other hand, I can only recite the bright side of the situation -- we have great insurance, she lives within walking distance to a world-class hospital with a reputation for cancer treatment, our new boss is far more sensitive to her situation than our old one would have been -- so many times. It begins to sound rote and condescending.

So I babble. I tell her tales of Henry and Key West in anticipation of my upcoming trip. Last night I shared my fascination with dynastic families where everyone is successful -- like Chicago's Emanuel brothers (Mayor Rahm, Dr. Ezekial and superagent Ari). It seems random to me, just sharing whatever pops into my head, but she keeps calling.

In a way, she reminds me of a toddler on a trike. When they tumble, there's often that split second when they look to you to see how you react to the mishap. If you gasp, they cry. If you smile and say, "Oh well, that happens," they get back on the bike. I think my normalcy in dealing with my art director comforts her.

At least I hope so. I know that she's looking to me for support that she feels I can give and I don't want to disappoint her.