April 2018

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Slightly famous

At last year's Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference, a woman approached me after one of the break-out sessions. "Don't I know you?" she asked me. I didn't think so. She was from Oregon so chance encounters at the grocery store were unlikely (plus, since my disabilities I don't go to the grocery store.) She persisted: "I feel sure I know you." Nope. Neither her name nor a face rang a bell.

The next night, after the awards ceremony (I didn't win, but I was a finalist, so my photo was shown to the thousands at the conference), the same woman approached me. "I figured it out!" she said. "I read your blog, so when I saw your photo I recognized you from your blog photo!"

A church friend had shared a blog entry with her when I wrote about a church dinner at our home.

Writing without a clear sense of my audience feels odd sometimes.  I can see the number of people who log in each day, and I am always surprised and grateful for the numbers, but I don't know who you are. 

Sometimes, friends or even people I haven't seen in a long time let me know that they're reading. A couple of weeks ago, we went to see Alice Walker at the International Film Festival (both a film about Alice Walker and Alice Walker in the flesh!), and afterwards Pam, a woman we see from time to time connected with her amazing international water projects in poor areas, spotted us in a crowd and hollered out, "Can't duck it!" I felt slightly famous. And bashful. And grateful. 

Yesterday, I was lying with my eyes closed on my yoga mat before yoga class started. (I like to be one of the first there, close my eyes as others come in, and then marvel at all the people who entered while my eyes were closed: it feels like a magic trick every time.)  Usually people come in fairly quietly, but yesterday I heard a woman squeal my name (with delight, I'm hoping). 

"Mary Edwards!"  I opened my eyes and this was a new kind of magic. It was Kim, a woman with whom I shared an office at the last school where I worked. She had squealed similarly one morning outside of church when she was dropping her mom off. We seem to pop into one another's lives from time to time. 

Kim said that she was surprised to read that my partner Ann had been working in schools for 46 years, so I knew that Kim had read my last blog entry. I felt honored and again slightly famous. How odd it is that people know about my life even when I haven't talked with them recently.

Last night, when Ann and I went to the Storm game, I had the chance to talk with someone even more famous than I am. Sue Bird, one of the world's best women's basketball players, leading two Storm WNBA championship teams and winning two US gold medals (on the injured list for the Storm this year as she recovers from knee surgery) was signing posters, bobble heads, hats, t-shirts and whatevers before the Storm game. 

Ann and I got to the stadium early and waited in line for a moment to speak with this shero and get a couple of signatures. When I got to the famous Sue, I said, "This feels weird, but would you sign my shirt?" and I turned my back to her.

I have long found it odd that some people idolize stars and follow their lives. "They're just people," I've said. But I didn't treat Sue Bird like a person. I treated her like a signature machine.

I wish I had looked her in the eye and said, "Sue, you are awesome. Would you sign my shirt?" That's the sort of thing I would have said to the many teenagers who came my way through schools. That's the sort of thing I would say to people working menial jobs who take a moment to treat me kindly.

I guess it's kind of like reverse discrimination: I treat people without status with a kindness that surprises them, but I treated a shero like she's a machine. 

I want to be better than that, and if there's a next time I will be better. Maybe next time, all I'll have time to say is, "You're awesome, Sue!" If so, I'll say it. If there's more time, maybe I'll tell her this story:

Two summers following brain surgery, when at the age of 45 I had learned to walk again, I often went to the nearby park with a basketball or a soccer ball, the play things of my youth.

I would stand with the basketball on the lay-up spot on the basketball court (erected by Storm and NBA volunteers) and think, "Be like Sue." Then I would hurl the ball towards the backboard, sometimes  watching the ball fall through the net but satisfied as long as the ball at least hit the backboard. 

There was no way I had the balance for an actual lay-up anymore: just throwing the ball upwards (to call it "shooting" would be an overstatement) required all the balance I had. 

I want to be famouser (sic), like Sue, so that I can share my stories of spirit and grit in the wake of my brain tumors in a way that might inspire others, perhaps as Sue inspires me.

If you want to help me become famouser (many of you email me about this, and I know that commenting on this site is difficult), then it would be a huge gift for you to share the blog with someone whom you think would like it. So please share. (In asking, I feel a little bit like the singing group that defeated the Brady Bunch by dressing like poodles and begging for applause--do you remember that episode?)

Thanks for being here. You mean a lot to me. 

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