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A Different Kind of Doctor

26 Aug

I’ve never been to a doctor’s appointment where there was no waiting room (or wait for that matter), no scale, no needles, and the doctor was wearing Nike shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes, until I had my first chiropractic appointment with Dr. Spencer Callahan of Bayview Optimal Performance.

For me, chiropractic had always existed somewhere in the realm of alternative therapies—some kind of cousin of acupuncture, massage, and (in my mind) Pilates. I thought it was some age old practice… “chiro” sounds like a Greek word and I’m sure the Greeks had to get some adjustments before the Olypmics and whatnot.

But, Dr. Callahan informed me that Chiropractic actually originated in Davenport, Iowa, toward the end of the 19th century.

I was close.

Dr. Spencer Callahan of Bayview Optimal Performance

Dr. Spencer Callahan of Bayview Optimal Performance

I made an appointment with Dr. Callahan because the right side of my lower back had been in so much pain. My dad, an avid (translation: insane) triathlete sees Dr. Callahan regularly and swears that his regular adjustments are the reason his times have improved and he is virtually pain-free. I was in Fairhope for the weekend and got a Friday morning appointment.

When I arrived to the one-room office on the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Bayview, I was expecting…Well. I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I think I was hoping for a massage table, incense, soothing music, and all the accouterments of a masseuse (because aren’t chiropractors just really good massage therapists?), but the space was just a room with industrial carpet and lighting, a standing desk, built-in bookshelves, a few chairs against the wall, some of Dr. Callahan’s gorgeous prints of Fairhope hanging up, and the chiropractic table in the middle of the room. I sat cross-legged on the table.

“So, what’s going on with your back?” Dr. Callahan asked me.

“Ummm. It really hurts. Right here.” I pointed to the lower right side of my back.

“Ok.” He pulled out a yellow legal pad and proceeded to ask me a series of questions that (I thought) had nothing to do with my back.

“How much water do you drink every day?”

“I’m not sure. A lot?”

“How’s your diet”

“Terrible. I love Oreos.”

“Have you ever dropped something heavy on your foot.”

“Probably?”

“Have you been in a motor vehicle accident?”

“Yeah. Once…like six years ago. I was fine.”

“Tell me about that.”

Ok…I told him the details of a car accident I was in—I was driving to Atlanta or Athens to perform in a dance group and our car got ran off the interstate and the car was totaled. I wasn’t injured, just tired and shaken.

“Were you sore afterward?”

“Oh yes. And tired.”

“Mmm hmm. So, I know it seems like it has nothing to do with your back right now, but what do you know about fascia?”

“Connective tissues?”

“Exactly. It’s like a spider web that connects all of your muscles. And like a spider web, if you disturb one thread, it shakes the entire web. If you cut a few threads, it can completely damage the whole web.”

I considered this. So apparently, a car accident five or six years ago might or might not have messed up my fascia so that today my back was hurting. It made sense. Sort of.

“I can treat your symptoms, but that won’t really do much. We are going to get to the root of whatever is causing dysfunction in your body.”

Dr. Callahan punctuated this statement by asking me to sit in a chair across from him.

“Ok, the first thing we are going to check is your breathing. A lot of problems are caused by people just not breathing well.”

I rolled my eyes in my head a little bit. I’m a dancer, an athlete, a (sometimes) yogi…surely I know how to breathe properly, right?

Turns out, my breathing was part of the problem.

Dr. Callahan continued with his diagnostics. I had to walk around the office, balance on one foot, try to hold my ground as he pushed my right shoulder forward and pulled my left hip back, and a series of other tests that made me feel like I was doing the Presidential Fitness Exam in elementary school again. It was like having to do the flexed arm hang…as an eight-year old, you think you’re pretty invincible until your P.E. teacher makes you hang from a pull-up bar and you can only do it for 2 and a half seconds.

Some Bayview Optimal Swag!

Some Bayview Optimal Swag!

I laid facedown on the table and Dr. Callahan pressed different spots on my back.

“OW,” I couldn’t help but yell several times.

“I’m really not pressing that hard,” he told me.

You had me fooled Spencer.

To distract myself, I asked him some questions. He grew up in Fairhope, graduated from Fairhope High School and went to Iona College in New York for a poli-sci bachelor’s. Instead of heading toward Capitol Hill, he played soccer on a traveling team and after a torn ACL, found chiropractic to be the only thing that truly helped him recover. He attended four years of chiropractic school at Life University in Atlanta, and moved back to Fairhope to start his practice.

Finally, he ascertained that some of my problem was breathing, some of it was tightness in my psoas muscle (the deep muscle that basically runs from the bottom of the rib cage to the pelvis—a powerful and singular muscle, the only one that connects the leg to the spine), and something in my feet.

“Do you wear high heels a lot?” he asked, while moving my foot around.

“Yes. For dancing.”

“So you do physical activity in the worst shoes possible?” He asked.

“Something like that.”

“Congratulations. You just had your first adjustment.”

I didn’t feel anything.

“Are you ticklish?”

“Maybe?”

The next adjustment involved me laying on my side in the fetal position and Dr. Callahan pressing his fingers into my ribcage.

“I’m adjusting your diaphragm. Breathe.”

It’s hard to breathe when someone is playing Beethoven’s Fifth on your ribcage, but I did my best.

I laid facedown on the table and Dr. Callahan raised part of the table directly under my hips. “I’m going to let it drop and adjust your sacrum back into place. It’s crooked.”

Who knew?

He later informed me that he did an adjustment on my neck. I didn’t even realize that it happened—he gently turned my head to one side and the other and that was that.

We went through a few more adjustments and it was time to run through the diagnostics again.

I breathed better! I could balance better on one leg! When Dr. Callahan tried to push my right shoulder forward and pull the left hip back, instead of almost falling over, I held my ground! My back felt a lot better and I swear I grew an inch. Now I felt like we had moved from the flexed-arm hang in that Presidential Fitness test to the Sit-and-Reach, which I always DOMINATED because I could touch my toes in elementary school. Not that a chiropractic exam is a test or a competition, but I was excited by my progress.

He also gave me a little nugget of wisdom I’d never heard—apparently the chronic muscle knots in my back are a result of processed food (I can’t help it! Oreos are so good!). He said the chemicals irritate the liver and gall bladder because they are hard to process, and since those organs share similar neurological pathways with joints and muscles, the irritation in the organs can cause muscular tension. Another case for kale!

“Come in Monday morning before you leave if you can, I’ll make sure everything is good and do a few more adjustments before you head out.”

Sitting in my car outside, I sent a text to a friend.

“Getting chiropractic adjustments is my new favorite thing.”

Anytime I’m in Fairhope, I will definitely be stopping by Bayview Optimal Performance to get adjusted. I’m jealous of the people who live in Fairhope (like my dad) who can take advantage of the benefits of regular adjustments from Dr. Callahan and guess I can add chiropractor to my rolodex of alternative practitioners (next to my acupuncturist, my hypnotherapist, my holistic health coach, and my massage therapist). We only get one body, so might as well take good care of it, right?

Dr. Callahan is also an amazing photographer...I have one of his prints in my living room!

Dr. Callahan is also an amazing photographer…I have one of his prints in my living room!

Becoming a Warrior with Andrew Burnell

23 Jun

Professional acrobat teaches salsera tumbling and parkour. Results TBD.

 

Andrew Burnell and his dynasty co-creator, Amanda Drawdy.

Andrew Burnell and his dynasty co-creator, Amanda Drawdy.

I always wanted to take gymnastics. My sister took gymnastics lessons when we were younger and the only Olympic events I ever watched on T.V. were gymnastics. My mom told me I would break my leg tumbling and never be able to dance again, so I never got to try handsprings and all that cool stuff.

In April, my partner La Quinn and I were asked to perform with Daft Concept at an event. Daft Concept, directed by Amanda Drawdy (a former international ballerina with more than twenty years of performing experience), is a hot and high-powered dance performance company. La Quinn and I were excited about the opportunity. I met Amanda’s boyfriend—and other half of my favorite power couple—Andrew Burnell, someone I had known of for a while, but had yet to meet in person.

“I’m so sad I missed your tumbling workshop at Dancefx a month or two ago,” I told Andrew after he introduced himself. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to tumble.”

“I can teach you,” Andrew said. Which is how I ended up spending an afternoon with him and three of his advanced tumblers at Only Imagine in Goose Creek.

These eleven-year-old girls kicked my ass. Without thinking twice, they would run into a series of aerials, handsprings, and God knows what else.

I stuck with cartwheels.

After my introductory session, I was hooked. I signed up to train one-on-one with Andrew twice a week, and little did I know that tumbling training would equal all kinds of adventures like…well, let me just illustrate a few of my favorites.

When you and I go to a playground, we see a playground. Metal bars. Swings. Slides. Fun stuff.

When Andrew Burnell goes to a playground, it suddenly becomes the set of American Ninja Warrior.

Instead of sitting in a swing to enjoy a swing set, YOU become the swing and have to swing from bar to bar.

A picnic table stops being a shady spot to enjoy a glass of lemonade after some hardcore playing. It becomes a surface on which to do handstands and off of which to cartwheel.

The railing surrounding the playground is not meant to keep children from wandering into the street. It is a surface over which to vault yourself. Multiple times. I am not so successful at that part and have bruises all over my legs and arms to prove just how many times I haven’t exactly made it over the railing.

Andrew, who I believe to be a reincarnation of Mr. T or Samuel L. Jackson, peppers training sessions with fun axioms like “The danger is real, but fear is a choice,” and “Treat a child like a child, and he will remain such. Treat a child like a warrior, and one day, he will become a warrior.”

I can’t get away with much when I train with Andrew. I get this a lot:

“Georgia. That was terrible. Ten push-ups and do it again.”

It sounds crazy that I pay this man to yell at me and force me to do terrifying and painful things, like jumping off of high surfaces and doing backbends with 25 pound weights on my shins, but it feels good.

Like I’m really accomplishing something. We’ve been training together for more than two months now, and I can see a huge difference. I’m stronger. I’m more fearless. I feel tougher. Even though we’re only at the very beginning basics of tumbling (cartwheels, forward and back rolls, handstands, walkovers), I can tell I’m building a strong foundation and one day will be able to, like Andrew, effortlessly flip off of a picnic table.

Until that day though, I’ll stick with forward rolls on the ground.

Me, post an Andrew Burnell workout.

Me, post an Andrew Burnell workout.

Andrew Burnell started tumbling when he was 6 years old and since then, has trained with gymnasts, cheerleaders, acrobats and street performers. He is a former high-level tumbler who has been performing professionally as an acrobat for three years. He is the director of acrobatics at Only Imagine dance studio, lead acrobat and stunt coordinator of the supercrew Daft Concept, and the tumbling instructor for Summerville Dance Academy. Burnell is also a personal trainer and owns a company called Rebound that provides health related services from nutrition to personal training. He is also trained in Parkour and free running and is in the process of writing three novels.

He is always available for privates and personal training sessions, and can be found on Instagram @SoFarSoFly or on Facebook.

Winthrop’s Pearls

14 Aug

This is a “#TBT” post that I want to include in another book of essays that’s in the early stages of development, “Escape From the Ballet Farm, and other stories of an occasional ballerina.”

I own three nice pieces of jewelry.

A diamond set in gold on a delicate gold chain, a gift from my Oma. A necklace from Tiffany’s that I bought myself as an almost graduation gift/congratulations on your new job before I started working for Insight Cuba.
And a pair of pearl earrings on gold posts that, while I’ve lost the original backs, I still keep safely stored in the box in which they were given to me.

In high school, I danced for four years in the Mobile Ballet Company. The artistic director, Winthrop Corey, gives his graduating high school girls pearl earrings as a gift at the end of their senior year. I have no idea when or how the tradition began, but I just remember the moment—during my final bow with Mobile Ballet.

The group of girls that I graduated with from the ballet was tight knit. Although most of us went to different schools, we had become close through the hours we spent in classes and rehearsals. Though it sounds like the sappy conclusion to a cheesy dance movie, I think we really did get over the petty jealousies and competitive cattiness that prevents so many dancers in companies from ever really being friends.

I’m not sure at which point in our sophomore or junior years of high school that we all recognized our strengths— that a certain one of us was always going to get one type of role, while another would always get a different one, and it was better to just be cool about it than get upset. Once we figured that out, we could all be friends. We could all hang out together outside of class and rehearsal. (Yes, a few of us went to see the “Twilight” movie on opening night and ran, actually screaming, into the theater. I can’t say I’m proud).

There were five of us—Caroline, Margot, Shannon, Natalie, and myself—and our honorary sixth, Blair, who, while a year below us in school, was undoubtedly a member of our group.

This is a picture of a picture, obviously.  Back row: Natalie, Shannon, Margot, Caroline. Front row: Me, Blair.

This is a picture of a picture, obviously.
Back row: Natalie, Shannon, Margot, Caroline.
Front row: Me, Blair.

We were Nutcracker snowflakes together, Giselle wilis, La Bayadere shades, white swans, brides of Dracula, and peasant people. Endless, endless gaggles of cheerful, poorly pantomiming peasant people.

Margot, second from left, me second from right, and Natalie far right. Why are peasants wearing taffeta? I never got that.

Margot, second from left, me second from right, and Natalie far right.
Why are peasants wearing taffeta? I never got that.

I think dancing in a company, particularly in a ballet company, is like being in the Marines. You are bonded for life by sharing an extremely grueling, and at times, painful, experience. Bloody feet, ruptured blisters, bursitis, shin splints, general achiness—yep, we had it all.

The last piece we danced together was the “Grand Pas De Quatre” for the Mobile Ballet School’s annual showcase. If you’re not familiar with ballet, the “Grand Pas De Quatre” is one of those legendary and storied pieces that I believe is now performed as a satire on diva-tude. It was created for four giants of ballet in the Romantic era—Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito, and Lucille Grahn.

Supposedly, it was full of snide cat-fighting and the divas all trying to one-up each other—whether by wearing prettier pearls on stage or performing the most virtuosic steps.

It seemed a fitting way for us to go. The version of the piece that Mr. Corey set on us wasn’t as silly or exaggerated as some stagings that I’ve seen, but he explained the story to us and we had a chance to act really, really snobby and prissy onstage. Margot, Shannon, Caroline, and I danced the roles of the respective divas, and Natalie had a chance to shine in an adorable pas de trois that was old timey beach themed (by an early 20th century British choreographer, can’t remember who!).

At the end of the showcase, we all wore white tutus and went onstage to take our last bow. Mr. Corey strode out of the stage right wing, as he always did, and handed us each our pearls, wrapped in tissue paper and a plastic bag, with a note on his embossed stationary.

I don’t remember if we cried, I’m sure we did. I’m sure we had that moment where we actually felt like those Romantic-era divas, being showered with applause and jewels.

Now, every time I wear my pearls, I’m reminded somehow of Mobile Ballet. It was my reason for getting out of bed every day in tenth grade. I was so miserable in school, so unhappy with everything, that I couldn’t wait to hop in the Prius with my mom and make the 50-minute drive to the studio for class and rehearsals. I would sob on the way home from the studio, dreading another day in high school hell. Looking back, I’m sure that’s pretty typical behavior for a 14-year-old girl, but it was dramatic at the time.

My last Nutcracker with Mobile Ballet. Caroline is far left, Blair is third from left, Margot is the lady in the middle, Shannon is in pink, and I'm there second from right. The dude, Bobbie, actually WAS a marine. He always drew on abs with eye shadow and eyeliner, which entertained us to no end.

My last Nutcracker with Mobile Ballet. Caroline is far left, Blair is third from left, Margot is the lady in the middle, Shannon is in pink, and I’m there second from right. The dude, Bobbie, actually WAS a marine. He always drew on abs with eye shadow and eyeliner, which entertained us to no end.

Wearing the pearls reminds me of how my mom amazingly drove me every day to class and rehearsals, spending an hour and a half in transit four or five days a week, occupying herself while I took class. She was incredible and I can never thank her enough for the sacrifice of her time to get me to the ballet.

I’ll wear the pearls for days at a time, reflecting on a big decision I made my junior year: to go to boarding school at the Alabama School of Math and Science so that I could be only 15 minutes away from ballet, rather than 50. I didn’t have my drivers license, so a few days a week, I would ride with transportation that the school arranged, other days a family friend, Chris, who was in college in the area, would pick me up and drive me to and from class. I would sink into the plushy seats of his rattling Monte Carlo and he’d chauffer me to class. Afterward, we would go to Smoothie King, where we had a bizarre ritual of sniffing a large container of what appeared to be horse pills, but were really “natural supplements,” that were sitting on the counter. He would bust into Smoothie King, loudly announcing that he was my sister’s friend and that he wasn’t a pervert or kidnapper. Nobody ever seemed concerned that he was in the first place though.

My pearls make me think of my favorite ballet teacher, Syndey Adams, a talented and energetic woman who took my solid training and technique and turned it into dancing, turned me into a smart and capable dancer who would get compliments from teachers all over the country (and even in Cuba) about my ability to learn and retain combinations. I think of other teachers, Zoe, Kimberly, Paige, Anne, Lori—women who corrected me, supported me, and some of whom are still friends today.

Mobile Ballet was my home for several years. Like all homes, I know there were flaws and that our family, made up of humans too, wasn’t perfect. But while I was there, it was a place for me to learn and grow, to be a part of something bigger than myself, and hell—they even gave me a pair of pearl earrings to remember it all by.

Steve the Exterminator

11 Apr

    A vital component of living in Downtown Charleston is adequate and regular pest control. Otherwise, your living space will be overrun with “palmetto bugs” and other less-than-savory visitors.

            This morning was our scheduled quarterly fumigation, and Steve the Exterminator visited our apartment at 8 am. In Nike running shorts and, what I later realized, a backward t-shirt, I greeted Steve and chatted with him while he went about his work and I made the transition from zombie to human being with my morning caffeine hit.

            I’m pretty sure I had a brush with genius in talking to Steve.

            For starters, believe it or not, pest control guys make a pretty decent living. He said he can make anywhere from $500 to $2,000 in a days work, since he does a lot of commercial accounts, like office buildings and restaurants, and has a good reputation.

            But more interesting than the economics of pest control were Steve’s comments about how he occupies his brain.

            “I was watching that Enterprise show and they did that cloaking thing, and I was thinking about how you could do that with your clothes,” he said, as he stood against the mantlepiece. “You’d just need some clothes that had some fiber optics that could blend in with the background.”

            True Steve, that’s one way to do it. I’m pretty sure the US military already has something like that in operation.

            He said he likes to do math in his spare time, and will occasionally call up a brother-in-law if he gets caught up on a complicated physics equation.

            “That guy is like Sheldon from that Bang T.V. show my wife likes to walk,” he told me, “He’s still sour because I beat him in chess a few weeks ago. He said it was like a fifth-grader beating a college professor.”

            Probably my favorite part of our exchange was him talking about how he studies the bugs themselves.

            “I’ve got a pile of books about insects and microbes and all that stuff. My wife calls my pile of books the command center.”

            I just imagined Steve, a little taller than me with salt-and-pepper hair, in a wing-backed chair plotting his attack against household pests. It was like a real-life Ender’s Game. Him trying to get inside the Buggers’ heads so he could defeat them and defend humankind from certain xenocide. Getting inside the enemy’s head so he could completely annihilate it.

            Steve also spent a good deal of our conversation trying to convince me to get into pest control, because the money is good and having a college degree doesn’t really mean anything in this day and age. I have been considering a bit of a career transition, and I’m sure Steve would be willing to mentor me in commercial bug extermination…

Mambo Dinamico dancers have GREAT hair

4 Apr

One of my favorite Southeastern Latin dance groups is Mambo Dinamico, under the direction of Norberto “Betto” Herrera, based in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

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Where a lot of Latin dance performance groups are technically brilliant, they tend to do the same type of routines with the same type of music and more or less identical costumes. Mambo Dinamico combines fantastic dancers with creative and interesting choreography for something that is, well, dynamic.

When I told him how much I loved his choreography, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh well, you know, we get bored.”

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I met Betto in 2010 at the Hotlanta Salsa Congress, my first Salsa congress EVER, and have subsequently run into him at other Southeastern congresses over the years. When I attended the Charlotte Salsa Invitational in February, I took a body movement workshop with him and his partner Adriana Dwyer, where they clearly and concisely broke down a series of body isolations. I found out that both of them were “actual” teachers outside of being dance teachers and was curious about how being a dance teacher and schoolteacher paralleled.

Betto has thirteen years of teaching dance under his belt, and is in his second year as a schoolteacher.

In the studio and in the classroom, it’s all about engagement.

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“Stick to the curriculum and keep [it] fun and entertaining. Give more attention to those who need it, and challenges to those that are more advanced,” says Betto.

He doesn’t crack dirty jokes with his first graders the way he does with his dance students, but otherwise, his teaching style is the same across both avenues.

“I try to explain things like they are first graders during my dance lessons. It helps people understand and feel the movement better, one piece at a time,” he says.

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Adriana, a lifelong dancer, is in her third year of teaching elementary Spanish and soon to be in her fifth year of teaching dance.

For her, the similarities between teaching dance and teaching school are how the lessons are structured.

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“Lessons [are structured] in a way that doesn’t make your student jump from one level of knowledge to another. For example, you couldn’t teach a back handspring without first teaching them how to do a “bridge,” she points out.

Whether she’s teaching a cha-cha or a conjugation, it’s all about teaching something that is relevant and targeted to the student’s age group in an effort to reach everyone.

Adriana and Betto both bring dance into their classrooms at every chance, whether it’s making them actually get up and move or exposing them to different styles of dance and cultures. Where were these two when I was in elementary school?!

ImageAll photos of Adrian and Betto courtesy of Betto Herrera.

 

 

Salsa Family Vacation!

4 Apr

Every few months, I have the good fortune to attend a Salsa congress (nope, I’m not an elected representative). Last weekend, a caravan from Charleston (Salseros of Charleston and friends) embarked to enjoy the Greenville Salsa Congresito in Greenville, S.C.

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Salsa family at the hotel! Photo courtesy of Yaenette Dixon, Salseros of Charleston.

In an effort to save money, I went for the Saturday social only, but I had the same amount of fun that I had going whole hog at Orlando Salsa Congress, Hotlanta Salsa Congress, and the Charlotte Salsa Invitational.

 

Me and BFFL Rebekah. Salsa brought us together!

Me and BFFL Rebekah. Salsa brought us together!

“But Georgia,” you ask, “How is that possible? Usually you dance a minimum of fifteen hours throughout the course of a congress weekend, and yet you only danced three or four during this congress.”

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Lolo and Mario, two close members of my Salsa family. Photo courtesy of Yaenette Dixon, Salseros of Charleston.

Well friends, my answer to that is that this go round, instead of boogying full-time, I spent most of the weekend just hanging out and catching up with my Salsa friends.

The funny thing about Salsa is that even though you’re interacting with people non-stop during a social or when you’re out dancing, you’re not always talking. You aren’t catching up even though you’re socializing.

Photo courtesy of Yaenette Dixon, Salseros of Charleston.

Photo courtesy of Yaenette Dixon, Salseros of Charleston.

Salsa brings together a mix of people who often would otherwise have no reason to speak to each other. Our group included a preschool teacher, Navy officers, a research assistant, and a pilot. It was therapeutic to have an opportunity to just hang out and talk with these friends, some whom I’ve known for years, others for just a few short months, but all who I count to be dear friends.

The morning after…Best part about this Congress hotel? Free breakfast, free drinks. Photo courtesy of Yaenette Dixon, Salseros of Charleston.

The morning after…Best part about this Congress hotel? Free breakfast, free drinks. Photo courtesy of Yaenette Dixon, Salseros of Charleston.

It was a Salsa Family Vacation! The only thing we didn’t do was get a good Christmas card picture…

“Pain demands to be felt” : An homage to my grandmother

27 Mar

March 23, 2014

“Pain demands to be felt.”

This quote from one of my favorite books, John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” has been playing on a loop in my head all weekend.

I’ve spent the entire weekend with my grandmother (known by us as Oma) and her pain is demanding to be felt in a way that I’ve never seen in her, or in anybody else.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about eight years ago, and underwent successful treatment that gave her five or six good years. About two years ago, her cancer came back, but at her age (she’s nearly 84), another round of chemo didn’t make any sense.

In the last few months, all she has been experiencing is pain. Her treatments now are designed solely to ease the pain and make the next few…weeks? months? days? more comfortable.

Her pain is demanding to be felt though. Yesterday, my mom and I had been out running errands and when we came in, she was doubled over in her chair, sobbing and saying that the pain was so much she didn’t think she could handle it.

Pain demands to be felt.

My grandmother is an extremely tough lady. She was born in 1930, and weathered the Great Depression in Mackenzie, Ala. I know she’s not a wimp—I’ll never forget the story she told me about what dental care was like in her childhood (I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say a half-foot long rusty needle was involved).

She lost her husband nearly 20 years ago and has seen friends and family pass on too. To see her acknowledging that pain means that it must be truly unbearable.

Yesterday afternoon, it was a seventy-something-degree spring day, and I pulled out some folding chairs and she and I sat and watched the estate sale going on across the street. Oma’s neighbor, a feisty lady probably also in her 80s, came by to check on my Oma and visit. Another neighbor from down the road ambled up, telling us about her flower picking and pressing project, visiting for a few minutes and wishing my grandmother the best. The grandson of the across-the-street neighbor walked over too, to visit and give Oma his best.

My grandmother has always been one of the sweetest, most generous, big-hearted people that I know. She’s been a loyal supporter of all kinds of charities—the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, Birmingham community organizations, her church, probably more than I know.

 She’s always had a wide-reaching network of friends—her chicken foot group, her Friendship Force group, her church and Sunday school friends, neighbors, people she grew up with and, of course, a big family.

While I was there this weekend, she received calls every hour or so from someone in that network, saying hello, checking on her, giving back a little piece of the love that she’s given so easily over the years.

I know I’m young and I will inevitably experience saying good-bye to someone who is dying again, but leaving Birmingham this morning was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not sure if I said the right thing or enough and scared that I’ve left something important unsaid.

That pain also demands to be felt.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is that, sentimental and trite as it sounds, if you love someone, spend time with that person and let them know how much you love them. I’m lucky I got to spend a long weekend with my grandmother and tell her how much I love her. I can only hope and pray that I get another one, but if I don’t, at least I took advantage of the time I had. Our time is short, and it’s really the only thing we have, so spend it well.