Thursday, October 11, 2007

Angel on my shoulder - Part I

I truly believe everyone has a guardian angel. Someone who watches over us, sending us common sense when we are lacking, or added wisdom when we are unsure. I always think of that tiny voice inside my brain which guides me as my guardian angel. If I was to guess who our guardian angels are, I would suppose that my cousin Meg is mine, my cousin Patty's daughter, Alexis, is Kat's and although I'm unsure about Adam, I hope it is my dad. A psychic (yes, I love psychics,have met a variety of them, and truly believe in an afterlife and spirits) once told me that my father loved to watch what Jr. was up to. When I questioned who Jr. was, he said that Jr. was my son. The psychic stated, "your father calls him Jr. because your father's name is to the side." Mr. Psychic wasn't told by me that Adam's middle name, Joseph, is after my dad. So, I guess Daddy is watching over Adam.

I am actually in search of a tattoo to represent our guardian angels. Considering the permanence of a tattoo, it has taken me forever to decide on the tattoo of choice. Anyone who knows me, knows that it takes me a year to pick out the perfect bedspread, or paint color, so something as permanent as a tattoo needs years of consideration. I decided we all need an angel on our shoulder (actually, my friend Dara suggested it one day), so that is what I would get. An angel tattooed on my left shoulder. I found one that was absolutely gorgeous, but she was quite long, it would be more of an angel on my back - not the subtlety I am looking for. Regardless, whatever angel is tattooed on my shoulder, our guardian angels' initials will be tattooed as well.

On my mom’s side of the family, I have two cousins with whom I have always been extremely close: Meg and Patty. Patty's mom was my mom's oldest sister. Meg's mom was my mom's youngest sister. Being sister-less myself, Meg and Patty were the sisters I never had. Patty lived closer – an hour away. Meg lived on the East coast her whole life. Patty 20 months younger; Meg 20 months older and me sandwiched in between. Oddly, Patty and Meg rarely saw each other. Family dynamics always intrigue me.

Meg's name came from her initials, Margaret Eleanor Goss - M.E.G. When we were 7 & 8, our first of only two arguments was due to the fact that I told Meg that her name was actually her initials. She already knew that fact, but didn't want to admit it and she definitely didn't need me to remind her. She was quite crabby about the subject. I always liked the idea of initials spelling a name. Although Kat's real name is Katrina, I always liked the fact that her initials were K.A.T. as well. My nickname of MAC also came from my initials. Adam wasn't as lucky with the initial thing, although his friends do call him AJ.

Meg always cracked me up. She was extremely practical on most subjects. She didn't like giving pink to baby girls because she didn't want them stereotyped. She was also one of the few people I know who could never keep a beat. Meg consistently clapped or tapped her foot off beat. It was impossible for me to comprehend, but that was pure Meg. Another Megism was licking a lemon lollipop with a glass of water nearby. She would dip her sucker into the water because she swore it made the flavor last longer. I have tried it once or twice in my life. She wasn't really wrong. But since I tend to crunch lollipops, they never last too long to be baptised.

Meg and I were both intelligent (book smart), but when it came to people, we weren't quite as bright and extremely naive. Although she lived on the East Coast and I in the Midwest, we kept in touch and always knew what the other one was up to. My aunt and uncle usually rented a house in Michigan every summer, so my mom and I visited them whenever possible.

I always had to report to Gramma O'Shea as to what Meg was doing; teasing Meg about her being the favorite. (That was our second argument.) It's not that Gram never cared about what Patty and her siblings, or what Mike, Mark and I were up to, but mention Meg and you would be chatting with Gram O'Sh forever. Actually, in fairness, she rarely saw Meg or the rest of the Goss family, or our cousins out in San Francisco. Gram saw us all the time. The novelty of us had worn off a long time prior.

After college, I floundered a bit in a variety of jobs and relationships, met my ex-husband, married, started working for the theatre, had two children and subsequently divorced him. When I told Meg about my divorce she sent me a practical book on divorce. It was so Meg. I never had the heart to tell her that I didn't read the book, although it probably would have helped. With the kids so young and working long hours at the theatre, reading any book seemed impossible.

After Meg graduated from U Mass, she went on to law school at Georgetown School of Law and became an attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission, had a few unsuccessful relationships and was told around her 37th birthday that she had 9 months to live.

Meg had a rare form of cervical cancer. At the time (and it's been a few years since I thought about this so my facts may be a little off), there were only 54 known cases in the world. As far as I know, there still isn't a cure. I have the name of the cancer written down somewhere – I think in my cedar chest. Most likely, the cancer developed due to a disease Meg had her whole life called Peutz Jaeger disease. Peutz Jaeger is genetic in which polyps form in your intestines and oddly you develop freckles on your lips. For whatever reason there seems to be a higher correlation between Peutz Jaeger and this specific cervical cancer. Her mother also had Peutz Jaeger and tragically died at 29 while delivering twins. My aunt and the twins were buried together. Considering the heartbreaking death of my aunt, as well as the fact that Meg was ill the majority of her life, I always understood why Gramma O’Shea was interested in Meg and why she was (forgive me, Meg) the “favorite”.

When Meg was given the facts of her disease, she chose quality of life over quantity; researching the disease and having medical journals translated from all around the world. She was determined to know as much about the disease as possible. She flew to the Mayo clinic and to Sloan-Kettering. She met with many doctors, but the prognosis was the same. Ultimately, nothing she unearthed from 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions, or her medical journals would save her. So, she took some friends to a spa in Arizona for a week.

At the time I truly didn't understand the quality over quantity angle. I was angry that she was "giving up". Pure selfishness on my part. It took a long time for me to understand her reasoning. I wanted her around as long as possible. I didn't want her to leave. Understandably, Meg wanted to be able to enjoy the time she had left. I wanted to fly out to DC to see her one more time. She asked me not to and I honored that wish. One of the hardest things I ever did. Still, never quite understanding why, although my guess is that she didn't want to say goodbye.

Our last conversation was around Christmas of '97. Knowing she would not be well enough to put up a Christmas tree, we sent her a small one already trimmed with ornaments. I called to wish her a Merry Christmas although the irony of that statement did not go undetected by either of us. It made the initial part of our conversation a little tense. We talked for a bit about how she was feeling. By that time, she had round the clock care. The tumor was so large it was pressing on her stomach and she couldn't eat. Her friends were staying with her in shifts. She argued with her doctors until they agreed to let her go home. She wanted her last days to be at home, not in a hospital. One doctor even laughed and said he was glad he was meeting her on his turf rather than a court room because he had never met someone so tenacious.

Meg wanted to know what was going on in my life. She didn't want to talk about her illness any longer. So, I told her about Kat and Adam (who were 2 and 5 at the time). I also told her about the musical we were producing at the theatre, "Elmer Gantry". After I told her the story line of the musical, Meg said, "[Elmer Gantry] sounds like the kind of guy, I'd date and you'd marry." Damn, she was right! Any tension over my stupid "Merry Christmas" comment dissolved. We started to laugh. Then laugh so hard we cried. Then really cried. As memorable as the conversation was, I didn't realize when we hung up it would be our last.

I'll never forget that remark. I now think of Meg as my dating guardian angel. When I meet someone, I wonder if he is the type Meg and I were inclined to date many years ago. Fortunately, my taste improved over time. In fairness, most men are not Elmer Gantry types, but there are still a few out there and, dang, I can "Where's Waldo" them in a stadium filled with decent honest guys.

There have been times when she has been on a celestial coffee break as I proceed to do irreparable damage to relationships. Occasionally, I wish she would give me an angelic swift kick upside my head, but generally during those circumstances I probably wouldn't listen unless she materialized in front of me, wings and all, lemon lollipop and water in hand, and offered practical Meg advice. It's not that her guardian angel duties are lacking, it's more that my common sense at times is seriously slacking.

Long ago, Meg and I were Elmer Gantry magnets. Now, her statement is with me. When I meet someone, I really think about what Meg would say. Is he the type she would date and I would marry, or is he a kind, honest guy? With Meg sitting on my shoulder I can't go wrong.

As for Kat's guardian angel, Alexis, I'll write about her soon.

In memory of Meg Goss, March 14, 1960 - January 12, 1998

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