So I’m 9 years old and I’m staring at two invitations. They are for the same day at the same time for two things I had to go to. But because life is messy and complicated, and not a Disney Channel Original Movie, I wasn’t going to make it to both and have an orchestral symphony swell as I pulled up to the second, understanding who I was and what I wanted in life. No, at nine years old, I would have to decide between my best friend’s birthday and my hero’s funeral. Talk about an early life crisis. I puzzled over the life question for ages.
And at nine years old, I decided ice skating and balloons was less important than going to the woman who taught me to read’s funeral. Because Carol was not some hero that I admired from a distance. She was the woman who put up with my temper tantrums and my tears and complaints about leaving after school activities and hating her and everything in her office. She was the woman who took all that and taught me how to read and write in the most loving way possible. She sounded out words with me. Had the patience of a saint.
And she was gone. She died of lung cancer right as she seemed to be turning the corner. And there in the newspaper announcing her death was a picture of me at 5 years old smiling standing next to her. I had to go.
On the other hand, my best friend and I had been planning the birthday party for months. Ice skating was the dream birthday party and we had booked the rink on a weekend that all our closest friends could make it. Except me. Who chose a funeral over a birthday party.