Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I just returned from spending the weekend with LeeAnne Wallace and her wonderful family. Many of you may have read Lee's post on the Yahoo group when she learned that she had cancer. She is an Art & Soul sister with a heart as big as a mountain.
Marian McBryde flew from Florida, I came from Oregon and we met at the San Jose airport before traveling on to visit LeeAnne. Well --- not really. I mean – we didn’t really meet at the airport. We were supposed to meet there -- at the Internet Café, by Starbucks. “After all”, I told Marian, “it’s a small airport….you can’t miss me.” I have flown into San Jose a zillion times. Small plane, no covered stairs on the jetway, tiny waiting areas. Piece of cake.
I come from a major metropolis -- sort of. Portland might not be MAJOR in some eyes, but we do have a professional basketball team. Our airport is nice -- and if I told someone to meet me at the Starbucks in the lobby, they would easily find their way. Doesn’t San Jose sound like a nice, small urban airport? You fly there to avoid the craziness at LA or San Francisco, right? So after waiting over an hour for Marian to appear, I began to worry that maybe the tropical storm had held up her flight. Of course, I managed to leave home without any phone numbers, but then, what’s to worry???? It’s a small airport.
I had dismissed the wheel chair dude so to attempt to walk from the café to an information area was a bit daunting. Fortunately, I must have looked pitiful and a business suit offered to help. He checked on Marians flight and graciously informed me that it had landed about 5 minutes earlier at Terminal A. Well – WHEW. She was just late – probably due to the weather. She would come walking by at any minute. 30 minutes later, I knew we had a problem. Can you guess???? Terminal A? I was in Terminal C. This little bitty airport has ‘parts’. You have to take a bus from terminal to terminal. Marian was waiting at the Starbucks in A. And waiting, and waiting – and beginning to worry. She didn’t have my cell number either --- are we good or what? But she did call LeeAnne, who called Marie who had my number.
By the time she got me on my cell, I was in a taxi on the way to our hotel -- where I could call home, regroup and find her. By the time we saw each other, we were laughing hysterically --- 2 small town women trying to find their way around the big city.
Lee insisted that we visit and meet her family that evening. Our main concern was to make certain that we did not interfere with any special family time and that we would not over tire her. She has completed her first round of chemo and the drugs are beginning to take their toll on her body.


The first person we saw as we drove up was a tall, gorgeous young woman wearing a “Fuck you, Cancer” t-shirt. It was Laurel, LeeAnne’s 16yr old daughter. She not only looks like her mother, she is just like her! Gracious, funny and sweet as can be.
LeeAnne has turned her garage into her studio -- and it is awesome! I took lots of notes for my own space. In San Jose, you can have the door open most year round, I guess. So here is this marvelous open air studio. Certainly not something that we can do in Oregon – and Marian said that it is too humid in Florida, so it was a special treat for both of us to play in this space.
LeeAnne’s husband, David, is quite the character. He kept us laughing with antidotes and played the piano while Marian and I attempted to sing. Her son Porter and his girlfriend Kitty, sat and visited with us – until more company appeared. We were honored to meet two of her dearest friends, Cindy and Helen.

Helen, Glenny, Lee, Laurel

Laurel, Helen, Marian, Glenny

Marian searching for paper in the incredible studio

With such an amazing support group surrounding her, I know that she will beat this. She told me that she wants to get “real sick – because that means the drugs are working”. I still marvel at her courage and fortitude. She has been receiving notes and gifts from Art and Soul sisters around the world. I think this is the most humbling thing of all for me -- knowing how special A&S has become and how many lives it has changed.
LeeAnne and David are planning to be with us in Portland in October. We are counting the days until we can be together again!

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