We were all settling into our "soon to be adult" lives and it was fun, for the most part.
She refused to get pregnant until I did because she wanted to know the "truth" about how it all really worked. Under the most extraordinary circumstances, I got pregnant. Then, the pressure was on her. We had our kids 6 weeks apart.
About 5-ish years later, she got a sinus infection which was unusual because I was the one in the group with sinus problems having moved here from Florida. Different plants growing here and the pollution and dryness and all.
She continued with this sinus infection despite many visits to her doctor and lots of medication. I told her that my doctor treated my sinus infections with a course of antibiotics and if it wasn't resolved, he did a scan to see what was going on. Her doctor didn't. I asked her to see my doctor. Nope. I'll be fine.
Several months later, I stopped by her home one morning and she was sitting on the sofa questioning why I was wearing jeans. It was Sunday. I wasn't at work. As I tried to have a conversation with her, she was evasive and "off". She kept dabbing at her eye. I took her wrist and moved her hand away from her eye and saw that it had turned inward completely. She failed a mental status exam. She didn't know the day, the year, the name of the President and even basic information about me.
I gave her two options, call 911 or she could get in my car and I'd take her to the hospital. Her parents had her son for the day because she was feeling especially poorly. She didn't get into my car willingly. We ended up at the ER. She was screaming and cursing and I had a bleeding lip. Security showed up fast.
I identified myself, gave them my license and explained to the ER doctor about my concerns. She was so wild that she had to be restrained. She calmed down later and apologized and asked me why my lip was "hurt". I lied. She had no idea where she was. Turned out she had a whopping infection and multiple polyps in her sinuses. Surgery scheduled for the next day.
I went to the hospital after work. As I approached her room, her parents started screaming at me, blaming me for taking her to the hospital and blaming me for her sinus cancer diagnosis. Both professional people, usually rational, but not now. How could they be? They needed to blame someone and I was the "designated blamee".
I was the Catcher's Mitt. I was the person who was catching all of the anger, angst, terror and the entire range of emotions that I hope I never experience.
I wanted to help. I wanted the truth. She died a bit more than a year later at the age of 37 leaving behind her 7 year old boy. Sinus cancer. Who could have ever even imagined such a thing. Turns out that the actress Sandy Duncan lost her eye to it and Gary Busey had it, but recovered.
After I gave her eulogy which was poignantly hilarious, in part, because she was the only person I have ever known to have a locksmith on retainer and in part because I took off my shoes to deliver it, we buried her and I haven't been back to see her. She lives in my heart and mind and I prefer to tell funny stories about her.
What about you? I've been your Catcher's Mitt. Let me tell you now because I never told you...
Your sister will call me because you can't tell husband how afraid you are and the pain you're in and then, he'll yell at me and to "stay out of it". Catcher's Mitt.
You call me from the emergency room because the cancer has spread to your spine and you heard something "pop" and you can't feel your legs and when I arrive, your brother is there and yells at me to go home and "mind your own business". Catcher's Mitt.
Oh sure, your kids will scream at me because I "knew" before they "knew" only because you wanted to try our your speech on me first. Catcher's Mitt.
I go with you to the doctor because I've seen symptoms and I've gotten the phone calls that you've forgotten and he needs to know so we can develop a plan. But, when you go into the hospital, I can't see you because "You're not family". Catcher's Mitt.
Your boyfriend just broke up with you. Dad and I told you it would end like this, so of course, it's our fault. Catcher's Mitts.
I saw "that" look in your eyes asking me to "say something". When I do, you grow angrier and angrier and tell me to "stop being a shrink" and to "Stop looking for problems". But you'll call me later and ask me to meet you at Starbucks. I go because I'm the Catcher's Mitt.
You call me and tell me about the receipt for lingerie and a hotel room in your husband's pants pocket and ask me what I think. I tell you what I think. That's why you called me first. Our friends call me after you've called all of them and they told you to forget it. They leave me nasty messages and tell me to "keep your nose out of it". Catcher's Mitt.
The catcher is the person willing to crouch down, stay out of sight and be the target for the pitch. Willing to take a broken bat to the face, if necessary. Throw off the mask and catch that foul tip. Get right up close to the fans who boo or cheer. It depends.
The great thing about the catcher is that they're willing. So was I. So am I because I'm the Catcher's Mitt.
Just do the best you can, Claudia
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