I met Barry when I was just coming off my divorce. Handsome, intelligent and competent Barry was an emergency room Doc from an Ivy League school. He has “Clooneyesque” features with deep brown eyes and a full head of hair. Barry can recite the phone book and his voice just drips with sensuality. He is so hot he makes most women’s brains sweat. Every Emergency room Doctor and Nurse he has worked with have fallen deeply in love with him. He can seduce a woman without thinking about it. He is one of those rare humans who emits some type of chemical that just makes others drawn to him. I know not why.
I met him while working a rescue operation. I was his supervisor on a mission in Malaysia while he was the Medic. I took a hard look at him and reported to my supervisor that ” I cannot supervise this guy he is just too hot:”. My supervisor called me back and said, “You are the supervising commander and you will supervise him and by the way he is gay”.
Surely not from looking at him could one tell he is gay? Barry oozes heterosexuality and sex appeal. While several years older than Beckham he has a set of abs to die for. He has a full head of lush brown hair that never grays from decade to decade and a face so sweet I can barely contain myself when I kiss him hello and goodbye.
Eventually, after three missions together the luster wore off. I saw him puke and he saw me puke. We both held our noses every time we came near one another in hot days in NOLA when we had no showers or washing facilities. Finally we became “sure enough” siblings when we critiqued one another endlessly. Whether it were a professional or personal item we simply ran each other into the ground.
I went home to New York after NOLA and he returned to Boston where he met Lynn. Lynn is probably the most efficient and most compassionate trauma nurse I have ever met. He played college football after winning a scholarship to a southern school. His family disowned him when he “came out” but by then my buddy Barry was in love with him. Whereas Barry is so fashionable and so sophisticated, Lynn is a scruffy kind a guy. I like visiting them because Lynn will not give me a hard time if don’t have a manicure and will smoke Marlboros non stop while we sit on the patio and talk deep into the night. Every time we do this Barry comes down to the kitchen and pads around in his plush slippers and hisses about us. It makes us laugh. It makes us laugh very hard.
I found out two days before my 50th birthday that I had breast cancer. I should not have been surprised, in fact I was waiting for it. Both sides of my family have the right set of genes for that to happen but I was scared and upset none the less. I had just moved, only a few months before away from my NYC home and I felt vulnerable and alone. My parents had long been dead. My ex husband remarried. I was alone save my little dog Albee and I was not sure what I should do or be.
When my surgery came I put Albee in a kennel and hired a taxi to take me to and from the hospital. I never told Barry or any of my friends what was happening. On my third day after surgery I went back to work. I nearly passed out from the pain but I had to do what I had to do.
I later found out I was not “all clear” and on that Thanksgiving weekend I had a lymphectomy, which must be the most unforgiving and horrific surgery there is. Again I weathered this alone. I was afraid to tell anyone where I was and what was happening. I put Albee in a kennel and I got home fine and with a cooler full of apple juice and ginger ale, a bed pan and much hope I laid out for the duration.
I was so sick I wanted to die. I was weak and sad and feeling doomed and then Barry called and I rasped something chipper that I thought he wanted to hear and the next thing I knew the cops were breaking down my front door and Dr. Barry and Nurse Lynn were standing in my living room. I remember very little about that weekend but somehow I had become septic and had a raging infection. I woke up two days later in a hospital with Lynn looking at me intently. “How goes it Miss KittyKat?” he asked.
It was the first time we had ever met and he has been my best boy friend since.
Since then I have spent every holiday and major event with them at their beautiful Boston home. When I am awakened each Christmas morning, it is Lynn leaning over my “truly awfully decorated colonial New England” bed. He whispers into my ear “Get up girly girl. You make stuffing and I do not, wake up”. He is the man who changed me when I wet my bed and was in deep cancer therapy. He is the man who put his hand to my forehead when I wretched in pain and purge. Retching is nothing like vomiting at all. Retching is deep ugly permanent sounds that you make from the back of your hips to to the top of your lungs. It is hugely ugly and your body shakes and it swells and it shivers and then all manner of horrific stuff pours out of you and it smells foul and nasty and you cry just because it is so hard to bear it. I was humiliated by my cancer and he was unconditionally engaging. He would hold me and make me feel safe when I was unable to stop shaking. He would make very inappropriate and wild jokes about my eating too many lemon Popsicles and he made me adore him. He would wipe spit off my lips and so gently lay my head on the pillow that I would remember my mother’s touch. His compassion, his enormous strength and his love for me are the why and what of my survival. Some people walk or march for breast cancer, I just call Lynn and say thank you.
So it came one day that Barry decided they should get married. By then I was far past the worst of my treatment and doing pretty well. He called me and asked what I thought. After all he was about to “pop the question”: and because he and Lynn are just so different he wanted a therapist to weigh in on this and after all he had noticed Lynn and I got along very very well.
I did not respond at all to him. Instead I gave him the my best psycho analyst response I could “What do you think you should do?” and then I went to bed.
Four months later they married in the atrium of the Isabella Gardener Museum in Boston. On Barry’s side of the ceremony there were 200 fine people from Brookline, Oyster Bay and Tel Aviv. On Lynn’s side of the room were me, Marisol the ER social worker and Patty and Mary Kate from nursing school. We all dressed in bright Georgia Peach and we made a lot of noise to let Barry’s side of the family know we may not be large in numbers but we were so serious about this wedding. We made big noises indeed.
Yesterday my dog got sick. Now Albee is not any dog, he is my dog. My buddy, my partner, my baby. Albee and I have been to hell and back. We did rescue. We did cancer. We did homeless. We are exceedingly loyal and committed buddies who rely on one another all the time.
Albee got a new day care person who did not understand that Albee must be watched all the time or he will eat something bad, and he ate some poison that made him pretty sick. I called the Vet just after vomit sick and by the time the Vet arrived it was seizure sick. It was around seven when Barry called me, his nightly call, to discuss the Brian Williams NBC news.
I was quite calm (at least for me I was calm) and said, “Hey Albee is sick we are going to the emergency pet room, call me back later”?
Barry was just not fooled at all. This guy has worked front lines with me in Malaysia, New Orleans and Haiti and he turned to Lynn and said……………..”She is outta her mind”.
So within a very short time Lynn was there.
I was crying and sitting in a child’s chair in the waiting room of the animal hospital. I have lost a lot of weight since I broke my ankle three months ago and my clothes do not fit so well. I felt small and sad and I was trying to figure out what I should do about my dog. My best buddy. I was not thinking so well. I had given the dog nurse my pet insurance card and I was sniveling up Kleenex’s tucked in my sweat shirt when Lynn came in. He put his hand on my knees because they were knocking together a lot and I am sure, causing a ruckus.
He sat down across from me at the children’s table and I told him what had happened. “Okay Kittykat” he said and then he went down the hall to speak to the dog nurse again. When the Vet came out and told me nothing could be done and I would have to put my dog down, Lynn began pulling on my sweatshirt and dragging me out of the waiting room. “Let me give her a quick smoke”, he told the Vet, “let me just calm her down”.
Out on the sidewalk I began again, the same cancer purge I had healed from long ago. From somewhere deep and low in my back I began to swell and choke and cry and my chest lurched and I spewed air. I had nothing in my stomach because I had not eaten all day. I was dry heaving onto the parking lot while I choked down my Marlboro cigarette. I had not smoked in all these weeks either as I tried to heal my broken ankle. I had stopped eating and stopped smoking altogether.
I stumbled and he caught me and then he grabbed me and ever so gently shook my shoulders and shouted at me
“What are you going to do?”
and I was stunned, so I rag dolled it right down to the side walk and said
“Put him down. I have to put him down right?”
Now ya just know that the very thought of that little dog in pain is enough to send me right out of mind and straight to heck and back. But that just didn’t happen.
The next thing I knew we were back in the waiting room in perfect composure. Lynn was saying something to the Vet about giving Albee a mild sedative so we could take him home and allow him to die in his own bed. I was waving my VISA card at the dog nurse and mumbling something about Albee’s blankee and toy and how I would need them. Five and a half minutes later, Albee was tucked on Lynn’s lap in the back seat and I had the pedal to the metal as I flew down I -91 to NYC. By daybreak we were in midtown.
As we pulled up to the animal hospital Lynn shot out the door. He had been rocking Albee and singing to him all night. I raced down the block to find an open parking garage and paid 56 dollars for an hour of parking.
I lobbed and sprinted and hobbled into the emergency room and just as I made the door, Lynn grabbed the back of my pants (I know? How embarrassing?) and he shoved me right up to the front desk where the Vet said, “Yes Mrs. G we have had a quick look at Albee and we have his faxed records and if you can give us one day we think he will be okay. Mrs G, can you give us one day”?
So I said something like: “Fumblemoaness has beenitless”. and the Vet said “I take that as a yes”.
Just then Lynn’s cell phone rang. It was Barry. I do not know what Barry asked but I heard Lynn say “We are in the city and Albee is going to be okay”. and then “New York City”. LOL Lynn pulled the phone far away from his head while I heard Barry shout “Whatttttttttttttttt?”
I spent the day today with Albee. I held his paw and I talked to him. He has opened his eyes several times and he moves his ears when I say things that he likes. Around four this afternoon Lynn came in. He checked us into a five star hotel and thinks we should go to dinner. He had a plastic drug store bag in his hands and inside a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a pair of pink bikini panties, some soap and other nice things for a lady. He told me that we should head back to the hotel get something quick to eat and my get a shower. Then he would drop me back at the animal hospital for the night to spend with Albee.
What I meant to tell you Barry that night, a few years ago, when you called me and asked me if you should marry Lynn? I meant to tell you that if you did not, I would. I meant to say that I love him madly.
Postscript: I wanted to thank both emergency animal centers in Massachusetts and New York for the outstanding care they gave my pet dog. Their undadulterated respect and compassion toward me in the midst of my “meltdown” will not be forgotten or go unrewarded. I thank all from the very bottom of my heart. To my family, Barry and Lynn, there are simply never enough thank yous. I love you both. Albee too.