Almost every time I speak, something happens that I think, “Ah, that is the reason I was here today.” I mean, it is always a rush to connect with an audience, and it is an honor to hear people’s personal stories. But sometimes there is a wow moment..
Last weekend, I had another one of those moments. I had a small part moderating in a medical conference. I had my books out on the registration table and tried to be there during breaks, etc.. A woman who looked familiar approached me and asked if I remembered her.
Turns out, she worked with Gilda’s Club, which is a support service center for patients with cancer and their families. (It was started by Gilda Radner.) The summer that Tim was sick, Frankie was just seven. Miss Kathy held a week-long day camp for kids that either had cancer, or had family members that suffered from it. Frankie went every day.
I remember at the end of the week they had a presentation where the kids showed their projects, read their writing, etc.. I was told quietly that there was a young man in his early 20s who worked with the kids and that Frankie literally grabbed on to. He stuck to him like glue. I have a picture of him holding Frankie, and Frankie had a death grip hug on him. I told them that made perfect sense. Frankie was (and still is) ridiculously close to his brother Colin, who was close to the same age as the young man. Plus, well, he was losing his father.
Whenever I think of those events, I get overwhelmed with emotions. Frankie was so so little back then. He acts so well-adjusted (and still does) that sometimes I forget just how hard losing his father was on him. Him clutching that man was a sign of the quiet desperation that was probably inside him. “I need a male in my life. Don’t leave me too.” I heard it loud and clear.
With the hundreds of kids these people see every year, I can’t tell you what it did to my heart to have Miss Kathy come up seven years later and ask about Frankie by name. She said that picture went around the office between them for quite a while. She wanted to know how he was doing now. I couldn’t grab my phone fast enough to show her his hockey pictures. Then there was the picture I took in September that I snapped and then looked at it in shock. Where did my little boy go? It is obvious he is a young man now and it was happening right before my eyes without my fully noticing. I told her with pride how he has a 96 average in 8th grade while taking three advanced classes.
She was so happy to hear. She promised to tell the guy she works with. I was happy to know they are both doing the work they are so gifted at. And I knew. Seeing her was why I was there that day. What a tremendous, moving gift. No wonder my family has fared this situation as well as they have. We were surrounded with people like them, who remember us in detail after all these years.