Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Friends Don't Let Friends Shoot Up Alone // On Being Sick in Palo Alto

Pratik was out of town at a conference last week. He offered to cancel due to my PICC line, but I insisted he keep his plans. I'm determined to do my own treatment, much as I hate it. I was really upset when I had to call him from work due to Faint Gate 2014, so I was insistent that he attend the conference as planned. (Plus, Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker. He loves the Clintons, and I couldn't let him miss that.) His work is important to him. I don't feel like I come in second to it, but I do know that his work/company/passion is equally as important to me. I'm ever the independent one- I'm not bothered by his long hours and attachment to technology. Something I appreciate about our relationship is that we both value not only our own independence, but we value each other's independence. We like to see each other thrive in our own interests (for lack of a better word. Hope this doesn't turn into the time I told him I liked to watch him "tinker" at the lab during his PhD studies...apparently not a great choice of phrase).

Due to The Fainting Incident, we asked our good friends C+E to be on standby in case of emergency. I was still confident that despite the incident, I could carry on doing treatment myself. However, I just wanted to make sure someone knew they might receive a "hey, I fainted" phone call.

Our friends went above and beyond--they called every day, provided me with dinner (and chocolate) twice, and even let me shoot up at their house in the dining room window in full view of the neighborhood. Friends don't let friends shoot up alone.  They really went out of their way to check in on me. Really, I shouldn't be surprised...it's the kind of people they are. They aren't satisfied with a simple phone call to make sure you're not unconscious on the floor. They want to know you're alive AND well. They want to make sure you've got a meal and that you're in good health. I don't often "take the help", but I'm trying to do so before I corner myself into another situation. If there's anyone that can make you feel at ease about accepting help, it would be C+E.

What I love most about them (always have) is their tongue-in-cheek attitude about Palo Alto. They were the first permanent residents of this town that I got to know well, and they completely acknowledge and embrace PA's wackiness. When I first moved here, I felt out of place. (When you're living in an apartment a mile away from the home of Steve Jobs and parking your 1999 vehicle next to a Maserati, it's impossible to ignore how surreal the situation is.) Ironic, because I never felt like I fit in in my own hometown. I fled to California because I'd always felt it was where I'd belong. In moving to Palo Alto, however, I quickly began to feel out of place again. I wasn't quite sure how I'd traversed my life to get from rural Michigan to here but I was certain that, despite being well-traveled, I had "fraud" written all over my face and that this writing was only visible to Palo Alto's elite. The feeling wasn't totally based on our own socioeconomics. It was more that blatant wealth combined with being a hub for some of the world's greatest innovators has created a culture more foreign to me than any I'd ever experienced abroad.

Because of C+E's acknowledgement of the "surreal life" of Palo Alto, I began to realize that not everyone lives in the bubble. I loved the way they described raising their kids here, avoiding the entitlement pitfalls that come with the territory of one's high school being adjacent to Stanford campus. I loved the way they embraced who their kids really are and didn't make them fit into the same Silicon Valley mould many parents here seem intent on shaping their kids with. I loved their hilarious tales about how their neighborhood has evolved over the years, and most of all I love that they flat out say: this town is weird. And they don't just stop at saying it: E details Palo Alto's wackiest news stories and police blotter blurbs in their yearly family newsletter. I credit them with helping me feel at home here. It seems that this is a place for my brand of weird, too.

There's more to the Silicon Valley than being the epicenter for the shit you see on the news...there's the rest of us that have to live in its wake. We think it's effed up, too. Yesterday I was passed by a Ferrari. While it may never cease to be surreal seeing such a thing of material beauty up close, I was at peace with it. I may be accustomed to doing the passing (after all, you can overtake a John Deere in pretty much anything with a gas pedal), but I was at peace with letting the Ferrari get ahead of me. Because my 2011 Mini Cooper and I live here, too.

California has been so good for my health. I kiss the ground of the land of the fruit and nuts because not only is it thawed (everyday!), it doesn't pose a threat to me as I walk. I no longer have shooting pains in my leg from the cold air and a tensed gait as I ease my way across the ice. Even though I dreamed of ending up here, I am still bewildered that it came true. Bewildered, but eternally grateful. The weather lets me maintain my independence. I may feel like I belong here because I elbowed my way in, but my legs are all the more appreciative that I did.

And after all, no matter where you live, there's always something screwy going on to judge the neighbors for. Am I right? And we all take turns being that neighbor...sometimes we're that neighbor with the Ferrari, and sometimes we're that neighbor in her pajamas teetering on a cane while trying to pick up dog crap in a plastic bag as IV tubes dangle out from under her PJ sleeve...

Thank you, C+E, for always being such great friends to us. Thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty last week. Thank you for making us feel at home here and for being like family. My experience here has been enriched because of the two of you. Thank you for being, as it was put, "the nice family".

And above all, thanks for the chocolate when all I expected was triage!

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