Back surgeon Dr Chou was happy with my X-rays which show a stable spine and screws. Dr Rugo said the weird numbness in my lip and left chin are some kind of neuralgia/neuropathy. Last night was the first time I e experienced severe pain rather than just the annoyance of the numbing. Her take is that it could be associated with the xgeva so we will take a break on that and also use the ct scan on the 13th to delve deeper. She doesn’t think it is any new cancer. Phew! Blood work looks good and stable. Fingers crossed for bone scans and b the 6th and ct scans on the 13th.
Many friends had asked about my absence on the blog. It was a combination of the glorious unwinding escape of summer and ignoring my technology as well as some more active writing of a book. So while this is still in early days mode and needs heavy proofing and development, here is a teaser of what will likely be the first chapter of “Unexplored Paths”. I hope to get a proposal in front of some editors later this fall. I have 10 loose chapters written, some lighter, some heavier, but my goal is to give you a great beach read for 2017. Here goes…
Rewind lyrics by Kerry kick off the book
do we get to do it all again
Is it really Deja vu
If I let go will I come back again
Come back again to all of you
What.. if we could rewind?
Set the clock back in time
Get hours back, life on every track.
What if we could rewind?
Live it all one more time
Cast bold shadows, love the highs and lows
And Mountain lion surveilles the scene.
Watches sunrise across the peaks
She Looks boldly up into my eyes.
Says give it all another try.
What if we could rewind
Set the clock back in time
Say that witty line, pick stocks just in time.
What if we could rewind
Live it all one more time
What paths could we explore? Why are we always wanting more?
But every turn took us here
No mistakes, no lesson wasted
Every experience tasted
What if we could rewind?
So I stop the rewind in my mind.
Say thanks for all behind me
All that made life what it is today.
All that is evil, all that is kind.
What if we could rewind
Set the clock back in time
body clean, body strong
body healthy, nothing wrong.
What do f we could rewind
Live it all one more time
Cast bold shadows
Love the highs and lows
But every turn took us here
No mistakes no lesson wasted
Silver lining in all the chaos
What if we could rewind?
Childhood in London. Summers in the American West. Phillips Exeter Academy. Stanford and Stanford in Paris. Goldman Sachs in LA, NY, London, and HK. A type A path both self driven and pushed by fabulous but type A parents. No questions asked, eyes on the prize assuming that the prize was money, Managing Director or even better Partner, and a spot in the 1%. Difficult as a man, 10x more so as a woman. 3:45a wake ups, work hard/play hard, intense learning, intellectual stimulation volatile markets and people, wonderful clients, horrid egotistical clients, jetsetting, sleep deprivation. The dot com boom and bust, Long Term Capital and the Asian crisis, the commodity super cycle and crash, the mortgage crisis and the Great Recession. Bonuses up and down 50%. Every year the clock wound back to zero. Earn your keep. Work harder, smarter, faster, better. A fabulous husband from the Marine Corps. 2 beautiful kids. A dog. A home. The best of friends and kind parents. Breast cancer at 36: chemo, bald, taken to the brink and back again. Back to the grind. Managing Director. “Success”. Awesome boards. A band. Metastatic cancer into the spine at the 5 year mark. A full, crazy life. A good life. A life well lived. But WHAT IF after the 3 yr analyst program at GS I had called it a night and taken a new path. What paths could we explore?
Path 1: Paris
Breathless with anticipation I exit the plane waiting to catch my first glimpse of him in months and to take my first step into Paris. Ours had been a tumultuous and passionate long distance romance, but now we would be spoiled with 8 weeks together. Sure we were living with his dear grandparents, but we would have ample freedom. I stride out of baggage claim with a loose hip and twinkling eyes, and after a quick scan of the crowd I spot him and my heart leaps. He still has the ability to turn me into a giddy mess. Dashing Francois with his blue green eyes, Calvin Klein underwear model body, and perfect features swept me into his arms. How all encompassing is young love when you just can’t get enough of one another, when you read each others souls without a word. A fine start to this path.
We would unwrap our entwined arms and legs to greet the day. Outside the window the sounds of the riverboats and ducks on the Seine, an open curtain revealing the regal homes across the river in Ile St Louis. A tea of fresh mint, a delicate pot of lovely full fat yogurt from a Brittany farm, fraises des bois, petite, red, and juicy as berries should be. A simple but calming start to each day. In my low heels I navigated Quai aux Fleurs and found my way to the lock encrusted Pont des Arts, on through the Louvre and past its timeless glass pyramids. I crossed bustling Rue de Rivoli and took in each meticulously designed and beckoning window on Faubourg St Honore. Shoes of every height, sky high sculpted meringues, fine silk squares, skimpy lingerie, the finest fur coats. As I turned the corner the tall column in Place Vendome bade me good morning and I peeked into Buccellati with its ornate gold works of art before opening the door to Chaumet. If I were to keep walking I would see Van Cleef&Arpels, Cartier, Mikimoto, the Ritz. The luxury jeweler, Chaumet, was my kind employer, and I sold to the Americans, English, Swiss, Japanese and some French. In the morning the store was quiet, fragrant, sparkling. I gently polished the rows of gleaming rose gold rings, the glamorous sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, and dreamed of holding my own designs someday.
My French was just fluent enough to earn the respect of the other women, and I was invited to tour the mysterious upper floors and the workshops. Besides being more elegant, the workshop hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. This is fine artisanal work from true artists. Facing Place Vendome on the 2nd floor through many thick doors is the VIP room where Saudi Royalty and Russian princesses debate a 20 carat diamond, a multi-layered choker 50 shades of emerald, an age old tiara, chandelier earrings dripping with sapphires. I gasped silently, regaining my cool as I stood tall to meet the President of the company. Would I like to design or manage? Or perhaps both if I could find a quiet atelier in the 6th rather than the grandeur of Place Vendome. One can dream.
Francois and I took in Versailles and its grandiose gardens on a sunny Sunday, the Musee D’Orsay with its impressionists, sculptures, and magnifent views across the Tuileries to Sacre Coeur. Our birthday present was a blow out lunch at the refined Tour d’Argent. We dressed to the nines and strolled down the quai de la tournelle to the imposing wrought iron doors of this ancient institution of fine dining. Despite our age, they sat us with a full view of Notre Dame and began to ply us with dish after dish of amuses buches too pretty to eat. One an asparagus foam over a delicate mousse spotted with edible flowers, a taste of spring. Thick spears of asparagus, a flaky turbot with a mild sauce of fresh parsley and basil, the creamiest of mashed potatoes, a cleansing grapefruit sorbet, and everything about chocolate for dessert with the richness offset with air light meringues. We reveled in our closeness and daydreamed about a future that could or could not be. Pretty young things. We walked off our 2 hr lunch until we fell back into each others arms in a sweaty tangle. Crepes along Rue St Andre des Arts on a rainy day, cliched kissing along the banks of the Seine on a warm summer night during the Jazz festival, licking luscious sorbet from Berthillon, an impossibly delicious roasted pineapple with basil. At work I learned to read the picky clients, the big spenders, the elegant older women, the young money. From the other saleswomen I learned how to wear my clothes, tie up my hair in a chignon, win over a skeptical customer. During the mandated lunch hour I grab a baguette with some smooth pate, find an empty bench by the fountain in the Tuileries and sketch my visions of beautiful but more accessible jewelry.
2 years later
The cruel alarm blares, the red lights reading 3:45am greet me. If I stop to think I will never get up, so I throw the covers back, take a deep breath, and move through a morning routine at warp speed. Ice cold water forces my eyes open. Moisturizer, eyeliner, mascara, a swipe of lipstick, a quick brush of teeth and hair. Young skin doesn’t need cover up- time saver! I down a glass of water, throw on a suit and heels. Bed to car in 12 minutes. Bed to trading desk in 27 minutes. Every extra minute of sleep Sacred. Given our 4:30am start time, few salespeople leap at the opportunity to host a 5pm videoconference. At 23, that task fell firmly into my lap, but for once it would be worth it for the meeting was being led by Ralph Lauren for his ipo. I adored fashion from a young age. Growing up in London, Princess Diana was the ultimate IT girl, and I followed her wardrobe vigilantly cutting out articles, drawing her outfits in a special notebook. I loved window shopping Kensington High Street, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Benetton. Portobello market for ethnic finds as I got older. Carnegie Street for a bit of punk. Adoring Mom as she tried on looks at the luxurious Catherine Walker who dressed young Diana. The costume section at the Victoria &Albert museum was a small temple to fashion. How fascinating to see how women adorned and transformed themselves through the ages, how they made statements through skirt lengths, ornate hats, and of course art worthy shoes. My first big purchase with allowance: Guess overalls. A winning look. I enjoyed the ever changing stock market, the interplay of economics, politics, psychology, but i especially enjoyed the stories and personalities behind the stocks. Retail stocks were particularly fun to follow and invest in because they were so tangible. You start noticing a brand in magazines, on billboards, at parties (eventually online!) and you see trends explode and implode. And then there are the enduring, iconic brands like Ralph Lauren. Built from the ground up, an epic American story. And so what would have felt like punishment to some was like candy to me for hosting the late meeting meant meeting one of my fashion icons. At 5’9 in heels I towered over the diminutive but absurdly elegant Mr Lauren. He was surprisingly nervous about presenting to investors, and I had the rare opportunity of calming down this otherwise larger than life personality. We chatted about his kids and his current line, so that his jitters faded by the time the screen lit up. He gave me his card and that of their CFO when I shook his hand and wished him luck with the offering. I protected that card as if it were pure gold. Who knew when it might come into play.
Hong Kong shoppers put most others to shame. Shopping there is a professional sport and luxury goods the ultimate status symbol. Conspicuous consumption at its best. Petite women totter around in their 5 inch heels through the crowded streets of Central, a figure fitting Chanel suit, a bank breaking Kelly bag in their perfectly manicured hand. A fun offset to the blue suits of our trading floor. On weekends I would peruse the gleaming shopping malls, but ultimately return home a bit glum as I realized the limitations of my budget. I knew fashion wouldn’t pay like Wall Street, but I was hungry for fashion and began to think about how I could pursue that path. Hiking to The Peak helped offset hangovers. It was there, recovering after a particularly raucous evening of Jell-O shots at Al’s in Lan Kwai Fong, that I realized it was time for a change. As soon as I got home to my tiny apartment I dug up the business cards from the Ralph Lauren IPO and began to fire off emails with my resume, a reminder of our first meeting, and my aspiration to work for them in any capacity. I stumbled distractedly through my job for the next week until I heard back from the esteemed Ralph Lauren himself inviting me to come join their operations in NY. Because I was already in China, they wanted me to visit some of their factories and stores in Asia too to get a better understanding of the overall business.
Knowing that I only had 3 months left in Hong Kong and on Wall Street I lived it up and took full advantage of the travel opportunities. One friend was moving back to London and to celebrate his HK chapter, 20 of us would decamp to Vietnam for the weekend. I was turning in a giant project for the partners about potential expansion in Asia and made it to the gate only at a full sprint just before the doors closed. I was surprised to see 4 of the partners sitting in first class on our plane! We laughed and they handed me a flute of champagne as I made my way back to coach where my friends had already tucked into their beers.
Hanoi is a stunning city blessed with French colonial architecture, a lovely lake, kind people,and exceptional food. I was surprised to be welcomed as an American and humbled by the warmth of the locals. The impressionist art was just taking off here and we spent hours exploring the burgeoning galleries filled with vibrant oil paintings inspired by Hanoi and nature. I found charcoal drawings, delicate watercolors, and then a 5×6 ft painting of the lake with a moody weeping willow framing it and blossom trees exploding with color. This would move with me to every home from here out. Over a raucous dinner, I spot a table of Marines. I gasp as I realize that I actually know one of them from prep school and he is even more handsome than I remember with a square cut jaw and muscles to spare. With liquid confidence no thanks to a scorpion bowl, I saunter over and pray that he recognizes me while I introduce myself. He plays it cool, but his warm smile gives away his own reaction. Our evening runs full through the morning and we wish each other well not imagining our paths may well cross again.
12 years later
An understated cat eye, the perfect blue toned red lipstick, a funky Isabel Marant dress, show stopping orange platform sandals from Hermes with leather vines. Francois is a lovely memory, my best teacher but ultimately impossible to please. I will forever love our time together withy so many laughs, endless physical joy, and well matched taste and humor, but I could never be French enough for him. Yet look at me now, and after struggling through years of internships, rejections, disappointments, I’m on the cusp of opening my own boutique on Rue de Seine in the 6th. Through a stroke of fate I call home a jewel box of an apartment on Ile St Louis. I made my wildest dreams come true by dreaming big, taking risks, making each leap. My Dad always thought I would follow his footsteps to Wall Street, but after 3 grueling years in the investment banking rat race, I broke the chains of expectations and leapt toward my creative calling. A dear older friend owned a new artisanal perfumerie emanating heavenly herbal scents and centered around a miniature greenhouse. She alerted me when the ancient tenant next door finally retired. I jumped on the lease and set about transforming an old pharmacy into my dream store with my own jewelry, an edited wardrobe, and eye catching finds from my travels. Thanks to its pharmacy roots the room is clean, but musty and an uninviting shade of lavender with granny wallpaper accents. It is time to peel the layers back to its original glory. Blue is my calm color so I start with a sapphire blue entry door and coat the scraped floorboards in the same vibrant shade. A pale eggshell blue lightens the walls and a sparkling chandelier and antique mirrors from the flea market adds a touch of glamour. I keep a wall of original drawers for handy storage and then use a magnificent glass front armoire to show off the core collection. An oriental rug softens one corner with a gorgeous velvet couch in midnight blue with embroidered blue and white cushions. Crisp white highlights the artistic molding. I learned a trick from the finest hotels to pump in a soothing scent to set the scene. Blessed with my skilled Parfumier neighbor, I settled on a citrus and herbal fragrance, subtle but entrancing. Had I had to delve into much structural change this would have become a comedy of errors and a test to my temper, but it was mostly cosmetic. Several satisfying weeks of rolling up my sleeves and then blissfully scouring the flea markets allowed me to pull off an unexpectedly fun new look.
I sourced remarkable materials and stones for my own designs as well as unique curated pieces from Marrakech, India, and Myanmar. My banking years in HK paid off with some enduring relationships across Asia. Needless to say, this also provided a fabulous motivation for travel as inspiration! And I continue to find inspiration for my jewelry and clothing designs everywhere from a walk in the park, an exhibit at the D’Orsay or Musee des arts Decoratifs, textiles from the glamorous townhouse musee jacquemart Andre, to the pages of House Beautiful and nature everywhere. I suppose what spurred me to truly pursue this was the moment where I found I was dreaming of designs. Dreams with elaborate fabrics and colors, a poignant dream of regal eagle earrings. I loved the idea of having a capsule fashion collection with just a few fabulously fitting basics surrounded by fabulous but affordable jewelry, a few functionally chic purses, and of course a few “make my day” shoes. I wouldn’t have to chase the runway, but rather could help women navigate with go to pieces and accessories, and only once in awhile a token hit of the season.
Led by the dream, my first design was the eagle earring. Picture an eagle perched on a branch, lifting its wings, and pausing to harness its strength as it prepares to hunt. I worked it in gold, silver, and also in a more basic yet still convincing acrylic with color and it took off. Women loved the emblem of sleek power and poise. That extended easily into a collection of feather, feather inspired, and turquoise earrings. Bringing a bit of my big West love to Paris!
If you were to walk into the boutique right now you would be able to find the most flattering white pants around with double layering to hide every flaw and a soft flare. Sleek black cigarette pants, a curve hugging leopard pencil skirt, and a structured LBD. A navy v neck in the softest cashmere blend, a crisp white fitted collarless blouse, a streamlined tank top offered in white, black, and navy that is as good alone as underneath everything. A cargo jacket, all season suede booties, and a rocking pair of red ankle strap heels which tread sexy not skanky! Against these basics the feathers and the vibrant Indian and Moroccan inspired earrings, chokers, and thick bracelets pop. At any given time you might be drawn to bold turquoise, emerald greens, deep red corals. I don’t do too many rings, but I like to keep a few statement rings with a single big semi precious or funky lesser known stones. Cocktail rather than engagement rings. All designed to flex from boho chic to spicing up an otherwise stark work look. And to complete the look I always keep a few of my favorite pieces of make up: Sara Happ’s Lip Slip, the perfect red lipstick respectively for a brunette, blonde, and redhead, smooth Marc Jacobs eyeliner and a precise black Cat eye pen. Laura Mercier’s Illuminating tinted moisturizer, and Benefit’s Rocker blush and They’re Real mascara. 3 elegant small bags to pack that face into.
Sometimes during my travels whether to the aforementioned countries or Santa Fe, or far flung Laos and Vietnam, I will pick up textiles, scarves, and other statement pieces that inspire me. I scour the flea markets wherever I am, and estate sales lure me in for the precious find. I love a bargain or a value, and I love giving new life to old treasures. Most of the furniture and mirrors live in the store, but when I can squeeze in the larger treasures to sell I do, particularly if I have a specific customer in mind.
I think back to navigating the commute in LA traffic and smile as I stroll the 10 beautiful blocks home to Ile St Louis. On the way up Rue de Seine I might grab a slab of Cosi’s luscious bread hot out of the oven, splashed with olive oil, heat preserved in a mitt of foil. I admire the colorful fabrics at Pierre Frey and the old maps in an antique store. I savor the smells of fresh crepes along Rue St Andre des Arts and pause in the petite garden next to an ancient church just before I reach the Seine. Each day I notice some new gargoyle or carving on the majestic Notre Dame and wonder how many hands slaved to create that masterpiece. I give a friendly glance to the lovely apartment that housed me my junior summer before crossing the bridge to the little island that manages to be both tourist haven and in inner courtyards and small rooftop decks a personal haven in the heart of this bustling city. I’ve always admired the extensive variety of grand doors in Paris. Lacquered every color from pale to midnight blue, forest green, fire engine red. Ours is the pale, moody grey of the river with sculpted flowers and a giant brass knocker. I pinch myself as the heavy door closes behind me and I breathe in the herbal fragrance of the cool, quiet courtyard that leads to the apartments. Most days I take the stairs, but today I’m grateful for the little elevator that whisks me to the top floor as I’m laden with bags from the market on Boulevard St Germain. The apartment glows with late afternoon light, the ceiling sparkles with the flowing reflection of the Seine, a marvelous illusion gifted by our location and white lacquered ceilings. Our apartment is small but has everything we need, and the great gift is the precious outdoor patio. My Paris paradise. We benefited from the painstaking renovations of the fabulous gay couple who lived here before. They endured the headaches of permits and delays that eventually added French doors to this garden terrace and privileged us with a sleek new kitchen and hotel like bathroom. Worth every bit of the premium paid! I snip some fresh mint and boil a pot of fresh herbal tea to enjoy outside. I kick off my shoes, grab a shawl, and pad across the terrace to the comfy couch that lives uncovered during these summer months, a nest of fluffy ikat pillows. Alternating planters and blue and white China pots overflow with rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, and a lemon and lime tree. Hardy, low water, fragrant, and a fine source of cocktail ingredients. Moroccan lanterns painted bright red accent the corners. And a tiny turquoise table with cafe chairs hosts us for morning tea and coffee. Inside is an efficient and cozy space accented by wonderful original molding and well worn parquet floors. The galley kitchen uses height to its advantage with storage to the ceiling and then a streamlined cooking space with carrera marble counters offset by pale blue cabinetry and a farmhouse sink. The living room boasts floor to ceiling book shelves, a lovely original fireplace, warm oriental rugs, and deep red lacquered paint all around. A Chinese armoire serves as bar and desk and innovative storage behind grand doors. The dining room is graced with a pale green De Gournay wallpaper alive with peacocks and trees, the perfect backdrop for my flea market finds. With the rise of modern furniture, classic antiques can often be found for a steal. I updated the formal chairs with a green ostrich vinyl which sounds tacky and looks divine. The powder room is minuscule but antiqued mirror wallpaper gives the illusion of space and melds with a stunning chinoiserie mirror and an orchid. Our bathroom was hotel inspired and combines a rainfall shower into a sink your cares away bath. Simple white tile and marble, oversized antique mirrors, and a privacy giving window box filled with rosemary. The bedroom is just big enough for our queen bed, a bench, an armoire and our chest of drawers which serve as side tables. Deep blue walls, blue and white toile accents, and crisp white bedding. A 5’x6′ photo of a giant Sequoia hold us to our American roots and give the impression of a window. When I turn my head in the morning, the first thing I see is Notre Dame. Ever astonishing in its grandeur and detail.
I learned from Francois’ grandparents always to keep the pantry stocked with good nuts, salty chips, and the fridge with terrine of foie gras, Veuve, green olives, and Chateau d’Yquem for spontaneous guests. The former look hotel elegant when served in silver bowls.
I learned the streets and parks of Paris over jogs. Jardin du Luxembourg. Jardin des Plantes. Bois du Boulogne. Parc Monceau. The banks of the Seine charming at first and then ruined with the smell of urine and less appealing with ankle turning cobblestones. The Champs Elysee usually amok with tourists, but a treat in the early morning without a soul, and the base of the Eiffel Tower a breathtaking sight at that same hour. At first people laughed at me in my spandex and long ponytail, but over the years fitness has caught on more. Yoga and Pilates have found their way over, happily for me, and I find myself now walking more than running. All those Wall Street wake ups secured my early bird status, and the pay off in this late waking city is that I get the streets to myself. Just me and the bakers and grocers and florists. The intoxicating smell of fresh croissants and baguettes make me swoon at each turn. I throw a few euros in my pocket on my dawn strolls to take advantage of first dibs on pale pink peonies and a flaky croissant.
What really put the boutique on the map was a pure luck visit from the elegant Angelina Jolie who had lost all her luggage and who restocked entirely for her trip with me. She had made note of the store on a recent trip up from Provence when she had discovered my friend’s parfumerie next door. I welcomed her warmly without jaw dropping and we laughed at the incompetence of the airlines. Fortunately Brad was not with her or I would have made a royal ass of myself. I offered to close the store for her privacy and let her browse and gather. She is magnificently beautiful and delicate, yet strong. I applauded her philanthropic work and asked if she might have some ideas about smart sourcing where I could benefit women directly. I tried almost entirely to remove the middle man and work directly with women run businesses. This was something Goldman Sachs had been wonderfully helpful with given their global initiative 10,000 Women and then 10,000 Small Businesses. In those an individual is given $20k and an 8 wk training program and mentoring in order to graduate college, land a job, or start or improve a business. It has proven highly effective and is truly global in its reach. So from day 1 I could have an impact even as a small business myself. Angelina had recently wrapped some work in Cambodia and wanted to circle back with some ideas there. She looked good in everything of course, but she was happiest in the cigarette pants with an emerald green embroidered thong sandal and the crisp white shirt layered with the cargo jacket. She took 1 of every style scarf in stock, as well as my cosabella lingerie collection, and was delighted to fill her new suitcase without having to deal with any crowds or crazy fans. Thanks to her kind words to friends and colleagues this sort of private shopping episode became a rather fabulous source of business. And fun to boot! For in the calm cocoon of the boutique with its warm light and flattering old mirrors people found themselves entirely at ease. I’m not one to flatter aimlessly. I want people to look and feel their best. Sexy, strong, powerful, confident, elegant. No one ever returned anything, because no one left with anything that looked less than flawless. Shortly thereafter I was surprised by none other than Princess Kate. Now as a kid I obsessed over Diana’s wardrobe and filled entire notebooks drawing her dresses. So I have been a happy fan of Kate, and lucky for me the boutique fit nicely into her desire to shop within a reasonable budget with lots of accessories to allow her to repeat outfits. She is picture perfect and brings a sense of humor and a hearty laugh. One of her friends had stealthily booked the boutique for the evening and asked for rose, nibbles, and fun music. Easy to deliver, but little did I know what that would bring! Kate loved the mix of boho and sleek, and was excited to find many pieces that would suit her visits to Asia. While blessed with access to the royal jewels(!) she was still drawn to my pieces and particularly liked a choker with my original eagle and some multi gold feather earrings, rose, white, and yellow gold paper thin feathers that clink gently against one another. What happens in the atelier stays in the atelier, and clients appreciated my discretion. They happily and gracefully spread the word so that I didn’t have to. I was thrilled when the epitome of French chic ,Ines de la Fressange, added me to the update of her little red book on Paris. Although she has her own boutique, our aesthetics are very different so she was thrilled with the find and happy to give it publicity.
I have found much joy in Paris, but I have shed many tears on grey days in this city. Sometimes I will come across a bench which I sat on at 20 in the dark bleak winter, heartsick and homesick. The joy of long distance is the passionate reunions and the independence, the obvious negative being the heart wrenching goodbyes. And with age I have realized that the biggest negative by far was the endless pining away for someone rather than being utterly in the moment. The tiny park at the tip of Ile de la Cite caught many of my tears in that time, its weeping willow perfectly echoing my sad posture. Rather pathetic really! But I had fallen hard and felt as if I was missing a limb when I was away from him. Certainly I seized the day with travel each weekend, jumping on student opera seats for a steal to see the great Placido Domingo, attending every possible exhibit at the museums, and working hard on my giant history paper on Louis XIV, but my heart was far away. Paris is beautiful in every weather, but it brings its share of bone chilling gloomy days. I wish I had known the soothing practice of meditation in my younger years. Now when I find myself angst ridden or restless, mindlessly busying myself to avoid facing something, I literally drop to the floor and just breathe for a few minutes. I kneel, close my eyes, and breathe until my breathing slows to a calm pace. Sometimes there is a clear answer. Sometimes it is just the pause that clears the air. And with that the knowing that it will pass. That everything passes, even the hardest, saddest, most devastating loss.
I folded the last cashmere sweater and was tallying up the results of the day in my boutique when the phone rang. I answered breezily, but snapped to when I heard my Mom’s calm but shattered voice telling me that Dad had just had a hemorrhagic stroke which wiped out his entire left side. What? What? I lunged toward the couch as my legs started to give way. My heart breaking. My parents had visited recently and my fit father had walked 8 miles each day taking in the city. He was 62 and vibrant. How could this possibly be? Thanks to my mom’s swift action he had made it to the hospital in time to save his life. The bleeding in his brain ceased, but only after it had broken all the connections to his left side. His speech was muddled but coherent. I booked the first available flight to San Francisco, called my brother, and then collapsed into the pillows on the couch and sobbed until I had exhausted my tears. Devastated. I walked home in a daze, numb to the people around me. My husband wrapped me into his arms wordlessly, fed me tea, and rubbed my temples until I fell into a deep sleep.
My brother picks me up at the airport and speeds down to Carmel as I talk through tears. How strange to see your parents vulnerable. How frightening to realize how quickly your world can change.
To be continued……