Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I Feel Pretty
Today, my friend Debra is being removed from life support. It may have already happened. Yesterday when I got home from work after attending John's memorial service, I had a phone message waiting.
"I have an update on Debra," the voice said. "Here's my cell number. Call me."
"I would have called you sooner," the voice said. "We thought she was doing better. We thought she was going back to work in March."
Debra was my hair stylist. I have been seeing her every eight weeks since 1992. I have followed her through three salons. After I moved to Prescott, I still made the 90 mile drive back to Phoenix every eight weeks to see her.
I didn't do this just because she was an awesome stylist. I did this because she was my friend.
When I moved back to Phoenix from Tucson after college, I was even more lost than when I left. I returned to my safe friends from "before" my dad died. I found a job that paid $725/month. I rented an apartment in the city I swore I'd never live in again. But I stayed in that city for 15 years.
I've never liked my hair. It's straight and fine. My face is round and squishy. I wanted big fluffy 80s hair. I wanted long hair down to my knees that was silky and wavy. But I didn't get that. To compensate, I colored it all kinds of colors -- from jet black to platinum blonde. I spiked it. Permed it. Twisted it. Hated it.
And then I found Debra. She also had straight fine hair. She was hilarious. She told everyone where to go and what to do and they loved her for it. She and her husband had been together since they were in high school. He still stopped by work to say he loved her. They still had one day a week that was just for them. They raised three daughters who have gone on to have children of their own.
Deb loved what she did. She loved hair. She brought in books with new styles. She tried out new products. Every time I went to see her, her hair was a different color. She had tattoos up and down her arms. She gave me a big hug every time I showed up and every time I left. She managed the salon and everyone knew it. She had a moral compass that was always solid.
Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She recovered.
Another stylist at her salon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Deb went to see her every day. She brought her food. Did her nails. Painted her toes. Washed her hair. That stylist died in late November.
In December, Deb was diagnosed with lung cancer. She began radiation and chemo and steroids. She was getting better. She was going back to work. On Thursday, she wasn't feeling right, so her husband took her to the hospital. The cancer had spread to her brain. By Saturday, it had doubled in her brain. She could not speak. Then she stopped breathing. They put her on life support until her family could come in. Last night they all arrived. Today, they let her go.
I remember the last hug. "See you in January, darlin'," she said. "Be careful driving back up the hill. Say hi to your mom and Keith for me."
"See you soon," I said.
Deb made me feel pretty. No matter what was happening. She was ecstatic when I met Keith and wanted to meet him herself. Last summer, Keith came down with me for my appointment to say hello. Deb believed in love. She believed in loyalty. She believed in me.
Until soon, Deb. Fare well. Thank you for making me feel pretty.