One day, Phyllis came to work quite disturbed about her rodent friends. It seems one of the rats had taken to seriously grooming the other rat and was doing this grooming act with such vigor, she was making bald spots on the other rodent! And more importantly, the *groomed* rat didn't seem to mind...as a matter of fact, it appeared as if the balding rat ENCOURAGED the other rat's affections and seemed quite content with the process. Phyllis sought counsel with her local RAT GURU to try to determine if the grooming process was harming the becoming-hairless rat.
It seems this vigorous grooming technique (or so she was told) was actually quite harmless (albeit a disturbingly disgusting image if one allows themselves to picture a balding rat!) and was a display of affection in the rodent world. Phyllis decided the grooming rat was simply loving the other rat bald and announced this hypothesis one day amidst an explosion of laughter by her peers.
Phyllis became ill not long after her "lovin' ya bald" theory and, within only a matter of months, she died.
Since Phyllis' passing, I have on occasion told this rat story to others, paying homage to her humorous outlook on life...she was a dynamic character in her own right who "loved the world bald" in her interactions with those around her. I have even developed this saying into a phrase with another friend...instead of using the 3-word, "I love you", which can be somewhat intimidating and intense among friends, we say, "I'm lovin' you bald" to each other as a light-hearted way of conveying our affection for one another.
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SO, why all this talk about rodents and past friends and quirky affection? Well, the CHEESE just found out this week that another dear friend has been diagnosed with a very serious illness and thoughts of Phyllis have been swirling around in my head as well as ideas of mortality. It seems lately, every time I turn around, someone I feel close to is being hit with life-changing news that spins them around and alters their course. I've been experiencing my own grief over THEIR losses, which has caused me to examine so many things in my own life.
My latest friend to receive grave health news is also an incredible and dynamic person, who is loved by many. He is someone who has always been able to make me laugh, is a dedicated and persistent colleague, and someone who makes others want to be a better person just by his own example. And, he is now very ill...something I have never known him to be in his vibrant self.
I spoke to him very briefly tonight by phone, stumbling for words to express the turmoil, support, love, fear, and loss I feel for him...there were simply no words I could find to say all that I wanted to say in a time when words really mean very little anyway...a time when no action or words are enough to relieve the sense of helplessness I feel...a time when even saying those three words, "I love you", somehow seem embarrassing or trite. I feel a sense of guilt and remorse over not knowing if I have truly conveyed my affection for my friend before now? I worry I have not taken the times or the opportunities BEFORE this crisis to plant these seeds of love so that he would already KNOW it exists without my having to say so.
I know my friend sometimes reads this blog. I am hoping when he feels a bit better, he might return here and read this post. But there is really only ONE thing I truly wish to convey if he does:
I'm lovin' you bald, R.S.