Over the phone she tells me about the news that the top part of her ear will be unceremoniously removed to slice out the cancer trying so hard to hide itself there.
“I told the doctor that I’m through with less aggressive measures. Just cut the ear, I said.” Conviction.
“Will they do reconstructive surgery so you don’t look like Tyson’s victim?” I plead.
“I’m through with surgery. I figure I’ll just get a new pixie haircut to cover my ear.” She laughs that laugh, fearless and funny, a life of Karate Kid-style “attitude is everything” humor. We joke about how she needs a punch card for the hospital entitling her to a free surgery.
As we talk the windows of my home are drawn wide open and the black dog and the little boy seem restless with the fever of spring. A clump of little kids arrives at the door and together they ring the doorbell multiple times to punctuate their presence. I answer and watch five kids spill into my home without invitation. I love the Communist culture of the cul-de-sac. They shove a greasy paper towel full of cookies into my hand and begin to bark questions about Kiwi and her current locale.
"Where is Kiwi?" asks one.
"I like Kiwi," says another.
"I like Kiwi, too," chants the third.
"But I like Kiwi the fruit," says the fourth. The black dog bellows behind the backyard screen as if receiving an insult. Together they form one organic tumbleweed of indiscrete curls and color and sticks and toys rolling arbitrarily about the neighborhood. I bend down low and thank them, and receive an impromptu hug from the littlest of the boys. The tiny flock flies away into another corner of the cul-de-sac and I remember that back on the phone she’s waited for me.
“You deserve a break from all this”, I continue.
I’m prepared to give her one in the form of a bird watching venture in Texas or a spa getaway of some sort.
“I don’t see it that way. I think that God must love me more”. Again, she laughs. Pacemaker surgeries, broken pelvis, back procedures, she takes it as a compliment. Nothing gets in the way of her forward motion in the world.
“If you tell me that God has a plan, I’m going to hang up on you”, I warn.
“Kaaaaaa-ren! Bite your tongue”.
I’ve insulted the Man who is kind and good but in my humble opinion does not dole out pain or mercy or middle-of-the-night sorrow to humanity like lesson plans or framed accolades. This is the sole philosophical area in which we diverge.
We banter like this. Every. Single. Glorious. Day.
“I’ve got to go. I need to get some plants at Ace Hardware. I’m hoping my tomatoes make it through July.”
She lives in the Mohave, the sunken washbasin of a landscape so arid you can fry an egg on the asphalt in August. People do it.
She hangs up.
It turns out that even in a blundered and stormy gene pool of broken bones and irregular heartbeats and abnormal cells that a cocktail of stubbornness and hope really can nourish the body. And I couldn’t be more grateful.