A good time for I love yous

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Nov. 29, 2001

Dear Leslie,

I knew you weren't going to die last week. You have too much spunk to go out on an operating table surrounded by sterile men and women in masks.

I knew a brain aneurysm was dangerous. I knew your eyesight was imperiled. I prayed for you and asked friends to pray, too. When we talked before your surgery I even told you I loved you -- just to be sure. But I knew you weren't going to die yet.

I thought about meeting you 15 years ago at the Daily Pilot in Costa Mesa. Who was this rookie in her 40s but just out of journalism school? How hard you worked and how eager you were to learn. I admired how you fought the editor to get the full-time job you knew you had earned.

Perhaps our friendship began because we had some things in common: age and a common upbringing. Being from Arkansas is not exactly like being from Missouri, but to Southern Californians it is. They are in awe of us people from the Midwest. They imagine we grew up on farms and envy our roots. So many of the men know themselves to be a flaky lot who covet Porches and 20-year-olds named Jennifer. So many of the women invest their days and money on trying to look like 20-year-old Jennifers.

You cared nothing about all that. You'd had a bumpy life. There were times when you counted every banana and every banana counted. You'd survived difficult relationships, raised a teen-aged daughter alone and were a white woman married to a black man. "The White Trash Cookbook" made you laugh. Buddhist meditation and good movies made you swoon.

Women like you are much more interesting than babes in bustiers, though they can distract a guy for a while.

You had an odd collection of friends and family members -- from country clubbers to street people. I liked being one of them.

I was proud when you left the newspaper and caught on as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. You worked harder and learned more. And when people told you the Times never hired staffers from their pool of correspondents, you refused to give up. Eventually, the Los Angeles Times made an exception. Spunk.

Being hired by one of the world's great newspapers proved something to you your friends already knew.

DC and I were returning from Kansas City the day you were operated on. We had been guests at our niece Danica's first Thanksgiving living on her own. It was eight people in a studio apartment. Fortunately, we like each other.

My head ached on the drive home. One and then two of DC's powerful pain pills didn't help. I guessed I was having sympathetic pains.

A message awaited from your friend Susan when we got home. All is well, she said. The exploratory surgery found you aren't in the danger the surgeons had feared.

Yesterday while telling me about the surgery yourself, you wondered what you will do while recuperating over the next month. Your head is bald, scarred and bruised, and the necessary drugs have quieted the music in your voice for the moment.

But, you said, "I've never had so many people tell me they love me."

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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