Installation Shot

About this Conversation

Little Cayman, poem by James Stone Goodman

Kim's blog on Neve Shalom

Joan Lipkin

Kim Mosley

she traveled with a group for a week white water rafting down the Grand Canyon

St. Louis, Missouri
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dear Kim,

My sister called last night. She finished chemo February 12 and has been helping to care for my mother since her heart attack a few weeks ago. She is eager to escape the grey Chicago winter and the grey taste in her mouth and to find her way back to other parts of her life.

I want to go scuba diving, she says.

I remember well the desire for the physical. After months of hurting during my own treatment for cancer at a time when I literally lost my skin, I wanted something to remind me of the pleasures of the body. For me, that initially began with making love with a new partner and somehow moved into dancing. These days, I have a passion for expressive dance, rolling on the floor and contact improvisation that I had never imagined.

For Laurel, it is scuba diving.

The catch is, her friend Liz with whom she was supposed to go, calls to say that her mother is in the hospital. Her pancreatic cancer has spread.

We both sigh at the many layers of the bad news. A sick mother. A distraught friend. Yet more cancer. And the possible cancellation of a trip that has been keeping my sister going through this tough time.

The room has been paid. They were to stay at a tiny diving resort in Little Cayman, resident population 170. There are no refunds.

Can I go, says Laurel.

Do I want to go, says Laurel.

Want? Yes.

Can? Hmm.

I say I will call her back.

I hang up and mentally scroll through the week’s itinerary.

Rehearsal. . . A performance at Glenridge Elementary School. . . More rehearsal. . . An already rescheduled lunch with a potential funder. . . Tickets for both “Rent” and “Batboy.”. . . The peace march in Forest Park upon the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. . . My friend Tom Clear’s St. Patrick’s Day party. . . Couples therapy with Pseudonym. . . The Kevin Kline Awards. . . Allergy shots. . . A working session with Neal to finish some songs. . .

And of course, the phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls. And lots and lots of paperwork. . . More than lots and lots.

(Kim: Look what you are able and willing to do for your family, but not for you. Why? Why do we work ourselves to death? One of my faculty friends (actually more than one) does great stuff, but is on the edge of killing themselves. It is like not taking time to change the oil and running the car into the ground.)

I remember other trips Laurel has taken by herself which had a lot of group activity. When she traveled with a group for a week white water rafting down the Grand Canyon or went scuba diving in Bonaire. The possibilities for connection but also the strain of the company of strangers for days on end. Strain at a time when she needs comforting.

We talk again, this time about my mother and how her glaucoma is doing on this particular day.

I tell my sister that we have a really limited window with my mother. That we need to take advantage of any time we have with her.

My sister pauses. And me, she says. We don’t know what kind of time you have with me, either.

That decides it for me. Carpe diem, girlfriend, I say. I tell her I will go and start canceling.