Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Powerful Loving Lady

About the time I fell and fractured my hip last year I was scheduled for a complicated root canal. I knew it was going to be an ordeal, and my projections were accurate. I dreaded it, but not so much I caused the fall. It was rescheduled for last Thursday. Learning this, my old WCC (watercolor connection) group hosted a potluck dinner for me. How special. The trip was wonderful, emotional, and painful, as I clenched and unclenched my jaws after five hours in the dentist's and endontist's chair. Returning yesterday  (my first trip to the Bay Area since I moved here) the traffic on the freeway  was backed up, so I detoured up the hill by my old home to pick up a painting my neighbor was storing for me, being very careful to not even glance down Cathy Lane, even though I drove right by. I will go back someday, but it is too soon. However I noticed the gate unlocked on Kay Gilliland's beautiful home (garbage day) so I scooted up her driveway. Even the winter garden was full of color, and she had been solo working on a new path with a wooden retaining wall.

Kay is a friend of over forty years and someone I hold in the highest esteem. She has devoted her life to teaching Math; especially to encouraging young women to follow a scientific career. She is known for this in many parts of the world and until last fall, at 86,  she was still supervising student teachers from Mills. She is a pillar in her church and in her community.  Sadly, she has also lost two sons, one to drowning in childhood and one to Aids. Still nothing stop her. Until a year ago she was hiking the High Sierra loop each summer.  I so admire her power and perseverance.

Kay's face so reflects her strength of character. Many times I have tried unsuccessfully to paint her, and twice I have asked my teachers to try. Everyone is challenged. The rendering above is one done for a class demo in Leslie Wilson's class by Leslie herself, about 14 months ago. I hardly recognize it as Kay, but it does show her strength.

When Kay was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, stage 4, last spring, none of us could believe it. She did as her doctors prescribed and started chemo. One round almost killed her. She got good counsel from a friend and opted to go on hospice. I've never known anyone to embrace death with such courage. We visited for an hour and a half yesterday.
Her thick straight grey hair has now turned a mass of curly white from the chemo.  I hardly knew her face, but her chuckle was the same as was the twinkle in her eyes.
I had given her a couple of paintings at my last art show and she had them framed and hanging near her bed. I indicated I'd be down in another three months and she responded she expected to still be here, even though she thought she would have died by now. My respect for her just increases and increases.

As I drove home my back and jaw kind of played ping pong with discomfort. I pulled in  my new home driveway, unpacked very little and collapsed in bed. Today I'm somewhat revived and looking forward to attending the Mac club potluck here.  Each week, it seems, I try something new.

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