Thoughts by Richard Bleil
She is a good friend that I have never met. I have a few of these friends, friends that I’ve met through social media posts and chat engines whom I have not had the opportunity to visit in person. Personally, this doesn’t bother me. Love is love, and yes, I love my friends. Any relationship (in the broader sense of the word, not just romantic) is fair and legitimate and can start in many different ways. I have former lovers and girlfriends who are still friends, school friends, work friends, and internet friends who have all come to mean the world to me.
Jeannine lives in California. Her political proclivities align with mine and initially we bonded over complaining about a conservative office that was in office, not the current one though, but I don’t remember which. But clearly, she was intelligent, funny and charming and I truly enjoyed chatting with her on the chat engine where we “met”. She was a remarkable person. Not a remarkable woman, because I wouldn’t want to restrict this comment to just one gender; she was a remarkable person. She was divorced, had a daughter and worked as a social worker.
She wasn’t “involved”, and I can understand why. She never struck me as a “pushover”, and frankly, men have exceptionally frail egos. They tend to find it difficult to be with a woman who is more intelligent than they are, or more educated, or make more money. With her personal strength, I can’t imagine her hiding her successes or intelligence just for some man, nor should she have to. Frankly, men need to be stronger than they are. Yes, they are big and bulky and can open jars, but their pride is so easily damaged.
Eventually, she decided she wanted to return to college to pursue her master’s degree in social work. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared on me. No word, no updates, nothing. She suddenly just disappeared. I wasn’t too worried about it; I just assumed she met somebody and was too busy for a long-distance friend who she never even met.
I’ve gotten used to this over the years. I tend to be that guy that women turn to in times of strife in their relationship for advice because I’ve always been the man who actually helps rather than trying to snake my way in between them. Don’t get me wrong; many of these are women I would have loved to have dated, but frankly, I never wanted to date them if their hearts and minds were with another man, so, I gave the best advice I could so if they failed, it was really over. Of course, their relationships never failed, and I was left pining.
Anyway, back to Jeannine, a year later I see she is active on that chat engine, and excitedly dropped a “hi!”. I was expecting to hear an update on her master’s training, and all about this man who took her away from me. As it turns out, she wasn’t online. It was her daughter who informed me that her mother had had a sudden stroke. She survived the stroke and was out of danger, but it wiped out the communication center of her brain. She could understand when spoken to, but was unable to speak, or right. She was learning, all over again, how to speak and write.
The process of speaking is rather more complicated than you might imagine. The first step is to formulate your thought; what is it that you wish to communicate? Every time you speak you do this; there is something you want to communicate. Then, you must choose the words to choose, the order and the sentence structure. These words and order must be translated into a collection of sounds made by impulses to your vocal cords, lungs for breath control, lips and tongue to make the sounds coherent so they can be understood as words. We don’t think about it, as this all happens so quickly that it is just background for us.
Writing goes even further, where each word then has to be broken down into individual letters, and finger control is required to either type or create the proper strokes of a pen or pencil. And she was doing it. When I first spoke with her, there was a dramatic pause, anywhere from about three to as much as ten seconds between each word. It was heartbreaking, and I fell into that “thing” of assuming that because she spoke slowly, I had to speak slowly to her. The reality is that her comprehension and hearing was not affected at all.
She is a true inspiration for me. In preparation for my new job I am currently studying a rather large manual of procedures and regulations, and if I were to tell you that it wasn’t difficult (owing primarily to its tediousness) then I would be lying. But, no matter how difficult, tedious or convoluted it might seem, I know that she has done more. The last time I spoke with her the only clue she had had a stroke was a slight slurring of her speech. She overcame this incredible controversy, and I can beat this manual.