At around 7:30 yesterday (May 4) I rolled over and looked at the clock. I debated for a moment and then gave in to the knowledge that I may as well get up. It was here, the day of our Relay for Life event had arrived. I still have a lot to do and my son James was going to have to help me. I got out of bed and did a little here and there as I struggled to shake the last of the sleep from my mind. Putting things in boxes, and stacking it in the living room I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to enjoy it before the full blown madness began.
When I decided that James had slept late enough, I knocked on his door and peeked in. He gave me "the look" but I told him he needed to get up anyway. Sending him down to his grandpa's after tables I finished packing up the things we were going to pile into my SUV. Bit by bit we got it in. He left to go to the track before I did. He arrived at 9am, for me it was closer to 10am. I kept thinking of things I needed, plus I had to go to the bank for change and stop by the store for glue, cookies and chips. Arriving at the track I was greeted with good news, James had received a phone call- he had a job interview. He was helping erect a tent for the Survivor and information tables as I carried all my things down to where I was going to erect my own canopy. I tried, I really tried but in the end I needed James to help. Especially since the bottom of one of the legs had broken off and the leg was all the way up inside the other, Finally getting that out with the use of a piece of rebar the tent was up. As James went back to help others I began to set things in place.
One thing that I found out upon my arrival was that James had received a very special phone call. When I asked him about it he told me that he had a job interview. He would have to leave at twelve to get ready for the interview at one. Until then he could continue to help get everything set up. I didn't see when James left, but I sure knew when it was one and I watched the time from there, waiting to hear something, waiting to see his return..especially when the weather changed.
The wind struck. It actually snuck up on us. It has been this gentle, cooling breeze that kept the heat down and made anything hanging dance. Suddenly it was this monster that was doing its best to turn my canopy into a sail-that'll teach me for not knowing where the anchors are and not using them. While everyone else was busily wandering around doing set up work I was trapped. I was left standing there holding onto one of the canopy legs watching desperately for James to return so I could go back to the house for the cement blocks that we usually used because some places you just can't drive anything into the ground- especially if you're set up on pavement of any kind. Turns out a fellow Relayer names John rounded up two tent stakes that he drove into the ground that held it-finally, finally I could let the thing go and not worry that it was going flying across the field.
Before I made my run to the house I had to know. James started out telling me how bad of on interview it was, he was scared, the Service Manager didn't like his looks, he (James) stuttered..on and on finally telling me he starts work Tuesday.!!!!!! James -- my son James-- has a job!!!!!!!! Thank you God for setting this into motion and bringing the right people into play at the right time (Your time) I left to run get the things I had forgotten and to change into jeans-too late--the minute I pulled on the jeans I could feel the pain, that would only grow worse over the course of the night.
Taking the things I had gathered up I returned to the field. I could not park quite as close as before but that was okay. I wandered back down to the field and finished putting the things I had brought in place. As I stood there I noticed a man walking past who stopped and turned toward me. Introducing himself I was overjoyed, this was the person that God used to help James get this job. We stood and talked for several moments, the gentleman (who I liked immediately and I'm sure James will get along with very well) explained a lot about the job and how James will work with him as he trains. After a while he told us that he was headed back home to work in his garden which reminded me that mine will not get watered, hopefully one day won't be too bad on it.
I spent the afternoon alternating between helping, wandering about or sitting watching people pass. At four-thirty I made my way to the Methodist Church's Family Center across the field for the Survivor Dinner. Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad and sweet tea. The food was really good and we were served more than enough. The middle school student who designed the shirt for our Relay and her family were there. I was able to congratulate her briefly after I finished eating. Making my way back to the field I enjoyed time talking with friends and watching James as he worked hard assisting those who needed him.
There was a wonderful variety of teams around the track and items for sale and being raffled. Barbecue, burgers and some kind of chocolate banana among the many foods. Quilts, jewelry, ribbons, artwork graced the tables. Even purple flamingos stood waiting to be taken home.
Out on the grounds at the front of the field was a pink cement mixer, beautifully bright and working pink cement mixer. On the opposite side of the field was a pink firetruck from Charlotte. An honest to goodness working pink firetruck that no tax dollars were spent on. I was blest enough to be able to spend a few moments with one of the people operating this fantastic vehicle.
Moments before the Survivor Lap I was approached by one of the co-chairs of our Relay. She was telling me how the color guard was going to be on the field for the anthem and then march onto the track and lead us on our Survivor Lap.. and did I want to help carry the banner? Silly question, of course! I'd love to help carry that banner. It was one of the things I had wanted to do forever. Taking my place with four other survivors. I was nervous, but excited. I have a tendency to walk fast taking long steps, I would have to remember not to do that. It just wouldn't look too cool for me to be dragging them along down the track. When the color guard took their place on the track we moved up behind them and began the walk. Its has always felt good to take that lap along with and among other survivors, this time it was just a bit more special. As we walked and approached the area where the pink firetruck was parked just off the back of the track the lights were flashing, as we neared they began to sound the sirens in honor of the Survivors. I'll be honest, it felt good. When we finished our lap the Caregivers took their lap. James was standing near when the lap started and he turned and mentioned that he thought he would walk. I told him to go ahead, he had earned the right when he was helping me back then. Once the Caregiver's Lap was finished the track was open for one and all to walk.
I sat and watched as people passed, for the most part they glanced at the tables and kept walking. Only when hunger and thirst drew them toward what ever would satisfy that craving and need. From time to time I would wander the track or would hear something going on I needed to get a photo of. All the while I was being reminded of my bad decision to wear shorts early on.
Over the course of the evening things began to slow down, people began to disappear. The track was less busy. You could still see events going on, hear the music, watch the dancers having a blast (making me envious and wishing I knew how to dance) everyone was still have a great time. Even James was still enjoying himself as the hour grew later.
I watched the moon. From the moment I first noticed it rising I watched its progress across the sky. In a near cloudless sky the fact that it was a full moon made it even more noticeable and beautiful. As I would walk, I would look up and smile. There was something humbling in walking there in the night, even with all that was going on still, under that full moon.
I watched James, impressed and happy that one of the people he chose to spend a good bit of time conversing with was the county police officer that was there to protect the banker. I did wander over a couple of times to eavesdrop on the conversation and after one embarrassing attempt at joining in, left them to talk about time travel, experiments, secret crafts and even gaming. Guy talk.
I did nap at one point, exhaustion pulling me toward my chair and the blanket I had brought. The dampness in the air making it more than a little chilly. I missed the hat lap, even as I watched others passing in theirs. I meant to help, really meant to help pick up the luminaria bags, but I'm not as young as I once was and I just couldn't do it. I'm a bit ashamed of that fact but I don't think anyone got angry over my lack of helping. I did participate in the purple passion laps, and the glow stick. I watched people dancing thinking I am probably the only fifty something year old in this country that has no clue how to do the Electric Slide (0r any of the other dances they were doing).
After a certain hour the music grew quieter and the crowds more sedate. The air held more chill and I wished for coffee. I watched as the people who were still there began to pack things away, preparing to pack up and go home. Long about 6am I sorted through the things I had brought, packing what I could in boxes and bags. Looking up at one point I saw James standing before me. Together we went ahead and packed everything away in the explorer. James went to help John and I helped move all the big garbage cans to a central location for them to be picked up. As I did this I watched the sky lighten. I noticed the dew spread out across the fields behind the track. Like a soft cool blanket it covered the ground. It was a special time. I had spent the night, remembering my cancer battle, the times of dark, the times of cold and discomfort, the times I felt so very alone. I remembered watching time pass so slowly during the surgery and treatments. Then seeing the brightening skies of good health shining before me.
Once I had done all I could and knew that those who were left (including James) had everything under control I left. I drove home slowly, thinking, remembering, smiling. I may not have raffled off anything, I sold a few things, made a little money, but it was a success. When I got home and carefully pulled off those jeans I saw what had tormented me all night. I was very badly burned on the backs of my legs. My face, arms and back of my neck are burned, but the back of my legs are cooked. I really should have known better. As it is, I will go out in the driveway soon to unpack the car and then go to the store to get something to ease the pain. All the while smiling about how, we may not have raised a record setting amount last night- but we did raise awareness, and that goes a long way in itself.