I work with several very good people at my day job. One of them in particular is new, and we have established a rather unique relationship. We insult, harass, and throw digs at each other all day. There is a strong undercurrent of affection and respect, but we NEVER let it show too clearly.
The other day, I noticed she was wearing a knit hat at work. I suspected the reason, and asked her. She confirmed it: she has cancer, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
I thought about it for a minute, then responded. “Finally someone around here will have less hair than I do!”
Now, for a bit of personal background. When I’m in the throes of grief or shock, one of the hardest things for me to accept is outpourings of sympathy from all but those I’m closest to.
When I was in college, my mother died. I told one person I had to who happened to be best friends with someone I loathed. Naturally, I ran into said person at the worst possible time. As she gushed sympathetically at me, all I could think was “we’re standing in a stairwell. If I were to shove her down the stairs right about now, I could probably get away with it.”
I didn’t, but the temptation was tremendous while I was in that state.
My colleague has a tremendous support system. She has a loving husband and children, an extended family, many friends, and is very active in her church. I figured she is completely overflowing with sympathy and people walking around on eggshells around her, and would appreciate someone treating her perfectly normally. Lord knows if I was in her shoes, I would.
She had a shocked look on her face, but it passed in a second with a surprised laugh. She shook her head, grinning. “You’re bad.” (her standard line.)
I told her why I said that, and she shifted to a warm, wistful smile. “You’re right.”
I won’t see her at work until next week, but I’ve already got my next comment planned. I’m going to accuse her of going through this just to make sure I don’t have the most serious health problems at the office, trying to steal my thunder.