Sorting through laundry this morning and I remembered.
It's her birthday. March tenth. It's Caryn's birthday.
Closing the washing machine lid I went looking for my phone. Finding it I sent out a quick birthday text.
Memories started to playing back in my mind. Snapshots of elementary school, middle school, high school, and even back to last year.
I decided to write about Caryn today because her life is brimming over with treasure.
We can all learn a lot from Caryn.
I know that I have.
When I think about Caryn's life I can actually see all of the elements of an astounding story. Only right now she's somewhere in the thick of the conflict trying to fight through to the peaceful resolution, the happy ending.
First memory of Caryn is in fifth grade. Silky hair streaked gold from the sun. Olive colored skin. Bright green eyes. I am looking at her in the library and we have all just learned that she moved from North Carolina.
The following year after we had all fallen in love with Caryn the golden hair is gone.
I see her sitting across from me at a local restaurant. She's wearing a baseball cap. Smooth skin peeking out from the cap.
We all smile at the camera. A group of us sixth graders enjoying a day out courtesy of a willing mom. There's Caryn. Smiling. Being brave. Bald.
Caryn has alopecia.
What is alopecia?
Quick summary : An auto immune disorder that means you can lose hair all over your body. Eye brows, eye lashes, body hair, and of course the hair that crowns your head. It may grow back and it may not. Once the hair regrows it may fall out all over again. Over and over again.
Caryn's been dealing with alopecia for over twenty years now.
Some years Caryn's hair returned.
Other years she wore wigs, hats, or simply went brave and bald.
Alopecia seemed to leave Caryn in high school. I forgot about her even having it.
She was always laughing and she had a razor sharp tongue that could put anyone in their place.
She excelled in all kinds of sports. Especially running.
She was very popular and boys adored her.
I spent so many summer afternoons at our neighborhood pool with Caryn. Her dark tan deepening by the minute. We took walks as the crickets cried in the summer dusk. We frequently walked whenever we were exasperated by our parents. Each exchanging stories as we stomped circles around our neighborhood.
One year Caryn had a foreign exchange student live with her. Then the three of us spent unending hours together.
When I picture Caryn back in high school I see this ridiculously wide smile extending right into her sparkling green eyes. Her eyes were always a combination of sarcasm, laughter, and mischief.
After high school the memories lessen of course and more storms begin for Caryn...
She faces the break up of her family.
The selling of her family home, remarriages of her parents, and the relocating of her sisters.
All of her hair falls out weeks before her own wedding.
She marries, but things seem to fall apart in only a handful of years.
She's wrestles the woes of a troubled marriage for years.
Separation. Back together. Divorce.
And none of it she wanted. She so wanted it to work.
She's worked low paying jobs with the desire to teach others her passion, the Spanish language.
She's made career changes with her single status and is now also a personal trainer.
She has fought cancer scares, surgeries, full blown alopecia, infidelity, and now a new season of completely being on her own. With no one.
Caryn has always been a few things:
... brutally honest
...tough as nails
... more than anything one that does not quit!
She never gives up.
Sometimes the tenacity with which she fights for things drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to say, "Please give that up! Let it go! Be free and move on with your one beautiful life!"
But no matter what I or anyone says she fights things out until the end. She doesn't give up. Unless literally forced to.
At the beginning of last year I was sitting on my couch confused and just trying to make it through each day at a time. Someone texted me. It was Caryn. After several years of not seeing each other regularly and only occasionally hearing from each other we were joined together again. She was trying to raise her head above the waters of her own life storm. We were both in storms.
Storms that were totally different.
I was surprised she wanted to be my friend again. I didn't feel myself to be worthy of it.
We listened to each others insight, encouragement, and all over the place moments for the whole year. Sending each other Bible passages, praying on the phone with each other, and seeing each other the couple of times she came back into town.
I'm not like Caryn. She is strong in ways I will never be. I'm not brave and I'm not someone who never gives up. I give up far too easily. I'm not sure of myself and I get lost in my own mind. But Caryn didn't reject that in me instead she loved me anyways.
To the girl that grew up beside me and is in so many of my memories.
To the girl who is okay with herself brazenly bald and looks beautiful without one follicle of hair anywhere on her head.
To the girl whose heart is deeply impressed with love for all kinds of people. Who is fascinated by people's stories, Spanish speaking peoples, and most of all children.
To the girl with rock solid biceps and a back taut with muscles.
To the girl that came to see me this summer and spent so much time playing with my kids and letting them bake whatever they wanted with her deep into one late July night. Flour dusting the table and a mixer spinning well past midnight.
To the girl who tells me bluntly how it is.
To the girl that doesn't give up and keeps pushing and fighting through all the pain and tears.
Happy Birthday Caryn.
You're life is a pure gift.