“What did you do to this water?” one of my son’s friends asks. Four of us regard the dark turquoise pond that glows and eerily reflects off our faces. It looks like a lake of shimmering nuclear paint.
“I put blue pond dye in it. To keep out algae,” I say.
“That’s weird water.” He makes a face.
“Yeah. I put in twice as much as I should have. Wasn’t thinking straight.” It’s been a week of frazzled nerves, huge highs and lows, little sleep. Friday is my daughter’s birthday. Marika would have turned 23. The days leading up to and around May 3rd I race around frantic and out of control. I stay up all night photo-shopping pictures of the fox and kits that live under the deck. I miss appointments and meals. I trade in my perfectly fine car and take on debt to buy a new Prius. There is a gigantic grenade in my head that could detonate in a thunderous explosion at any moment and I’ve been trying to outrun it.
“Greg tells me you’re writing a book,” says the other friend, who has become famous in the mixed martial arts world and is the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. “What’s your book about?”
“Well, my daughter died of leukemia when she was 20. It’s our story of her almost 3-year fight against cancer.” I try to be short, knowing this is not a favorite topic for anyone, let alone a champion prizefighter.
“I have a large following on Twitter. Could you use a tweet about your book, a link to your website?” he asks. Whoa! How does he know I’m trying to build an audience?
“Um – hundreds of thousands of martial arts and fighting-match followers? Uh – that’s interesting. Not exactly my audience.” I’ve forgotten for the moment my own four years of taking tae kwon do at the Ithaca Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do Club. “Sure. I could really use the help,” I finally say. “There must be someone in all your fans that lost a loved one. Someone who’s trying to get over grief and live life bigger. Maybe you can ask them to pass the information along to their mothers or girlfriends?” Who in this guy’s crowd would be interested in me or my book? What on Earth could we possibly have in common?
“My sister died of brain cancer when she was 18,” he says. My gaze flies from the blue pond to the warm eyes of this fellow fighter and champion of life.