My cousin Aurora is eight months older and almost a foot taller than five-foot-half-inch me. Yes, that half inch is important. Lucky giant her. I’d pay big money for a couple inches and she’s got extra. At our eighth-grade graduation she could tell that I stuffed my bra with Kleenex and she let me know it. I would have smacked her, but my arms could not reach. We grew up really close, going to the same school, celebrating every holiday together in matching dresses, sharing friends and Hello Kitty stickers, arguing about Hello Kitty stickers, spending summers at the beach, explaining to me what "hump" meant along with loads of other life memories. Funny thing about Aurora is that somewhere along our young adulthood I renamed her Aorta because when I studied the cardiovascular system and came across the word ”aorta,” I thought it sounded like Aurora. One day, in rebuttal she busted out my new nickname, Left Ventricle (thank you, 11th grade science class). After we laughed out butts off, we remained Aorta and Left Vent for years.
At twenty-nine years of age, my first son was born with complex congenital heart defects (aortic and left ventricle problems included). Premonition? Weird cousin vibes? Maybe both. When I told her about my son’s heart problems we did our best to glean some humor from it all. It wasn’t easy at the time, but I can always count on Aurora to pick me up when I’m low as she has survived many struggles and has managed to crawl out from the pain pit full of energy and light every time.
Aurora now lives in Portland, Oregon and visited Southern California last week. I had not seen her in almost a year. She still overshadows me in height and humor. Authentic, genuine Aorta can really make me laugh. This August, she will graduate from Nursing School, having spent her last few years buried in medical books filled with aortas and left ventricles, among other fancy and complicated Latin medical terms that seem to roll off her tongue these days.
When she was here, we had many laughs about our growing healthy children, wacky immediate family and her hilarious nursing internship experiences (an old senile man put a lollipop stick down his wiener!). Like I said, Aorta is a few months away from graduation! Did you hear me people? I said she’s a few months away from grad-u-a-tion!!! This is huge and I want to take this opportunity to say “Aorta, you rock!! You have put so much hard work and sacrifice into this degree and I am impressed that you managed it while juggling all of life’s stuff. I love you.”
Riding a unicycle is like life. To be successful and enjoy the ride, they both require tremendous balance and focus. I sit up tall, shoulders back and imagine I am holding one of my young boys under each arm. My best-friend-techie-husband’s hand on my seat (hubba, hubba) to guide me, and my two wiener dogs running alongside, looking like double Dumbos. As I train to ride Blanche, my unicycle, in a half-marathon, I think how good God is as the breeze blows my brown hair, a big smile on my face. Come along for a thrilling one-wheel ride while I do my best to maintain balance... but keep an open mind, there is always something new to learn!