When Vin and I first met working at the front desk of Marriott’s Custom House back in 2008, it was NOT love at first sight – a fact that is well documented on the archived email servers at Marriott. After who knows how many shifts spent in relative silence with one another, it eventually came to light that we were both huge Bill Simmons fans. Every Friday around noontime, Simmons would post his newest column to ESPN’s page 2, and Vin and I would email back and forth our favorite comedic excerpts.
Around this time, Simmons was finishing up work on his 736-page love letter to the game of basketball: The Book of Basketball. Set to release on Vin’s birthday in 2009, I pre-ordered him a copy – the first of many awesome birthday presents I would give him over the years.
Three months later in January of 2010, we would learn that the bone graft in my right hip had failed (catastrophically) – just six months after hip surgeries four and five. I was beyond devastated. Vin did everything in his power to comfort me, but everything just felt so hopeless. And then a few weeks later Vin posted the following excerpt from the Book of Basketball to his Facebook page –
Something like twenty surgeries later, Bill Walton is still healing. He looks forward and not back. That’s why he owns a black cat. He is telling the Gods of Bad Luck, “even after everything that just happened, you cannot break me.” I love this about Walton. I love the fact that he has a black cat. I fucking love it.
And commented to a friend –
That quote reminded me of a certain young lady we all know…
Vin has never been one for very public displays of affection, and in those early days of our relationship, I was excited to see such a public acknowledgment of his feelings for me. But eventually that quote came to mean so much more to me – if Vin could see so much strength in me, why couldn’t I see it in myself?
Slowly I started to look forward and not back too. The next time I saw my surgeon I asked “If I put off surgery can I do any additional damage?” and “How long can I reasonably put this off?” He explained that without the bone graft to reinforce metal cup liner in the joint, my hip would grow increasingly unstable and increasingly painful. I told him that I could handle the pain, but that I needed a break from surgery. I needed some time to just be normal. Despite his objections, we pushed surgery out by a year to January 2011.
For the rest of 2010, I continued to look forward and not back. And, with my proverbial middle finger to the universe, I let the ‘Gods of bad luck’ know that they couldn’t break me either. I focused on school and life and friends. I traveled. I went to Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins games. I went to concerts and closed down bars with friends in the wee hours of the morning. I celebrated the wedding of two of my favorite people and visited the artifacts from King Tut’s tomb on exhibit in NYC. I lived openly and without fear.
Five years later, I strive to live with the same sense of fearlessness, but lately, there have been days where that old hopelessness returns. This disease is advancing no matter what we throw at it, and it’s hard to imagine a future without wheelchairs, surgeries, and suffering… But then Vin posted this on my Facebook wall the other day –
And I was reminded –
even after everything that just happened, you cannot break me