Panama 2018: Friendship with Minga

As I’ve often said, there are very few circumstances under which Minga and I would have met and become friends — Peace Corps service notably being one. Our friendship seems to be able to withstand long periods when we’re not together and don’t even talk by phone. Earlier, phone contact to the village didn’t exist — nor was there mail. Now, most of Minga’s grandkids have cell phones, but with her hearing loss a phone conversation is hard. Lily tried to set up a WhatsApp video call, but Minga got so distracted by trying to keep my face in view and trying to keep the camera centered on her face that she lost the thread of conversation.

With most of my friends spread out over the U.S., I’ve gotten adept at staying in touch via phone and email, plus real time visits to give what I call “a good watering” to the relationship. I wish I could be more in contact with Minga during the next three months, as she attempts to see if she has the physical endurance to return to the village after each dialysis. I want to put my arm around her and say that it’s great if she can, and it’s also perfectly OK if she has to say it’s too hard. I want to be the safe person with whom she can share her thoughts of death, without those thoughts being pushed away as unhealthy or something she shouldn’t allow to enter her head. I want to provide the soft patio lounge in which she can fall asleep in the afternoon, not be disturbed, and see a smiling face near her when she wakes up. I want to be the one who listens and nods when she asks if I know that the machine actually takes the blood right out of her, and she can see her own blood coursing through the tubes and in and out of the machine, and isn’t it odd, Pamela, to be alive but with her own blood outside her body, building up right there in the bag where she can see it waiting to go into the machine.

She’s a little horrified, I can tell by her language, at this dialysis procedure.

She has to trust that I’m holding her ordeal close to my heart, even though I’m not close by do any of those things I’d like to do.  I know that she does trust that. I just wish the distance between us wasn’t so far.

Another wonderful Bob Levy pic, on the morning after our arrival, when we had the whole two weeks ahead of us.

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4 thoughts on “Panama 2018: Friendship with Minga

  1. A very tender reflection. What a unique and precious relationship the two of you have. It strikes me as somewhere on the continuum of mother/daughter, daughter/mother, or sister/sister. Indeed, more complex, more “nuanced” than “friend/friend”. Lovely to be shared with your readers.

  2. for Louise: Thank you. Indeed my relationship with Minga has shifted over the years in terms of who is mothering whom. Right now, she says that I am like her mother, because she needs nurture as she goes through this difficult ordeal. At earlier periods, she was clearly the one mothering me. I like that our relationship is fluid enough for these shifts to happen.

  3. Such a blessing for you and minga to have each other in your lives. Beautiful relationship that has endured the distance and change of roles. You both are truely an amazing strength for one another.

  4. for J: This friendship really is a blessing in my life, and I think in Minga’s too. Everyone should be fortunate enough to have one friendship like this — loyal, dear, coming from an unexpected place and therefore all the more special.

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