Here’s my story about my friend Judy Torgus, which I was asked to write and share with La Leche League alumni who are collecting stories and memories of Judy.
By the fall of 1983 I had been working at the La Leche League office in Franklin Park for four years. My reference librarian desk was next door to the Publications office, and I regularly read, wrote and edited copy for newsletters and information sheets.
I was not especially good at getting to work early in those days, but I usually got there before Judy. She always made an entrance, with a story, something she was outraged about, or just new jewelry. Who could resist wanting to be in her circle?
It had become apparent that fall that my father, a college professor, was having strange troubles. He was not himself, he fell asleep often, he seemed lost. I had been married a year by then, the oldest of three daughters, and I had been the one who had begun making calls to the family doctor, to a neurologist, to the psychiatrist who was treating him for something that looked like depression.
On a Wednesday morning early in December I drove him to the hospital for a CAT scan and left him there with my cousin and former roommate, Beth, who was an instructor in the nursing school. I had gone to work. A couple hours later the phone call came to my desk. It may have been my mother who relayed the news, more likely it was Beth. Daddy had a brain tumor, frighteningly large. He was being admitted to the hospital, they were talking about surgery, I should come.
I was 29 years old. The way roles played out in my family, I knew that a lot of things were about to become my responsibility. I was crushed and scared, ready to be responsible, feeling helpless. I went into the hall and around the corner to tell the ladies in Publications what had happened and that I was leaving to go to the hospital.
And Judy said, no, wait, you need to have some lunch.
But I have to go.
No, she said, you need to eat.
I’m not hungry, I said.
You need to eat. We’ll go next door, I’m taking you. Then you can go.
She took me to lunch. I ordered a tiny cup of vegetable soup with saltines. And when I asked, she told me about losing her parents as a child, something she rarely spoke of. How it was hard, but she and her sister were okay.
It gave me what I needed.
Judy came flying into many other moments of my life. She arrived with gifts and food and enthusiasm after the births of Kris, Eliza and Kurt (who was born on her birthday). She listened as I puzzled out what was wrong with Lon, my husband, as he slipped into Alzheimer’s. When she died I had been waiting for her to get better, so that we could have dinner and I could talk with her about my son Kris having ALS. Her husband had died of ALS. She would tell me it was okay.
Judy wanted to fix things, but there are so many things in life we can’t fix. Yet we are, nevertheless, okay.
And Judy is one reason I know that, even without hearing it from her one more time. And we can celebrate life, despite all the junky parts, with travel and jangly jewelry, with blue dresses, friendships and bright smiles.
We’ll share those things and continue to be okay.