We first met Mary 10 or 12 years ago I think, doing a little dog of a show that few people came to and the ones that did couldn't get to us because of the layout. It was horrific at first, then it became funny. We were new at this business and it took me hours to go find the man in charge and make him take away the barriers. Today it would take me 5 minutes and if he didn't do it I'd have all the other vendors in a wedge formation.
During the hours of inactivity, as is my nature, I went and schmoozed with the other marooned artists. That's where I met Mary. She was selling, if I remember right, incense holders that were bottles with beads and wire embellishments. They were funky and fun and even without actually selling any, she was having fun. For the life of me I can't remember if she was visibly ill then. We just connected.
Over the years we graduated to better events and at almost all of them I would see Mary, who had given up her art show life shortly after the debacle. But she liked to attend them all. At first she was walking around with an oxygen thing. Then we would see her and she would be in a wheelchair. Next year she'd be walking around. Some times she looked really good, others made me think I might not see her again. I never asked what was wrong, we never discussed it. We were fellow art carnies and we enjoyed each other. Nothing else mattered.
Then, a couple of years ago, there was a human interest story on the local news about Mary needing a heart/lung transplant and my heart sank. This was serious, then. I thought of how she always acted as if whatever was wrong with her was a minor inconvenience. After that, when we met, we could acknowledge the presence of the oxygen tank and wheelchair and speak of how she was doing. The curtain had been pulled back. She remained upbeat and positive, shrugging off concern.
She didn't come to the Kenan show, but I don't think she usually does, so I wasn't concerned.
Then, tonight I got an email from a friend of Mary's. It said, in part:
I'll bet you didn't know that Mary finally received her double lung and liver transplant on May 23rd, and is still in Hospital in Pittsburgh doing pretty well, considering. You came to mind today as Mary received a card from her friend who purchased it from you at the Keenan Center show. A beautiful magnet saying "breathe".
I don't know how these things happen. But how wonderful that they do. So, it was liver, not heart. I thought as my eyes filled with tears. And she is doing well.
And she has my magnet. "I hope she does well" I had said to the lady.
I so hope she does. My brave fellow art carnie. I expect to see her at the Christmas shows. No chair, no oxygen. Just Mary.