The Uninvited Guest

Unsplash Photo by Andreas Ronningen

It was the summer after my senior year of high school and my friends and I were determined to make the most of those warm fleeting months before adulthood set in. I was working as a lifeguard at a pool and was active in the college group at church. My social calendar was full with a party or concert every weekend — with the exception of the 2 weeks that I would be spending with my family on our annual trip to California.

I told everyone that I would be gone for two weeks, but it was more like 12 days. The day we got back, I called my best friend, Shelly, and asked her what was going on that weekend. She asked me if I had not gotten a phone call about the party that Mark was throwing. I hadn’t, but since Mark and I had gone out on a date earlier that summer, I was sure that it was an oversight — he must have thought that I was going to be gone and that’s why he didn’t call to invite me personally. Surely he’d be thrilled to see that I was home early. (Yeah, I know… the thought process of a teenage brain is staggering…)

Shelly picked me up and we drove out to Mark’s parents’ house in the country. I made my grand entrance and will never forget the look on Mark’s face as he stammered “I.. I … thought that you were in California…” Let’s just say that he was less than thrilled to see me and spent the whole party flirting with Shelly. He had purposely thrown a party when he thought I would be out of town so that he’d have an opportunity to spend time with Shelly. My friend Becky had my back and drove me home early.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, and not just about boys. Since then I have never attended a party that I was not invited to. In the twenty years that followed, I have become aware that it is not a lesson that everyone has learned, or simply choose to ignore. There are people in my social circles who routinely bring uninvited guests to small gatherings or simply just show up uninvited themselves.

An uninvited guest is awkward and uncomfortable. Nobody knows quite what to say or do. Occasionally, however, an uninvited guest turns out to be the person who makes the party interesting, either by being funny or entertaining or challenging you to think about things differently. Sometimes an intruder who shakes up our routine and causes our social circle to lose it’s balance is a good thing.

I have Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD) in my neck and tortuous arteries in my brain that put me at a high risk for stroke (not to mention the 15 stents in my heart from a condition called SCAD). After a few months of feeling light headed and having neurological spells where I lose my concentration, I finally visited my neurologist. He was concerned enough to order an MRA. I hate MRA’s. I would rather have almost any other medical test than another MRA. It’s not so much being put in a tube from 60–90 minutes, but the beeps, unrelenting low frequency tones, strobes, and vibrations drive me insane.

I resigned myself to having the MRA. Reluctantly. I wish that I could say that I was stoic in the acceptance of my fate, but instead began planning the best pity party you’ve ever seen. I told everyone I knew that I had to have another MRA. “Sixty to Ninety minutes in the death tube followed by a certain migraine”. I asked the boys’ step mom to pick them up, I told work that I was taking a sick day, I planned my post MRA pity party lunch and consolation ice cream.

When I got to the hospital, I told everyone from the information desk to the tech putting in my IV that I would be having a lengthy MRA. “Are you ready to take a nap?” the radiation tech asked. I am positive that she has never had to endure an MRA of the brain, as it is impossible to “nap”. I noticed that about what I guessed was half way through the test, I began to receive very little guidance (usually the tech will talk to me and tell me how much time I have encourage me to stay still through each test). “Hmph”, I thought “they must be eating lunch. They have obviously NEVER had an MRA.” The test was finally over and another tech helped me out of the cradle and gave me his hand to help me sit up. “You did great, I know that’s torture”, he said. “Finally, some sympathy fitting to my situation”, I thought. Then my IV was unceremoniously pulled and I was given a bandaid and my locker key and quickly ushered out of the room as the medical team quickly prepared for the next patient.

I was mildly insulted. No further congratulation or consolation for my situation was given. Then I walked past the next patient. I fumbled with my key opening my locker as I looked at her. She was young and had beautiful long blonde hair. A young man who couldn’t be older than twenty five lovingly tucked the sheets of her cot around her, just a little tighter, as she stared blankly into space. He talked to her quietly and stroked her cheek — her pale blue eyes moved towards him. It was the only response that he would get.

As I quietly said a prayer for the young couple, my situation no longer mattered. My pity party had an uninvited guest. It was disruptive and uncomfortable and reminded me that life is so much more than my current discomfort. She reminded me that life is a gift. Walking out of the hospital is a gift. Feeling anything, even pain, is a gift. Life is full of struggle and pain as well as beauty and light and joy. Life in it’s fullness is a gift and is not to be taken for granted.

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