Julie Grimm, our hero

Lauren and I both idolized Julie Grimm from the first time we saw her ride. We were probably about 16 years old and utterly obsessed with the world of horse showing and Julie was a champion. She won Medal Finals, which was basically equivalent to the Olympics from our idyllic perspectives. I still remember the round that won her the competition. It was the kind of ride that looked completely effortless, made you feel as if you could do it, too. Deceptively, it made it look easy when it wasn't - perfection in the world of horse showing.
Later we would get to know Julie as adults. We would drink beer with her, play with her kids, jump off the roof of the pool house into the water below at midnight, and go to her off-the-hook Christmas parties.
Mostly, Julie is my friend, but in some ways she's still a hero too. I still think she's a superb rider, but I also have always appreciated her zest. She still knows how to kick it, even if she is married with two kids. She still skinny dips in her neighbors' hot tub at 3am and is a firm believer in the power of tequila shots.
And yet she pours her heart into her kids and her horse and her dogs. And it shows. Her kids are the kind of kids that make you want to have your own someday - incredibly smart, downright funny, and really beautiful.
So when I heard from a mutual friend that Julie recently had a double masectomy and was facing chemo, my heart sank. I think because I watched my mom go through it and watched my family deal it from their many perspectives, I often have an urge to protect people I care about from going through it, too. I wish I could somehow suck up everyone else's experiences because I've been through it already. I already know what it's like to watch your mom go through that, but Julie's kids don't. I was wishing I could do it for them.

Then I got some photos from Julie of her Head Shaving Ceremony. I prepared myself for a flood of unpleasant memories before I looked at them, but when I did look at them the reaction I had was totally unexpected and opposite. Everyone in the photos looked happy, not miserable. Sam especially looks delighted at having the opportunity to shave her mom's head. Julie is somehow radiant without hair. It's like her inner strength is shining right back out. And the memories it brought back for me weren't terrible, either.
I remembered one photo I'd taken of my parents together while my mom was going through the same thing. I was in a photo class at school and getting pretty into shooting black and white film. My mom used to wear a wig while she was out and about, but while she was lounging around the house that summer she'd take it off for a little relief from the heat and the itching it caused. This particular afternoon, my dad and mom were lying on the couch together, embracing. My dad is pretty bald, too, so they matched. It was oddly beautiful. That moment alone taught me more about love than any other ever had.

With that, here are Julie's photos.

I'm still inspired.

1 comment:

Wonder Net said...

I'm really glad you wrote this one.

Julie is beautiful.