11 March 2024

Close up Hand adjusting rear view mirror. Safety concept.

Spiritual teachers wear robes, are soft-spoken and levitate above their seat cushions, legs-folded, guru-style.

Well, maybe.  But one of mine was petite, and at age sixteen teased her dyed blond hair about four inches above her scalp, chewed pink bubble gum and wore fake eyelashes so heavy her eyelid muscles were buff. She had a bright, throaty voice with a bit of a whine — like a clarinet.

Her name was Sandy. We are cousins.

From the time we were ten years old, we were thick as thieves, right as rain. She was a square peg who had zero interest in fitting into round holes. Her spirit was so strong it rivaled the river that carved the Grand Canyon. I loved her and she loved me.

Sandy was irreverent to my pious;  street clever to my academic smartie-pants; insanely funny to my seriousness; and, a nonconformist to my risk-averting people pleaser. She was EVERYTHING I longed to be.

It’s weird how a single moment in time can change the trajectory of a life. We were sixteen, it was 1969, and Sandy had just gotten her driver’s license. Her Dad, my Uncle Johnny, let her take the keys to his boat of a car for her first solo because I was along. I’m sure he thought I would save her from herself. And no, we didn’t have an accident — but I did have an accidental insight.

We took off toward Southfield Road in Allen Park, Michigan. It was a wide boulevard where kids back then cruised and ogled each other on Friday night. Sandy was feeling her oats. We got behind a grey head who was driving very s-l-o-w-l-y. Probably the speed limit. Sandy leaned her head out of the driver’s seat window. The wind whipped her teased hair like a birds nest in a tornado.

She shouted to the driver, “Sweet Jesus, move your butt!

I was horrified that she’d taken the Lord’s name in vain. I never would have. But something in the moment infected me. The deliciousness of independence wafted on the night air. The Temptations blared “I can’t get next to you” on CKLW AM Radio. Lord we loved the Motown sound. Sandy wore white short-shorts and a blue kit top. I had on staid blue jeans and a loose T-shirt. My waist-length red hair streamed in the night wind that blew through the car. I didn’t wear make-up. My dad forbade it and said I was prettier without it. Sandy agreed. The world was our oyster.

“Put it in “L! I shouted to Sandy, “and leap over him.”

Sandy swiveled to look at me over the top of her fancy glasses, her eyes wide with mirth.

“Put it in “L” and leap over him??” she repeated, incredulous. “Sweet Jesus, Sandel, You CAN be funny!”  And with that, we both collapsed into giggles so contagious, so gut-based, so soul-shaking that she had to pull Uncle Johnny’s boat into a parking lot to catch her breath.

When we had calmed down, we traveled on to a burger joint and celebrated our solo adventure with burgers, fries, and milk shakes, hers strawberry, mine vanilla. Periodically, we got the giggles again and laughed ourselves silly. She had taught me that if I relaxed, let go and let be, funny just was.

I went to college. She didn’t. She met a guy, Charlie, who ran with a motorcycle gang. I was scared for her, until I met him. Charlie was a slender stick of goodness who wore black leather like a second skin and was The Lord Herself with a long brownish hair and a sparse beard. I loved him. I loved him because he loved Sandy. I loved him because he was gentle and so perfect for her. I was proud to stand up in their wedding. They created a beautiful family.

Too young, Sandy got cancer. And then had a bad bout with Epstein-Barr that almost killed her, but not quite. It was Graft vs. Host disease from a bone marrow transplant that eventually took her. I visited her right before the transplant began at the University of Michigan. I can still see the daunting array of medicines that were about to be pumped into her body. She was weak. “Tell me the story about putting the car into “L,” she said, and we laughed again, she softly.

Charlie died not long after Sandy. It figured — they were conjoined. They left a gap in my heart that their memories fill to overflowing with love.

International Women’s Day got me thinking about the women who’ve helped me become. As I ran through the huge Rolodex of them in my Mind, I kept stopping at the S’s  and seeing Sandy.

She leapt over the slowness of life, sweet one. I’m still rolling down the highway.

Laughing more often. Trusting that I’m funny.  Leaping over obstacles. And thanking The Lord Herself for gurus like Sandy.


Photo courtesy of IStock Photo

Dr. Linda Sandel Pettit is a writer and author based in Phoenix, AZ, USA.  Her transformational memoir, Leaning into Curves: Trusting the Wild Intuitive Way of Love is available on Amazon and other book platforms. To hear the Linda read the prologue, visit: Home.

#drlindasandelpettit #leaningintocurves #trustingthewildintuitivewayoflove #memoir #transformationalmemoir #overcomingadversity #spiritualteacher #authenticity #healingjourney

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