Someone offered a trade once – Jake for their little girl. It was a joke – you know, he accidentally walked out with them instead of with us – something like that. So they made the offer and said, “Your mom probably wants a girl, right?”
“My mom doesn’t want girls”, Jake said. “Only boys.” I don’t know what I’m doing right that makes him believe that – believe so thoroughly that he is wanted that he doesn’t even wonder if I ever dreamed of a pink hospital cap instead of a blue one. Jake has a gift – as, maybe, all children do – to live right now and only right now. I love the way I am swept into that universe every time I am with him. Like today, when he opened his fast-food wrapper and then the hamburger inside it, and said, “These pickles are enormous.” It made me laugh, because he hates pickles on his hamburger – we have that nailed at the usual restaurants, but I forgot it today. And yet, he didn’t complain or whine at me – “Mo-om, why did you get me pickles?” He just observed them. And then used some rather impressive vocabulary to do so. I mean, that’s a great sentence for a seven-year-old, I think. No slang, and such brevity. And there I was, in his moment. Not a single worry about anything outside of it.
You know one of my favorite things to do? I like to go to the city. On a weekday. We get to do it every four months or so when we travel to Kansas City for my check-ups. And I love the moment post-checkup (whether the news is good or bad) when we go to a restaurant. I love to sit among a room of chattering strangers. They live miles away from my normal life. And there are so many of them. And they still represent only a fraction – a teeny tiny fraction of humanity. And I feel deliciously small. It’s suddenly so weird that I get so stressed about our cluttered back porch or my to-do list. It’s a relief to realize not a single person in that room knows why I’m in town or cares. My cancer means nothing to them. It doesn’t affect them. It doesn’t shake their world. And if I can place myself in that universe where their problems don’t affect me and my problems don’t affect them, then my world slows its shaking, too. In that restaurant, I feel endless possibility. Look at all these people having deeply meaningful lives so outside of my own. That means I have choices, too. I could live here. I could live somewhere else. I could change jobs. I could stay home and write books. (I mean, theoretically, Babe. If we, like, sold things and didn’t want anything more than we have.) I could be anything, go anywhere, be this small and this valuable any way I want. The earth is enormous, and it’s not my daily troubles that move it. I love that feeling.
The last checkup was Tuesday, November 12. It appears there may be a local recurrence of the tumor from November 2010 – my left lung. I’m not scared. We’ll have a PET scan for more diagnostics, and then they’ll get it out. And probably with a powerfully, pinpointed radiation this time instead of surgery. We’re still winning; we all feel sure of that. It’s just a little trouble.
People are worried about my boys, and I love them for it. Thank you for stopping John Michael in the hallway and telling him you know exactly what he is going through because your mom had cancer when you were his age and he can talk to you if he needs a friend. Thank you for the text to Andrew. It means the world to me the way people turn in and surround us when bad news strikes again.
But I hope something else for you, too. I hope you feel free to get vacuumed into whatever happiness you can find Right Now. Life is lovely there. And the pickles are enormous.
PS. Thanks to my awesome brother-in-law, Ryan Long, for such a gorgeous picture of such a silly boy.