Posts tagged ‘Family’

My son is nine.  About a week ago, he discovered reading.  Not that he didn’t know HOW to read, just that he would not choose to spend his time reading for pleasure.  There was always something more important, more entertaining, more exciting to do than read.  And then, he found The Book.  We all have one.  That one Book that made us stop, pause where we were, what we were doing, and sit down to read.  The Book that took us to another land or another world.  The Book that taught us how to let our imaginations roam free in a world described on paper but created in our own minds.  The Book that will ALWAYS be better than the movie.  The Book that we may return to time and again, not because we have forgotten what happens within the pages, but because we remember the sheer joy we felt the first time we entered that realm.  The Book is different for each of us, but the results are the same.  It is that one Book that turns us into Readers.

For my son, it is a book that takes place within the Minecraft realm.  The characters are all taken from the game, but the adventure they go on is an original story created by the author.  He took a couple of days to read the first one in the series, and then blew through the next two in a day each.  And he shows no signs of slowing down.  Luckily for both of us, there are several more books in this series, and a couple of other series by the same author.  He will not run out of things to read.  But watching him become absorbed into the world of his imagination began to stir some nostalgic feelings in me.  I remembered those days of bumping into things and people in my own house because I would be trying to walk and read at the same time.  Nights spent under the covers with a flashlight, WAY past bedtime, because I just wanted to read “one more chapter“.

One wall of our living room is lined with bookshelves, our own little home Library.  It is about 15 feet long, 8 feet high, and packed with books.  Some are kids books, no more than 32 pages, where every character seems to be a talking animal that figures out a way to solve the problem they are confronted with, usually with the help of their friends or a kind adult or parent.  Others are textbooks from my and my husband’s college years.  Most are novels, biographies, and other “adult” books that we have picked up over the years, read maybe once or twice, and then they have found a permanent home on the shelf.  But one end of the shelf is devoted solely to my Book Collection.  Books that have been handed down or given to me by parents, grandparents, or other relatives.  These are books that have been part of the fabric of my life for as long as I can remember.  The Nancy Drew books I was given as a child when my mother signed me up for a “Book of the Month” club.  The Cherry Ames books that were my mother’s (along with the other, missing volumes I have acquired thanks to ebay).  The small, slim, red volumes of Shakespeare’s love plays – “Romeo & Juliet” and “Antony & Cleopatra” – that my great-grandparents (teachers, both) gave to one another as tokens of their affection.  Books that were published long before I, my mother, or (in some cases) even my grandmother were born.  Some of these books I have read over and over again.  Some I have never opened, and never will, but can’t seem to part with.  Some are in such fragile, delicate condition, that I keep the book, but if I want to read it I find an electronic version I can download to a tablet.  But, in all of them, I have found friendship, solace, comfort, adventure, wisdom, joy, fear, longing, and happiness.

I stood in front of this shelf today, just perusing the titles.  Seeing books I hadn’t thought about in a while brought a smile to my face.  Each title evoked images in my mind of setting, characters, or action.  Nancy trapped in the back of the moving van.  Plato, standing in his robes between marble columns, dispensing wisdom for the ages.  Sherlock working out the intricacies of a mystery while playing the violin.  Jo corralling a herd of boys, trying to instill in them the lessons and values that will make them Little Men.  Lincoln, in a distinctively un-presidential tent, within earshot of the battlefield, struggling over whether the choices he is making are the right ones.  Wynken, Blynken, and Nod sailing in their wooden shoe.  And Dorian, standing tall, looking as young and handsome as ever, while the portrait in the attic evolves into a contorted, grotesque version of its former image.

All of these books have helped to fashion who I am today, and I am grateful for them.  I could spend hours talking about books, but right now, I have to go – Cherry is about to board the train for nursing school.

The house had been in the family for over 50 years.  It was the house everyone gravitated to – for birthdays, holidays, weddings, funerals, and any other family gathering you can think of.  There had been days of joy and days of sorrow, days of ordinary and days of extraordinary experienced within those walls.  As a young family, they had bought the house when their oldest child was 10.  They moved in and proceeded to make the house a home.  The children grew to adulthood, but kept coming back to the house.  Soon, grandchildren began making their way through the house, running up and down the stairs, playing hide and seek in the closets, stealing cookies from the kitchen.  Years passed, and the grandchildren, too, grew into adulthood.  And the house remained the hub for the ever expanding family.

The house had been in the family almost 15 years already when she was born.  It was the first home she came home to from the hospital.  Over the next 35 years, it would be her home again and again, as she came back to live within its walls multiple times.  The house itself was a source of comfort, but the others who also lived there made it a home filled with love, understanding, and forgiveness.  She lived there with her mother and grandparents, and then later with just her grandparents.  She helped take care of them, and they helped take care of her in return.  She knew every inch of the house by heart, from the hidden storage underneath the basement stairs to the tiny eaves attic inside the closet.  She had dropped clothes down the 3-story laundry shute, and also toys (much to the grandmother’s chagrin).  She knew where everything was, even the hidden things, and helped keep all the secrets of the house.

Eventually, the grandparents grew “old”.  The grandfather began to have health problems, so she moved back in again to help.  When things got better, she moved far away, to another state, but the house was still her home.  When the grandfather died, she came back, and the house welcomed her.  When her world came crashing down around her and her marriage ended, she moved back in again.  Now in her 30’s, the house was again her home, but too proud to admit defeat, she didn’t stay long.  She got back on her feet, and moved out for the last time, with that arrogant confidence that the house would always be there for her.  Until the day it wasn’t.

When she found out the house would be sold, her biggest regret was not having the money to be able to buy it herself.  She, along with the other members of the family picked and chose the things they wanted to take with them to help preserve their own memories of the house and all the times they shared there.  She began to fill her own home with things that reminded her of the grandparents, of the times they shared, and the love within the house.  Once the house was empty, she wandered through the rooms, thinking about all the time she had spent in the house over the past 40 years.  She knew she would probably never be in the house again, so she took her time saying good-bye.

Over the next few years, she would occasionally drive by the house, sometimes alone, sometimes with others in the car.  If she had someone with her, she would point the house out and explain her relationship to it.  She would not stop, would not hesitate, but would continue on her way without giving any more thought to the house.  Then came the day the main road was closed, and the detour led her back to the neighborhood.

She was alone in the car, and had to stop at the stop sign across from the house.  In all the time that had passed since she had last been in the house, she had only thought of the house in the abstract, as a building with which she once had a connection, not as a home.  It had not been a home in nearly a decade, in her mind.  As she sat at the stop sign, looking at the house, she saw it.  A young girl, maybe 7, danced through her line of vision in the large picture window in the dining room.  The girl was smiling, laughing, having a moment, maybe even making a memory.  As she watched the girl disappear from view, it occurred to her that the house was as it had always been – a home.  It had been a home when she was a child, when she was an adult, and it was now a home to another little girl.  Another little girl who would grow up and have her own wonderful memories of the house, the home.

Cancer is a surreal creature.  It is sort of like a bus ride, and it doesn’t matter how or why you end up on the bus.  Once you are there, you are along for the ride until the end, no matter what that end might be.  Some days the ride is smooth, the weather is clear and you might even enjoy the scenery out the windows.  Other days, the bus seems to hit every pothole in the road, everything is stormy, and you don’t even want to open your eyes to look around.

We went to the doctor today.  On our last visit, he was all doom and gloom, talking about how much time my mother-in-law might have left, and how she would have to make a decision about whether or not she would want to resume chemotherapy treatments.  We spent five weeks agonizing over what to do, even through my father-in-law’s death, knowing that today would come and the answer would be expected.  Despite all the time and effort we put into preparing for that moment, none of us were ready for what happened next.

The doc came in, took one look at my mother-in-law, and began marvelling about how well she looks and how strong she looks and how well she is recovering from her broken hip.  He then went on to say how much he wants her to resume her treatments, even though he wasn’t going to do anything today due to a minor bacterial infection she currently has.  We asked about not doing treatment anymore, and he responded that not doing treatment wasn’t even an option at this time.  Same thing when we asked about getting Hospice involved.

Ironically, the doctor never seemed to notice how relieved my mother-in-law was when he told her she would not be getting a treatment today.  She hasn’t gotten to the place where she can come right out and admit it, but she spent most of the summer telling anyone that would listen how she hoped they wouldn’t make her do any more treatments.  The problem is that, on the one hand, she doesn’t want to die (who does?) but on the other, she doesn’t want to deal with all the side effects from the chemo again.  For the time being, it seems as though the decision is being taken out of her hands, which is probably the most relief of all for her.  Not having to decide is the most desirable choice for her.

So, for now, we will stay on the bus and keep looking out the windows.  Odds are that we will see some dark clouds ahead and the road will get rough again, but for right now it’s blue skies and easy going.  No matter what the journey brings, for now, we will continue the ride.

When you are a parent of a child with severe food allergies, you constantly walk along a cliff, looking down, watching every step, trying to make sure you don’t plunge off the edge.  Most of the time, through diligence, patience, and a lot of home cooking, you can stroll along with a wide comfort zone between you and the abyss.  Sometimes, though, circumstances push you closer and closer to the edge, to the point that, with every step, gravel and small rocks slip from beneath your feet and tumble down while you flail desperately to keep from following.  You know that if you do fall, there is a pretty good chance that you will be able to grab that rope called “Epinephrine Auto-Injector”, and it will help prevent certain doom, but it is always a last resort.

For the most part, we have done OK, but this morning we were reminded of just how precarious our journey is.  When my son woke up, he had the tell-tale polka-dot rash spreading out from his neck and down across his torso, front and back.  Thank you, cross-contamination.  We got take-away for dinner last night from a trusted location (one that we have researched and know the menu and ingredients and what is safe and what is not).  My son enjoyed his meal, but had an uncomfortable overnight, and woke this morning with the rash.  Our best guess is that someone had cheese on their gloves when they grabbed his chicken, or somehow a drop of ice cream somehow got onto his food.  No matter, it happened, and there was nothing we could do about it.  Allergy-inducing proteins are invisible.  They don’t come in bright colors or carry signs to alert you of their presence.  They just lurk in the shadows, waiting to pounce, given the opportunity.

I didn’t choose this journey, but it is mine, along with my husband and my child.  We look to each other on a daily basis to check our footing, and reach out to catch each other when one of us starts to slip.  It is never pleasant, never easy, and never-ending.  Thankfully, it has been a while since we have had to use our auto-injector, but I have to erase my mental chalkboard of “Days Without an Allergic Reaction” and reset it to 0.    While our trek continues, just once, I would like to be able to stop and enjoy the view from Life on the Edge.

Friends, all is right with the world . . . just finished opening Christmas presents with Brandon. He is home and working on readjusting to life outside the hospital. He is very weak and still tires very easily, but HE IS HOME! It might sound a little crazy, but after the roller coaster of the past two weeks, it is so comforting to be just sitting and being peaceful and chatting and laughing with Brandon. Just letting the calm wash over me . . . Thank you so much for all your love, prayers, and support over the past two weeks. I don’t know that we could have done it without you! Thank You!!!