Off the List

Autumn at the Lees: cords that go weenk-weenk, carrying the one, Way to Go! stickers on spelling tests, pumpkin muffins, and boys (all three) piled on the couch to watch football and grind potato chip crumbs into the cushions. The kids weren’t interested in fall soccer (hooray!) so weekends can be spent mum-planting, apple-picking, and nothing-doing. I adore this stretch of time from the first yellow bus sighting leading up to the decking of halls. It’s an optimistic time of year that feels very hug-your-neighbor to me. I feel so strong and hopeful that I took my biggest leap of Faith to date: I told Laine to remove my name from the Redeemer prayer list.

Of course this felt all sorts of jinx-y to me, not to mention ungrateful. What’s the etiquette here? Britt Lee heartily thanks those who have been chatting up God on her behalf. I owe all of you a dinner out, a scented candle, a pretty card, a bottle of wine, free Botox. Your prayers are responsible for my Peace. I know that I’ll still have a steady stream from Zealot Sister and family and other do-gooders, but coming off the list was another page turned in my Book of Cancer as I write my way to the end of it.

The penultimate chapter happened last month when April invited the boys and me for an afternoon on the boat. I love the fact that April has a boat, an actually kind of big boat that supports deep-sea fishing and sleeping-of-four and peeing. I love even more the fact that I had no idea April owned a gigantic boat until I’d known her for two years, and even then didn’t know it could cocktail cruise us to Martha’s Vineyard in 20 minutes time. All of you know the myriad reasons April and I are buddies, but I’ve got to say… everyone should really get herself one of these boat-owning friends. (She’s absolutely cringing at this.)

It was a day I’ll never forget because it was a turning point for me alongside my brave little boys. The Ridiculously Athletic Anderson Family tradition is to anchor really quite far from the beach, swim to shore, and then voluntarily jump off of a really quite high bridge made famous for cinematic shark attacks. There was a little part of me that wondered why I did all of that surgery and chemo if I was going to die in the open ocean trying to keep up with the aquatic shenanigans of this towheaded team of Andersons. But I did it. I strapped a boogie board to my wrist and swam my boys to shore. I helped Brodie hurl himself into (shark-free) waters from the No Jumping Allowed Bridge. My boys saw me swimming strongly, sanctioning risks, and having fun with a glass of Sancerre in my hand and the wind in my short hair. I’ve come a long way from the trappings of Sick Mommy.

But the boys haven’t put this on the out-of-reach shelf yet. Just a few days after the boating excitement, the boys witnessed me arguing with CVS staff about tamoxifen refills. Then, because it was a rainy, chilly day at the Cape, my stolen afternoon reading time morphed into zzz’s under the covers. Teddy found me snoozing in the afternoon and asked, quite devastatingly, “Mommy, did you have chemo again today?” Ugh. Guilt. A thousand reassurances about what tamoxifen does and does not do. I may never nap again.

So although I am fine and well and fully encourage the return to regularly scheduled prayer programs, maybe you’ll keep Brodie and Teddy in mind for a little longer. Although bridge jumping kinds of days assure them that I’m better, I cannot know how large their catalog of bad memories looms. But just when I needed it, I was given a little hint of angels in their midst. Teddy returned from his first day of school and described his 2nd grade teacher: “She’s nice. And she’s REALLY good at keeping secrets.” Every grown up should strive to inspire that summary from a child. As Teddy continues to make sense of that nutty time when mommy slept through afternoons, I know he’ll keep us posted with heartbreaking and hilarious journal entries to his trusted teacher. Certainly his self-confidence hasn’t been tested by any of this. When I asked him what kinds of secrets she’s so good at keeping he was quick to tell me, “… she’d never tell the other kids how good I am at math.”


First Day of School

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