Thursday was Teddy’s birthday, and like every year, he jumped out of bed before sunrise to announce, quite loudly, IT’S MY BIRTHDAY, and to find a stack of presents alongside of his Halloween haul. Legos, Kit Kats, and later… ninja-embellished cake: a dreamy day for any 8-year-old boy. I let him open all of the toys, even though there wouldn’t be enough time to assemble the entire Ultrasonic Raider before school. And because it was his birthday, only giggled at his teary admonishments when it was time to head to the bus stop: “Why did you have to have me on a school day? It’s NO FAIR!” (Also not fair: two consecutive pregnant summers). After tooth brushing and backpack locating and that-jacket-isn’t-warm-enough, I put my littlest boy– my teeny breech baby– on the bus, holding back the floodgate of emotions that accompany all of my milestone-y moments of late. Teddy is 8, I’m all healthy and haired and here, and Legos will keep me from any real, active parenting responsibilities for a few days. We are lucky lucky lucky Lees with a dry basement and nary a felled tree to boot.
At the moment, the Lee household is brimming with relatives. Bernie’s sister, her two adorable children, and A-Ma fled powerless, damp NJ to shack up with us for at least another week. Alice (Bernie’s niece who lives with us) and my mom, who is probably stranded until Amtrak develops some sort of submarine capabilities, are here, too. It’s quite cozy and fun in spite of meal planning math, mom’s dishwasher obsession, A-Ma’s new cancer theories, and adorable children with a stubborn aversion to sleep. But we have power and Prosecco, so no complaints here.
Bernie and I were nearly stranded, ourselves. We went to New Orleans for a conference last weekend, but escaped just ahead of Sandy… and just in time to stare nervously at the probable trajectory of our trees. It was the first time I have left the boys since The Big Bummer News, so another milestone-y moment I enjoyed… with Cajon-spiced abandon. Unfortunately, my post chemo stomach wasn’t ready for a hey-that’s-probably-even-better-fried! trip to the bayou. Turns out NOLA isn’t the best spot for Cancer Girl Trying to Be Healthy. Nope, that town is the naughty friend who drags you, cackling, into her web of bad decisions. She also smells like urine and has really slutty outfits.
I could trash that city for another two paragraphs, but instead, will tell you about the fabulous people I saw there. You might have seen The Greenspuns on these pages before. They’re the ones with the awesomely supportive messages, the funny and sweet sentiments of people who just… get it. David, a sworn atheist, sent up super Jewish prayers on my behalf. Rachel, his pretty, chatty wife is someone who obliterates formality in honor of obviously-we’re-going-to-be-friends. As we get older, and adult attachments are formed around schools, clubs, kids, and work, I appreciate that kind of authentic buddy-ness… especially when it’s coming from someone whip smart and married to one of my favorite plastic surgeons (and I know quite a few).
I also got to see the Mathes’s. David and I were residents together for two years and developed a kinship that involved a lot of giggling of the overworked and sleep-deprived. Probably the most charming attribute of someone all published and impressive and famous-among-the-transplant-crowd is an irrepressible tendency to make fun of himself, to embrace silliness, and to be willing pop the cork on the gift wine even though it’s already 2am. He and his beautiful wife have been faithful readers of this drivel… Amanda sometimes messaging me within minutes of a post. That my two favorite Davids from residency should become plastic surgeons in the same field as my husband is probably not odd coincidence. Obviously, I’m drawn to these goofy-smart perfectionist types… and so happy to bump into them at finer hotels everywhere at least twice a year.
I didn’t intend to embarrass them with these snapshotty descriptions, but The Davids, and their wives who have become dear friends, have been on my mind for more reasons than the joy of reconnecting with them in my post-hair era. Recently, I’ve been… well maybe barraged is too big a word, but there are just too many woman receiving this Big Bummer News. Because Bernie’s job puts him right into the middle of the tragedy of so many women (how does he do this?), of course I’m going to hear some stories. But lately it’s so many friend-of-friends, acquaintances, that woman-you-met-at-that-party… and everyone is too young, and with small children, and as Teddy said, IT’S NOT FAIR! Just today, a wonderful woman asked me how to help her newly diagnosed sister. Immediately I thought of my recently reunited friends in New Orleans. I told her how vital it was for me to have these people in my life– to know someone was praying, caring, just keeping me in mind. That the Greenspuns would re-visit a park and toast to my health, that Amanda would shorten a bedtime story to read a comparison of my dad to a watermelon… and that they would share those stories with me? My inner romantic believes Cancer’s got nothing on the power of that.
Love trumps fear. It won’t cure Cancer or keep your hair from falling out or make it all a bad dream (things I wished for). But it does put a cap on the terror of it all. Last night as I was putting ninja-cake stuffed boys to bed, I told them to ignore the chattering and never-want-to-go-to-bed wailings of their adorable cousins. Brodie pulled his covers to his chin and said, “Why don’t they want to go to bed? I relish it!” After complimenting him on the vocabulary, I asked him why he thought it was easier for him to get to sleep. “Because I have a little brother right next to me to talk to!” It is actually always that simple. And it’s exactly how I feel about all of you: all pulling up the covers and relishing it.