Elsa woke up with a repeat episode of whatever happened back on the 21st of last month. Lethargy and then an episode of throwing up, followed by, thankfully, total recovery. Not sure if it’s nausea related to her nightly chemo or a minor stomach bug, but we generally take the rest of the day off. Then, around 9:45 AM, NPR announced the school shooting happening just a few towns away. I plopped Elsa in front of various mindless screens for the rest of the day (Dora the Explorer, apps on my phone) and spent the rest of the day totally unable to function. I alternated between listening to the news and then, shutting off all media sources because the whole thing felt too unbearable. Like I’m sure every parent listening to the events unfold, I just couldn’t seem to remove myself from what I imagined was happening in the minds of those parents. Parents just waiting to hear if their child was going to walk out of that school. Parents who could not physically get to their child and put their arms around them.
You start to sort through your past memories, wondering at your own moments of deepest agony and placing them on a scale. Usually, there is always something that can far outweigh your own worst moments. And then, sometimes, you find something that is just the heaviest and you are forced to grab on to your own worst agony and cradle it and gasp at just how lucky you are to have had the scales so tipped in your own favor.
J and I split the nightly chores at around 11:00PM. Someone takes out the dog. Someone gives Elsa her chemo. J usually takes chemo duty and sometimes even the dog too. Tonight, J had to work overnight, so I had to do both chores alone. The day-to-day drudgery of chemo duty sometimes gets the better of me as I lay on the couch, wishing I didn’t have to do anything else for anyone else. I sit, nestled in a warm pile of blankets, and I huff and puff that I just want to be left alone, quiet and selfish. Tonight, I was reminded of how absurdly, acutely, wildly lucky we are to throw off the blanket, walk to the kitchen, set up the various cups and syringes, put on our gloves, crush that tiny pill, mix it with water and apple juice, suck it up in the syringe, sneak into our daughter’s room, place our hand behind her head, lift her a few inches, squirt the medicine into her mouth, whispering “It’s time to take your medicine.”, watch her swallow, listen to her incomprehensible delirious murmurings as she rolls over and resettles in her bed. Sniff her hair. Kiss her forehead.