Our biggest problem on Saturday, July 20th, 2013, was how to manage TOO many birthday parties. How could we possibly juggle too many friends, too much fun, a day full of celebration? Imagine the stress of such good fortune! We decided to divide and conquer, J braving the early morning chaos of Jump Zone and I elected for the afternoon back-yard BBQ for one of E’s buddies. J ended up joining us at the BBQ after all, lured by burgers, beers, and good company.
While at the party, during some light conversation, I mentioned something related to E’s leukemia and my friend said, “Hey. Don’t you guys have an anniversary coming up?” I paused and thought.
Woah. It’s late July.
Woah. It’s July 20th.
I scrambled through my phone’s calendar just to double-check and, sure enough, our day of infamy had come and gone without hardly a second glance. Had my friend never mentioned it, I’m pretty sure we would have continued unawares.
The dark storm cloud of cancer dissipated so slowly from our life, that I’m not sure we even noticed once it had disappeared. We don’t Purell anymore. I don’t have bionic ears anymore that can hear someone sneeze or cough from 50 feet away. Grocery carts are no longer terrifying, germ-infested, wheeled death traps. We no longer require full body decontamination after leaving a store. E and her friends shove their grubby little hands into the same container of snacks, stuffing food into their own mouths, and occasionally each other’s. I don’t say anything and, actually, I hardly notice.
The storm passed and life is now the same old forest, but we’re more aware of the sunlight through the trees, the birdsong, and the soft moss beneath our feet. I’ll probably never stop mentioning how a friend once told me that E’s diagnosis had put their own life into Technicolor (this is, at least, my 3rd mention of it on the blog – thank you Rachel!). Elsa’s cancer has been something of a drug trip, making the rest of our good fortune seem almost psychedelic. The mundanities of life feel like gifts. Plus, cancer has left us with the added advantage that, anytime something in our life appears challenging, we just remember “Hey. We did that? We can do anything.”
This isn’t to say that I walk around with my psychedelic sunglasses always on, exclaiming at the world’s immense beauty. J and I have our fair share of evenings spent feeling despondent and stressed over our long hard days, scary new jobs, and upcoming move. There are days where I can’t possibly answer another, “Why Mom?” or manage one more tantrum over the forbidden chocolate bars at the checkout line. There are still plenty of days that I spend longing for solitude and a day spent on the couch. I mean, we were actually stressed out by the thought of a day filled with too many birthday parties!
I guess the real point is that we live with less fear and less sadness than we did before July 20th, 2011. I always imagined that July 20th would visit me every year as a heavy burden, a solemn day of mourning for those months and years that we lived with such fear and sadness. Here we are though, a measly two years later and 80 days from the finish line (!!!) and July 20th just floated by, light and soft. It was just a day with too many birthday parties, too many friends to juggle, and too much fun and celebration.