I’ve been playing catch-up this week from Spring Break. Yesterday was sheets, towels and bathrooms. I cleaned, but not “company” cleaned, only “good-enough for us” kind of cleaned. Most of the time DW measures the cleanliness of our house by how it smells anyway. Today will be floors and dusting.
I spent a good chunk of the day complaining about the girls’ messes while tidying up their rooms. Every room, actually, since there was a trail from bottom to top of gymnastics leos, soccer cleats, books and babies. I complained while I scrubbed dried ooey-gooey blue toothpaste off both of their sinks and definitely complained about having to clean pee-stained tiles in front of their toilet. (Seriously – I don’t have little boys. What do they do, sit at the very edge of the commode and watch it trickle down the outside of the bowl for amusement?) I wish I could say that the complaints stopped with the kids, but no – there was plenty of man-sized muck waiting for me in our master bathroom as well.
This put me in a bit of a grouchy mood by the time I had to go to practice. Luckily we had sun yesterday afternoon. My mood began to shift with the lingering breeze and 68 degree weather.
About half-way through practice, one of my previous season girls came to find me – not completely unusual. It is a fairly common occurence to randomly hear “HI COACH” from past program participants. This little girl though, has come to find me almost every week this semester. She wasn’t able to join our team due to a knee injury, but still comes by to give me a hug as often as she can manage. I am flattered that she thinks of me so often – the feeling is mutual. She was the light of our team. Her smile was more than contagious, it was healing. Her wit and charm were unmatched. There are just some children that permanently change your spirit for the better, remind you how important it is to really enjoy life.
Yesterday was different. Her hug was tighter and longer than usual. When she pulled away, tears welled in her eyes.
“Hey – what’s the matter kiddo?” I asked perplexed.
“Oh, nothing much. I just needed to hug you today.”
I smiled with gratitude.
“And I needed to tell you that my mom has breast cancer.”
I stopped smiling. It just didn’t seem possible. I have run two 5k’s with this little girl and her mom in the last year. She is one of the healthiest women that I know. There must be some mistake.
But the anxiety and fear in my tiny team-mate’s face could not be mistaken.
I wanted to cry right there, pull her close to me and tell her it was going to be alright. Maybe I needed her to tell me it was going to be alright too. Instead I took her hand and walked to the side-walk. We waited for mom to pick her up together. When mom got there I was amazed at the beaming grin on her face at the sight of her daughter. She seemed genuinely glad to see me as well, as we exchanged salutations. I didn’t really know what to say, except “I’m so sorry” and ridiculously add that she looked great. Next week will be her 5th chemo treatment and it appeared that her hair had already surrendered although it was obvious that her spirit has not.
As they drove away, mom and daughter, I felt like I was watching an alternate self. This mom is about my age. Our daughters are also about the same age. This could be me – there’s no way to know how life is going to unmask itself. I was reminded that my earlier family complaints were petty and selfish.
I take so many things for granted. Many years ago I knew a mom at our church diagnosed with cancer. She started writing letters and buying gifts for all three of her girls. She wanted to still be a part of their big birthdays and life’s milestones, like turning 16, graduations, weddings and babies. It took my breath away to think about what an intimate legacy she was giving to these girls.
If you wrote letters to your children to congratulate their future achievements or encouragement through life’s future struggles, what would you say?
I don’t like being faced with these glaring reminders of how fortunate I am – it is uncomfortable – but hopefully the next time I am grumbling about life’s labors, instead of savoring its sweetness, I will remind myself of the families that have much bigger crap to deal with instead.
Afterall, what do I have to complain about, really? I don’t have cancer.