The Lingering Effects

I was letting my thoughts roam the other day while I washed my hair, and what bubbled up was, “What was Alden’s white blood cell count?” This isn’t unusual. Repetitive thoughts wear grooves in our brains, and so we often return to those places outside of need or logic. What stopped me mid-shampoo was… I couldn’t remember the exact number. I’m sure it’s here, if I care to go back in my archive. Knowing isn’t the point, though. Not knowing is a gift.

I still think about the kids in our hallway of the local children’s hospital. So many of the names on the door never changed, which means they were there longer than we were. Maybe their parents are still reciting test results from memory. I remember how sick I felt when I saw they had corrected Alden’s name on his door (first having used his formal first name, which we never do) because it meant they were getting to know him. Which is so kind. I wanted to be long gone before that happened, though.

Last weekend we went to a beautiful wedding. I lounged in an Adirondack chair and watched my kids plunk stones into a lake and felt again that sudden lightening. It comes over me still probably once a week. It’s a heady, slightly dizzy sensation, a little rush of adrenaline. I think these little rushes are akin to that breathless feeling that comes on just after a narrowly-avoided car accident. There’s a palpable difference between that atmospheric anxiety I can feel for my kids and the very clear, specific threat to one of them that we experienced early this year. The general worry is never gone. But the general worry is a creampuff. A marshmallow.

Our story is most remarkable, in retrospect, for what didn’t happen. Alden’s life was never in danger, we just didn’t know that. I know that is dumb luck, and its uncontrollable nature makes me so breathlessly grateful that it went the right way for us. Grateful to whom, if I say it is dumb luck? I don’t even care.

It’s too early to say, but maybe I am permanently changed by this experience. I had a long, hard day at work not long ago. At the end a colleague was following me down the hall trying to engage me in some problem that needed to be solved and I said, “Can we pick this up tomorrow? I’m trying to get to my son’s tennis lesson.” As my co-worker headed back the way he came I found my eyes filled with tears over the profundity of my good fortune in being interested in something mundane, domestic.

This seems like a lot of drama for what turned out fine. I get that. I think, though, that there is your brain before a doctor says words like “leukemia” and “brain tumor” to you, and there is your brain after that. And I will never minimize what Alden went through, because it was repeatedly invasive and horrible.

He went through his own kind of reckoning after all of this was over. He’s still shaking off the effects. Summer, with its total lack of structure or commitments for him, couldn’t have come at a better time.

This is just my message to the universe that I am grateful. First and always most importantly I’m grateful that Alden is okay. These moments, though, are also a gift. Like the forgetting. And I appreciate them too.





2 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, this is seriously wonderful.


  2. Posted by Jeannie on June 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Lovely and so true.


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