Sock Basket

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T’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer a month or so ago.  She received her diagnosis on the day her oldest brother died, and it was Christmastime.  She has three little daughters.  The youngest isn’t even in school yet.  She turned 40 a few weeks before the diagnosis which is almost impossible for me to fathom.  She was only three years old when T and I started dating.  When she was six, I traveled to California with her, T, and their mom to visit their grandparents.  She was just learning to whistle on that trip.  I shared a bed with her for two weeks on that trip, and she whistled late into the night.  I can remember gently lifting up her tiny body to move her over to her own side of the bed each night.  She was eight years old at our wedding when she was a junior bridesmaid in our wedding.  She was missing her two front teeth, and she cried like her heart would break when T and I left the wedding reception that night.

She spent many nights with us during the early years of our marriage.  We’d take her to Taco Bell, for ice cream and to Indian pow wow’s.  We invented an indoor, candlelight golf game to play, and she wore an apron to help with housework.  She was our weekend babysitter when Andrew was little.  It was a sweet deal.  We allowed her to bring a friend along and paid her with pizza and movie rentals.

Today, hundreds of miles away from us, she had a double mastectomy.  There are multiple tumors, and they’re large.  She will have a month of recovery after surgery before beginning a grueling regimen of chemotherapy.

I have navigated this day, and the weeks prior, with a heavy heart.  I hate the thought of the anguish and pain she has been going through and will face over the coming months.  I hate it that her life will be forever changed, because there is no way to face such things without it fundamentally changing who we are as a person.

My other sister in law has kept me up to date throughout the day.  I ache for what she is going through, too, her husband, my 80 year old mother in law, and my three little nieces.  I hate it that this one sister who was the baby of the family and cherished by all has to go through the evil that is cancer.

And so we trudged through another work day hundreds of miles away from our family, but we were with them in spirit and in prayer.  We were not asked to be there, and we know that our presences would have accomplished nothing.  This was a time when more people would have complicated an already difficult situation.

The contrast of my day with that of my sister in law’s was drastic.  I felt guilty to enjoy a productive meeting, a bowl of soup for lunch, and a song playing as I drove home from work.  How can one life be so normal, mundane even, when another lays helpless on a table while doctors slice away hoping to eradicate the killer?  I squeezed my eyes shut several times today in a prayer of thanksgiving for this normal and boring day, and I prayed for the life of my sister in law.

Tonight as we waited for word that she was out of surgery, I started in on the laundry.  I needed to wash the bedding for our new bedroom furniture that will be delivered tomorrow afternoon.  T was working on wiring in the basement.  We’re knee-deep in the middle of a major home improvement project.  I’m excited to see how things will look with the new furniture and with one little corner finished in the mess of our house.  I felt a pang of guilt to be happily anticipating these meaningless changes in our lives.

I finished folding laundry and grabbed the basket that sits on the shelf in the laundry room.  Whenever a stray sock shows up, it ends up in the basket to be sorted out later.  I called out to the girls to look through their sock drawers for strays, and soon they joined me in the sock sort.  We talked quietly as we paired the socks.  We wondered at where their missing mates might have ended up.  We found a few single gloves and a dog bootie.  I breathed in a deep sigh as we returned the non-paired stray socks to the basket.  The sorting and the conversation with my daughters had eased the tight knot of stress between my shoulders.

Simple days, days without pain, when loved ones are within the sound of our voice are days to cherish.  I told my girls that I love them and that I was grateful for their help and their company.

Tonight I pray for my sister in law.  I want her to have thousands of mundane days ahead of her, days full of work and simple chores like sorting socks with her daughters.

Past into the Future

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woman-future-ahead-forward-ss-1920-800x450It’s been a while since I have written in this blog or anywhere else.  I’m not sure why I ended up here tonight.  I was remembering my mom.  She died four years ago today, and I needed to read the words I had written years ago.  I wanted to go back in time for a few moments and remember what our lives were like during those last few weeks.  It wasn’t an easy time.  Four years later, the memories of those last years, and terrible last months, are beginning to mellow and become replaced with gentler, happier memories from my childhood.  I miss both of my parents.  I’m not sure if I will ever be able to see myself as anything but an orphan for the rest of my days.  As an only child, the shared memories of my childhood died along with my parents.

I often think of what my parents would think of my life now.  They don’t know where I live!  They have never been to my home.  They don’t know where I work.  For the first time, I have freedom from their opinions and judgement of my life, and yet I miss those same opinions that often filled me with anger or dread.

There has been so much change in my life over these past four years.  An unbelievable amount of change; it often feel like a completely different life.  So many people I have loved are gone now.  Even this past year, we have lost other friends and family.  Other people have left my life for reasons of their own or our lives have taken separate paths.  It’s no surprise to me that I do not deal well with change and loss.  For so many years, life was full of steadiness and sweet sameness.  As I get older, I realize that change is inevitable and beyond my control.  As a result, I have found a profound appreciation of those moments when life feels wonderful.  There are big moments and little moments of perfect just waiting to be acknowledged if we’re willing to recognize and honor them.

Getting older isn’t any fun, but along with age comes valuable experience.  If I have learned anything over these past difficult years, it has been to appreciate moments of peace, laughter, and contentment.  I have learned to slow down and enjoy what is in front of me instead of longing for what I feel is lacking in my life.  Another thing that is new, and I think good, is a new sense of impatience.  I am impatient and intolerant when it comes to bullshit.  For too many years, I wasted time and energy on people who didn’t deserve a moment of my time.  And I didn’t enjoy the frustration.  I enjoy making people happy.  That won’t change, but I’m not longer a “pleaser.”

I wish my parents could be here now.  I think they would approve of the new me.  They would be proud.  I often image how they would view our lives in this new place.  It’s so very different from our lives back home and anything they would have ever imaged.  I know they would be proud to see how their grandchildren have grown into such fine adults.

Most weekends find us with a house overflowing with people and laughter.  We live close enough for our sons to visit, and our family is growing.  Luke is engaged and will be married this coming summer.  Emily has a serious boyfriend from back home who visits most weekends.  Lola is a busy 7th grader with a group of giggly girlfriends who are here most Saturdays.  T and I are now the older generation.  Isn’t that a weird thing?  We are creating new stories, new traditions, and new memories.  Even as we mourn the past and learn to let go, life continues to surge around us and pull us into the future.