What I have become.

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From the seat of my SUV, I watch him stride from the building. Head high, shoulders slightly hunched from the weight of his backpack. I know he is The One. I can always tell, because I get this zing down my spine, an electric punch that confirms The One I’ve chosen is exactly right. I let the engine idle, pretend to fuss around with something in my console; I don’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself. Keep it chill, relaxed.

I know I will get what I want in the end. I always do.

From behind the safety mask of my mirror lens sunglasses, I watch him advance. He stops to chat with a few kids near his age who have huddled around the smoking area. He laughs, Adam’s apple bobbing in his scrawny neck. He rocks back on his heels, forward again. Swings his backpack to his opposite shoulder.

I wait.

Finally, he continues toward me. I take in the way his shirt clings to his chest and shoulders – you know the look, that I-wear-my-shirts-too-tight-so-my-arms-look-like-I-work-out look. Common among the younger college set. Distressed jeans. Converse. He could use a hair cut. Maybe not. Maybe he is growing it out, trying for a young, punk, rock legend style. Who knows? For my purpose today, it doesn’t really matter.

My breath comes in shorter bursts as my eyes follow his right hand, reaching deep into his jeans pocket and removing a jangling set of keys. I knew it! I was right. I tap my gas pedal – just enough to start my SUV rolling, not quite enough to rev the engine and merit his glance. Caught! He’s looking right at me – I catch my breath and hold it, as if doing so will render me invisible. No..no..he hasn’t seen me. He’s watching that giant eagle soaring past. Breathe deep, breathe slow. My heart begins to decelerate until it is back to a normal rhythm. That was close.

He enters the first level of stairs. Having no idea which level of the ramp he is parked on, I must follow the spiral around, slowly, slowly, watching for him to emerge from the door to the stairs. I focus on modulating my breathing. In my nose, out my mouth, in, nose, out, mouth, in, out, in, out. No rush, I’m in no rush. I can wait. I can do this. He does not come out the door. He must have gone down further. I aim my weapon – er, my SUV, and begin another descent. Adrenaline pumps through my veins, the excitement of what I am about to do thrills me. How many times has this happened? More than I can count. Every time, every time, the thrill of it stuns me. Electricity is all around me; I feel it in the air; I feel it inside me; it spurs me on. I release my death grip on the steering wheel. Relax. I can’t, I can’t relax. I am too close now.

Down the spiral of the ramp, I think I spot him. No, it’s not my guy. Another one, similar style, but this guy is headed in. My guy is on his way out. I smile to myself.

I am filled with the desire to gun my engine, fly down the ramp, and corner him. I hold back. Slowly, deliberately, I curve around the next level. This part – the hunt – is part of the pleasure. I think I see…over there? There he is! Yes, yes! That’s my guy, heading toward his vehicle. I force myself to breathe normally. My hands shake. The moment has come. My eyes dart nervously about in the darkened ramp, but I see nobody here to question me, or challenge me. I lick my lips. I wait.

My chest begins to burn from the effort of deep breathing. I swallow hard. He is taking his time, opening the rear driver’s side door, depositing his backpack; it hits the backseat with a thunk! And he pauses a moment to rub the shoulder that has just been released from its heavy burden. He bends in to retrieve something…..a water bottle. Unscrews the cap, takes a drink. I tap my hand on my thigh, Come on, buddy, come on! Suddenly, I am out of patience. My grip again tightens on the steering wheel. I am squeezing it so tightly my hands turn red, then white. I clench my teeth.

Almost, almost. I can wait.

Finally! He is in, starting his engine. I am so close, so close. I shut my eyes, just for a second, relishing the anticipation. I focus on his red tail lights, two crimson eyes staring into my soul – slowly creeping toward me. Now! Now is the time to make my move.

I freeze.

He shifts into Drive, and sails away. I watch him, just for a second, and then he is out of sight.

Self-loathing rises in my throat. I am disgusted by what I have become.

What I have become….what I am, and now, will always be.

I am a Parking Space Stalker.

The Zipper

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Eighteen years ago this week, I was given a Zipper as a gift. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it much, but after all these years, it’s grown on me. As a matter of fact, I’ve carried this Zipper with me every day since I received it. You might not see it, but I’ve got it, always, just under my shirt.

I thought it was ugly, and I cried about this gift at first. I couldn’t give it back though, because once it had been opened, the Zipper was un-returnable.

I hated it because it was red and purple, and because I didn’t like the way it felt on my skin, and because it was hard and itchy and angry and painful.

I was 20 years old – just under 2 weeks shy of turning 21 – and 36 weeks pregnant with my first child.
I kept getting sick, and kept having pain, and kept being brushed off as a nervous first-time mother. I was told by a sturdy, well-seasoned nurse that all pregnant women felt this way and I wondered to myself how any woman could possibly survive feeling this ill and having this much pain more than once in a lifetime.

Every time I attempted to swallow any type of liquid, the searing pain in my back would attack me, feeling like a Charlie horse between my shoulder blades, and I couldn’t swallow, and if, by some miracle, I managed to swallow a sip, I would immediately begin vomiting.

So I was hushed and shushed and told it was par for the course, and on the day of my baby shower, I couldn’t eat any of the food, my most favorite foods, that my mom and sisters and aunts had made for me, and I spent a good portion of the party crying in the bathroom and vomiting.

My lips had become so dry they cracked and bled, and when at last I became so overwhelmed by the pain and misery that had been with me every day for weeks, I began to cry.

But I was so dehydrated, I had no tears.

My husband was worried and frightened and when he feels that way he tends to come off as angry and loud, and he scooped me up off the floor, giant belly and all –mine, not his– and carried me to our little beater of a car.

This time, we did not go through the emergency room, we went straight up to the Women’s and Children’s department and he carried me in his arms and walked right up to the first nurse we saw and demanded help; in fact, he stood there and said in a very loud, firm voice, “WE WILL BE STANDING RIGHT HERE UNTIL SOMEONE COMES AND HELPS MY WIFE.”

And the nurse came around the long, white desk and peered into my face as if I were something suspect beneath a microscope, and said, “Let me get you a room and a doctor. Something isn’t right.”

I considered that nurse an angel. I wanted to kiss her, but thought it might be inappropriate, considering my dry and bloodied lips.
So it turned out that the horrendous pain actually wasn’t “just the baby kicking”, but a gallbladder filled with stones and near rupture, and I had a fever because I was pretty much filled with infection, and this was all rather upsetting considering I hadn’t yet made it past the 38 week mark that meant I was full-term.

My OB/GYN was called and he came and was sorry for the news he had to bring, but he sat by my side and held my hand and told me we had to get my gallbladder out. There was no way to do that without delivering the baby first, so I was being scheduled for an emergency C-section.

And I started to cry, because we hadn’t covered much about C-sections in the birthing classes I had attended, and because it sounded frightening, and because it meant I wouldn’t be awake when my baby was born, and because I was 20 years old and didn’t want a scar.

And I continued to cry, because it wasn’t in my plan, the way I had been dreaming about it for the last 30-odd weeks; the plan where hours of laboring ended up with me engulfed in my husband’s strong arms as he held me up, and we counted together, and did the panting and breathing, and my face would be tear-streaked (but make-up intact) and my hair would be wet with the sweat of the whole ordeal, and I would grit my teeth and perhaps scream a time or two just there at the very end of it all and the doctor would hold up our perfect baby and smile in victory, and my husband would look down at me in admiration and tell me I was so brave, and I would smile and say it was all worth it, because now look, we’re a family.

But I didn’t know quite how to get all that information relayed to those now in charge of my body, so instead I said, quite stupidly: “But I was planning an all-natural birth. I didn’t want any drugs! I wanted to breastfeed! Look! I have a birth plan!”

And of course they looked at me with pity, because maybe they thought I was actually a little bit stupid, but more likely because they understood the panic behind my words.

Everything went so quickly I felt as if there was no time to catch my breath; decisions and forms and more decisions and phone calls to be made and more forms to sign.

Then my OB/GYN asked me to sign a form stating that if my baby was born with underdeveloped lungs, I was giving permission to have her air-lifted to a different hospital, one with a specialty neo-natal unit. There were already helicopters on the hospital roof, waiting to whisk her away if needed.

I cried again but signed the form.

And because the entire mess had been taken out of my hands, all of my plans thrown out the window, I made some quick decisions that I could still control, and demanded that nobody be let to hold my baby until I did, and that nobody feed her a bottle because I was still determined to breastfeed, and that, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was my baby to be given a pacifier.

These may seem like silly demands, but, you know, I was just trying to take control of something. Anything, really.

And then it was time, and my mom smiled a very wobbly, watery-eyed smile, and my husband kissed my head and it all became quite a blur until I woke in a horrific haze of pain and pain and more pain.

I asked, “Is my baby okay?”

Somebody said yes.

I asked, “Are you sure?”

Somebody said yes.

I said, “It hurts so much.”

Somebody told me to push my little red button, so I did. Over and over. It didn’t seem to help at all.
And in another blur of passing doors and elevators and faces of strangers, I was back in the room I had started in, and I asked again, “Is my baby okay?”

Somebody said yes.

And I said again, “It hurts so much.”

Somebody told me the morphine would kick in soon, just keep pressing that little red button. So I did.

The pain was greater than anything I had ever experienced, like I’d been sawed in half and my insides ripped out and then hastily put back together.

Which is, in a way I guess, pretty much what had happened.

So I lay very, very still and quiet in an effort to shrink from the pain, so it wouldn’t see me and attack me again.

Then my husband came in and told me we had a little girl, and that even though my mom and his mom and everyone else was quite put out about it, he hadn’t let anybody hold her. His eyes were shining and his smile was beautiful and hopeful and young.

They brought her to me, then, and I cried again because she looked exactly as she had looked in all the dreams I’d had while I was pregnant, when I would fall asleep holding my own belly and wondering.

And I kept asking if her lungs were okay and I kept being assured her lungs were fine and then I would ask again anyway, just to be sure, and I stared at her face that was at once so tiny and so chubby, and her perfect blue eyes and little wisps of hair and the way she would clasp her dainty little fingers together on her chest as if contemplating the great big world she was suddenly residing in. She yawned and my husband and I both laughed at the way her tiny mouth opened so wide, like a mouse, we said, and seemed to take up her entire face.

The laughter made me feel like I was ripping apart and I cried again.

The lactation consultant came and helped me figure out how to feed her, how to not hit my incision and taught me about the “football hold” and how to make sure she was latched on. I loved this action so much that I cried again.

It was several hours later, when the night shift nurses came on, that somebody realized the reason my little red morphine button wasn’t working was because there was a hole in the line, and all the meds had puddled in a wet mess beneath my bed.

I fell asleep content and hurting and happy and relieved that my baby had been a girl because I hadn’t really liked the name I had agreed to if it had been a boy.

The next day they came, the medical people, and explained what had happened and that my gallbladder had ruptured and there had been sixteen stones and I was probably sore because they had to “go fishing” for them to make sure they got them all out.

Then they none too gently pulled off the bandages to check the incision that ran from sternum to pubic bone, and because the head of the bed was sitting up slightly I could see it and it there it was, the Awful Zipper, angry and red and purple and stapled shut, and it had cut through my belly button and made it look like something from a horror movie where a person had been chopped up and haphazardly stuck back together.

I didn’t want it, this Zipper. It was ugly and horrible and I knew it would stay with me forever, and I hated it and just the thought of how it made me look caused me tears, and I knew my husband would think it was ugly, too, and I didn’t want him to see it.

But my baby was perfect and beautiful and every single good thing in the world, and her lungs were just fine (I knew because I asked again, just to be sure) and I was so happy to be able to name her Olivia Faith, because I just adored the way it sounded when it rolled off my tongue and I said it over and over and over.

My hospital room was filled with many pink presents. And balloons. And flowers. And more pink everything.

Underneath all the joy and pink happiness was this worry that I was always going to be ugly, because I had opened this present I didn’t even want, and now I was stuck with the Zipper.

Time went by and the Zipper faded some, and stretched some, and it sometimes still gets itchy and my belly button will never again be the pretty little thing she once was.

My next two children were natural births, and my fourth child, six years after the first, was a planned C-section. I actually questioned the doctor – hesitant and almost whispering – if he thought, during the surgery, he could fix the horrendous scar left by the birth of my first child.

He said it wasn’t his business to fix another physician’s mistake. And that was that.

It didn’t matter anyway, because my fourth child actually ended up being a natural birth, too.

And over the years I’ve had friends tell me there must be a way to fix it, that a good plastic surgeon could probably make it disappear.

Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve never pursued it.

Because the thing is, this Zipper has grown on me. I’ve carried it with me wherever I go for eighteen years, and now it’s mine. It’s been with me through three pregnancies and the births of all my children. It’s been with me through medical scares and deaths of family members. It’s been mine when I was grieving and mine when I rejoiced, and after all this time, this Zipper has sunk into me the way tree roots sink into the ground that nourishes them.

And now it’s just part of me, like outrageously curly hair and freckles and the large, pickle-shaped birthmark on my right leg and an inability to ever understand more than basic math.

My tiny little baby girl is now a high school Senior, and when I watch her laughing with her friends or concentrating on difficult homework or watch her face light up when she is telling me about a topic that she is seriously interested in, I look at her, this woman-child, so filled with grace and happiness and intelligence and I feel overwhelmed by it.

I’m thankful for that present I never wanted to open, and sometimes in the mirror I look at myself, and run my forefinger up and down, up and down that Zipper, feeling the cracks and ripples in it, the way it has spread wider in some places and stayed quite narrow in others.

It’s beautiful, this gift.

It reminds me I am strong, and capable, and of all the Super-Hero things my body can do if one of my children needs me.

I wouldn’t return my Zipper now, even if I had a receipt.

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(Un) Sporty Mama

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I’ve never been a real sporty girl. Sure, I was a cheerleader for a few years in high school, and you know, I knew when to scream for our guys (when the points on the scoreboard changed in our favor), and which end of the field was which, but that’s about it. So when my boys decided to play sports, much like Alice down the rabbit hole, I was dumped in to a whole new world.

I wonder, sometimes, if I am not quite a “good enough” sports parent. I mean, I generally take them to practice on the appointed days (unless I forget), and I get them to their games at least 10 minutes early for practice (although, sometimes, their socks are mismatched). I take my camping chair and sit in a position that allows me to gaze at my adorable offspring and leaves enough room around me for my heart to puff and swell with pride without knocking any other mothers out of their seats.

I am happy when they win – because it makes my son happy – and I just really don’t much care if they lose, because…..well, because somebody has to lose, right? Sometimes it’s going to be us. Maybe next time will be our winning game. Perhaps not. Either way, we’ll still go home and eat dinner and probably execute some inappropriate parenting and let the kids stay up late eating cookies and watching “Big Brother” or “The Walking Dead” with us as a family.

Or maybe the six of us will scour the house looking for that one perpetually missing baseball or soccer sock. But we probably won’t.

Sometimes, though, I watch the other moms as they leap from their seats, shaking their fists to scream, enraged, about an unfair call, “Hey Coach, what’re ya, BLIND?”, or “Does this ump even KNOW how to play?” Or yelling at their child across the field, “Stand straight! Slow and steady! Just like I showed you at home……NO! Not like that! The way I taught you at home!! You’re better than this! I said do it right!”, or “I love you baby, but…..you want to win, don’t you? Try harder! You don’t want to be a loser, do you?”

And I wonder.

Is that the way it’s supposed to be? Is my lackadaisical approach to sports the reason neither of my boys are “star” players? Should I try harder, should I be clutching the chain-link fence, white-knuckled and red-faced, screaming at my child to do it better, stand taller, act tougher, be a winner?

I do sometimes yell at my boys on the field, but lacking any real sports savvy, I can only repeat the same two impotent phrases, regardless the sport season. My vocabulary regarding athletics is decidedly deficient. If something exciting is happening, I clap with the masses and scream, “GOGOGO!” or perhaps, if I’m feeling particularly verbose, “RUNRUNRUN!!” Incidentally, these are the same two phrases I yell when I wheel into the school parking lot just as the tardy bell is ringing in the morning. What can I say? I’ve heard repetition is good for children.

Testing the waters, I brought the topic up with my youngest boy after a recent game. “How do you think So-and-So feels when his mom yells at him that way? Does it help him do better, or does it make him feel embarrassed?”

“He doesn’t like it, Mom. She yelled so much at him today, his tears leaked out.”

“Aw. That’s too bad.”

“Yeah. He tried to stop them with his fists, but the tears came out anyway. He never has any fun at games.”

“Did you have fun at your game?

“YEAH!! Well…..we lost. But we might win next time. Did you see me catch the ball, Mom? I caught it once, and got the guy out!”

“I did. I saw that! Very cool. I was so proud of you!”

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“…..is “The Walking Dead” on tonight? Can we watch it on Demand?”

“Sure, Bean. If it’s on, we’ll watch it. How ‘bout some cookies?…..and after that…..”

“Yeah, Mom?”

“After that….maybe we’ll look for that missing sock.”

A Man Named Danish

These posts about my sister, about the journey we took together during the time she was diagnosed with lung cancer until we lost her, are coming out in spurts and starts. There is no logical order to them (maybe one day I will go backwards and put them all in chronological order), but for now, they are coming out as they need to, in fits of hiccups and tears and sometimes even laughter. I hope somewhere in the path of these puddles of words, I will find some stepping stones toward healing.

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I thought it was strange, because the building shared a driveway with the college I’d been attending for close to three years, but I’d never gone inside. I’d seen the people driving in and out of that lot many times over the last few years, and never stopped to wonder what was going on, how they were doing, what diagnosis they may have just been given. I never stopped to think if they were coming from radiation, or chemotherapy, or if they’d just been given 3 months or 6 months or a year to get their lives in order before their predicted death.

I never stopped to wonder if they were swerving as they pulled out of the lot because it was the day their hair started coming out in handfuls. Or because they’d just been vomiting in the bathroom of the dismally colored building. Or because they’d just learned their insurance wouldn’t cover the medication necessary to prolong their suddenly shortened lives.

I stop and wonder now.

I’ve been inside that building, and now my view is altered.

We rushed in the rain to arrive on time. It was the end of a Michigan April, and the rain was cold and sleety and hurt the skin a bit when it pinged against a bare hand or neck or cheek. Mom, my sister, her ex-husband, my brother, his wife, and me. We checked for directions on the maps plastered on the wall just inside the door, shivered a bit because our clothes were still a little wet, and took the elevator up to the correct floor. The waiting area was enormous, and white and cold, and felt a little bit like an assembly line: check in, show card, sit down, wait, get weighed, vitals, sit back down, wait for the right name to be called. Everyone there was in the same little rickety boat as us, everyone there was either waiting for a storm to break or had already received their forecast and were now awaiting directions on how to batten down the hatches and sandbag the house.

We all held some variety of liquid caffeine in our hands. None of us had slept the night before.

Mom crossed her right leg over the left and swung, swung, swung her right leg like a clock pendulum.

We tried to begin conversations but most of them died out within just a few seconds. The only talk we seemed able to keep up was the breaking news from the night before, about the man named Ariel who had kidnapped and held 3 women in his basement for years on end. The women had been discovered and rescued, and this was a safe topic to continue on with because none of it had anything to do with cancer.

“Terrible! Just terrible!”

“Really. A monster!”

“How was it that nobody saw them? Why weren’t they rescued sooner? “

“They say his son didn’t know anything about it.” (This was from my mother, and she sniffed with a kind of superiority about it because obviously it made us quite a lot better than THEM, and if the Universe had been run by HER, snakes like that would be dealing with a diagnosis of cancer instead of our family, who had never kidnapped anybody and held them in the basement.)

Finally, a nurse in childishly colored scrubs came out and called my sister’s name, and the way she said it made it sound like a question. “ Charlotte? Savage?” And then again, fast and altogether, “CharlotteSavage?” And the six of us stood and trooped along, single file, in the narrow hallway, down to the room.

There was not enough space in the exam room for all of us to sit, so we deferred to my sister, who we now thought of in our minds as “THE SICK ONE” and my sister-in-law, who was still using a cane to walk since her terrible car accident a few months before, and our Mom and gave them the seats. The guys squatted rather awkwardly on the floor and I leaned against the giant, cold window sill and my Mom jumped up and offered to let me sit down and I said no because, well, because she is my Mom, and also because it seemed somehow wrong for me to sit down and relax my legs at all when my sister had cancer.

We waited for the doctor and again, we tried to talk about something, anything really, but there just didn’t seem to be much of anything we could say.

What we all wanted to say, but couldn’t, was, “It will be okay.”

Failing that, there were just no more words to throw out into the airless room.

We waited. Time passed so slowly, as if each second was minutes long; each minute, at least an hour.

I often think in pictures, and so while we suffered through the interminable wait, I imagined what this physician would be like. I expected him to be tall and lanky, as many oncologists on television medical dramas seem to be. I expected a grim face, a gaze filled with pity. An appropriately hushed tone of voice. In my mind, he’d be wearing scrubs – perhaps fresh from a surgery – with tired, deep blue eyes that were crinkled at the corners and a white lab coat with his name stitched across the upper left corner.

I imagined he would resemble Dr. House, with a slightly less caustic personality. And perhaps a British accent, because wouldn’t that be hot nice to listen to?

A sharp knock on the door interrupted my imaginary-doctor-rendering, and we all stood up quickly, brushing at nothing on our clothes so we would look nice for the man who held my sister’s life in his hands.

He walked in with confidence, this petite Asian man in faded blue jeans. He was balding, and his face was wide, open and honest. In lieu of a lab coat, he wore a somewhat wrinkled button-down shirt, and when he sat down, the hem of his jeans came up just enough to reveal black leather biker boots with silver chains.

He introduced himself as Dr. Danish, and I instantly loved him.

I trusted him immediately, solely based on his biker boots and the fact that he was named after a tasty breakfast pastry.
He didn’t question the amount of people crunched into the tiny, white square of an exam room; instead, he remarked on the beauty of such a support system, and – gingerly stepping around the maze of extra legs and shoes and purses — walked around the teensy room, shaking hands and introducing himself to each of us. We answered in turn as if auditioning for parts in some small-town play.

“Hello, I’m Danish, and you are……”

“ Mary. Sister-in-law.”

“And you, ma’am?”

“Valarie. Mother.”

“And…..”

“Glenn. Brother.”

“You sir….are her….” Here Danish guessed at what was the most likely choice, then left his question dangling, mid-air.

“Wally. Ex-husband.”

Breakfast Pastry blinked. Twice.

“Come again now?”

“Ex-husband. Yeah.”

“OKAY THEN!”

Danish turned to me, and I found myself clasping his cold but firm (not at all sticky) hand and stating my role:

“Valarie. Little sister.”

I’m not sure why I added that word, “little”. Was it really necessary? At thirty-eight, am I anybody’s “little” anything, anymore? But that has always been part of my own identity; I am Charlotte’s little sister. Charlotte is my big sister. It’s just always been.

Breakfast Pastry navigated back to where my sister was sitting, in a small chair at the end of the row that also held my sister-in-law and mother. He shook Charlotte’s hand gently, and invited her up to the exam table as if asking her to dance. I sat down in the seat she had vacated because my mother told me to. The seat was still warm.

This man, this Danish man in his black biker boots, explained the size and location of the tumor (we had graduated far past “spot” or even “mass” by this point), and told us about the way it had already eaten (he actually said that, “eaten”, as if the tumor was a living creature with sharp teeth) through three ribs and part of her spine – the T3 – and had spread to one lymph node in her chest. Because of the size (that of an orange, which then made me think of an orange with vampire teeth inside my sister) and location, the tumor was inoperable. He left that word, “inoperable” sitting in air the for a few minutes, so each of us could pick it up and examine it for ourselves, turning it this way and that, getting a handle on the meaning of it.

Charlotte cleared her throat and said in a very small voice, “So….what can we do?”

And Breakfast Pastry explained about pain medications to help with the agonizing pain in her shoulder, and he talked about an appetite stimulant to get some weight on her, and he talked about a PET scan, and he told her to eat more, and he said this was “fightable” and it was worth going through chemotherapy and radiation.

Danish said if she wanted, he could write her a script for medical marijuana, and Charlotte darted her eyes to our mother and shook her head quickly, “No thank you!” because even though she was in so much pain by then she had to sleep sitting up in spurts of 20-30 minutes and could barely move her arm, she didn’t want to disappoint our mother or agree to something Mom would find inappropriate.

He looked at my sister with her long, long hair and said, “You understand your hair will all fall out, right?” and she swallowed hard and said, “Are you kidding me?” and he said, “No, it will all come out and you will be bald, and you need to be ready.”

She swiped at her eyes and under her eyes and blinked several times and said, “Okay.”

He said, “Stay positive.”

Then he was gone, and I think we all felt a little let down, like something bigger should have been happening, because we expected him to tell us something magnificent, and as much as we all liked him, we were deflated because although he had said quite a lot, he never said, “I can fix this.”

And he never said, “It will be okay.”

He never said, “You aren’t going to die.”

So we pulled reassurance from the words he had given us, words like “positive”, and “fightable”, and we said that we liked him because he wasn’t uppity, and because he was like us, and had chains on his biker boots so he had to be a good guy.

And we all left together, our little big group of despair and hope; we walked back out in the chilly April rain, and I wished I had brought a sweater, and I wished I had brought an umbrella and I wished my sister didn’t have lung cancer.

We went out for breakfast again, because that was our normal thing to do, and it was nice to do something normal, and we talked about the same things over and over until Charlotte started to cry as she moved the food around on her plate in circles with her fork, and we all handed her napkins and sat quietly and awkwardly and tried not to cry, ourselves. http://wp.me/p3vrHA-1D

Even though it was a different restaurant and a different day, my eggs again tasted like sawdust and I forced myself to chew them because my mother wanted to see one of her daughters eating, and I watched the rain splash against the windows of the restaurant as I went over and over and over the entire appointment in my mind, trying to remember something good to hold onto.

I searched and searched inside my mind, reaching for something positive and tangible, but instead all I found were cobwebs of words and when I reached out to catch them, they crumbled into sawdust in my hand, just like the wooden dust of eggs in my mouth. http://wp.me/p3vrHA-22