We didn’t drive home. After I picked Liv up from the Montessori School on Friday, December 11, 1998, we drove south on SR 49 towards Valpo. That town was quaint. Lots of cool stores and one really, really good Italian joint called Tony’s Place. Not that I was hungry or expected Dr. Melfi to appear out of nowhere with any magical answers.
In fact we didn’t stop in Valparaiso at all, not even at the University which I always loved walking through on crisp afternoons. I had no idea where I was going. Not in the car, not later that day, not for the rest of my life. The rest of my life…
Suddenly, I wasn’t exactly sure how to frame that picture. Would I make it to 30? That was like “it” for me; the age by which I was going to have everything checked off my cleverly named To-Do-By-Thirty List. The one I wrote in pink ink, probably around age fifteen. Whatever.
So we just drove. And sang. And drove some more. I finally pulled into the driveway of our apartment, turned off the ignition, and realized there was no getting out of the car. I couldn’t move. Shock, maybe, I don’t know. It was nothing quantifiable in that moment; that moment in which I was stuck feeling nothing – feeling everything. It was too much. My brain was so overwhelmed that it just shut down, and the rest of my body followed suit without any ability of thought or control of the matter.
Numb, I remained in that driver’s seat staring at Olivia in the rear-view mirror. Her little feet were kicking and she was wriggling her hands, smiling at me with an incomplete set of teeth flanked by drool. I smiled right back and in that moment, everything became perfectly still.
In some weird, indescribable way, it was completely peaceful. I loved her; she loved me. I may have had cancer, but I was still her Mom. Take away my schedule, my hair, my modesty, my dreams, but do NOT take away my baby. That I will not allow, and THAT is gonna get me out of this car. Right now.
It is so hard to believe that one word can cause such twisted and immediate emotion. That one word can change the course of a day, a season, an entire life. (It’s also hard for me to believe that sweet little smiling toddler is now sixteen and disgusted by my presence instead of digging it, but that’s another post altogether…)
I read a quote yesterday which said, “It’s not the mistakes that break us, it’s the dreams we left untouched that keep us broken.” Cancer messes with our dreams. It doesn’t, and can’t, fix our mistakes – only we can do that by not repeating them. But the messing with our dreams part? The messing with our life part? I think WE can fix those things.
Thank you for continuing to read these posts. Thank you for continuing to donate. And THANK YOU for continuing to believe we are in this together, because we very much are – right here, right now.