Tuesday, August 25, 2009

on reading aloud

We have a nighttime routine that is probably replicated in thousands of households across the country: pajama up, brush teeth, read stories, say prayers, get in bed, sing a song, close door on the way out. Sometimes between the teeth and the stories we squeeze in a round of Wii bowling. Often, if Joel isn't home, I let the kids pick between the bowling and the stories, knowing that they will pick the bowling and I can get out of the stories. Why do I do that? Maybe it's because Donovan asks a billion questions. Or that I've read all the stories multiple times before and just want a break. It's not like we haven't already read stories that day - but there's something about just getting them all in bed so the house is quiet that has me cutting as many corners as possible.

Recently, however, I've taken more care to crawl under Donovan's lofted bed with the kids, switch on the reading light, and settle down for some reading, ignoring the blaring green LED lights of the clock radio that tell me this is eating into the "me time" I generally so cherish. Reading has taken on a new significance.

Joel's oldest sibling is his sister Melissa. Naturally, I feel a kinship for the oldest in a family. But even without that, it's easy to feel a kinship with Melissa. She has a quiet dignity about her, that maintains her integrity but also emanates compassion. I think most of that was in place from an early age, but it was certainly enhanced by her numerous battles with cancer.

Why is it that some people seem to be lightning rods for tragedy? Don't get me wrong, I don't wish I was attracting any of it. It just seems incredibly unfair. Melissa was first diagnosed with Leukemia when she was 19. After a brutal battle, she emerged victorious. Six years later (I think that's right), a year after "remission" had been awarded and just months after getting married, she had it again. Things did not look good. Miraculously, by many accounts, after a longer fight, she won. That joy lasted until she was diagnosed with melanoma a couple years later. And then a couple years after that, basal cell carcinoma on her tongue. Seriously? Yes. And each time, she and her amazing husband would settle in for the long haul and emerge with even more faith than before.

When she had surgery on her tongue, the doctors told Melissa that she might lose the ability to taste. For someone who loves tasting about as much as I do, this was horrifying. Initially, there were some issues (like the time she totally oversalted the meal but her husband, being the loving and supportive guy he is, just ate it and drank about 2 quarts of water with dinner - and that isn't much of an exaggeration), but it got better.

Since then, she has been cancer-free and they have adopted 2 beautiful children, one Donovan's age and one two. Things seemed to have settled down to the normal everyday trials of toddlerhood.

But a couple weekends ago we got a call that the cancer in the tongue is back. And this time they will have to cut out more. And this may take her ability to speak. Joel got off the phone with Melissa and moaned, "Poor Melissa. Her biggest fear right now is that she won't be able to read to her kids any more." I actually thought that was kind of a weird thing to be worried about since my first fear when I hear CANCER is, you know, DEATH. Joel reassured me that "you don't die from this kind of cancer." okaaaaay...phew?

Melissa has been on my mind a lot lately as I think of her recording herself reading books; preparing to go into the hospital for several weeks and away from her children for even more since the best surgeon is in the next state; considering how her role as a mother will change in the future. I've been thinking about what a wonderful and kind and loving person she is and how I need to be more patient, more considerate, less selfish. I've also been trying to think of a good way to tell her all of these things and that I'm so sorry she has yet one more huge trial to endure.

Maybe I can tell her how my heart catches in my throat as I hear Donovan, unprompted, pray, "Pweez bwess duh doctors as dey help Mewissa so she will still be able to weed to her chihw-dwen." And how Ainsleigh does the same. And how I think of not only reading, but how much a mother needs to tell her children. And how now I'm crying at the thought. Again. I echo those prayers that she'll be able to read to Matthew and Grace. That her pain will be manageable and her recovery swift.

We have a nighttime routine that is probably replicated in thousands of households across the country: pajama up, brush teeth, read stories, say prayers, get in bed, sing a song, close door on the way out. I am finding new joy when it's time to read. When the day is done and Donovan hasn't met his daily quota of 3,000 questions and Ainsleigh is rubbing her eyes with clenched fists and Gemma isn't set on destroying the pages before her. When they sit as still as they will all day (Ainsleigh:statuesque - Donovan:with only one appendage twitching - Gemma:with at least one but maybe both hands crammed into her mouth to comfort her swollen gums), their heavy eyelids dropping, their little bodies curled up against mine providing furnace-like heat. When I consider that all too quickly they'll be too old for this and I will mourn its absence. When I recognize that for some, this luxury may be abruptly cut short.

So read to your kids tonight. Do the voices. Bring the drama. Because somewhere out there, there are moms who can only wish they had that option.


Anne said...

lovely, sarah. i am all choked up right now.

Nataluscious said...

thank you for this post. I often feel the way you described and this post was a much-needed reminder that these times are short and should be cherished. My prayers will be with Melissa and all of her family (including you guys).

Lisa said...

BAHHHH!!! Cue the tears. I promise to be more grateful. Good luck to Melissa--she sounds like an incredible woman.

loewymartin said...

That post should have come with a hankie warning :(

I cannot imagine what Melissa has been going through, nor what she continually faces. But I can be more grateful for what I have and pray for Melissa and her family.

Thank you for the gentle reminder.

Hillary said...

When you hear about Melissa all you can think is: seriously? why? when will it be enough? I remember going to their apartment in SLC when she was sick right after they got married and she was so swollen and looked so different and so sick from all the steroids and treatments, and I thought that was the worst thing possible. Now that I'm a mom, I just don't think it gets any worse than the heartache she must be feeling now :( Prayers have been enough for half her life...lets just pray they are what will be enough this time.