January 30, 2010

A few days ago, I met a mom who lives in my neighborhood and has two children. She told me her older child is in a "transitional kindergarten" program, which made me wonder if perhaps he has some type of learning difference or other issue that she is worried about.

But I never found out about her five-year-old. Because, instead, we talked about her cancer.

Yes, cancer. This beautiful woman with these two little kids has breast cancer. She probably is no older than I am.

After learning about her illness, I asked her, "How are you doing?"

And she told me about how she made the discovery, about the surgery, about the chemo.

And then I said, "Your husband must have been so scared."

And she told me about how he had been her strength.

He has been her ears when the doctors droned on and on about treatments and drugs, and her head was too fuzzy to even hear what they were saying.

He has been her researcher. He has poured over articles on the Internet and asked her doctors questions about things she had never even heard of.

He has been with her, step for step, since she got her diagnosis.

I felt so sorry for her, as I imagined how incredibly difficult it must be to mother two young children while battling this horrible illness.

And, yet, at the same time, I thought how wonderful it must be to have this kind of man in your life.

So, I hope she didn't think I was crazy when I said to her, "You are blessed."

I thought about this woman many times the rest of the day.

And I wondered, "Oh God, what would happened to my two kids if something bad were to happen to me? It just can't happen. I can't get sick. I have to be well. Nothing can happen to me."

It is a stress that far outweighs the stress of caring for a disabled child, which is no small thing to say.

And then, as so frequently happens, a wonderful friend brightened my day.

She did it in the most unexpected way.

And I don't even think she knows it.

I was talking to her on the phone and telling her about this strong, beautiful mom with the cancer, the two little kids and the wonderful husband. I told her about how she spoke of him and how she recounted all the things he has done for her throughout her illness.

And my friend said to me:

"Leah, what that story makes me think of is what you are for [your son]. Because you are that person for him. You are doing the things for him that need to be done, that have to be done, the things he cannot do for himself."

And the tears came.

It was perhaps the greatest compliment anyone has ever given me.

You see, I always, always feel like I short-change my son. If only I had found his current speech therapists sooner.... If only I had embraced the disability sooner... If only I had not taken so long to get my head out of the sand.... If only I could find the energy to work harder with him ... If only I had more patience, etc., etc., etc.

I constantly wish I was doing more to help him.

So, dear friend, and you know who you are, you have no idea how much your words mean to me. You have no idea how much peace they bring, how much comfort. How is it that you frequently find words that have the effect of an embrace?

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a person who brings me strength.

January 27, 2010

Gifts from Above, in the Middle of the Road

I do not have the type of spiritual devotion that I should, the type that I see in many friends who truly live the life that would make a Heavenly father proud.

But I do believe in some type of divine creator.

I am not sure what prayer does. Do our prayers truly reach this Creator, and, if so, what kind of impact do they make? I have trouble with the concept of the Creator intervening, at least in the way most people probably imagine. I am constantly questioning: if God truly intervenes, performs miracles, etc., then why does unimaginable suffering happen to some of the purest, most innocent people on Earth?

And, yet, I pray. Not as frequently as I should, but I pray.

My thoughts about all things spiritual are not constant. It is one of the few areas in life where I don't have firm opinions. But I do believe that God acts on Earth, if only through the hands of mortals -- people who sacrifice for others, people who use their talents and gifts to help and comfort, people who show compassion and empathy because that is who they are.

And, sometimes, I have to wonder, does God place these people in someone's life at just the right time?

Sometimes, does God leave little gifts along our path -- treasures big and small -- in the hope that we will look hard enough and find them? When I look at my life, there are many people who would qualify as gifts from above. My parents are amazing, and they would do ANYthing for me and my children. I have friends who have been thinking of me and praying for me in what has been the most difficult year of my life. What would I do without them? And just today, I met someone who has no direct connection to me and, yet, offered to listen and to help. (She is a good friend of a wonderful person who came into my son's life this past year -- another one of those people who, I can't help but wonder, might have been placed in my son's life by a higher power).

How many times do I miss these treasures because I fail to open my eyes and truly see?

I expect my spiritual life always will be filled with questions.

But, there is one little treasure that came into my life this past summer that truly makes me believe God places things directly in the middle of the roads we travel -- right when we need them most.

This little treasure -- so very small when I found him -- has four legs.

If you are a regular reader, you already know about dear Lovey. Lovey was just a scrawny, flea-covered kitten -- a BABY -- when I found him. I was driving back to my parents' home after dinner with a friend; it was about 9 p.m. And, for the briefest of seconds, I saw the little reflective glow in his eyes when my car's headlights flashed upon the little cat in the middle of the road.

At first, I was not sure what kind of animal was before me. But then I saw a bit of fur, and a tail, and I was pretty sure that I was looking at a kitten. I stopped the car, all the while wondering if someone was going to come along this rural road and be angry about the SUV blocking the way. (Or, even worse, I wondered, "What are you doing, Leah, getting out of the car in the middle of the night with no one around to hear you scream if a madman comes along and sticks a knife in your throat. Your kids need you!").

But, really, what kind of person doesn't stop for a kitten? How could I not stop? And when I picked him up, and heard the soft little mews and the ferocious buzz-saw purrs, how could I not gather him in my arms and put him in my car?

Dear little Lovey is not so little anymore. I guess when you go a while in your youth without food, the hunger pains never really go away, because Lovey hears food hit the bowl from a block away. And he apparently never gets full. (Lovey is a bit tubby, and he still, technically, is just a kitten).

And, yes, Lovey is still leaving presents for me in the garage. Dead presents. I am getting accustomed to disposing of them, although I still think I might call again on the wonderful neighbor for the next big rat.

Disposing of dead reptiles and rodents is a small price to pay for the joy of this cat's company. Because, you see, little Lovey came to us just before the most difficult days of my life. (They aren't over,yet,and things are tought for my kids, as well. So, how nice to have this little rat-killing, always-eating, loving cat in our lives.)

Lovey is the perfect cat for my family. For every single one of us.

He calmly and quietly curls up next to me when the kids are at school and I manage, on the rarest of occasions, to sneak a little nap.

He does not mind the oddities of the little boy who sometimes notices him and gives him an awkward pat.

He absolutely adores my daughter.

Every morning I bring Lovey inside to help me wake up my daughter. He seems to know that this is his "job." He jumps right into the bed and makes his way toward the slumbering four-year-old. He purrs loud enough to wake just about anybody, and he gently paws at her side before settling down and nudging her repeatedly with those big white paws. He waits, patiently, for her to stir.

He knows, this cat. I swear he does. He knows that his mission, his purpose, is to bring her joy.

Oh, Lovey, if you only knew what I would do for you, dear cat.

You may look like just an ordinary house cat to those who do not know your true worth.

You may bring me rodents, bloody and battered, and leave them scattered about my garage.

But you, dear cat, are a gift.

And how, how in the world, did I manage to be driving down that road at the exact time you would look into my headlights and bring me to a halt?

Coincidence? Well, maybe. But I don't think so. I think it was so much more than that.

This sweet little cat brings a great amount of love -- the purest, sweetest kind of love -- to our lives every day.

If that is not a gift from Heaven, then I don't know what is.

Just Sing, Sing a Song ... Or Maybe Not

I was belting out one of the tunes on the Sesame Street DVD playing in the car last night, when my daughter says to me, "Mommy, you are HURTING my ears."

OK, so I would never get a yellow ticket to Hollywood from Simon, but, REALLY?

So, I said to her, "My singing is hurting your ears? I am not a good singer?"

And she says, "YES, Mommy, right now, you are hurting my ears."

Okey, dokey. Point made!

January 17, 2010

Oh, Tears, I Thought We Had Made our Peace

So, this must be one of the days people warn you about.

One of those days when the hurt just creeps right in.

The tears are just ready to spring, at any moment, now that the house is quiet and all that is left to do is to open the door for the dog one more time before bed.

It is not as though there weren't moments to treasure today. There were. My daughter and I spent the day with one of her best little gal pals and her mother, who is, without a doubt, one of the most wonderful friends I will ever have. (S, I love you dearly).

And here come the tears .....

My heart is lonely.

I watched my friend and her husband tonight, as I crashed in her living room and ate their pizza. I noticed the way he made her laugh with some of the silly things he said. I looked at the pictures of their beautiful family throughout the house. My eyes lingered on two wedding pictures, and I smiled at how young and gorgeous they looked, so free from worry.

It is not as if they have had a perfectly easy road to travel. They haven't. And, yet, there they are ... laughing in their living room, loving their children.

My eyes, a good-deal Irish though they be, are not smilin' tonight. They are red-rimmed and sore. I suppose it is surprising I have gone this long without breaking down. But, wow, do I feel broken.

And now to open the door for the dog ....