Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review of Procedure for the ridiculous

Mom and I are in the process of helping a family whose infant son is undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma. It's a different course of treatment but still calls to mind our experiences. It puts us back in that mode, but by the same token it doesn't, because we are (B"H) viewing his situation through hindsight.

Today we gave his grandmother a foam floor mat. This is the reason why:

Toddlers like to play on the floor. Toddlers with cancer (I cringe to even have to say it) are susceptible to germs but have little understanding or respect for the concept, but a set of floor mats are perfect. Also, it creates a sort of "clean zone" for the little one. Not to mention, this mat has numbers and our friend has letters, so there's the education value. And don't knock it--without ever having to use a single flash card (except when he decided he wanted to play 52 flashcard pickup), The Boy took to letters and numbers at a very young age. He spent so much time in the hospital with not much else to do. 

We are so blessed and so thankful for the good health of our children, and we pray for this other little boy every day and every week. I don't want to give out any identifying information about him without the consent of his family but you need to know that there are still children, every day and every week, being diagnosed with cancer. Some, like this boy and like my Boy, were 10 months old at diagnosis.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Thank you for being a friend...

What happens when a person has many friends, so many people who speak kindly of her, so much positive recognition within her community...and it is insufficient?

What happens when the treatment becomes worse than the disease and instead of being a balancing force, it pushes her over the edge?

I know the answer. You know the answer. It isn't pretty.

Accompany the dead for burial. Comfort the mourners. Those aren't just nice things to do; they are commandments. So I do those acts. I sing for them. I hear their names. But the whole situation is awkward because no one wants to talk about the real problem.

The following remedies are socially acceptable: medication. Therapy sessions, but only if you can afford them.

The following remedies are not socially acceptable, and requests for such remedies are frequently followed by some form of "pull yourself together" "cheer up!" or "back in my day there was no such thing as 'mental health days.'": Taking time for oneself. Reaching out to people, in person, even at odd hours, if you're not on their list of acceptable companions. Taking days off from work for emotional and mental recovery, if you cannot afford to do so.

I'm guilty of this: I talk about my friend and how great she was and I find myself thinking, if I had reached out to her, she'd have thought it strange, because we weren't that close. If I'd had any clue that she was struggling like this, even as I saw her successful personal endeavors through social media, I don't know what I could have done. I maintained a positive image of this superstar woman who deserved nothing but happiness, this wonderful and talented woman whom I had known since we were children. But I'm guilty of dismissing my own power as a friend and source of comfort.

Emotional displays never came easily to me. That's my husband's job--he can feel all the feelings and I can be stoic and insensitive. Logical, rational. Helpful skill to have in order to keep the ship running, but probably what stunted my abilities as a singer and made me uninteresting to watch as a performer. No one cared what I sounded like because, when I was younger, I had nothing to say. I am rediscovering myself through surprising new idioms and embracing the emotional aspects of singing, for work and for fun, and even the ability to evoke emotion in other people.

I don't know where to go from here. I don't know that I've sufficiently learned the lesson of how to be a good friend because I stay stuck in my world with my own family--my husband and children, as well as my parents who still care for me unconditionally. And I try to return the favor. It's hard because I do call people, and they don't call me back. Or they do call but they're too busy.

I don't miss the companionship of one person or another until it's too late.

I wish it were never too late.