Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fragments of Understanding

On Sunday a bunch of us locals celebrated our little friend Tommy's birthday with a big cupcake contest and sale. Tommy is a little trooper living with 2 types of cancers. How overwhelming. But Tommy and his family live with grace and positive thoughts. Fundraisers involve family, fun, and children playing side by side with Tommy. A true celebration of life and happiness.

Coming back from the Team Tommy Cupcake Festival, my 3 were hyper in the back of the car, singing and dancing and being spazzes. Normal operation of affairs. Then my 5 year old broke in and said, "I saw Tommy there. And Seany."
"Yes, you play with them at the beach sometimes."
"I scared."
"What are you scared of, B?"
"I don't want to have cancer."
Colleen broke in and said, "Brendan, you can't catch cancer. It is something that just might happen inside. It isn't like a cold that you will get."
"That is right." I added. "There are things we can do to limit our chances for certain cancers, but other cancers just happen."
"What do I need to do?" B asked, determined.
"Well, for example, if you don't smoke and always use sunscreen, that can lessen our chances."
"Mom!" Ev breaks in, exasperated. "We are kids! We aren't smokers!!"
"Yes, I know. But these are things for life you should think about. And eating well, and exercising. Nothing prevents cancer for sure, but being in your best health can help you."
"Mommy?" Brendan calls out.
"If Colleen sat on a balloon, would it pop?"
Thus began a break in the conversation.

In our extended family we have a member in cancer treatment as well. One of the kids' aunts. The whole weekend while prepping for the cupcake festival, we have had mini chats about cancer like this. Whatever they can handle they ask about and then shift gears.

"Can you see cancer?" Colleen asked me.
"Sometimes. Mainly it is something you cannot see."
"What is a tumor?" 
I explained it. I said most of them can't be seen and are tucked away in the body of those with cancer. I explained how they are shrunk, if possible, with different treatments.
"Does Tommy still have hair?"
"He does still have hair. A little less than before."
"Why doesn't he shave his head like Aunt?"
"Well, that is up to him and his family. He already has shorter hair. Your Aunt decided to shave her head because her hair was longer."
Nodding her head, remembering the realization that photo of her Aunt brought to us.
"So Tommy likes pigs?"
"We didn't make pig cupcakes."
"Will my boot be wet when we find it and dig it out?"

My personality is one that likes to plow through a project and get it all done. Work out a fight right then. Finish a conversation. This cannot happen with children. I think I appreciate that. It slows the thoughts down that tend to race. It gets rid of a bottom line. And with cancer, who really knows the bottom line? And better, does the bottom line matter?

What matters, and cancer reminds us of this, is life. Is day to day. Is stopping to have that conversation in it's fragmented 18 parts as it unfolds. It is remembering to celebrate life as it is lived out. With cupcakes and family parties. In comedy shows and auctions. These fundraisers are filled with love and giving and that seems to chase the dark shadows away for a little while. And it aids in the caring of those in treatment. A good deal all around.

Conversations continued today around the death of a friend's cat. That made them ask about my cat that died when I only had Colleen, Ev in utero, B a dream, waiting. That lead to the discussion of what putting an animal to sleep meant. That to the discussion of people versus pets. Why could we put pets to sleep when they are dying and in pain, but not people? That brought up one of the props in our last election. THAT lead Brendan to apply the "fart touch" to one of his sisters... leading to a fight over whether he indeed had the fart touch to give. And I let the conversation go.

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