When I look at the last year, I cannot believe my eyes. I don’t believe my eyes. It’s not that I doubt what I see. It’s just that so much has happened. I don’t know that I can remember any year where things didn’t happen. But this last year has been so monumentally important.
On Thursday, when we gathered together as a family to share time and eat, we did not have to engage in any vapid “I’m thankful for XYZ” exercises. That morning, I walked out from my room to see Peter, Johanna, and Leo seated at a couch. Johanna read some story that should be beyond her age for reading ability. She read it out loud to the boys who jockeyed for the best position to see the pictures as they showed up on the pages.
Leo woke up with loud gas which he demonstrated for the other two.
Beautiful and melodic.
All three of them very alive.
We prepped for Thanksgiving meals. Well… Desiree prepped while the rest of us horsed around, trying to redraw our walking paths around the Christmas tree purchased and erected the night before. After naps, we jammed into the van and got on the road for Papa and Nana’s house. One of the boys found a funny noise he could make with his water bottle. Some bizarre squeaky, tooty noise.
And I wear sunglasses a lot more often now. The sun seems brighter here. And the more time I spend around these children, the more I notice my cheeks rising to meet the underside of the sunglasses, very cool to the touch on my face while the temperature dips further and further down.
I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas in Hawaii. It was wonderful to enjoy the beach and walks around the neighborhood without too much attention to layers of clothes. The kids are learning to bundle up and learning to loathe it. Our skin is learning to crinkle in the dry cold. My nose is learning to remember certain smells.
Fire in the cold and its inviting smoke smell. Cinnamon and clove over a stove. Rebellious winter blooms.
We drove out on Friday morning to join in traffic for a moment the small leftovers of the Friday morning deal hunters. We joined my parents at the Dallas Arboretum and walked through the place the kids call “the super park.” It is a maze of beautifully manicured gardens, bushes, and paths. We walked this path when we first moved here. Everywhere we turned, we were sanitizing the kids’ hands.
Leo is in a different place now. He has finished his first full cycle of maintenance. Three months of it done like that. His ANC number (the calculation of white blood cells and their rapidity of reproduction) has been a little higher than the doctors really want. It means his body is doing a great job of rebuilding itself. It also means that rapidly reproducing cells are getting a little too much breathing room in his blood stream. While the cancer is gone, they have to keep that reproduction factory suppressed for three years to ensure that it will not come back.
So, they may have to up his chemo dosing.
The other day he was eating a rotisserie chicken. Some days, especially after the steroids, he can take half of one of those bad boys down all by himself. He said, “Daddy, when I eat this part,” he held up the skin, “It tastes sweet like honey.”
Chemo really does wreck your taste buds. But at least it makes him want the food he’s eating. He has some fairly regular bad dreams but cannot seem to remember them when asked. He is easy to comfort though.
While we walked through the arboretum, a familiar smell that I could not quite place called my mind back to a time in early childhood. It was the smell of walks through our neighborhood. It was the memory smell of the familiar and the beautiful. It was safe and a journey of discovery. It was a smell that, as an adult, as a man, as a father and husband, somehow seemed to call my mind to the fact that everything is ok.
And that’s the truth. My biggest thanks to give this year is that everything is ok. Very little is certain. But everything is held in the hands of God and I can, if I am close enough to Him, just trust Him and do my work. He has the hard stuff handled. And some of it, while He handles it, has the potential to elicit fear in me. But He has proven that I can trust Him and when hard things come up, I just do my work.
And He will do His.
And everything will be ok. It might not be what I wanted all along. It might not go the way that I would prescribe it. It might even break my heart along the way. But He’s doing His work, and I’m going to be ok.
The house smells like pine sap, cinnamon, clove, and coming Christmas. The Christmas boxes come down today and the ribbons go up. We see some friends parted by miles and years and still close in heart today.
Today we will walk more of the path in the garden planted for us to see. We will walk through gardens of memories of yesterday and those we make while we go.
There will be family.
There will be victory.
And there will be laughter.