My toes hurt every morning. They don’t hurt a little bit, they hurt like spikes have been driven into them.
They’re just toes, one might say.
Every morning when I lay in bed and open my eyes I feel fine. I swing sideways on the bed and stand up. Still fine. I take one step forward and now my toes are involved, it’s like childbirth. There’s a pain that starts in the joints and radiates up my spine ending in that horrible place between your shoulder blades. This is coupled with the sour taste of fear and pain that inevitably floods my mouth.
It’s been happening for a few weeks now and it’s sort of one of those aches that are both insult and injury. If I get some shoes on quickly it hurts a lot less, and I’m very happy that most of my morning stiffness is gone, but the searing pain in the toes piss me off every morning.
This morning was colder than most and as I hobbled to the bathroom trying to keep my toes up I thought of Lisa and her foot. That fucking foot with the cancer that killed her. So now I’m in my closet crying before the kids wake up, because I had waited to cry and today seems to be the day. Today is also the day I need to film two videos so it only makes sense that I should start with red and puffy eyes.
That foot, that foot that took Lisa and prevented her from saving more babies and changing our world. That foot that made her hurt for years.
My toes can go fuck themselves, because they made me miss Lisa and her one good foot.
The past few days have been full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. My daughter turned thirteen, she is the light of our lives, delighting me, my husband and our son. Jane has brought us nothing but joy for thirteen years. I wouldn’t know how to be angry with her for an extended time.
On Jane’s birthday we had a special treat, Mama Lucy, Leah, Gideon, Stacey and Sanjay showed up for a three day visit. We can’t quite figure out a way to get us all to Africa, but it was with overflowing hearts that our family from Arusha came to stay with us.
On Jane’s birthday I got news, crushing news, that my friend Lisa Kelly had died. I don’t have words for it. Lisa was a neonatologist, an accomplished woman at the top of her field who saved babies every day. Baby savers aren’t supposed to die young. Women who never stop smiling aren’t supposed to die young. The world needed Lisa, and now there’s a void.
I was shocked but I stuffed it. I wasn’t going to ruin Jane’s birthday, and I know that Lisa would have understood that.
I spent Friday with Mama Lucy and the kids. I cried a lot, mostly from joy but perhaps some sadness and fear crept in. Friday night we celebrated Mama Lucy and Epic Change, this morning everyone left and it was back to high gear with BlogWorld Expo, soccer, baseball and Jane’s birthday celebration.
Now it’s quiet, and being in a hotel leaves me with no busywork to distract me from my feelings, so I’ll lay still and wait for sleep to get me. I fear that when I finally cry I won’t be able to stop. I’ll start soon, but not today.
I saw you at the party this week, and even though you smiled, you didn’t smile with your eyes.
I know what it’s like.
Because when someone we love is ailing it seems wrong that the world continues to exist. At the very least the parties should stop or pause and folks shouldn’t expect you to participate.
But they do, so you go and you smile with your teeth, but sob alone at night, in the car or when a reflection takes you by surprise.
I really need to let you know that I understand, I’ve been there. I’ve been the caretaker, blindly grasping for help in hospital corridors and begging nurses for real answers. I’ve been the one to stay up all night faxing letters to the administrators and still getting up early to bring my kids to school.
I’ve done this. And so many of us have. If you haven’t then you will soon, it will be your turn to care for someone you love and to ache in a way that makes you feel a little bit dead inside but reminds you that you are still alive all at once.
It’s why I started blogging, that exquisite pain than engulfed me when Steven fell ill for the last time.
I wanted to tell you that I saw your eyes not smile, but it was a party, and that wouldn’t have been the time or place.
Use your resources, I see them coming at you, they will be lifelines.
Turn off the fucking lights when you leave the room. Oh, and while you’re at, get out of the same room that I’m in. For, like, a month.
I’m on my last nerve. Two deaths in August, neither one old age.
I’m saving every bit of kindness I have for my children. May I recommend not driving near me?
Only this time we’ve lost a mother and a wife in an automobile accident.
My daughter is afraid.
The kids start school Wednesday, 22 children with only 21 mothers.