Saturday, July 3, 2010

Story Two: "A Day....."    (For my Ali)

He leaned back against the car and savored a moment of peace as the dawn light burned through the mist revealing a clear, blue, summer sky. Sun splashed across the yard and the dew settled like a blanket of tiny diamonds over the striving grass.

How could it be?

The little family had been up for some time, bathed, dressed and ready for the two hour drive into Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Seven year old Eleanor wrapped in her toastiest blanket, sat on the big leather reading chair in the den and looked up from her book as her Dad stepped through the door from the driveway.

A shiver coursed through his body, anticipating the day ahead.

“Is it cold out Dad”?

“A little cool for August, Eleanor…. but I’m warming the car”.

He knelt before his little girl and tucked the blanket close around her thinning frame, leaning in to kiss the translucent skin on the top of her head.


Her Mom smiling hard quick stepped from the kitchen, a glass of orange juice in one hand and a blue beret in the other.

“I brushed off your hat in case you want to wear it into Boston this morning."

“Dad, will you hold my book?”

Eleanor handed him a paperback with a dog on the cover, and reached for the hat in her Mom’s outstretched hand.

Mom always asked, but Eleanor wore the little blue hat all the time now, indoors and out. This time she was more aware of the staring faces.

She was four when she first endured the effects of chemotherapy. Then, as her long, dark curls fell away she was more curious than concerned, believing, as Mom explained, - the medicine made her hair fall out but it would grow back just as full and long when she was better.. - Until it grew back she was so busy with friends, and grandparents and cousins visiting that she didn’t think much about it.

This time, almost four years later, she went back to school suddenly bald and the way the kids stared made her feel lonely. In the mirror that night she studied the fine, blue veins marking the top of her head like the lines on the classroom wall map and decided right there she would never again leave home without her hat..

Eleanor woke easily to her Mom’s voice whispering, “We’re here Sweetie. Dad’s going to help us from the car.”

She was warm, she realized, except for her hands, which never felt warm anymore. Her eyes came into focus as she became aware that she had been wrapped like a cocoon in her favorite quilt. She had barely moved from the time they pulled out of the driveway at home.

Dad leaned into the rear passenger door, smiling at her attempt to look wide awake. He lifted her easily from her Mom’s lap and held her while Mom wearily exited the back seat and gathered a bag of games, books, her pink I Pod, and a small overnight satchel just in case.

At the entrance they paused before the tall windows, Eleanor still in her Dad’s arms her Mom laden with bags, spectators themselves for a moment. They watched as Nurses and Doctors moved deliberately, crisscrossing the lobby, in and around the kids being wheeled or carried by anxiously determined Moms and Dads. Nobody stared, nor did they avoid eye contact. A touch of a smile or a slight nod, the only signs of the unspoken sharing that occurred in this place.

Finally,with a collective breath and looking straight ahead, they went through the big doors to join the marathon within. Here, at least, there was hope.