Facebook serves up memories on a daily basis. Every day I get a complete rundown of what I was thinking, or what the kids did or said. Every post takes on the weight of history — deserved, or not.
Yesterday, this photo showed up. Young A is sitting on a bench on a rainy day. He’s two and a half years old. I remember that day. Young J was at day camp, it was raining, and we needed to find something — anything — to do. We went for a walk in the rain, and when we got to the corner, we came upon some workers from the city drilling holes in the sidewalk to install a brand new bench.
We stood under the awning of the dry cleaners and watched them work. It didn’t take long, and suddenly, there was a bench where there had not been one before. Young A was invited to be the first to sit on it, and one of the guys wiped the rain off for him. From that day, we call it “Young A’s bench.”
I thought about this photo all day yesterday, and eventually realized why it was haunting me. That photo was taken when I was just a civilian. A mom with a toddler to entertain in the rain. My concerns were any mother’s concerns.
Eight months later, when Young A was three, I’d be diagnosed with melanoma, and I’d never again get to be the person I was when I took this photo. Although I’m much (older and fatter and slower and) wiser now, I miss that person.
Here we are in midsummer. A lot of things have already taken place (namely, Young J and Young A gone off to sleepaway camp for the first time, one back already and the other returning this weekend). I have cycled through giddy feelings of sudden freedom, audacious frittering-away of precious free time, and then the difficult readjustment to parenting mode. Arguably, we were still parents while the kids were away; it’s just that that type of parenting was exclusively sentimental and involved little more than hunting for the day’s latest photos of the boys, or sending them fun letters and emails.
I had a lot of work the first week they were away. It feels good to be getting paid on a somewhat regular basis. It’s been so long since I was paid for anything, I nearly forgot what it was like. Which is sad, because I used to have such a strong identity as a worker. I filed income taxes from age fifteen on. At the end of this year, it will be a decade since I left the comfortable, cradle-to-grave type job I moved to New York for, and since I was at that job for a decade, that means my 20th anniversary of living in NYC (which I like to call an Appleversary) approaches, too. So much to think about.
I joined a melanoma community on Facebook which is vibrant and quite wide-reaching. In recent weeks there has been a constant drip of bad, sad, and simply terrible news there. I find myself trying to negotiate being present there with self-preservation. Especially hard when the people you have identified with the most experience setbacks, or the end of the line altogether. Two very young boys lost their mother to melanoma today, and I wept when I read the news.
I wept, and then I reached for the one thing that has never let me down when I feel desperately sad — a notebook. I hadn’t written longhand in ages, and it was the feeling I needed. Not the deliberate click of keyboard keys. More of a sweeping action, one that has never failed to help me generate new ideas. And I started something. I’m not sure what it will be yet, but I will definitely fill up the notebook with it.
I have kept up with my monthly check-ins on my Seven Year Plan, the one I came up with last December upon turning 45. I am not always 100% pleased with my progress, but I am also much less stern with myself than I used to be. The temptation to measure my progress with borrowed yardsticks is as strong as always, hard to undo a lifetime of that kind of behavior, but I’m doing what I can. And I am learning that I can do a lot.
Tonight I went to see Dr. D once again. I had a few days of waking to what seemed like a Vaseline-coated lens in my left eye. The eye looked red. I stopped wearing my contacts for a day, but things didn’t improve. Finally, today, I acknowledged defeat and called for an appointment, which I was given at the unfamiliar hour of 6:30 pm. I also hauled out my eye drop collection and squirted some Prednisolone drops in the bad eye a couple of times. The instant relief diagnosed my condition even before I’d had a chance to see Dr D. Iritis again, once more, with feeling (actually, this time, with no feeling). The pressure in the affected left eye was half what it is in the healthy right eye. I can somehow see perfectly through both.
Back to steroid eye drops every two hours for a week, but I don’t need to dilate the pupil, which has me feeling strangely euphoric. I mean, yeah, I have side effects! But they are entirely familiar! And I know how to manage them myself! Also — because these side effects come from Tafinlar and Mekinist, I’ve taken the day off those! Which means I can have a snack after 9 pm! So right now I’m off to figure out what that might be, and then to watch another episode of Twin Peaks with J. A blessedly ordinary night.