my grandparents, bill and aleatha, sponsored my winter break – a trip to southern california in january and february. my second stop was with my friend kristin – we went to elementary school together, hadn’t seen each other since i moved in 7th grade, and reconnected over the internet before my surgery. she’s been a rock star in my recovery. she and her young son (he’ll turn 4 this year) were staying with her mom in the house she grew up in, so they were big parts of my visit, too.
one of the first things that henry said to me was, “why do you have that?” kids ask that question – they don’t have the filter that tells them not to ask about certain things (some of us never get it). i like being asked that question – sometimes i want to answer it pre-emptively when people stare at me around town. i’ve struggled, though, with the best way to answer it when a kid asks – with adults i talk about my brain tumor and my stroke, relearning how to walk. i think that when henry asked, i said that i had been sick and now i need a cane to help me walk. he was very satisfied with my answer, and he informed me several times during my visit that i needed a cane to help me walk because i had been sick. he was very interested in my cane. it was a gun, a rocket, and part of the pile of toys on the floor. when i’d be sitting down with my cane, he’d offer to put it away for me. this meant that he took it and played with it for a while, then he’d lose interest and set it down somewhere, which created a fun game for me called “where’s my cane?”
i don’t like that “i was sick” answer, though. i’ve thought about it a lot since then, tested different responses in my head. i don’t like it because i think that it has the potential to scare a kid – they get sick, so does that mean that they are going to have to walk with a cane? i thought about saying that i had been in the hospital and now i walk with a cane, but i don’t like that one either. and i want whatever i say to be hopeful – me walking with a cane is a huge victory. right now i’m thinking that i’ll say that i used to be in a wheelchair and now i use a cane to help me walk. this is true, and shows progress, i think. but i still don’t think it’s right – lots of people who are in wheelchairs won’t ever be able to walk again, so does that set up unrealistic expectations? i’m happy to hear suggestions.
i don’t know that i can ever thank kristin enough for her role in my recovery. when i found out my surgery date, she said that on that day she would sit in a chair turned to face phoenix (where i had my surgery) – that’s one of the kindest things that anyone said to me during that time (and i heard a lot of very kind things, so that’s saying something). fast forward a year and a half, and she was there to help me feel like the real struggle part of my recovery is behind me, that my life is the new normal, and that i can do so many of the things that i want to do. like sit around with an old friend and drink wine and laugh.