Two more firsts are in the books – first day of high school for Sidney and first day of junior high for Ryan. Sidney was cool as a cucumber as she left for school. I fully expected at least a hint of anxiety on her first day but found none at all. I am certain having an older brother and knowing all his friends – a few who were there that first day of only freshman – made a big difference for her. She is confident in herself which is probably a big part of it. I can’t say she is excited about the piles of homework she will be experiencing by the end of the first couple of weeks!
Travis walked Ryan into school and took him to the special ed room that first day. Or I could be politically correct and call it the resource room, but it’s all the same as far as I’m concerned. He got Ryan settled in at the table and fed him some fish crackers as he talked with the teacher and para. I can’t begin to describe the anxiety both Travis and I felt that last summer night; you could almost physically see the tension in the room like a low lying fog. We were short with each other and struggled to mask our fears. I told someone taking Ryan into a new school felt like placing a 12 month old boy in the middle of a parking lot and expecting someone to be able to come take care of him and know what he needs. It was truly handing Ryan over to a room full of strangers. Trust does not come easily with a child who cannot speak, whose language is in facial expressions and body movements known only to those who are deeply connected to him in time and emotion. Ryan is fragile and vulnerable. And while he has endured more than most at his young age making him a fighter with endurance beyond measure, he is still a simplistic child who relies on the attentive love of another to anticipate his next want and need. His angelic demeanor is addictive, sweet and tender so I am certain he will quickly meet his paras and teacher in a place of devotion.
So here we are closing out the second week, and all is well. Trevor is doing great, but in 8th grade, there is nothing new to get excited about. He’s simply loving that I am taking him every morning and he doesn’t have to car pool anymore. If there is one truth about Trevor it’s this – he likes to be early. So having mom in his back pocket to leave when he wants is a big deal for my on-time guy. Brad is doing well and really looking forward to the first of many football games next week. He’s my stay-on-top-of-things kid who needs a gentle reminder every so often to make sure things get done on time. We all have at least one child like that! Such a great guy but not the most internally motivated one of the bunch. He simply gets busy with things and “forgets”. You know, the important things like homework assignments that affect his GPA. And Miss Sidney loves high school which I fully expected. She started volleyball this week and is in full swing with practices and anticipation of her first game in two weeks. She’s happy.
Last night I had to spend over an hour simply trying to organize all the games for these kiddos. Brad has a JV and a varsity football game every week, Trevor has a football game every week and Sidney has anywhere from one to three volleyball matches each week. So for the next two months, we have anywhere from four to six games each week! And of course we want to go to them all. What parent doesn’t? These years will be gone soon enough so I want to gobble up every chance I get to take in every activity the kids are involved in. Thank God for amazing grandparents who are willing to hang out with the Ry guy, and our sweet respite gal who we are trying to stretch out as long as we can. She’s getting older, is married, will be starting a family soon and as expected, is moving on. It always happens, but it’s sad to see our respite family members go. I’m trusting God is going to provide another college girl soon. Trying to figure out which kid is going to be home to stay with Ryan or if we need to find someone else to watch him is a feat. With everyone coming and going to practice and games and church and other activities on top of Travis working part time evenings, it’s a chore to keep everyone accounted for. My head spins even when I’m not looking at the overly full calendar. I’m so thankful for my job which I love partly because of the flexibility allowing me to be home every evening and weekend and leave early when I want.
With school starting came the news no one ever wants to hear…..Travis’s mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. He called me at work to tell me and I simply said “oh sh*^%” as I broke into tears and sobbed with big alligator tears falling onto my work. I found myself instantly surprised at my reaction which was much stronger than I anticipated, but then I realized the familiar emotions stirred up from the death of my mom fourteen years ago. I miss her. It’s a loss of security really. I don’t miss the strong emotions that stirred my spirit. The loss. The missing. The thoughts of everything that could have and should have been. But she is dancing with Jesus. And soon I will join her for all of eternity. We have been so very blessed by the health of those around us. My dad and his wife, Travis’s parents, my siblings and their spouses, my beloved nieces and nephews. Everyone has been healthy. I think we often take it for granted so when a diagnosis like cancer comes crashing down, it’s a lot to take in. Oh sure, Ryan is never stable medically and every day he seizes and shows signs of weakness and fading no matter how subtly the changes come. Losing Ryan is an expected journey. Watching the slow fading of strength and ability is anticipated and known. Sending him to surgery is the well worn slipper. We’ve worn that experience over and over. But the loss of a mom’s health, no matter the age, that’s the one hard to bear. So now she heads to surgery. Now she faces unknown results. Now she faces recovery and vigilant doctors monitoring for change. By the grace of God alone colon cancer was found early. By the grace of God, for today, she is only facing a difficult surgery. By the grace of God, her health will return and the Lord will keep her strong for years to come.
But the known truth, no matter how uneasy it feels, the known truth is no tomorrow is ours for the taking. No tomorrow can be trusted to show up. No tomorrow can be relied upon to bring us health and happiness and contentment and the company of those we love. We can fight it. We can buck the rules. We can protest. We can cry over it. But the truth of every tomorrow lies in the hands of the Almighty God who is the granter of each life sustaining breath. Years ago my older sister gave me a photo frame that has Jeremiah 29:11 on it, and it remains one of my favorites. One I pray over my children ever so often ~
The truth is the Lord can be trusted with my 12 month old but 10 year old boy. The Lord can be trusted with worry over a mom’s cancer. The Lord can be trusted to manage and attend our need to keep Ryan home when the kids have sporting events. The Lord can be trusted to handle each day as it comes. My finite mind wants to control. It craves bossy words. It seeks my way. It lunges toward limited reasoning. It worries over details. But really, honestly, I’ve got nothing on my Heavenly Father’s plans. I can’t begin to compete or play Let’s Make A Deal with the creator of time. It truly boils down to trust. To faith. To believing even when it takes every ounce of energy to let go.
Next Friday you will find us trying to cozy into uncomfortable chairs positioned where we can glance frequently at the clock. We will be speaking of unimportant things. We will be pretending we don’t notice the raw, stabbing fear bubbling deep within. We will hold cups of cooling coffee and watery Dt Coke. Travis and I have done this too many times. More than we thought we would have to endure. We know the drill. We do waiting well. And next Friday the same God who has seen Ryan through every procedure, every test, every desperate plea for healing will show up. And He’ll be early. That same God will show up and see mom through the cancer monster’s intrusion.
I didn’t want my kids to start their new school year hiding worry over their grandma, pretending her health doesn’t enter their thoughts. I didn’t want to tell them of surgery. But real life means bumps in the road. Real life means disappointment. Real life means things don’t go as we plan sometimes. Real life means the reminders come to put our trust in the only place that hands out peace. And that is Jesus Christ. He is merciful. Even when books and pencils demand our time, when muscles ache from jumping and running plays, when alarms sounds in the darkness to start a new day. He fills us with the grace to face another hurdle. He grants us the blessing of another breath. He showers us with love indescribable. It’s our choice to make. We can’t control circumstances but we can accept the journey with thanksgiving for all that is good. And there is always, always good on the journey.