Put Away Your Scalpels

Tonight I went walking with my daughter.  It was great to be outside; strolling in the sun and the breeze.  It’s been some time since I’ve felt myself really move, felt alive, watched her laugh and live beside me.  I would have missed out on today as well, if not for a little white lie.

This morning I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  Just a regular checkup, though it seems like my checkups are never really “regular”.  I am blessed on my father’s side with a large Irish bloodline.  This also means I am somewhat un-blessed with very fair Irish skin; pale, burns easily, lots of moles.  I very frequently have irregular moles removed.  Almost always, they end up benign, and we’re good to go.  This past April, however, was my 3-year cancerversary.  Having a melanoma removed from your thigh at 37 is an experience, let me tell you.  So I take my checkups seriously, and when my doc sees something he thinks should go, I listen.  But today was different.

The reason?  I have just come out of the other side of one hell of a migraine cycle.  It was basically an entire month of pain, grouchy wife/momma, weekends trying to rest, meds, early evenings, rinse, repeat.  It happens; you take it a day at a time and get through it until it fades.  But while you’re in it, it’s crap.  There’s no way to sugarcoat it; it just plain sucks.  Not only for me, but also for my family.  It’s draining on all of us.  My husband carries the extra weight, my daughter (age 7) has to give up her Momma to this mystery ailment she can’t see or fight against, and I just try to endure while my body depletes until I feel like there’s nothing left for anyone let alone me.

Since I’ve rebounded, the last several days have felt like a cloud has finally lifted.  My energy has started to return, I’ve been able to exercise again, I’ve been enjoying time with my girl and my family, I’ve just been able to breathe.  So today when my doc said he wanted to remove another mole (from the top of my foot, no less, inhibiting my mobility for a couple of weeks to heal), I was surprised how my logic voice of ‘probably a good idea’ was so loudly drowned out by my inner spirit screaming out “NO CUTTING!!”  All I could think was ‘not today; not now; I need more time to feel good, more time to breathe, more time in between hurting and being the Mom who can’t play on Saturday because she’s trying to heal, more time to be human and whole and just….ME‘.

Thing is, I didn’t think I could explain that to my doc without sounding like a raving loon.  And at that point, he was already readying the scalpel and lidocaine; I didn’t have a lot of time.  So I blurted out the only other thing that came to mind.  “Uh, I have a wedding to attend this Saturday, and I think there will be dancing.  Is your concern level pretty high on this one?”  Not very smooth; but it worked.  He said it was only a minor concern, and that as long as I had it taken care of within 4-8 weeks, we’d be fine.  He then said it was probably better to enjoy the dancing and nice shoes without the foot incision, and to have fun.  That smarted a little more than the cut probably would have, but don’t fool yourself thinking I spent a lot of time dwelling…I hightailed it out of there as fast as my mole-covered legs would take me.  (After responsibly scheduling my return appointment for 4 weeks out; I’m not completely throwing caution to the wind here, people.)

I will say I fully enjoyed my walk this evening.  Guilt free, headache free, even if it wasn’t mole-free.  I’ll hold on to this one for a little while longer.

The Whistle

Summer is most definitely upon us; the days are getting longer and lighter.  It’s the time when children linger outside after dinner to play and run and laugh “just a few minutes more” and, despite your better judgment, you let them.  It’s not an everyday occurrence, certainly, but some days just beg for it; the ones where the sky is a bit bluer, the clouds a bit whiter.

I have to admit, I love to let my daughter (currently a spirited six-year-old) bask in these extra evening moments, in spite of my normal “strict bedtime” mom-ness.  You see, we didn’t have many of these occasions for her last year, as she was challenged with figuring out her pecking order amongst the neighborhood kids.  Being an only child herself, she tended to desperately want to be the ‘best friend’ of everyone, and sometimes took it a little overboard, never really sure when she should let up on the intensity pedal just a bit.  As a result, she wasn’t invited out to play very often, and it was heartbreaking to see her long to be included.  Fortunately, this year is vastly different; she’s really found her niche, becoming one of the pack.  In fact, one of the girls she struggled with the most is now, basically, her BFF, and it amuses me to no end to see the two of them pal around together.

What does not amuse me, however, are the times when I have to retrieve her to come home – for dinner, bedtime, to run an errand, whatever.  Pulling a cat from a well might be more enjoyable, really.  Even if I’ve given her a heads-up about how much time she has left, it never fails that she will “mysteriously” disappear shortly before she needs to return.  Most of the time, I simply dread the 20-30 minutes I will inevitably spend just looking for her.  Don’t get me wrong, I keep a pretty keen eye on her when she’s playing outside; but she has a knack of turning into a gold-medal sprinter as soon as she sees me coming for her, and she has about eight different escape routes already mapped out.  I’m also convinced that she and her friends have developed some form of scatter-pattern devised solely to confuse the parental units on which child went where, simultaneously increasing our frustration level, and enhancing their enjoyment.

It’s usually around this time that I remember my own summer evenings of years past, and desperately wish I had learned The Whistle.  Not “to” whistle, mind you, I mean THE Whistle.  I’m referring, of course, to the legendary Mr. Harold Whistle (Mr. Harold being my father, for those unfamiliar).  You see, when it comes to tools on the parental belt, my father had a whistle that was truly unparalleled.  Ask any child growing up on or near Royal Street circa 1985, and they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Any given summer evening, just around dusk, you would hear his fairly high-pitched, two-noted, quick-tempo whistle – up, down up.  It would echo through the neighborhoods, easily reaching a 6-8 block radius.  Everyone’s head would pick up at the sound, and everyone knew what it signaled – the Harold Girls were supposed to go home.  He would usually do it once, wait about 5-10 minutes and then do it a second time.  If he had to whistle a third, there had better be a darn good reason why we weren’t home yet, or my sister and I were probably in big trouble, for there was really no excuse to ignore The Whistle.  We knew what it meant – everyone in the neighborhood knew what it meant – so we certainly couldn’t feign ignorance.  We’d even get status updates on the way home, practically block by block…”Hey, did you hear your Dad whistle?”, or “Your Dad’s looking for you, better hurry!”.   Rarely was there an occasion that my parents had to come and search us out to bring us home, because The Whistle was so darn effective; either on its own, or indirectly because it caused everyone else to seek us out for them (clever bit of parental strategy, if you ask me).

The Whistle did have additional uses, such as warnings of danger (i.e. riding bikes in the street near oncoming cars), stopping sibling arguments (teenage sisters can be rather loud when trying to kill each other), or rounding up scattered family in a grocery store (to the confusion of all the nearby patrons as to why some strange man was standing in the middle of a row whistling his head off).  However, I highly advise against using The Whistle in small, confined spaces; the deafness/ringing that results lasts entirely too long to make any usefulness worthwhile.

To this day, I still don’t know how exactly my father does it.  I’ve watched him at this craft for over 30 years and have yet to really figure out anything except that it’s only with his tongue and lips – he does not use his fingers.  Unfortunately for me, the whistle gene seems to have skipped a generation; I can’t even whistle normally, let alone produce anything remotely resembling THE Whistle, so I’m plumb out of luck on this one.  Which is really disappointing, because I can only imagine how useful it would be with my little summer-evening Houdini.  I suppose the best I can hope for is that perhaps my daughter will pick it up and maybe, some 20 years from now, there will again be that familiar “up-down-up” echo in a distant neighborhood that causes all the children’s ears to perk.  I can only imagine her Pops would be so darn proud…

Here Comes The Sun

Renewal is a funny thing.  It’s different for everyone, I suppose; the way we recharge, find strength, move forward.  For some people it can take a weekend or a full-on vacation to feel completely rested.  For others, it can be as simple as a small little ray of light…

I was reminded of this today by a link someone shared to the well-loved Beatles song celebrating the sun.  I’ve long had a fondness for that tune.  I often sing it to my daughter at bedtime, and it frequently pops into my head as I leave my office for the day, oddly enough.  Because of the juxtaposition of the entrance of my building to the sky, when I leave every evening I find that I am walking towards the sun.  This wasn’t always the case; I previously left on the opposite side of campus, where I would exit away from it.  You wouldn’t think that the simple shift of turning towards daylight to end long hours of toiling behind a computer would make such a difference (wouldn’t the act of leaving, alone, be enough?).  But I will tell you, it’s really somewhat monumental.  For me, it evokes a feeling of peace – freedom, almost.  Not because I’m leaving for the day, but more because I am heading into brightness.  It’s as if the act of walking towards that brilliant glowing life force in the sky somehow reaffirms that I am, indeed, also alive.

I suppose it’s similar to the feeling of renewal every morning when the sun first rises on a new day, reminding us that we have another chance for new experiences, new choices.  Or the way, after grief and loss (marked in their similarity to the darkness of a storm) the rising of the sun helps us to believe that our world is not ending; life will continue, and we can truly move forward because there is proof in the cycle of the light shining above.  That singular radiance also uniquely reflects our joy and capacity to embrace life, as I am so often reminded when my daughter simply tilts her head back under the sunshine and laughs, happy just to be outside.

That unmistakable golden glow…it means different things to everyone.  But for me, it is a luminous reminder of renewal and strength.

“…it’s all right.”  Indeed.