Thursday, July 24, 2008

This Story Needs to Have a Happy Ending

I haven't published anything about this and am still coming to grips with something so horrifying that I forced myself to pretend it wasn't possible. We finally have the answer to the "what if?" question that's been in the back of everyone's mind since April, and now I find myself wishing I could turn back the clock several months. Back to a time when my best friend's pregnancy was a joyful occasion to celebrate. It still is, but something lurks in the background, unseen, but always, always there.

My motivation to write this is three-fold. I need to write through my feelings in the vain hope of trying to understand them, I also want my message of support to my best friend and her family to be a hell of a lot more eloquent than a sleepily typed Facebook message. Finally, I want to send this out to the blogosphere in the hopes of gaining more supporters for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

(Just typing out that last sentence reduced me to a blubbering mess. Somehow passing on this bit of news makes it even more real.)

I need to rewind this back a few months to explain...

When Kim told me she was pregnant with she & Steve's second child, I was ecstatic for them. Here are two people I've known more than half of my life - old friends who I can remember camping with in the bush in high school, taking road trips with, visiting during University, tearfully watching get married, and then meeting their beautiful little son, Gordie. As one of many witnesses to their lives I can tell those of you who don't know them that they are pretty damn fabulous people. Family is first with them, and if any two people should get together and write a book about how to be a great parent, it's them.

When Gordie was born, I was stuck in Windsor, two hours away. I wasn't at the hospital the next day, nor did I make it there until the little one had been around for two weeks.

(The guilt from Not Being There has always been in the back of my mind, coupled with the regret that I didn't show the kind of support I should have. I'll always feel like I should have been there right away.)

As always in her generous nature, Kim never held this against me. Or at least she never told me that she did. Even better than that, she asked me to be in the waiting room when it was time to have her second child. This honor is certainly listed among the most important things I've ever done in my life.

But I digress.

Back in April, they received the terrifying news that nobody should ever have to hear: something might be wrong with their baby. An ultrasound had found calcification in the baby's abdomen. Steve's account of this is so haunting and well-written that I wouldn't dream of trying to get into the details. The symptoms pointed to several possibilities, one of which was Cystic Fibrosis. Having gotten the news first on Facebook, I tried to think of something, anything that I could say to my old friends that would bring some hope, some comfort. Little gestures, hugs, words of support - all things they definitely need, but I wished I could do more. That feeling of helplessness is probably going to be a rock on my shoulders for many years...

When Oliver Armand Loney was born, everybody celebrated and cried with joy. We waited for a couple of hours after Steve announced his birth, then washed up to visit the new arrival. I stared down in awe at the tiny baby who just hours before had been a bump in his mommy's tummy, thinking that I'd do anything for him. We all commented on his colour, his chubby cheeks and legs, his dark eyes and hair, and tried to decide if he looked like his big brother or not. Nobody mentioned that he was hooked up to scary-looking monitors or the tubes coming in and out of him as he lay in the NICU.

He was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit because of a possible blockage that "possibly would result in surgery". After a lot of praying and waiting, we heard the news that he was physically fine and after some frustrating days, they brought him home.

The news seemed better every day. But lurking in the background was the possibility (a 1 in 4 chance) that Oliver would have CF. Coupled with the pre-natal symptoms, the doctors were fairly certain he was going to have it. Despite this we all hoped a miracle would happen...

Denial is such a useful defense mechanism. I told myself that I'd keep really positive and say lots of prayers and that maybe, just maybe they would have good news to share. Sometimes I really believed that the results would be negative. Despite being haunted by images of the little boy who will call me Auntie Mel (like his brother does) hooked up to machines, I convinced myself that this wouldn't, couldn't happen for real. No way was this beautiful child going to grow up feeling choked and taking dozens of pills a day. No way was he going to have hundreds of doctor's appointments before he starts Kindergarten. No way was my best friend and her wonderful husband going to go through so much pain. No way was this tiny child who looked so healthy going to have a life expectancy of 37 years.

37 years.

How does a person handle this? How do you face the fact that your child is going to likely have many medical problems? How can any person look into the face of their son or daughter and know you will likely outlive them?

Nothing could possibly be more heartbreaking than this.

And so the only thing I can think of is to put up a link in my blog for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (if anybody knows how I can put this on my links in the sidebar with a picture, I'd really appreciate that help) and beg anybody who has the financial means to please, please donate money to the cause.

Denial might be raising its ugly head again, but I honestly believe that some day this terrible disease can be beaten.

It just has to.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My fiance never buys me flowers

Before I begin this post (using the word "begin" loosely since this topic has been sitting in my drafts for some time now, and I finally started writing it a few days ago, only to become distracted by life once again thusly forgetting all about it), I would like to wish my parents a very Happy Anniversary.

Today is July 17th - the same date that falls on a Saturday in 2010, wh
ich is the year Jeremy and I are planning to get married. If we get married on July 17th, 2010, it will be my parents' 39th anniversary. That means that their 40th anniversary would be our first. Pretty cool if you ask me...

I always dreamed that the man I'd someday marry would be a complete romantic.

When I was a teenager, I imagined this meant he would bring me flowers and sing me songs - all of the sappy junk you find in movies and beach books. I imagined long conversations, candlelight, holding hands and backrubs and slow dancing under the stars.

My dating history isn't very long, and I was lucky to have relationships with some pretty good guys (although not every guy I dated would qualify as Mr. Wonderful...), so there was the occasional bouquet of flowers, walk on the beach, or song dedication. I even dated a guy who used to sing and play the guitar (although he wasn't singing TO me as much as just in the same room as me). By the time I met Jeremy, I was older and no longer looking for Mr. Perfect Romantic-Comedy Hero. Or anybody at all. After a long and painful relationship with a person who seemed to bring out the worst in me, I was ready to have fun being single for awhile.

This wasn't to be.

Right away we were so comfortable with each other that it seemed like we'd met years ago. Being the incurable romantic that I am, I floated into a starry-eyed crush that surprised all of my friends, since he's younger and different than the other guys I'd been interested in. They all carefully advised me to have fun but 'be careful'. It was hard not to like him though - he was sweet and funny and made me happy. Before long he'd moved in with me and after 6 weeks we settled into a committed relationship. As scary as this sounds (and probably should sound) it made sense for us.

We went through all of the usual things that new couples do - meeting families and friends, spending lots of time together, talking for hours, etc. It wasn't until we'd been together for a couple of years that I noticed he'd never bought me flowers. Or a birthday card. We didn't even have a "song". There were no grand romantic gestures, no hand-holding during long walks. He didn't say sweet things to me or call me beautiful. And for a little while, I worried about what the absence of those things meant...

Several months ago

"Ugh. What a day. I can't wait to go home, pour myself a drink and soak in a nice bath for at least an hour".

"I can make you a bath."

"Thanks honey - that would be great."

Around 8:30 that evening, I heard that water running. While I sat in front of my computer, he walked around the apartment collecting candles, then opened a bottle of wine and poured me a glass. Without a word, he lit candles, set my wine glass on the floor, found my book, and made a very nice bubble bath.

"Your bath's ready, old lady".

Looking up at the man who doesn't buy flowers because "they die" and never gives me cards because he "never knows which ones to get", I realized that he's been making me a bath since we first moved in together, always with the same routine. If I mention being tired or having sore muscles or even being cold, he offers to make me a bath. He also makes my drinks for me all the time. Like ALL the time. And gets me blankets when I'm cold. He buys low-fat milk, Coke Zero and never complains when the only snacks in the cupboard are rice crisps. He kisses me on the forehead and rubs my shoulders when I'm sore. And he'll try his best to make me smile or laugh whenever I'm sad. He let me have the closet in our bedroom. He always remembers to leave the porch light on for me.

Oh, and instead of buying me flowers, he let me adjust our budget so I could bring home enough plants to make a garden.