Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Loving the gift

Cancer changes your life. It brings a sort of new reality to the foreground. An awareness of your own mortality. I had a sudden glimpse of what might have been while I was walking the beach last week in South Carolina with our son Scott and our granddaughters, Chloe and Livy. Just a fleeting thought that if my diagnosis had been grim and unforgiving eight months ago, I would not be leaving footprints in the sand at that moment.

Seven-year-old Livy had asked me what the word memories means. I explained that memories were like photographs, stored in our brain, of places we had been and things we had seen and how sometimes, out of nowhere for no discernible reason, they would pop up, recalling something sweet and wonderful, and make us smile. Fortunately, we tend to recall good memories more often than bad ones. Or so it seems to me anyway.

And, for a fleeting moment, I thought that it could have been different. Someday, one of those darling girls might have called up this memory: "Remember when Grandpa went to Myrtle Beach with us so he wouldn't be so lonely at home." But it didn't happen that way. I'm still here. So lucky. Present and accounted for, enjoying the gift of life. Enjoying being included in the memories our granddaughters will carry forward of our vacation together in Myrtle Beach.

And thus my memories, so fresh and clear (well, yeah, true -- they're barely a week old), include: Livy giving a dead baby crab a decent burial in the wet sand; Chloe's excitement at finding a shark's tooth; Scott getting slammed by a wave that knocked off his sunglasses; Chloe finding the sunglasses ("I saved Daddy a hundred bucks!"); watching my son, at sunrise, carve out "Chloe and Livy" in giant letters in the sand so that his girls would wake up and see their names from our 12th story balcony; hearing the girls giggle at the incredibly funny and gifted Cirque du Soleil MC; watching them both pet a baby stingray at the aquarium and seeing that same curious stingray swim back to them time after time for another pet; teaching the girls a new card game; being there as Livy learned how to swim; tossing quarters in the pool for the girls to dive after.

Floating along in the lazy river, I was totally relaxed. I had found my "happy place". I can close my eyes and recall that tranquil feeling. If, after cancer, every day is a gift -- and it is -- then I have just unwrapped the mother load. Sweet.

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