Friday, October 31, 2008

July 27, 2008

There are only two more days until I leave for chemo. It’s weird to think that only six days ago, life seemed to be the greatest. Now I just feel rotten.

Instead of just staying home today, I decided I should show up at the Kiddie Kollege before I disappeared into oblivion. (Or somewhere like it. I don’t exactly look forward to leaving for chemotherapy.) So, around ten, I went to see the kids.

There were only twelve or so there, so I was put in charge of a select few with the help of another volunteer, Nikki. (She’s 10 and the Kiddie Kollege Director’s daughter.) We had one girl and two boys to watch: Stefanie, Jack, and Eddie.

At first Nikki just stared at me like I was crazy. “You need more sleep,” she finally concluded.

“Thanks,” I grinned at her. She stuck her tongue out at me. “No problem, Bag-eyes.”

I rolled my eyes and took Stefanie by the hand. “Let’s color,” I told her.

She knew exactly where to go and led me to the table, plopped down, and shoved a box of crayons at me. “Pooh Bear is yellow,” she said. Then she snatched a pink crayon from the box and proceeded to smear it on Piglet’s eyes.

I took another book from the pile, since it seemed she wanted me to color a Pooh Bear yellow.

“So how old are you, Stephanie,” I asked as I flipped through the book.

She didn’t even look up when she said, “three and a half.” But when she glanced up and saw what page I was on, she squealed. “Not that one!! It’s got Rabbit in it!” She scowled and her nose wrinkled up. “He’s green.”

“Umm . . . okay. So what page should I color then?”

She tilted her head to one side and looked at the page sideways. Then she flipped one page and pointed to a picture of Pooh Bear and Eeyore pretending to be pirates. “That one.”


I let her work then, just to be fair. I figured I’d bothered her long enough. After I’d just finished Pooh and was starting on Eeyore’s droopy eyes, she sighed and said, “goldfish don’t like jello.”

That one wasn’t worth asking about.

When it was my turn to be with Jack and Eddie, I knew they’d be a lot harder to entertain. And neither of them really knew what they wanted to do.

That led to some interesting stuff to talk about. The first thing Eddie said was, “don’t lick a slug. They taste funny and then your tongue gets numb.”

“You licked a slug?” I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows at him.

He grinned as though he were proud of himself and pointed to his mouth. “Yup! My tongue just got better before I got here.”

“And when did you lick this slug,” I asked.

Again, his grin beamed wider than before. “This morning when my mom told me to go outside and play and dad was reading the newspaper.”

At this, Jack piped up. “Did you know that you can’t put a marshmallow on the microwave?”

What happened with that, I don’t think I’d want know, and I didn't have to. Nikki had to leave to go to the YMCA for her swimming lesson and her mom asked me if I could walk with her.

The weirdest thing happened on the way there.

“So why are you walking with me, Bag-eyes?”

“Your mom told me to.”

“Why do you always volunteer?”

“I like to, that’s why.”

“How come you’re so tired today?”

“Why do you think?”

She huffed at me. “No fair. You can’t answer a question with another question.”

“I just did, didn’t I?”

Her eyes rolled and stopped when she was looking right up at me. “You’re just difficult.”

To say the least, I was surprised to hear that come out of the mouth of a girl less than thirteen years old. Before, I’d actually thought that only Cam could say that and make it seem true.

“Maybe you’re right,” I said.

She stopped suddenly and turned to me. “Life is really weird, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess.” I wasn’t sure what to say, since she’d brought it up so quickly.

“It’s a lot of ups and downs, huh?” She smiled at me for the first time and said, “Except I’m usually going sideways.”

“Yeah, me to, kid,” I wanted to say, but I caught myself before I could.

For some reason, hearing that from a ten year old felt so much better than if it’d come from anyone else. A girl I hardly know, even. And she just said it outright, like it was a given fact that she’d always be moving against the current and in all sorts of which-ways that weren’t meant to be.

Cancer isn’t such a big deal if the numbers aren’t involved. It’s just a word that means “sideways”, in a weird twisted sort of way.

That was about the best thing that’s happened in the last few days. Nikki taught me more about life in one sentence than I’ve learned in five days.

Imagine that.

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