It’s been a while. I’ve been trying to get back to reality little by little. I now wear caps to school, a new one every day of the week, because I counted the other day and found that I have seven.
And all of them are from Phoenix.
So I mix and match a lot, with what I’m wearing because Ellie won’t let me got to school mismatched. I would never think about it, but she catches me whenever I don’t color-coordinate very well.
House life has been okay, I guess. Mom and I have been ignoring each other to some degree, occasionally speaking to say “pass the salt” at the dinner table. Things like that.
Ellie is as happy as ever, almost always at my heels when I do the chores out in the animal’s shack. It’s really cool how she’s rebounded from the time I was sick. Her smile has been never-ending and I much rather prefer the present Ellie than the Ellie that I touched base with the day I told about my cancer. The picture of her in my mind has changed drastically. She is no longer a red, puffy eyed Ellie, but the eternally-full-of-happiness Ellie.
Cam hasn’t changed much at all. I still haven’t seen much of her around the house. And when I do, she ducks into the nearest room. It hurts to think that she might be scared of speaking to me because of the cancer. The times that I’ve tried to talk to her before she has a chance to run away, all I’ve gotten in response is a mumbled, “I’m busy.”
And surprise of all surprise, Jeremy has started to come out of his shell. It’s amazing how my being gone has turned him into someone I feel I can actually have a conversation with.
He doesn’t shut the family out anymore by cranking up his iPod every time two words are said to him. He turns it off now. (And I’d forgotten how deep his voice had gotten before he stopped talking!) He helps me with the animal’s shack sometimes and takes the dogs for walks with me when I ask him to.
And there was a really cool conversation we had yesterday while we were walking the dogs out in the empty field behind the house.
He’d said something like, “You know how you were gone for a month?”
“Yeah,” I said.
Then Jeremy looked out over the field and smiled sadly. “Don’t you be going anywhere else but the hospital.”
I thought it over for a couple minutes, then said, “What do you mean?”
He glanced down at the dogs, then up at me. “We need you here. And you’re still here now, aren’t you? God hasn’t taken you yet.”
I nodded. “But—“
“We all need you, man. You’re not done with this earth yet.”
“And what am I not done with?”
He shrugged. “Your dreams. Life after cancer. Us.”
I stumbled over a crunchy brown, ankle-high corn stalk and stopped suddenly.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere soon,” I told him.
Jeremy stopped beside me and smiled. “I know you don’t. But He knows when that’ll be.” He looked to the sky and said, “And I’m not holding you back. When the time comes, know that I can take it.”
It isn’t like I haven’t thought of death yet. (Of course it isn’t!) It’s just that it never hit me that hard before and to hear the acceptance of death coming from my younger brother’s mouth was the hardest thing ever.
Jeremy seemed perfectly okay with the idea that someday soon, I might die. I’m not sure if I’m hurt by that or not. But, somehow, in that conversation, I know that something was being said underneath the true message.
And while we were talking, something occurred to me.
What if the cancer does come back?
And what if I don’t beat it a second time?