Sunday, November 27, 2011

The gift of Breakfast with cancer...I mean Santa

Yesterday was the Breakfast with Santa at Norway School- an annual tradition which I know requires a small  army of volunteers to produce - done selflessly by many purely for the delight of the children.

Face painting, crafts, sausages and pancakes, fruit, yogurt, and Timmy's coffee. Nicely done. And of course, Mr and Mrs Claus. This year the addition of have your picture taken with the Big Man.

Owen was an elf, as were many of the grade 6-ers and I was delighted to see, some returning grade 7-ers from the neighborhood, directing people, serving food, handing out candy canes and gingerbread to the little ones coming off the stage, selling tickets, and doing crafts with wee ones. A real community event. It was really lovely. Thanks to the army. It was great.  Owen got himself out of bed at 6:55, like some internally wound up alarm clock, and got dressed, walked over to the school by himself to help - as I sleepily closed the door behind him. A moment of parental pride, my wee boy, growing, and participating, getting his hands dirty. Enjoying the whole thing. Two years ago, the entire thing was verboten territory - no way was he going to that breakfast thing - a terrifying prospect - Santa, loud noise, food he didn't want to eat.....essentially afraid. Naomi had her face painted, ran around with her friend Ella, sat with Santa, and generally was very Naomi like. I sat down and had some lovely conversations with people I have known for years and new folks I have just met, while both the kids did their thing. 

My mum asked me today - So, how was Breakfast with cancer..I mean Santa!? It was such a complete Freudian slip which made us both laugh out loud - but it's a good question. For me - the internal and external realities of such events are complicated by the waves of  various emotions and physical realities that pass over me. Mostly, I try to be present, and look around, take it in. Absorb the lovely little frocks on wee girls, the general sense of well-being and  cheer in the room, and the sheer delight of the event. Notice the many hands, making light work, and enjoying the Run DMC Christmas tunes. Seeing Santa. Mrs. Claus dispensing advice on shortbread baking to Naomi. 

 After Breakfast with Santa, off to kids' Drama Camp for the last of the year's classes, and a view to what the kids do for an hour or so every Saturday. Improv, basically. Quite fun to watch 10-7 yr olds rolling around - Be an egg!! Be an egg!! Be an egg!!  Lessons there - work with what you have right in front of you - and burst out into whatever you want to be. The grown ups invited to participate, and be an egg, or watch. Boldly going where it is potentially embarrassing to go. In Owen's class - the emphasis is on "taking the offer" - taking the material provided from someone else, and working it into something - as a small group - trusting each other. Again, a lesson. Riff off the world around you, listen, absorb, integrate, trust. Fantastic stuff. Awesome teachers. Wish I had been so lucky as a kid to have such wisdom imparted to me through play. 

So throughout all this fun and frolic, I was on a feeling well but dog-tired ride. I have a bad case of the shakes these past few days - low red blood cells, and low oxygen makes for wobblin' pins and shaky hands. Like a little old lady. Fatigued, but brain spinning, encased in a floppy head. It is hard to keep zen when the shakes take hold. I can barely do up a zipper and walk down the stairs. 

And as sometimes will happen, tired leads to sad, which then leads to full-catastrophe thoughts, and then around a bend to Oh My God. Oh My God happened about 11:30 pm. I had tried to bust out of it earlier, the malaise, and we went out to dinner - but it clung. It's a tough one to shake. Full catastrophe thoughts include - I don't want to die, I am so angry, I hate this cursed disease. By 11:30, the shakes had morphed into full body wracking sobs. Release. Catharsis. Resumption of breathing. Oh My God fading back into the shakes, and finally, sleep.

Today is another day. Less busy, but no less shaky. But the body wracking sobs have expunged some of the toxins, and the horizon is different. I picked up the Globe this morning, with a view to a cursory read  - and found practically the entire front page addressing my current life - breast cancer (screening controversy...I have serious doubts about the experts and their advice, thinking cynically, it's all about money - and it shouldn't be - it's about life and death, and getting it early, and yes that might be hard to go through in the early stages of what ifs and potential false positives - but it sure as hell beats the firm positives), and a critical care piece.  

Around the world in a day - from the North Pole, to rolling around like an egg, and off to the end of the earth, feeling like I am about to fall off.  But, in reality, back to the living room couch, and here to the blog. Trying to riff on what has been given to me - as my teacher Sharon Bray indicates -

War teaches us, as cancer does, that there are no guarantees in life.  What really matters is that we find the gift in those precious moments that life gives us.  As Stafford reminds us, life is not easy, but there are always moments we can cherish.
It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways.  (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that.  Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come - maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain.  It is called happiness.
William Stafford, "the Gift"


KitchenCounterChronicles said...

Your lovely son volunteered in my area at Breakfast with Santa, he did a great job! I love all of the volunteer kids' energy...amazing!

Tiina said...

I read this when you first posted a few months ago and have to thank you for writing about your mum Freuding out "breakfast with cancer." I can't believe how great your writing is. I mean I can believe it, but just really want you to know that you are so great.