By Abby Bloom Esposito
Just before we leave the house to run our daily errands my 4-year-old daughter Nyelli finds her sparkly handbag. She fills it with anything in close proximity: a handful of crayons, vanilla lip-gloss, and a spray of dried Gingko Biloba leaves we found on our walk that morning.
She plops her feet into pink cowgirl boots. Right foot on left, left foot on right. I don’t have the heart to tell her of her mistake. I quietly savor the tender image of tiny feet walking with toes out.
Dressed in sparkles, she leaps out the door, “Let’s do this day!”
We arrive at the Cancer Center. Nyelli takes a mint from the basket at the front desk and sneaks another into her purse when she thinks I’m not looking.
She informs Sandy, the receptionist, that she will be starting school soon. Sandy smiles and offers Nyelli a mint “for the road”. She thrusts the third into her purse next to the crayons and Gingko leaves.
We proceed back to the “Infusion room” where my husband Roddy is receiving his Chemotherapy treatment.
Nyelli knows the rules, past the colorful carpet we have to be on our best behavior. But she sneaks in a few somersaults before we get there. Her pink tutu flops up to her shoulder as she rolls and rolls and rolls down the hall. I know I should correct her, but all the nurses smile… so I don’t.
As we come to the entrance, Nyelli’s demeanor changes. Walking with her hands at her side she speaks in low tones and minds her manners.
She is regal. I feel proud to be her mother.
The infusion room is filled with patients receiving Chemotherapy. Some are wrapped in blankets, some having lunch while others rest with pained looks on their faces.
Nyelli smiles at people who smile at her.
When she finds Roddy, she climbs up next to him in his chair. She asks him about the medicine and strokes his tired face.
It was no place for a child. I know this. A Nurse once criticized me for bringing her to the treatment center, but I knew he was going to be sick, lose his hair, and be down. I wanted her to a have a frame of reference with which to relate his condition, so I brought her with me to visit…it was a choice I made. I stand by it.
As well as she handled Cancer; I know she has been affected by it.
The presence of her imaginary friend named Puss in Boots seemed to have become more and more prevalent while Roddy was sick. Puss came with us everywhere and had his own car seat next to hers.
She informed me that he was a songwriter in San Diego and wrote a song called “Rock and Roll down the Stream”.
(She plays the Tuba in his band.)
She told me that if she had boots like Puss, people would say that she was a “very fine lady to see.”
(Where does she get this beautiful stuff?)
The only time Nyelli cried was when Roddy came home from work without hair. It had happened suddenly and caught us all off guard.
She had never seen him without a beard and I suppose he just didn’t look like Dad anymore.
When he sat on the couch to be with her, she turned her head and wouldn’t look at him. She went in the other room and felt scared and cried.
I went in and got her. I took her back to Roddy.
I remember him swallowing back his own tears as he reassured Ny that it was just hair and that it would grow back soon. She lay in his arms until she was sure that he was the same Daddy. She patted his shoulder and they lay like that until dinnertime.
The Vocation of motherhood has been a blessing to me. It has given me something to protect…a constant to attend to during these tempestuous times.
But, there is only so much pain that we can absorb on behalf of the ones we love. In our family we leave the rest up to prayer and Gods goodness.
I am grateful for the abundant graces that have preserved my daughters innocence during this very difficult time.
I marvel at the little girl she has become and regardless of the boots I say that she is already a “very fine lady to see!”
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