I had a chat with a friend whose sister survived the unthinkable. She talked about the power of words and what they mean. Somehow, my struggles are very small in comparison to others.
I have been trying to figure out what it means to be tough for as long as I can remember. Sometimes life happens and causes me to redefine my terms.
I found a prose I wrote for a young girl. Her name is Olivia. She was 13 when we met. She was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Everyone told Olivia how strong she was.
“You’re doing so well,” they told her.
“You’re so strong,” they said.
Pretty sure Olivia would have rather been less strong and healthier than sick and enduring. She went through chemo. She endured the treatments.
It’s okay to be you, to feel, to think,
to laugh, or cry, or neither;
it’s okay to be confused
it’s okay to be scared or feel frightened or worry;
it’s also okay to give yourself a break.
There are words we use that only apply in the grown-up world. These are big words with big meanings.
To a kid, however, their vocabulary is different. They understand play, laugh, fun, and they do things like have sleep-overs and build tents out of blankets.
Little girls skip rope or maybe play with their dolls and have tea parties (if that’s their thing.) To a kid, their life is still so new. At least, it is supposed to be. They are young. They’re our children.
Beautiful as ever. They are pure to the core, learning, and blossoming into this world and about to partake in this thing we call life.
I think of things like little feetie-pajamas.
I think of things like what little kids say
when they’re still young enough to believe in wonderful things,
like the power of a special blanket
or a stuffed animal.
I think about the way a little girl laughs at silly jokes by her Dad,
like, say, “Hey Punky, do you think fish ever get thirsty?”
And then I think of a little girl’s laugh
as she responded, “Silly daddy!”
I am thinking of you now, young as you are, thinking about what you know and how much things will change for you.
I go back to me as a young boy, thinking about what I knew when I was as young as you are now and swearing by the things I believed, which at the time I thought were fact, but in fact, most of what I believed was true was never really true at all.
We left the dock just before sunup. It was warm and the winds were mostly calm. Everything was quiet. All there was to hear were the the sound of an early morning summer breeze and the seawater moving through the back canals.
The reports from offshore said the seas were somewhere between 2’ and 3’ rollers, which is fine. Soon enough, with all aboard, we prepared to move slowly through the “No Wake” zone. I started the engines and one of the crew untied the ropes around the cleats.
I loved it this way. When it’s quiet, I mean. The only people around are the people heading offshore. The marina was empty and all was quiet. I loved the sound my engines made and the vibration that I felt beneath my feet while standing at the wheel. She was mine, alright. She was all mine.
There is nothing in the world more irretrievable than time. Nothing, whatsoever is as precious, as fleeting, and as ongoing as the turning of a clock.
She was little once. She was small enough to fit inside my arm. The world was big to her; much bigger than anything I could compare to. Then again, the world was new. Everything was new. Literally, everything was like something brand new and out of the box.
My little girl was my little girl then.