I was somewhere between the bulk oatmeal and the 10 lbs. coconut oil at Costco when Zach, weaving in and out of the displays, popped his head around the stacks.
“Oh, mom,” he said breathlessly. “I LOST YOU!” He said it so sweetly and then, because he loves a good dramatic pause, he took a deep breath before flinging himself into my arms. This kid is going to be a natural on reality television. He knows when he has found a moment.
Whether it was a moment, a few hours, or a few days, he layered these dramatic little flourishes onto every hello or goodbye.
“Te amo!” he would cry, blowing kisses as I left in the morning. Thirty seconds later he would have his nose pressed against the carpet to roll his toy car by at eye level.
“You come home from the castle!” he would declare as I came home from Duke University which, to his credit, is not a bad description.
But the words I LOST YOU stuck. Sometimes in the morning, upon waking, he would say it again. “I lost you, Mom.” And because he has been gloriously oblivious to all the medical mess of these last two years, he could not know what it meant to me. I’m so grateful that he doesn’t. All he meant was, “We were apart. And I hated it.” And I would swoop in and pick him up and try not to be exhausted by the fear in it all.
It has officially been two years since I was diagnosed, two years of trying to hold lightly to all the things that hold me to my life. But I’m starting to notice how very sticky love can be.
All my closest friends are still my closest friends. I still get distracted by having too many people I love to talk to at work. Toban still eyes me competitively when he thinks my step count is higher than his, and snuggles in beside me while pretending not to watch Bachelor in Paradise.
I’ve been reading Nina Riggs’ gorgeous book, The Bright Hour, a hauntingly beautiful memoir of a young mother with terminal breast cancer. Apart from the obvious similarities (we lived almost identical lives a 40 minute car ride away), Nina hits on a really salient point about living with cancer that keeps me lifted: the human web knitted around us by life and circumstance only strengthens.
During a visit to the chemo ward, Nina observes the patients in various states of weakness—wheelchairs, tender skin, heads bowed. “So many heads held up by hands,” she writes.
My people refuse to let me go.
My sticky people glue my feet a little more resolutely to each day as I am searched for—and found.
Towards the close of the book, Nina recounts an old camp song her mother used to sing when settling her into sleep. It is an anthem of sticky love.
Mmm, I want to linger here
Mmm, a little longer here
Mmm, a little longer here with you