Thursday, July 14, 2011

solutions and six

i had a math teacher in high school who liked to say, "you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem." math teacher humor, i suppose...but it works, doesn't it?  in our family, everyone contributes something.  everyone must.   there is no person too small or too busy or too delicate to help out.   there is something for everyone to do and, count on it,  there's much to do.  it is how this ship stays afloat.  the five children and man would be working their way through at least a third mother if it was expected mother do it all.  my replacement and i  would both be recovering in some asylum somewhere ... or worse.   so we all pitch in.  we all help out.  or at least that's the plan.  it is never perfect and rarely smooth.   in fact, sometimes it is even harder when we all have to help.   this pitching in means we rub elbows and bump shoulders and step on toes.  there is always someone in the way. underfoot.  it is inevitable.  our kitchen is not tiny, but come 6pm, and it begins to feel tight.  i will surely find someone standing between me and the dinner fixings and so  i am forever shooing them out.  "if you're not helping me make dinner, please leave.  go. now. out."  that is what i say.  but what i really want is everyone working together.  when i am feeling ambitious,  i hand them carrots to chop and silverware to set and something to mash.   i want each of them to have a role, a part, a place.   i want them to be part of the solution - to feel needed.  this is community and contribution.  this is family.  

the cancer provided us a crash course in the area of need.   miss independent me,  developed a  new, swelling kind of hunger for my family -  an incredible thirst for the six living under my roof.   i've always liked having them around (an understatement), but i am not sure i would have told you i was in need of them.   maybe i just hadn't ever really thought about it.   but  i cannot imagine this path without them strewn wildly about.  in the past couple of months i have often wished for a way to sweep them all into a quiet protect them from the heavy hits of the fear-pounding, but it was not possible ---  they are the ones who had to daily deal.   this was never mommy's diagnosis alone.   this diagnosis landed harsh in the laps of seven. we carried it as a family. we had to.  no one has moved through unmarked.  i  had no choice but to bring along the whole, untidy assemblage.  like it or not.  there was no hiding up in a bedroom or camping out at the office or disappearing into the woods - at least not for very long.  at some point, we all had to sit down at the kitchen table and face it.  eyeball to eyeball.  nose to nose. fearful heart to fearful heart.  

the diagnosis came on a tuesday.  by that friday every mcnatt kid had been told.  that week of telling was, without doubt, the worst week ever.  the conversations we had and the weeping moments we endured will never be forgotten.  not by this mother.  but that first weekend was easter.  and in that weekend full with rebirth and resurrection reminders,  we found the clouds parting a little.  our family had been stumbling around inside a week tomb-dark.  our days were gray.  our nights hot black.  i've never been in a place quite like it.  some of you have, i'm sure, and you know.  you know the numbing gray of disbelief.  you know the piercing black of fear's deep cut.   

easter weekend arrived just days after diagnosis.  my world had been stripped of color, when all of a sudden, i found myself in the midst of easter pastel.  at first i felt taunted.   "you're kidding me, God?  really?  you want me to stuff pink and yellow and purple eggs with jelly beans and chocolate?"  but i did.  all the while knowing this weekend had nothing to do with eggs, pastel or plain.   in a visceral way my faith was stirred deeply by the glimpse of the garden and the cross and the tomb ---  the empty tomb.  even in the very ordering of days i felt God's orchestrating hand.  oh, is He not the God of perfect timing? not that there is any great time to get cancer, but easter weekend somehow helped. 

just enough light was shed and just enough hope was felt for me to move back into my skin.  i felt compelled to do what i always do in times of crisis or need or whatever:  come up with a plan.  i like plans.  a lot.  immediately i knew this heavy stuff wouldn't be carried by me alone.  i am one of seven and i needed to find a way to bring them all in.  bring them all on board.  i knew it would be good for me...but mostly, i knew it would be good for them.  i know my children and husband well, and like any mother and wife, i knew what they needed was an old fashioned assignment...a task...a mission...a job.  the alternative was to wallow.  we weren't going to be a family which wallowed --- i was dead set against it.  heels dug in gritty resistance.  and so it began with an easter evening.

on easter evening we came together.  all seven us gathered in the midst of an easter-basket-blown family room.  it was time to roll away the stone which had been blocking us in...weighing us down...stealing our joy since first hearing.   it was time to stop thinking problem and to start thinking solution.   it was time to get rid of the gloom.  Jesus was alive.  the grave claimed no victory.  Jesus had risen!  i came to my family with card stock in hand.  a note for each member bearing their name and their assignment.  i am, after all, a woman of words and an assigner of roles.  it was time to cast this show.  time to form the team.  time to figure it out.  at least a little. i felt lame in my feeble attempt to invoke order and incite purpose.  i knew these children and this man were seeing me only through the eyes of my diagnosis.  they could barely see past it.  i could barely see past it.  but that was exactly what we needed to do.  they watched me closely, wondering all the while, if this was just another strange-mom-thing or if i had truly (and finally) stepped over the edge.  

i knew what they were thinking and promptly ignored their curious eyes.  instead i moved forward with children seated and plan in hand.  in a pretend moment of confidence, i presented my husband and children with their part to play in this new cancer drama.   this journey.  this battle.   this is my way.  it may seem simple to you.  simple and maybe even kind of silly.  it had nothing to do with medicine.  nothing to do with miracles.  nothing to do with research and appointments and strategy.  but it had everything to do with our hope.  i handed them out, one by one, explaining as i went.

bella - the joy-bringer:  there is no mistake in God's timing.  He brought bella into our lives only nine months before cancer.  she waltzes around our home with a light step and a joyful sound.  we all marvel at her delight in the ordinary.  i knew in this cancer battle i would be desperate for reminders of joy and i knew she was just the girl to bring them.

connor - the laugh-maker connor is my boy who can be counted on for something clever.  he is the child who provided the first laugh after diagnosis. "looks like we are back on the meal circuit!" he said when our first meal was brought.  we would all need to laugh.  it is, without doubt, the best medicine.  at least for me. i was sure as much as i might need drugs and surgery and treatment, i would need laughter.  connor would be my guy.

sarah - the cheerleader:  she not only looks like one in her ponytails, but five minutes in the same room with sarah and you would know why i dubbed her just this.  sarah is passionate and energetic.  she will be the girl on the finish line waving wildly and yelling loudly. sarah has a special kind of sparkle and pizzazz needed in this kind of yuck-filled contest.  i would need her with me all the way.  within days she began devising cheers and performed them for me regularly.

tyler - the prayer warrior:  this young man, my teenage boy, can pray.  every single night of bella's year long adoption process i heard this boy at bedtime pray faithfully for the healing of his sister's heart.  a sister he had yet to meet.  i know the power of prayer...and i know a powerful pray-er.  this warrior-boy has God's ear and i asked him to go boldly before the throne for his mom.  and i had no doubt he would daily go.

emily - the truth-teller:  a heavy diagnosis often brings with it lies.  the serpent's hiss is just waiting to whisper something false into our frightened selves.  there is a lot to hear after hearing the word cancer.  i would need the Voice of Truth to counter the evil one's attack.  i knew it immediately.  emily was also under attack, so i wanted her to be the one searching scripture and reporting back God's truth.  we both desperately needed to quiet the lies and calm our hearts.  this assignment was to be for both of us.

rick - the comforter-protector:  rick has always been the ultimate protector.  since our dating days in college he has attempted to shield me from anything hard and ugly and hurtful.   i remember when he refused to take me to a steeler's game, not wanting to expose me to such stuff as that.  wise, i suppose.  it has not always been easy for him to be married to a woman like me.  a woman headstrong and pretending greatly at independence and self-sufficiency.  my stubborn-self has often resisted his attempts to shield.  but i would need, more than ever, to rely on the strength of his protection and the constancy of his comfort.  and after almost 21 years of marriage,  i knew i could. 

so those are the six.  the six ready to share  their wife and mom's load.  some days we have  wanted to shut our eyes and turn our backs to it.  to pretend it gone.  to ignore the battle.  i can see it in their eyes when this urge hits.  i don't begrudge them this looking-away.  not one bit.  i feel the same way.  there have been plenty of days i have woken up and wanted to forget.   but even on these days i am reminded, often,  how blessed i am to have six others part of my solution.

we are through the diagnosis, through the surgery, and just about through the recovery.  we have gotten the results.  we know the longterm treatment, the lifestyle changes and even the risk factors.  in the past couple of weeks, the battle has calmed.  it is not over.  cancer isn't like that.  there will be daily medication and there will be regular appointments and there will always be the wondering - that awful, awful wondering.   but we will go on in our living.  with heads bent close, elbows touching.  we'll probably bump into each other a lot as we go, but we've notched, a little deeper, our part and place in this family.  we've contributed.  we've solved.  we've shouldered.  and we've needed...each other.  


Simply LKJ said...

Jody, amidst the turmoil comes family unity, a true reminder that God is in control. He has put together an army for you, and for His kingdom. Each has their roll. May He continue to bless each one of you.

Aus said...

"and we've needed...each other." Yeah you have - but - from this person's perspective - you've been there for each other as well...and that my friend....that's what family is!

And for that I know you are Blessed - and for that I coiuldn't be any happier!

hugs - aus and co.