Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 45

Friday October 1, 2010
The first words out of Nina’s mouth this morning were, “I’m so excited about Eileen’s wedding!” For months Nina has been eagerly anticipating Eileen’s wedding. Originally, Eileen and Dave were going to get married in St. Thomas but after Nina’s illness they decided to change their plans. They were arriving this afternoon in Santa Barbara and having a small ceremony with just us so that Nina could still be the flower girl. Just thinking about this makes me want to cry. The generosity and love that they are showing us is unfathomable…the stuff that really only exists in literature.
For months, Nina had talked about being the flower girl and Teddy being the ring man. We’ d look at photos of flower girl dresses and she’d give us her infamous thumbs-up or thumbs-down. When Eileen had last been here, she and Nina had ordered a gorgeous white satin gown with a blue sash, just like Nina had insisted from the beginning that she wanted to wear. Nina has more fashion sense in her tiny 5 year-old pinky then I do in my entire 33-year old body J When her dress had arrive last month, Nina had beamed! It was obvious that she felt beautiful in it!
It never ceases to amaze me how one second Nina can be delighted and full of excitement about the wedding and the next she is screaming bloody murder. The house was filled with a thunderous scream when she found out that Addie was going to stay at the house and hang out with Teddy while we went to the treatment center. She literally screamed so loudly that I thought for sure she had hurt herself. It was awful!! She cried and screamed and grabbed onto the kitchen furniture as I tried to escort her to the car. Poor Adelae!! She just stood there, trying to calm down Nina by gently stroking her hair and explaining that she was just going to spend a bit of time with Teddy since she really hadn’t been able to do so. But nothing was going to pacify Nina! She was torn. Her lifeline was being taken away from her and she was going to let everyone know how horrendous it felt. I had never seen her this upset! She screamed that she was not going to go and I wanted to cry myself. Addie just looked at me, torn herself. On one hand she really wanted to spend some one-on-one time with Teddy and go bowling, but on the other hand she adored Nina as much as her own siblings. Within a few seconds, Addie turned to me and said that she would go with us and asked if I could take them bowling afterwards. I bit my cheek as hard as I could to try to hold back the tears. I thanked Adelae and the three of us jumped into the car. We were going to be late.
I called Cindy to inform her that we had barely averted a disaster and as such were going to be a tad late. By the time we got onto the freeway, Nina had stopped crying. I blasted the radio and then silently cried. I knew what Nina was feeling. Having Adelae here this week was the best thing that had ever happened, as therapeutic as radiation, arguably more!! With Addie around we were all more joyous, all happier, more like the family we had always envisioned ourselves being. As the week had progressed a growing pang had started to emerge. I was secretly cursing the day that Addie would have to leave. I did not want to think about it, but then constantly found myself saddened by the anticipation of having to say goodbye, fearing how Nina would respond, fearing the emptiness I would feel. I looked at Adelae through the rear-view mirror. She was talking to Nina. I cried, constantly wiping away the tears so that the girls would not notice, and thanked God for her. This beautiful 11-year old angel had an unbelievable capacity to love, greater than most adults I had ever met. She had wanted to stay with Teddy but recognized that the joy and peace she brought her little cousin was right now more important than anything else. Most adults are not able to make that type of decision in hours, albeit seconds. I have always been committed to supporting my nieces and nephews in whatever manner they needed. I love them as if they were my own flesh and blood. But right there and then, as I saw Addie pour herself into her scared little cousin I made God a promise that I would spend the rest of my life blessing Addie. In less than a week, Adelae had transformed Nina’s life and our lives. She had given me pure oxygen to breath. There is no way that I can ever fully repay that type of love, but I will try and try and try!!!
As we drove to the Cancer Center, Adelae reminded Nina how today we got to go to the Zoo for a behind-the-scenes tour. We were going to get to pet a penguin and see other animals up close. The girls talked about how cool it was going to be and whether the penguin was going to feel soft or hard. Again, how can an 11-year know to redirect another child and distract them from their sadness??? I kept praying for a miracle…God had given me one already…her name was Adelae!
Given how atrocious our morning had been, the actual treatment went without a hitch. Once Nina was sedated, Addie and I ran to IHOP to get some breakfast. Addie ordered pancakes and we got Nina a waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. I felt like I had been through the wringer, so I splurged and got myself toast and hash browns….ooh the warm yumminess of hash browns just makes the soul smile…and I needed my soul to smile! By now the sweet IHOP cashier knew who we were and had our phone order ready to go in a jiffy. When we returned to the Cancer Center we were pleasantly surprised by Todd’s visit. Apparently, he had told Nina he’d bring her some rootbeer for popcorn Friday. Sure enough…he kept his promise…he is such a good Dada! Addie ate her breakfast and Nina got rolled in a few minutes later. Although her weight gain had made it difficult to close the mask, the radiation team was making it work. I was so thankful!

Before Nina woke up, my friend Katie came and picked up Addie. She took her to Zodo’s Bowling and Beyond, where she joined Teddy and our cousin Lindsey. Nina woke up to her daddy’s voice, which is always a good thing J Todd decided to play hooky from SBJH for a little while longer and helped Nina with her IHOP breakfast. I just sat back and relished in the beauty of their love for each other. Todd has an impeccable sense of humor…well okay impeccable is probably not the correct adjective….more like wicked and very irreverent. With the kids he keeps it in check and they live for it…they love that their dad is funny!! Most of the time, I sit nervously, praying that he doesn’t say anything too outrageous that will offend half of the population. I honestly believe that he is as outrageous as he is at times just to torture me…to get me riled up. I am very predictable (although I fervently try to deny this!!) and 99% of the time get riled up! Anyhow, this morning, Todd was his impeccable funny daddy self and Nina loved it! The video below illustrates this mutual love affair the best!

After Dada was done being the stand-up comic, Nina and I joined Teddy, Addie and Lindsey at the bowling ally. Teddy and Addie had been able to have some one-on-one time and won some fun prizes in the arcade. Nina was happy to bowl, she was a natural bowler and more often than not she beat all of the older kids. This was a significant source of pride for Nina! We started bowling and half way through our game, Eileen called to say that she and Dave had arrived at the airport. We decided that they’d take a cab to our place and that we’d join them as soon as the kids finished their game. Per usual, Nina won! She was so happy….Teddy who normally struggles with his little sister beating him was even happy for her.

It was so good to see my friend Eileen. I was so happy to see her in love. It had been a long journey to Dave but how sweet it was now! At 2pm Larisa arrived and we made our way to the SB Zoo. What transpired next was something best described as magical. We got to hang out with Pigloo the Penguin, pet her and learn all about her. We even had a poop-disaster, but thankfully Pigloo missed us all by mere millimeters J Of course, little did we know that this near miss would be Nina’s favorite part of the Zoo tour! Figures!

After Pigloo, we got to feed the giraffes. Nina and I love giraffes. My favorite animal for years had been the crooked neck giraffe, Gemima. I loved her because she was an anomaly...her neck was so crooked that she shouldn't have survived...yet not only did she survive but she flourished. Sadly, Gemima had died several years ago, but it was still incredible to feed the giraffes. To get to them, we had to go down about 40 stairs, which I was convinced Nina would decline doing. But...she didn't! She was so motivated to participate that she conquered her very own personal Mt. Everest and climbed up and down the stairs.

Once we got down the stairs, we had to be super quiet because we were suppose to pass the Gorilla's bedrooms. Apparently, the two gorillas (who are brothers) had a tough day with each other and consequently were in their "quiet" quarters. As we passed by, one of the brothers hollered a terrifying sound and shook his cage!! Let me tell you...those are some mighty creatures and we were all terrified! Once we got passed the gorillas and into the giraffe chamber, Nina turned to me and said, "Boy that was scary!" I love that was scary!! Awesomely scary!

Feeding the giraffes was incredible. They are beautiful, albeit awkward creatures. We were all so delighted to see how strong Nina was, how she did not succumb to fear, but got right in there just like Teddy and Adelae. It was breathtaking to watch. We finished our zoo tour with a private meeting with a red-tail hawk. He was a spectacular animal and I believe the adults were just as excited to learn about him as the kids :)

All in all, what started off as a terribly rocky day ended in an amazing adventure...but then again isn't that life?

We also want to send a special thank you to the Dreier family who made this most magical of days and the Zoo Party a reality for our Nina!!! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!

1 comment:

  1. The red-tailed hawk is our Bellevue Elementary school mascot! How fun!