The first thing Jake said when he woke up this morning is, “Where’s Tanner? She feel better?” It’s one of the first things out his mouth every morning for the past three weeks. Even before she came home from the hospital, he would ask me when I came home, “Tanner come home, too? She feel better?”
When they are sitting on the couch together, he pats or rubs her leg and sometimes will repeatedly ask, to her annoyance, “Tanner, you all right? You feel better?” He helps me put lotion on her feet where they are cracking and peeling. He is interminably sweet.
But, I can’t help but think that a 2-year-old shouldn’t have to wake up in the morning worried about anyone. I keep telling myself it is a blessing that he is so small and that he won’t remember much of this, but then I realize that 2 1/2 to 3 years is a long enough time, that whether he remembers it or not, it will shape him. What will that look like?
Will he be the other child? The one people forget to ask about or I forget to tell about because he doesn’t have cancer.
The truth is, we all have cancer. Me, John, Jake, and of course most of all, Tanner. But, as it eats at Tanner’s body, it eats at each of us in different ways. A two-year-old that worries about his sister and knows that she can’t play like she used to. A mother and father who now know that anything can happen to your kids… nothing is out of the realm of possibility. A family that used to go, go, go and now is having to learn to find joy in quiet moments at home.
It kills me to turn away from Tanner sometimes when I know she is feeling bad and wants her mama, but I have two children and her needs cannot overshadow Jake’s every time. Jake has a cold today and was a little whiny and fussy. He needed his mama, too. And, although a little discomfort from a cold cannot really compare to the pain that Tanner is in, the need behind both is really the same. And, even when he’s not feeling bad, he still has needs — to play, to read a book, to cuddle, to ride a bike or run in crazy circles around the house. It’s gutwrenching, really, to decide that those needs are as important as Tanner’s need for her mommy when she is hurting and uncertain.
In the end, I can only do my best and hope that she will learn independence and fortitude in the face of adversity, and that he will always stay as sweet and nurturing as he is now. And, that he will know he is loved just as much, even though he didn’t always get the attention he might have otherwise had.
I can’t wait until the day I can tell him, “Yes, Jake, Tanner feels better. We’re all alright now.”