We got a phone call from one of Steve's old friends from Cleveland last night. One of his old gang from high school became a dad two months ago to identical twins. One of the boys was diagnosed with leukemia. The poor baby is going to be tortured with eight months of chemotherapy and still only has a 25 percent shot at survival.
When we were getting ready to get married, Father Ashley had us fill out a questionnaire about our future plans and goals. It was part of the precanna process to make sure that we had similar priorities. One of the questions was where do you expect to be five years from now. Steve and I were both writing our dissertation proposals at the time, so we wrote that in five years, we expected to both have tenure track jobs somewhere.
That was twelve years ago. Now, Steve is putting in twelve hour days on Wall Street and I'm making sure the kids know how to spell "monotonous" and "sprawl" for the next day's spelling test.
When I was pregnant with Jonah, my aunt the midwife had me practice all those breathing exercises in her brown basement. I read volumes and volumes of books about natural childbirth. Nine months later, I got an emergency C-section, and my kid arrived with gouges on his head from the forceps. The C-section chapter was at the end of all those birthing books, and I hadn't read that far.
The parenting magazines and books showed pictures of lovely, smiley, golden-haired children listening attentively to their parents, who had miraculously shrunk back to their pre-pregnancy weight within weeks of giving birth. There weren't any pictures of miserable, speechless toddlers with unkempt moms.
One of the lessons that we've had to learn since we've had kids is to give up control. We don't know what will happen when all that DNA is mixed together. I have smart friends, but their kids struggle in school. I have friends that hoped for girls and got four boys in a row. I have friends that were shocked by their infertility. Our own lives have also taken many surprising twists since we filled out that questionnaire for Father Ashley. Ah, what babies we were at that time.
It's hard for us for us to let go of events and let them unfold on their own, especially when we've been so successful and so sheltered by protective families. I think it would be better for us if we had been prepared for randomness and the messiness of life. At too old of an age, I had to learn how to appreciate the unplanned, to brace myself for tragedy, and to treasure imperfection.
My heart is in Cleveland this morning.