Monday, July 24, 2017

Life's Mysteries

One of the many things that Brian and I had in common when we met 18 years ago was that we adamantly declared ourselves "not dog people." My whole life I saw how much people loved their dogs and I tried to get it, but I never really understood. Even my very best friend and my closest cousin perplexed me with their dog obsessions. I definitely thought their dogs were cute (and I even had a special love for Brianne's dog, Izzy), but I still wondered to myself how a person would willingly let a dog affectionately lick his or her face when dogs also lick their own butts. For me, it was one of life's many mysteries.

Then, last winter, Teddy and Annabel decided that they wanted a dog. Brian said absolutely not and I agreed at first. But gradually, I started to want a puppy, too. 

By this point, it was clear that Brian and I were not going to have another child. My move back to teaching from the law meant that we would be permanently about $30,000 short for an adoption and $120,000 short for a surrogacy arrangement. While I thought that maybe we could still piece together the latter for a reasonable sum, ultimately it didn't feel right asking another woman to give her eggs or her womb for nothing in return. The good news was that this reality did not feel tragic like it had a few years ago. Truthfully, I found peace with it. In Friday Night Lights terms, I had clear eyes and a full heart. It didn't feel like anything was missing. 

Then, I saw this photo.

Within hours of seeing the photo, I booked a trip to meet this little girl while Brian was at hockey practice one Sunday afternoon. About 20 minutes later, our family was complete. ("Hi Brian. Surprise! How was practice?")

The beautiful puppy had been born on Tuesday November 8, 2016, a night I cried myself to sleep in disbelief and in fear for what the future would hold. So I disregarded the cheesiness of the choice and we named the dog, Hope.

I know, I know. Children and dogs are like apples and oranges. Especially non-dog-people would assert that. But let me tell you, this puppy stole my heart. I can't wait to get home to see her every day and I am so blessed that she sleeps on my feet every night. I never ever thought a dog could bring our family such happiness but low and behold, Hope (all eight pounds of her) did just that. Sure, I've cleaned up more pee and poop from the rugs than I would ever like admit, but it doesn't matter; she's the baby of the family.

*   *   *

August 8, 2017 will mark five years since my cancer diagnosis. That date fills me with more emotion than I can process. It puts goose bumps on my arms and sends chills down my spine. I don't know why. Another one of life's mysteries, I guess. 

So I wrap up this post with one more mystery -- this one, solved! 

The other day I ran into an acquaintance who I hadn't seen in a while. This person said hello and then immediately asked me with an awkwardly dramatic tone, "Are you cancer-free?" She held on to my arm as if she was bracing for the answer. I was a bit taken aback and I answered something like, "I think so?" 

Later that night, I thought through the awkward interaction and realized that I finally have the perfect answer to this question if ever an acquaintance asks me it again. (Nothing like the 6-hour delay in the perfect response.)

Almost five years after my cancer diagnosis, in between rubbing the dog's belly and telling her how much I love her, my clear eyes remind me that I have a very full heart. We don't have a third child but we do have the very best that life has to offer. I don't understand so many of life's mysteries -- like why some people get cancer, why some survive, why others die young. Why some people are born with so much, while others, so little. Why people hate, why they love. I don't understand how I found a husband and a job and a house that I adore as much as I do. How I had a son and a daughter before cancer took that gift away. How I let my dog lick my face even though she licks her own butt. 

But I do know this. I know that cancer is insidious. I know that it is scary beyond comprehension and that, almost simultaneously, it can give rise to the truest beauty in humanity. I know that I'll sleep better tonight because Hope will be sleeping on my feet. And I know what I will say next time that acquaintance asks me if I'm cancer-free...

"I don't really know. Are you?"