We were walking home from school together when Gina’s older sister called out from across the street. Gina just ran. No looking. No caution. All go.
Seven years old. That is the age I was when I saw my friend get hit by a car. Only, it didn’t just hit her. It ran right over the top of her, leaving her trapped underneath the back left tire. I can picture it in my mind’s eye like it happened earlier today. The panicked look on the driver’s face as she jumped out, saw the pinned child, and rushed to move the car off of her crumpled body. I distinctly remember that she was confused about whether she needed to pull forwards or back up.
I took this all in. A seven year old pillar of stone. No ability to help. No idea what to do next. Adults poured out of surrounding houses. In light of the horrifying scene in the street, it is understandable that no one noticed a child panic-rooted to the sidewalk.
Eventually, I just walked the rest of the way home. I let myself in. Didn’t say a word about what I had just witnessed. It was an hour before I told my mother what happened. It took 24 hours to find out whether or not Gina survived. She did.
Looking back, I am pretty sure that I was in shock. Looking forward from that point until now, I am pretty sure that I have a significantly delayed reaction time to stressful events. I don’t know if I was born this way – or if I learned it that day on Santa Clara Avenue.
When the doctor said “cancer,” I didn’t cry.
When the plastic surgeon said “disfigurement,” I assured him that it wouldn’t bother me.
When the cardiologist said “more surgery,” I said, “Good thing – I need new wires!”
When people said “I’m so sorry,” I said, “No worries!”
I’m pretty good at stuffing and plowing ahead. But, cancer IS scary. Being disfigured DOES bother me (not enough for implants, but a little). I DON’T want more surgery to relocate my pacemaker (even if I need new wires). I’m SORRY about the cancer too.
True to form, about four weeks after surgery, I was able to really look at where I am and what has happened. It is overwhelming from every angle. The love has been like an ocean that just keeps crashing on the shore. If you have ever been to the beach in Northern California – you know exactly what I am talking about. Think Goat Rock.
“No worries” is just a foolish thing for someone like me to say. I DO worry. In fact, I think I say “No worries” because I am worried about appearing worried.
I like to think that I am so unaffected by expectations of physical beauty or norms that my recent resemblance to Flat Stanley is unimportant and of minimal consequence. While it is true – I am not completely undone – I am just the tiniest bit unraveled around the edges. Like a frayed hem. I know this because when my husband asked me if I would like for him to dump my bra drawer to make room for other items that I “will use” – I said “NO” – and I said it with a THE VERY IDEA!!! tone.
More surgery. Does anyone vote for that?
As I endeavor to be brave – to lean in to the lesson – to unleash the inner warrior – I am reminded that IGNORING what is happening is not the best strategy to rise above. It might look brave – but it is actually that old panic-rooted to the sidewalk mode. I think that true bravery comes in the same moments when you are trembling and tearful – but resolved to face what is actually happening.
After a season in a full body cast, Gina went on to live and thrive. So. Will. I.