Half an hour ago Mark's last dose of chemo for this week was started. The deceptively inocuous-looking fluid, clear like the liquid that delivers needed hydration to his small body, drips into the tubing that guides it into his chest. He had been doing well all day - sleepy, but still managing to work through most of his therapy exercises this morning and to eat a hearty breakfast. As the chemo was being set up, one of the nurses shared the joys of the local cancer kids summer camp. I explained we had decided that we'd skip this year, since Mark has been pretty tired (it's in a couple weeks). No problem, the nurse replied, next year. The kids can go for three years. Suddenly Mark's eyes began to fill with tears. We asked if it had to do with the camp discussion and he said no, he wasn't sure what was triggering the breakdown, but I had to wonder.
What was he thinking? Where had his mind gone?
Had it followed mine, thinking first about how I wish he was able to do all the things they were telling us about - archery, rock wall climbing, horseback riding. He is almost scared to leave the house most days, and as we've been in the hospital his walking has deteriorated. Then wondering about making plans for next year. Will we get there? I have faith and am hopeful, but it's hard to keep the thoughts away.
Or was he simply overwhelmed by how tired he is, how hard it is to do basic things - get dressed, walk around the unit, squeeze putty.
Maybe he was reflecting on how we're almost done and soon we'll be heading home. True he loves home, but it's also hard to be there, having to share us with everyone, having to deal with excitable energetic siblings.
Or perhaps he was just worried about the chemo. We've gotten through the first two days with relatively few side effects. Was he worried he might not make it through tonight so easily?
I don't know. He wouldn't tell me. I'm not sure he knew.
So we held him and wiped his tears and told him it is alright to not be strong sometimes and that we are proud of him no matter what and it's fine to cry. And eventually he calmed down.
Now we're watching Captain America. He's starting to enter his "happy time" of the day. I can tell by the amount of commentary coming from his bed. It will continue to increase until it's hard to hear the movie through it. And then he will suddenly get tired again and fall asleep.
A new rhythm, a new normal.
And maybe that is what the tears were for.