Bravery had his first Jog-A-Thon at school today. It was one of those epic milestones in this house where Boss and I shamelessly over-exaggerated the importance of it.  His school is a magical, special neighborhood school, the kind of which that frankly do not exist in big cities like San Diego. Most of the kids who attend actually LIVE in the area (San Diego is famous for kids shuffling all over the city for their school of choice, resulting in a wide array of diversity, which is great, but also lack of commonality and disjointedness). It’s small, quaint, happy. the teachers WANT to be there. the parents are PRESENT. there is a dad on campus every day, which feels like a comforting paternal presence (I know, a shocking statement from this feminist). We have to move out of military housing soon, and home prices in this area or astronomical, completely out of our price range. I’m praying a unicorn will appear and make something magical happen, b/c we do not want to leave this school (nor commute to it at 7am every day). but more on that later….

So to raise money for a school like this is important. dutiful. an honor.

JOG-A-THON cont’d: I couldn’t believe how many laps he ran! I, and several other parents watching, were astounded. He ran 42 LAPS. He was so tired, his cheeks cherry red, his back sweaty, and at one point he said to me, “I can’t believe it. I have a cramp but I’m still running, mama!” I said many times, “do you want to stop?” his reply (spelled out), “N-O.” and off he went.

I felt happy and proud, trying to be so dedicatedly mindful, not let one ounce of distraction steal me away from this moment. Then it came. I thought about Amelie. Would I push her in her wheelchair for this? Would she be aware or awake of it? What about when she could walk, would her frail, awkward legs and feet (badly affected with neuropathy from the chemo drugs) handle this? the kids were wild with excitement and determination, pushing each other over often, colliding accidentally, tripping and tumbling nimbly. How would her port, her shunt, her fragile skull, her broken little body handle all that?

As soon as those thoughts came, I instantly saw a little girl that reminded me exactly of LULU. She had a round, portly body (that wasn’t from overeatting), thining, whispy hair that appeared as though it were regrowing. She looked like a cancer survivor. She was huffing and puffing, struggling to keep up. But she had this fierce determination that shocked me. Every time it seemed as though she were going to collapse, she’d kick up her step and jump into a run. She’d run as long as she could, working so much freakin’ harder than any kid there, pumping her arms, head down in strained effort, a look of total seriousness on her face, her gait clumsy. My heart jerked in pain. Her sheer will and enthusiasm for this simple little jog-a-thon was so inspiring I wanted to pick her up like a crazy person and hug her and bawl my eyes out.

Don’t worry, I didn’t do that. I resisted. But I couldn’t help myself completely—I approached her and her mother, boldly and over-excitedly expressing my admiration and doling out praise to her as if she just won a gold medal at the Olympics. Her name is Stella. She has an autoimmune disease and she is “quite the character, who will hug anyone” her mom told me. I thought, well that certainly sounds like me hahaha….and it certainly sounds like Lulu.

“Just like my daughter!” The mom smiled. A pause as we observed Stella chugging down water. I said softly, “You daughter is so special. I don’t know her, but she has just broken and uplifted my heart in the same moment.” The mom laughed, “she really is.”

Just then Stella came up to me, “I did 12 laps.” “YOU ARE AMAZING!” I loudly replied and hugged her tightly—not too tightly, I’m not a total crazy person—and cheered her on.

Funny how just a simple thing like a school jog-a-thon can unearth such emotional upheaval. Like, I can’t ever escape it. It breathes truth into the phrase, “wherever you go, there you are.” Grief follows you around like a Peter Pan shadow…attached and dependent on you, but has a mind of it’s own. It’s like a foreigner has invaded your body and no matter how many times you go to war with it, it stays put.  Misery loves company, but grief LOVESSSSSS triggers. A little tiff with a friend? BOOM. I’m on the floor. someone cutting me off on the freeway? SNAP! I’m pissed. My husband being an asshole? Voiala! I’m in the dumps. Grief is often like a loud knock at the door, right at the exact moment when you’re just out the shower and happen to be standing in your living room stark naked. An unwanted visitor. If you answer the door, you’re humiliated and vulnerable and its terrifying. If you don’t, you know it will come back later and stay for even longer, whether you’re dressed or not. (is anyone following this analogy? or does this shit only happen to me? Fine, so you’re never in your house naked, good for you.)

I know, it’s year two. “Years 2 and 3 are the worst of it, prepare yourself for that and just let it happen,” I’ve been told. So here I am, sobbing like a wierdo at my son’s school because a sweet little girl (who’s face doesn’t really look anything like Amelita) happens to be running near me, just letting it “happen.” But then my child runs over to me, proud & tired, he ran for 1 hour 10 mins without stopping once!, wraps his arms around me and I realize the over-exaggerated attention we put on this little jog-a-thon was totally worth it.