But I don't always know how to explain it to a child.
Really, even though this sickness and pain stuff is in my face 24/7, I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on it anymore. Oh, there are moments... but mostly I just live my life. I focus on my dog, on other people's kids, on my nieces and nephews, on my friends and their excitements in life. If you're having a baby, I immerse myself in it so I have a joy to focus on, too. If you're building a house, I am decorating it in my head just for the fun of it. If my niece wants to show me her cheerleading routines, I'm going to pay attention and cheer with enthusiasm. If Megan calls me to play me her piano piece over the phone, I'm going to listen and encourage for as long as she wants to play. They share it all with me and I soak it in like sunlight to a flower.
I am really good at sharing their lives, paying attention, feeling their moments; but how do I share my life with them?
That's a question I think of often and still don't have a good answer for. My sister-in-law Patience was here on Saturday with her kids, Cooper and Avery... my godson and my sweet niece.
Avery often walks into a room on her tip toes with her little hips sashaying... talking non-stop and showing off her dance or cheerleading skills... not afraid of performing or receiving adulation. In other words, she's a reincarnation of me at her age (poor kid). And my Cooper... he's got such a heart in him. He's the one that got me thinking about this today as he jumped up every time I slowly got out of my chair. He got to my crutches before me and had them ready in front of me to grab onto and start walking. Such kindness. Such thoughtfulness. And such a big job for a 10-year-old boy to have to worry about me.
I wanted to teach them how to do cartwheels and round-offs. I wanted to go on excursions with them and gather sticks for bonfires. I wanted to show them my serious dance moves (don't laugh... I used to have them!) and give them confidence in everything they do. And here they are, trying so hard to take care of me. It makes me so proud of them and breaks my heart all at the same time.
Like everything in life, I suppose, it's about finding a balance. Some way of being honest enough that they trust I will always do my best to tell them the truth, and being tough enough to put on a good face so their young selves don't worry so much. There's a certain amount I can't hide from them... sometimes it's obvious I'm sick; you can hear it in my voice and breathing. Or when a pain jolts and there's nothing I can do to stop the reaction in my body. But I try to smile and keep talking... make eye contact so they can see I mean it when I say it's ok.
I see them getting tougher with it too, and I hope it will help them more than worry them. I hope they will encounter someone someday that is tired or in pain or sick, and they won't be afraid to talk to them, help them, understand them. I hope that all of this worrying on my part is just that... my part. Because I only want them to remember the way I listen to them, care about them and cheer them on. I want them to have confidence in their abilities and belief in themselves. Even when I can't do all the things I think I should be able to, I want them to know that in my own way I'm giving them my whole world ... and that I wish for them nothing less in life than the joy they give to me every day.