Alex has been back in town for four days and already it feels like a month. She arrived home safely with a great big smile, a suitcase full of dirty laundry, and as I was to discover Saturday morning, a head full of lice. So in the whirl wind of back to school and back in town and back to our routine of life, we also battled bugs.
Yesterday marked the first day of Alex's secondary school career. It marked her first day of middle school. The first official day of adolescent torture and Alex bounded in with a huge smile plastered on her face. It also marked three and half years since my last cancer treatment. Three and half years of a clean bill of health. Ten years since I was first diagnosed. As I made the rounds from blood tests to chest x-rays to brain MRIs I help but wonder how all of this came to seem so normal. I couldn't shake the feeling that it was all just a dream - not in the sense that this is something I always wanted to happen, but in the literal, wake-up-in-the-morning, what-the-hell-was-that-all-about? -meaning of the word. When did things start to work out for the best?
Maybe its because I'm a fairly short sighted kind of person, but I never dreamed, ten years ago yesterday as I was being rushed into emergency surgery that I would be old friends with my oncologist. When I was running around as a student of my old middle school, the idea that a child of mine would one day be a student there never entered my universe. And when I look back at the whole of my short messy life with all its wrong turns and failures and scenes I wish I could rewrite, I can't help but think of that brand new middle schooler and know that I could not possible regret one link in the chain of events that lead to her existence.
When I was young I took note that most brilliant people seemed to be alcoholic or suicidal or both, and I absorbed the notion that the true sign of brilliant is to be seriously screwed up. The true poet is haunted by livid demons, brave, doomed, terribly wounded, and if one was (as I was at 11) relatively unscratched, you concealed this and learned to impersonate doom.
Alex isn't like that at all. In her natural state she is dramatically and openly full of childhood wonder and excitement. Most people want to be around those who smile and are Fun To Be With, but its hard for me to instinctively know what to do with this kind of person. The hardest lesson I have had to learn is to love life. Alex already knows this. She is happy. She smiles. That may be better for humanity than to be brilliant and troubled.