September Eyes

We’ve all heard the expression, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” It’s a rather absurd notion – not because of its veracity, but because of a lack of alternate windows. As if one could discern intent through an open mouth or wide nostril. Just look at the face. What social cue could you ever glean from its other orifices? Without the look me in the eye mother-son interaction, I can picture a young mother staring into her son’s ear to discover truth like a scientist into a microscope.

Take the literal interpretation and my general silliness away, I get the allusion. They eyes are amazing in what they can relay nonverbally. In fact, I got smacked by several sets of eyes very recently.

This month is September – Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I knew that before, but now that I work for CURE Childhood Cancer, I really know it. It’s been busy! This is not a complaint, I love my job. When this month ends, I will have been doing it for a year and I can no longer imagine doing anything else. In fact, I recently told my lovely wife that the only thing I would rather do than this is write for a living. She quickly pointed out, “You do write for a living.” Of course, she is correct. What I meant was crank out three best-sellers a year like James Michener while sitting on a beach sipping fruity drinks with paper umbrellas. But yes, I daily get to write on a topic about which I am passionate – children with cancer.

And I get to meet the most amazing kids: a thirteen-year-old who has been fighting cancer more than half his life and a girl who donated her twenty-first birthday to our organization because she’s been dealing with cancer and its side effect since she was two. For September, I read the stories of 120 incredible kids and I made this collage to use on social media.

 

Collage-2

Those eyes. Those windows. Those souls.

Sweet, innocent babes forced to fight like no man should have to. Their September eyes stare at me. I see their eyes even when mine are closed. I can’t look at it without getting a chill because some of those eyes are gone. I won’t tell you which ones, but this cancer beast is vicious. We comfort ourselves and talk about eighty percent cure rates for childhood cancer. But that leaves twenty percent who don’t survive. Children who die… 1 in 5. Kylie was in that 20%.

And I step back, and I remember those carefree days before I knew these facts. Before I realized that children die from cancer. Back when I thought it was a disease for seventy-year-old smokers. How foolish and naïve I was.

Happiness is a kind bedfellow of naivety.

In this dreamy state I see little Kylie skipping toward me dressed in her blue ballet leotard, lugging a huge backpack on her shoulders. The weight on her back forces her to stoop slightly as she approaches, giving full view to the rolling acorns on the sidewalk. She stops to smash one under her heel. The sound makes her giggles. Another acorn squished. A squeal. Then another and another until she realizes I’m waiting. She looks at me, hoists up her backpack, and sprints the remaining distance.

“Hi, Daddy!”

“Hi, Baby. Let me take your backpack. It looks heavy.”

She deftly swings the burden off her back and into my waiting hands. It is heavier than I could have ever imagined.

“You take it for good,” she says.

img_1289-copy.jpeg

 

And then she is gone. She is gone and I am still holding the weight.

*

20%  –  1 in 5

We must do better. How can we not? Innocent September Eyes depend on us.

 

Today is the day we are sharing Kylie’s story in an effort to raise money for research that will lead to a cure. If you can, please share this burden with us by clicking here

 

Advertisements

Dear Lou,

Dear Lou,

You don’t know me. You might recognize my face because you’ve been helping me fix stuff for probably a decade. I figure we have an open relationship; you help other customers, I ask for guidance from other orange aprons. To you, I’m probably another face in a sea of customers and I get that. After all, you see a lot of people in a day.

Despite what sounds like a full-on Yankee accent, you are awfully good at making me feel welcome. You also don’t make me feel stupid when I come in grimy from whatever I’m fixing – even though you know I broke it despite my lies to the contrary. I appreciate that.

I doubt you’ve noticed, but lately when I see you across the store, I almost always duck down an aisle. It’s nothing personal. We’re still on good terms, you and me. You have no way of knowing what happens in my life when I leave Home Depot #6978. Although I’ve managed to keep my home and yard in a relatively good state of repair, my life’s been more of a challenge to fix. You might point me to adhesives in aisle five, but they haven’t made one strong enough yet.

IMG_1883When my youngest daughter, Kylie, was little, I called her Dr. Stoopandfetch because she loved to be my helper. She also loved to come to your store with me. One Saturday, we were walking through and heard hammering that piqued our curiosity. We followed the sound to the lumber section where you were instructing kids on building birdhouses. Because every space was full, we were about to leave… until you saw us.

You approached her and said that there might be one more kit if Kylie wanted join the group. It was as if you’d been keeping one in reserve, just in case. You dug it out, found a spot, and caught her up to speed. Kylie had a ball. She was so proud of that little birdhouse because she made it herself. I wish I had taken a picture of her with it. I wish I could show you her smile. But I didn’t know then just how precious the memory would be.

That’s the problem with life. When we’re living the good times, we have no way of knowing that they might actually be the best times and their supply may be finite. If only we had the foresight to see those times as they truly are… to place the appropriate value on the moments that matter and squander nothing.

We lost Kylie to cancer two years ago. My supply of memories is limited to the twelve years she lived: the best of times. Those memories are little nuggets that keep her with me – trips to the zoo, wrestling matches in the den, songs sung at inappropriate levels, and a surprise Saturday morning birdhouse class.

FullSizeRender 12

Her apron hangs on a nail beside mine. Every time I see it, it reminds me of running errands to Home Depot and that day when there wasn’t room for her… until you made a place. You fabricated that memory out of some pine, a little glue, and kindness. Thank you for that.

20184c7d-ca25-4ca7-9edc-e47ba7b56f14_1000

 

That’s why I dodge you sometimes. Because when I see you, I remember. And while it is a good memory, it hurts a little too. I don’t think I could express just how much it means without a disintegrating into a blubbering mess. I’m guessing they discourage that kind of thing at the Home Depot. But hey, at least aisle three has plenty of mops and paper towels to wipe it up.

Thanks for that memory,

Mark