Abbott at about 8 months
At 4:21am, as I was explaining something about my cell phone to a stranger, I reflexively leapt out of bed in terror. As I did, the heartstopping sound of our security system, sure to wake anyone within a mile radius, ceased as suddenly as it had started. I shook Alexi. “Did you hear that?!” He muttered something as he sat up and felt around for his glasses. We stalked down the stairs together to check that the perimeter was secure; a door or window that hadn’t been fully closed was likely the source of the problem. The noise happened again, and we realized it was actually the low battery signal from one of our smoke alarms. The device that was the culprit can only be reached with a ladder. Muffled meows came from the direction of the laundry room, where the cats sleep, as we walked down the three flights of stairs to the garage. We picked up our ladder and carried it back up three flights of stairs, and thanked our lucky stars the boys didn’t wake up before we managed to replace the battery. It was just light enough to see the fog that had begun to roll in as we got back in bed. I fell back to sleep thinking about the dream I’d been having, likely brought on by phone drama earlier in the week. My iphone spent several days drying out on a windowsill after I inadvertently ran it through the washing machine. It had a miraculous recovery.
I am grossly out of practice with fatigue, and that realization always makes me grateful for where we’re at right now. Abbott and I are reading our way through Anne McCaffrey’s books together; he always passes on his good reads to me. We’re addressing fifth grade graduation invitations. I say goodnight, then good morning, to each and every one of Cal’s stuffed animals. They ask me about my day on the way home from school.
We’re inching our way toward summer. We reach the forecasted high temperatures late afternoon, and it cools hours later. Unlike summer heat, which flows from one day to the next even in the night’s chill, this lasts so briefly the house doesn’t have time to overheat, we don’t have time to get languid; we hardly have time to notice. Monday we reached a record temperature for May 6 in Seattle. 87 degrees. I put on my favorite sundress: A-line, knee length, the color of sunshine.
When I put on that yellow dress I felt the passage of time. I bought it the summer Cal turned two and Abbott turned four. Months earlier, I’d learned the explanation for the two breast cancers I’d had. I have an inherited flaw in a tumor suppressor gene; a BRCA1 mutation. People with these mutations have a high lifetime risk of breast cancer, may get breast cancer at an early age, may develop cancer in both breasts, or may develop other cancers; most significantly, ovarian cancer. At the beginning of that summer, I had surgery to remove the breasts that threatened my life, and a plastic surgeon re-fashioned them with tissue from another part of my body. I wore the dress for the first time to a birthday party weeks later, and it still wasn’t easy getting around. I had plastic tubes – drains – coming out of my hips and tucked into my underwear. I realized when I got home that wearing white underwear and a white bra under a dress with thin fabric had been a mistake. Out of character for me, I didn’t really care that much. It had been good to get out; I was glad to be there. I was not down for the count.
That dress has had a lot of living. It has a thousand memories of picnics and vacations and outings, and there will be many more in the months and years to come. Alexi had his first summer hockey league game last night. We’re already making plans through Labor Day. It’s going to be a good one.