I have been praised more times than I can count.
Family, friends, colleagues seem to share a sense of approval that I've abandoned my life to tend to my parents and given that I don't mind doing it, it feels odd to accept compliments gracefully. As expected, Friend was correct - it just becomes what you do. The worrying is far worse than the execution of plans.
"I can't leave now!" Brother seethed at me via phone and I shook my head while rolling my eyes.
"That's fine," I replied regarding our dinner plans. "We'll take the girls and meet you girlfriend for pizza. And you can see Mom and Dad tomorrow."
"Fine," he offered, clearly irritated. "I'm just trying to do inventory and place orders and manage my people but if you can't wait a little longer, that's fine. Just go."
I declined to argue, but had my reasons. Smallest One calls for Grandma multiple times each night when she sleeps over so none of us are particularly rested. Dad had been watching the clock for his next dose of pills so leaving at the prescribed time would have put dinner at a good pain/nausea point that I hated to avoid. The girls were finished with computer games and considering baths if we waited longer (and then I get coaxed into combing ridiculously long hair on very tender scalps). And I'd moved meetings around so we could go at the proper point in time so if he was inflexible, he didn't have to go.
And I don't blame him (at least not for long, anyway). It's hard to understand all the pieces that go into a decision unless you're here. When you know that Dad's in a reasonable mood and Mom isn't overly stressed or weepy.
I do envy him (at least for a little while), especially after a day connected to work via Blackberry and a headset that's too large for my tiny ears. So I answered questions and arranged introductions and made informal presentations. And I missed it. The feeling of easy expertise and friendly exchanges of information. I don't want cancer and pain and sickness. Surgery, doctors and waiting rooms. I want it to all go away and be like it used to be.
But it isn't. And it won't be. And that somehow has to be OK.
And in the moments between where we smile our good mornings over coffee and kiss our good nights in the glow from the blaring television, there is goodness and peace and joy. Walks with Chienne and the Ones performing living-room recitals and playing games and commenting on Family Feud responses. (We are not impressed.)
"Did you know an elephant could stand on a blue whale's tongue?" I asked Dad while playing Quizzy's Corner on Webkinz (Smallest One spends money fast).
"I bet that'd make him mad - somebody standing on his tongue like that," he replied and I grinned.
"I love you a lot," I murmured to Mom and smoothed her hair while we watched Dancing with the Stars and gasped (I kid you not) at the results show.
The three of us stood at the kitchen sink one morning, gawking at the bugs that covered the screen on the first really cold night after warm days.
We see who gets to pet Sprout most in the evenings. (I usually win. But not always.)
And I say prayers when they're located in the next room. Which means I'm doing the best I can. And I hope that feeling lasts even while I need to be back at work and a few hours away.