Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scribbling: Happy Ending

I love happy endings. Who doesn't? When the happy ending arrives, you feel as if the circle is complete, the story was fulfilling. You aren't left with disappointments and regrets.

A little over a month after I married Chris, we got "the phone call" on the morning I turned 25. It was my mother calling as she explained that my father was being transferred from the walk-in clinic to the ICU. The next couple weeks were a roller coaster of emotions ranging from anger and frustration at my father's stubborn bullheaded-ness to grief and loss at his pending death.

I remember sitting in a little consultation room with my mother and Chris as we heard from a doctor that they found a large tumor in his colon. We saw the pictures, heard the diagnosis. We knew the next steps, and we suspended our hope in the air above our heads, that once we knew the problem, they could fix it, and my father could live.

We had a happy ending. After surgery and months of chemo, my father went into remission, where he's stayed since. He exercises every day, and I think he enjoys his grandbabies more. I am more easy to forgive him his cantankerous personality, because I know how much I'll miss him when he's gone – I had to face that possibility in a real way before, and I know how deep my grief will be, how strong my attachment is.

Some people don't get happy endings. Before I met Chris, before I became a proofreader, I was a nanny to a lovely little girl and her family. I had the privilege to get to know the whole family, and I regularly babysat Claire's cousins, Isabel and Felix, two very delightful children who amazed me every time and drew me to them with their sweet, funny personalities.

I especially remember Felix, who, before his fourth birthday, told me that he'd love some throw pillows for his bedroom as a present... and maybe an accent lamp. He was a charming little boy who loved dress-up and Batman, Barbie and Spider-man. He was free with his affections, and everyone in his life loved him desperately, including me.

Last summer, I received a mass email from Claire's father, letting people know that Felix was diagnosed with brain cancer. I hadn't seen him in three years, but his precocious smile and sparkling purity were immediately forefront in my mind. It wasn't fair. Not Felix. Please, not Felix. He's one of the special ones.

His mother has blogged their journey over the last year, and I've faithfully read along, my heart caught in my throat each time, loving to read of his bravery and strength, his courage and peace through everything. Like many pediatric cancer patients, he delights and cajoles the nurses and doctors, showing far more maturity than most adults would show in his situation. I've grieved silently with his family as the diagnoses became more dire, as the tumors that seemed to have been controlled in his brain spread to his abdomen, as he weakened.

Hopefully, he has one last summer. Last weekend, he and his mother were driven in a limo to the Milwaukee Brewers game, where he threw the first pitch and basked in the applause and joyous shouts of thousands of people. He continues to make beautiful paintings and other art projects, he loves his friends and his family, and he's doing what he's done since the day he was born – loving life with no apologies and no expectations.

Maybe we all have happy endings. Felix's happy ending is a legacy of peace and joy to everyone who knows him. My father's happy ending is a new understanding of how much we love him, how much he loves us. Happy endings may not always be full of life and sunshine, hugs and kisses; maybe all we can ask for from a happy ending is closure and peace.