The other day on my way home I quickly breezed through the grocery store grabbing the items I needed. I will never be a grocery store browser – it is not in my DNA. I am in and out (and consequently in and out again because I forgot something). After flying down the aisles, I strategically entered the line that I thought would be quickest. #upintheair
The line next to me of course moved slightly faster and suddenly from behind the magazine rack, out of nowhere, emerged a dad holding his small bald-headed, nose-tubed child. I quietly gasped staring at them. My eyes burned and my heart raced, both signs of PTSD and an impending grief episode.
After catching my breath I thought, “I should offer to buy his groceries.” For we were so generously and well taken care of by our families and community that I don’t even recall going to the grocery store while Ben was sick, let alone with him. The mask over this little boy’s face told me he probably shouldn’t have even been there. His white blood cell count must be low. Was he headed for a transfusion following this? Had he gotten one earlier? What were his counts? Were they holding him back from starting chemo again? Perhaps he was post-transplant. My mind was like a pinball machine. I wanted to be helpful. But if I offered to pay, if I told this father I understood his journey, he would probably ask questions. Telling him Ben was dead would clearly not be helpful. Should I just lie? Or say nothing at all? I was paralyzed.
Meanwhile my line moved forward, I had a conversation with the checker that I cannot recollect and I ended up exiting before them. I got in my car, put my head back, tried to breathe deeply and pleaded to the universe to go back. Back to when my son was here. Back to when I could touch his beautiful little head, carry his amazing but frail body and smell his cancer-induced scent. Back to when we still had a chance.
We have seen plenty of children with cancer since Ben left us. But in our neighborhood, at our grocery store, it seemed like it could have been our life.
It was. Or at least a glimpse of it.