Warning: ***The following is a bit graphic, so if you are an enormous babychild you may want to skip this first part.***
Several years ago, after having my second daughter, I had excruciating pain on the right side of my abdomen. I could feel a relatively large mass just below my rib cage and it was not only strange and worrisome, but it seemed to be the source of my discomfort. The pain wasn't constant, but when present, it was often unbearable. At one point, after a long car ride, I was in so much pain I started feeling quite dizzy and nauseated. When Tom finally pulled into the driveway I was so eager to get out of the car that I immediately opened the door the moment the car stopped moving. It was too late though. As soon as my door opened I passed out onto the driveway. I still remember "coming to" and Tom saying, "I don't know what happened, I put the van in park and looked over and you were gone!." It was all very mysterious and a touch dramatic.
To my frustration, my doctor couldn't find anything abnormal. The ultrasound and CT scan results were totally normal. No mass. Nothing inside me that was out of the ordinary. I was asked a lot of questions that made me feel that doctors believed that these might be psychosomatic symptoms, or postpartum depression. Still, the pain persisted. In waves. It was sometimes there as a dull ache, and sometimes it was sharp and acute. Desperate for answers, I started paying very close attention to the pain. What positions caused me the most pain? What actions or movements were more comfortable, or less. Was my body reacting to something that I wasn't paying attention to? When was the mass there (sometimes visible!) and when was it gone? I would make Tom feel the mass when it was there so he didn't think I was crazy. This went on for close to two years.
In this process I determined that sitting for any amount of time was the most painful. I went to yet another doctor with my observations and she listened to me and got creative. She did an ultrasound, but instead of just lying there on my back, she had me lay on each side. She had me sit up, she did an ultrasound on my abdomen while standing up and contorting myself in all different directions.
And ya know what, she found it. Wanna know what that mass was? It was my kidney. Except it was floating around my body instead of staying up where it belongs. When I was laying down it would swim up where it belonged and was, therefore undetectable during a CT or typical ultrasound. She sent me for a kidney function test, and also a sitting and a standing CT and the images were clear - my right kidney was dangling below the protection of my rib cage. When I was sitting, my rib cage would jam into my kidney, restricting blood flow and causing a great deal of pain. My right kidney was functioning at just under 20%. The official diagnosis was Nephroptosis or floating kidney.
I ended up having a surgery called a nephropexy - where they litterally stitched my kidney up to my back muscles. To this day it feels super weird to run or jump on a trampoline or do handstands and cartwheels. Not just because I am 36 or 37 and am probably too old to be participating in these shenanigans, but because I can actually feel my kidney tugging on my back muscles. No matter how much time passes, no matter how much I choose to live an exuberant life, I can always feel the pain tugging inside me.
That is grief.
I have always lived an exuberant life. I am loud and spazzy and embarrassing. I bust out handstands and loudly sing (incorrect) lyrics in my unfortunate singing voice. When I make people laugh it's like a power-up on a video game for me. Laughter makes me louder and spazzier and more embarrassing. I am like a toddler up past their bedtime. I am not unhappy. I am full of life and I have so much joy and am able to dance with such reckless abandon that it might be my spiritual gift.
Still. No matter how much time passes, no matter how much I choose to live an exuberant, full life... I can always feel the pain of grief tugging inside me. It doesn't stop me from doing cartwheels. But it's always there.
For Day 27 we were supposed to have Frank over for dinner and a cake presentation. If you don't know who or what I am talking about, you might want to watch this video:
We ordered the cake and I have to give a shout out to my friend and neighbor Maggie for understanding how computers work and for using one to create the bird and milk carton graphic that we put on the cake.
Sadly, Frank and his family were not able to come. He was under the weather, so we have to reschedule. :( We were very sad that we couldn't present him with his beautiful baptismal cake, but I don't think he'd mind me telling you that when we connected over the phone for the first time he said how touched he was that Tom remembered him and his kind actions so many years later. We look forward to reconnecting with Frank soon.
For Day 28, we livestreamed (I don't really know what live streaming is, so I might be using it wrong.) our girls' final cross country race.
It was the county championships and Annalee and Marlie did awesome, both breaking personal race times. We haven't yet received the official results for the whole race, but we do know that Annalee (our 8th grader) came in 6th in the county!
This is my blog, and I reserve the right to shamelessly celebrate for a sec because I am beyond proud of my kid that can run a 5:53 mile (and smokes the boys on a regular basis.) ;) Our family in Michigan and Chicago don't get to see the kids' events so using Facebook Live to make a fool of my spazzy, exuberant self while recording their events is a gift to our family.
We also bought the girls a county race shirt. These shirts are ill-fitting and over priced and parent confession: the girls usually buy their own merchandise if they really want it. They do not ask us to buy stuff. It's a reflection of who they are, and their perspective and understanding of life with lots of kids in the family. We simply have to say no to the extras. Even though they came prepared to purchase their own shirts, we surprised them by buying them. It sounds like a small thing, but $56 bucks for two long sleeve shirts that are way too wide for my little slim babies is a big deal to us.
Watching some sports impacts me more than others. There is something about wrestling and cross country that makes me wistful. Wrestling - in part - because Adam was such a wrestling phenom and I grew up in the gym watching wrestling meets.
But also because wrestling and long distance running take so much discipline. Both sports take a tenacity and endurance that other sports don't seem to require. Yesterday, I watched my girls push through their pain to run their best race.
That is grief. That is life really. That no matter how much life we live, no matter how much ground we cover... we cannot outrun our pain. It stays with us, and it requires a tenacity and endurance that many of us have no choice but to develop. The pain is a non-negotiable. Running the race well is the choice. The pain isn't going anywhere, but whether or not we press on, and still laugh and eat cake and do cartwheels... that is the decision we must make.