With my mouth still throbbing from an emergency root canal, and my back aching from a kidney infection diagnosed earlier in the day, I decided there really was no better time to enjoy the Panera gift certificate that I received while recuperating over the past few months. And to me, nothing says “comfort food” like carbs.
Ten minutes later, I – replete with my new boobs, freshly hollowed-out molar, and unhappy urinary tract — headed for my chariot (aka my mini-van), trying not to drool over the mere thought of cream-of-chicken-and-wild-rice soup in a bread bowl. (Carbs, I tell you – carbs sooth emotional pain and frustration nearly as well as narcotics numb you physically. Surely there was a comprehensive double-blind study done on this somewhere to validate my point – and if not, perhaps I should volunteer for one.)
I’m standing in a line at the cash register when I notice a cute little boy with a Grover sweatshirt sitting in a booth with his family. His eyes match the deep blue of his top, and it’s clear the way he’s handling his chicken noodle soup that his sweatshirt – and the table, his little sister next to him, and possibly the elderly couple behind him – aren’t going to stay clean for long.
Which gives me my first genuine laugh all day long.
Because I know exactly what his mother is going to feel – every single emotion, from panicked mortification to hot red anger – after she stops listening so intently to her sister/friend next to her and catches sight of her little cherub blowing broth through his straw and pasting noodles into slimy rows down his sister’s lovely lavender Gymboree sweater. All those feelings, all that frustration with nowhere-to-go disguised as little smoldering canons inside her chest, snowballing with the accumulated transgressions committed by this little guy all day up to this point… I can see and feel it all.
And I don’t know why it makes me grin like a crazy woman, but it does. I stifle the rumble of laughter deep in my belly, because I’m getting closer to them now, and the mom just caught the confused look on her toddler daughter’s face out of her peripheral vision, and me laughing out loud would only exacerbate this woman’s – who probably simply wanted to spend a few minutes talking to another grown-up – inevitable parental pain and suffering.
Your own child misbehaving in a restaurant, even in as casual an atmosphere as Panera, is the proverbial fly-in-one’s-soup. Often unforeseen, frequently unavoidable, and always oh-so-unpleasant. I don’t care who you are, what echelon of society you belong to, or where on the parenting-strictness scale you fall: a successful outing does NOT involve this level of clean-up.
I’ve never been one to stare at a traffic accident or train wreck (having been in an accident myself, I know how creepy it is to look up, feeling half dead, and see a few dozen strangers gaping at you). But this? THIS I cannot take my eyes off of!
Watching this silly scene unfold in front of me – now the mother’s exclaiming, the little girl’s face is crumpling into a cry as she assumes Mommy is mad at her (though she isn’t!), the little boy’s expression caution mixed with a strange pride – I can look at it and realize: I’ve done that. I’ve survived that. Come out on the other side. Perhaps a little worse for the wear (some gray hairs, a few worry lines/wrinkles, etc.), but still in tact.
And then: the proverbial light bulb flashed in my brain. I am almost positive, had you been there in my local Panera, that you would have seen real beams of light emanating from my head.
The mystery illness that took ~5 years to diagnose, the resulting adrenalectomy, a double-mastectomy-with-reconstruction, and quickly on the heels of these events, a root canal, kidney infection, and waning attitude… all these things will, one day (soon…?) be IN. THE. PAST.
And I will stop feeling like a patient, a sicky, a partial-person. Where the majority of my day seems to be resting, healing, and figuring out how much I can’t do. I’ll look down at my chest and not be surprised. I won’t worry every time I get really, really thirsty that I’m having a recurrence of hyperaldosteronism. I *will* be well enough to write every day, with less fog in my brain and more energy to burn. I will spend less time explaining to my children why I cannot do x, y, or z, and more time just doing it. I will run again, feeling my feet pound on the sidewalks of my subdivision and the country roads nearby, and not even worry about what’s jiggling.
Because I will have SURVIVED!
As obvious as it may sound, I say this with sincerity and even a little bit of a grin: There IS more to come, isn’t there?