Waiting to Exhale

The calendar showed October 4th, 2012. She and I sat in the sterile office surrounded by semi-gloss light blue walls, our hearts thumping, hands like ice. We waited for the man who wore a white coat to join us, hoping he would provide gentle answers to appease our questions.

The matter was serious, but when I first saw his face, I thought of Santa, stark white hair and fluffy beard, red, rosy cheeks good for pinching. The only thing missing was the apple red hat, and though he would bear dreadful news, his smile was welcoming, as if the three of us were meeting for a stroll in the park on a lovely spring afternoon.

It was amazing how a tiny scope could be guided through the mouth and throat then down the esophagus. CT scans, lab work, MRIs, and a needle too long to discuss occupied her hours for over 1,000 days. Still, we craved clarity. Our world was hazy like thick fog a driver would endure crossing the Golden Gate Bridge during summer in the wee hours of the morning.
And we waited – a necessary evil that all people grapple with too often to count the times on their hands.

Then on that autumn day came words we would have liked to have hurled back to Santa. We had hoped for gentle. Instead…
“All tests point to this auto immune disease, and there is no cause or cure,” he told us with a touch of remorse. The future would necessitate a transplant. It was not cancer, but this finding should not be shunned. She was twenty years old, like a sunflower of friendliness and optimism. He added, “Just live your life.”

I felt her physical pain rip through each atrium and ventricle – my most excruciating moments of being a parent. But her strength embraced and consoled me, her mother, of all things.
Life pulled us through each season.

The calendar now presents the year 2021: She is a lovely, young woman – a wedding band adorns her left ring finger, and geography has changed along with a new insurance card. She meets with another man who wears a similar white coat. X-rays and jabs repeat. “All of your tests are normal,” he affirms. All is normal. Words we had hoped to hear from this new expert.
“I don’t see a reason to keep you in the same box,” he confirms.

This is amazing news! But abdominal stabs and pruritus from the past were as tangible as a twisted knife to the gut. How can we negate that agony? What is the deeper meaning? Should we get the champagne flutes out, give them a quick wash? Has this nightmare finally ended? She chooses to live in the here and now.
Life continues to draw us forward to witness each sunrise and sunset,
although we are still waiting to exhale.

Lauren Scott (c) 2021