On March 1, Stephen and I cooked dinner for the first time in 10 months. I honestly couldn’t remember where we kept the frying pan, but somehow managed to wrangle schnitzel onto our plates before 8 pm. Since then we’ve gotten a lot more comfortable: replenishing the spice rack, trying out new recipes (turkey meatballs with raisins and pine nuts, anyone?) and ordering in only twice. Late at night, I find myself thinking about tomorrow’s meal. I’ve even started hitting the food blogs.
I don’t really enjoy cooking, but eating is another matter entirely. I can unequivocally remember complete meals from more than 20 years ago: my mother’s bittersweet mocha almond cake, lemony Israeli salads, the epiphany of my first mango. In the first grade I went to a heuristic school in Norman, Oklahoma. There were no defined schedules or classrooms or requirements. We could read all day in the loft or play with pattern blocks for hours. I spent most of my time in the kitchen making blue lollipops. And I can tell you exactly how they taste. I guess I’ve always been a girl who loves her food.
The weekend after Toby was diagnosed, my brother gently forced us to make a list of items we needed help with: transportation, errands, food. I could barely put a sentence together, but instinctively knew that making dinner for the foreseeable future was impossible. And then an angel named Heather Lester Rodd walked into our shattered lives, and gracefully started the tremendous task of providing us with almost 300 nights of home-cooked meals.
An amazing Brooklyn community rallied around us, friends and strangers alike, who lovingly cooked and delivered the most incredible meals. No matter how awful the day, we reclaimed our humanity around the table, with food and wine and wonderful gifts for toby, tucked in among the foil-covered dishes. We still can’t believe our luck.
It has been good to get back to making dinner. It gives us a sense of normalcy. Toby likes to help us cook. But not a day goes by that we don’t think of those 300 meals. You gave us sustenance and hope during a time of indescribable darkness. And we will never, ever be able to thank you.
On a non-food related note:
The last 3 weeks have been wonderful. I’m sorry to have not updated sooner, and I didn’t mean to make anyone worry. Toby sailed through this most recent round of chemo, with no diarrhea, no vomiting and good counts. We have had 7 glorious consecutive days of no hospital visits (interrupted only by a dash to the ER last night with a fever). Best of all, Toby has been able to spend 2 full weeks at school. He is very, very happy: chattering about his teacher Marina, show+tell, what he ate for snack, how he went to the bathroom alone, where his cot is, what songs Victor sings. His backpack is full of artwork, not bandage change kits or hospital masks. He doesn’t think about medicine, shots or scans for 6 whole hours. And when I pick him up, he is surrounded by smiling, healthy children. Is this real? The people I pass on the way home see just another kid sitting in a stroller. They don’t see his tubies, scars or sweet bald head. And they can’t possibly know what he has been through and the heroism he exhibits every day, to get out of bed, have breakfast and go to school. I am so proud of my wonderful boy.
We feel like we have been given a gift these last weeks. But sadly are very fearful of the coming days. On Thursday we begin a full work-up again: CTs, MIBG scan, and bone marrow biopsies and aspirates. Scan week is emotionally and physically exhausting for us and especially for Toby. We are hoping for good news.