It’s “Square Dancing Day”

“Swing your partner round and round. Kick ’em in the head and knock ’em down.”

Well, that’s what the boys in Mr. Hubbell’s elementary school gym class used to sing when we were tortured with square dance week. So much for learning any social graces back in old Kirkersville, Ohio. It was the 70’s though – we probably should have been learning disco moves.

I love to dance. Tap is my favorite, but I like any sort of dancing. I used to be a cocktail waitress at a bar in Summit County, which was known for having country music bands on the weekends. It was always jam-packed full of people and the only way I could get drinks to my customers was to two-step through the crowd with my tray full of beverages. I know. I’m talented.

I’m not trying to make myself out to be this super graceful person – I am NOT. I can dance better than I can walk. At least, that’s what my mother says. I do believe I’ve broken all my toes at one point or another, all from the simple task of walking. I even separated the cartilage in my big toe while walking down stairs. My toe decided to fold itself under the same foot it was attached to and I put my full weight right on top of  it. To this day I can still feel the pain (which happened when I was in elementary school). Too bad it didn’t happen during square dancing week. I could have done without dealing with the boys who didn’t take dancing nearly as seriously as I did.

It’s difficult to find a boy to dance with me because I always lead. Just ask Matt. I can’t help it, though. I want to dance so bad that I tend to take over. Matt was kind enough to take ballroom dancing classes with me – a gift from him for one of my birthdays – and I always tried to lead. The instructor was always reprimanding me. We didn’t get very far.

I think that boys are too busy feeling goofy and unsure of themselves while on the dance floor. Maybe it’s because they think everyone is staring at them when others are probably too busy feeling insecure with their own dance moves to look at anyone else. I’m teaching Ben early because I want him to feel comfortable on the dance floor. He’ll be able to go up to any lady, grab her by the hand, and twirl her out on the floor with great flourish. He might end up being much smaller than any of his peers, but he’ll be able to get down better than anyone else. Maybe he’ll be tortured by his buddies for knowing how to dance, but the ladies will love it.

I danced with him yesterday. He was so sad. The first downer was that his buddy, Matt, couldn’t come over. He hadn’t seen Matt in nearly two years because Matt moved away to Grand Junction when his dad got a new job. They were best buddies – even to the extent of Matt and Ben dressing as Mario and Luigi for Halloween the year before Matt moved away.  So, when Matt’s family made plans to come to Denver over Thanksgiving, we planned to get the boys together. Ben was so excited. Then, yesterday morning, Matt’s mom called to let me know that Matt’s little brother wasn’t feeling well. Given the fact that Ben’s counts were so low, we had to make the painful decision to cancel the visit. The news was crushing to Ben. He cried quite a bit and asked questions like “Why is everything against me?” Heartbreaking.

Then, about an hour later, we were having the usual struggles of getting him to eat. It’s always a painstaking process to get him through mealtime (unless it’s a Burger King double cheeseburger) but yesterday was a bit more trying than usual. That’s when Ben showed us his tongue. It was all swollen on one side and had a big sore right in the middle. I’m sure it wouldn’t make mealtime very pleasant. He’d had a lot of trouble with mouth sores during his first battle with cancer. Right after his first round of chemo he got terrible mouth sores and stopped eating all together. He went on IV nutrition for the duration of his treatment (15 months). So, I guess we should be grateful that the mouth sores stayed away for as long as they did this time.

I ran off to the store to buy ice cream because he said that a milkshake sounded good, but after I made it, he didn’t want to eat that either. While he was struggling to drink the milkshake, he said, “Why do I feel so hot?” Craptastic. He had a fever. Even a low grade fever means a trip to the hospital for him. So, while we were packing him up for a trip to the Children’s Hilton, he laid on the bed and cried. He said he just knew that this day would get worse. First Matt, then the sores, and now the hospital.

He was getting frustrated with Madeline trying to be in the middle of everything – and honestly, I was heading in that direction myself because she kept stepping over Ben on the bed. But she was coming over to whisper in my ear. She said, “Mommy, sing to him. Sing ‘Blackbird'”. So I grabbed him, held him in my lap, and sang ‘Blackbird’. He joined in and as tears rolled down our cheeks we swayed to our singing. Madeline kept stroking his head as he cried and saying things like “I’ll see you when you’re done with the cancer”. She is trying so hard to grasp this ridiculous concept of her brother having to sporadically be rushed off to the hospital. How do I help her understand?

And then my sweet Ben, asking questions like “Am I going to die?” As he was laying on the bed, he talked about Eden and Allie – his little friends who died from Neuroblastoma. And of course he’s scared. I’m scared, too. And how do I keep him from being scared all the time when I’m absolutely terrified that he is going to die? How do I help him? None of these things are in the parenting handbook. I feel absolutely helpless. Hopeful, yet helpless. I don’t recommend this particular emotional state for anyone.

So, what do I do? How do I get through this? I guess I’ll go do laundry. Maybe put up a few Christmas decorations. Because even though this life is muddled with the ridiculous and painful, everyday life goes on. And I’m all out of  clean underwear.

Time to start dancing instead of walking. At least I can attempt to look graceful while getting my children through this. And I can’t do that without clean underwear.

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