Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I am Thankful for Leukemia: Relationships

This is a picture of my beautiful children with my dad. This picture is so precious. My dad rarely takes a picture where he's smiling or even looking at the camera. This picture was taken on his birthday earlier in the week. He wanted to come and see his family for his special day. He brought gifts and gave me a little money to help out with Hunter's Cub Scouts uniform. It was a special visit.

If Hunter had not gotten sick, I'm not sure that this photo would exist.

You see, my dad and I had barely spoken since my mom died 5 years ago. It's a long story. I place no blame. It was silly and pointless and everyone (and I do mean everyone) was at fault. I hold no grudge. But the reason for our not speaking is irrelevant. My point is that we have a lovely relationship now. And I feel like that may have never happened without our leukemia journey.

Shortly after Hunter was diagnosed, I had my father-in-law call my dad and let him know the devastating news. The very next day he was at the hospital essentially meeting his grandson for the first time. They had a special bond when Hunter was a baby/toddler but needless to say, Hunter didn't remember him. And now Hunter was a big kid, a person, with interests and a personality and a mind of his own. So my dad was really meeting him for the first time... possibly dying in the hospital.

It's enough to knock you down a few hundred notches, bring about humility, and most importantly, healing.

I saw my dad and his wife (to whom I'm comfortable referring as my step mom now) for the first time in four years about a week after Hunter's diagnosis. At first I was nervous but as soon as I saw them both, the anger, resentment, hostility and saved up hurt melted away. All I felt was love for both my dad and my step mother.

After that day, my dad visited Hunter in the hospital frequently. He would rub his dry feet with oil and he'd bring him special things, like Indian arrowheads and coins from his collection. The things you share with a son... or a grandson if you never had a son. He even stayed over night with Hunter in the hospital a couple of times.

He has been present in the rest of our lives as well. He and my step mom visit regularly now. They have been present for Christmas and birthdays. Dad calls regularly. I call him too. And I don't feel scared to talk with him. Our conversations are always pleasant. He's become one of my best friends.

We never talk about the past four years. At least we don't bring up the hurt feelings and the estrangement. I don't need any apologies. And I don't think they do either. All that matters is that my children now have a grandfather and a sweet step grandmother. They enjoy visiting with them and are learning to have a healthy relationship with these people who I always prayed would one day be a bright spot in their childhood.

When Ronin was three she was up until 11:oo one night begging me to explain to her why her grandfather didn't know her. I didn't have a good answer. But I did tell her that we could start praying about it. Hunter never seemed to care that he didn't have a relationship with his grandfather but boy, it bothered Ronin. It broke her heart. She wanted him in her life so desperately.

And today, they adore each other. Their relationship is priceless.

I hate that it took a deadly illness to bring healing to these relationships but I praise God for using a horrible circumstance to help make my family whole again.

There was an emptiness in my heart that is no longer there. And I've been able to cope with my mom's passing to the next world a little easier since the reconciliation as well.