Last night Zoe was feeling better, so I decided to camp out with her on her bed for awhile, as long as she could manage. She’s had a hard time being held for long this past week while she’s been in pain, so I wasn’t sure how long it would last.
We flipped around on the TV for a bit and landed on Return of the Jedi, which had just started. Perfect, get them started early I say. Zoe was calm and settled, which was a nice change. These past 3 or 4 days have been rather rough on all of us, but she finally seems to be feeling better.
I had been explaining the movie to her just to have something to talk about, to let her hear my voice, and at one point she rolled her head backward and intentionally looked up at me, and gave me the biggest smile I’ve seen in a long time. I was stunned by how touched I was. It made me realize that I’m not sure my definition of happiness, the one that I’ve held so far in life, really holds up anymore.
This whole experience has been a blur for our family. It was unexpected of course, going from having something like the flu to being in the hospital for months, all normal life put on hold. We’ve lost any real sense of the idea of vacation or weekend, and even the days of the week seem somewhat irrelevant — they are all the same from a hospital room.
It has also, I realized last night, given me a new appreciation for many of my emotions. Maya has been learning about emotions during this time, about the literal definition of being sad, or being happy, or being grumpy, and I think I’ve had to relearn many of those myself for different reasons. Being with a child who is ill and in so much pain or discomfort that she can’t nurse, can’t be held for very long, has given me an appreciation of sadness that I have never had before.
There is a positive side to this though. Seeing Zoe look up and smile at me, after days of discomfort and pain, gave me a feeling of happiness that is different than any I can recall. Stronger, more fulfilling.
There was a feeling of confidence and hope, love and admiration. Confidence and hope that she will make it through this, as is my nature. Love for a child that has had a very different road than most as an infant, but whose personality seems to grow each week and, as I discover it, makes me love her that much more. Admiration that she can smile at all after what she’s been through. I think it might take me a lot of time to smile, were I to endure what she has.
I’m not really sure what comes next for us beyond this. Somehow I doubt we can return to our old lives completely, so drastic has the change been, so much have our eyes been opened to what’s important. Every person, every family, goes through cycles of change in their lives. This is one of ours, thrust upon us. I have a feeling we’ll take this opportunity to make changes that will allow us to embrace our new outlook more fully, though I’m not sure yet what those changes will be.
I know we have a lot of time ahead making sure Zoe is protected long enough to recover and heal, making sure she and Maya have time to become sisters in full, making sure Michelle and I have time to be together for more than an hour at a time again.
And I know that whatever comes next, we’ll have a new appreciation for one another, for the sadness that we can support one another through and for the happiness that we can give to each other. For me it’s a new kind of happiness, one that stems from greater appreciation of exactly how fleeting life can be.