This is the dichotomy I find myself in.
I had ruthlessly cleared the shed of tins of paint, broken but hoarded gardening equipment and a variety of plastic garden toys and made my way to the local tip. It was a bright and sunny Sunday morning, the tip was teaming with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. I proudly joined my fellow tippers and launched the bags over the wall with a sense of virtue and success. We nodded at each other and rolled our eyes as less experienced tippers attempted to dispose of their goods in the wrong area. Then it dawned on me. What on earth was I doing here, involved in this senseless, mundane activity, when my son had cancer? I had this sudden panic that I should be at home with him, enjoying him, loving him, laughing with him when instead I was here, surrounded by strangers amongst tons of rubbish.
Whilst the booklets and pamphlets had explained the ins and outs of life with leukaemia, there wasn’t advice about this. How do we combine a sense of normality with the enormity of having a child diagnosed with cancer?
The ‘tip’ incident did rattle me. I began to question whether we should be doing things differently. Should we be making the most of every minute, making life ‘spectacular’, cherishing every moment? Should we be aiming for a life which is ‘picture perfect’ and ignoring the every day necessities? During the short drive home I had determined that no, life had to go on including the banal as well as the spectacular. We had to look at the bigger picture; the stability and happiness of the whole family. This meant trying our very hardest to raise our children to be polite, kind, hard-working and happy and to live a meaningful life. We had to continue with ‘normal’ life even if that meant doing a tip run and all the other day-to-day stuff.
So, as we carry on with ‘normal’ life and I am raising my voice and getting agitated with the travel insurance company, I smile at Felix. This is not a magical, memory making moment but it is life and a life that Felix is living and enjoying for all of its high and lows. During the phone conversation, he is learning that he has the right to complain if he is not happy with something and that there is no need to shout but to listen and assert himself calmly. He is also learning that people cry when they are angry as well as sad!
Felix does have a cancer diagnosis but he is still our beautiful 10-year-old boy. A boy who we still have the responsibility to raise to have a broad and balanced view of the world. A boy who understands that with the amazing things in life there are the mundane and relentless; without the mundane and relentless, we couldn’t have the spectacular and amazing.
The next time I go to the tip, I will take him with me!