My parents arrive tomorrow to visit and I am so pumped. They are two of my favorite humans and best friends. They’re wise and strong, flawed and encouraging, and most importantly, hilarious and fun to be around.
I did not want to call them that day. I made my friend promise not to. In his wisdom (don’t get a big head over there,) he ignored me and called almost as soon as I was safely inside the walls of the hospital. A brave feat considering he was aware of his position at the bottom of their list of favorite people.
I didn’t want them to know or to see me - I knew that I looked different - I felt almost unrecognizable. Especially my dad. I especially didn’t want him to see. I don’t know how to put into words why (believe me, I sat at this computer for far too long trying to figure out how to phrase it) but I think that any dad with a daughter or daughter who is close to her dad will understand. It’s just not supposed to be that way. This is not something you’re supposed to have to do.
And my mum - well, on the one hand, my mum’s a doctor who ran an ER, so she’s used to seeing, and acting, in crisis. But on the other hand, I’ve put her through the ringer with all my medical stuff - and putting her through this seemed wildly unfair.
Beyond any of that, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed and I was convinced that they’d see me differently. When they looked at me they’d no longer see their fun, adventurous, and wild Becky. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see her anymore - how could they?
They were on a mission trip in Poland when my mum’s phone rang. If memory serves me correctly, they were in the middle of a church service - surrounded by a group of people who know us intimately, and who stopped everything they were doing to pray - to help my parents book flights to New York, to stand in the gap where they stood in disbelief, and to fight on their behalf when they were knocked down in shock. I am immeasurably grateful to each and every one of them.
When my apartment buzzer rang the next morning, I shook in anxiety as I walked over to let them in. Opening the door took every bit of courage I had. No matter how old you get, you want your parents to be proud of you, how could they be proud of this? Head down, half hugs - I couldn’t look them in the eye. Eventually I did - I don’t know when. There was no getting around the awkwardness of the initial conversation - but once it was over, it was over.
There’s no handbook for this, and as I look back on it, I realize how well my parents know me. I don’t have kids - so I can’t claim to know a love like that. But I know from all the parents I know, that the hurt you feel for them when they’re hurt is astronomical. I know how I feel when a member of my family is hurting. It’s a palpable pain - one that takes over. You feel like you can’t breathe and you want to do whatever you can to fix it - to take it away. Whatever emotions they felt about the whole thing, they didn’t overtly feel them around me. I’m sure there were tears cried, and anger spewed - but not in front of me.
We didn’t dwell on it, but we didn’t ignore it. They listened when I wanted to talk about it, but they didn’t pry or prod. They encouraged me with loving messages from those that knew what had happened, but they didn’t tell the world. They read through all the hospital paperwork and mum made sure I was taking the correct medication at the correct times, and prepared me both mentally, and with supplies, for the possible side effects, but she didn’t treat me like a sick patient. I took a couple days off work and we got out and did fun things - my dad even quietly suffered through yet another open-top bus tour (my mum and I have a love affair with open-top bus tours and he most certainly, does not!)
And then after a couple of abnormal days, they helped me settle back into a routine. At first it was modified - I couldn’t take the train - being trapped in an enclosed space with no way to get out made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. They graciously picked up my uber tab for a couple of weeks. They made sure I was seeing a therapist. They made it clear that nothing I did warranted this. But they treated me normally. They still called me out when I was in the wrong and we still laughed until we cried when we found something funny. All the fears I had about them seeing me differently were unfounded. I was still Becky boo of kalamazoo to them.
I don’t know what was said on the phone that day, but I do know that if he hadn’t told them, I never would have. That fear, shame, and pain would have been buried in such a deep, dark place, that I think that silence would have suffocated me until I died. The only reason I could say it, was because I knew the people that I was saying it to, that I was walking those first few initial days with, were safe.
Occasionally I’d catch them staring, and would wonder what they were thinking when they saw me now. Well, I don’t know what they were thinking when they looked at me over those two weeks, but when I looked at them, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I saw pillars of strength. I saw freedom. I saw joy. I saw hope. I saw encouragement. I saw unconditional love. I saw safety. I saw a future. I saw Jesus.
I have loved you with an everlasting love - Jer 31:3