Back to the Future: An Open Letter to My Daughter

In response to today’s Daily Prompt, the first person that came to my mind, naturally, was my daughter.  Maybe it’s not the most original concept, as far as who would be the recipient of a letter to the future, but that doesn’t make it any less the truth– so much so, in fact, that it’s already occurred to me.

When my daughter was about 4 months old, I decided to start a journal, in the form of letters addressed to her.  Whenever she did something new, hit some landmark in her development, or just did something to make me smile, I’d add an entry to the journal.  It was a way to sort out my thoughts and often overwhelming feelings of love (and consequent worry) for her. It is also sort of written scrap book, and a way to let her know I love her in the event that anything should ever happen to me.

I’m under no illusions that I’ll live forever, but the thought of leaving her before I’ve had a chance to see her grow up, before I’m ready to go, is really scary.  I want to be able to be there for her, for all the trials and tribulations (if you’ll excuse the cliche) of growing up– skinned knees and school plays, boy troubles and sharing her dreams.  I want to be not only her mother, but her confidant, and her friend.  But if something should happen to me, if I should be in a car accident or fall terminally ill, there are a few major things I want her to know:

Dearest Daughter,

There are so many things I want to tell you, to teach you, and to share with you.  Hopefully there will be time to do them all, but if for some reason I can’t be there to tell you these things in person, there are just a few things I want you to know.  Some of these things might seem little, but I think they are important nonetheless.

–Always send thank you notes.  It’s good manners, but more importantly, it lets people know you appreciate them.

–Be kind to animals.  How you treat animals is a good indicator of how you will treat people.  Also, animals are innocent and a gift, and it’s our job to protect them.

–Honesty is important.  There is almost never a good enough reason to lie to someone you care about.  Be honest with yourself as well.

–Value your good friends.  You may have a lot of friends, but true friends that are always there for you are rare and something to be treasured.

–Nature is beautiful.  Take time to stop and appreciate it.

–Hold the door for others.

–Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

–Be respectful to your elders, but never be afraid to stand up for yourself.

–Stand up for yourself, and those who can’t stand up for themselves.

–The world can be scary and people can be mean; always be vigilant and protect yourself.

–Know when to say “I’m sorry.”

–Cherish books and music.  They can open doors to magical places and become part of your soul.

–Love unconditionally.

–Love unconditionally, but don’t ever let anyone treat you badly.

And most importantly, know that I love you.  I’ve loved you since before you were born.  I love you more than anything.  Your father loves you more than anything.  We love you no matter what you do, who you decide to love, where you go, where we go…  We love you now and forever.

Love,
Mama

(photo taken by Cynthia Gemmill)

(photo taken by Cynthia Gemmill)

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It’s Cancer, Charlie Brown

WHOA! Hold the phone. Everybody out of the pool!  My trip down memory lane just took a wrong turn!  More like it was derailed.

Was on the interwebz looking up some of the old cartoons that I remember from my childhood so I could show some of them to my toddler.  She especially loves anything with music.  So we got through the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and that Garfield Christmas show.  So I went on to look  for A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I hadn’t found the whole episode, but had stumbled across some Charlie Brown episodes I didn’t remember seeing as a kid.

*spoilers for Why, Charlie Brown, Why?    Yes, I actually put in a spoiler alert, cuz you never know who would be pissed if I ruined the ending of this kid’s cartoon for them.

And that’s how I ended up watching Why, Charlie Brown, Why?  Charlie Brown shows have always had their melancholy moments.  Charlie Brown is usually outcast or made to feel unloved in many of the episodes, and there are whole passages where there is little to no dialogue, only a strange piano music (that reminds me of the Cosby Show.)  So as I watch this particular show/episode, it opens with Linus noting the peculiar amount of bruises on his little friend’s arms.

Ooookay.  Well, these kids talk about some weird shit sometimes, and in an even weirder adult manner.

The little girl, whose name is Janice, mentions she never used to bruise so easily.

Noooo.  They wouldn’t do an episode about that…

References to her feeling ill and thinking she has a fever.

Uh-oh.  

I stopped right there and looked up the episode on Wikipedia.  Yup.  It’s about cancer.  Airing in 1990, it is considered the first animated series to tackle the subject.

“Why, Charlie Brown, Why?”

Granted, as I continue watching, I note that the explanation of Janice’s leukemia is vastly simplified.  I understand the show is addressing the issue to a fairly young audience, but it occurs to me as I watch that it does children no good to have this issue sugar-coated.  For instance, when asked if she will die, Janice explains that there are treatments for leukemia and she thinks she’ll get well.  Sadly, we as adults know that this is often not the case.

The process of her treatment (chemotherapy) and the effects it has on her health also seem a bit simplified as well.  But I guess in such a case, it would be left more up to each individual child’s parents to decide how much explanation their children could handle in regards to the subject of terminal illness.

To the writers credit, they also attempt to address issues that are tangential to the idea of a child returning to class after having undergone chemotherapy, such as ignorance, bullying, and insensitivity. For instance, Janice returns wearing a pink ball cap, having lost her hair.  Linus ends up having to defend her when another little boy teases her about her cap and her baldness.  Linus grabs the kid and shakes his fist at him, all the while yelling at him about how he has no idea what Janice has had to go through.  The  other kid, properly chastened, apologizes and tries to make up for his meanness by complimenting Janice’s hat.

There is also a segment of the show that also seems to touch on Janice’s siblings and their feelings of loneliness and jealousy over the “attention” that Janice is getting because of her illness.

In the end of the episode, Janice returns to school once again after some more treatments and she whips her hat off and her head is full of hair again.  Guess this is supposed to signify she is “all better.”  End of story.   Well, yes.  Vastly simplified.  No mention of remission or recurrence.  But, hey, it’s for little ones.  Or maybe the show’s writers should leave the heavy topics to the parents.

What’s your opinion?  You can check out the episode HERE.  It’s not very long.  I realize now there are many shows that tackle serious subjects for a younger audience, and I would guess that the newer shows and ones like these each have their merits.  Weigh in, if you like.

On another note , there are clearly some episodes of these old shows I missed.  Maybe that’s for the best.

Time in a Bottle

(The story of a young couple trying to cope with the girl’s terminal illness)

I spark the bowl and inhale deeply, careful to leave some fresh green for her to burn. She likes that, and any good pothead knows that this is proper etiquette when sharing a bowl. She’s not in too much pain today, but smoking has become a habit now. Actually sort of a ritual, our ritual. I can’t actually share her physical pain, but I can share everything else with her, including the self-medication. One bowl in the morning when she wakes up, two if she’s in a lot of pain. One mid-morning. One before lunch. A bowl mid-afternoon, one mid-evening, one before bed. And in between whenever else she needs or wants one. Whatever she needs, whenever. Continue reading