Once you have a child your own death is no longer the worst fear you can imagine.
Every parent knows this. Risk and loss are the price we pay for love. The price is highest when it comes to our kids.
Yet people pay it every day. Babies die, and older children get cancer. Teenagers lose their lives in car accidents, black teenagers more often in a hail of bullets. Athletes get sudden heart attacks. Then we give these most precious gifts to the nation, and risk their loss in war.
We can’t protect them, although we try. We fret over them instead, natter at them, worry aloud until they send us an exasperated "Mu-therrrrr" or "Daaaaad" to shut us down, because they have that first fear, their own deaths an unimaginable horror.
Our 20 year old, Robin, had a biopsy last Thursday. During a routine exam a lump had been found in a breast. It’s called a fibroadenoma.
A needle biopsy was performed. Her mother was there. It hurt, a bit, but not half so much as the succeeding days have hurt.
I have been living in a fugue state, suspended animation. I’ve worked hard to be cheery, both to Robin and everyone else, and felt like a Hollywood building, all front with nothing behind.
It’s benign. It would be cruel for me to wait longer before telling you. I got the call in my car, and I let out a breath, and then Jenni and I went on to worrying about other things. Smaller things. Next to this, insignificant things.
I’m somewhat ashamed now. Ashamed of my own fear, and paranoid imaginings of hearing malignancy which have been bouncing around my brain this weekend, keeping me from sleep. The shame comes because I know how many millions of parents will hear, this year, that the worst thing that can happen has happened, or certainly will happen, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
But as Mr. Obama says, not this time.