Ian and I were on our way to play miniature golf last night, and he asked me this innocent question:
“Mom, do you remember when you were my only friend?”
“What do you mean, buddy?”
“When I was four. You used to play hide-n-seek with me.”
“That’s right. We used to hide all over the house.” The memory made us both chuckle.
“I wasn’t very good—because I was only four. I didn’t have any friends then.”
“You had lots of friends. You just couldn’t play with the ones your age, bud.” I hesitated before I explained. I’m still not sure how much to tell him at this young age. “Remember when you were going through chemo? You were too weak to be around other kids, so Mommy played with you most of the time.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s right,” he said thoughtfully. “I thought I was really good, but I think you were pretending. You found me every time, even though you acted like you couldn’t.” He paused for a moment. “Thank you for being my friend.”
“I’ll always be your friend, bud—your friend and your mommy—forever.”
“Thanks, Mom.” He got quiet for a little bit. “I hope I marry someone like you someday—someone pretty and really nice.”
“I hope you do, too, buddy.” My heart soared as tears welled-up.
That sweet, simple conversation brought back a flood of memories. I remember those days when hide-n-seek seemed to last for hours. I ran around the house, hoping to simulate what a four-year old would be like. I’d hide behind tables and chairs, waiting for him to look in my direction, so he could “find” me. When I was looking for him, I’d call out his name and not look under the giggling blanket until Ian pulled it off and said, “Here I am!”– his wide grin speaking volumes. We also played Memory, Zingo, Candyland, Don’t Wake Daddy, Piranha Panic, and Rhino Rampage countless times that year. We’d cuddle through movies; we’d color pages together. I’d squeal through Mario Cart as I’d drive off the rainbow road, while Ian crossed the finish line. We’d giggle through the days that didn’t leave him exhausted and nauseated. His burden was so heavy; I hoped playing with him would lighten his load a little.
But contrary to what Ian remembered in this moment, I wasn’t his only friend; Dave was a constant companion; Nicole, besides canceling her trip to Africa to help us, played with him daily; Carol Linn was his number one Wii rival. In addition to family, we had incredible people in our lives, people who loved Ian and gave us all a little break from our emotional exhaustion. Susan, Christine, Justin, Mason, Alex, Mike, Zach and numerous others would come by and play superheroes or Dr. Seuss’s I Can Do That with Ian. The memory of watching twenty-year olds run around the house in Batman and Iron Man costumes or try to scoot under, over, and around a Styrofoam bridge just to give Ian a fun-filled night still brings tears to my eyes.
Ian had many amazing friends when he was four. What we didn’t know is if he had a future. I am so thankful that three years later, Ian is still with us. I am thankful that he remembers the joy of those days and not the pain; it is an answer to prayer. I am also thankful that I can think about his future without fear. I can smile at the thought of my little boy wanting to marry someone like his mom, instead of having to escape to another room to hide the tears that would surely come with any discussion of Ian’s future.
Remembering how far we’ve come infuses the simple moments like last night with such joy. I am confident that his future will be filled with people who love him; he’s had so many beautiful examples of love that he will never have to guess at what real love looks like.