Taylor and Mom just returned from Duke Hospital in Durham, where T underwent various tests for her new neurologist (including her third MRI since January and more neuropsychiatric testing). After two long days during which a chatty T’s only complaint stemmed from the “gook” they put in her hair for the EEG, she exited the front of the hospital and let out a big “Woo hoo!” ‘She was finished, tired, but still smiling…my role model,’ Mom wrote in her CaringBridge journal.
For our second wedding anniversary last summer, John and I traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. During our second leg of the trip on the northern end of the barrier islands, we visited Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It was my first time back in the park since the summer I was 12. On that particular July day long ago, the temperature approached one hundred degrees, and the humidity and blinding white sand made it feel hotter. No matter – I promptly removed my sandals and sprinted to the top of the largest natural sand dune on the East Coast only to then collapse to my knees. My feet sank into the sand, so hot it burned like icy needles on my bare skin. I became too dizzy to stand. My uncle David, who was only 25 and in med school at the time, scooped me up into his arms and carried me down to the entrance of the park, where he literally dumped me under a spigot and turned the water on full blast (I think partially to relieve my symptoms and partially to punish me for my stupidity).
Fourteen years smarter and not quite as deep into the North Carolina summer, I had no close calls with heat exhaustion the second time around. John and I ran, alright – but downhill. Jockey’s Ridge is so vast that it seems like a mountain range rather than a single continuous dune, and we made it our mission to find the steepest inclines, walk to the crest, clasp hands and run back down as fast as we could. Anyone who saw us do this repeatedly probably thought we were crazy. To strengthen their case, I cried out a jubilant “Weeeeeeeeeeee!” on each downhill flight. I felt like I was 12 again, only this time I wasn’t miserable. In fact, in those moments, I felt happier than I had in a long time. I felt unfettered. Alive.
Here and there, I’ll forget how that feels. I couldn’t bring Jockey’s Ridge back to Charlotte with me, so I run. Yesterday we got a short reprieve from the rain, so I hit the pavement after work. I ran to the pond in our neighborhood and did laps on the obstacle course of a path, dodging rain puddles and muddy patches and the family of ducks who, like me, was glad to have a break from the rain and had come out to play. Though nothing fell from the sky at the time, the humidity was palpable. Everything is so green right now from all the rain, and for a time I forgot I was in Charlotte and instead found myself elsewhere (the Everglades came to mind, which might be why I didn’t run for as long as I normally do). Running does that for me. All I have to do is block out the house overlooking the pond with the pool and the fake palm trees and the tiki torches in the backyard, and I can be anywhere. And on my run last night, as I crossed the bridge and made my last turn for home, I let out a “Weeeeeeeeeeee!”
I may forget what that feels like from time to time (alright, more often than not these days), but I’m not sure that T ever does. T isn’t always happy – sometimes she’s sad (and who could blame her?), but I don’t think she ever forgets. She can make the best of any situation and turn it around so that even though she had to miss two days of school and travel close to three hours to a strange hospital to be poked and prodded and questioned and recorded for two days, the worst part was that they had to put “gook” in her hair for the EEG. And Mom, who knows her youngest daughter all too well, had expected as much and requested a late checkout at the hotel so T could wash her hair before hitting the road again. And so for T, another bout was over, and everything was cool, and “Woo Hoo!” was the word of the day. And that, I say, should be the word of all our days. Because no matter how bad things get, there’s always a huge sand dune and after-rain runs and fruity shampoo to wash the day away.