Lent 2020, Day 24: This is a story about control.

Yesterday, Z got irritated during a conversation with me about piano lessons.

Me: If this whole Corona thing hadn’t happened, you’d be having piano lessons on Saturday afternoons. Well, maybe in a few months when it all dies down…”

Z: What? On Saturdays? No! What about during the week?

Me: No, we can’t do during the week anymore, remember? Mr. Jeff has another job Monday through Friday, but Saturdays around 2 will be good for all of us.

Z: All of us? But not me! It’s not fair that I have no say, that I don’t have control!

Me: (leaves room to go pee and think over how odd it was that she used the word “control”)

This morning, Z and I got into a conversation about hair, namely how I was planning to wash hers on Friday. She became *slightly* annoyed, but kept talking about hair maintenance in general. Eventually I told the story of how I had her dad shave my hair off in 2016 after chemo had it coming out in clumps.

Me: You know when your dad finished, I called you into the bathroom to see and you took one look and started screaming and ran!

Z: (looks uncomfortable)

Me: It’s okay, Baby. You see it grew back!

Z: Will you shave it off again?

Me: Nah, I don’t plan on it. I’m not on chemo, no need to be bald. I do need a trim, though.

Later, while I made my morning coffee, Z began reading my One Line A Day Journal. She read aloud from last August when her dad had a work emergency that demanded he work 12-18 hour days for weeks. Her voice began to crack. She then asked:

Z: Will dad have to go back to work?

Me: No, Baby, the shutdown is in full effect… and when he does, it probably won’t be like that.

At this point, I realized something was definitely bothering her, and it wasn’t about hair or her dad’s work load last summer. That was confirmed when just a few minutes later, she cried after her dad told her to do some of her Coding lessons. I put down my hot mug of coffee and pulled her onto my lap. I began questioning why she was so upset. She has to do some Coding everyday; so what’s the big deal?

Z: I have no say! I can’t do things when I want to! I have no control.

Wait, control? Again? What the…? Then it dawned on me: The Kid, in her own way, was lamenting the loss of “normal.” She hasn’t been able to do some of the things she loves most: basketball, soccer, and Taekwon-Do. Everything is different, and not even we, her parents can make things go right. But then, we can’t always be counted on to stop bad things; chemo took my hair, and work took her dad away for weeks.

I thought about a blog post I wrote two years ago this month called, “So You Think You’re in Control”:

Around the age of 8, I began having a dream of falling down the stairs of my family’s home. The staircase would morph from having 15 steps, which it actually had, to being seemingly endless. The light would go dark and I’d freefall, screaming for my parents, while headed straight for the small linoleum- covered landing. It was like I was careening… in slow motion. I was the van in Inception.

I always woke up before hitting the floor. I had that same dream, off and on, until about two years ago. Two years ago when I had the stem cell transplant.

I’m not sure when I hit the metaphorical floor during that process. It wasn’t when I shaved my hair, or when the chemo made me so disoriented, I couldn’t hold a conversation with the nurses who were caring for me. It wasn’t when I gained 8 pounds in 2 days from the fluids, and then lost 16 in 3 or 4 days from extreme nausea and contracting a colon infection. I don’t think it’s when my skin turned a sickish gray color, either.

I think it was when I got home and time passed and I didn’t actually get any better. The infection cleared, my hair grew back, and yet… I hadn’t improved one iota.


I’m not completely sure why the dream stopped in 2016, but I think it’s telling that it did. I believe it stopped haunting my sleep because I landed. I accepted that no matter my flailing attempts to prevent the crash, no matter my screams and tears, I could not stop it of my own accord. My parents didn’t save me, and God did not step in, either.

I crashed.

Yet when I did, I felt the most bittersweet relief. I accepted the truth.

I am not in control.

At 8, Z is already learning that life is unpredictable, and at times, very scary. Although accepting this is harrowing (um, it is for me… IS, not was, because this virus has got me a bit shook, too), it’s also freeing.

Me: Oh, Baby… I understand. I miss working out and going out, and things being… normal. Hopefully, people will get better and this flu will go away in a few months. Until then, we’ll do other things… together. Titi Kiki says I need to get back to baking with you. (laughs)

Z: Yay, Titi Kiki!

Me: Yay… (sighs)… I need to finish my coffee.

Share your thoughts