Love’s Labors Found

In all the years I’ve known her, I’m not sure she’s ever looked so good. Maybe it’s the healthy glow from a thriving summer. Maybe it’s the blossomy aura of a young lady growing up. Or maybe it’s the confident air of survivor gearing up to take on life’s challenge again. Whatever it is, it agrees with her. She is radiantly beautiful. It’s not just her physical appearance–the tan, the way she wears her fashion, the streaks of blonde in a wild swirl of wispy hair–it’s her way. She is agreeable, chatty, charismatic. You want to be with her and she wants to be with you.

Saturday afternoon, as the mild summer sun set on Santa Monica, I sat with her on our patio playing a game of dominos. She set her weight on her right elbow as she tapped at the bone white pieces. Twice she bested me. Now, her eyes squinted on her three remaining blocks, eyebrows furrowed deep in contemplation. I was down to one.

–You might win this one, she said, but I’ll beat you next time.

I had a double that I could play on my own leg, but I had to draw from the bone pile and the block didn’t work on any open leg. I had to put my penny up, too.

–That’s okay, Dad. You might still win.

That’s my girl: competitive and compassionate. We played a few more rounds and Jordan emerged the victor when it was through. She relishes every win when we play–probably because I show her no mercy. You might think I play bad hands to make her feel confident, but you would be wrong. I play to win, and every time she makes a bad move I make her pay for it. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

But it isn’t the competitive strategy that makes our domino games so enjoyable. We chat while we play. We munch on finger foods. We take in the sun. We play to pass the time and enjoy each other’s company. These are the moments when I truly appreciate how much I love her. For all her ferocity and all her determination, she makes a great companion on a holiday weekend.

One week has passed since she restarted chemotherapy, and she is doing great. She went in for blood work Thursday and her medical team was thrilled with her progress. Her counts look absolutely normal–no fluctuations at all. We don’t expect her stats to stay this way. She goes back on Wednesday, and we are prepared to see a decline. But I sleep easier knowing that she is handling treatment with such grace and strength. Sometimes I think we ask too much of Jordan. We require her to be strong, to persevere. I believe she would be strong and persevere even if we didn’t push her to do so–it’s who she is. But I have to remind myself on days like Saturday that the caricature I so often portray–the girl with the will of an ox–has another side. She fusses over her strategies. She yearns to live carefree. She loves nothing more than spending time with people she loves. My goal in the days ahead is to help this slayer spend more time doing these things.