“Excuse me, (pointing at KJ), she didn’t say excuse me when she pushed past me.” were the first things you said to KJ, Milee, and I.
Laughing a little, I reply to the surprisingly outspoken little girl who is obviously learning to implement manners, “It’s because she can’t talk.” Your little brown eyes widen beneath your bedazzled, Hello Kitty pink hat covering your bald little head.
“She wears a lot of pink because little boys often ask why she doesn’t have any hair.”, your Mother would tell me later on.
“She can’t talk?! Why not?” You walk around to KJ’s chair to get a closer look at the quiet little girl before you.
“She can’t see or hear that well either. That’s why she has glasses and wears hearing aids. They help her.”
“But why can’t she do all that?”
The irony of this next sentence goes all over me as I watch your wondering eyes. “Because her body doesn’t always let her do the things she wants them to do.” Just like cancer is hindering your body, Isabella.
You go back to playing on the giant star covered steps in the Library. Milee decides you look like fun and in no time, she’s joining you as you run and show us your jumping skills. Pole vaulting would be an incredible sport for you, Isabella.
KJ and I decide to follow a bit later. “My name is I-S-A-B-E-L-L-A!”, you yell proudly. Milee, being the competitive 5 year old replies, “Well, my name is M-I-L-E-E! And I’m 5 and KJ is 7.”
“I’m 6!”, you retort. I’ve figured out this is the age where competitiveness comes into play. Milee is exceptionally brilliant at this.
KJ snuggles down onto a whale-shaped cushion and she’s incredibly happy simply to be out of the house. She’s giggling to herself, staring at the fluorescents overhead when you decide you want to be the reason she’s laughing. You run up to her and peeking over the side of the whale cushion, tickle her belly. She cracks up and stares up at you with her glassy, blue eyes. “What are those blue things in her ears?”, you ask, curiosity getting the best of you again. Surprise, surprise.
“Those are the hearing aids I told you about. She has a hard time hearing without them. They’re like little microphones inside of her ears so she can hear. When you take them out, it’s hard for her to understand what you’re saying.”
“I can hear my Mom when she yells at me in the kitchen, in the living room, all the way to my bedroom!”, you reply, slightly smug, but mostly with fascination.
Milee then brings me a book she wants us to read together and Isabella disappears around a corner where her Mom is carefully, patiently picking out books to borrow. “Mom, that girl can’t talk! Oh, and she can’t see or hear either! That’s so weird, right?” Your Mom, slightly horrified because you’ve never kept a secret in your life whispers, “But she’s so beautiful! God made her so special!”
You and your Mom then come around the corner to find me acting like I’m not eavesdropping while KJ giggles away beside me and Milee reads. “I’m sorry. Isabella is at a curious age.”
“This is the perfect age to ask questions and learn things.”, I reply. We introduce ourselves (please forgive me for not remembering your Mom’s name, Isabella!).
You continue to watch KJ curiously, but now Milee has decided you’re her friend. You both are playing on the steps, seeing who can jump the farthest. Your Mom has a lot of questions about KJ, but not in an intrusive way.
I have lots of questions about Isabella, but I keep them to myself. For some reason, cancer seems so private to me. Maybe because I watched my own mother go through it. I recognize the bald head, the determination to have a good day, and the eyes of someone enjoying a rare moment.
We finally part ways. Your mother makes it clear they hope to see us again, but somehow we never do.