Build a Bear

I will never forget when we took Ryan to Build a Bear Workshop at the mall. Everyone assumed I was his mom. I was around 22 or 23 years old. Poor Grandma who wasn’t quite a grandma but actually his mom was in good spirits about it, she laughed it off. He was her baby of all the babies, the surprise. The empty nest years were just around the corner–and then sweet Ryan.

I met Ryan when he was 3 years old on my college campus. I was dating his brother who is now my husband of over 17 years. Ryan was so little and we were all so big and all sorts of not fun for him. We taught him boring card games, forced him to wait forever during long restaurant dinners and irritated him enough one Thanksgiving he threatened to run away. Oh bless.

Goodness, he became all our baby–poor kid had about a dozen adults trying to parent him. How annoying. Despite our often backward, selfish efforts Ryan grew to become a very decent human. One of the kindest hearts I know and our boys simply adore Uncle Ryan.

Fast forward and in horrific 2020 fashion, Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia at age 25. He is taking on this ordeal with class and bravery and a very positive outlook. He even started a blog (along with his amazing girlfriend Anna) to advocate for others and share his journey. Now that’s not just brave, that’s hero status.

Like many of you, my 2020 experience has mirrored personal hell. Never in my most demented, wildest imagination did I believe so much crap could be thrown at me in one year. And yet I am here. I am writing to all of you, I am present. You can still count me for the attendance roster. And that is something.

A few months before Ryan was diagnosed, my mom’s breast cancer came back and has metastasized. She is on a strict chemotherapy regime ongoing, she won’t get a break here and there–maintenance chemo is now part of her forever routine. And that is tough to swallow. Yet she is here. She has really good days and not so good days, but she is with us.

My husband and I lost our grandmothers this year. Oddly enough their passing might be one of the biggest blessings of 2020. They left this earth before the COVID shut downs. We were able to attend their funerals, celebrate lives well lived. I even had the chance to tell my grandma goodbye before she passed with my best friend and my mom right beside me.

Our boys continue to face the challenges of missing friends and in person school like so many others. They also deal with extra stigma and stress of having a parent physician. Their dad shows us such strength and unwavering dedication to his oath–his days are longer than ever. Not always due to minutes worked rather the extra efforts and procedure changes COVID has brought on our healthcare professionals.

I was certain I couldn’t write one more post to top off this awful 2020. And then I realized, we mourn a loved one’s death, we curse a loved one’s illness because we know such big, tremendous love. I demand our hearts to pause now for having loved and still love so many, so deeply. Abundant love–isn’t that what this is really all about?

Us with Ryan on his Butler University graduation day!

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