When my eldest son was an infant, and I would take him into a crowded room, he responded by shutting his eyes and immediately falling asleep in my arms. Yesterday, as my children and I joined 50,000 Detroiters in urban streets for the Race for the Cure, I could see him wanting to do the same thing – only, at 7 years old, it’s not quite as easy.
Frankly, as I’m equally uncomfortable in crowds, I wanted to shut my eyes and kick back as well. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t close my eyes to the fact that every person there had in some way been impacted by breast cancer.
I couldn’t shut out my children’s questions: Mommy, why did Auntie Jody get cancer? my daughter asked. That’s a very good question, I responded, for which I have no answer.
And Asher, doing the math of 50,000 people giving donations to walk the streets with pink ribbons and T-shirts and bandanas, plus uncountable sums donated toward finding a reason and a treatment and an eradication. A future scientist who’s great at math, his mind calculated the magnitude in just this one city.
We stood in the beaming morning sun on the corner of Montcalm and Woodward, waiting for 50 friends and family members to arrive. People swarmed the streets and filled the parking lot beside Comerica Park.
And then, just a few hours later, after sitting and eating with 25 people around a rectangular table, I retraced our steps toward the parked car. Empty streets. Vacant lots. A lone man shluffing along the sidewalk behind us.
Echoes pervaded my city. Was it symbolic of something? I’m sure it was.
I rushed everyone into the car, folded the stroller and put it away. I pushed the door-lock button like I almost never do. In overcast day, what fear lurked behind the dash?
My sister was lucky not to be alone during her battle with breast cancer. It is at those moments exactly when we realize what surrounds us and what we lack.
Our black T-shirts matched yesterday. Pink script flowed over our backs, announcing our team of Jody’s Jems. My sister wrote a note of gratitude forever imprinted on cotton cloth for all to see.
Her hair is growing back, her life is starting over, the black cloud that covered our lives since last August 18 has lifted. But we are forever changed, in ways even impercetible to each of us.