People with multiple children know that when one gets something special (for example, a blog write-up), simple justice necessitates that the others get the same thing. This is particularly true for the middlest child (a superlative coined by my good friend, Jeanne Geskes, herself a middle daughter). I’ve already written about how my illness has affected Carolyn (my youngest) and Sophie (my oldest). Now it’s Quinn’s turn.
Quinn likes raccoons, sausage, the color orange, and playing rough. She’s unquestionably the bravest of my daughters. When I chase the girls around, Sophie invariably runs away screaming. But not Quinn. When startled, she attacks back. Good for her; this instinct will serve her well later in life. And, I admire the sentiment since it’s the same response I have taken to this fucking cancer thing. I don’t want to be scared; I want to fight back.
Quinn leads an exciting life. My favorite moment being Quinn’s dad was when she fell into Bugg Lake at UMSL, and I sprinted across the Biology lawn, stripped down, and jumped into the lake to rescue her. The second best moment was when I rescued her raccoon Percy who “fell” off a hotel room balcony. Being Quinn’s dad, there are frequent opportunities to be a hero.
She’s also having the hardest time with everything that’s going on. She has never been very good with change. In hotel rooms, for example, she doesn’t sleep at all. Ever. When we moved to St. Louis, it was a full week before she would sleep in her new room. The last few weeks have been particularly trying for Quinn, with so many visitors coming in and out of the house, and different care-givers on rotating shifts. She’s a smart girl and unusually attuned to social cues around her, so I’m sure she has picked up that everyone is worried about her dad. We try to buffer her as much as possible, but she’s no dummy. She knows something bad is going on.
As you might expect, she has found an outlet in tantrums, defiance, and other behavioral problems. When I came home from the hospital, I didn’t recognize Quinn anymore; she’d changed from a sweet little girl to a tantrum waiting to happen. The nearby image shows her typical expression these days. At school she has been misbehaving as well, to the point that at every pick-up, we get updates on whether Quinn had a “good listening day.” Usually she doesn’t. Drop-offs have also been a scene; many tears, lots of screaming. She has been excessively clingy to Jing. Kind of humbling and demoralizing that toddlers instinctively bind themselves to the more reliable care-giver. For the first week that I was home, she had to be constantly reminded that she is not allowed to smack my head. Little girly has some impulse control issues, and she’s clearly mad at me for some reason. Maybe there’s something to that mentality… it would be cathartic to smack myself around for getting sick, albeit probably not very productive.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I am tired of being an incomplete husband and father because of this illness. So as part of the rehabilitative effort and as a way to try to get part of my old life back, I’ve taken it on myself to help Quinn get through this rough patch.
I’ve decided to involve Quinn in my rehabilitation in a way that lets us spend some time together doing something she likes. One of the games I’m playing is “memory match”, the pre-school game where you flip cards over to make pairs. Quinn is shockingly good at this game, and she likes being told she’s good at it. We play for ten minutes every night before bed. Sophie is not the only one in the house with a great memory.
Also, I let her look at my scar every evening. Quinn has her own memorable head scar. Earlier this year, she missed a step on the playground and cut her eyebrow open, requiring five stitches in the ER, which required me to hold her down while they sewed her up. She is a strong girl, and I needed all my weight to keep her arms and legs from striking the various medical personnel. Until last month, this was the most medically traumatizing event the Hughes family had endured. In any case, Quinn now has a physical understanding of what happened to me, and she is reassured knowing that daddy’s “scar” is healing well. In Quinn world, everything is ok as soon as the stitches come out and my hair regrows (God-willing, nothing else will regrow).
I’m happy to say that her behavior has turned a corner in the last couple evenings. Her teachers were beside themselves with how much better she was at school today, and Grandma Nano asked whether Quinn had taken a happy-pill this morning. Little girly needs her daddy… a lot. I’m reading in my cancer books that a sense of purpose and being needed is an essential trait common to survivors. I don’t think this is a problem for me to any extent, but it’s clear that Quinn needs her dad to be well at least as much as Sophie and Carolyn. Probably much, much more.
Quinny-Winny, I love you so much. Daddy.