Wendy Miller appreciates how writing gives her an excuse to think and thinking gives her an excuse to write. As a mother of three young girls, Wendy finds ways to be creative with her time in order to write her fifth novel, articles for multiple websites and book reviews for three Christian publishers. When she’s not writing or caring for her girls, she is likely enjoying the outdoors on a hike or run, or encouraging women through speaking. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. Visit Wendy at http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ or http://wendypainemiller.wordpress.com/.
I’m knitting a hat for my fourth grandson still in my daughter’s womb. The pale blue dome is soft in my hands. I’ve washed it three times to fray the wool, to dull it down, making it tender to the touch. I tie the finishing knot on the bonnet for my grandson, who should come into this world in less than a week. I place it on my desk. It stays statuesque, as though already prepared to perch upon an infant’s head. Pictures of my other grandsons cover the walls of my phlebotomy office like wallpaper.
A deflated mother holds the door open for her daughter. The girl is ten. I’ve reviewed her chart. The girl’s cheeks beam with a gossamer glow. Her Hannah Montana shirt glitters in the bright fluorescent lights of the office. She heads straight to the plastic chair, telling me it reminds her of the chairs at the airport. Everything about her mother looks as though someone has sucked the life from her with a colossal straw. Her eyes are bloodshot. I know that to get that red, she’s been crying for days.
The young girl introduces herself with poise and confidence. “I’m Lauren.”
“I have a daughter named Lauren,” I say.
“It’s a great name. A strong name,” she says, as she flips through the Highlights magazine she plucked from the bottom of a basket, then promptly returns to the chair. Her mother remains silent. “Doctors want to check my platelets. I’ve got leukemia. But it’s a good thing, you know. I’m here and not in the hospital.” This girl with eyes rivaling the blue delphinium in my garden: her resiliency penetrates me.
Her mother then whispers as she reaches for Reader’s Digest, “She’s dying.”
I pull up the sleeve of Lauren’s Hannah Montana shirt and notice her hair is struggling to grow back in under her chartreuse scarf. “I like Hannah Montana.”
“You do?” She tugs at the back of her neck where the knot fastening the scarf together is coming loose. I pinch one of the ends and yank to tighten it with her.
“How are you feeling?” I hand her a sunny yellow ball to squeeze. A whiff of her lip balm brings me back to my childhood. Lemon.
Lauren tosses the ball to her mother, who is slow on reflexes, allowing the ball to make a wimpy thud to the floor. “Okay today and that’s all that matters, right?” When she smiles her lips reveal crisp white teeth. I see her taste buds when she talks. I’m standing that close.
“Can I watch?” Lauren stares at the needle targeted for her arm, her fist balled and clenched.
“Sure. You’re not frightened?” I ask.
“Not much scares me anymore.” She studies my every move.
Lauren’s mother focuses her gaze at the fake plants around my office. “Do you need to water those much?” The mother with red-veined eyes attempts conversation. Small talk has likely become like a phantom limb for her. Lauren’s mother probably was once a very gifted communicator. Before her life got tossed in an emotional grinder.
“Those plants aren’t real. It makes it easier. It’s just me here all day and I’d be sure to forget to water them.”
Impatience stirs Lauren’s mother to rise as though she suddenly realized she’d seated herself on stinging nettles. She slaps her magazine on the couch near to us. “Could you hurry? We are in a hurry.”
“Sure, I’m done actually.” I slide my hands behind Lauren’s head and cinch the knot of her scarf once again. “It’s beautiful,” I say into her pierced ear. A tiny silver ball twinkles on her earlobe, reflecting a shimmer of overhead light.
“Thanks. My mom got it for me. It’s real silk.” She hops down in one swift motion.
I wave good-bye to the two of them and watch the door slowly swing shut. I shake her vial of blood, feeling the warmth of it in my hands. I close my eyes for a moment and visualize Lauren in the black space behind my eyelids. A mane of thick, sun-drenched hair swishes behind her as she climbs the ladder of a slide. I see her laughing, her expression agape.
That afternoon before I turn off the lights and shut off the barely audible radio, I gather up the hat for my grandson, my knitting supplies, and the crossword puzzle I’ve almost completed. I scratch a note on the sticky pad beside the phone to buy a real plant for the drawing room.
My attention gravitates to the plastic chair where patients give blood. My mind drifts to Lauren once again. I walk out the door, still in love with a job where I have a labeled vial to prove just how alive patients like Lauren are.
She gave me a vial of her blood. But I took away so much more.