Normal – What is That?

I don’t know that any of us or the lives we live are “normal.” I don’t even know what constitutes normal. Maybe it’s when we find comfort in the fact that we’re not alone, and the juxtaposition of certain emotions can be (if not understood) embraced by others in our orbit who care for us. With our circumstances, perhaps it’s accepting that things are what they are. At times, we are powerless to change our lot. So, we move forward, grasping at some semblance of a routine to balance the chaos and enjoying what we can.

My “Cooper Normal”

When Cooper arrived, my normal became tube feedings, AEDs, hospice nurses, watching his near constant seizures helplessly, monitoring how much he peed, how much he pooped, how congested his lungs were, and a perpetual lump in my throat. It was also swallowing my uncertainty, fear, and sadness in an attempt to not frighten our other son, Graham. It was being so exhausted I couldn’t remember where I put my keys or when I last washed my hair. It was living with the dread of not knowing if my baby would be alive or dead when I went to get him out of his crib every morning. It was cognizance that life is fleeting. It’s not a platitude.

Is that normal? It was for us.

Normal was being more grateful for the little things. It was earnestly searching for things to be joyful about, because heaven knows plenty weighed us down. We laughed (sometimes out loud), we loved, we gave kisses and hugs, and we read to our boys (even if one of them couldn’t hear us)…lest anyone think we lacked mirth completely.

Normal was a mixture of happy, sad, and something in between. It was being thankful that Graham could run, skip, laugh, sing, and puke on me while being heartbroken that Cooper never would. It was not wanting my precious baby to suffer, but not wanting to let him go. That was my “Cooper Normal.”

Normal Now

Normal now is volunteering at Graham’s school. It’s driving to karate lessons and tournaments. It’s being proud of Graham’s accomplishments, growth, and his amazing capacity for empathy. Normal is crying on the first day Cooper would’ve started Kindergarten had he been healthy. It’s forcing myself out of bed on his birthday and not understanding why the hardest days are the ones when we should be celebrating him in some way. Normal is working for the Foundation and praying we are putting some good into the world to help children like Cooper. Normal is gratitude for the health of my loved ones. Normal is cheerfully answering Graham’s questions about Cooper but being sad that he has to ask. Normal is three of us cheering for Graham’s favorite pro football team yet knowing there should be four of us.

Normal now is appreciating the gift God gave me when He taught me to diligently seek joy in small things during dark days, and it is tragic that at times I have to look so hard to find it.  Normal is more good days than bad ones.  It’s acknowledging that when the bad ones come, their intensity hasn’t waned. They can still knock me to my knees.  It’s the hope I cling to that when this life passes from me I will see my Cooper again.