The slowest and the fastest year


I’ve always played with my hair, twirling the curls between my fingers until they were smooth, absentmindedly while driving, reading, or here, sitting on the sofa. Only now many strands come off in my hand and I build a pile beside me until I get up. I bury them in the trash so no one has to see. My hair is noticeably thinner and I’m a bit self conscious about it. I wear a hat when I am out, but really it’s important for everyone who needs sun protection. My family looks at me like I’m crazy when I remark about my thinning curls. It’s no big deal. This too shall pass. Thanks, Interferon. Thanks melanoma.

It is now May. I’ve been on Interferon since December. I’ll be on Interferon into December. Last night I gave myself a shot in my stomach, into the jelly roll of subcutaneous fat as directed. Usually I’m fine the next day, but lately my legs have started hurting by the very next morning, instead of just getting the bad feels 24 hours later. I took a Tylenol and decided that getting on the treadmill might be a good idea. It was. A far cry from my hours-long workouts with Boca Hawaii, I do a brisk walk for 15 minutes. I have to take care of myself. I have to give my body a chance to heal without hurting it too much. A 15-minute walk everyday can’t be too much.

Although I have kept substitute teaching through this convalescence, I have had time to do things that I think are good for my family. I’m brewing two continuous batches of kombucha at any given time. I’m learning to make a fizzy second ferment with fruit. It’s weird to see the SCOBYs on top of my dispensers. They are huge and thick and they look kind of gross. But if probiotics are helpful, then I can overlook my SCOBY mothers and babies and appreciate them for all that they do.

I’ve also started baking bread. In fact, I should be doing that right now. I’ve been using a quick recipe that involves flour, salt, water and yeast, a two-hour rise, a series of pats, and 30 minutes later into the 450-degree oven in my preheated Dutch oven to bake for 35 minutes lid on, 20 minutes lid off, ala Mark Bittman. Out comes a round and golden loaf, crispy on the outside, irresistible to my family. But I’ve been watching Michael Pollan’s COOKED series on Netflix and I’m rethinking yeast and I’m wrapping my head around creating my own sourdough starter.

Finally, what is making this year race by is that my eldest daughter is preparing for college, leaving late this summer for Reed in Portland, Oregon. One friend told me that Reed is basically prep school for grad school and yields the most PhD’s per capita of any school except for Caltech. High standards.

Sophie is very alpha. She calls her shots. She rarely asks for advice. We are proud of her. In some ways I feel like she’s already left me. There are things I long to tell her, but I can tell that she wants to discover the good and the bad on her own. It’s only natural. We’ve all been there. When do we realize that the people around us can provide valuable information and ideas to help us get by in life? Certainly not when we are teenagers.

Remember when she went on her fourth-grade Big Island trip? A rite of passage for the children who left home for the first time in their short little lives? That’s the feeling I’m anticipating — another rite of passage for me, one I’m not eager to experience. One of my brothers-in-law, whose two children have safely gotten through college and are now making their way in the world, gave us some words of wisdom: “It’s only four years.”

And time will fly.