|Me and my Lo|
Back in 1997, I volunteered my time to act as a camp counselor at Camp Quality (now Camp Wapiyapi), a camp for kids with cancer and their sibs.
I was partnered up with an 8 year-old boy who had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; he was just slightly older than my own kids. After wrangling three children aged between three and six, I figured I was pretty well prepared to chase after one boy with cancer.
From the moment we met, Lo and I just clicked and he kept me on my toes the entire week. We all lived together in communal bunk houses, each counselor and camper paired up in bunk beds. One day, Lo ran into the bunk house to change out of his wet shirt - there were a lot of wet shirts thanks to the abundance of water guns - and one of the other counselors was in there when Lo whipped off his shirt, exposing his chemo ports on his chest. The counselor looked at him and said, "Lo, I didn't know you were sick."
Lo looked at him like he was an idiot and said, "I'm not sick! I just have cancer." And then promptly raced back outside to continue to play.
The whole week I played like a kid and fell a little in love with Lo.
After camp was over, I turned him back over to his mom, who I also fell in love with. No matter how much I tried, there was no way I could even imagine what it had to have been like in her place. Single mom, no contact with the sperm donor, and an otherwise healthy kid suddenly diagnosed with a horrible life-changing disease.
We kept in touch; I made the drive to visit him and his mom a couple of times that year. Digger began to refer to him as the older brother who didn't live with us. Lo got progressively worse, to the point that he ended up getting his wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. When his mom called to tell me that Make-A-Wish had contacted them, my heart broke. For me, up until that point, Lo's cancer was still very abstract. I knew he had cancer, but I didn't have to deal with it day in and day out like his mom.
She wasn't calling to break my heart, though. She was calling to tell me that Lo wanted me to go with them on his Wish Trip to Disney World and that the Foundation had approved me to join them.
In January of 1998, we headed off to Disney World. The limo picked us up at Lo's house and drove us to the airport, where we flew to Kissimmee, Florida. Give Kids The World is a village specially designed for kids with terminal illnesses; they provided us our "house" for the week, which acted as our base of operations.
Just like at camp, I spent the entire week playing like a kid. Only, this time, I was pushing Lo around in a wheelchair. Oh Lord, did he hate that. That child despised being singled out as "that kid with cancer" and he felt like the wheelchair advertised the fact. We let him go the first day without the wheelchair and he had such bad leg cramps that night and was so exhausted that we were able to talk him into it the rest of the trip.
I returned from Disney World with a heavy heart. Even though we'd had a great time, I knew that only kids who were terminal got granted wishes. Telling him goodbye to come back home was horrible.
But then he went into remission.
And went to Camp Wapiyapi in 1998. I couldn't get the time off to be his counselor again, but I met him and his mom at camp to see him off at the beginning of the week and picked him up at the end of the week. When Camp Quality became Camp Wapiyapi, they changed venues, which worked out even better for me. Camp was now in Allenspark, about two miles from the Lodge, so I stopped in to see him during the week. I'm not so sure that his "new" counselor appreciated it, but since it meant I got to see my Lo, I did it anyway.
I picked him up from camp and took him for a trail ride at the livery and headed back to town to meet his mom to go to the Bill Engvall show. I did the one thing Lo hated. I pulled the cancer card to get him back stage to meet Mr. Engvall. I hadn't seen Lo so mad in the time I'd known him. He crossed his arms, sat his skinny butt down on a bench and refused to talk to me. And refused to talk to me. And refused to talk to me.
Until they called us backstage and Mr. Engvall greeted us with a big smile and hugs.
Only then did Lo forgive me for pulling the cancer card.
Since that time, we don't spend that much time together. Life got really busy for both of us and he started to get healthier and healthier.
I don't see him a couple of times a year anymore, instead I see him every couple of years.
He graduated high school the year RCC and I met, so we drove out to see his graduation.
The following year, RCC and I got married, so Lo and his mom drove out to our reception.
Today, I got a call from his mom. "Is this really Lo's mom?" I answered the phone after seeing her name show up on my caller ID. My heart stuttered between being happy to hear from her and dreading potentially bad news.
"Yes it is!" she answered cheerfully. "Does your mom still own the Lodge?"
Now, there is pretty much only one reason people call to see if Mom and Bill still have the Lodge and that's because they're getting married. The only question I had was, which of them was getting married? Lo or his mom?
My Lo. My little Lo, who will forever be 8 years-old in my mind, is getting married.
Excuse me, I'm getting a bit verklempt.