The other night we got a package in the mail. It was wrapped in a brown paper bag, kind of how we covered our books in elementary school as kids. Return address from some random street in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But just the initials “SV,” no full name. I unwrapped it and it was a Pur water purifier, the kind you hook to your tap. Super nice, but as much as we looked around the box, there was no note, nothing to indicate who it was from.
We had just come off a particularly rough weekend (more on that in a bit) and considering I hadn’t left the house in ages, the entire family joined in a rather invigorating search for the sender. Dad went on Google, street viewing the address (an empty lot in rural Wyoming.) Mom got on Facebook, searching for anyone she knew with the sender’s initials. Tim paced back and forth, who could it possibly be? The web said a man in his late 60s lived at the address; it had to be one of my parents’ friends. Who had sent this mystery package? Was it a bridal gift? A cancer gift? Water purifiers could go either way, you know. For some 30 minutes or so we all were enraptured with this gift, as if we stared at it long enough, the sender would become clear.
To put a little perspective as to how we could get so obsessed, let me give you an overview of the weekend. I had gotten kind of cocky that chemo hadn’t affected me, and it totally came back to bite me in the ass. (Note to self: shrimp tempura rolls are NOT a good idea after a week of jello). I spent the majority of the time on my back and was even at the point of contemplating short-term disability. I hadn’t been myself in what felt for forever, and days were blurring into each other. My idea of keeping social engaged with Tim and my parents was to leave the door of the bedroom open so I could hear people. I felt sorry for myself and I didn’t care who knew. I was bored of being and I know everyone else was bored of me being too.
Monday morning rolled around and after an entire night of bathroom rotations (I even pushed Tim to the couch so mother could do a 24/7 vigil), I woke up around 10 am. I’m not going in, I said. I’ll work from home. Maybe.
My mom went to the kitchen, got me some jello and came sat on the side of the bed. Open up. As I slowly chewed (do you chew jello? slush? melt it in your mouth), she gave me a little talk.
Niki, she started, you’re going to work today.
Huh? I just said I wasn’t.
Niki, you are going to finish this jello, lay down for 20 more minutes and then you are going to work. You are not cripple and you are not contagious. I have had my stomach cut open 3 times and I still managed to raise my kids, and keep up the house and have dinner on the table when your dad came home. People have it way worse than you and if you don’t get your ass out of your bed, you are going to just lay there for four months. Do you know what pregnant women do when they get sick at work? They go to the bathroom, puke, wipe their mouths off, and then they go back to work. You have a job to do and you are going to go do it. You are not the first person to get cancer and certainly will not be the last and you are going to get out of this damn bed and that is an order.
In her defense, I needed some tough love. And she did drive me into work, pack me a lunch most 3rd graders would have envied, and after what she deemed an acceptable amount of time had passed, came back and picked me up. But considering that my taking a shower and attending my job constituted the most excitement any of us had seen in a week, you can understand why receiving this package would seem like a mystery worth the involvement of Sherlock Holmes.
Stare and stare as we would, no one could figure it out. Finally. after about 45 minutes, it occurred to me that maybe the sender had left a note inside the box. So Tim opens it up, and inside we find, not a water purifier, but a book on hedgehogs, nicely wrapped, and completely and totally identified with a card from my friend Bruce.
We laughed so hard I swear I almost peed my pants. Tim looked at me and was like There’s my Niki. That’s the most I’ve seen of you in there in like a week. So thank you Mom for the much needed tough love and thank you Bruce for the laugh (and the book). You literally brought me back into the world of the living.