That there is a Latin word from the late 1500s.

The word vicissitudo is the word that gave birth to vicissitude, a word that we actually used to use in our English language until our brains shrank from disuse. Atrophy will do that. Vicissitude means change, or shift, or turn. It’s a noun, which means it is a person, place, thing, or idea. It’s not capitalized because it is a common noun.

But I might just petition The Word Powers That Be (echo, echo, echo …) to change vicissitudo into a proper noun.

It’s the name I want to use for my fairy.

You see, I was looking at my To Do List and I realized it wasn’t getting any shorter. And then, I pulled a Peter Pan. Sort of. Ish. Instead of reviving a fairy whose pixie dust has all run out and bringing her back to life, I thought maybe I could just create a fairy.

This morning, while it was still dark here at Horine Manor, and all the small ones were still asleep, I stood in the middle of my living room. I squinched my eyes shut, threw back my head and whispered as loudly as I could whisper inside my head, “I CAN CREATE A FAIRY! I CAN! I CAN! I CAN CREATE A FAIRY! I CAN! I CAN!”

I even used a British accent. It took about ten minutes, and I was nigh upon giving up, when I heard a sort of reverse snap and crackle. It sounded something like this: elkcarc! pans!

I opened my eyes and … there she was … perched on the edge of my Jesus chair. (The Jesus chair is the chair in the corner that used to belong to my Meme. It’s where I meet Jesus of the mornings and we have ourselves a little sit-down before I forge ahead and usually mess up the day …).

She’s a cute little booger and not nearly as small as I thought a fairy should be in real life. But what do I know? This was the first fairy creating session I’d ever conducted, so the fact that a fairy was perched on the edge of my Jesus chair obviously freaked me out. But only a little. You see, my To Do List wasn’t going anywhere and it certainly wasn’t shrinking. And, apparently, when I created this fairy, I imbued her with total comprehension of the meaning of her existence, which is convenient, because I didn’t have the time to explain all the complexities of human life.

She stood about four feet tall. She was as strong or as tender as any situation might press her to be. She wore sensible muck boots, denim shorts, and a stain-resistant t-shirt. She had a jacket tied around her waist, a Frost, two-blade pocket knife in her right front pocket, and a magical How Everything in the World Works reference book in her rear, left pocket. She pulled a hair elastic from her wrist, tied her hair back into an adorable messy bun, and then held out her hand, palm up, for my To Do List.

I want to name her Vicissitudo, for she is my vicarious fairy. (And vicarious is another word that came from vicissitudo. Vicarious means “to take the place of.” In other words, she’s my substitute.) She will do all the hard stuff and I will not have to actually strain my muscles, chip a fingernail, or endure emotional pain. All this frees me up to do the pleasant things in life … like eat chocolate and read.

This morning, she took one look at my To Do List and did the ‘heavy lifting’. She poured the chicken feed into the feed can. She cleaned up that gross stuff around the bottom of the toilet where the seal meets the floor. She dealt with the resistant child while I was busy playing homemaker with my pumpkin clove pancakes. And she picked up the emotional crumbs when the house was quiet once again and I realized I was mostly alone.

Then, when she was finished with the hard stuff, she disappeared. I guess she went to that fairy break room to wait until she’s paged over the loudspeaker. Since I created her, I like to imagine she is stuffed into a cushy chair, a cat in her lap, a cup of chamomile on her little table, and a book in her hands.

I wish she had been here a year ago today.

A year ago today was the day my mother turned 65 years old. She was officially eligible for Medicare. She could get senior discounts at places to eat, places to change her tires, and places to relax.

A year ago today was the day my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.

Who couldn’t use a vicarious fairy at a time like that? Heck, I would have even created one for my mom, just so she wouldn’t have had to endure a left-side, modified-radical mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy, the hair loss, the weariness, the unexplained pains, the stares, the sudden realization of mortality, the o-dear-God-I-have-to-tell-my-children-that-their-cancer-history-begins-with-me …

Yeah, I could have used a stout fairy who would have taken that place a year ago.

But, I think I might have missed the point. And believe me, there is a point to suffering. It’s called growing.

I grew when I watched my Momma’s mouth move as she told me that all people have at least a five to seven percent chance of developing cancer in their lifetimes, and that my chances were now increased.

I grew when I escaped to the front porch that night when there wasn’t enough air left to breathe in my kitchen because I was so angry that my Momma was being brave instead of completely pissed off at God.

I grew when I sat in the waiting room and tried not to think about all the what-ifs, and I tried not to look at my Daddy who was in a continual state of turning-things-over-to-God.

I grew when I saw her for the first time after that, how it was somehow easier to look at what wasn’t there, as opposed to seeing what was left.

I grew when I felt the child-of-my-old-age move within me and I considered what it really meant to this unborn baby that her grandmother had cancer and they might not even meet this side of heaven.

I grew when I realized that no one … not even the doctors … were talking about that horrible word PROGNOSIS, and how it must be really bad because they wouldn’t even say.

I grew when I saw the color pink EVERY SINGLE TIME I TURNED AROUND and the color caused me to think of the cancer that could kill my mother instead of the innocent, anticipatory baby colors of pink and blue and mint green.

I grew on the day of our ultrasound when I silently wished that the stranger inside me wasn’t a girl because more girls than boys can die from what grows in their breasts, and then the sonographer took a picture of the parts that said the little stranger didn’t have the absence of boy parts, but the presence of girl parts.

I grew when I prayed that God would take away my fear of girl parts.

I grew when I pulled a kitchen chair into my bathroom and Momma sat down and I took the electric shaver to her head after the first rounds of chemo, and my oldest girls helped me sweep the hairs into the dust pan and place the hairs ever so gently into the trash can.

I grew when my Number-Three-Child and I spread out the poster board on the kitchen table and we made a victory sign for my mom when she finished her last chemotherapy session.

I grew with every growing-back-hair, and today-is-stronger, and massage-the-lymphedema-away, and please-let-this-test-be-cancer-free …

And it is one year later, to the day. And it is my Momma’s birthday and IT IS HUGE because when we grow, we grow together, and we grow good things because that’s just how and who we are. And we live intentional lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)

So maybe I won’t petition The Word Powers That Be (echo, echo, echo …) to change Vicissitudo into a proper noun. Maybe I won’t name the fairy. Maybe I’ll just let her be on break for a good, long while, living a comfortable fairy life without all the burdens of humanity.

Maybe I’ll just do the hard things myself because I have a lot more endurance to grow.

Maybe I’ll just call on her when I really need her … like to open this jar of chocolate-chunk-fudge-sauce for later, when I pour it over the ice cream I will eat with my Momma for her birthday.

Cheers, Momma. Here’s to a crazy, hard, intentional life.


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