I have to start this story by explaining that I collect stuffed monkeys. I have about thirty of them so far, from little key ring sized creatures to giant three-foot-tall ones. This doesn’t include my most prized monkey: my husband. I started calling Milo my monkey when we were dating. He would give me a series of quick nibble-like kisses and then make the sound of a monkey. The nickname stuck and thus the birth of my monkey menagerie.
One monkey stood out among the bad news from this week. He is on the smaller side of stuffed animals, maybe a foot long but really thin. He’s mostly brown, except for the white of his face. Like all the other stuffed monkeys I own, he’s smiling. They all smile, which isn’t always comforting when you are crying your eyes out among their sea of happy faces. This particular monkey, though, I gravitated towards today. We had purchased him at Commenci, where I found all the cute head gear. When I got home, I scribbled the name Chemo on his tag. He was the one that would represent the battle of my life that I would win. He’d represent that which would save me.
Today, he made me feel such a loss. I sat and stared at him for a few moments and my heart ached. I could see a scene in my head as clear as if it were happening in front of me. A scene I wanted so badly my body ached for it.
There was a little boy standing beside his bed. Soft brown hair draped over his forehead and light blue eyes peeked from beneath. When he smiled, he looked just like Milo, right down to the sweet little dimples and crinkles along his eyes. A young version of my husband with a sweet, melodious voice that just sung softly to my heart.
Chemo sat on the side of it, his little brown legs dangling over the edge while the boy held his little paws. At first, he babbled a little to the monkey, speaking so quickly as if the two had their own language. He paused suddenly and then climbed onto the bed beside the monkey.
“Let me tell you a story about my Mommy, Chemo, and why you are my best friend. Mommy was very sick before I was born. So sick, they though she was going to go to heaven. But she didn’t and then she had me! You saved my Mommy’s life, Chemo, and that’s why we are best friends. You kept Mommy from going to heaven.”
His name is Elliot Jonathan. Milo’s uncle died a few years ago from a massive stroke. At the end, he couldn’t remember Milo’s name and called him Eli. I like the name, especially as short for Elliot. When we decided to have children, we knew our first son would be named Elliot, Eli for short. Jonathan, however, is special to me. A good friend, no a great friend, of mine from high school passed away. He was only twenty-nine. When I left New York and moved to Arizona, Jonathan was the one friend that made sure we never lost touch. He remembered every holiday, every birthday and attended every big event. He literally spent a week here for my college graduation. Jon, as we called him, was an amazing man and he never asked anything in return. His death hit me surprisingly hard. We were close, but I never realized how big a hole would be left in my life without him. Elliot Jonathan was meant to be born to honor these two wonderful men.
I feel like I am watching that dream slip away. My baby boy, the one I wanted so badly, feels so close and yet so far. I want that little boy; I just don’t feel like I am going to get that opportunity any more. It’s breaking my heart. What of all the plans we hoped and dreamed for?
Milo keeps hoping and I appreciate that he does. I’m digging deep for hope, but it is incredibly difficult. I’m losing my optimism, which was so fleeting before this. When it all began, I had all the hope in the world. Three months of treatment sounded like nothing. But three became six with no end in sight. Not-so-great news like cancer became cancer that was taking over my body despite our best efforts. Each little win was overshadowed by a great loss. I’m so tired of losing.
But I want that little boy playing with the monkey. I’ll do anything for that.