I love vanilla soft serve ice cream. My wife hates it. Since most soft serve places don’t offer hard ice cream we usually end up at shops with pretty teenage scooper girls digging into ice cream buckets. While I prefer soft serve, I, unlike Robin, am flexible and can handle homemade coffee heath bar ice cream just fine. But, if I’m alone, I’m going for soft serve.
Tuesday, I put on my cycling clothes and loaded my bike on the rack to take a spin near the ocean. I rode about 6 miles, still training for the Fight Back Cancer Festival 10 mile ride (wanna sponsor me and join the fight?) on September 22. My back tire was wobbling pretty bad but I did okay. On the way home I dropped it at Allspeed Bike and Ski to get a tune up. (My poor bike is 23 years old!)
What’s any of that got to do with ice cream? Allspeed is right next to a Portland soft serve icon, Lib’s Dairy Treats. Of course I want to support local business so I pulled in and got in line where a man asked me about my American Transplant Foundation cycling shirt.
“So what does it take to get a shirt like that?” he asked me.
I told him my transplant story. He and his wife listened intently. Both we’re amazed that I was out and riding a bike just a few months after getting a new liver. He shook his head like you do when you hear something incredible and asked, “So, are you out of the woods now?”
Out of the woods? It’s a strange question. We all know what it means. Am I safe, out of danger, in the clear? The woods can be a dangerous, scary place.
I explain the differences in my life now as a transplant survivor; the daily drugs for the rest of my life, the monitoring blood tests, the checkups and tests. I tell him about the fatigue, the sensitivity to germs and my goal to be the one in every six transplant recipients who is able to return to full-time work.
As I talk I realize that I live in the woods now. It’s my reality. My friend Bob got a new liver in April and then just passed away a couple weeks ago from problems. I see faces of my friends in my online support group and replay their struggles in my mind. Some are waiting for a transplant and others are fighting rejection. I think of Megan who died suddenly this week after being transplanted 2 years ago. She was young and active, even taking self-defense classes.
I live in the woods.
I feel like I’m living at the edge of the woods right now. It’s pretty bright and not very scary at all. I can even wander into the meadow and forget that I live in the woods. I remember the darkness and the damp smells from the center of the woods where I was living just before my transplant. I remember the sounds and the loneliness. It was only four or five months ago. I like the edge of the woods so much better.
Still, I live in the woods now and will for the rest of my life. Perhaps I will be able to move into the meadow a bit, but the woods will still be within view.
I wanted to tell my new soft serve friend that like a broken bone that heals completely or a cold that goes away, my transplant has me back to normal. Instead, I told him a little about my new normal and let him know that I love living here in the edge of the woods. I am thrilled to be romping in the meadow.
My reality? At any time my house can be quickly moved deeper into the woods again. I guess that’s really the reality for every single one of us.
For now, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to enjoy the warm sun on my face, the swaying wildflowers in the tall grass and the sounds of songbirds.
I can eat soft serve again. I can pinch my wife’s butt as we walk and then run away laughing while she giggles and chases me to give me a swat. I can ride my bike and walk my adorable puppy. I don’t want to think of those nearby woods right now.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
– Psalm 100