She’d found out she had leukemia right about when I started trying to get pregnant. Her cells divided. My cells divided. Our selves divided. I’d taken her to the E.R., that very first night, when she felt woozy, really woozy, scary woozy, but, even as she lay in a bed beneath a blanket made of paper, shrinking, she’d ended up engaging the doctor on call in a midnight analysis of the comparative narrative strategies of Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, and wondered whether they knew some of the same people in Tenafly, New Jersey; did he have cousins there? I was with her through terrifying treatments, each new unavailing misery. And she was with me through ultrasounds and feeling the baby’s first kicks, each new impossible joy. She wrote to her doctors in August of 1998, when I was in my first trimester, and she was considering an experimental bone-marrow transplant, “How is ‘success’ defined? Is it simply living through the procedure?”
She lived through it. But living through it was not the definition of success. When she was sure she could not survive, when her doctors had given up, she decided to refuse to die until my baby came; she would wait to meet him, and only then would she let go. She wanted to wave to him on some kind of existential highway, driving in opposite lanes. It was like a game of chicken. Due date, death date—it gave a whole new meaning to the word “deadline.”
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