"It's okay, Sweetie," I whisper, bending over to kiss her forehead. "I'm here, and you're going to be okay."
Greta chokes back a sob, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Okay Momma," she says, looking at me with wide, scared eyes.
She's home sick. Because of the blizzard and the subsequent power outage, we've been trapped in this house for six days.
School reopened on Tuesday, and I woke with a spring in my step, happy to have power back and the kids in school. We'd been on top of each other without electricity or showers for four days, and I was eager to get back to the routine.
I found Greta quietly crying in her bed, holding her head. "It hurts," she said. "Everything hurts."
Shhhhh, I said, my heart sinking. It's okay. Just go back to sleep.
I shuffled Finn off to school and mentally rearranged my day. It's probably just her sinuses, I thought. Things will go back to normal tomorrow.
That was Tuesday. Today is Thursday and she's still suffering from crippling waves of nausea, headaches, heartburn and body aches.
She woke up this morning with bright eyes, telling me she finally felt better.
I smiled to myself as I listened to her giggle with Finn while they prepared for school. I hadn't heard that sound in far too long.
Everything was fine until she put her backpack on and went out to wait for the bus. I saw her wincing, holding her head, and she turned to me and said, "Oh no, Momma. It's BACK" and burst into tears. "I thought I was all better," she sobbed.
She rested her head on my shoulder, shoulders heaving. "But I WANT to go to school!" she cried. "What do I do?"
I placed my hand lightly on her forehead, felt the heat rising from her body. I bit back a heavy sigh and said, "Head on inside, honey. Obviously you can't go to school yet."
This made her cry louder, and she stumbled indoors, flopped onto the couch and dissolved into hysterics.
I sat in the cold sunshine outside waiting for the bus to pick up Finn, feeling close to tears myself. Irritation welled up inside. I just want to have a normal day, I thought. I'm behind on everything. This is so aggravating.
Finn spun around in the driveway, laughing. "Hey Momma!" he yelled. "Happy Valentine's Day!"
My heart lurched: Valentine's Day? We've been so discombobulated I totally forgot.
Valentine's Day. I'm transported back one year to the day. At this time one year ago I was staggering to the car, heading in to the city for my very last radiation treatment. Nausea and searing pain were the norm. A good day meant that I was able to sit up in bed and talk to my kids. I hadn't eaten solid food in weeks, getting nutrition exclusively through my feeding tube. I weighed 129 pounds - about what I weighed in 8th grade - and my neck was a flaming, oozing red sore both inside and out.
I remembered with a rolling feeling in my gut how scared I was that day. The idea of being locked into that head mask one more time, to submit to the poisonous, healing rays, was almost too much to bear. Almost.
Finn laughed and waved to me before he got on the bus, and I waved back with tears in my eyes, grateful for the warmth of the sun's rays on a cold day and the feeling of my sturdy, healthy body.
I wipe her damp bangs off her forehead and rub her sore back.
"Thank you, Momma," she whispers, her eyes closing. "Thank you for taking care of me."
I rest my head on the pillow beside her. "That's what I'm here for," I smile.