A free-for-all with the youngest hunter 19 years old and the oldest 82 years young, our egg hunt scrambles the family tree in competitive pursuit. Once set loose on their quest for plastic treasures, aggressive relatives race ahead snatching eggs or blocking pathways, while meek, kind or slow hunters find many fewer treasures. Numbers alone, however, do not guarantee the best prizes. Eggs may be empty, or contain immediate rewards, or hold chances for larger prizes. Volume, contents and luck all combine to determine a seeker’s bounty. And, rules may change on a whim.
This spring marks the five year anniversary of our Life is NOT Fair Egg Hunt, a hunt that mimics life. Sometimes we work hard without positive reward, other times we receive rewards with minimal effort.
But we didn’t always approach egg hunts with such hard hearts. For more than a decade, we carefully color-coded eggs by child, stuffed an equal number of eggs with identical prizes, and hid the plastic treasures according to child search ability. With 16 years between the first and last born cousins, oldest children hunted “fair eggs” well beyond their bunny days. A few issues arose over the years – a teenage hunter once pulled a $20 bill out of his pocket exclaiming, “Look what I got!” causing the other children to tear their eggs apart looking for their nonexistent $20’s. But, most of the time our hunt was fair, amicable and predictable.
Equitable eggs until Easter of 2011, when we almost stopped the family egg hunt tradition. But, even with the oldest cousins graduated from college and working real jobs, fun for the youngest is hard to deny. Opting to orchestrate one final hunt, we leave the eggs empty to signal the end of an era, and purchase gift cards as a prize for each hunter still in high school.
Two days before the hunt, I take my husband for his “Welcome to 50” colonoscopy. Delightfully engrossed in a memoir about a couple salvaging their marriage by moving from California to a small village in Italy, the extra hour his procedure requires goes unnoticed. When the nurse calls me back to speak with the doctor, she doesn’t respond to my banter. She doesn’t even fake smile. While seated in the consultation room, my husband arrives laughing, spewing jokes. The aides are not responding to his humor either. When the nurse can’t get the computer screen to light up, she swears under her breath and leaves the room.
The Doc pulls out a series of photos of hubby’s colon, hands us a copy and says, “We have a problem.” He points out a section of minor diverticulitis and another with two small hemorrhoids, then pauses to take a deep breath before continuing. “And there’s a mass…here, which is probably malignant.”
It’s my husband’s first colonoscopy. You just have to do it, right? Wrong. No warning. No family history. No symptoms. No more jokes.
A biopsy will later confirm what Doc already knows, “It’s colon cancer,” he says explaining how a surgeon will likely need to remove the entire ascending colon. The only remaining question is how far it has spread.
Driving home, we chat just long enough for my husband to decide he wants to hold the news between the two of us. He wants to enjoy the Easter holiday. I agree to keep his secret.
The first 24 hours I can barely breathe without panic. I roam the house in a daze for fear of running into someone and spilling the stress. Then it hits me. Easter! Our son is bringing his girlfriend, and our daughter her boyfriend, to spend the weekend at our house. Twenty of my relatives will arrive for Saturday dinner, and 29 of my husband’s relatives will join us for Sunday brunch.
Wrestling with the challenge of holding the diagnosis private through the entire weekend, it suddenly occurs that a quote, saved earlier in the week, now applies to me in a way I could never imagine:
I hope for a little kindness spread my way as I spend the next day trying to clean and prepare dinner for our party guests. A nearly full bottle of olive oil slips out of my hands shattering on the floor. A serving pitcher drops and breaks. Then a carton of milk. Then a bin of flour. I forget to close the cooler drain cap and a huge puddle of water pools on the floor. I mis-measure ingredients dropping 1 teaspoon of salt, instead of ¼ teaspoon, into the frosting. I snap at my daughter who’s only trying to help and she looks so hurt that I must remove myself to the bathroom to cry.
By the time my family arrives for Saturday dinner, my nerves are frayed. Smoothing the rough edges with a shot of whiskey, it hits me: Life is NOT fair. I write numbers on little pieces of paper and tuck them into the eggs.
After dinner I announce, “We’re having a Life is NOT Fair Egg Hunt. Anyone can hunt eggs, anyone can win multiple prizes. There’s only one rule: we’re hunting indoors because of rain, so if you comment on the state of my housekeeping, you will lose all your eggs.”
As the hunters wade through cobwebs, dust flies and cat hair drifts from the most unlikely places. No one utters a word about the mess. In the end, one hunter acquires three of the best prizes. Others walk away empty-handed, including one of the youngest hunters. My stomach churns over the inequity but not the lesson. Life is not always fair.
If you drove by our house this past weekend, watched the adults out hunting eggs, and thought OMG, that hovering mom doesn’t know when to quit. Know that my husband reached his five year milestone this month and remains cancer free. Know also that I’m hovering only over a celebration of life … we enjoy playing games and we really don’t care what you think. Life is not always fair. If it was, you, too, would have an Easter egg hunt filled with unpredictable rules, loads of laughs, and a few coveted prizes.
Yes, I’m a recovering helicopter parent, married to a colon cancer survivor. And, while we continue to have the Life is NOT Fair Egg Hunt, I must confess that this year we also hid a few easy to find, specially coded eggs for the two year old who joined us. Preserving the innocence of youth remains a goal worth hovering over.
Since February 2000, March is designated National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. If you are past 50 and haven’t done so yet, SCHEDULE YOUR COLONOSCOPY TODAY. Life is not always fair, sometimes we must have medical tests we don’t want to have. If we’re lucky, the test will find the cancer in time for a cure. But, take a word of advice from someone who’s walked the path ahead of you: have your test the day after a holiday, not the day before.
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