Licking honey off a thorn

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 13, 2013

The following is an excerpt of a column I wrote almost 11 years ago, shortly after my daughter Quinn was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When I wrote this, I really didn’t know what the future would hold.
I am happy to say that Quinn is currently a junior at Lenoir-Rhyne, as active as can be in the life of the school and well on her way to being an elementary school teacher.
This column is special to me not only because it was among the first I ever wrote, but because I still think its message is important. Its genesis was a conversation with my husband at a little Greek restaurant during a short break from the first of many hospital vigils to come.
You hear a lot these days about living like you were dying. I think you just need to remember that how you spend your minutes, your hours, your days, is how you spend your life.

As we looked back on the 11 years we have had so far with our daughters, nine of them with Quinn, what a comfort it was to realize that as parents, we wouldn’t have changed much about those years.
Together we have sung loudly to the soundtrack of “West Side Story” and danced barefoot in the living room to the Grateful Dead.
We’ve marveled at the flight of great blue herons on the Yadkin and the graceful dips of solphins at the Outer Banks.
We have memorized “Each Peach Pear Plum” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” We’ve collected rocks and adopted puppies from the pound. We have talked trash on the baketball court and cooked Thanksgiving dinner together at the beach.
We have loved Long Glade Farm in the Shenandoah Valley and an Acadian vishing village on Cape Breton Island called Cheticamp. We have ridden horses, played Pictionary and eaten Calamari. We have shot off rockets on Overton’s lawn, tie-dyed shirts and put on puppet shows.
We have surf fished at Cape Hatteras and hiked at Hanging Rock. We have happily traveled thousands of miles to and from Russet Road in Stamford, Conn. We have loved our dog Seamus and our new puppy Edy. We have cried over “Old Yeller.”
We have eaten hot dogs at Haps and sun-warmed strawberries right out of Memaw’s patch.
We have had the same nightmares.
We have ignored a messy house in favor of looking for toads. We have stood breathless within 10 yards of a bull moose in the wild. We have grown tomatoes and pumpkins.
We have laughed so hard that we’ve cried.
We have run, hiked, bladed and scootered down the greenway near our house. We have taken midnight walks in the woods in October, splashed naked in Smoky Mountain streams and slept in wet tents together. We have broken into choruses of James Taylor’s “Shower the People you Love with Love” when somebody’s temper flared.
We have given each other nicknames.
We have talked about death and God and being kind. On occasion we have eaten enough cookie dough to spoil our dinners. Once we slept together in the same bed wearing parkas to keep warm during a power outage in Knoxville. We have acuiqred and shed Tennessee accents.
We have honored each other and found joy in every day together. We have said “I love you” — a lot.
Sometimes, life seems like licking honey off a thorn, but how very sweet it is.