It was eight o'clock on a Tuesday morning, which meant two things - we were already running late and traffic was going to be brutal. I had to drop Tommy off at my parent's house and then make it to work in the next fifteen minutes. It didn't seem to matter what time I set my alarm for, I always ended up in the kitchen, cursing the coffee pot for taking so long and wondering if today would be the day I got fired. My mother had offered to watch Tommy at our house which would have saved me some time, but I insisted on bringing him to her. I knew it was tough on him when he got too sick to go to his elementary school anymore, and the last thing I wanted was for him to be stuck inside the house all day.
I grabbed my keys, purse, and '#1 Mom' coffee mug that Tommy gave me for Mother's Day last year. I raced out the front door and nudged it shut with my hip. I had just started thinking that we might make it on time after all, but then I turned around and all hope was drained out of me. Tommy was no longer buckled into the backseat of the van like I left him. He was now sprawled out on his back in the middle of the front lawn, looking up at the sky.
I started walking to him, but before I could say a word he yelled, "I found one!" His arm was extended straight up and he was pointing at a puffy white cloud. This was one of our favorite games to play whenever the weather was nice out. We would grab a blanket and some juice boxes, and lie side by side, taking turns finding shapes in the clouds. I let out a frustrated sigh. We couldn't afford to spend time cloud gazing right now. A small voice in the back of my mind reminded me that we couldn't afford not to spend time cloud gazing. Time had become a precious commodity over the last few months and I'd been trying hard to cherish every moment.
Tommy was sick. He knew he was sick, but he was too young to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. He knew he had to get poked with needles a lot, and he knew that sometimes Mommy cried when the doctors talked to her. But he was too young, too innocent, to understand he was running out of time. That his life could be over before it even got started.
We got the latest prognosis from Tommy's doctor three days ago. "Enjoy the time you have left," Dr. Griffin recommended, as if we would leave the hospital and run right to Disney World, laughing the whole time. It felt like he was telling us to give up, and I couldn't accept that. I felt the same way when he offered to put us in touch with Make a Wish, which is why I declined the offer. But now, thinking about how important each moment is, I regretted declining. I made a mental note to call Dr. Griffin later today and ask him to set up that meeting. I smiled thinking about what I knew Tommy would ask for. Recently my father developed an obsession with old western movies, and he was always watching them on TV. Tommy spent so much time over there that before long he developed his own obsession with cowboys. I had gotten him a cowboy hat a few weeks ago and he was so excited he didn't take it off for days. He even wore it to bed.
I shook myself out of my thoughts, making the decision that this was a moment I didn't want to miss. A memory that I would be able to have and treasure in the future, and I didn't want to lose out on a single one of those. I placed everything I was holding on the roof of the van and lowered myself onto the grass next to Tommy. As I laid back next to him I asked, "What do you see?"
I glanced over at him and then back up to where he was pointing. I squinted. "Oh, I see it now," I lied. In truth, I had never seen anything that looked less like an elephant. It didn't even have a head, let alone ears. "Look at that one," I pointed to a longer, oval shaped cloud. It was big enough that it blocked out the sun, but still allowed the sun rays to shine through. As if by magic the cloud lined up perfectly with the sun, and the beams of light looked like they were extending out from the end of the cylindrical cloud. "It's a flashlight," I told him.
Tommy looked up at the cloud, and then back at me, shaking his head. "No it's not."
"Hey!" I cried. "I didn't tell you that your cloud wasn't an elephant."
He looked confused. "That's because it was an elephant."
"Alright Picasso," I challenged him, "what do you see?"
"Horse," Tommy responded without missing a beat. I should have known that would be his answer. I thought back to the Make a Wish people and renewed my vow to call them.
I pointed to the cloud right above the one he was talking about. "A heart."
I expected Tommy to argue about this one as well, but instead I heard him ask quietly, "Like mine?"
"Just like yours," I smiled at him.
He was silent for a few minutes, looking like he was deep in thought. Finally, he asked, "Are clouds like stars? Can you make a wish on them?"
"Absolutely," I assured him. I watched as he looked back up at the sky. I could see his lips moving, but I couldn't hear anything. Whatever he was saying, he intended it to be between him and the clouds. Then, as if he had wished it into existence, the phone rang. "Hello?"
"This is Dr. Griffin. We found a heart for your son."