"Remember when you were in the hospital?" Kaylee says from the backseat of the car.
My grip on the steering wheel tightens and I feel my chest tighten along with it. I take a deep breath, my last hospital stay was a little over a year ago, but the stress and anxiety my absence during the hospital admission caused Kaylee was something that she still brings up from time to time.
"Do you remember how I used to eat all your hospital food?"
I feel relief wash over me. This conversation isn't going to be like so many other conversations she has about the hospital, begging me to promise that I will never go to the hospital again, a promise I can't honestly make.
We share memories about her coming and eating my meals and how I always saved her dessert. We reminisced about how I always ordered an extra dessert so she could have treats when she came to visit. How one time my dinner arrived too late and you had just left when my tray arrived. My floor nurse that day, knowing how much you loved the sorbet, ran down the hall and stopped the elevator door to make sure you got your sorbet before leaving. You mention coloring together in my hospital bed and we bring up all the happy and fun memories we had while I was inpatient.
The car is quiet for a minute when I hear, "I wish daddy would go to the hospital so we could visit him and eat all his food and color." Kaylee is used to daddy working all day so the idea of him being gone felt safer and less scary which is why I am sure she hoped for him to be in the hospital and not me. But the fact that over the last year her memory filtered out the hard parts of the hospital, but retained some of the fun times we had together while I was inpatient, so much so that she wanted to return and relive the good moments made my heart swell.
So often I worry how my disease, especially hospital stays, disrupts Kaylee's happy childhood. I feel an immense amount of guilt over how my life negatively impacts hers. And yet, the very worst part of Cystic Fibrosis to a small child, having it take away your mommy for 8 days, has left her with some happy memories lets me let go of a bit of that mothers guilt that seems to go hand in hand with the disease. I know Cystic Fibrosis will get harder as she gets older and becomes more aware of the long term repercussions of the disease, but for now I am happy to know that together we can make happy memories even in the midst of this hideous disease that is great at leaving destruction and sadness in its wake.