Authentic Affection

“Beau, I’ll give you $1 if when you see Miley, you give her a high five.”

At this point, I am not beyond bribery. I knew that our instagram friends would be at clinic, and although I get to see them on instagram almost daily, Beau doesn’t have much experience with them. Sure, he’s heard me talk about them before, and I’ve showed him the occasionally instagram story, but he doesn’t “know” them. In real life, we have seen her twice, including yesterday, for the combined time of 10 minutes.


And moreover, kids can smell when you are trying to get them to do something insincere for the sake of appearances. Or at least, mine can.

“$1? No way, how about $100?”

We were pulling in to the hospital parking lot. I could feel my negotiation window closing in quickly. I had to finalize the terms AND explain that we were not going to announce said terms publicly. This would be best accomplished if we could agree to terms AND allow for just enough time for him to, hopefully, forget about the whole conversation and then have just enough memory to give her a somewhat natural hug.

“Beau, dude, I am not giving you $100 to hug a 3 year old… How about $5?”

“$5 for a hug? Who had I become?

“Fine, NO HUGS!” he chuckled. I couldn’t tell if he was digging in or messing with me, but the valet employee was at my window and we needed to unload. We were out of time, negotiations completely stalled.

Serves me right, I shouldn’t try to persuade him to do something like that. Forced affection is no affection at all.

I resigned as we entered the lobby, it was too late to bring up now.  What I wanted was a picture perfect embrace, showing the culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears that these two have endured, not together, but alongside one another on the same long, hard road. But whatever…so my kid doesn’t hug a stranger from the internet, it’s probably for the best.

But then he saw her, in the 7th floor cancer lobby.

“Oh Beau, look…, there’s Miley.” I said casually.

He approached her tenderly, knowing from Selah that small people can be most unruly, and in the most delicate voice said, “Hi Miley.” And for all I could tell gave her a hug. Quite honestly, I don’t even recall if it was a full embrace or an awkward side hug, because my eyes were so full of tears that I couldn’t see the details. I was sure he would all but ignore her, as he does many people at clinic (read: coping from trauma), but he didn’t.

He know’s that they are our people. He hugged her, by his own overflow of affection.

I was able to connect with her mom while we shared 10 minutes together waiting for our appointments. 10 short minutes, that felt like more than enough and only the scratching the surface. We have an experience that is so shared, much remains unspoken. It’s a funny thing making friends on social media when your kid has cancer. You know exactly how their fearful thoughts play out at 2am when they wake to their child coughing, but you don’t know what car they drive, or what the backyard of their house looks like. You know everything, and nothing, about them.

Beau doesn’t normally pose for photos. And if you can get him to humor you with standing near the frame, you surely can’t bet on his looking at the camera nor acting a part of the shot. When I am busy overthinking things, I sometimes wonder why he never looks straight at the camera- is he shy, nervous, uncomfortable? Yesterday when we left clinic and her mom asked to take a picture, I wasn’t expecting anything, but hassle.

“Beau, take a pic with Miley before she leaves.” I said half expecting it to fall flat. I prepared my response to her mom, ‘sorry, he isn’t much for photos.’

“Ok, Miley, come here,” his voice squeaked, the same sweet voice he uses with Selah. He approached her slowly and squatted down.

“Put your arm around her.”

Was this actually happening?

“Now, smile.

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7 thoughts on “Authentic Affection”

  1. That is one beautiful picture and a wonderful story behind it…..thank you, Betsy, for sharing this journey——it inspires me every day!


  2. My son is an ALL survivor and your words today brought tears to my eyes: “We have an experience that is so shared, much remains unspoken…You know everything, and nothing, about them.” The light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter as you move into remission. You’re in our prayers. God is faithful.


  3. Reading your post through tears. That sweet boy of yours learning to be so gentle. Been praying for you guys since seeing you in church. Much love!


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