From the title you may assume that Stanley is perhaps a small child taking his first step. He is not, and yet he is.
Stanley lives up the street from me. He is married to Laura and father to Lilly and Joel, six-year-old twins. Two more headstrong children you are not likely to meet. They seem to be in the constant state of fighting, screaming, or crying. Laura has the patience of a saint and delivers every line as if she owes you an apology, but I like her. She is one of my best friends. I like Stanley too, though I don’t know him all that well. He always seems to be running. He runs past my house everyday. He is addicted to running. He says it helps him focus. The other thing I know about Stanley is that he is a father of a dying child.
Three years ago Lilly was diagnosed with cancer, she’s been through chemo, and a bone marrow transplant. She was lucky that Joel was a perfect match. But now she is not so lucky and the cancer is back. They found it two days ago, and the doctors give her thirty more. Since then it has been very surreal. We have entered uncharted territory without a map. The feeling of being set adrift without sure direction has taken over and we wait for our cues and hold to our oars.
I look up from my book as I sit on my front porch and there he is. Stanley is walking. He is wearing his running clothes and has his iPod hooked up and in place. But he is not running. He walks slow and heavy, every step seems to take all his effort. I sit still and honor him for this. For the attempt, for trying in the face of complete chaos and frustration and confusion and fear, to carry on as best as he can. I honor him for trying to hold on to the fragile frame of a life that is slipping. I honor him for showing up to his ritual and attempt normalcy. My heart grows heavy as he passes my driveway and I want to stand and applaud him, I want to call out encouragement, I want to cry and carry on. But I don’t. I leave him his dignity I hold my breath and I simply allow him to walk by.