NPR logo 'Are You OK?' Isn't an Easy Question

'Are You OK?' Isn't an Easy Question

The other day I told a lie. Actually, I did it twice. I was getting together with some friends and the young son of one of them came up to me and said, "My dad says you have a blog, and it's because you have cancer." I answered that he was right on both of those.

I was pretty impressed that he said that to me, he was clearly used to talking to grown-ups. But then he turned back into a kid.

"But you're all right now, right?" he asked. And without hesitation, I said "yes." What else was I going to say? I wasn't going to explain about my tumors and what they're doing to my body. I couldn't talk about what all that meant long term. And I certainly wasn't going to start throwing around terms like "metastasize" and "prognosis."

Then he asked me again, this time with a little more urgency, with the concern that children can show in a way that breaks your heart, "But you're OK now, right?" I think I said, "Yes, for now.?" I'm not sure why I added the "for now," that seems sort of unnecessary, looking back. But that seemed to satisfy him.

I have no qualms about answering that way. I don't think any good would have come from the unvarnished truth. I actually save that for just a handful of people in my life. Why upset him? There will be plenty of time for him to learn about life, to learn that it contains sorrow as well as joy, to learn that bad things do happen to people. All that lies ahead of him. I wasn't going to be the person to start that part of his education. Life will take care of that.

For that moment at least, he was pretty sure that all was right in the world. And those moments are precious in anyone's life.