Day 287/365 F*ck That

I knew she was feeling better when she sweetly suggested I put a sign outside her door telling the priest making rounds to Fuck Off.

I howled laughing.

You have to understand, this is a woman who didn’t give herself permission to curse in front of me until I was about 40 years old. I still find her use of the word “fuck” entirely surprising and therefore absolutely hilarious.

She doesn’t have anything against priests, per se. After all, one of her favorite people was her cousin, Shawn, a Catholic priest. I think it’s just that…well, sometimes grief brings people closer to God, their faith, their church…and sometimes it simply makes people say, “WTF?! Screw you for letting this happen.”

At the moment, Mom finds herself in the latter camp.

Within eight months she lost the man she’d loved since she was fifteen years old, and found out she has stage 3 breast cancer.

Personally, I think WTF is a perfectly justified reaction.

So when the priest was lurking in the hall outside her hospital room, where she had ended up after some complications of chemotherapy, it really was in his best interest to steer him clear of room 223. (I told him she was resting, because…well, I like to keep my options open, I guess).

This is where I tell you Mom is fine. Well, she’s okay – as good as can be expected. She will be discharged today.

It was scary seeing her so sick….sick enough for a drive to the ER at 4am.

Seeing her looking so small and vulnerable in the hospital bed, I was thinking about the time I spiked a high fever…the highest fever I can remember. My first daughter was only a month old. I didn’t know what to do. My husband was out of town. I felt too sick to care for my own baby. I was worried that the very milk she needed to sustain her would make her sick.

I called my mother at 5am.

I need you.

Mom rushed over, and she took care of Beau, and she took care of me.

All day.

There was no discussion about it.

It just was.

These past few days I felt a flipping of roles as mother became daughter, daughter became mother….

She took care of me, I’ll take care of her.

There is no discussion about it.

It just is.

She is such a fighter. I feel a bit in awe of her.  This morning when I arrived with coffee, she was up, showered, dressed and ready to go…

Unfortunately they decided she needed to have a blood transfusion before they would release her. “Well Mom,” I said, “I think you’re going to have to put the Johnny back on.”

“Fuck that.”

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(She really didn’t do it, you guys.)

Day 238/365 The Elephant Revealed

“…and so I start chemo next week,” she said, exhaling.

My heart started racing the moment she told me I should sit down. Then it all became a blur of words like “tumors” and “biopsies”.  I struggled to bring this information into focus – to process what she was saying.

She has cancer.

She’d known for a month. She’d gone to all the tests and consultations before telling any of us. She didn’t want to ruin the summer, she said. “You had so many fun things planned. Why would I want you to spend the month worrying and waiting for test results? Besides, it would have ruined my summer too…all the sad, worried faces.”

“Mom, I can’t believe you’ve been going through all of this alone.”

“I wasn’t alone,” she said, “Your father was with me.”

I crumbled.

Initially I was angry at her for not telling us right away, although I soon realized I probably would have done the same exact thing. We’ve all been through so much. She wanted to spare us all until she had all of the facts – a plan of action, answers to the questions.

I wasn’t angry at her. I was just really f’ing angry. Period.

When is enough, enough? Can’t we cry “UNCLE”?

It had only been eight months since dad died from a heart attack.img_3696 My parents met when they were fifteen. Twenty years ago he had a heart attack, and she had breast cancer. Obviously they both survived that time around, but now…it was all lining up too eerily. I couldn’t help but think that maybe they are simply a matched set, meant to be together. It is a thought that is both romantic, and terrifying.

Not her, too.

However…

The thing about my mother is, she is one of the strongest women I know. If she sets her mind to doing something, she will find a way, from moving an enormous piece of furniture she has NO business moving on her own (because she couldn’t wait for my father to get home! Lord, no!), to starting her own business, to standing up to a bully neighbor.

When it comes to cancer, she is already a survivor. 

If she doesn’t believe she is ready to leave this Earth, I have to believe she isn’t going anywhere. Not without a hell of a fight.

So, we have our weekly “date” at the infusion center, she and I. Every single week she tells me to just drop her off and go home…or to the mall, or something (the chemo infusion takes 3-4 hours).

The thing about stubborn, strong women is that they tend to birth other stubborn, strong women. So of course I insist on sitting there with her, whether she likes it or not.

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Mom, I can’t do this for you (not that you’d let me), but I can do it with you.

We’ve got this.

 

Day 102/365 Front Row Seat

“Can I go down to the dock?” she whispers into my ear, gently waking me in the early morning. “Sure,” I reply, “Can I come too?”

She beams, “Yes!”

I go into the bathroom to splash some water on my face. When I emerge I see she has already grabbed a wool blanket off one of the beds. She takes my hand.

We venture down the hill to the dock. The fog is swirling.

We spread the blanket around us both like a giant pair of wings, and we take a seat at the end of the dock…side by side with a front row seat to the awakening day.

Day 14/365 – Ruby

Today is Ruby’s birthday.  Last night when I was snuggling her into bed, I said,

“This is the last time I’ll see you as a seven year old. Do you think you will still want to snuggle me when you’re eight?”

“Yes,” she said, thoughtfully.  “I think I’ll snuggle you until I’m sixteen.  After that I’ll be busy driving around with my friends.”

Oh my, they grow up so fast, don’t they?

She crawled into bed with me in the middle of the night (which she never does anymore unless she’s not well).  So, for the start of her eighth year, we woke up together, cozy in my bed. Outside my bedroom window the sky was ablaze.  It was completely stunning.

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I have a friend who says she can see and hear angels. I believe her, actually, because she just…knows things. She has always said that Ruby is surrounded by angels wherever she goes. I believe that, too.  There’s just something about her that is magical…otherworldly.

One sleepy evening she said to me, “Mama, you make everything better.”  I thought my heart would burst.

It is actually her who makes everything better.

I am just so grateful to have been invited along for the ride.

(Even if before long she will be sneaking off with my keys.)

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