My mother has cancer. There I have typed it. I can't take it away. I can't erase it. I just have to put it out there and let it hang, because it has been sitting on the tip of my tongue, at the back of my mouth, at the base of my thoughts. I will say it again, my mother has cancer....and I am scared.
I am scared for her, for myself (selfishly), my children, for the future. And in the quiet moments, when I get off the phone with her, a flood of memories rush back. Ones that I thought had faded or had been lost somewhere amid the other happier moments in time, like my wedding day or the birth of my children or vacations at a far off exotic locale.
I check in with her everyday, sometimes its a long talk. Sometimes its just a quick temperature read. Her chemo has started and she is tired. Yet, everytime I end the call, I am 9 years old again. It is early December and I am in fourth grade. Old enough to know something is very wrong, but not mature enough to completely grasp the gravity of the matter. I was in between the ages that my two older children are right now.
I finish my homework and kiss my grandmother goodnight. She was dying of breast cancer and after my grandfather had died of a heart attack she came to live the last two years of her life with us. I didn't know this at the time, but she had signs and symptoms and a tell-tale lump for some time. She was a proud old world lady who didn't trust religion or doctors and kept everything to herself. By the time my mother could intervene, it was too late, the disease had spread.
That night as I lie awake thinking about horses and basketball and Christmas, I could hear her slow, labored breathing, which turned to gasps and the low, muffled tones of my parents. My father had closed my bedroom door and called the ambulance. When I heard my mother crying, I reached for rosary beads in the dark and began to pray. It seemed like it was late into the night when I heard the clank of the stretcher on the steps. The creak and groans of the EMTs as they ferried her from the bedroom, down the steps and out the front door.
"Please!" I prayed. "Please, help her!" The metal from the beads pressed crows feet into the heel of my hot, sweaty palm. I fell asleep at last with them wrapped around my wrist, while desperately asking God for some grand intervention. I realize now that my act was all in vain, all for me. She was already gone and I felt lost.
Now, I am lost again, caught between my parents and my children. Trying to live each day as it comes, because it, life, is too short, too fleeting and in the end always astounds you by coming back full circle.
To My Sons,
1 week ago