Tag Archives: Cancer Sucks

You can change the world.

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You may or may not know that my mother died four years ago from a brain tumor. If you’re interested, you can read some of that journey here. This year, my father-in-law lost his battle with lung cancer. But whether or not you knew about those things… you probably know someone who has had cancer. You likely have lost a loved one or friend to cancer. You may, as I have, felt frustrated that there was nothing – not a single, damned thing – that you could do to make it better for that person, or for their family, or for yourself. Helplessness is a terrible, dark feeling.

I’m not talking about taking casseroles and watching the kids while they’re in chemo, or cleaning their house for them or helping them run errands. Those things are amazing and valued and necessary, and you are right and good to do them. I’m talking about the helplessness of not being able to stop the cancer. To kill it, to make it go away and stop the pain it causes. To help your friend or loved-one stay here with you, and their children, and their spouses… to live a full and glorious life. I couldn’t do that. And it pissed me off. It still does.

But this is your chance to tell helplessness to fuck off. (Sorry, I use that word a lot when talking about cancer.) You can spend a small amount of your time now, and small amounts in the future, to be a part of a HUGE effort by the American Cancer Society to change the world.

YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

Watch this video, and follow this link to find out where you can get enrolled. It’s such a small thing to do, and will make such a tremendous impact on the lives of your kids, and their kids, and grandkids. Stop feeling helpless and DO something. I did, and I hope you will too.

 

I’m doing it for this beautiful, brilliant girl. Who will you change the world for?

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Tell Me A Secret

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We all have secrets. Some of us keep secrets from our spouses – the fact that your credit card balances aren’t quite as low as you claimed, or maybe the fact that you were engaged to someone else before you met them. But what about secrets that would be appreciated, or even cherished, by someone else… but you decide to keep them to yourself. Have you ever been selfish with a memory?

As my husband has been receiving updates from his step-mother and watching his father suffer what is probably his last battle with a lifetime habit of cigarette-smoking, we have talked about his feelings and how I can support him through the child’s journey he’ll be taking as his dad goes through treatment. One evening we reflected on my mom’s cancer battle, and he suddenly said “There’s something I haven’t told you before.” Obviously, in other circumstances, I might worry about this statement, but in context I simply wondered what he could be referring to.

His tears welled up a little as he confided a secret he’s kept for over 3 years. The night before mom died, as my siblings and I wrapped up an evening spent laughing (loudly) and telling stories in her hospice room, we each said our good-nights to her and headed out the door. Rick was the last to bend over her and give her a kiss, and he told her he loved her. She was heavily medicated to relieve the seizures she was experiencing due to her brain tumor, and had not been responsive or able to communicate for a couple of days. We were hopeful that she was able to hear us, but unfortunately we didn’t get to hear what she may have wanted to say to us. But when my husband said goodbye, she responded to him. He doesn’t recall recognizing any words, but she mumbled. She recognized that he was communicating with her, and she let him know.

Mom was probably the closest thing to a real mother that my husband had, but they had only a short time together – almost exactly 6 years. She was never one to mince words, nor did she hold back when heaping praise. She took Rick in when he moved here, unemployed and broke, from Colorado to marry her daughter and be her grand-daughters’ step-dad. They had so much in common it was kind of funny. I used to joke that he married me for her. 🙂

We left my youngest brother with mom that night to spend the night in the room with her, and around 6 a.m. he let the rest of us know that she had died in the night. I suppose I could be upset that my husband never told me about that night. Some people would be, I’m sure. I mean, she was my mother, afterall. I certainly would have enjoyed knowing that she recognized him. But, I know she thought he was pretty great, and I’m so pleased that her effort to say something to him at least confirms that she knew we were there. I hope that she heard our laughter and knew that she had done her job in this lifetime… she raised four children who will care for each other and be there for each other in her absence. She taught us how to remain positive and move forward through difficult times with determination.

I think it’s better that she didn’t respond to me, because I probably would have wanted to make her say something… I would have asked the doctors if perhaps she wasn’t ready to go. I would have hung on, even when it was obvious there was no point. It was time to let go. She said what she needed to say to the person who needed to hear it. I’m glad he has that special memory… but I’m also glad he finally told me about it.

The After Times

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The After Times

When my mother died I was devastated for myself. I lost a business partner, a confidant, and the biggest cheerleader for me… for everything I did in my life… that I would ever have. I lost the person I went to with any frustration or life-question. I lost my best “girlfriend”… the person I went to when my spouse drove me nuts, when my children left me speechless, when I had a life-decision to make and wasn’t sure which road to take.

I have a wonderful husband who has picked up the slack in some areas. I have had to learn to go to him when I am frustrated or confused, and he does a great job, but he doesn’t fill the entire void. My sister covers a lot of ground in other areas, because she has become my road-trip partner and let me rant to her when I am going nuts at home and just need to feel sorry for myself.

But the biggest source of sadness I have is actually not about me. It’s about her. My sister. She was, in many ways, an only child from late elementary school through college. Even though my mom remarried, they were kind of a dynamic duo. Mom was able to share many experiences with my sister that she couldn’t with her older kids. When mom died, one of my first feelings of sadness was for the many, many experiences that my sister was still going to have that our mom wouldn’t share with her. My brothers and I had had weddings, children, career successes, and hobby successes that my sister had only started to set goals for when she died… I hated that my sister would not have our mother here to share these things as I and my brothers did.

Last week, my sister lost one of her close childhood friends to an untimely death. Mom knew the young man’s family (I say “young man”… he was 31, so I guess he was actually a Man) so her number should have been the first my sister called. They could have shared a common history as they discussed the news. They would have been able to remember some great moments together. Mom would have offered to go with my sister to Dallas for the funeral. Instead, I got the phone call. I am sympathetic, of course. I even cried as my sister told me what she knew about what happened. I remember her friend, and met him once or twice, but it’s not the same. Not even close.

I knew when mom died that I would be taking mom’s place for my sister in many ways. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy when it has to happen. I am happy to do it, of course! But I hate with every cell of my body that I have to.

Some things get easier with time, but I don’t think this will. Ever.

The end of an era.

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In 1966 my grandfather built a house on some property that my grandmother inherited. My mother had already married and moved away, but my siblings and I spent most Christmases and weeks every summer there.  We explored the woods, climbed on limestone bluffs full of fossils, picked blackberries, helped plant the vegetable garden, harvested the produce, learned to paint with my grandmother, rode in the back of grandpa’s pick up to feed the cattle, gathered eggs, fished in the river, roasted marshmallows in the fireplace… so many of our favorite, formative memories and experiences were created there.

On the eve of the property being sold on the courthouse steps to the highest bidder, I thought I’d put down a few of my favorite memories…

My grandmother was an artist. She took lessons from one of the leading tole-paint artists in the 1970s and sold her beautiful items at craft fairs throughout the Ozarks for years.  She had a room in the house dedicated to her painting. It was a delightful room full of paint, brushes, bookshelves full of books, and had a large bay window. I loved to watch grandma paint, and have a few things that she let me paint alongside her. One day she invited my brother and I to gather flat river rocks from the gravel driveway and let us paint little faces on them. I was impressed and a little jealous that my brother’s rock faces had better eyes than mine did. No wonder he went on to be a brilliant illustrator.

Walking through the woods in the spring looking for fern fiddleheads and wild violets.

During the summers before central air was installed it was seriously warm at night upstairs where the bedrooms were located. A box fan was placed at each end of the hallway outside the bedroom doors and the windows were opened to allow air to circulate through the house. The fans created a hum that harmonized perfectly with the raucous noise of the cicadas that started up at sundown each evening.  I will always enjoy the sound of tree frogs and cicadas at night – it’s not just a memory but a sensory feeling of peace and security that settles within me when I hear those noises. It’s a sign, to me, that all is right with the world.

Christmases at the farm, when we were there before the 25th, involved scouting out the perfect tree. Very often, grandpa had already located a contender and we would trek with him through the woods or ride in the back of his pick up to the bottom pastures to offer our approval and beg him to let us help with the sawing (the answer was always – appropriately – no). Cedar trees often grow along fence lines on farms in the south, and the aroma of fresh-cut cedar will always be a favorite of mine.

Fresh tomatoes, still warm from the vine, sprinkled with sugar. Mmmmmm….

Another scent that stays with me is a combination: fresh sawdust and cigarette smoke. My grandpa was a Marine in the South Pacific during World War II. Along with all the other GIs, he was provided with free cigarettes on a regular basis. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind that was, but the result was that he started smoking. I don’t actually remember seeing him smoking often, but I know he did while worked in his woodworking shop on the farm. When I went to see him in the shop there was always a specific smell that permeated the air. It was also in his shirt when I hugged him goodnight. It doesn’t sound like a smell that would be pleasant, but I love it.

Helping grandma hang clothes on the line outside the pump house/laundry room.

My grandmother made fantastic home-cooked meals that included a huge selection of vegetables from the garden, canned tomatoes, and beef that was probably raised on the farm. Whenever she made pie crust she cut the scraps of pastry into little strips and sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon. The pies were wonderful, but the little strips of baked pasty were perfect.

Grandma used to put on rubber boots at dusk and beat the bushes around the patio with a hoe to chase out the copperhead snakes so she could mangle them.

Helping grandma hang clothes on the line outside the pump house/laundry room.

It’s ironic, I think, that on the day that the property will leave our family the trees are bright green from the recent rain, the iris are blooming and the woods smell fresh and musky. It’s one of my favorite times of year there, and every spring I’ll wish I could go back.

November 25

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I promise you, my dear (and possibly imagined) readers – I will NOT be writing about my mother in every post. I truly do think about other things… but today is a special day.

Today is my mom’s birthday. That’s her in the picture with the Mary Tyler Moore vibe going on… the jowl-sporting infant would be moi. Mom would have been 65, and I’m sad to think about the things on her list of “to-do” items that didn’t get done. I won’t list them (those I know of) here, mostly because it would make me cry, but also because it would be a bit morbid, and a little silly.

I will just say that I miss her, and I wish she were here to celebrate with us.

Happy birthday mom – I love you!

ah, well…

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We went out to mom’s today for a check up. Rick wanted to bring the riding mower home, and I wanted to see if the fleas we were fighting all month in August (and into September…) were finally gone now that her cats have been in their new homes for a couple of months.

On our way over, my son asked if Nana was going to be there. I told him no, Nana isn’t with us anymore. Then, when we were pulling up, he asked where she lives now. I reminded him that Nana died, and that she lives in our hearts now. Finally, when we had been there a little while, he said “Mommy, I’m really sad that Nana died.”

Aren’t we all…

p.s. the fleas survived.

Remains of the day

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My mom died in August after an eleven month battle with brain cancer. As most children do when a parent dies, I’ve been considering how to go about dividing up things of hers  amongst myself and my siblings. It’s going to be a chore, and will probably be pretty emotional at times, but my sister and I will be working together, so I think we’ll manage. And there will likely be a LOT of laughs as well…

Then there are the moments when something “big” happens… my kids’ milestones, my own celebrations of new jobs or whatever. I thought those might be difficult, but I have a seriously cool bunch of sibs who are just as giving and supportive as mom was about accomplishments, big and small. So, not a big problem so far.

But let me tell you what’s been difficult:

Finding mom’s contact info in my email account.

Scrolling through my phone contacts and seeing her name.

Looking for an old email and coming across the last ones I received from her.

These things are so painful. SOOOOOO PAINFUL!!! I can deal with the single moments. I can deal with sorting and putting away her favorite books or her photographs. The thing that is impossible, and that causes my breath to catch in my throat as I try not to sob, is not wanting to delete her name. Closing her cable account or turning off her internet connection is nothing really… but not having her name on my phone seems like it would be the end of the world. I cried the other night because I just wanted to call and chat with her.

I know the number on my sim card is not HER. Of course I do, I’m not delusional. But somehow, it is.