It hasn’t even been a week yet since I heard the news that my son had relapsed, but it feels like a million years ago. We’re waiting to know more about our planned course of attack and if we’ll be traveling to Cincinnati or Philadelphia or somewhere else. Meanwhile, all I can think about is that stupid tumor hanging out in my son’s chest. If cancer could speak I’m sure it would only have nefarious things to say. Perhaps it is saying something like “you can’t stop me now” or “I’m getting ready for a growth spurt” or “I’m not happy with my current view, I’m going to move to another room.” I just want it out of my son. I just want to stop it. It cannot grow and it cannot spread. I’m just not going to give it permission to do so. Too bad it doesn’t care what I have to say.
There’s no scrapbooking material for this. I sincerely enjoy documenting my children’s lives because I know I was obsessed with my tiny pink baby book that mom only filled in a 1/4 of the way (second child, Vietnam war, I’m sure there was a good reason for her to give it minimal effort.) However, I LOVE taking pictures and I LOVE writing about how awesome my children are. But in this fight for Ben’s life, I’ve really struggled with how to document that. It’s a story that deserves to be told, but not in a traditional scrapbook way. There’s no “Watch My Tumor Grow” stickers or “I excel at chemotherapy” pages. No trophies to be given for multiple surgeries. No awards for participation. They DO have this kind of stuff for breast cancer, but they traditionally get all the attention. People tend to think that’s the only kind of cancer out there. Anyway, I’m kinda peeved that this has taken up so much of Ben’s life and while I know the bravery aspect is something to be documented, the rest of it just isn’t. So not fair for my Ben.
So, last week when I learned the news of his relapse, I was heartbroken on so many levels. And after speaking briefly to key players in Ben’s journey, I picked up the phone to make one more phone call. I started punching in the familiar numbers knowing that the person on the other end was going to understand. Was going to comfort. Was going to share in my grief. Would drop everything to come to me. Would hold me in her arms until the sobbing stopped. Would make sure we had everything we needed to get us through this one more time. Would drive me absolutely insane, but that’s what mothers do. And to realize that I’d lost her more than two years ago definitely added insult to injury.
My mom did drive me crazy. We fought a lot. But when it came to Ben, she was an excellent caregiver. She was always at the hospital. She offered respite when it was needed. She loved Ben with her entire being. And when Madeline was born shortly after Ben’s diagnosis, my mom formed a bond with that little girl that was nothing but love. She bought Madeline a million pairs of shoes before Mad could even walk! She had the most spectacular wardrobe of any toddler in the universe. I think Madeline was a focus that my mom needed. Something that Madeline needed. Mom loved all of her grandchildren but the bond between the two of them was beautiful. I miss it. Madeline misses it. We miss her.
The fact that today would have been mom’s 70th birthday, well, I wish we had a better way to celebrate than to be waiting to learn – once again – what Ben’s treatment protocol will be. But it is what it is. In the meantime, Mom, I’ll imagine your hand wrapped around mine. Your fingers running across my aging hands that have turned out to be just like yours. Then you’ll say something totally inappropriate that will make me laugh. We were good at that, weren’t we? Our sick sense of humor got us through all the crap.
And even though you drove me insane, I sure wish you were here to hold me. To tell me that it was somehow going to be alright. That I’ve made you proud by being an excellent mom to Ben and Madeline. That would be the best compliment ever.
Happy Birthday, Mom. If Heaven throws birthday parties, I hope they all chip in and get you a kitten. Or some flowers. Or a new outfit from St. John. And, of course, some new shoes.
I need you. I miss you. I love you. Happy Birthday.