Me, as a Mom
My first memory was falling out of bed. The bed had a huge sunken spot in the middle, and apparently, my parents thought I wouldn’t roll out. The first of many assumptions gone awry. Without delay, my mom was scooping me up in her arms, asking over and over, “Are you okay? Are you okay?”. Of course, my mom was perfect, she was always there. With memories such as these, how could she have been anything else? Through all the bike crashes and bloody cuts, broken hearts and misunderstood boys, she was there, with concerned love, a gentle touch, and cooing assurances.
Little did I realize during these days, she was training me to be a good mom; well, at least the best mom I could be. Distracted by a divorce, a dysfunctional boyfriend, and way too many part-time jobs, I did do my best. But as I look back, I realize I wasn’t the mom I thought I was. Despite my participation, they turned out spectacularly. I had little trouble with either of them, my oldest a kind and intelligent boy, and my second, a surprise of an adorable and independent baby girl.
Though I would love this collection of thoughts to be about my momma, it won’t be. The wound is still too raw. I lost her about 2 years ago, not realizing she was my cheerleader, my safety net, my best friend, and my confidant. So many stories we’ve shared, and you may hear a few here, but this will be focused on my motherhood. My path. My cancer. Please realize though, all of these words and events are based on the love, teaching, and caring I received from her. I could never have handled the hurdles and challenges without her strength and guidance. Perhaps that is why I feel so alone now. Yup, you won’t be hearing too many stories focused on her. My laptop would seize from the onset of a saline sea …
Music was a large part of my growing up, and so, it became a huge part of my raising my kids. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, again, but now that I hear them sing along to the music I play when they visit, I see they were more influenced than I thought possible. They know all the lyrics and can actually tell me the words I think I’m singing, instead of just the sounds I thought they sang. Perfect example …
“with the birds, I’ll share this lonely view” 1
Instead of my version
“widabur dal sherzee a lonely blue an”
And the really funny thing is, they thought I knew the words and was singing them exactly as they were written. Ha! Proof being if you sing loud enough, you don’t need to know the words!
The first 17 years of my life were protected; I was shielded from heartbreak, illness, and pain. I never knew sadness beyond two weeks at Girl Scout Camp or my dad’s failed attempts to quit smoking. I thought I was untouchable and resilient, but more than these things, I just didn’t know any other way. Didn’t everyone have a life like mine?
I married young, to a boy I hardly knew. Married for 3 years; it was 4 years too long. After the heartbreak of his 5th girlfriend, I relinquished my hold, realized I had failed, and moved on with courage and foresight. As much as I could possess at the ripe old age of 22.
Within a year, I met my children’s father, though it felt like an eternity until love-struck my heart. We married quickly and lived a wonderful existence for 5 years. Deciding to begin a family, we welcomed our sweet boy and stepped into adulthood with a convertible backpack, 3-position car seat, and an overpowering feeling of inadequacy. How could something so small demand so much responsibility? Because he looked so helpless, that’s how. He consumed my every thought, when I was with him and when I was away. I was incredibly fortunate to have a mom who offered to watch him while I was at work. This is where I use ‘mom’ and ‘god-sent angel’ in the same sentence. Which have the same meaning for me.
When our little girl was born 3 years later, I quit work and stayed home with the kids. These I believe, were the best years of my life. I hesitate to say positively, as each year with them now proves to be incredible; I marvel at their intelligence, vision, and compassion each time we’re together. Where in the world did these two amazing people come from, I’ll never know. Because I certainly had nothing to do with it.
Five years later and two years of counseling, my husband and I agreed to divorce. Painful details and hearts are broken, so I won’t elaborate. We are still good friends, and he comes over every Thanksgiving to drink all my scotch. I do love a home full of happy and inebriated people!
My two children and I moved into a small little cottage after a couple of years of condo life. I found a full-time job at the local high school so I could still be on their schedule and have almost all summer off too. And pay the new mortgage. After another year, I was able to go back to college and get my BS in Marketing. Soon, we all found ourselves studying together. My son and I raced to see if I could finish my degree before he graduated from high school. Wow, don’t the years just speed by?
Up to this point, everything progressed like a 1950’s sit-com. Well, aside from the divorce. We had bumps and such, but always talked and worked our ways through them. Those two children helped me with lame boyfriends and horrid professors as much as I helped them through fractions and friends who ignored them in school.
One a brisk day at the end of summer, my son and I were gathering up junk to put on the curb for the dump pick-up. I had begun a new job at the university and was struggling with the learning curve; as well as not getting along with the boss. As I said, struggling. Add to that, I had found a lump under one arm and was told I should have an ultra-sound done of the mass. One thing led to another, and my flat-chested girls were scheduled to have a surgical biopsy done.
I had received the results on the day my son and I were stacking the junk. I finally got up the nerve to talk to him on one of our passing trips.
“Ren, I got the results back from the biopsy today. I have breast cancer.”
He took me in a giant hug (he’s 6’4” tall, and I’m 5’6” – I hit him collar bone height) and said,
“This isn’t what’s going to get you, mom. You’ve been through lots worse than this.”
I thought about it for a minute while standing there, covered with dirt, crying into my son’s belly button.
“Yea, but who’s going to want a gal with only one boob?”
“Well, maybe a guy with only one testicle?”
Surely, I wouldn’t care if the man I loved only had one testicle. Then why would a man care if I had only one boob? Well, we don’t have to get into that one right now …
So, life progressed from there. I’ll save the second part of the story for another day. You should know, though, I made it through two surgeries, 5 years of tamoxifen, lord knows how many mammograms and MRI’s, and am still here to tell the tale. Me and both flat-chested girls. And neither one is drooping … yet! Both my kids have been by my side through thick and thin, hot flashes, mood swings, insecurities, and all, and even now as I listen to the quiet in my little cottage, I wonder, how did I ever get so lucky?
Kids are fine, one in college and the other rich as sin. The days gently roll by as I write my way to my second million. Currently, I have three dogs who keep me occupied, entertained, and continually wondering how in Hades did I end up with 3 dogs?! Yup, that will be in the next post also … and yes, they are much harder to ‘raise’ than my two children ever were!
‘Till next time, have a beautiful spring day!
1 Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Scar Tissue’