Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Editor's Note: When I originally posted this in May, 2004, I had no idea what my own mother would face in the 18 months to follow. In a span of about 12 months, she lost her home, her husband (my father) had a yearlong hospitalization and became wheelchair bound, and she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic breast cancer of the bone.

In July 2005, I left her hospital room and prepared myself to say goodbye to her within 3 months.

In December 2005, we all gathered around the Christmas tree to watch the kids open presents and to celebrate her remission.

Through it all, she has maintained her sweet disposition, and continues to be a source of strength for me.

As she has always told me, "Believe the diagnosis, ignore the prognosis."


I only hope to be half the mom that she is.

I love you, Mama.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Natalie Merchant

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god's own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation . . .

- - - - -

May 2004

I have had the nicest Mother's Day, and it isn't even over yet.

Yesterday, I had a day out with my daughter Rachael. She is 8 this year.

She and I took her baby brother to his grandmother and left for a few hours of shopping. We had some time on the way to talk about Mother's Day. My daughter never tires of hearing about the day she was born, how I decided on her name, and other tidbits of her early days.

She could barely contain her excitement when we parked in front of the strip shopping center. My daughter is just beginning to discover her taste. She adores the occasional trip to the Limited Too , and it tickles me to see her carefully considering purchases and shopping the sales racks (good girl!) She decided to try on a little top and skirt, and carefully approached the dressing room with me in tow. I was fighting the images that were flashing in my mind . . .

As she stretched to hang her choices on the hook in the dressing room and steadied herself with one hand against the mirror, I thought about laying on the delivery table, draped, as a team of doctors and nurses attended her birth.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they're seeing

As she slowly bent down to remove her shoes, slowly pulling her shoes off, I remembered the blinding lights of a little suitcase bed delivered to our house to fight her jaundice, and the little velcro strip she wore across her eyes to protect them from the harsh glare.

Watching her struggle to steady herself as she stepped into a little skirt, I remembered the years of therapy that she had endured to walk, to talk . . .

We were in the dressing room for better than 10 minutes, but it was a proud little girl that looked back at her from the mirror, dressed in a very pretty summer tanktop and matching skirt.

With purchases made, we decided that lunchtime was fast approaching. She opened her little purse to reveal that she had found a Sweet Tomatoes coupon (my favorite) and wanted to take me to lunch. She had a little stack of dollar bills that she had carefully counted earlier, and she was so pleased to be able to invite me.

There were a couple of people that impatiently waited behind us as she pushed her tray along the salad bar, carefully choosing and scooping "salad" (corn, chickpeas, pickles, raisins, sunflower seeds, and broccoli) onto her plate. It took her awhile to get to the end, retrieve silverware, and tell the cashier that she would like to pay for us both. The women behind us that had been silently urging us to hurry stopped in their tracks when they heard her speak . . . her halting speech and trembling hand put them in their place better than my angry, she-tiger look ever could.

People see me
I'm a challenge to your balance
I'm over your heads
How I confound you and astound you

I remembered the meeting with her neurologist years ago, gently breaking the news to me that she might never acquire the life skills she would need to live independently as she was counting the bills and change into the cashier's hand. Her face was beaming, angelic, when the cashier commented on how pretty she looked, and how nice it was that she was taking her mother out for lunch. One of the young men that worked there offered to carry her tray, and I was thankful that it seemed to be a service offered to all, and not something that only she required. She hates being singled out, and generally does everything in her power to complete things herself, but this day, she indulged.

Lunch was such fun . . . we shared muffins and tasted each other's soups ( she wasn't crazy about the vegetable, but particularly liked the chili).

We talked about the gifts she had selected for her grandmothers, those women that had been pillars of strength for me during the dark days when I wasn't sure how I would ever be able to handle all that I had been given with her birth.

Their hopes for her never wavered, even when I would gently report back discouragements from the multitudes of doctor visits and therapy sessions.

O, I believe
Fate smiled at destiny

Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer

Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted

She excused herself from the table to go to the ladies room . . . alone. While I waited for her to return, I decided that today was a day of celebration, that I could look back and remember the early days without feeling the pain and the fear anymore. That I could sit here with her now, her beautiful little face full of hope and promise, and I could share in that with her, without reservation. That I could now look forward to her life, its struggles, its victories. That I could resurrect my expectations of what she could become.

With love, with patience and with faith
She'll make her way
. . .

For alot of people, just another day, but for me, the day surpassed my wildest dreams.

Happy Mother's Day.

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