This was a week ago Thursday at 4 pm. In the same blue notebook I use to write down the beautiful things the girls say in my True Body classes and take notes about how the inhale actives the autonomic nervous system and the exhale actives the parasympathetic nervous system, I made a list:
- Mass in the lower right lung.
- Left rib (10th?) metastasis
- T8 lesion
- Lesions right lung, ground glass
- Lymph glands enlarged.
- Probably lung cancer. Maybe two (??)
- Small cell v. non-small cell. We don't know.
Since then, we have tried to get our heads around this. My mother, Sheila, is remarkably serene about the very likely Stage 4 cancer situation at hand. Some time this week a pulmonary specialist and/or an oncologist will make it official by giving the list a name. My brother came in, many many lovely people have called, come over, written, sent love. A hundred new lists have been made.
My mom and I were trying to jump rope double. She laughed so hard she spit on my head. She thought it was hilarious and it made me nervous.
I told my dad and my brother and my aunts and a bunch of other people. I can't even remember who now. I walked into the bathroom and my knees buckled in grief. I thought I might get sick. Then I stood up and looked in the mirror. I thought, "Wow, my hair is so long it actually touches my back."
My mom volunteered in my grade school library, putting the plastic covers on the new books while I returned books to the shelves. I loved the precision of the Dewey decimal system. I loved how you knew exactly where to find a book just from the numbers. I liked watching my mother make neat creases with the book covers.
I gave my mom Reiki after her needle biopsy. She fell sound asleep and reported she felt better when she got up. "Must be the medication," she said. "Duh! Reiki!" I proclaimed, holding up my hands. We laughed.
She listens to me talk about anything, any time, even during the times that listening required the patience of a saint. I would rattle the ice cubes in my whiskey glass and slur some new obsession or passion. My mother would kindly inquire the next day about whatever the heck I had been talking about the night before. I would act like she was annoying for even asking.
We sat in the cafe at Joseph Beth Booksellers. My brother cried and my mother rubbed his arm.
I was rehearsing to be the "Littlest Angel" in the elementary school play. I had a fever so they called my mom. I remember her walking down the aisle to get me, past the chorus, toward the stage. In my fever dream, she glided like an angel.
I do not know how to not have my mother. I covered the material in a novel to prep myself emotionally and I could hardly bear it in fiction.
I understand that the species would not survive if we couldn't make it through the loss. But my personal Dewey decimal system, how I know how to find myself, depends on the whereabouts of my parents, my brother and my son. It depends on where you are. All of you. When I lost Kristin, I reorganized my personal navigation system around her family, friends, husband and son.
So if you see me looking lost or making a list or just trying to breathe, you will know why.
And maybe you can just touch my hand or look into my eyes so I know I am still here, so I can find my way. That's what I am going to do for my mother, as long as I can.