Saturday, July 31, 2010

There and back again.

We're home from the beach. As I mentioned in my last post, the oncologist squeezed my mom in before I left so I didn't need to come back for that appointment. Which isn't to say she didn't have any other ones. She had a ton. Two with the radiologist. A chemo class. Financial counseling. And an entire days spent at the hospital to put in a chemo port, and get a scan to see if the cancer has traveled. My baby brother--I have three--went to some of those with her. My step-father went to all of them and everyone involved insisted adamantly that my presence was not required. "Enjoy your time with your family," they all said. And so I tried.

The first couple days were hard. Summer vacation is kind of a sacred time for our family. Where a bubble of a too small condo and too much free time forces a level of closeness it's hard to find in the busyness and responsibilities of real life. Especially in a family whose kids are such diverse ages. We look for ways to accommodate everyone. We say yes more than no. It is, without a doubt, my favorite week of the year. But this year driving away from our home there was a weight on my chest that was unfamiliar. Bouts of anxiety and sadness would hit me unexpectedly, especially at night, and there were times where it felt I literally couldn't catch my breath. But eventually the ocean started to work it's magic.

Good gracious, do I ever love the ocean. A lot of people in my life don't believe in God. They think they're too intelligent for all that religion nonsense. And I get that. There are times when it's easy for me to see how people could wonder where God is in this mess we've made of things. But sitting on a beach isn't one of those times. There's something about it. The way it radiates both peace and power. It's like someone running a steamer over all the knots and wrinkles inside me. God's creation ministers to me in a way nothing else can. And let me tell you, my soul needed some ministering this week.

I was so sad and anxious about what my mom was going through at home. And then the "cottage" we rented turned out to be a bit misrepresented. As in they failed to represent that no upkeep had been done on the place since 1986. The carpet and sofas were gross. The comforter on the bed was unusable and the first night we slept under the picnic blanket from the back of the van. And well, I must confess I didn't respond to this situation very graciously. There was a lot of stomping and pouting and a few tears. But it was right across the street from the beach. And thanks to that, my glass-half-full husband and my kids who didn't know any better, it all became a kind of funny adventure. We played putt-putt, and road go-carts and shopped, and ate and played cards and trotted back and forth to the beach every single day for a dose of God's medicine. And when drawers fell out onto the floor when you opened them, and the toaster caught on fire, and the bedroom door broke, we laughed. And when we finally got frustrated enough with the awful showers to start stripping The Littles down and showering them on the back porch after our daily beach trips we laughed even harder. We dubbed it our redneck beach trip.

And I think I'll probably remember it forever.

So even though the weight on my chest didn't ever entirely go away, it became much lighter. And sometimes, for a bit, I even forgot to notice it was there. And the kids had so much fun, there were tears when it was time to leave our shabby little beach home behind. Which made me tear up a little too.

We're home now, a fact that brings both wistful sadness and relief. Already the lawn has been mowed and laundry has been running for hours. The basement flooded while we were gone and The Man has already started ripping up the carpet. Real life, washing back over me as quickly as one of those ocean waves. And I am grateful. For all of it. The real life. My mom and siblings who did, indeed, survive without me. And for the vacation. Every semi-sweet redneck moment of it.

Pictures to follow. I took 200 and was too daunted to start going through them tonight.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not nearly.

I have no silly stories of witty words today. I spent the day at the oncologist with my mom. My mom, as I mentioned, is 55. She looks a good bit younger. She always has. Up until a couple months ago she exercised every day. Sitting at the cancer center, it seemed impossible to me that she would have anything in common with the other fragile looking patients we saw there. But she does. The verdict is in. She has stage 3b lung cancer. They are rushing to start her on extremely invasive chemo and radiation schedule in a week.

I am a terribly emotional person and I spent a lot of time praying today that God would give me the strength to be strong and calm for my mom. He did and I think I was able to be what she needed. We even managed to laugh some. I'm so grateful for that and for the prayers of some very dear friends that covered me today. But then I got home and googled the prognosis for Stage 3b Lung Cancer. And I can't stop crying. It's nearly midnight and we're leaving tomorrow for a week of vacation. But I cannot pack. I cannot sleep. I just cry.

People do this all the time. Every day. Mourn. Help their loved ones through these things and then carry on with the necessary and mundane. But I don't know how. I'm not as strong as I thought I was. Not nearly as strong.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The best laid plans...

When school ended in May I dubbed this "The Summer of Go and Do" The Littles had gotten big enough to take places easily and we'd finally liberated ourselves from debt, giving us a bit more spending money. And by golly, we were going to use it to have fun. And we have. We've been to museums, jumpy places, parks, movies and even that play place with cheese in the name that I loathe more than brussell sprouts. And that's sayin' something. We picked strawberries and rode Go Karts and bumper cars. And, since it's been hotter than the surface of the sun in these here parts we've had countless play-dates at pools, fast food playgrounds, and air conditioned living rooms.

We had a lot of fun. Ate a lot of junk. Saw a lot of friends. And, since I am both organizationally and directionally challenged, we also had a few missteps. Like the time I lost Pepper in a museum in downtown Atlanta. Or the time I arrived at a play-date and realized Boo forgot to put on shoes. Or the day I got lost twice three times in one day.

Or today.

Today, I took The Littles, along with the 3-year-old boy I babysit twice a week, to meet friends at a local puppetry center for a play about pirates. The pirate play was a hit, as was the puppetry craft afterward. Then we toured the puppetry museum. And scared the living tar out of everyone under 4 ft tall. Now when I see "Puppetry Museum" I think kids. Not a assortment of disturbingly creepy dolls in dimly lit rooms that randomly animate when your kids walk by causing them to burst into tears and run screaming from the room. But maybe that's just me. So to my friend, whose child I babysit. Thanks for chipping in for the puppet show. The nightmares are on me.

So we left. The GPS The Man ordered me after the previously mention day of perpetual lostness (which sadly did not include Josh Holloway or Matthew Fox) had not arrived but I figured I got us there, I could get us home. Just reverse the directions, right? (I can hear you snickering.) And I promptly pulled out of the center the wrong way onto a one way street into four lanes of oncoming traffic. Crap. After a bit of screaming and swerving I managed to get us off the road onto the sidewalk and am proud to say that no one in that car has met Jesus yet today. At least not face to face.

There was also an incident shortly after that involving being chased down by the manager of a fast food restaurant because I forgot to pay, but lets save that story for another day, shall we?

On Saturday we will be leaving to do the one last thing on our "Go and Do" list for this summer: our annual family beach trip. Tomorrow morning I will be accompanying my mom to her appointment with her pulmonary doctor to talk about the results of her tumor biopsy and then hopefully heading over to her Oncologist after that to talk about treatment plans. I'll know then whether I will be traveling back and forth from the beach to be with her for other doctor's appointments next week. I need to be strong and calm for her and so far I haven't been able to say the words "Mom" and "Cancer" without tearing up. So please pray for my peace tomorrow morning so I can be what my mom needs. And for wisdom for the doctors. And if you feel up to it, a complete supernatural healing for my mom would be great too.

I just realized that the last time I blogged here, prior to this week, was exactly a year ago today. When we were at last year's beach trip. For those of you who were still here when I came back a whole year later, I was touched. Either you are very loyal or you absolutely never clean our your reader. Either way, thanks for coming back!

Monday, July 19, 2010

More crumbs...bitter & sweet.

Anne and I went with some friends to see Phantom of the Opera last night. It was a wonderful performance and a lovely gift to watch my Broadway obsessed girl see it for the first time. She positively floated out of the theater. We went with two friends of mine--since high school--and their kids. I was silly and giggly and relaxed in a way I can only be with people who have known me forever. My daughter was shocked and I think we actually embarrassed her and the other teenage girl, which, if I do so say so myself, is a mark of a really great night. There aren't many richer blessings in life than that of old friends.

My mom had her doctor's appointment today, and the news isn't great. She has lung cancer. I thought I was prepared for the worst, but I was wrong. I just sat there and tried to hold back the tears until I got off the phone. Exactly what kind of lung cancer and what the treatment plan is, we won't know until after her biopsy on Wednesday. My mom is sad and scared and turning off the phone and crawling into bed. I understand. It's kind of what I want to do. But I can't. I have to call my 75-year-old grandmother, her mother, and give her the news. And try to convince her not to get on a plane tomorrow. It's been hours now and I still can't do it. She'll be hysterical. I can't handle hysterical right now.

This is life isn't it? Moments of joy squeezed between the mundane and, like today, the heartbreaking. I must say that I often feel I got more than my share of joy. More, certainly, than I deserve. And my mom, I've always feared, got less. I wish I could give her some now. Joy. And Jesus. Jesus, most of all.

So, if you are a prayer, please pray. I am and I will be.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The ugly bits

My mom has cancer. OK, technically, she has a mass pressing on her esophagus that is extremely likely to be cancer. She called me on Thursday to tell me and was unusually chipper while she broke the news that the doctors had used words like "long road ahead" and "get ready to fight." Words that rip the breath from your lungs. I know she was doing what mother's do, softening the edges.

She's going Monday for a meeting with the doctor to do the biopsy. Then she will meet with a surgeon and an oncologist. We don't yet what the treatment will be, or even if she will have surgery. It all depends on the type of cancer. We don't know much of anything which is a special kind of hell.

But this is what happens. A couple very close friends of mine have walked this road this year. We knew that this day would come for all of us...saying goodbye to our parents. It's the way of things. But we are all just in our 30s--my mother is 55-- and I don't think any of us thought it would happen so soon. I guess I realize now, that it doesn't really matter. 30 years. 40. 50. It wouldn't ever be enough.

I am not suggesting my mother won't make it through this and live to frustrate me for 20 more years. In fact, I refuse to allow anyone to speak those words. But I'm scared. And she's scared and I don't know how to help her. And my children see me in tears, and I, like her, put on a too cheerful smile and tell them it's OK. And I had to call each of my 3 brothers and break the news to them. And tomorrow I have to call her mother--my grandmother, healthy and full of spit and drama at 75--and tell her to pull it together and stop talking to my mom about her death.

And I believe in a God who is loving and just and a life after this one. But my mother does not. Which scares me most of all. I'm not sure I've ever felt quite so much like a grown up. Or so inadequate to the task. I long to pass that mantle of responsible adulthood onto someone else. But I suspect you all already have your own.


It's been a year since I've been here and I don't know if this will be my return to blogging or just a singular random purging of the thoughts I couldn't say aloud. Time will tell. It always does.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WW-On the boardwalk...

On the carousel,
and watching fireworks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beach trip--Day 2.2

It's 11:30PM. I am sitting in a weathered lawn chair, the kind I had when I was a kid. With rubbery plastic straps alternating blue and white. A couple of the straps are broken and the one directly beneath my backside feels as if it might be hanging on for dear life. The air is cool, but clammy and the sounds of the crickets and cicadas almost muffles the sound of laughter from a distant balcony. In the lawn chair next to me Anne sits with another laptop. Chatting with friends and updating her Facebook page. In the water, Brando and his friend are cheerfully trying to drown each other. Burst of laughter, almost manly-but not quite, ring out. Occasionally one issues a challenge: 'Swim the length of the pool underwater. Stand on your head' and they revert, happily to the young boys they were when they met.

After the initial morning shower, the rain stayed away today. We went to the beach again. Boo is absolutely in love with the ocean. Everything about it...the sand, the waves, the endless supply of playmates. Then tonight, we went into town for pizza on the boardwalk. We watched a street performer juggling fire on a unicycle while making hammy jokes. The Littles rode the carousel while the older boys contemplated the cost vs. payoff of henna tattoos. Then we caught a fireworks show over the small manmade lake. We were so close it was deafening but Boo ate up every explosion and then delcared it "much better than those last ones on July 4th" And then, finally, we headed back to what Pepper has dubbed "our brand new home."

"That sure was a fun night, Mom" Boo declared several times on the way home. It doesn't take much to make him happy. And right now, up late, sitting in my plastic lawn chair and surrounded by the smell of chlorine and my older children it doesn't take much for me either. I am not sure what it is exactly about vacation that makes me so able to set down my mantle of stress, and short temperedness and soak in so happily these moments with my family. I imagine it's partly to do with not having to say "No" so often. And partly from having fewer responsibilities and divirsions. And partly even from simply knowing this particular time together is finite. But oh I wish I could find a way to be this person I am here, at "our brand new home" when we get back to the old one. I like her much better.