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Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

I can’t remember a world without you. I toddled after you from babyhood, and you were my playmate, my confidant, and my friend. The same blood ran through our veins, and that connection was mystical and intense. Some part of each day was spent together until we became adults. You walked in rain or shine to catch the school bus with me in the mornings and returned to spend the evening after dinner. You were generous and indulgent, and if I cried over some small disappointment, you fished in your grubby, little-boy pockets to find something to make me smile. I wish you could do that now.

We crunched through russet leaves on windswept hills, exploring, playing follow-the leader, and gathering hickory nuts. We made up fantastic tales and executed dashing sword fights with sticks. Our pennies were saved to buy hot dogs to roast over an open fire, and you taught me to put peanuts in my RC cola. You invented a call known only to us, something between a Tarzan yell and a squeal. It was our secret code.

As we grew older, we would put my old record player between us and talk the evening away while we listened to scratchy 45’s. Your favorites were “Roses are Red” and “Rhythm of the Rain.” I hated the former, and you poked fun at my penchant for Cat Stevens. I looked up to you in a way that you never realized. Somewhere, I have a school photo of you on which I had written, “my hero” in my childish penmanship.

You became a bearded man with a family of your own, and we left that enchanted childhood behind us, but the chain was never broken. Sometimes circumstances tested it, but the bond held. Our telephone conversations were of Olympic proportions, and you always made me laugh. I shared a camaraderie with you that was unique and hard to find in this world. Now, I’m folding it away in a heart that feels like a bruised stone.

I saw you on Tuesday, and I knew it was goodbye. I patted your hand when I left and said, “I’ll see you again.” I’m counting on that.

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Mother’s Day engenders sentimental recollections of gentle mothers whose cool hands caressed fevered brows and whose well-modulated voices articulated their love for their children. I am a mother, so I know the depth and the reality of a mother’s love. I, too, remember my mother’s love and kindness, but I also remember her independence, her spirit, and her strength, which also made me strong.

Did her cool hand lie on my fevered brow? Yes, many times, and I can still feel the metal of her wedding band against my forehead as she checked my temperature. I also remember her wielding spoons full of the most awful-tasting medicine and saying, “Open your mouth. Don’t spit that out! Don’t you dare spit that out!”

I remember kicking and screaming upon receiving a shot from the family doctor, and I’ll never forget the dressing down my mother gave me afterwards. She would have done a drill sergeant proud, and I never misbehaved at the doctor’s office again. Thereafter, when the doctor gave me my lollipop, I had earned it.

I remember a mother who was never too busy in the evenings to go on jaunts to the woods to look for faeries, or to play her guitar and sing, work puzzles, or play games. She often called to me to look at the flame of a cardinal’s wing burning in the evergreens or to listen to the music of tree frogs. She taught me to love nature and to have sympathy for all living things. Nevertheless, this was the same mother who practically annihilated me for going wading in the creek barefoot because she understood the contamination of what looked like nice, clean water to me.

My mother taught me that God sees the sparrow that falls, and she believed in living by faith. Even though she did not want me to borrow tomorrow’s cares, she expected me to do my best at my endeavors. I knew better than to bring home anything less than a B on my schoolwork, and that was barely tolerated. I was made to practice the piano for one hour every day because my grandmother was paying good money for my lessons, and I owed it to her to do my best, and I’d better appreciate it, too.

I remember, “Did you hear what I said, little girl?” “You come right back here and close that door without slamming it,” and “You will apologize this instant.” I’ll never forget, “Straighten up that face before it freezes that way,” but I think her ultimate remark was, “I hope you have a daughter exactly like you are someday.”

She was the first one to hold me in this life, and I was the last one to hold her. Thirty-one years ago, I stood by her bed in the hospital and watched my tiny, fierce little mother succumb to cancer too soon, and I was not ready to let her go. I thought a pillar of strength had faded out of my life, but I was wrong. She left her strength behind. She had taught me well, as I have tried to teach my own daughter. Being an indulgent parent is easy. Being a vigilant, effective one takes guts.

Love is indeed stronger than death. My mother’s love glows in the twilight mist. It calls me in the mourning dove’s song. It beckons me along woodland paths. It thunders in my heart as I stand at her grave, bereft but not forsaken.

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