I warned everyone in my first blog post that my story has some painful parts. And lately it seems as though those painful parts have taken up a lot of space here. Well, today may be a little more of the same. I had different plans for this post, but then those plans changed when I learned that the my former neighbor passed away last night. I decided it was a good time to share the story of my mom.
I’m not a good daughter. Not really. I do the basics. I call my mom about once a week. I see her and/or talk to her on the holidays. I keep her “in the loop.” But I’m not a good daughter. I don’t hug my mom or even say “I love you” to her. I don’t share the intimate details of my life. It’s not because I don’t want to because I do. I just can’t.
My mom and I don’t have the typical mother/daughter relationship. We never have. We live 15 minutes apart, yet I don’t think I have seen her since Father’s Day (that was two months ago.) I don’t remember a time when I had a close relationship with my mom. I’m sure at some point, when I was really young, it existed. But as often happens, time changed things. And so did something else. But that part is not MY story to tell.
I was hateful to my mom when I was younger. I remember hitting her in the back when she had turned away from me because I was angry with her. I called her a bitch more times than I care to admit. And whenever she or my dad made me angry, I went to my grandparents and complained. That probably altered the relationship between my parents and my grandparents. As I said, I’m not a good daughter. I had my reasons for feeling and acting this way. I think I still do. But my mom didn’t deserve for me to handle things the way that I did. And I can’t take it back now. I can’t change the actions, the words, and the feelings that resulted from my inability to handle the circumstances that I was dealt. I can’t snap my fingers and mend our relationship. I wish I could. Now, more than ever, I really wish I could.
Why now, you might be wondering? It’s pretty simple. My mom has stage 4 cancer. In 2013, the night before Thanksgiving, my sister and I stood in a hospital room and got the news. Our dad had already gone home for the night and our brother wasn’t there. It was the two of us, our kids and our sick mom. It was shocking. At that time, she was actually diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer. She couldn’t eat, she could barely drink, and it was scary. We left that night, each of us with a phone call to make. She got the easy one – one of my mom’s sisters. I got the hard one – our dad. Imagine making that call. It’s 8:00 pm the night before Thanksgiving and I have to say “hey dad, guess what? mom has cancer.” It sucked.
Once the shock wore off, the reality set in. And the reality wasn’t pretty. My siblings and I had tension between us. My dad was worn out. And my mom? Well she was in a good deal of denial. While she worked through that, we spent time with doctors and nurses and some lady who taught us how to feed my mom through her new stomach tube. It was stressful and the treatments hadn’t even commenced. Once that happened, we sort of settled into a groove. Five days a week for six weeks, my mom went to radiation. Every Friday, after radiation, she would go down the hall, sit in a recliner, and have a cocktail of cancer-fighting drugs run through her body via a fancy little port inserted under her skin. Sounds fun, huh? She did two rounds of chemo infusions. The second one robbed her of her hair. Thankfully, I had a dear friend whose mother made my mom the greatest head covers. That helped.
Shortly after treatment, she had a PET scan to see where, if anywhere at all, the cancer was sitting in her body. The good news – her esophagus was clear. Remember, I said stage 4? That’s because the bad news was that the cancer had made it’s way into her lungs. Both lungs. That was devastating news. But this time, my mom handled it like a champ. She started another round of chemo, this time a much different cocktail. Sadly for her, after one infusion, she ended up with a 17-day stay in the hospital. Her body just couldn’t handle the drugs.
So now we wait. It’s been almost 3 years since she was diagnosed. The cancer is still lurking in her lungs, but at this point it has not been aggressive. So we wait. We have been lucky. We know it.
But what we don’t know is how long we have. How long we have until that cancer decides that it’s tired of sitting quietly. It won’t sit quietly forever. Eventually it will rob her of her life. This is a fact that we have all started to come to terms with in our own way. And that is why I have so many regrets. I have spent years being angry at my mom. And years keeping her at arm’s length because I didn’t want her any closer. I have spent years envying my friends’ relationships with their moms and resenting my own for what I didn’t have. I’m not a good daughter.
I remember P asking me one night shortly after my mom was diagnosed, and while I was crying uncontrollably about my mom’s illness, why I even care if she dies because “you don’t even like your mom anyway.” Talk about a moment when time stops. It was tough to hear. And, in a way, he was right. I had just never heard anyone say it out loud to me. And I hated how it sounded. I was ashamed. I didn’t want it to be that way.
I’m not a good daughter. But I am trying to be. I am trying to understand my mom and accept the past. I am trying to forgive her. I am also trying to forgive myself. Forgiveness is a hard thing. I’m trying to let my mom into my life. And she steps up each time that I open that door just a little. Over the past two years, she has supported me and sat on the other end of the phone many times and just listened to me sob. I guess that’s what moms do even when their daughters don’t deserve it.
I was given one mom. That’s it. When she is gone, I don’t get a do-over. I will have to accept what we had and be okay with it. If it happened tomorrow, if she left our lives, there would be a fair amount of unfinished business. That’s an unsettling feeling. She deserves more. I deserve more.
I hope one day I can say that I was a good daughter because, if I really look at the 40 years of my life, she’s been a really good mom.