Friday, December 23, 2016

Mothering through the trenches of mortality

There’s a sentence in one of Maddy’s favorite children’s books that promises mamma will come back at the end of the day, and no matter how sad little Llama gets, it’s all going to be ok, because he’ll be swept up into her loving arms if he just perseveres. That sentence used to gut me, and every time Maddy would bring me that book, I knew I had to fight back tears just to get through the watercolor pages that described a Llama’s first day at school.

It seemed like everywhere I turned, there were books, and songs, and TV shows that promised kids their mom’s would always come back for them, no matter what. She was 2 when I was diagnosed and I was sure that I wouldn’t  make it through her early childhood. I knew that one day I would leave and never come back. Trying to mother through the weight of that darkness was unbearable, truly. I don’t think we’ve evolved mechanisms to handle intense grief. And when you’re on the side of grieving that has a definitive end, platitudes like, ‘time heals all’ turn into verbal daggers.

That was 6 long years ago.  6 years of my children’s lives that I was part of. 6 years that I helped create. 6 years of hugs, unyielding innocence, unicorn magic, reindeer footprints, report cards, lost teeth and countless other milestones that I may otherwise have taken for granted if I wasn’t constantly checking every bruise for malignant spreading. I hear parents lament the growth of their babies, wishing so badly that they would stay little forever. Not me. I cherish their independence like no other. Charly can cook, bake, paint, do basically everything an adult can do except maybe spontaneously clean her room, and Maddy is well on her way to having all the life skills she’ll need to be a strong and independent woman.

I said once early on that my biggest wish, the wish I’d trade all others in for, was to be here long enough for my children to want me, but to not need me. Well friends, we made it. They’re 11 and 9. They know who they are. They know who I am. They know the golden rule, and they follow it. They spontaneously sing, and are kind to people. They recognize when others need help and jump in like it was baked into the fiber of how all should act. It certainly helps me grip more tightly, the sheer cliff of anxiety that I’ve been clinging to for the better part of the last decade, while at the same time makes me acutely aware of all that my young friends with terminal cancer are facing. No one should have their hopes ripped away from them like light at the event horizon, when all they’re trying to do is read to their babies.

I asked Maddy to grab a book and read it to me the other night. She came down with Llama Llama misses Momma. It had been years since that book crossed our laps. This time though, Maddy read it to me. She wrapped the blanket around us both, snuggled into my arms, opened the book and read it as though I was hers to take care of. The book brought a warm smile to my face instead of an intense sense of emptiness to my heart. I spent that precious moment envisioning her as a mother. It was the first time I allowed myself the luxury of peering into either of my children’s futures. It didn't occur to me until now that after all this time, I finally let myself fantasize about the lives they may have. I can see them smiling in my crystal ball without having to be there. I know they want me, but I know for sure that they already have what they need.