Mother’s Dance

by Val

Two more chemotherapy appointments left. I am beginning to realize I am going to miss these appointments and I’m wondering if that’s a side effect of them because it sounds absurd to say. Chemotherapy has given me time. It gave me time to spend with my mom. To watch her with awakened eyes and see some of what I love most about myself in her.

My mom and my dad divorced when I was very young. Maybe less than 2 years old. My mom and Steve got married when I was 6. There was a time when it was just me and my mom. We had a lot of family support but at the end of the day it was just her and I. A lot of my joyful memories in life come from those times. The kind of memories you see vividly with certain details. And it isn’t memories of doing the extravagant things. It’s the every day ordinary things. It’s sitting on her lap and listening to her read a book. It’s dancing with her in the living room to her music while I am begging to change it to my music “The Jungle Book” album. It’s going to the grocery store in my footie pajamas because she just picked me up from the babysitters after getting off at GT. The refrigerator section was so cold but the bakery section meant that sometimes we could get cookies and eat some before we left. 

Chemotherapy gave me these kind of moments again. You may think it’s silly to say because we could go do something anytime we wanted to but it’s different. It’s interesting to me that some of my most vivid memories of my mom and I come from a time that I imagine she might describe as a hard time in her life. These times I’m talking about above was 1979-1981/82 ish maybe. My mom was in her late 20’s raising the beginning of an independent, hard headed little girl and doing it on her own. We had that family support I spoke of but she also had a determination to do it on her own. She made sacrifices and she continued to make those sacrifices even once Steve entered our lives. While it may have been a hard time there was joy. I remember books, music, dancing, and cookies. Now with adult eyes I realize there had to be exhaustion, fear, doubt and worry. I didn’t know that as a child. That’s a good momma right there that can carry those loads and still make the ordinary memories be the ones that stick.

I’m not going to lie, this cancer journey for my mom and I have had a few bumpy moments. Back in my childhood only one of us was aware of the exhaustion, fear, doubt and worry. Now both of us have been very much aware. Our dance for awhile has been around each other. I think at times we were both trying to protect the other and also deal with our own cancer baggage. No mother wants to hear that their child has an illness much less one that comes with all the ramifications that this one does. We lost my grandpa to lung cancer in 1983 and watching his experience left an impression on my mom. Now here I am being a reminder of that time. I don’t want to put her back in that place and I don’t want her to fear she is going to lose me too. As we moved through this journey she was sometimes dancing to The Rolling Stones and I was moving to Bare Necessities. I failed at my part of the dance more than once. I know natural instinct for people right now is try and comfort me out of believing I was failure and cancer gives me “a card” for a lot of things but it does not give me a card to avoid reflection and personal responsibility. I still got to do the growing even with cancer.

When mom and I entered the treatment pod we were listening to the same song. This is the dance I’m going to remember. It’s the seeing myself in her. It’s the silliness of Snapchat filters, the lack of verbal filter in conversations probably not appropriate for the location and the giggling over a text sent to the wrong person. Starting a new medicine is stressful because there is potential for allergic reaction. Mom was with me for the first Taxol. We were at least 15 minutes into the treatment before I really even realized. We had both been pretty pre-occupied by news of my counts being low. While waiting to find out if I would have treatment we were pretty silent. Once treatment started mom asked me if I googled anything about counts being low and I said yeah that’s what I was doing while we were waiting. She said “Me too”. I had to laugh. We worry the same. 

Her Uber shift has ended. She stepped up in ways I didn’t expect. She has shown strength that I wonder if she even realized she had. I hope to find ways to make sure we are dancing to the same song more often. (But it will not be by sewing together mom so don’t get too excited 😜)

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