Even now at forty-two, I call her practically every day and sometimes multiple times within the day. She is a woman capable of massive undertakings. Together we planned, architected and executed the building of my brand-new house (without a formal architect). Together we made the multitude of decisions from fixtures to faucets and window panes to countertops. I am lucky to have her as my mother.
My mom is a professional customer. Despite excellent training (my mom and I went to the mall weekly during my childhood), I am still a terrible shopper. In contrast, my mother has the stamina of a racehorse when it comes to buying clothes for my girls, home goods and various things for myself. Over the years, she has dealt with every major household crisis. As such, she knows how to solve all these problems when they arise, or at least, she can direct me to the right person to hire. Granted, she isn’t great with technology (that was my Father’s department) or finances. She is also not a big believer in luxury items. She does not encourage self-indulgence (frequent Starbucks, massages, cabs instead of subways). But I rely on her advice in most arenas.
It may sound morbid but ever since I was a child, I repeatedly calculated how long my parents would live. I reasoned that my two sets of grandparents lived long lives, until their mid-eights and early nineties, respectively. According to that logic, I should have at least that much time with my parents in this world, hopefully more.
Then my beloved, wonderful, brilliant father developed a malignant brain tumor and died at age 71.
Now, I was really scared. I could not lose my mother too.
My other greatest fear ever since breast cancer, besides pain and suffering, is the possibility that I will prematurely abandon my three young daughters on this planet. Even now, at seven and nine, Juliette and Scarlett can’t fall asleep on their own. I spend hours every night reading to them, then lying next to them and even rubbing their bellies into slumber (and that’s with melatonin!) My youngest, Milla, is an adorable, wonderful but complicated and challenging child. What substitute-me would ever appreciate the beauty of her spirit and warmth of her affection? Who else would help with their Hebrew homework and various booboos and bad dreams and boy crushes if I was gone?
It is this gut-wrenching fear of forsaking them that I cannot shake, even four years later. Four years from the time I was told that my cancer was “invasive” and “advanced” and that the vast majority of my lymph nodes contained malignant metastasis. It is this fear that wakes me out of sleep, engulfs me every time I read an article or hear a story about a woman dying of breast cancer recurrence. Even if it is twenty or thirty years after her initial diagnosis.
I am forty-two and I still desperately need my mother. Won’t my girls still need me?
Snap back to reality and I am at a bowling alley on Mother’s Day with another couple and our combined six kids. Scarlett is complaining loudly that she is bored. Juliette is hungry and Milla is going berserk and keeps sticking her fingers into the bowling ball return.
I am trying so hard not to be frustrated. I am trying to be mindful of this gift that I have been given to still be alive today. But, it’s just so difficult with all the whining in the background. Then, I try concentrating on my mother. I try focusing on the fact that she is healthy and vivacious and still alive. I will tell her today how much I appreciate her, how much I’m sorry for snapping at her last time we spoke because she was talking too loudly and repeating herself. I will tell her EXACTLY how much I love her.
And so I finally call my Mom to wish her Happy Mother’s Day… and, of course, it goes straight to voice mail.
Shit! Go figure!