One particularly gray day in October of last year, I came home to pick my mom up for her radiation therapy because her usual home health care provider kept forgetting her appointments. And my mom called me and said, “My helper is not here and I’m going to be late.” I raced out of work and drove home to get her. As it turned out the appointment was for a different time. When I found out, I was frustrated and tired and my mom started crying and it was the worst thing ever because she had not cried, not once, not even when the first oncologist we saw said to her, “I think if you want to travel you should do it now because I don’t know if you will be here next year.” I hugged her and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m mad at the situation not you, mama.” I took her to the appointment at the oncology center later. And while my mom was getting her treatment, two cancer patients began sobbing hysterically in the waiting room. I’ve sat in several cancer waiting rooms. There should be a much better design for them. A much, much better design.
I’d given Max my old lap top computer but it kept freezing so I took it to the Apple store in the mall. So after I took my mom back home from her doctor visit, I picked it up. As I was leaving the parking garage, the exit gate kept getting stuck. I was several cars back in a very frustrated line of people trying to get out and home. For some reason I remembered a date I’d had with a man I really liked the year before. We had parked at the mall and he’d gotten stuck exiting, too. He had jumped out of his truck and ran back to my car to kiss me before the gate opened and he drove away. Three months in, he met someone else and as far as I know, they’re doing well. Anyway, I finally made it out of the exit gate and drove away.
When I got home, I told Max I wanted to go for a walk and he said, “I’ll go with you, Mom.” And we started walking. I began telling him the frustrated story of my day and he said, “Hey, Mom. Let’s slow down. We’re just taking a walk right now.” I said to him, “Max, I’m a little frustrated tonight. I’m just thinking about how sometimes people get their power through anger and guilt. They use that to manipulate others to get what they want. And honestly, I did that too. But it doesn’t feel good. I’d rather feel empowered by asking for what I want with love and respect.” And Max said, “Well, you get the same result. But with the first, you get a result with hate. And the second, with love. It just depends on whether you want to go to the Dark Side and be a Sith Lord. Or whether you want to be a Jedi.” I said, “I love you, Max.” He said, “I love you, too, Mom. And I think you should be a Jedi.”
Today, finally, we got the insurance approval on the estimate for the cleanup from the smoke damage to our home from the Kincade Fire. One of the contractors texted me in the middle of a hectic work day to schedule the cleanup of the “contents” of our home. Bedding, linen, clothing. When I finally got home, I walked into Max’s room and told him that we had to clean up his room for the contractors. He said, “I don’t want them to clean my room. There’s no smoke damage here.” (These are not the droids you’re looking for.) In typical Max and Mom fashion, we fought about it for about 10 minutes. Max went for a run. I texted my friends and ate chocolate and talked to my dog. And then, I realized this. Max could clean his room up. And it could be sanitized from the smoke and the past. Or I could just let it go. Because he’s leaving for college so very soon. And when he does, I will be furious when I have to clean up all the shit he leaves behind. But I will also be grateful to go through the reminders of every one of the 17 years that he spent here, even if they do smell like smoke. Fuck it. I cancelled the “contents” cleanup.
I went in and apologized to him and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know why there’s a need to have anything taken away. I got it straightened out with the contractor and they’ll just come here and clean the house.” I said, “I guess I was a bad Jedi today. I don’t think I was a Sith Lord.” Max said, “Mom, it’s okay. Even Jedis have bad days.”
Tonight, I went for a walk under the full moon shining down over the familiar blocks of the neighborhood I have lived in for 15 years now. Fifteen years ago, I thought I was moving into the white picket fence of the rest of my life. It turns out I was being tested for the armor and the saber. You will arrive where you are meant to be, I do believe that. It may take some days of loss and being stuck and heartbreak and fire and smoke damage and fighting with your kids. The important thing is, if you’re going to stay in the fight, do it as a Jedi. Use the force of love.