Letter to my sons

Dear Boys,

This is a love letter to you. Every day that you have been alive is another day that I managed to keep you alive, another day you were not eaten by wolves or bears. Every day you have been alive, is another day you learned another lesson, made another friend, walked another mile, skated another park, played another song, wrote another poem, another day you made your mom proud. Every day that you have been alive, every day that you have taken a breath outside my body, you have been a love letter to me.

I did not expect you to grow up so fast and so soon. I used to get frustrated about coming up with another damn chicken recipe for our family dinners. Tonight, I sat alone at the kitchen table with a new chicken recipe dinner.  It was good. However, I made it for all of us and all of us aren’t here anymore. I could feed the leftovers to the dog, but his ass is getting kinda big. Anyway. I do regret those times I got frustrated when I was getting a meal ready for a full house. I hope you never do. Because there is no love quite like a full gathering at a kitchen table.

I did not always know what I was doing momming you. I still don’t. No parent does. There are lessons for almost everything in life except being a parent to the exact human you are assigned to be a parent to. When you were hurt or sad or suffering and I could not fix it, I can honestly say I have never known heartbreak like that before. But it is not my job to make it all better or fix it all for you, as much as I want to. It’s my job to let you go and grow.

Once when you were both old enough to be left at home alone (maybe you were 16 and 13 years old), I left you and went out for the evening. I told you, Shane, “You’re in charge of putting together dinner for you and Max. There’s pizza in the refrigerator and stuff to make salad.” When I returned a few hours later, I checked on you. You each had a bag of microwave popcorn and a Coke and you were playing Xbox Live with each other (one upstairs, one downstairs). “What’s this?” I asked you. “Well, we weren’t actually hungry, so we just had a snack,” you said. I asked Max, “Are you okay with this?” Max said, “Shane is being so nice to me!”

From this, and my many other attempts to script your lives, I learned that while I have a modicum of control and I can provide some suggestions, you are both ultimately responsible for what you do and how it will all turn out. After I had you boys, I had to reconcile myself to the fact that my heart and my soul will be walking around outside my body for the rest of my life. This love letter is to you, my heart and my soul. I believe in you. Keep doing good things in this world. Make it a better place. Show up. Work hard. Be kind. Say please and thank you. Recycle. Vote. Donate. Serve. Love. Visit your mom. I’ll make a new chicken recipe.



This is what cancer looks like

This is what cancer looks like. It’s exhaustion. After the biopsy appointment that was supposed to last four hours and you’re in the hospital, cold and alone and hungry for seven hours. And no one thought to sit with you or hold your hand or offer you solace or call your family. You are elderly and tired and cranky and just want to go home. Instead you’re told to just wait in platitudes. And left alone in the hospital room.

This is what cancer looks like. The pharmacy denying your pain medications even when your doctor says you need them because there’s a new tumor or your pain has become so unmanageable that you cannot sleep. Because “we” are fighting a war on opioids. So you’re just collateral damage because palliative care for cancer patients does not factor into winning a war.

This is what cancer looks like. One day to the next, trying to maintain a routine, and schedule, a sense that maybe tomorrow your life will be back to normal. You are fighting for that routine and that normal. And it isn’t. But you keep at it, walking the dogs and cleaning the kitchen and tending the garden and making meals. Because that is life. Life is the small things that sustain and keep you going. So you keep going.

This is what cancer looks like. It is everything you thought was going to be your life winnowed down to a small point of taking this breath and then the next. And the next. So you keep breathing.

This is what cancer looks like. Like me – the daughter of the parent with cancer. Or – the son. The father. The mother. The wife. The husband. The partner. The sibling. All of us who watch cancer and at times feel helpless to stop it. Helpless to ensure treatment. Helpless in the waiting rooms, in the emergency rooms, in the hospitals, in the doctor’s office, and at the bedside.

This is what cancer looks like. Some days, it may look like cancer is winning. But it isn’t. We cannot give up. Not for my mom. Not for your loved one. Because one day, cancer isn’t going to look like this anymore. One day, we will kick cancer’s ass. Today, I am the tired daughter. Tomorrow, I’ll be back in the fight. Never give up. My mom has not. No one should. Keep fighting.  #f*ckcancer