Apple Pie and Samurai

My mom had a CAT scan scheduled last week, to make sure her cancer isn’t spreading. It’s been a hard month for her.

The evening before her scan, Max and I got into an argument. Not just an argument. One of those slamming doors, yelling, I hate you, fights. The stress and the tension of the months before got to both of us. I tried to apologize to him the next day, but it was too soon. I spent the morning at my desk trying to work, crying as I answered emails and holding it back as I talked to clients. Man, there’s no heartbreak like a mama’s heart breaking heartbreak.

As I drove my mom to her appointment that afternoon, I started crying and I said to her, “I am sorry, mama. I was wrong, I did it all wrong with Max last night.  I lost my temper and I know I should do better and be better.” My mama said to me, “You did a fine job raising your sons. They are good boys. You’re okay and they will be okay. They just need to learn their lessons on their own terms.” I started crying harder and I told her, “I’m sorry if I was an asshole to you when I was 19. I’m sorry if you had to put up with me.” And she said, “No, you were already on your own. You were working and you were self-sufficient. It’s okay. You’re okay.” Then I told her that I was sad that people were not kinder and more respectful to each other and she said to me: “Laura, someone who truly cares about you will not abandon you or say hurtful things to you.” Simple. It was so simple, and yet so profoundly right. When we got home, she said, “Thank you for driving me to my doctor’s appointment.”

My mother is 85 years old and well past her initial diagnosis of  a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Every day she gets up and walks the dogs, tends the backyard garden she has set up, cleans my kitchen, and sweeps the front porch, driveway, and pretty much half the block. My mama comes from samurai. And I am learning from her, to follow that code. I am proud to be samurai like my mother. Driving her to her doctors’ appointments is the least I can do to honor what she has given to me.

Max and I made up. We always do. I learn a lot from being Max’s mom. I think both of us learned a lesson this time. Sometimes when your heart breaks it’s because it needed repairs. Mine did. The people in your life who stick around for those repairs are your people. Hold them close.

Shane is here, for a visit.  It’s tricky, masks and COVID-19 tests. But my mom wanted to see her grandsons. And they wanted to see their grandmother.

My mom asked me to order her the ingredients to make an apple pie. I told her she could wait until she felt better and she said, “I’m making Shane an apple pie.” I came into the kitchen while she was baking it and she said, “I’m really tired. The scan made me really tired.” I told her, “You don’t have to finish, mama. Or tell me how, I’ll finish.” She said, “No. I am almost done.” She put the pie in the oven and went to lie down.

When Shane arrived, she got up and cut the pie for us. And went back to her room to rest.

As always, the pie was really, really good. Even though we are all in separate rooms, we can share apple pie and love. I’m sending some apple pie love to all of you tonight. And some samurai courage. Don’t give up.

Gigantic Hearts

My Max once told a friend, “Stop trying to scare me. I have a very small heart, you know!” I rarely say no to my sons. (Caveat – my career is all about not really saying no. Or yes.) But this time. No, no. I think, actually, it takes a huge heart to experience fear. It takes a gigantic heart to recognize and undertake panic, rage, sorrow, pain. And to truly experience love and magic.

When he was in middle school, my Max would slice up cucumbers for us to put on our eyes for Saturday night “facials.” We would lotion our feet and slide them into socks and watch “Finding Nemo.” Even now, when he is at home, he wanders into my bedroom and curls up at the end of my bed under a blanket to watch a movie. Sometimes, it’s still “Finding Nemo.” My youngest creates the capacity for awe in what may initially appear to be mundane, but is truly lovely and magical.

My Shane was here to celebrate his 21st birthday last year. The kitchen table housed his laptop, journal, teacup, a plate of fruit. His skateboard and a couple pairs of size-14 shoes were by the front door. T-shirts and flannels were scattered throughout the upper floor. He came into my room. “Mom, can I do some yoga in here?” “Sure,” I said. He flipped on a yoga video and I pulled out my yoga mat, too. We did a yoga session together.  Then he headed out the door to hang out with his friends. It takes a special soul to be comfortable no matter where you are. My eldest appreciates and makes every space he occupies feel like home for himself and everyone in it.

I used to say I didn’t want to get married and have children. But we learn as we grow older – we can never say never. I did and I was wrong. I changed my mind about having children; my beautiful sons are here. I am grateful for that. They have taught me so much more than I ever imagined possible.

I used to fear that my own trauma and fear would pass through me to my sons. But here’s the thing. No one’s trauma is comparable. Or imagined. Trauma and pain might seem subjective, but they are very real and extremely personal. No one gets to hold out a ruler and say, mine is worse or yours doesn’t really exist or I’ve completely healed from mine or you’re more f*cked up than me. But we can be there to listen or hold each other while we heal.

Here’s what I think matters as this year winds down. This weird and crazy year. We are all on a journey. We all have a unique gift to leave this planet. For that, we can cherish each other. Maybe try a little harder to not hurt each other. The journey is long. It helps to have someone hold your hand when you get tired. I’ll hold your hand. I know you’ll hold mine. We have a little farther to go. Bless you and your gigantic hearts, loves. Get some rest.