When the very person who brought you into this world is transitioning to go Home, it leaves you feeling like an orphan.
But not like in an Annie being adopted by Daddy Warbucks sort of way.
It’s more of a scrambling sensation, similar to losing your class list on the first day of Junior High, unsure of where your next class is located, and the tardy bell just rang.
All of a sudden, you find yourself in a quest to know a bunch of details, that may or may not be strung together to make sense of your life.
“Mom, how much sausage actually goes into your spaghetti sauce?”
“Mom, why do you like Jean Nate bath splash so much?”
“Mom, do you remember all those Avon samples that you kept in our hall closet? Did you actually SELL Avon, or just off some nice representative who came knocking on our door?”
My Mama’s two year Cancer Chapter left plenty of opportunities for me to interrogate her on any and everything. Or just be in her presence with no agenda at all.
My Mom and Dad were married at 19 and 21 years old. Yes, you read that right. Almost illegal...but not quite.
This means they had slept side by side in the same bed for over 50 years. My dad taking up residence on the right side of the mattress, Mama on the left side. But the time was coming as the Cancer progressed, when laying on a regular bed next to my dad, would no longer keep my mom comfortable enough for rest.
Knowing this transition of laying in separate beds was uncharted territory, I waited until my dad was gone to have my mom “test drive” her new hospital bed, located in her adjacent sewing room.
The bed sat, like a Ferrari in a car lot, waiting for someone to take it for a ride. “Come on Foxy, let’s take this fine thing for a spin, rubber to the road."
She played along climbing in, and as the bed railing locked securely in place, she grinned ear to ear. Until neither of us could figure out how to unlock it. “Well, looks like you’re not going anywhere,” I said, which was met with laughter.
She knew the time was coming sooner, rather than later, when she would no longer lay next to my dad. My job was to make that okay.
Today, I would ask my mom questions like...
“Mom, how do I know if I’m doing it right?”
“Mom, why is witnessing my young adult children make their own decisions that have a high percentage of not working out well in the end, so difficult?”
“Mom, why did Tom and I have so many kids?”
One night, after she had made the transition into her hospital bed, I went to tuck her in, snug as a bug.
“I thought you were going to paint my toenails today,” she mentioned casually. My mom who asked for nothing, and who was grateful for everything, was getting punchy with me before bedtime.
She was right: I had mentioned this at-home pedicure about 12 hours prior, when the day was fresh with possibility. But between Chemo and Pot brownies, time had gotten away from us.
“Mom, it’s almost 9 pm,” I answered.
Her look said it all: ‘come on kid-get the supplies together-it’s now or never’. And I knew she was right. You better believe I buffed, shaped, and painted her tootsies.
Beaming when the job was complete, she proudly displayed all ten piggies painted pink, peeking out from a comfy blanket at the foot of her bed, as to not mess up my handiwork.
You see, Cancer stopped time for Foxy and I, granting us permission to just be in each other’s presence. Pedicures, Jean Nate Bath Splash, silly questions, and all. When you experience this type of grace, it changes you on a soul level.
So thanks, Cancer. You didn’t completely suck. You gave Foxy and I a beautiful window to be in each other's soul space, with ease and without rush. You gave my Mama and I the opportunity to become kindred sisters.
This week marks 7 years that you went Home, Mom...love you, miss you, and I sure do look forward to painting your tootsies pink when we meet again.