Floating away (re-post)

October 12th, 2014 § 10 comments

IMG_5224

I make sure my family goes on trips without me now.
It is important that they learn to be without me.
Important that they get time away from here.
Important that they know there can be fun and joy even if I am not with them.

This is what I want.
This is what will be.
It is not easy to be the family of someone who is ill.
I know this is true.
And so I send them away to laugh, to be together, to have fun.
This is what I unselfishly demand.

In April of 2013 we all went to Florida. I didn’t know it would be our last trip together for a while. I could not focus very well. I just knew that life was not the same and it never could be. I had learned about six months earlier that I had metastatic breast cancer. I knew I would never be carefree again. I had intended to stay away from writing for that time, but on this particular day, in this moment, all I could do was realize the agony that was my situation. When I got back to the hotel room I wrote the words that had been in my head.

…………………………………………………

“Floating Away”

20130418-085609.jpgI sit on the beach, feel the sand’s angry texture rub my chemo feet in a way I wish it wouldn’t.

I watch my family in the ocean, turquoise and calm and vast.

My husband flips over, face in the water, takes some strokes out to sea.
His movement is graceful, effortless, just as it was the when I met him 22 years ago.

He was a sprinter on the college swim team then,
and while he laughs and says it doesn’t feel effortless anymore,
nor perhaps fast,
it does not matter.

In my mind’s eye he is that young man,
swimming fast,
joking with his team,
coming over to the stands to talk to me while chewing on the strap of his racing goggles.

I fall in love with him again every time I see him swim.

My three children float, bobbing in the ocean water.
I can feel the distance between us, it feels like a lifetime.
It is my family in the ocean floating away from me.

I see the quartet, I watch as an outsider.
I do this a lot lately.
I watch them from afar and think how it will be without me.
A new family unit.
Behind the big black sunglasses my tears stream down.

Suddenly Tristan is running from the water to me, across the sand.
He stands, dripping, face beaming.
“I just wanted to tell you I love you, Mama.”
I take his picture.
I capture the sweetness.
I grab him, hug him, feeling the cold ocean water on him, melding it to my hot skin.
I murmur to him what a sweet boy he is, that he must never lose that.
I send him back to the ocean, away, so I can cry harder.

By the time they return to shore I’ll have myself composed.
But my oldest immediately senses something amiss.
She mouths to me, “Are you okay?” and pantomimes tears rolling down her cheeks.

Yes, I nod.
I walk to the water’s edge to prove it.

So much left to do

October 7th, 2014 § 40 comments

IMG_0465There’s salt on my blue jeans
And rain left in my hair.
There is a spot of dirt behind his left ear
And mud on his shoes.

I don’t wipe the spot of dirt off.
I stare at it throughout the drive.
I think of when he was a baby, a toddler, a boy.
Now he approaches manhood,
A time when most young men would pull away.

He does not.
He still hugs me in public.
He tells me he loves me.
He doesn’t mind if anyone hears me tell him the same.

He is still mine for a little while longer.

As I contemplate the dirty spot,
I hear the words.
They write themselves
As they often do.

The salt, the dirt, the refrain.

“There is so much left to do.”

It is a track stuck on repeat.
Every moment of my life now it plays.

I showed him a better hamburger today,
He will remember that.
I reminded him about bringing dry socks to the game.
I am quite sure he will forget about that.

I can’t help but smile every time he looks my way.
Or waves from the mound.

During the delay he caught rain in a water bottle,
Shrugged his shoulders when I caught his eye.
He beamed his impish grin.

Later he asks me, “Do you need help?”
He thanks me for coming to his game.
He always thanks me.
He knows.

The salt is gone from my jeans.
The rain in my hair has long since dried.
The dirt and mud are gone too.
But there is so much left to do.

Last one on line

October 3rd, 2014 § 35 comments

IMG_7500It seems like you can’t rank anguish. You shouldn’t be able to “out-suffer” someone. How do you quantify misery?

And yet, somehow we do.

“My problems are nowhere near as bad as yours are.”
“I feel terrible complaining to you about it when you are going through so much yourself.”

I hear these types of comments all the time.
I make these types of comments all the time.

Placing ourselves in a hierarchy of pain and suffering serves to ground us; no matter how bad our situation is, there’s comfort in knowing there is always someone who has it worse.

Like being on a really, really long line at the movies or at airport security, as long as there is someone behind you, it somehow seems better.

Hospitals use a pain rating scale: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain?” When our son Colin was in the hospital for 9 days with a ruptured appendix, they asked him to rate his pain. I was intrigued at his difficulty in answering the question. At the time he was 5 years old and didn’t understand what they wanted him to do. Colin didn’t understand the concept of comparing one level of pain to another; His abdomen hurt… that’s all he knew. He used a binary scale to assess his pain: did it hurt or not? As adults we know better: pain is not a yes-or-no question. Rather, there can be levels, ranking, quantification, and comparisons.

These mental exercises are necessary to keep us going through hard times, no matter what type. Before I got cancer, cancer was a “go-to” negative reference point. I mean, how many times had I, and everyone I know, thought or said, “I’ve got health problems, but at least it’s not cancer”?

I had done that a lot.

A benign lump needs to come out? At least it’s not cancer.
A mole needs to be removed? At least it’s not cancer.
My son has hand and neck deformities and a cyst in his spinal column? At least it’s not cancer.

Then one day it was cancer.
So what could I pacify myself with?
At least it’s not terminal.
At least they can remove the body parts the cancer is in.
At least this debilitating treatment will be temporary and I have the possibility of returning to a normal life again.

Then there was the big one: at least it’s happening to me and not my child.

And when I found out that my cancer had metastasized, I could not calm myself with those comforting refrains anymore.

Now it is terminal.
Now they can’t remove the body parts it is in.
Now the debilitating treatments are permanent and I don’t have the possibility of returning to anything close to a normal life again.

I have often said I have hated becoming anyone’s negative reference point. “At least I’m not her” people now often think of me. I always thought that meant they pitied me. I didn’t want that. But now I realize that it is okay for people to be glad they haven’t walked in my shoes– in reality, that’s what I want. I don’t want anyone to be where I have been and where I am; I’d like to be the lightning rod that keeps other people safe. But we all know it doesn’t work like that.

Denial has never worked for me.
Denial doesn’t kill cancer.

I still believe it could be worse.
I know that is true.

And so, for today, I focus on the fact that I’m not the last one on line.
On the really challenging days sometimes that knowledge is all I have.
And on those days, that knowledge is enough.

Little words

August 22nd, 2014 § 30 comments

IMG_8423Grow up faster,
Need me less,
Reach the sky,
Stand up tall.
 
Make time go,
Speed it up,
Get it done,
Don’t look back.
 
 
Hear my voice,
Feel my embrace,
Know I tried,
Look straight ahead.
 
Keep forging,
Thinking,
Feeling.
 
There is no choice,
This world is all there is,
Make it last.
 
Ours will be far shorter a time than it should be:
Years compressed into months, days, hours, minutes. 
 
It will never be long enough, 
It simply could never be enough time with you.
 

Summer camp and update 7/9/2014

July 9th, 2014 § 49 comments

IMG_8583Now that all three of our children are at sleep away camp I get asked a lot “what I’m doing with all of my free time” and “what fun things I have planned.” Clearly what people think life is like for me are a bit skewed. I have nothing planned. I can’t travel and haven’t been able to take a trip for over a year. I’ve missed family celebrations, holidays, and get-togethers. I’ve eschewed visits from family and friends because I’m not well enough. What others consider “free time” is recovery from chemotherapy and struggling to do day-to-day functioning including the many medical appointments. Being able to make it out for a coffee date is a thrill and isn’t possible many days. Most of the rest of the time my “free time” is spent in bed fighting nausea or fatigue or pain or other side effects.

For the last few weeks my blood counts were sliding and I couldn’t do anything without huffing and puffing in a much more severe way than usual. I struggled to bend over to pick something off the floor without needing to sit down to catch my breath. My hemoglobin levels had been hovering around 8.2 for months and I pushed through but they dropped to 7.2 and by then it seemed I needed a boost to be functional. Ten days ago I received two units of red cells in a transfusion that because of some problems with the samples and testing and a five hour infusion ended up being a ten hour marathon day. It was so worth it. Red counts came up within days and I felt better starting about 24 hours after receiving the cells and that continued to increase within two to three days. My platelets were also very low at 24 but regenerated on their own (low platelets are a predictable result of this chemo regimen) and I was able to avoid a transfusion of those. This was, by the way, the first time I had ever had a blood transfusion in my life.

I had chemo yesterday: Carboplatin and Gemzar cycle #6 (that means I’ve had 6 infusions of Carboplatin and 11 of Gemzar so far). Starting now, but especially with cycle 7 and every time after that, there is a risk (reported at 27% for round 7, here is an article for anyone interested) of an anaphylactic reaction to the Carboplatin (and the other platinum-based chemotherapies like it). We are being conservative and premedicating with drugs that will hopefully help blunt or avoid this type of reaction altogether. There isn’t any reliable way to predict if it will happen to any individual patient. I did have a reaction to Taxol when I received it in the metastatic setting (after not having a reaction the first time I had 4 cycles of it seven years ago) but that is not a reliable indicator of a reaction to platinum-baed drugs.

It will be time for a scan soon I think, we are watching my tumor markers which have dropped consistently in the last few months which is fantastic but on yesterday’s test just stabilized without a drop. We’ll have to see if this is just stabilization (fine) or if this is the start of the chemo losing its effect. It is unsettling to think about losing another chemo combination that has been working, even though it’s a tough regimen to tolerate.

My voice has returned to almost normal unless I use it on the phone or talk a lot. With the kids gone I really am not talking much. I had an extra five days off chemo because my oncologist was on vacation and that allowed me to get things done I usually don’t have enough rebound time to do. The transfusion timing helped too.

IMG_8515I haven’t been outside much, the humidity and heat have been too oppressive for me, but I am hopeful it will break soon. I do try to make it to the beach once a week to get a change of scenery.

We will get to see the kids this weekend and I can’t wait to hug them and hear all of their stories before they go back. They love camp, always have. They look forward to it year-round and now that they all go it’s great they can share these stories and experiences (they are 15, 12, and 8. Last year the youngest begged to go for a week to try it out. We said yes, knowing his siblings would be there and he would have a blast. Five days in he called in tears, begging to stay. That repeated every week until after a month we said it was time to come home!).

Some may wonder why, at this time, I let them go instead of keeping them home with me. I do it because it’s not about me. It’s about them. It’s something they love. It’s an important routine, tradition (this is the sixth year for the oldest). In my eyes, it’s important that they have a change of scenery, freedom to be kids, get away from the ways my cancer and its chronic treatment limit what I can do, and therefore what they can do. It’s a gift I can give them and I also feel it reassures them that I am doing better than I was a few months ago. This is important.

IMG_8614I love having them away from electronics, away from wondering if asking me to take them somewhere or do something with them will be “too much” or “bothering me” which I know the older ones are always concerned with. I want them to be with friends old and new, having fun with young and energetic counselors, trying new things. There are so many (most/all) physical activities  I cannot do with them that they can do there. So many new games to play, achievements, laughs, experiences. I never hesitated when they were ready to sign up last October for this summer. I knew that no matter what, they needed and deserved it. On the left is my favorite photo from camp so far: Tristan getting hooked in to try rock wall climbing for the first time. It makes me laugh every time I look at that facial expression!

That doesn’t mean it’s easy for us to be apart. We are very close. Especially the older kids worry about me I am sure. But I stay in touch by email, will see them on visiting days, and I send them weekly care packages.

But the truth is that separation is good. It’s a selfless act for me to teach them how to to be without me. One of the most important things, in my mind. Coddling them and making them stay home is not what I feel is best for them right now. It is part of our job as parents to teach our children how to be independent, how to solve problems on their own, how to go off in the world without us for whatever reason. I will always want more time with them. It will never be enough for me. But this is my old age. I must teach them as many lessons as I can, while I can, for as long as I can. And that is true for everyone, but of course I have not only the urgency to do it NOW but also I have no idea how long I have and will likely be debilitated in some form until that time comes.

Yes, it’s true no one knows how long they have to live. But those diagnosed with a terminal disease know what is most likely to kill them. And that their time is not just going to be shortened, but consumed daily with the treatment and effects of that disease. It’s not having a normal, healthy life that is relatively good and healthy until a sudden accident happens. It’s just not the same as the general worries of growing older or aches and pains. It’s never-ending. I don’t get to count down how many chemotherapy (or other treatment) sessions until I’m done this time. Being done will mean there is nothing left for me to try. Anyone who has had chemo or radiation or some other type of therapy knows how important it is to have an endpoint, a countdown. Knowing that will never happen (and in fact what you’re really hoping for is a lot of them, because that means you still have options) is one of the mental struggles each week, since it isn’t just spending one day a week getting chemo, it’s how it makes you feel each day after that.

My hair is growing slowly back on this current combo. I know many people mistakenly think this means I’m “better.” I do like that soon I won’t be covering my head and that means I can be more invisible in public. But I also know how many comments I get on the occasions I have done it that people think I am done with chemo or all better. Not all chemotherapies cause hair to come out. My hair will come and go numerous times by the time we are done with this. Its presence or absence only indicates something about which chemo I’m on, not its success or failure.

Someone on Twitter asked for my piece on what to say and how to be a friend to someone who has cancer/serious illness. Here is a link for anyone that missed it and is interested (it’s too long to include the text in this post).

Also, I am including two posts from last year at this time. One on the eve of the kids’ departure for camp and one written while they were away. Of course I was doing even better than I am now, my thoughts were similar, but not as urgent, strong, painful as they have been the last seven months.

I’ll post again with an update if there is anything to report on change in treatment, scan results, etc. For now we stay the course which is not easy, but is the best possible choice of the options I have right now. And that’s the best I can do.

I appreciate the support, as always!

…………………………………………….

In these last remaining hours (Camp) original post here

In these last remaining hours
Before my children disappear

One,
Two,
Three…

In these last remaining hours before they go and spread their wings again,
Leave this nest,
I miss them already.

I put the dinner pots and pans away.
Wipe the crumbs from the table,
Load the dishwasher,
Play fetch with the dog.

I sit in the garden,
Listen to the wind in the trees,
The birds settling down before nightfall,
As we settle, too.

I tuck them in one last time,
Hear their doors click shut.

One,
Two,
Three.

Tomorrow night there will be no mess to clean,
No yelling upstairs that the TV has been left on again,
No trunks piled high with carefully labeled belongings in the dining room.

I will cry, I know.
Not because I am sad that they are going– no, that gives me great joy.
Children being children.
Forgetting stress at home and doing new and varied things.
I cheer their independence.

I will cry because I know they will always need me somehow and I just wish I could be there for them to outgrow
by choice,
by time,
by age.

I hear the mother bird in the tree calling out.
I don’t know to whom.
I will be like that tomorrow,
calling out,
with no child to hear.

……………………………………………………….

Like dollhouse rooms left abandoned (original post here)

Like dollhouse rooms left abandoned,
The rooms stay tidy:
Beds made tight,
Pillows square,
Hampers empty.

It’s been one week since the children left for camp.
Littlest Tristan was due back yesterday but a few days ago he said he was having so much fun he wanted to stay another week.

I realized this week that after being sick for the previous two that I needed this time to catch up, to rest, to regroup.

I miss them but am so glad they are having fun doing what they love.

I pack up care packages,
write letters,
wake in the middle of the night and mentally picture our children sleeping in cabin beds.

Our dog Lucy follows me, sleeps in my room now, not Paige’s.
She doesn’t want to be alone and stays within feet of me every moment.

I tell her it’s okay:
The kids will come back.
The rooms will get messy again.
There will be crumbs dropped at the dinner table and car rides galore.

Paige and Colin and Tristan will come back tired and dirty and happy.
They will come back.
They will.

That is the key.

I think of absence like a hole:
How different it is when it’s temporary and filled with happiness,
Rather than when that hole is a pit of grief. Of ache. Of loss.
The way it will someday be for them.

 

Day 15: Bye-Bye Grandma

January 15th, 2013 § 5 comments

One of the things that still astounds me about grief is how it only takes a moment to be jerked back into its grasp, even years after a loved one has died. It still happens to me with Barbara. I’m going along, minding my own business, and I see something, hear something, touch something and it reminds me of her. And it hurts just as much as it did three years ago.

Our senses betray us, provide the conduit to those places in our memory we think are closed and safe. I’m not sure I’ll ever be safe. I think we stay vulnerable, sensitive, fragile. That’s what happens when you really love someone.

…………………………………….

October 6, 2009

The moments catch me off-guard,
like my brother used to do
when we were kids.

He’d lay in wait
around the corner
in the hallway upstairs,
behind the jog in the corridor
outside my bedroom.

He would leap out,
scaring me,
terrifying me,
and I would scream
and shake
and cry.

That’s what these moments do:
they make me
scream
and shake
and cry.

Last night it was Paige,
with her round angelic face,
eyes pink with tears bursting,
coming into the kitchen while I was on the phone with my parents.

“I went to the computer…
to send some email to some friends…
and all of the emails from her are there…
there’s just a whole list of emails from her there…
it just says ‘Barbara Adams’ the whole way down…
and I just keep thinking how she’s never going to write me back…”

And so we cried.
Together.
And we talked.
Together.

Tonight
I was cleaning the kitchen,
packing up backpacks,
doing things I thought were “safe.”
I thought I would be protected from
emotional assault.

I opened Colin’s green homework folder and
put in his math assignment.
A sheet was already inside the folder,
a red squiggly crayon line decorating one edge.

I pulled out the paper with reckless abandon,
expecting an innocent scribble,
a wasted silly drawing.

But instead, it was a piece of writing paper.
On it, neatly printed in his finest handwriting,
it said, “Bye-Bye Grandma”
and there was a tombstone shape in the middle
that said “Barbara Adams 2009.”

There were green zig zags on the top and bottom,
red squiggles on the left and right,
bright colors all around.

I wasn’t ready for it.
I didn’t know it was there,
in the shadows,
waiting,
lurking,
coiled to take advantage when I dropped my guard,
waiting for me to be vulnerable.

And so I acted just like I did when I was a
child and my brother scared me.
I screamed.
I shook.
And I cried.

I vowed not to let my guard down like that
Again.

I love you, Paige.
I love you, Colin.
I love that you loved your Grandma so much.
I loved her too.
I miss her too.

And my hurt may dull a bit,
but it’s never going to go away,
because some of my hurt is for you.

It hurts not only that I don’t have Grandma in my life,
but also that you don’t.
And that’s what makes me cry the most,
because I know how much she loved you both,
and little Tristan too.

One day
we’ll have to explain to him just how special she was
and how much she loved him
and all of the the special things she did to show it.

Thinking about the fact that she’s not going to be here to
show him for herself just breaks my heart…

It makes me want to
scream,
and shake,
and cry.

IMG_0219

1/3/13 Colin turns 11

January 3rd, 2013 § 19 comments

Today my son Colin turns 11. All of the usual things go along with that: cupcakes, presents, hugs, reminiscing. As I looked back at the pictures of me, pregnant with him, I just can’t believe how the time has gone. Clichés are clichés because they’re true: the years go by faster and faster.

Christmas of 2001 was spent in New York City awaiting Colin’s imminent arrival. I was so huge and uncomfortable that I couldn’t get around too well. I was sure that baby’s head which felt like it was between my knees was going to emerge any second. Christmas came and went. As New Year’s approached I begged my obstetrician to induce me. Colin wasn’t due until January 10th but it was clear he was “fully cooked.” And big.

I called my parents and told them to come to the city. I just knew I wasn’t going to go much longer, and wanted backup so we could go straight to the hospital without worrying about Paige, then 3.

The morning of the 3rd of January Clarke was getting ready for work, staying home slightly later than usual after the holiday. I awakened feeling a bit off. I told him so. He lingered more, wondering if this would be the day. Shortly after 9 a.m. I said the contractions were starting. Only a few minutes apart. We called the garage for our car, but within 20 minutes the contractions were fast and furious. Out the door we went, got a cab, and started the 20 blocks to the hospital. By the time we got there I was in agony. Already a few centimeters dilated for the last 2 weeks, I knew there wouldn’t be much time.

After some (only funny now that it’s over) problems with an IV, a new nurse, and a whole lot of painful yelling on my part, I finally got into a delivery room. The nurses sent Clarke out as they prepped me for the epidural (with all of my yelling, they probably wanted to give me general anesthesia to shut me up… I was not doing well with the contractions). As I bent over for the anesthesiologist to get the epidural in my back, I could feel it… this kid was on his way out, nothing I could do about it. I sat up, yelled, “He’s coming!” as they sort of shook their heads, thinking they had time.

A nurse saw Colin clearly on his way into the world, and ran down the hall for Clarke, who had gone to the pay phone to check voice mail (pre-cell phone days). They both came running in, just as Colin came out. Literally 10 more seconds and Clarke would have missed the birth of his son. I would have loved that epidural.

He takes the cake for my most dramatic birth of the three children. At least after him, they agreed to induce my third, knowing I’d never make it the fifteen miles to the hospital here in Connecticut.

With the fullest head of black hair and 8 pounds, 13 ounces of bulk, Colin looked huge. And old. And that never changed. He was 20 pounds by four months. And always tall.

He was a challenging toddler (that’s code for “pain in the neck”) but grew into a lovely boy. He still is. He’s an athlete and quick learner with zeal for trivia and memorizing facts. He’s a caring and protective big brother and a loving football and ESPN-watching companion for his father.

I never thought I could have a son. I thought I would only do well raising girls. When Colin was born I knew we’d have to figure it out together. I can throw a football with some semblance of a spiral. I am getting used to a child who wants to wear sweatpants most days. Who forgets to lift the toilet seat sometimes. Who takes off dirty clothes and drops them on the floor.

But that boy of mine lights up my heart. His smile is spectacular. His giggle is infectious. He recently decided to grow his hair from the crewcut he’s had since he was a toddler. He’s a big kid, dwarfing most in his grade. His heart and his mind are just as large. I hope he knows just how much we love him, and how proud we are of him. Someday he’ll read this and hear it again. The words I say to him often will be here for him to read whenever he wants.

Happy 11th birthday, Colin. I love you and am so proud of who you are. You are smart and funny and caring and loving. You are a fabulous big brother to Tristan, an adoring younger brother to Paige, and an integral part of this family. Your “sidling” hugs make me laugh every time. You cheer me with your guitar-playing and I love to watch you play tennis. Math is your favorite subject and you have your father’s easygoing disposition. I just adore you.  I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with your charming self when you grow up. You make my heart soar.

You made quite an entrance into this world. I hope you similarly make the world take notice as you grow.

To my dearest children

October 24th, 2012 § 35 comments

To my dearest children,

Someday you will understand the depth of my love for you. Perhaps it might take until you are adults, perhaps made more vivid if you are fortunate enough to have children of your own. No matter when, no matter how, I hope you will someday learn this powerful emotion I feel for you. You give me strength. You make me fight. You give me joy. You make my heart swell with pride.

I want to see it all. I want to see every day. I want to know every phase of your lives.

You see, I am a quitter.

I know, those of you who know me are probably chuckling and saying, “Yeah, right.”

It’s true.

There are very few things I’ve finished that I have started. I think I was always afraid of not doing something well. I would start and quit… or just not start at all.

But let that be a lesson: there is no such thing as perfect. Try. Fail. It’s okay. Take a chance. You have no idea where it might lead.

Hard work doesn’t always pay off. People don’t always get what they deserve. That’s just the way it goes.

I didn’t finish my Ph.D.

I never wrote a book.

But my darlings, let me tell you something I take pride in: you. Parenthood is a lifelong commitment. There is no backing out, changing your mind, saying “it’s too much.”

There is one job I’m good at and it’s being your mom (I’m a pretty good wife but I do tend to nag even though it’s for your dad’s own good). Your flaws and your talents make my heart soar in equal measure… they are what make you you. You are each so different, so unbelievably deliciously divine in your own way. Never doubt that my heart bursts every time I look at each of you. I’m pouring every ounce of love into you that I can. I’m going to just keep doing it every day.

Being your mom is the best thing there is.

 

Children grieve differently

December 2nd, 2011 § 4 comments

I’m working on a new piece about grief during the holiday season, but really want to re-share this short post for those who missed it. I actually re-read it from time to time to remind myself of a valuable insight I had with two of our three children. This was originally written two days after their grandmother was killed in a car crash in 2009.

……………………………………………………..

Children are different.
From adults.
From each other.

I had to give two of my children different directives this morning:
One I told, “It’s okay to be sad.”
One I told, “It’s okay to be happy.”

I needed to tell my 7 year-old son that it was okay to cry, to be sad, to miss his grandmother.
I miss her too.
And it’s okay to let your emotions show.
It doesn’t make you a sissy or a wimp.
What it does make you is a loving grandson.
A grieving boy.
A bereaved family member.

But my ten year-old daughter needed a different kind of permission slip today.
I sensed she needed permission to smile.
To laugh.
To be happy.
I needed to tell her that it was okay to forget for a moment.
Or two.
To forget for a few moments that Grandma died.
It’s okay to still enjoy life.
The life we have.
Grandma would want that.
I told her that Grandma loved her so much.
And was so proud of the person that she is.
I reminded her how Grandma’s last phone call here last Sunday was specifically to tell Paige how proud she was of her for walking in a breast cancer fundraiser with me.
It’s okay to still feel happiness.
And joy.
It’s okay to let that break through the sadness.

Children are different.
But they take their cues from us.
I know my children.
I know that this morning what they needed from me was a sign that it was okay for them to feel a range of emotions.
It’s healthy.
Because what we are living right now is tragic.
And confusing.
And sad.
And infuriating.

If it is all of those things for me,
It can only be all of those things and more
To my children.

Children are different

March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments

Written September 18, 2009

Children are different.
From adults.
From each other.

I had to give two of my children different directives this morning:
One I told, “It’s okay to be sad.”
One I told, “It’s okay to be happy.”

I needed to tell my 7 year-old son that it was okay to cry, to be sad, to miss his grandmother.
I miss her too.
And it’s okay to let your emotions show.
It doesn’t make you a sissy or a wimp.
What it does make you is a loving grandson.
A grieving boy.
A bereaved family member.

But my ten year-old daughter needed a different kind of permission slip today.
I sensed she needed permission to smile.
To laugh.
To be happy.
I needed to tell her that it was okay to forget for a moment.
Or two.
To forget for a few moments that Grandma died.
It’s okay to still enjoy life.
The life we have.
Grandma would want that.
I told her that Grandma loved her so much.
And was so proud of the person that she is.
I reminded her how Grandma’s last phone call here last Sunday was specifically to tell Paige how proud she was of her for walking in the Komen Race for the Cure with me.
It’s okay to still feel happiness.
And joy.
It’s okay to let that break through the sadness.

Children are different.
But they take their cues from us.
I know my children.
I know that this morning what they needed from me was a sign that it was okay for them to feel a range of emotions.
It’s healthy.
Because what we are living right now is tragic.
And confusing.
And sad.
And infuriating.

If it is all of those things for me,
It can only be all of those things and more
To my children.

Eight

January 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments

It’s my first post of the new year. And I love when I get to write about happy things. Today my son Colin turns 8. All of the usual things go along with that: cake, presents, hugs, reminiscing. As I looked at the pictures of me, pregnant with him, I just can’t believe how the time has gone. Clichés are clichés because they’re true: the years go by faster and faster.

Christmas of 2001 was spent in New York City awaiting Colin’s imminent arrival. I was so huge and uncomfortable that I couldn’t get around too well. I was sure that baby’s head which felt like it was between my knees was going to emerge any second. Christmas came and went. As New Year’s approached I begged my obstetrician to induce me. Colin wasn’t due until January 10th but it was clear he was “fully cooked.” And big.

I called my parents and told them to come to the city. I just knew I wasn’t going to go much longer, and wanted backup so we could go straight to the hospital without worrying about Paige, then 3.

The morning of the 3rd of January Clarke was getting ready for work, staying home slightly later than usual after the holiday. I awakened feeling a bit off. I told him so. He lingered more, wondering if this would be the day. Shortly after 9 a.m. I said the contractions were starting. Only a few minutes apart. We called the garage for our car, but within 20 minutes the contractions were fast and furious. Out the door we went, got a cab, and started the 20 blocks to the hospital. By the time we got there I was in agony. Already a few centimeters dilated for the last 2 weeks, I knew there wouldn’t be much time.

After some (only funny now that it’s over) problems with an IV, a new nurse, and a whole lot of painful yelling on my part, I finally got into a delivery room. The nurses sent Clarke out as they prepped me for the epidural (with all of my yelling, they probably wanted to give me general anesthesia to shut me up… I was not doing well with the contractions). As I bent over for the anesthesiologist to get the epidural in my back, I could feel it… this kid was on his way out, nothing I could do about it. I sat up, yelled, “He’s coming!” as they sort of shook their heads, thinking they had time.

A nurse saw Colin clearly on his way into the world, and ran down the hall for Clarke, who had gone to the pay phone to check voice mail (pre-cell phone days). They both came running in, just as Colin came out. Literally 10 more seconds and Clarke would have missed the birth of his son. I would have loved that epidural.

He takes the cake for my most dramatic birth of the three children. At least after him, they agreed to induce my third, knowing I’d never make it the fifteen miles to the hospital here in Connecticut.

With the fullest head of black hair and 8 pounds, 13 ounces of bulk, Colin looked huge. And old. And that never changed. He was 20 pounds by four months. And always tall.

He was a challenging toddler (that’s code for “pain in the neck”) but grew into a lovely boy. He still is. He’s an athlete and quick learner with zeal for trivia and memorizing facts. He’s a caring and protective big brother and a loving football and ESPN-watching companion for his father.

I never thought I could have a son. I thought I would only do well raising girls. When Colin was born I knew we’d have to figure it out together. I can throw a football with some semblance of a spiral. I am getting used to a child who wants to wear sweatpants most days. Who forgets to lift the toilet seat sometimes. Who takes off dirty clothes and drops them on the floor.

But that boy of mine lights up my heart. His smile is spectacular. His giggle is infectious. His crewcut begs to be rubbed Buddha-style. He’s a big kid, dwarfing most in his grade. I hope his heart and his mind are just as large. I hope he knows just how much we love him, and how proud we are of him. Someday he’ll read this and hear it again. The words I say to him often will be here for him to read whenever he wants.

Happy 8th birthday, Colin. I love you and am so proud of who you are. I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with your charming self when you grow up. You made quite an entrance into this world. I hope you similarly make the world take notice as you grow.

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