Friday, April 11, 2008

You Are My Sunshine

he•ro (hîr’o) n. 1.In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for bold exploits, and favored by the gods. 2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, esp. one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life. 3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field: the heroes of medicine. 4. The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
My mother never did anything to make herself famous, certainly wasn’t the main character in a book or movie, and she had no role in mythology, but she was my hero just the same.

The hurdles in my mother’s life were numerous. She was born during the Great Depression and struggled all her life to get ahead. When my mother was in her twenties, her father was killed suddenly in a train-automobile collision. Filling the shoes of “single mom,” she was married and divorced three times. But my mother’s biggest battle was one that took her life: her fight with cancer.

She was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer shortly before her forty-ninth birthday and my thirteenth. For two years, she endured surgery after surgery, which robbed her not only of her physical strength but also taxed her emotional strength. She also suffered through sickening chemotherapy and cell-destroying radiation treatments. My round, soft-skinned, sleek-haired mother became a bald, bloated, blotchy-skinned woman who faced every day knowing she was one day closer to her last. Her life was marked not with a calendar but with a timer that told her to empty the next compartment in the pill case that sat on her nightstand.

I remember once during one of her sickest bouts she looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry, honey. You’re so young…I know you’d rather be out with your friends. You shouldn’t have to be takin’ care of some sick old lady. I’m sorry to be such a pain.” She was apologizing to me as if she had some sort of control over her disease. Mom was always like that, though. No matter who was to blame for whatever happened, mom was always the one to feel bad.

The last few months of her life were difficult for both of us. Despite dozens of prescriptions, Mom was always in constant pain. The medicine she took only confused her and made her hallucinate. She never felt better; she just thought she did. When she “came out from under”, the pain would envelope her again in a darkness that I pray I never know. She would cry for hours on end. Not completely understanding it all, I asked her once why she was crying. Her response was a loud sob, “Because I hurt, goddammit!” It was my turn to feel bad now. Mom had always taken care of me when I was sick and now, when she needed me most, I couldn’t do the same for her. I’d never felt so helpless in my entire life.

I was at school when I found out my mother had died. The next few days were consumed with making final arrangements. Although I’d cried, the true weight of what had happened didn’t set in until the day of her funeral. Before the service, I stood at her side with my hand between her arm and ribs, the same place I’d held her when I helped her in and out of bed so many times before. I looked down at my mother’s face…her beautiful, loving, peaceful face. I’d never seen her more content. I started talking to her. I told her goodbye, first of all. Then I told her how much I was going to do with my life and how proud she’d be of me. I told her that I loved her, but for the first time, I didn’t hear, “I love you, too.” This hurt so badly. In her entire life, Mom never ended a conversation with anyone before saying “I love you.”

I began reminiscing about my childhood and how close my mother and I had always been. I remembered the silly jokes we’d shared, the crazy things we’d done and the songs she used to sing to me. I began singing to her:

You are my sunshine. I started to cry.

My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. A tear rolled off my cheek and splashed against her hand.

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. I paused, drawing a deep breath.

Please don’t take my sunshine away. She was gone. I stood there for the better part of an hour just singing and crying.

It’s been almost twenty years since I stood next to my mother’s casket. I still hear her voice and chuckle when I see how alike we are. Mom fought an endless battle, but she kept smiling and looking for the silver lining in the clouds. Sometimes she was even lucky enough to find it. I know she must’ve felt like giving up, but something inside her urged her on. She saw the good in things and knew her fight had a purpose: to inspire me. She surrendered her life in order to teach me to appreciate mine. I guess now that I think about it, she is the textbook definition of “hero.”

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I bet you think this blog is about you

I've never been a vain person.


No, seriously....I am not a vain person. At least I wasn't, until recently.

I've never considered myself beautiful....and most days, I don't even think I'm pretty. But I'd take those "ugly" days over this anyday. The middle of January, I started having problems with facial swelling and Bell's Palsy. My kinesiologist confirmed my suspicions that it was all related. He's wrong.

I'm pissed about it.

We could've been treating this differently this whole fucking time if he'd taken a few minutes to look it up. But I digress.

I'm sitting here right now typing this with limited visibility out of my left eye and virtually none from my right. My right eye is swollen shut and my left eye is pretty swollen too. Because of my vision the way that it is to begin with, my left eye has always been weaker than my right, so believe me when I say this is probably the most unpleasant I've ever felt. I can't read because it hurts my eyes. I can't watch TV because...well, let's face it, I can't fucking see anything. I can't sit in here and blog all damn day...again..the vision thing. Fortunately for me, I type by feel so I've at least got that going for me. Anyway...I was saying....I'm sitting here with limited visibility this morning. My upper lip is slightly puffy and there's a lump in my throat as well, also caused by this.

My first episode of this was only witnessed by my husband, kids, my doctor and his staff. I didn't really have to be seen in public...thank God. My ego is fragile enough without worrying about little kids bursting into tears at the sight of me.

This most recent episode began last night at a friend's house. I was surrounded by friends, so it technically wasn't a "public" place, but I was still self-conscious. My children, along with a few others, could tell something was wrong. It started as an irritation on my left eye. I got some drops and thought that'd be the end of it. Then I felt the itching begin and I knew it was going to be a long night. It began swelling shortly thereafter and within two hours, it was really bad. I managed to stick it out, though. Like I said, I had friends there, whom I knew wouldn't judge me. I made it longer there than I ever had when my hives start in.

We did decide to come home around 10:30 or so. Around midnight, the other eye began itching. Shit. Here we go again. Sure puffed up twice as bad as the other one and was swollen half-shut by the time I went to bed. I woke up this morning and it was swelled shut. I literally cannot see without forcefully opening my eyelid...and quite frankly, that's painful, so I'm not going to do it.

You never really realize just how sensitive you are about how you look until something like this happens, though. I never considered myself a vain person. Ever! But you couldn't pay me enough to be seen in public right now by strangers. I don't like being scrutinized for any reason....and being a fat girl is bad enough...but being a fat, UGLY girl is even worse.

This fucking sucks.

I'm going back to bed.