You may have noticed, alongside my children, there are only a few guest appearances by other important members of the family in this here running record, Ittybits & Pieces. Most references to people of age and ability to protest are both selective and rare. Of course there is the Awwww, Isn't That Sweet post. There's the Incidentally, So-and-So Lost a Battle of Wills with Ittybit post, and there's the rare NA-NA-NA-NA BOO-BOO post in which I prove the pen (or the camera, as the case may be) is mightier than the sword in the family fight club.
It is rarer still that I write about my mother.
She is fiercely private. She is deeply sensitive. And I don't want to hurt her. Ever. Not even accidentally (She's not online, so, folks who know her, please don't tell her you read this).
But this isn't about her, really. It's about me.
Ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer. The Stage Four, it's spread, you have a 10 percent chance of living out the year kind of cancer. But she and her doctor beat it back. And for nearly five years it stayed away.
When she was diagnosed the first time I learned a hard lesson about myself: I was not strong. I couldn't speak or hear conversations pertaining to cancer. I couldn't watch television, read stories about it. I couldn't even stay in a room for very long with my mother without falling apart.
The treatment, for her, was hard. The residual effects have taken its toll on her quality of life. She's not the healthy, vivacious grandmother she'd hoped to be. I can only imagine what she goes through knowing every single day could bring it all back.
But I know what I go through.
I remember my mom's eyes the day I told her I was pregnant with Annabel. She had a look that was perplexing to me. It was sad. When she turned to my father and said, "Isn't that wonderful, you're going to be a grandfather," I knew what her words actually said were: "I won't be a grandmother."
What she hadn't told me right then was the cancer had returned a third time. Surely that meant it would overtake her.
But it didn't. When Annabel came she had finished her treatment and even regrown her hair.
Yet, still she was like a ghost, trying to stay in the room but out of the way. Look but don't touch.
If she were to keep herself from falling apart, I surmised, she had to keep herself from getting attached. It lasted only until her first CTscan after treatment showed no sign of the disease. That same day she dragged herself up our trecherous staircase, practically hand over fist along the railing, and demanded I hand over her granddaughter.
I don't think I've ever loved her more.
On Thanksgiving she weepily left our house in pain. She hadn't felt well in weeks. She was seeing her doctor again, as is routine, but fully expecting to hear news that the cancer had returned. This pain wasn't usual, and it included some ominious memories of past recurrences. She didn't talk to me for very long after that and never on the phone. I can't blame her, I don't put people at ease.
But today she called me at work and we had a long talk about the trouble with Christmas shopping and the beauty of Hanna Andersson play dresses. She told me she wanted to end her boycott of the Internet and perhaps do a little online shopping this holiday season. And I knew she got good news. She was alright. For Now. And that For Now is as all she needs.