Today marks five weeks since my mother’s diagnosis with aggressive Grade IV glioblastoma, five weeks since my family’s lackadaisical spring was hit by a grenade that launched us into the surreal world of watching someone next to you on the beach suddenly snatched away by a rogue wave and pulled, slowly but inexorably, off by a receding tide.
I thought I would be much more angry than I am, angry at the unfairness of a universe that takes her in such a cruel manner while it leaves behind the thieves and liars, the selfish and the cruel, but I learned a long time ago that as much as we think we’re all playing the same boardgame, we’re only playing against ourselves. So all I can do is look at the situation in front of me and ask myself, what do I want to do with this? And every moment I spend being angry is one moment of quiet and comfort I will miss, the small scraps of lucid time I can gather up more valuable than gold.
I will, I decided, be unguardedly, relentlessly, grateful. It is a conscious decision, and not without effort, but it’s getting easier every day. It is a mantra I wrap around myself like a shawl, holding onto it until the shivers stop and the chill leaves my bones:
Instead of being angry that my beloved mother has a brutal disease, I am grateful she decided to forego treatment she didn’t want. Grateful I can be here for her.
Instead of being angry when hospice is slow to return my call or suggest solutions, I am grateful I have the benefit of knowledge so I can be proactive and figure them out myself.
Instead of being angry that I can do more for a sick dog than I can for my mother if she winds up in terrible pain, I am grateful that for now, at least, she is not.
Instead of being angry at the people who would make things more difficult, I am grateful they number so few.
Instead of being angry that I need to read through books to counsel me on what amends we should be making and forgivenesses to seek, I am grateful that upon reflection, we have no need. We have always been at peace with each other.
It gets easier with practice. For now, we are at peace with what is happening, and content with the thought that when we look back, we can say with certainty that we have no regrets about how we handled it, and that is perhaps the best one can hope for.
As you can imagine I have been hanging around my mom quite a bit these days, filling the air with talk of the day and the children. She has made it clear she prefers the conversation light. However, when and if she has a moment where she decides she has something important to impart, I want to make sure I don’t miss it because I still feel like there is still so much more left to say.
This afternoon, when the visiting family departed and my dad headed off to the store, she took a deep breath and turned to me, her bright cornflower blue eyes swiveling into focus as they peered into mine.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course, Mom.”
“I don’t know if you know what this is, or even if you know how to get it…” she paused.
I took a deep breath, as this is a moment I have been simultaneously anticipating and dreading.
“What is it, Mom?” I took her hand.
“Do you know….what spotted dick is?”
Of all the things I had pictured her asking me about, that was about last on the list, somewhere between “Sam Kinison’s used socks” and “an 8 track of the Bay City Rollers.” I paused, letting that rattle around in my brain: spotteddickspotteddickspotteddick, then I started laughing.
“Yes Mom, I think it’s a gross British dessert. Where the heck did that come from?”
“I don’t know,” she sighed, running her hands through her hair. “I was just thinking about desserts, and that sounded disgusting.”
I took her hands. “I will never,” I said, “Make you eat a spotted dick.”
She looked at me, Miss Proper Victorian Lady, and burst into laughter. Me and my mom, reduced to 10 year olds by a canned pudding. Then I brought her a cookie. Chocolate chip, because raisins are gross.
Desserts have always been very important to this family.
I know you were all hoping I would have more wisdom to impart about these momentous last days, but so far this is all I got. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.
Obviously I don’t know your mama personally but I love her just the same!
These are the memories you need! You are so wise to view this in a positive light, and to savor every precious moment.
And that canned spotted dick looks awful.
Amy Palmer says
I’m glad you could get a laugh at spotted dick!
The Bloggy Dogs says
Well said. – best wishes for your mom…I’ve never heard of spotted dick either! Ha!
God bless you and your mom. One thing i would give anything is I wish i had given my mom tape recorder. So she could tape things for me, things she might think i would need to know someday, things about her growing up, her parents nd grandparents. Now that my mom and dad are gone i so wish i had done this!
alameda auntie says
Or even just tape these conversations you have. As this essay recounts, it’s the everyday things that are very precious.
Nicole Morgan says
Oh sweet Jessica, this made me laugh and made me cry … all the moments … wrap them all up in your heart xxxx
Well, that conversation took an unexpected turn for the hilarious. Humour, even black humour, is a good accompaniment right now.
If you and your mum think raisins are gross, spotted dick definitely does not need to be on her list.
Dr. V says
Have you tried it? Now I kind of feel like I should.
Once. It’s a rather bland boiled pudding, made with lots of currants, which I think are even yuckier than raisins. It’s usually served with lots of custard–possibly to disguise the taste. Save your taste buds. 🙂
Karen Rourke Stockham says
Sweet Pat, she is so lucky to have a wonderful daughter and I know your dad is a big help to her too
that pudding does not sound good at all….. never heard of it, wonder how she even came up with the name of it…
sending prayer out to all of you
Pixel Blue Eyes says
Dear Jessica, I was in tears as I began reading this post, seeing the beauty of your heart as I you choose to walk with grace through this most difficult time of your Mom’s advanced cancer. You then brought me to tears of laughter with the humor & ease of your relationship. It sounds very much like something that would occur between me and my Mom too. God bless you all as you walk through this. I will keep your family lifted in prayer.