Alex goofing around with his Grammy Mimi at her pre-Mother's Day lunch.
I had to celebrate Mother’s Day early this year. I wish I could say it was solely because my Mom deserves a week of festivities for putting up with my antics for 39 years, but that’s not the case. Cancer–the rudest, most obtrusive, unkind, unrelenting, and unwelcome S.O.B disease ever created–dictated the terms.
My Mom signing on the dotted line for poison she's allergic to. She's amazing. And inspiring. And determined.
She’s getting chemom
(my word for chemotherapy) she’s allergic to this time around. How brave is my Mom signing up for poison that could put her in anaphylactic shock if the IV drip that tricks her body into accepting it isn’t slow enough? The infusion–start-to-finish with our commute–takes twelve hours, and we have to do it every three weeks. Grueling. Despite her strength–I swear she has more stamina than any gym rat after tirelessly fighting ovarian cancer for ten years–the treatment knocks her out for days. As her daughter, it’s incredibly hard to watch.
So, Alex joined me for a special lunch to celebrate the woman who gave me life earlier this week, and taught me lessons I will never forget. Tonight, I reflect on just a few of them.
Laughter: My Mom is known for her jokes. I envy her ability to start telling a joke flawlessly during conversations (me, I have to announce I am about to tell a joke, inevitably flub the set-up, and hesitate before delivering the punch line to ensure I get it right). But I do know how to give in to a deep belly laughing fit that doesn’t stop until I hyperventilate and tears are streaming down my face. I have her laugh. I knew I reached adulthood when she delivered a dirty joke in front of me after shooing me away for years (teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents always swarmed around her growing up, anxious to hear her comedy routine, and I remember watching them break into hysterics following her raunchy material). It’s a gift to be in on her jokes. It’s a gift to laugh at life when it’s so serious at times.
Fun: My Mom also built a reputation on her legendary haunted houses every Halloween. Her cackle puts the evil witch in The Wizard of Oz to shame; her creepy costumes, handmade and authentic, screamed scary with every stitch. She rigged a ghost to fly across our living room if a child mustered up the courage to reach into the smoky caldron of candy. Pure brilliance. Even now, random people on Facebook will write on her wall about it. Even now, I am known for her spooktacular haunted houses.
My Mother started this! And of course my son thought it was beyond funny wearing lettuce as a hat in public!
Even though she converted to Judaism, it looks like Santa Claus regurgitated the North Pole at her house every year at Christmas. She’s the type who embraces any holiday, encourages jumping in the ocean fully-clothed if you don’t have a bathing suit, using P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps as yarmulkes if the mood strikes, eating cake first thing on your birthday, and singing in the car with the sunroof open at a stoplight. You get the idea. She enjoys life. It was her philosophy BC (Before Cancer), and even more so AC (After Cancer).
Risk/Reward: My Mom struck out on her own at age 18 with no safety net. She made it–through all of life’s trials, tribulations, and dinners consisting of a measly can of beans. I was living in NYC for years when I got a call from a news station in Burlington, Vermont, on a Friday afternoon, offering me a job as a reporter and anchor of the cut-ins during Good Morning America. The only catch was that I had to start on the following Monday, giving me two days to make my decision, pack my belongings, and move to a place I never visited my whole life. What do you think I did? I went for it, with her full support, and the confidence needed to embrace drastic change. Quick. As my Mother’s daughter, I learned early on it’s okay to take risks, because she is, and has always been, my safety net.
Kindness: If there’s a frog hopping across the road, she will stop her car and make sure it crosses safely. She will offer her seat to an older or pregnant woman, even if she isn’t feeling well herself. She understands the value of writing a card and mailing it the old-fashioned way, and will send one, unexpectedly, to conjure up a smile from a distance. She’s stayed up all night making homemade desserts for bake sales that supported all of my teams, taught me the value of volunteering, and always made sure I approached people with both an open heart and an open mind. At her core, she is genuinely kind, and she expects nothing less from her children and grandchildren.
Perseverance: I have only gotten through her surgeries and chemotherapy treatments (plus my own heartaches, and, believe me, there have been plenty of them) without being a crying mess because of her leadership. She perseveres, so I persevere. She adjusts to the “new normal” living with a deadly disease, so I adjust. She finds enjoyment through the pain, and I do, too.
Love. Her love is fierce, unwavering, telling, true, unparalleled, eternal. In my life, she has been my one source of unconditional love. I have always felt my Mother’s love, even if I didn’t deserve it (I was a b*tch when I was 16-years-old!). I know she loves me, the real me, flaws and all.
He has learned so much from his Grammy Mimi already!
This Mother’s Day, Interrupted, I pause to reflect on the values instilled in me by my beloved Mom. Although she’s not with me celebrating tonight, she will soon recover, and we will be back to our giddy selves. Until then, Mom, I promise you, I remember everything you’ve taught me and am paying it forward every day. You are the north on the compass of my motherhood journey. I love you.
Give me a click below, please. It’s still Mother’s Day, even though it’s Interrupted!