I tried to ignore it.
But somebody told my children (and everyone I’ve ever come into contact with on Facebook) that my birthday was on August 5th, and they didn’t forget.
They forget all kinds of things every day, but my birthday they purposed to remember, and remember they did.
“How many days is it ’till your birthday, Mom?”
“Mom, how much more days is your birthday?”
“Mom, do you know when your birthday is?”
They’ve been asking every day, multiple times a day, for weeks. It’s sweet, I know. I’m blessed, I know it, I really do, but I just wasn’t able to bring myself to care about it this year.
It should have been a big one, monumental even. There should have been cake and ice cream and all kinds of black decorations and over-the-hill jokes. There should have been a houseful of friends and family full of smiles and hugs and words of wisdom for the next years…
I turned 40 yesterday and all I could think about was how it had been 2 years since Ian was diagnosed with brain cancer.
2 years of Posterior Fossa Syndrome.
2 years of radiation treatments, chemotherapy treatments, neuropathy pain and lingering numbness, questions about conventional cancer therapy, PT appointments, OT appointments, Speech therapy, oncology clinic visits, blood tests, MRIs, radiologists’ reports, neurologist visits, eye surgery, and who can remember what else for our oldest son, and as any parent of a child with cancer will tell you, the whole family is affected. The whole family lived through all of that…
A while ago, 6-year-old Mercy nonchalantly asked, “Remember back before Ian had cancer?”
Oh, honey, I mourn the loss of the time “back before Ian had cancer”, back before I knew the difference between a single and double lumen port.
If only she knew how many times IT Guy and I have thought “remember what life used to be like? Before our oldest son got cancer? Before my sister’s son got cancer? Before her precious Tenney DIED from cancer?!?! Remember those days? And why, oh, why, can’t there be a giant rewind button on life so we can go back to those days?!?!”
The 5th also marked 9 months since end of treatment for Ian, but life never really returns to normal after something like cancer, especially when it’s still filled with PT & OT appointments and you now look at everything from making a sandwich to tying your shoes as therapy. It’s changed too much.
Things will never be the same.
We’re living with this new normal, which is so far from normal it’s almost unrecognizable, but “new normal” seems to be the most popular way to describe a life changed so profoundly. We’re living with it day in and day out, and we’ve adjusted to survive, to go on, to keep attempting to move forward, and on most days we’re doing ok. We have a solid faith in a God who hasn’t changed through all of this, and He is faithful, and I mean it when I say that on most days we’re doing ok, but believe me when I say that it is still SO HARD.
It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other some days.
It’s hard to push feelings aside and just get the next meal cooked, the next load of laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away (yes, I know, that was hard before, but now I have this big bad ugly excuse to call it even harder…)
It’s harder on days like anniversaries, when specific days are linked with specific events, overwhelming and depressing events that make me think more, and thinking more makes it all so very hard all over again.
It’s harder on my birthday.
As a mother, I relive it all over and over again. Images seared in my memory replay time and time again.
I relive the wishing it wasn’t happening to him, the wishing it was happening to me instead, the wishing I could take it from him.
I remember it all. The phone call. The seriousness in the doctor’s face and voice. That very first ride down to meet with oncologists and a neurosurgeon. The waiting room filled with nervous chatter while my 17-year-old son laid on an operating room table with part of his skull removed while a surgeon cut into his brain. Our devastating first glimpses of the beast known as Posterior Fossa Syndrome. The long ride down to Indiana for Proton Therapy and the long ride home. The pain in his face as the neuropathy became too intense to bear and he landed back in the PICU.
The face of every doctor. The face of every therapist. Every nurse. Every psychologist. Every social worker. Every financial aid counselor.
I remember it all, usually in spurts, and it all came flooding back every time I remembered that my birthday was coming up.
I just wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening, but this houseful of sweet blessings of mine wouldn’t let me.
They wanted mom to have fun on her birthday.
They didn’t understand why I tried to downplay every birthday mention, and the truth is that I don’t ever want them to understand. I don’t want them to remember with such clarity the pain and sadness over a life turned upside-down that is associated with my birthday.
But I wasn’t ready to celebrate.
I smiled and nodded and hugged and kissed them as they showered me with gifts they’d picked up while helping at my sister’s recent garage sale.
I enjoyed every bite of my birthday BLT sandwich. I really do love me some bacon.
And that was about all I could muster.
And it was enough.
And today I feel like I can breathe again.
Today is just another day.