With my winter jacket on and my keys in my hand, I pace the small kitchen. I check the clock again and only five minutes have passed since the last time I looked. The headlights of her car catch my eye and I run outside and open the driver's side door. My dad has driven my mom to my house so that I can go with him to take her to the hospital. The call from him came at 5:30 in the morning, I bolted out of bed when my phone lit up the room. "She's not good.", was the first thing he said.
My mom is laying across the backseat of her Highlander SUV with a blanket covering her completely. I peer to look at her through the small space between the headrest and the door. My dad hands me papers, "what is this?" I ask. But as I look down I know exactly what it is, it's a stack of the comics that he saves for my kids from his newspaper delivery.
"Papers for the boys. You are going to drive, right?", he asks and that is when I see the look in his eyes. He's scared. My dad, this powerful and confident man...he's scared and he's looking at me to provide relief. "Why don't you stay here at my house, I'll take her." I offer.
I know that I'm the one who can do this job. When the house is on fire, you want me there. I'll get everyone out safely including the pets and I'll manage to magically grab important documents while maintaining being calm. Thankfully, I've never actually been in that situation but let's just say I'm really good in a crisis. People who are closest to me who have seen me in action, know what I'm talking about when I say that I'm going into "house is on fire mode".
All of my senses are on full alert. I hear her breathing labored and unsteady in the backseat. I make my way onto the beltway and the prayer begins in my mind. Whenever my body is resisting a panic attack the prayer starts; Hail Mary, full of grace... it stems from my childhood of going to Catholic School. We actually aren't Catholic, but at the time, the local public school was not very good and a Catholic School was only a mile from my parent's house. I gravitated to the rituals of this religion. I loved the kneeling, the standing, the signs of the cross. I loved the predictability, but we weren't Catholic so I secretly said the prayers to myself and the Hail Mary was my prayer of choice. It speaks to me and has this ability to calm my soul.
I weave between lanes, rush hour traffic is beginning to pick up. My fingers are gripping the steering wheel, causing white knuckles and my hands to feel cramped. "Blink, Gretchen blink", I say to myself out loud as I scan the rear view mirror for police as I speed over into the far lane doing 85. My mom rolls over onto her back, I listen for her breathing. There is such a long pause between each inhale. I hold my own breath waiting for her to breathe again, she let's out a moan.
"Please God....", I say out loud my voice quivering. I continue in a whisper...."Not today. I'm scared. I'm alone and I know I'm up for the challenge of taking care of my parents as they age but please God not today. Not here. Not now.".... I trail off as I exit the beltway and make my way to the entrance of the ER. I run into the doorway and grab a wheelchair, as I open the backdoor a nurse comes out to meet me. I lean in and touch my mom's legs and say kindly, "Mom, we're here. Hold on to my hands I'm going to pull you up." She moans. I look back at the nurse and the look on his face changes once he sees her bald (cancer) head. The wheelchair is one of those really wide wheelchairs and it's pulled in right behind me, the space between the wheelchair and the car door and me there isn't enough room for the nurse to help me get my mom out of the car.
"Now wrap your arms around my neck and pretend you are giving me a hug." I say to her. I place her arms around my neck and I squat down and I lift her with a strength that I didn't know that I had. I lift her completely out of the car and I place her so gently down into the wheelchair. I look up at the nurse and that is when I become aware of the shock on his face, surprised that I just did that on my own. I quickly run through the details the way I've seen it done on TV shows. "70 year old. Cancer patient, my mom, weak and dehydrated. Diarrhea. Is not lucid." Short and direct, no complete sentences. A man in a black jacket takes the keys from my hand and puts a ticket in its place. Another nurse puts a bright yellow sticker on my chest, "Emergency Center".
The nurse and I together lift my mom out of the wheelchair and into the hospital bed. "What did you say?", the nurse asks me. That's when I realize what I've been saying out loud, "Holy Mary, Mother of God..."
"I'm praying", I reply. For years I've felt shame about my connection to prayer. So it became this secret thing I did that no one realized was such a strong force in my life, my family included. Though my father is a Rabbi does not mean that my family is religious or spiritual for that matter, quite the opposite actually. I took that prayer shame shawl off and I didn't care if we were in the ER and I didn't care that other people might see me or make fun of me for it. I held her hand and I prayed. "Please God, not now. I need her still."
Labels: Breast Cancer
We are at a park that has a playground and an open field for kids to run around in. The weather is cool, requiring winter jackets and hands to be stuffed in pockets. We stand on the edge of the parking lot waiting. It's just the three of us, my wife and I and our newest son that we are adopting from the foster care system from another state. Our son is wide-eyed and very still. Which is unusual for him. The football is tucked under his arm, he's not throwing it or requesting anyone to catch or "go long". He just stands. It strikes me as unfamiliar that I've never seen him stand completely still like this.
Every time a car enters the parking lot his eyes go to it, scanning the people on the inside.
"Do they know we are here?"
"Yes, I texted them and told them exactly where we are.", I reply making sure my voice sounds soothing and calm as I do during the dharma talk at the end of my yoga classes.
"What time is it?", he asks for the third time.
"I'm sure they will be here soon.", I reply with a smile.
We are meeting two of his biological siblings and their adopted dad for the first time. We are all nervous, my stomach is doing bellyflops. I'm nervous about meeting this family, that in an ideal world we would continue to have a relationship with and I'm also excited for our son to see his siblings who he hasn't seen in months.
A pick up truck pulls into the parking lot.
'That's them!", he shouts.
His eyes seem brighter and a huge smile spreads across his face. He starts to run but my wife grabs his arm and kindly says "Careful, it's a parking lot." Once the truck has pulled into it's spot, he runs towards his brother and they hug so fiercely, tears instantly form in my eyes and I quickly blink them away as I smile and reach for my wife's hand as we walk across the parking lot together.
Seeing the three of them together was amazing. It was as though we had a glimpse of these missing pieces of the puzzle and to see how they interact with each other and play and laugh. My God, did they laugh! The bond that they have is so strong. They are incredible kids. The adoptive father was wonderful and kind. And is also looking forward to keeping the siblings relationship in tact.
I feel blessed. And so grateful.
Whether you believe in God, the Universe, Higher Power, Divine Source, Mother Earth or the Holy Mother herself....something larger than us was involved in this match. That he was chosen to be our son out of the 70+ kids that we inquired about. That the other adopted family would be so wonderful and kind.
I feel blessed.
And oh so grateful.
It was just my wife and I picking up our newest son for a day visit to go out to eat for lunch, he is a foster child that we are adopting from another state. We have to wait for the ICPC contract to be finalized in order for him to come and live with us and so in the meantime we drive two hours each way, every week to visit with him for the day.
He decided he wanted to eat at Chipotle, we let him choose since the older boys were with their dad for the weekend which means no one needed to compromise. He's sitting in the backseat of our Element SUV, the Element has these funky doors which requires the front seat passenger to open the door for the person in the back.
As he's getting out of the car he says, "so L and Z were adopted too?"
"Nope, I gave birth to them both.", I reply very matter of factly.
He looks at me with a puzzled expression on his face.
"They both grew in my belly.", I offer.
Even though he's nine years old I don't want to assume that anyone has had the "where do babies come from conversation".
"So you were married to their dad?", he asks.
"Ah, yes I was. And then we got divorced and then I married Momo."
"Didn't some people think it was weird that you married a woman after being married to their dad?", he asks with such innocence on his face.
"I'm sure there were several people who thought that.", I immediately reply as we make our way around the car and into Chipotle. He then looks up at my wife, "so you got divorced too?"
My wife does an amazing job just picking up the conversation without being privy to the first part of it and says, "No. Gretchen is the first person I married."
We walk into Chipotle and he begins to contemplate the decision between tacos or a burrito. He's going back and forth and you can tell that this decision seems huge to him and may impact his whole day by the value he's giving it. He decides on the burrito and his body relaxes as he tells the employee, very confidently, all the things that he wants on it. When we get to the counter to pay he turns to me and says, "I think those people are stupid who thought it was weird for you to marry Momo."
"I agree with you. We don't need those people in our lives, do we?"
"Nope.", he says with a huge smile and a twinkle in his eyes. I give him a hug and I can feel him exhale what feels like a huge weight of stress.
I know that we will have several conversations like this one as he learns the map of our family and the many twists and turns that it has made in order to be created. Divorce, marriages, children- generation after generation a new twist and a new turn. The best part is, he's on the journey with us and now a part of a family.
Here is my easy to-go breakfast that I put in a tupperware and eat in the car. All ingredients are organic. And I prep the berries after I purchase them by cleaning and cutting them and letting them live in a mason jar in our fridge so that they are always easy to grab when the desire for a sweet treat hits me.
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh strawberries & blueberries
- 2 Tbs strawberry preserves
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- shaved organic coconut flakes.