Friday, May 24, 2013

Goodbye to Grandpa

It's been 6 days now since my father-in-law left this world. I was at my son's little league game last weekend when my husband called me on my cell phone. "He's gone," he told me. 75 years on this earth and he was gone just like that.

It's not like we didn't see it coming. He had cancer. Things don't end well when the word cancer is involved. About 4 years ago during a routine check-up, a doctor discovered that he had an aortic aneurism, but before he could repair that a quadruple bypass was needed. That surgery came first. In the process of pre-surgery tests, a spot was noticed on his lung. Part of his lung was removed and it seemed that they'd gotten rid of the cancer. Finally, he had surgery to repair the aortic sure was a long route to get there...three major operations in about a year-and-a-half.

None of the operations seemed to slow him down. He was still doing everything he always did. Last summer, we were noticing a change in his voice. He also seemed to be getting winded more easily and more often. Our worst fears were confirmed last fall. The cancer was there again.

He started chemo and with that same invincible attitude he'd had all along, he bragged that he wasn't having side effects, even though we could see he was losing weight and energy. Within a week of his final chemo and radiation treatments, he was in the hospital with an infection. We weren't sure he'd ever leave the hospital, but he did. And even after he was home, we doubted he'd ever get out of the bed again, but he did. We didn't think he'd be able to leave the house again, but he did. Then over the past few weeks he declined. And we knew the end was inevitable. He had stage four cancer. We knew he wouldn't be recovering, but we'd seen him bounce back before and thought perhaps he'd do it again.

It's strange how each child reacts so differently to the same news. One doesn't hesitate to let the tears flow. Another is full of questions. Another shows no hint of emotion. Another retreats to another room. Another is in complete shock.

Just since he's been gone, there have been things this week I know he wouldn't have wanted to miss. He passed away the day before my oldest son's birthday. Three days later, his younger brother graduated from junior high and then today was his 14th birthday. We won't be gardening with him or watching parades or having barbecues. Those are the times we're going to really feel his absence because right now it's so fresh, it still feels like he's going to call on the phone or walk in the door.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Find your pink umbrella

Years into the mothering thing, something happens. You kind of lose yourself. You lose who you once were. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. Sometimes you need to grow up and being responsible for little ones gives you direction. And sometimes you dive in so intensely that the world is wrapped up in feeding and clothing and taking care of little people that you forget to come up for air.

I'm mothering five sons. Sometimes, honestly I forget that I'm a girl. I really do. Cars, wrestling, bugs, dirt, soccer, muddy shoes, zombie invasions, skateboards, action movies, camouflage, tools, off-road excursions, aliens, dirty socks in balls under furniture, gigantic carnivorous appetites, baseball caps, Guitar Hero, pocket knives, toads found in the backyard. Not that girls can't be into any of the above, but they are the kinds of things that have become the norm.

And when you're a mom, it's pretty much a given that nothing is your own anymore, until the one day I discovered that some things can be. After three -- count them, THREE -- umbrellas had disappeared from my vehicle or the coat hook (all navy or dark colored), I scanned the rack at Walgreen's for a replacement. All they had were flowery and feminine ones. "Well, I can't get one of those," I thought to myself. "No one will be able to use it except for me."

That's when it happened. One of those "Ah-hah" moments that Oprah talks about. What's wrong with having something that is just for me? It had been a long time since such a thought entered my mind. Everything would still be ok in the world if I bought an umbrella that was hot pink and if no one else could use it except for me. I bought it. Sure enough, the boys were happy to get soaked if it meant not using a pink umbrella.

The pink umbrella was kind of a wake up for me. The guilt of getting something or doing something for myself lessened. Back when I was working full-time outside of the home, I had no trouble justifying going to get a massage or buying a new outfit to wear to the office. Now that I'm a working mom who happens to have my office in the corner of my dining room and who wears sweatpants more often than business suits, it just felt like I wasn't as deserving of such little extras as when I was the primary breadwinner. I got into the trap of thinking that I wasn't working as hard as other moms because I happen to have the luxury of working from home. And because I wasn't working full-time and bringing in a full-time income, I didn't feel I should splurge on things because there never seemed to be the spare cash to do so.

But when I put that pink umbrella in my hand, my attitude shifted. It's okay if I spend a morning and $25 on a pedicure. Why shouldn't it be? It's alright if I meet friends for lunch twice in one week. A lunch out isn't going to break the bank and I do enough cooking for others in the house - why shouldn't someone cook for me, too? If I see a cute top while running through Target to stock up on underwear and socks for the boys, why shouldn't I buy it?

My advice on Mother's Day is to find that pink umbrella in your life - something to remind you of who you are and that you need to be good to yourself. You're worth it!