Did your mom have a mammogram yesterday? Call her, ask her how it went, offer to do the healthy breast dance with her or to sit with her while she waits for the results. Let her know you remember the skinned knees, ear aches, toothaches, bruised egos that she walked you through. The phone calls the night before you had a big test in college, the trips to the store for just the right interview outfit. You call when you need a babysitter, or a couple bucks, you call when your job or your spouse or your child is making you rethink your whole life plan, you call when you need firewood or to borrow the truck. You call when you need a recipe or a craft supply. Call your mother and ask her how the mammogram went. Tell her you love her, and that either way — you’re there. Call me. Im home.
The mother in law has lung cancer. So far all we know is that its slow growing — theres been “something” in her lung for seven years, theyve been “watching” it. Two weeks ago someone decided it was time to poke it and see what it was. cancer. Oh hell. the mother in law and I, shall we say, have an interesting relationship. I am the furthest thing from what she thought her son, her precious, oldest child, her ONLY son, would marry. Truth be told, he wasnt supposed to marry at all — he was supposed to live upstairs and fawn over her throughout her life –like her brother Michael did for her mom — but thats another story for another post. At any rate, I am the antithesis for her dream daughter- in law: Irish ( she is italian and polish), independent ( she wanted ” yes mom, no mom”), employed ( perish the thought, she never worked outside the home, how you supposed to work and still have dinner on the table at 4:30). I was raised in a small family where it was rare to get everyone together. My husband’s family gathers for a hang nail removal — every chance for a dinner, a party, a raucous group of loud italians crammed into a porch or room loaded with fried food and pasta. She plays cards and tells raunchy stories on Saturday nights with her daughter and as many men as she can guilt into coming to her house, I dont know pinochile from popcorn….
So, suffice it to say, it has been, ah , strained. Once when a friend said “oh, you’re Cindy’s mom?” she huffed and replied “Oh, no, I am most certainly NOT Cindy’s mom”. we have argued over everything from my son’s name to the color of a sweater she wore one year. I have been left out of family events and expected to attend things that make me squirm. She has ignored my children and lavished attention on her other grandchildren.
But, she taught me how to make homemade pasta. She sat in my family room and told me I was the best mother she knew when I was struggling with guilt over my daughter’s eating disorder diagnosis. She tells everyone that her son loves me and she calls me when she needs something researched on the internet or someone to speak in a professional manner . She always has asti at Christmas and a bottle of Baileys under the sink, just in case. She keeps the pink blanket I made her at the beginning of her last cancer battle over her chair and takes it everywhere with her. She didnt want me to ride in the limo when her mom died, but she had me speak at the funeral because she knew I could.
So, now its lung cancer. damn it. Shes scared. She wont bring the paperwork in from the car because she doesnt want to “forget to bring it to the next appointment”. Now we begin the tests, the scans, the decisions that will get her through this battle. My husbands forehead is creased, my children, who love her with all they are worth but dont understand or tolerate her treatment of me over the years OR her ignoring of them ( although she brags on their accomplishments) are worried. And I am faced with the see saw that is our relationship — how do I help her without patronizing. how do I be the daughter in law she needs? Oh hell.