“(S)He’s Leaving Home, Bye, Bye”*

Kleinkind beim Laufen

Image via Wikipedia

(April, 2011)

My son, my first-born made his final decision for college in September. He’s excited, thrilled and after celebrating with him, I slipped away and am now holed up in my bedroom, sobbing. It’s not like I haven’t been prepared for this, it’s not like he’s still six it just feels like he was six a moment ago. He’s my boy and as much as I know how happy he is with his choice, the deposit put me over the edge. I fell apart; it was now official.

I know I am being ridiculous, this is not sudden bad news but it feels like a total shock to me. I am weeping and I can’t explain it except to say that while I am so happy for him, I feel vastly sorry for myself. This is my son, my first child, the kid I called “buddy” so many times my husband was worried people would think that was his name. This boy is a delight, a warm, compassionate, smart young man. At the age of 2 1/2 he stunned a grown-up friend when he used the word “compromise.” When the friend doubted him and asked him if he knew what that meant, he explained it beautifully: “If I want to go to bed at 9 and my daddy says 7 then we compromise in the middle.” You can’t argue with facts.

(June, 2011)

I lost it today, in the supermarket between the pizza rolls and the pizza bagels, two past favorite foods of my son. The tears welled up in my eyes and I started crying, quietly, discreetly but that was just strength of will on my part. I could have sobbed but I held myself together. My son is graduating High School in a week and a half. The day after, he leaves to go to his old camp to be a counselor. I never liked being left, that’s for sure. My parents left me alone a lot when I was younger so they could travel together in Europe. I would cry hysterically but once the yellow taxi disappeared from the view from my sixth floor kitchen window, I was alright.

I feel, like many other mothers and fathers feel that he is leaving me and us, the family. I know I am overreacting but this is how I feel. It’s a great thing, a joyful thing but the good feeling hasn’t caught up to my heart yet. In time, I’m sure it will. I just have to get used to it but it is a drawn out process.  I like to think that when he actually leaves FOR college I will be better, but who am I trying to kid?  I’ve never been great at change and this is a big one.

It doesn’t help that my daughter, only one grade year apart from her brother, will be a Senior in High School come September. This little girl of mine is smart, independent and always knew what she wanted from the minute she was born. She planned her birthday party themes four years in advance and stuck to each one of them. She is a fierce animal lover, and vegetarian, she is very smart, extraordinarily beautiful and has an incredible quick wit. This girl, wrapped her arms around my neck for years and wouldn’t let go. No one else could soothe her except me. Soon, she too, will be running out the door, this independent free spirit that I fervently admire.

In our hearts, our secret fear is that our sons and daughters will forget us. So, I am saying this now. Please remember we love you so much. Please don’t forget us or stop loving us. Keep in touch and the hug you give when you visit, try to make it last a second or two longer so that we can remember just how good it feels.

*Courtesy of The Beatles song

The World Just Changes A Little Bit

Burning match (cerilla ardiendo)

Image by John C. Shaw via Flickr

I just received news from my sister that her friend Allison passed away last night. I knew Allison but had only met her once or twice. She was a very warm and charming woman who was my sister’s neighbor. She leaves behind her husband and a daughter, the age of my nephew, Jon, 21. She died of breast cancer.

I have a friend that lives around the corner who is also dying of cancer. She too had breast cancer and then brain cancer. We don’t ask questions, they are a very private family. No matter what her condition is she tries to attend, her children’s basketball games or important events. She doesn’t care about being seen in a wheelchair or weighing barely 90 pounds or the fact that her mouth dragged down and over to the side, why should she? She is one of the best moms I have ever met. She will be with her three children as long as a single breath is left in her body.

Two years ago, when she was still able to walk, unassisted, my neighbor and I would each run to our windows to keep track of her. If we saw her walking alone, one of us would crush our feet into sneakers and pretend that we had walked too, and join her to keep her company. She wouldn’t ask for help, but we knew that we couldn’t let our friend walk unsteadily alone. She refused to use a cane; but she was happy for the company; we were happy to see her.

If we made “extra” food for our families, we would simply drop platters of freshly roasted chicken, baked ziti and meatballs at her door with a loaf of warm french bread or a tray of fudge brownies. When she could only drink liquids my new specialties became soup; peach soup in the summer, chicken soup in the fall. They never asked for meals but they always welcomed it. We would call before we brought a meal over and ask if it was a convenient time; sometimes we left it on the wooden bench near the door. We never saw our friend on these visits; we didn’t have to.

My best friend from high school, Paula, had breast cancer and finally now, after about 6 or more hospitalizations, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, infections and reconstructive surgery, she is trying to heal. It has been a long road for her. Another friend, Margie, with thyroid cancer, said she doesn’t think about celebrating her five-year anniversary of being cancer free; her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering said that “once you have cancer, you are never cancer free.” I don’t want to believe that but it is sobering.

I am sorry for my friends, I worry in advance for all the important women in my life. I am grateful for every healthy minute of our lives, and I understand how fragile and unpredictable life is. I am incredibly grateful. The world changes a bit, doesn’t it, when another person dies, when a soul leaves the body. It’s like a candle or a match, one after another, forcibly being blown out while it is still burning bright. It seems that their lives are extinguished way too early, too violently and too harshly. Snuffed, taken away, burnt, dead. “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”

Dedicated to all cancer survivors and those we lost who live on in our hearts.