Sometimes the a person can fool themselves into believing that something doesn’t exist, just to not have to face it. With some it is bills – don’t open the envelopes and technically you don’t know you owe the gas company their money. With others its family issues – don’t acknowledge that Junior has a drug problem and his erratic behavior remains cute and funny.
I do it too. Slide files under some papers on my desk so I don’t have to deal with the contents. Ignore the rattling muffler a little longer. Bury my feelings a little longer. But, sometimes the people around me don’t understand and wonder why or how I can be dismissive or act like I don’t care.
Which brings me to the point of this post:
Among the other things going on this weekend, my daughter Katie set up a team, me included, for the annual Relay for Life. Her life has been touched by cancer: her grandfather, her mother-in-law, and my mother. Out of the goodness of her heart she has poked, prompted, and prodded various members of her family into being a part of her team. Me included.
I tried to weasel out of it with “Nope, sorry too busy. Bike races you know.” That didn’t work out too well. I got called on the carpet about it and said I would “try” to help out however possible. Over the weekend she put together another build up fundraiser for it, which again I tried to ignore. I didn’t completely, but my lack effort was painfully obvious.
Why am I being such a jerk? That question, in some form, was put to me this weekend. After some stammering I sputtered out an answer. It deserves to be shared with some key people. Also, by putting it out here in public I can’t hide from it anymore.
When Mom was diagnosed with cancer it was a total surprise. A supposedly simple procedure revealed a belly full of cancer. The doctor who found it ended his procedure early and came out to tell me and my family before she woke up. Basically he said your mother has cancer, she’s going to die. Oh, and I gotta go so make sure you tell her.
The next ten months or so were rough. New doctor, promises of a cure, surgery, chemo, remission. Symptoms, exploratory surgery, another terminal diagnosis. Another doctor saying you need to tell your mother she’s going to die. This time for real.
Most of you can imagine the road from here – suffering, death, a funeral.
It wasn’t enough to have just this to deal with. Throw in the cancer death of a good friend, too. Now mix in a total estrangement from my biological children over something very, very stupid (and partially my fault) and my life became a total mess.
I went through all this full steam ahead. What choice did I have? I made decisions, I defended my Mom to and against many people, I took counseling, I grieved, I cried. With my wife at my side, we did the things that needed to be done. Some had to be done alone because my only sibling, my brother, lives out of state and just couldn’t.
When it was all done I assessed the damage. I was alive. I was without a mother, my brother was back in Florida. I was still married (to a wonderful person by the way). I had three children who proved an amazing amount of loyalty and love. I had two children who were without their grandmother and their father.
Over the last six years I’ve changed. Mellowed a bit, maybe. I added a son-in-law, a grandson, a niece, a sister-in-law. I gained back a daughter. I gained, lost, and I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-is-going-on a daughter. My family came within hours of disintegrating and miraculously held itself together.
But, right now, for the most part things are pretty darned good. If I could figure out why that last daughter won’t speak to her step-mother (and stop breaking her and my hearts) things would be damned good.
So, why am I hiding from the Relay for Life? The wound from the death of my mother is still open and weeping. I keep it covered but its there. As long as its covered I don’t have to deal with it. Luminaries, cancer walks, and the like rip the band-aid off and it bleeds again.
But, the love and support that I have gotten from Katie means her efforts to put this team together deserve to come above any personal discomfort. I will be there, head high, band-aid in place, with some spares in my pocket just in case.
Hiding from it doesn’t change it. It just confuses the people around you.