Pay attention, take care

Please read this if you can; it’s lovely and heart-wrenching.

“Over time, the worry I felt when she first told me about the disease began to fade. We knew the statistics, but statistics… get you only so far. Besides, my mother had never been ordinary.”

My mother’s immune system is just over a year old now, after her autologous stem cell transplant, performed in response to multiple myeloma. Her kidneys were casualties of this cancer, but not her, remission remains.

It is very hard for me to think about her overall prognosis. Very, very hard. So I write about my boring little life. My corporate wifery. The PTA. My friends and their myriad issues. My political and social concerns. And our kids, of course. I find myself raising them and thinking “my mom did this,” and feeling… Better.

But mostly, I find myself impatient, impatient with everyone who wastes their time making foolish decisions or being thoughtless or careless or haphazard or messy or nonsensical.

I’m trying to find patience. Not sure I’ve ever really had much patience to lose, but wherever it is, it feels like it’s light years away.

We should live in our moments, we should. But we should be careful with them. We should make the most of them, for ourselves, but more so, for others. For others who have fewer.

I need to do more and do better and I just don’t know how. Hmmm.

related by equality

There’s a petition on The White House’s site asking that the President stop using the phrase “wives, mothers and daughters,” because it is counterproductive to the fight for women’s equality. Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for Salon, quotes McKenna Miller on the issue as it would be applied to gay rights: “The reason to fight homophobia isn’t because ‘you’ve got a gay friend,’ it’s because it’s simply the right thing to do. The reason why a woman is valuable isn’t because she’s someone’s sister, or daughter, or wife, it’s because of the person she is unto herself.”

True. The reason to expect, let alone fight for, equality among sexes (male, female, or transgendered), or among those with different sexual orientations, or among those with different abilities, or among those with different religions, is because it’s the right thing to do.

But why do we do the right thing? We do the right thing because we know we wouldn’t want the wrong thing done to us.

Each one of “us” in this country comprise a community: A big, messy community in which you may never meet even one 10,000th of one percent of all of its members. It’s a community that can make you feel lonely, isolated, or safe and in good company.

When you hear a phrase like “wives, mothers, and daughters,” and in the case of gay rights, perhaps not the phrase “gay friend,” but the more accurate, if not all encompassing, phrase “sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters,” the people named are no longer “them.” They become one of “us.”

There should be no reluctance in using the fact that one is a part of something–a marriage, a family, a community–in arguing for equality. Nobody diminishes me for naming what I am in relation to others. I am proud of my relationship to others: as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a volunteer, a citizen. I am not isolated, I am not alone. I am safe and in good company.

Sure, the President used shorthand, likely because he is trying to appeal to a pretty stubborn segment of old-school old boys’ club members. Whatever. There are bigger fights to fight.


She blows me away sometimes, our daughter.

Today, she was busy in the playroom and then her bedroom for quite some time, and kept instructing me not to come in. She came out near dinner time and said, “You won’t believe what I did. It’s something we don’t talk about much and we don’t organize it very often….” I looked at her and guessed, “Oh my gosh did you organize the bookshelves?” And she HAD.

It probably took that girl 45 minutes, but she made both bookshelves so orderly and organized–and she was so proud of herself. She said, “I kept smiling the whole time Mom, I was thinking, ‘Mom’s gonna go crazy when she sees how good this looks!'” She told me that she was just tired of not being able to see all of the books and find the right ones, so she fixed it. (I have urged them countless times to use shelf markers (which they have) like at their library at school, to put books back where they found them… to no avail.)

I told her I was extremely proud of her maturity. She asked what “maturity” was and I said, “It’s when you do the right thing, for no other reason than it’s the right thing–even when it’s hard to do. It’s when you fix a problem, because you can.”

She beamed all evening.

Later tonight, her brother woke from an awkwardly timed nap–about 7:45 pm, also known as bedtime. His sister was reading in their shared room, settling down for the evening. He came out and had three bowls of cereal for dinner. We chatted, and I could see our daughter from the dining room table, as their room is just steps away. I smiled at her, made silly faces. At one point I noticed she had left her bed. I called to her and asked her to get back into bed. Her brother finally turned in, lights out for both.

About 30 minutes later, she came out into the living room, where my husband and I were watching a football game. She was sobbing.

She climbed into my lap.

“Mommy, I have something to tell you,” sobbing all the way through.

I assured her she could tell me anything, asked her what the problem was.

“When [my brother] was eating… ” At this point she was sounding a lot like Laura Petrie when she would cry to her husband Rob.

I asked her to take a deep breath and tell me what she needed to say.

“I felt so alone.”

She cried and cried as I apologized for not understanding that she felt alone, for not asking her to come sit at the table with us, for just thinking she wanted to read and settle in for the night. I told her I was so sorry to hurt her feelings, that I didn’t mean to do it, but I was so glad to know that I did, so that I would pay more attention in the future. That I was so happy that she came and told me how she felt, because I knew how hard that was to do. I told her that she was being so mature, twice in one day, I could barely believe it, it was so wonderful.

She started smiling as she stared into my face.

“Why are you smiling? Do I have antlers growing out of my nose?”

“No, I’m smiling because your eyes look Iike they’re going to cry.”

She knew she’d been understood. She knew that sharing her feelings mattered. She knew that Mommy is a reasonable person who can admit when she misses a cue, who will believe her daughter.

I don’t know. It all seemed ridiculously momentous to me. There are so many days as a parent that make you think, “Man, I messed up today. I’ve ruined them, they’ll curse me in therapy, I’m doing this all wrong….” And then there’s this one day where everything is right again.

Today was such a day. She has grown up so much. I’m smarter because of her. More humble. More mature.