Lesson 9: Today is a Good Day.



There are times I catch myself drifting off into a daydream. I have always lived more in my mind than anywhere else. Perhaps that has been a defense mechanism on my part. Possums play dead; I, on the other hand, slowly float away to another land where life goes exactly on my terms. This has increased in frequency within the past few months.

Recently my day dreams have taken me back in time.
Back to my mom several years ago, picking her up and taking her to the doctor. Arguing her case and staying by her side until the beast, that I’ve come to know as cancer, had been removed.
Back five years ago, before I moved to Tucson, to take her to the movies and make her dinner.
Back two and a half years ago, before my wedding, and maybe having a large wedding with her by my side.
Back to March to ask her surgeons and doctors more questions.
Back to October 25th to kiss her more than the hundred times I did that day.
It’s maddening, actually, to spend so much time in your mind wondering what would have been had those things, which seemed arbitrary, been different. You can say that it is pointless and that there is no sense in asking “what if” because “it is”… I say that to me all the time… but the truth is you can’t stop it. It can’t be stopped until I stop it, and often times I don’t want to. It seems to be comforting to convince myself I had control of what was going on to some extent, though maybe I never did.

Once I’m snatched back from the depths of my mind and back into my body, I catch my eyes tearing up and my breaths becoming heavy. The world around me seems harsh and the lights are too bright. I sit down and I begin to recount actual things that have happened. If I go over the facts of what was, then I’m brought out of the “what ifs” and back to the “what is” and though I may not be content with that, I am at least released from the anxiousness that spins around me.

I go over her surgery. September 18th, I called her at 7 PM.
“Hiiii!” I say eagerly.
“Hi baby!” She was always equally enthused to hear me.
“I’m calling now to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I know that after 7:30 you are fast asleep and so this is my last chance to say I love you and be the first to officially wish you a happy birthday.”
“Aw, thank you. You know I am up early, though, you could always call me before work.”
“I think I will do that also, but I wanted to talk to you tonight too. I’ll call you a 6 AM tomorrow.”
“Okay! I love you, baby.”

My alarm goes off, and I hit snooze. I calculate in a drowsy stupor the amount of times I can hit snooze before I absolutely have to wake up. Five minutes later the phone rings, from my mom’s number.
“Hello?” Did she want to beat me to calling her? Was it later than I thought?
But it isn’t my mom on the other line; my dad is calling because she is at the hospital going in for an emergency surgery.

But it’s her birthday, so that doesn’t make sense. We are having a party on Saturday that she has been planning for the past couple of months. Her oncologist said that she can’t have a surgery right now, she is too delicate. None of it makes sense.  Before I know it I have gone in to work and been sent home and I’m on the freeway, tears streaming down my face, singing along to the Rent soundtrack. (For your reference, this is really not the most comforting musical soundtrack to listen to.)

My mom is out of surgery and in pain. The hospital staff is friendly and kind, which is a good sign. The next few hours will pass with my stomach in my throat, reading her monitor for the amount of respirations she is taking, and each time she moved her finger, her heart beat will be undetectable and my heart will beat at double speed to try and compensate. But she pushes through and gives me a comforting look and tells me she is okay.
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m so sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“Because it is your birthday, and this shouldn’t happen on your birthday. I’m sorry you are in the hospital on your birthday.”
“Don’t be. Today is a good birthday. I could have died, but I didn’t. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday.”

I lift her out of the bed, and the orchestra crescendos in a melancholic climb and we twirl about the hospital in a moving ballet. The climax transitions to an uplifting melody and the lights go out for a scene change.

My eyes are teary. My breath is heavy. Back to the facts… I need to stick to the facts.

She told me it was a good day, and in a sense, I understand. Every day with her was a good day.

So today will be a good day, too, because I love her and she is still a part of me, so I will hold on to the good.

3 thoughts on “Lesson 9: Today is a Good Day.

  1. I used to play back the facts over and over again, either to convince myself that I did all I could, or maybe so I wouldn’t forget. I’m not really sure why. My dad and I would sit for hours and cry and analyze and ask “what if” until we drove ourselves crazy, and we always ended up at the same conclusion: there was nothing else we could have done. It’s incredibly frustrating to feel so helpless.

    It sounds like your mom had the right attitude, and hopefully remembering how strong and positive she was will help you to get through these moments. I always remind myself of how angry my mother would be with me knowing how upset I am – she never wanted to be a “burden” 🙂 It’s cliche, but I know our moms would want us to remember the good times and be thankful for the time we had with them, because as you said, every day with them was a good day.

    1. You’re absolutely right, our mother’s would want us to live in their honor and not try to hide in their shadow. It is definitely something I need to remind myself of everyday. It does help to talk to/hear from people that have been through similar situations and to write out my thoughts.

  2. Nicole,
    These are such wonderful essays and I look forward to them every day. I will try to send my lessons to you soon so you can play off the lessons your mother taught to more of us. A few days ago I went for coffee and just sat undisturbed and pensive remembering so many things. It was a lovely “visit”. Love you all.

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