Monday, August 24, 2015

One Tough Mama

"You are Wonder Woman. You know that, don't you?"  The nurse in the recovery room kept her eyes on a drowsy Daniel but I knew that she was addressing me.

Me, the mom with an eleven-month-old son in a stroller, a child of unknown gender in my belly, and four-year-old Daniel in the hospital bed, about to wake up from his third radiation treatment.

I only smiled.

"One tough mama," she said.  "You are amazing."

My daughter would have smiled at me had she been in the room, but she was in first grade learning to write about her brother Daniel.  He and I like to red funny books. He has a boo-boo in his neck.

Daniel opened his eyes and looked around the room.  "I had a nice nap," he said.

The nurse and I laughed.

This scene is only a memory now, a memory I have recalled over the eighteen years.

Eighteen years ago I did not think that I was a wonder woman.  I was merely doing what any mom with a kid with cancer would do----one foot in front of the other, moving forward.  It was a season of getting my three kids to where they needed to be when they needed to be there.  For Daniel that meant getting him to radiation treatments every day at 6 AM for three weeks, and to the hospital once a month for week-long cancer treatments.

Tears?  No.  Sentiment?  Who had time for that?  I was one tough mama.

Eighteen years ago I was thirty-six, and believed that if you prayed hard enough and dreamed big enough, you would never have to live a life of heartache.

When Daniel died at age four, people told me that they didn't know how I did it.  They used words like brave and strong and inspiring.

But now I wonder if they would understand that eighteen years since my little boy's body could no longer fight the battle, I'm a crumbling mess.  I cry because at The Home Depot a tool set has been reduced to 1992, the year Daniel was born. There's a car in the parking lot with Dan on the license plate.

Days before my Daniel's birthday (he would be 23 August 25th), I am reduced to an ache so large that I wonder if the years have stitched up my wound at all. I recall his death and his birth and the four tiny years between the two events as I prepare dinner for the living.

I stir the spaghetti sauce with blurry eyes. Tears splatter onto the counter.  My other children are 25, 19, and 18.  They have grown used to me, they know me.  I'm the mom who collects watermelon and tells the story of how Daniel stored left-over watermelon in his hospital bathtub after the Fourth of July. I'm the one who searches for rainbows after every thunder storm, keeps Curious George books in a dusty book shelf and uses Daniel's phrases----like, "A spider for a pet! I have a spider for my pet!" and Daniel wisdom----"I know why they call it a parking lot, because there are LOTS of places to park."

My kids don't mind tears in the sauce.  But they also know that I won't become sad when they head off to college or leave home for a dingy house with a group of boys before completing high school. They know I value the "normal" things kids get to do as they grow older and find their paths.  I cherish them and that they get to grow up, fall down, get up, and try again. (And am grateful that the middle child did graduate eventually.)

This is who I am, this is the life of one tough mama.


dustydaisy said...

oh Alice my sweet - i cry for you and were i there i would give you a hug- one mother to another x x x
Sending my love x x x
Grania x x x

alice wisler said...

Hugs to you and thanks for reading!

Anne Payne said...

Another day with tears. There are lots of those. Cyber hugs, my fellow sojourner.

alice wisler said...

Thanks so much, Anne!

Emily Conrad said...

A beautiful post, Alice. Thanks for sharing!

Diana Spivey said...

You touched my heart. I pray I never have to feel such gtief.

alice wisler said...

Thank you, Emily.

Than you, Diana.

Barb Ross said...

So sorry for your loss, but you have helped so many people with your writing talent.
Thanks for sharing such a personal memory.

alice wisler said...

Thank you for reading, Barb!

Marilyn Flanary said...

Alice, I can really relate to your bittersweet memories. There was a time when I couldn't even go down the grocery store aisle where the baby food was. I don't know that you ever get over losing a child, but you have been such a trooper... and helped so many others along the way. Thanks so much for sharing!! You ARE one tough mama!

Laura Gibowski said...

My dearest Alice - how amazing you continue to be! Your passion and positive spirit persists after all these years without Daniel. Surely he feels your love and sends even more back from the cosmos. I miss you a great deal, but know you have a strong network and base of family and friends. What I wouldn't give for another high tea on the back porch. Sending LOVE LOVE LOVE to you my friend!