Remaining positive in negative situations is a strength of my family. Even in the midst of the chaos, turmoil and horrible events that have been plaguing us lately we find a way to laugh. It is normal to have a lengthy conversation with either my brother or sister that is so wracked with stress and sadness and tension and by the end we have found something to laugh about. An outsider might think we were cold or heartless or ignorant as to the severity of the situation. We are none of those things. We just choose to put our faith in God and always look at the bright side of any situation. And there is always one. And we are not weak people. We don't like to break down, so we choose laughter to offset that. Sometimes we laugh through our tears too. But we always find something to be joyful about.
My mother has been battling cancer for nearly a year. After the doctors assured us all this would be a walk in the park we were ill prepared for the cold hard truth that the chemo just isn't working. She's been through radiation as well and 3 or 4 different strains of chemo. The cancer just won't go. If that was all she was dealing with it might be easier. However she also has COPD and emphysema and numerous other ailments that have popped up in this past year. Some might have been there for years, we don't know and never will. However, at 80 years old and in a weakened state from the cancer and COPD they can't do the surgery that they would for someone younger or stronger. So we wait. For what? We don't say it out loud except to each other. We are spread across the country from each other and have been doing our best to make sure that someone has been down there every few weeks. This past week has proven to be more than my dad could handle. He's letting us help now. My father is the strongest human being I know. He is my rock and my hero. For him to ask for help is unheard of. He's allowed my brother to handle a lot of the phone calls and my Godson (a med student) to talk to the Drs. He's repeatedly told us we don't need to come. That's all changing. And it's heartbreaking. Especially since we all have things going on that don't afford us the luxury of being full time caregivers 1300 and 2500 miles away. Today I made a decision to book a flight for my daughter and I to go down for a little over 2 weeks. I can't leave her home and she is going to have to miss school. So be it. My priorities have to be adjusted. Things that used to be important just aren't right now. I'm extremely blessed that my job is portable, so I can work where ever there is Internet access. I am not sure if I'm jumping the gun or if I'm staying too long. I just did what I felt was right. Then it hit me. I'm leaving my boys alone for over 2 weeks. I feel sick to my stomach. Then when I think about my daddy dealing with all of this alone I feel sick to my stomach. I'm forced to choose between my children and my parents. I know I'm not alone. This is what this time of life brings for those who are lucky enough to still have their parents, I know. And this is where we find the positives.
We are so grateful and lucky that my parents are nearly 85 and 80 and we have never had to deal with any illness where they are concerned. How blessed are we? We have been so lucky. This fact is not lost on us. We knew that this day would come. I broke down the other night and collapsed into a ball on the floor with my oldest son holding me and my middle guy holding my hand. I let it all out and they finally saw the toll this has all been taking. I am very much my father's daughter. I don't allow them to know how hard some things are, I just do them. I hated letting them see me like that! I just couldn't be strong anymore. And they need to know I'm not a robot. All I wanted was to be with my siblings again. The three of us with our parents with no one else around, like when we were kids. Childish I know, but my heart was breaking. It lasted all of 15 minutes and I was back. I got up, made dinner and then I realized. The mask. The one I donned for the entire time my son had cancer was back. I hated that f*&king mask. But it's necessary. At least this time I was letting my true emotions out to those close to me. And we were laughing and crying together. I wasn't so alone. And it hit me this morning. My dad was doing exactly what I had done when my son had cancer. I didn't want to inconvenience anyone or make anyone rearrange their lives to be with me. Yet I silently hoped they would know how badly I needed them. That was unfair, but at least I realized it and now I will read between the lines when my dad says no. When I called him this morning to tell him I was coming he didn't even protest. He just said softly "I can't wait to see you".
So, we will do what needs to be done as a family. My niece is going there this weekend, my sister will go when I leave and then my brother and sister in law will go after that. Somehow we will make it work. And we will hold each other up through the laughter and the tears. And there again is the bright spot. This family that God has blessed me with will be there through it all and that is a gift that not even this can take away.