8.04.2009

15 YEARS

Today marks 15 years since my Mother passed away. It also marks the exact moment in time where I've spent the same years of my life without her as I did with her. To say that today is a surreal day would be an understatement.

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Although I'm only 30 years old, I feel so much older. Losing my Mother at 15 forced me to grow up pretty quickly. She never saw me drive a car, have a girlfriend, start high school...things that most people take for granted. And now that I have a son, and cherish every silly moment, I know how hard it must have been for her to realize that she wasn't going to be able to share those memories with me.

But part of her lives through me, (of course, how could she not?) and with Lex starting Kindergarten in a couple weeks, I can't wait to begin my series of "First Day of School" photos with him. (I used to love Mom doing these when I was in Grade School...but once Middle School started, I wished she'd knock it off...which of course she wouldn't even think twice about doing!)

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I can still remember the night I first found out my Mother had found a tumor in her breast. My brother and I always took baths together, even when I was like 10-11 and he was 7-8. I guess it was just easier on my Mom to have to draw one bath for both of us rather than have to go through the entire process twice on a nightly basis. Besides, even though we fought and wrestled throughout most of our childhoods, hanging out in the bathtub while Mom washed our hair was a time to cherish as a family.

helloooooo ladies

But that night was different. Dad came in alongside Mom. There was a stillness in the air and I remember asking my Mom a couple of times if everything was okay.

Dad eventually told us that they went to the doctor while we were away at school and that Mom had a small tumor in her breast. I heard the word Cancer for the very first time in my life and instantly knew it was something bad.

"Mom, are you going to die?" I specifically remember blurting out...almost callused. But I was terrified. I was always closer to my Mother than my Father. We were both very emotional people who wore our hearts on our sleeve.

Dad responded back, "No, she's not going to die."

And for the next 3 years, she would have a on-again, off-again struggle with chemo and radiation. She would spend plenty of nights throwing up and having dry heaves. She would lose all of her hair, have both breasts surgically removed, be constantly worn out, and yet through it all, never lead on that dying was even an option.

But then, one evening, while looking up a phone number for a old friend of hers on the telephone...she just kept flipping the pages of the phone book, on and on and on...

"Cindy, what number are you trying to find?" my Dad asked her.

She responded, "I don't...know?"

"Well, who are you talking to?" he followed up.

She just sat there, like nothing was making any sense, and she was struggling to understand the situation. "I...don't know?!"

He took her to the hospital that evening, and once they returned, we all learned the sad truth. Her Cancer had spread to her brain.

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She died 6 months later.

It was the saddest, loneliest I've ever felt in my entire life. I still get emotional when I think back to how unfair it was. She was constantly fighting, always keeping her spirits high, allowing her faith to overwhelm her into thinking that with God's love, she'd be able to overcome the disease. Live to see her children grow up and have babies of their own. She desperately wanted to be a Nana one day.

But instead, she died at the age of 42.

Mom's grave

Enough time has passed to where I'm finally able to accept the fact that at least I was able to share 15 years of my life with her by my side. The last couple years of her life we were as close as we could be. "Wayne's World" had recently come out and we began connecting on all this music she enjoyed when she was a teenager. She'd tell me about going to see Alice Cooper in concert, how he would cut off his head on stage and walk around with it. Picturing your own Mother enjoying such a crazy thing was incredible. Hearing about how she put black lights in her bedroom and stayed up late listening to Jimi Hendrix records pretty much proved that we were basically the same person. She even started to enjoy listening to Pearl Jam with me. I'll never forget how she enjoyed Guns N' Roses because she thought Axl Rose sounded like Janis Joplin! (She had a point.)

So, it's a bittersweet day. One filled with sadness and heartbreak...and one surrounded with love and appreciation. I miss her more than words can truly justify, and I hope that she'd look back at these past 15 years and be proud of the man I've become.

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In a lot of ways, I'm still that lil' boy...wearing my heart on my sleeve, wanting to brighten up people's days, and in the end, inspire those around me to take nothing for granted.

Cherish those around you. Take a moment today and tell someone you love them and appreciate their friendship. Trust me, it matters.

4 comments:

Jen said...

This just made me tear up at work. Thanks for sharing your story.

Cynical Dirt Doll said...

gee thanks Trav, 'cuz I haven't bawled enough in the past few days, you gotta throw in this post??? Seriously, thanks for posting it. I am truly sorry for your loss.. what a wonderful woman. I will think of this post on Sunday while running for your mom. And you do brighten people's day with your sarcasm and smartassery.. oh yeah, and your kindness and caring.. thanks for being a friend.

laura said...

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post about your mom. And thanks for making me cry at work. ;)

We almost lost my mom a couple of years ago. It was a terrible, scary time as an adult. I can't imagine the strength it takes to go through that as a teenager.

Travis said...

Thanks everyone. If it's any consolation, I was pretty much crying the entire time I wrote this...and trying to ring up customers at a Harley shop. But luckily, everyone knows I'm a babyhead, so no one thought twice. :)

I'm sure it's hard to lose a parent at any age, but at 15...even the years before, when she was just fighting the tumors in her breasts...watching those around me fight and bicker with their parents was probably the hardest thing of all. I mean, you're at that age where your parents are basically the worst people in the entire world anyway, but having my own parent stuggling to survive, it made me appreciate the role of adults and how they're really trying to do what's best. (Which usually involves grounding you when you do stupid shit!)

Anyway, thanks again for letting me know you were moved to tears simply by reading these few paragraphs. While that wasn't my purpose directly, I wanted everyone to know that they missed out on meeting one of the nicest, modest, and most caring person I'd ever met in my entire life.

Take care everyone...and don't worry, I have plenty of lame video game shit and rants about politics coming up, so we can all put away the Kleenex! :)