And some years are class five whitewater. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Fatiguing. And, if survived, not without glimpses of glory.
My mother's 67th year has been of the latter variety.
Right around her birthday last year she received the dreaded diagnosis. CANCER. Terrifying to me. Because...my mom is invincible. When I was a kid, I thought adults didn't get sick. My parents never did. And even now, with five marathons to my credit, I visit my mom in the summer and she humiliates me. Not on purpose, you understand. I just feel like a slacker when I work alongside her.
And now my invincible mom had an invader inside her body. She felt it. "I just want to get rid of it," she said. And while I was trying to comprehend a world where my mom was not superhuman, she simply did the next thing. Next doctor's appointment. Next test. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Lose hair. Lose energy. Learn what it is like to feel pain in your BONES. Literally. Then, just when you have had about all the fun you can stand. Radiation. Every day. For weeks.
Did she ask questions? Yes. Did she wonder "Why me?" Of course. Was she bitter? Not once. So far as I know.
Here is what she could not wait to tell me when we talked: She told me about people who had called. Brought food. Sent notes. Made her a beautiful quilt. Bought hats...and scarves. Loaned wigs. Driven her. Spent the day with her. People she hardly knew who had invaded her world with kindness. People who had always loved her, but took time to make sure she knew.
I could tell you I saw a new side of my mother this year. But that would not be true. Not really. I think I saw the mother I've always known...amplified. More grateful. More aware. More courageous. More tenacious. Even more invincible. But maybe not in the way I thought.
I hope I have inherited her invincibility of spirit. I would like to think I could navigate the class fives with as much grace as she has shown.
Thanks, Mom, for showing me the way.
I love you. Happy Birthday!