From the time I was eight years old, when my mom had cancer until 1987, things went pretty well. Being from a big family, many things happened: the good, the bad and the ugly …. some truly unfortunate events (with blessings mixed in) … BUT not to me directly. I decided in this series that I would only write about what happened to me because it is not my place to speak for someone else. I know how I’d feel if someone else tried to tell MY story.
We all have our perceptions and versions of events. Our perception is our reality and no two are alike … similar maybe … but not the same. I remember talking to my brother Jimbo Pete about things from our shared childhood where I’d say “OH YES, I remember that trip, it was so much FUN!” to which he almost always replied “Ya but …”
Same trip, same experience, completely different perception. I guess he didn’t like sand sandwiches as much as I did :). Either that or at four years old, I was too young to realize we were roughing it when we camped by the jetty in Port A.
Anyway, I’ve gone down my proverbial rabbit hole. AGAIN! Now back to topic. The next unfortunate event occurred in July to October of 1987. Here’s the back story: I was 22 years old, working and going to college. I took Saturday classes because it was just easier. This gave me time for homework, etc.. without taking away too much of Billy-Bob’s and my time together. Every Saturday for 16 weeks, when class was over, I’d stop by to see my Mamaw; to visit and eat lunch with her. These were super special times because I had her all to myself. She would tell me stories of her growing up. Life in New Berlin and Seguin. Oh how in hindsight I wished I had recorded her or at least written down because these family stories, died with her.
In November 1986, we had a bday dinner for my brother. Mamaw was driving herself over. She was late, uncharacteristically so. We called her … way before cell phones and her land line just rang and rang. We almost sent out a search party when she arrived at our door. She told us she had fallen asleep and never heard the phone ringing. She woke up, got ready and came on over. That dinner was uneventful. No more questions were asked. It was the first of many times where she “fell asleep”. When in reality, she was in pain and trying to find out what was causing said pain.
In July of 1987, Mamaw went in for exploratory surgery. I went to work as normal that day. My mom and uncles promised to call me and keep me informed. Of course, I could not concentrate at work. We were BUSY … phones ringing off the hook as was and still is typical for summers in a call center … summer surge we called it. My senior KB asked me what was wrong and that’s when I lost it, I had been holding back and the tears easily came. My grandma was sick but they didn’t know why and she was going into surgery as we speak. KB sent me home, told me she’d clear it with our boss Mister P … “me but I can’t it’s too busy” but she was steadfast “this place will roll along without you and you know where you NEED to be”
I drove to SE Baptist hospital. Found my family in the waiting room and we waited and we waited. A nurse came in and said Dr. F was closing up and would be out shortly to brief us. Then we waited … and waited … and there was nothing short about it. When Dr. F finally did come out, he explained while closing, they found something and we had a diagnosis. Liver cancer, that had spread. He calmly told us that there was nothing they could do except to make her comfortable for whatever time she had left. He stopped short of saying how long and I do not remember anyone asking, just however long it took … and they’d make her comfortable. I do remember my cousin asking “isn’t the liver an organ than can repair itself?” and Dr. F saying “that didn’t change the prognosis here”. To this day, I am struck with the memory of how compassionate Dr. F was … he was such a calming presence. No stereotypical surgeon god-complex – super-ego.
I told Billy Bob that night that I wanted to have a baby. Before my G-ma died. Our original plan was to wait at least five years … since we were so young when we married. Plus I had school to finish and a few other things we both wanted to do before we had kids but when you hear – “we cannot cure her, only make her comfortable” plans change. Emotions run wild and a cooler mind might have continued to wait but back then, I was young and impulsive instead of the calculating, analytical individual I am today.
Despite best efforts, Mamaw was in a lot of pain. The nursing home took good care of her though. We visited everyday and became friendly with other residents. They all had varying degrees of health issues and some of the more ambulatory were quite good company. I was reminded of Mimi our neighbor with a heart of gold. They looked out for each other same as Mimi did for our whole neighborhood. We didn’t have to adhere to visiting hours. We were always greeted with kindness and automatically became pseudo-family.
It was a cool day in October 1987, the day my Mamaw died. That morning Billy Bob and I had a fight. Over what I cannot remember. Just a little tiff, minor disagreement which delayed our arrival at the nursing home. More than likely I was ready and he wasn’t. “you’re such a girl hurry up” which would have made him slow down even more. Anyway, when we parked, I saw my uncle looking out the window and I instantly knew. He came out to meet us and told us Mamaw had passed. Both my uncles were with her at the end, one telling her it was ok to go, that heaven surely must be beautiful and to tell daddy (my Pappaw) and Papa (my great grandpa) hello. Billy-Bob felt guilty and kept apologizing for making us late. I let him off the hook though, because I love him and because things turned out as they were supposed to be. I was not supposed to be in her room that day. And Billy-Bob true to form, was able to move past any guilt. Me, even now, when someone says “it’s okay” I still feel tremendous guilt. Over anything. I am jealous of people who do NOT operate that way.
The silver lining and there always is one … I was pregnant. I just didn’t know it yet but as we were planning the funeral, I found out. God took care of me and gave me something to take my mind off what would have otherwise destroyed me. Temporarily destroyed me maybe. Blessings in the pain. Little T-Spoon was born in June of 1988. He is our sonshine, light of our lives. He is spunky in much the way she was and I would remark often in his earliest days that he had her spirit. He came along not according to our plan but DEFINITELY as it should be. Turns out two of my dear high school friends were expecting too – April, May and June of 1988 made for a year to remember.
And with that, I will end my novella. Thank you to anyone who made it this far. Whew! I really do feel better.
As always, more to come …