So my last post is a downer, and I want a quick rebuttal, so that you know I do have “a right to smile” and a lot to smile about. Writing this blog is really cathartic for me. Emotions percolate deep below my conscious thought, often manifesting in anxiety about teaching. But when I write about them, I discover their true source and literally come to terms with them, feeling calmer and more accepting in the process.
So when people read my blog and tell me how sorry they are, I feel grateful for their concern, but also a little embarrassed. “I’m okay, now,” I think, “I’ve written about it.” I don’t always admit that, because I’m a little ashamed that I do feel better.
There are bright sides of this disease, and one of them is that it brings our family together. I’m so grateful that my Dad is so strong, loyal, and cabable, and my siblings are in Connecticut to support him. My sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Peter host Sunday dinners for my folks, and my brother Jonathan brings his kids to see them whenever he can. I phone in regularly to get status reports, and then we distract ourselves with other topics. We’ve had a lot to celebrate, with my nephew Ben graduating from McDaniel College and Alex landing a dream summer job as athletics coordinator at a summer camp. My niece Isabelle is blossoming in kindergarten, and her little brother William has dreamy, mischievous blue eyes that drown all sorrows in a wink. Luke will be heading to Washington University at St. Louis and Thomas to Stanford in the fall, and the next few weeks are full of proms and graduation parties.
I want to make an extra shout out to my sister here, because although Elizabeth gives me credit for being the writer, she has really found her voice in the midst of this crisis. She knows just what to say (or write in an email) to my Dad to boost his spirits. She also gives great advice to me, as she did recently when I was ruminating guiltily about not sending enough cards to Mom. The trouble is that I want to include photos to give her something to look at, but I never get around to taking news ones and then printing them, and then I don’t send the card. “Why don’t you just make a cartoon drawing, like Nana used to draw in her letters to us?” Elizabeth suggested. We loved getting those letters with the funny cartoons. Nana (Mom’s mother) would draw her hair in curlers and come up with funny situations and nicknames for herself. She always tried to figure out a way to avoid drawing hands and feet, which she insisted she couldn’t draw.
Just when I was feeling hopeless about Mom’s disease and my own ability and motivation to support her, Elizabeth came up with the perfect solution. Drawing a silly cartoon not only gave me a quicker, more efficient way to reach out to Mom, it also restored a maternal lineage, making me feel anchored and supported in a fun-loving tradition that spans generations. Instead of dreading the task of writing to Mom, I had fun drawing a scene of me “nursing” Matt after his recent knee surgery. My cards can’t ever recapture the humor, color, or charm of the inimitable “Mz. Gates,” but with the help of my sister, they can help me feel connected and make me smile, even in the face of loss.