When I was 9 years old, I wrote my first book about caring for my mother, titled “Do you know what I’ll do?” I found it in the garage recently — an endearing and sweet look at a devoted daughter, each page outlines (and illustrates) the many ways I’d dote on her as she aged. We’ve always been close. And perhaps I somehow always knew that I’d become her caregiver one day. It seemed only natural. Of course, we didn’t expect it to happen when I was still in my 20s.
It’s been nearly 3 years since my incredible Mama was diagnosed with an extremely rare brain cancer and I became her instant caregiver. Though caregiving is incredibly difficult and emotionally challenging, there is a certain realness and joy in getting to know your parent as an adult. There is a feeling of rightness, of completing the circle. As an older single mother before such a thing was done, my mother faced many challenges. We’ve overcome obstacles together before. Call it a duty, call it tradition or honor. But really, it’s a choice. I choose to honor my mother with the best quality of life I can for as long as she wins her battle with brain cancer. We’re here to take care of each other — and I’m her person so that is what I do.
Admittedly, sometimes this means I’m not a great friend. I’ve mostly disappeared from the lives of those I hold dear. It’s not that I don’t care about my friends, their triumphs and struggles; it’s that the very question ‘How are you?’ fills me with dread. The uncertainty of it all is overwhelming at times. Writing about our struggles is not easy, but talking about it is even more painful. I’d prefer to focus on the positive, finding the joy through it all. Some days my search for the joy is more successful than others.
Most days look a lot like Mother’s Day in our house. It’s lots of meals on trays in Mama’s room, watching our favorite shows, and giggling about funny nothings much of the time — our off-the-wall sense of humor mirrored through generations. We often find ourselves echoing each other and then laughing about how we no longer need to talk to communicate.
The best bits of my day are hearing stories about growing up in California in the 1940s. Though my mother’s brain cancer damaged her short-term memory and cognition, she is filled with stories from her childhood — from working in her grandfather’s mattress factory to dress shopping with her seamstress grandmother in downtown San Francisco, and selling Girl Scout cookies from a red wagon with her brother all around the block, to the first family that had a TV and then buying her first color TV! I may have grown up before the Internet, but the world was significantly different when she grew up. Hearing her stories of what life was like then is a priceless experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. (I’m still trying to convince her to let me make videos!)
As Mother’s Day approaches, we are planning a very special trip to celebrate. Check back later this week for exciting news!