“I’m glad I got cancer”

I rarely hear woman say “I wanna be just like my mom someday”.  We hear boys say they want to be just like their dads when they grow up, why don’t woman say it more? Such different relationships…

Today, I yelled at John. You might think I don’t yell a lot, maybe it was just today? No, I yell all the time. I think my normal talking voice in this house is yelling. I cannot have a conversation without talking over John and his technology devices going off so I scream “Turn it down” mid-sentence and keep going. Newcomers to the Murphy household are usually shell shocked and wondering how I can even have a conversation and retain anything we talked about.

Anyway, I started off talking about mothers. I spent years praying to not be anything like my mom. Now I wish I was like her. She was a mother that had a lot against her. She raised four very different kids in a mostly unhappy marriage as a stay at home mom. After her divorce she went out to work as a bartender, later getting a job with the Chicago School system doing janitorial work. Her relationships with her kids were strained because we were little assholes. Except for my older brother Teddy, he was and is non-judgmental and empathetic. I know he was towards our mother, not so much with others. Even though I believe he really is but tries to play it off like he isn’t. He is generous and is always helping people. A friend of his went to prison and Teddy was the only one who kept in touch with him, sent him gifts, money, etc.  When I asked him why he even bothered he said, “Why not, the guys got nothing else going for him”. When that friend got out of prison, less than 3 months later he died of a heart attack. I think about how that poor man died when his life was getting ready to change for the better and how grateful he was for Teddy’s correspondence all those years.

My mom was diagnosis with brain cancer when Johnny was a baby. I was devastated and so was Teddy. Even today I feel these overwhelming waves of guilt in me for the absence in my mother’s life for so many years, it was intentional absence. I was so mean and judgmental. Unfortunately, it took an illness for me to have any empathy for her at all. She had cancer for 6 years before she passed, we had an amazing 6 years filled with great memories. I would hop on a plane every 3-6 months to visit her in Ireland where she lived to spend a few weeks with her. Teddy and I would take turns going, sometimes going together. Mom told my cousin Mikey one day, “I’m happy I got cancer. I don’t think I would have known how much everyone loves me”.

When he told me that my heart was broken for all the lost years. All the years she wanted to talk to me and I wouldn’t. All the years I didn’t even know why I was mad at her other than other family member’s influences. That day I vowed to live a life where there was no question about love. People I love know I love them because I tell them when I see them. Even if they think it’s strange, I say it. Last weekend, we went to John’s ECMO reunion to celebrate his survival. We have kept in touch with all those folks for over 12yrs. Danny, the ECMO specialist that cared for John, is a friend we see rarely but still considered a friend because of his role in our lives. As I was leaving I told Danny “I love you, see you next year”. He said he loves me back, but I didn’t’ expect that. I truly love him for his role in my son’s life, his survival.

When the feeling rises, I say it. On the other hand, people I dislike usually know it, too. Not because I tell them. Because I create boundary’s that keep them at a distance. For example, my sister and I haven’t seen or talked to each other since Dad died. I do not like her, how she treats her family or how she treats other people. I don’t want to judge her, condemn her or save her, so I create the boundaries. Some people need to save themselves and my role in their life may be only to watch me from afar or not.

I remember mom yelling at us when we were kids. Once she chased me around the front room with a broom and almost made contact. I probably said something disrespectful.

I hate that I yell at John. Sometimes I can’t help it. I always apologize to him without the “but”. I remind myself that I am teaching him how to be treated. We make mistakes, we make amends, we forgive, we pray and we live in gratitude. Thank God for the ability to take time outs, restart our day and thank god for LOVE!

At the end of the night he has never turned away a hug or kiss, for that I am grateful. At the end of the night he knows I love him!

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People that cry

My son John has been in the hospital.  He has the flu which means he needs ventilator support and drugs that open his airway and more drugs to counter the side effects of those drugs.  It’s a vicious cycle with the drugs, scares me to think the damage it’s doing to his body.  But, extremely grateful for the good it does.  Wednesday and Thursday night I never left the hospital.  I closed the store Thursday night because no one could cover my shift.  The kids that work for me seem too busy to work at times between college, family and social obligations.  Friday morning, I had to go into the shop to clean a machine.  I figured while I was out I would catch lunch with Nora and her daughter Zoe. 

Zoe is a feisty, bossy little lady that is descend for great things.  She’s a princess on some days with her Frozen princess Ella dress and a regular little girl on other days with her Pajama wearing style. She loves to make people smile but she has to be fed first.  She’s a girl after my own heart.  Nora and I arrived at Fannies, our favorite BLT hot spot, at the same time.  She was walking from her car with little Zoe trotting beside her chatting while I crossed the street to meet them at the front door.  Something about Zoe’s spark made me emotional.  I started thinking about Johnny and how he loves to make people smile.  My heart was broken watching him struggle in the hospital.  The last three days he hasn’t smiled at all.  When Zoe seen me she walked right up to me and hugged my legs.  The top of her head reaches just above my knees.  Her skinny little arms grabbed hold of my knees and gave a big squeeze.  Then she looked up at me and handed me two stickers.  Nora explained that she wanted to share her stickers to make me happy while I am so sad. The water works came on so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and eat lunch. 

This scene lasted less than a minute but has forever been engraved in my mind.  It reminded me of my own childhood and how we dealt with tears and sadness.  As a child, if I saw someone cry I was like a deer in headlights.  I didn’t know what to do.  The thought of providing a sad person with a hug or pat on the back was completely awkward to me.  It still is sometimes today. 

My father never cried, other than when his mother died and my son was born. I believe the fact that he didn’t cry was a life accomplishment for him.  While my dad was dying from cancer I set up his bedroom in our living room, Sunshine Rehab he called it.  I was forced to enroll John back in school instead of homeschooling because I knew I couldn’t handle the pressures of caring for Dad and John at the same time.  The first day of John’s school I came home crying because I felt they didn’t want him there, I was almost 5years sober at this time so crying wasn’t a weakness anymore, it was my strength.  My dad just stared at me like a deer in headlights.  A few days later he confessed to me that when he seen me like that, crying and all, “I almost cried”.  Imagine that.  He said it like it was an accomplishment that he didn’t cry.  As if crying would have been a bad thing. 

The last time my dad cried was with me.  He told me he was sorry I had to go through this.  I asked, “This?  Go through what?”.  He said, “Having to watch me die. You had to watch your mother die and now you are watching me die and I’m sorry for that”.  I said, “Thank you for allowing me to be here to take care of you, I love you”. Then we cried with our foreheads touching each other. 

Dad said, “Im gonna miss you”

I said, “You’ll be gone, Im gonna miss you more”

And I do ❤