Friday, March 29, 2013

The Caretaker

This is yet another chapter of writing about a piece of who my mom was.....

This week I have been sick. Not deathly ill or even knock me out ill, but enough so that I have felt pretty yucky. In feeling that way, it has somehow taken me back to many childhood memories, which has, as always, taken me back to thinking about my mom. So here I write.

Mom's don't really get much of a break. I never really thought about it much until I became a mom myself, but it's true. And when we are sick, gets complicated. I was fortunate enough this week in my sickness, to have my husband take the reigns for a day while I essentially was able to sleep off the fever. That being said, it took me back to my childhood days. Days when my mom never got a break, and now that I am an adult, I see it more clearly even.

As a child, I was by no means a sickly little girl. I was healthy overall. That being said, of all my siblings, I was the one who always got the weird illnesses. I  had an odd sickness at age 3 or 4 called Trench Mouth. Who knows how or where I picked that one up, but it's probably the first time I remember being really sick. I also remember my mom's tender care given to me through that. I couldn't eat or drink anything much, but mom was by my side the entire time, taking care of me through it, nursing me through it all.  As I grew up a little, I became sick nearly every winter with Strep Throat. And it generally occurred more than one time a winter for me. I came to know the signs quite well. The doctor came to know me quite well, too. Living in a small town, we didn't have a doctor there in town, so mom would bundle me up well (remember, it was generally winter, and it was cold, and I usually had a fever of sorts), and she would get me in the car and we would go to the doctor. I remember mom reading to me in the waiting room on many of those visits. I can remember burying my face in moms side, trying to find some comfort while we waited.I remember mom sitting with me in the doctor's office, playing random games with me (or at me almost, to distract me) to pass the time while we waited for the doctor. And as the doctor entered, it became a familiar conversation between him and mom " Hello, Linda....back again, are we?"  In second grade, they talked about taking my tonsils out, only to decide for some reason not to. Fast forward to my senior year in high school, and they then decided it was time! All those years between then, my mom was my steadfast caretaker. She was up with me many nights soothing my fever, holding my head while I was sick, and giving me medicine in the middle of the night. I never had to ask twice. Sometimes I never even had to ask, she just knew and she was there. She never complained about doing that, although now as a mom myself, I am sure she had to be exhausted from it. Not to mention we didn't have insurance growing up, so there had to be a stress factor in there somewhere. But her faith and trust were also steadfast, and again, she never wavered in that aspect as far as I could see. Yes, those are things most moms do, but from my perspective, my mom was an amazing caretaker. I can't say I do it as well as her. And when I am sick even now as an adult, I miss my mom and I am taken back to those memories. Even as an adult, when we first moved here, I remember one winter getting pretty sick with something that just put me to bed for a day. Without even asking, my mom came over to take care of my kids all day so I could rest. She was always an amazing caretaker. When I had my tonsils taken out finally at age 17, it was rough on me. Those first couple of nights, my mom literally slept on my hard floor in my bedroom next to me to be assured I was ok and to be there for me when I would wake up so she could get me a drink and help me. I never asked....she just did.

 My mom herself was rarely sick. I can remember a few occassions growing up when she was; but it was rare. In December of 2006, when mom insisted on taking my sister and I to breakfast, I knew something was up, but never did I imagine what was coming. At that breakfast table, she told me and my sister she'd been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Mom was upbeat about it....the one assuring us. The caretaker in a time she had ever right to be taken care of.  I'll never forget that location or that conversation or that long drive home to Florida after her telling me she had cancer. My mom's mom lived to be 96, and mom was the youngest of 7 kids. Never did I imagine that she would get cancer, especially because she had been always very healthy overall. But life is unpredictable. Mom had her first surgery in January 2007 to remove the cancer, at that time it was stage 2, so it was beatable, and mom always said that. The surgery was rough on her, but she held her upbeat attitude. I was in Florida at that time, but flew in a bit after the surgery to stay with mom for 2 weeks to help out her and to help out dad. Mom never complained. yet there were complications she had in that surgery that led to a second surgery just a few weeks later. During that time, there were nurses from the local university (Cedarville University) who came over and helped take care of mom. Yes, it was practice for them. But more than that, it was a blessing to mom and to me. They packed her incision (which had become infected), they took her vitals, they gave her medicines, they washed her, and they took care of her. For free. That is one of the many reasons we now have a scholarship in memory of mom which gives back to that same nursing department. Those nurses were great. And even though mom remained upbeat, it was quite a role reversal to be her caretaker for a while. I didn't mind, but it was a shift for me in life for sure.
 After mom's second surgery, fixing what had gone wrong the first time, she had radiation and then she was in remission until 2010. In 2010, she had chest pains, called her normal doctor (the very same doctor who always saw me growing up), and from there the line moved up all the way back to her oncologist. Cancer had shown its ugly head again in her lung. The caretaker became the one taken care of yet again. Only now, I was lucky to live right here, so I could better help out. Again, mom's attitude was amazing. After the surgery of removing part of the lung only to discover the cancer was in the lymph nodes and it was stage 4 cancer, mom remained upbeat. Always a fighter. Never giving up her faith. Always trusting God. One time she was in the hospital during the summer soon after her lung removal. She had fluid on the lungs and so it had to be drained. What was supposed to be a routine one night stay turned into a nightmare almost 2 weeks long. She once had 3 machines hooked up to her to drain the fluid. I would visit with her almost every day, and her sense of humor is making me chuckle just remembering the way she dealt with all that. She named her 3 machines the triplets and made jokes about how she needed a whole cart just to take a walk around the halls. We'd load up her 3 machines and go for walks, all the while, she was making jokes and smiling. Ever trusting. Even somehow remaining to be the caretaker (of my emotions) while she was being taken care of by many different nurses.
 Yes, my mom was always a caretaker. I hope I can be just as amazing as she was. One day at a time.

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