So, where was I? (and apologies for the hiccup in the story. I just didn’t feel comfortable claiming that much reading time.)
On we go…
After I hit SEND I waited for the boys to make their rally calls to cheer me.
Another detour: a brief thumbnail of My Three Sons.
Firstborn, Pat, has always been the Boss Man of the kids. He is subversive. Derails you with his humor. Gets what he wants. I promised him a hand-me-down car if he got straight A’s his sophomore year (really a ploy to have him drive the AM carpool) and he nailed it effortlessly. From then on he never gave a fig about his grades, and pursued whatever coursework intrigued him. Still- Northwestern grad. Headed to Hollywood post grad to write, u-turned because he missed his family. YAY!
Middle Man, Mike: My sensitive son. Hated sleepovers and camp. Loved being home. Suffers from insomnia, worries about everything. Has overcome a little processing/perceptual disorder by planning every day in detail. A cheerleader, booster, organizer, pollinator. The extrovert of the 3, our official tribe leader notwithstanding Pat’s elder status. Cries at sad viral videos as if he knows the subjects. Big, sweet bleeding heart.
Last Born (My Baby) Matt: True introvert. Processes internally. ADD, but won’t admit or submit to it. Hates to ask for help. Soldiers on. Oppositional in high school and college. I dropped him off for Freshman orientation at DePaul, and when I picked him up, he had informed the registrar he would be commuting (Absolutely false) and had procured an off campus apartment with friends. Loves madly, but quietly. Adopted a wreck of a dog and stuck with Walter’s neuroses for 11 years. Doubts himself in the shadows of his two big brothers. Shouldn’t.
Now you know them better. Bets are on Mike calling, right? I knew I had lobbed a grenade in their direction, and was prepared for damage control. SO I waited with the phone in my lap. Imagine the Jeopardy theme playing in your head.
Then nothing. Time for bed.
Then I heard the front door open. I looked up, and there was Mike, my Middler, in the kitchen. He was broken. He was shaking with sobs: fear and sorrow were washing over him. In ten seconds, I was transported back to the role of comforter and nurturer. Mommy, not Mom. I hugged him, rubbed his back, assured him that I would be around to nag him for a long, long time. I felt his tension relax. I felt my sense of purpose ignited. We were going to be fine. It felt good to return to the elemental role of motherhood. Mike’s vulnerability set the bar for me: I had to be a pillar so they wouldn’t collapse with worry.
I heard the door open again. Pat, the Elder made his entrance.
He had opened his e-mail at a Date Night with his wife. (fumble by me) Dessert came with a side of pathos. He immediately heard from a hysterical Mike, already in transit, and he tried to calm him. Pat said he was sure I would triumph, wasn’t worried, and was there to save me from Mike’s hysteria. We knew better, but the Big Brother Smart Ass Pat was a welcome visitor. He cracked jokes, asked questions; I knew he was internalizing all of his stress in order to keep the mood light. His wife had dropped him off so that he could drive a distraught Mike home. Otherwise, he teased, Mike might just stay overnight. Or forever. Levity is a gift in stressful times. Pat delivered.
I really biffed the timing with Matt. He was working at the White Sox game, tied to a computer with a Mail Alert. Not an optimal place to get a cancer-gram. Matt was an impetuous kid, but is a deliberate adult. He immediately called his wife, an oncological nurse, for facts and clarity. As a paid-on call firefighter, he has seen a spectrum of medical issues, and he is not prone to panic. When he phoned me from his car after the game, he was calm and informed. I could hear concern through his assurances, but he had settled himself before he called. We chatted until he pulled into his driveway after a 12-hour day, and we agreed that I was going to dominate cancer. I felt the love and the determination to show no fear. Perfect closer. Finally, off to bed.
What a crazy blessing to get three totally different, absolutely complementary responses to bad news! I have defined myself in a zillion ways-wife, teacher, lawyer, volunteer, friend, sister, daughter- but Mother is the title that anchors my existence. It has allowed me to see the future in my Grandkids. To have daughters in law that I love as my very own. This is why I would have worked any program, had any surgery or chemo, just to extend my time here with my family. They are the perfect cheering section. By the time we said our goodnights we had formed a united front. Every boy brought his Super Powers to the circle, and there was no gap. Team Dahl. What an amazing payday for the years of carpooling, cheering, tutoring, prodding, supporting and comforting. The day to day of parenting can seem thankless and unproductive. But on this Wednesday night in May, Steve and I saw the fruits of our concentration. As they say in the commercial, Priceless.
Eight days later I came out of surgery to see these same faces in a circle of support, anchored by Steve, blurred a bit by anesthesia. My maternal prerogative was to make sure that they were not jangled and to send them home to their families. It was Friday Night, after all. Pizza Night in America. Off they went. Home I went, with the man who made this circle possible. Lucky, lucky me. Tomorrow I see my surgeon to schedule my next mammogram, and I will not even complain about it. I am 5 months out, finished with active treatment. My family pushed me to the finish line with their support. No tears, no fears. (well, almost) More anecdotes will pop up here, because this little jog has been littered with gifts. I have an abundance of gratitude to share. As far as I am concerned- I am rocking a cure.
Thank you to all who expressed support and concern. It means the world.