Cancer · Family · Grief · Happiness · Life

What I can keep

Lately I’ve spent a whole lot of time thinking about all of the things I’m losing when it comes to my mom. When I lost my dad I was very young and, in my childhood perspective and my little memory, I lost him all at once; he was here and then he was gone. My mom, on the other hand, is slipping away from me. Several months ago I thought she would be slipping because of cancer, but her mental state has surpassed any cancer issues- and her cancer is quite remarkably gone. So, although her body isn’t being attacked by the cancer cells anymore, it’s going after its own brain and making her life harder and harder. 

Then today, I had the occasion to take a cold shower. Living in Colorado, I don’t think I took a cooler than room temperature shower the entire time I was there. Living here for eleven months I’ve taken quite a few, most of them in the last month. Getting out of the shower today and drying off, feeling that warm muggy air on my cold skin, brought back the rush of a memory. It was one of those that is extremely vivid: sights, smells, sounds, emotional connections, all of it at once. It literally swept me off my feet. I had to sit and take it all in. Logically I know it was extremely quick, but it felt like a solid fifteen minutes, which is how long the event must have taken in the first place. Here’s what I was lucky enough to remember:

I had to have been about 19 or 20. I know I was in college and I was home for summer vacation. It was in the evening and I was headed to bed. Even at that age I always kissed my mom goodnight, and I went into her room but she wasn’t there. I looked out one of her windows and she was in the pool in the back yard. This was a habit my mom had in the summer. We didn’t have air conditioning and when it was extremely hot she would go soak in the pool at night to cool herself down before climbing into bed. The outside lights were off but I could tell she was naked. I don’t know if this was a habit or a one time thing or what, but I remember that it didn’t phase me or bother me or make me giggle. It just was. She was talking or humming to herself, maybe having a conversation with my dad in heaven, which I’m pretty sure she did every day. For whatever reason, without knowing what it would mean to me at that young age, I just stopped. I lie down on her bed and closed my eyes and took it all in. I paid attention to the smell of the lilac bush outside her window. I noted the dampness of the air and the heat and how it stuck in my chest. I listened to the little splashes in the water and realized that my mom, at that time almost 60, was sort of playing in the water. I felt the carpet under my toes as I dangled them over the edge of the bed like I was dipping into the pool myself. I imagined what she was saying to my dad. I appreciated that my 60 year old, modest, easily embarrassed mother was swimming naked for the sheer pleasure it would bring her hot body. I took it all in, got up, and tucked it away. 

It’s a memory I can’t remember ever having come back to me before this day. I needed it and I needed the universe to tell me that I was going to be allowed to keep some things. 

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