We were raised with the constant reminder that we needed to care for our parents when they got old. They spent countless hours and money to raise us – it’s the least we could do. We always said, “Yes” or “Of Course”. It’s funny, I always thought I appreciated what my parents had done for us. For most of my childhood my parents had very little. It wasn’t until around the time I was in high school that they were solidly into the middle class. Yet they made sure we did sports (which are very expensive) and had a computer and nice clothing. And I truly appreciated all of that; I appreciated it more and more each year as I matured and and realized what these things cost. But until I became a father I didn’t truly understand the time and emotional investments that kids are. I now truly realize how much they gave me. The only situation I could see for having to have my parents not live with me when they get uber-old would be if they required some kind of medical equipment that couldn’t be installed in my home or care that a live-in nurse couldn’t take care of. (Well, other than if they decided to live with one of their other six kids rather than me – for whatever reason) But, you know, that’s supposed to be way out in the future.
This year – this spring – we found out my mom had a cancerous tumor in her breast. In some ways it wasn’t as shocking as it could have been – she’d had a benign tumor or a cyst in her breast when I was either in late elementary school or early middle school. Still, it was touch and go for a while there. It took time for the doctors to determine what stage of cancer it was and whether it had spread beyond the breast. I was faced with the prospect that my mother could be gone way sooner than we ever expected. She wouldn’t get to see Scarlett’s Sweet Sixteen or my brothers get married. Eventually the doctors figured out it was isolated and were able to operate. I made the trip to be there during the surgery both for support and because, even in America, going under the knife can lead to dangerous complications. I wanted to be there just in case. Later, when she was going through radiation, I went to be there for a week to help take care of the house and drive her to and from her radiation if that’s what she needed.
As of the time that I’m writing this, the cancer appears to have been caught in time. The doctors seems to know the cause and there seems to be a way to prevent it from happening again. While the radiation wears on my mother’s strength – physical and otherwise – she is able to continue working and doing what she has always done. That’s freakin’ amazing – that’s how amazing my mom is. But it was sure scary there for a time. I was proud to step up and take my turn and help her when she needs it. She’s always been there for me – helping me out in a million ways when Scarlett was in the hospital and a billion other times growing up when I needed her. But I hope I don’t have to do that again for a long time. I hope from here until the frailty is an inevitability of age that she can be healthy and happy. But when that day comes, I’ll be ready again because it’s my turn now.