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Tonight I’m on watch … I’m hanging out at mom’s place just ’cause (because she tried to shoo me away when I got here home to my girls and I politely declined).  We’ve watched some game show with Craig Furgeson, set up meds for the next three weeks, watched a new series with Matt Dillon and chatted about the same stuff we chatted about before her surgery.  She did exercises, I got us ice cream, she asked me “Are you done already?”, I washed dinner/ice cream dishes, we drained fluid and wrote everything we did in a log to review with the doctor.  Now, as mom sleeps and sit here waiting for sleep to call, I wonder why I didn’t talk about what she’s going through.

Today, finally, I (finally) feel something.  I feel small and cramped and encased in a cocoon where I can’t move. I feel trapped in a self that hides from reality by lurking in the shadows of behaviors that are weak.  I feel ashamed that my role is only support through strength and avoidance knowing that she needs more and I haven’t explored her emotional needs as she experiences this without my father.

Tonight, I try to imagine how she feels. After 18 years of being cancer free, I struggle to understand how she must feel trapped in her own body, unable to escape an unexercisable demon that she thought had fled.  I know the surgery that has altered her form leaves her feeling disfigured and mangled but I fail to comprehend the loss she surely experiences and will in the months to come.

As if on cue, I glance to my right and see my dad’s heart warming, peaceful smile and gaze framed on the bedside table saying, “Bud, I’ve been watching over her for the last 10 years.  Everything’s gonna be fine.” and realize her strength comes from so many sources.  It comes from her memories of my dad, from the memories of her mother (who was also a survivor), from the love of her grandchildren, my sister, my wife and it comes from me.  

I know we each serve our role; mine being strength.  It was me who was the last to leave the pre-op room yesterday and, leaning down to kiss her cheek, whispered that it would be fine.  Looking into her eyes, I touched her cheek and reiterated everything will be just fine.  As a women who has survived many of life’s challenges and knowing that strength in the face of adversity can conquer demons that follow us, I think she believed me.

Tonight, we both sleep knowing we are here for each other.  Tonight we sleep knowing the power of love.  Tonight we know the strength of family.

Goodnight mom.  Love you.