And I have a leg up, in this department, since two of the best moms I know, I mean , moms who had to deal with crazy, unfair, miserable circumstances and still raise kids, are my own mom and my own sister.
My sister and her family, in Oregon, are going through something heartbreaking and awful. My 18 month old nephew was born with a very serious genetic disorder, and is currently undergoing cord blood replacement therapy. My sister has taken leave from work and spends all week in the hospital with her boy, while her husband holds down the home front, which includes keeping his full time job and managing the daily needs of my nieces, ages 5, 6, and 17.
On weekends, they switch jobs. This will be their life until Christmas, at least. There really aren't words.
My sister, when we talk, occasionally reveals her worry and pain and deep, aching sadness. My sister is real, but she is also tough as nails, and most admirably, manages to remain present in the moment and open to joy. For example, on her boy's last day of chemo she emailed us a video of him in the hospital play room, IV tubes trailing in all directions. In the video, Michael Jackson started playing in the background, and my also tough as nails baby nephew started shaking his diapered booty. My sister, off camera, laughed in such complete, honest delight that I cried. It was the most wonderful 15 seconds of video I've ever seen. She's amazing. I don't know that I would be so poised and so present if I was in her shoes.
But I might be. My sister and I share a model for how best to handle extreme medical caretaking: our mother.
My mom and dad married young. When my mom was 22, I was 2, my brother was 1, she was pregnant with my sister, and my dad was nearly killed in a road construction accident. When I was 13, my dad had a massive stroke that, again, nearly killed him. I could fill a book with all of the craziness my poor mother had to parent us through. . .a Disney vacation that ended in an emergency air lift back to an Ohio hospital, cross country moves for better therapy and treatment. . .and that is not nearly all of it. My dad's still hanging tough, as you can see, but it hasn't been, and still isn't, an easy road.
I don't know whether to be grateful that my sister had such an incredible example of how to handle this caretaking stuff or to be angry that both my mom and my sister have had to go through such horrible things.
Honestly, I feel all of that and more. It's hard. It's confusing. It sucks.
There's really not much to do but call them both as often as possible to remind them that I love and admire them.
What I don't tell them nearly enough is that I'm proud of them both, am inspired by their poise and grace, and feel incredibly lucky that they are my family. Knowing them teaches me how to be a better mother. . .a better person all around, actually. I'm sure that's true of everyone else who knows them too.
Hang in there, sis. You're amazing.