For the first and the last time, in a single day, I pushed Mom in a wheelchair.  It was the first time that she’d left the hospital and had been too weak to walk out on her own.  It was the last time because I nearly killed her in the elevator.  Well, that’s her side of the story.  My side is less graphic in nature.  Let’s just say, for the record, that (1) I’d never pushed a wheelchair before, that I can remember.  (2) Modern technology has given us the means to fabricate super-duper smooth-rolling wheels.  (3) Pushing a wheelchair is no where near similar to pushing a grocery shopping cart.

She fought a valiant fight.  Chemo duration:  19 Months.  It was during Month 4 that we learned her cancer was treatable, not curable.  Kinda put a dent on Christmas that year.  Our family gift exchange consists of everyone bringing a random present, then we draw numbers and choose based on our place in line.  The gift Mom chose was a set of bath products that contained a bottle of shampoo.  “I won’t be needing this,” she joked.  She’s a feisty one.

She was in the hospital for two weeks.  We blamed the doctors and nurses, but in reality, it was most likely the cancer/chemo wreaking all the havoc.  It was easier to blame The Humans.  We could see them coming and going, not administering her meds quick enough to suit us.  We couldn’t see The Cancer.  It was easier to blame what our eyes could see, rather than what our minds could imagine.  It was way too convenient for me to pester the heck outta the nurses when they didn’t immediately enter the room right after Mom pushed the call button.  I’m a feisty one.

We were sitting in her hospital room, talking and waiting impatiently to be officially released, when the topic of ironing came up.  She loves to iron.  I detest it.  She irons pillowcases.  I do not.  She irons bed sheets.  I definitely do not.  Grandma used to iron pillowcases.  I remember the sizzle of the hot iron and the heat from the steam as she pressed the white cotton into crisp smooth submission.  Each pillowcase was hand-embroidered with colorful flowers – blue and purple with green leaves.  They don’t make them like that anymore.

“Why do you iron sheets?” I asked Mom.  “I’m particular,” she said.  “But it’s unnecessary.  They get wrinkled as soon as you lay down,” I replied.  She just smiled and shook her head, but I knew what she was thinking.  She ended the friendly argument by not replying.  It was a true because-I-said-so moment.  She’s a feisty one.

I don’t know what to write…

I don’t know what to write
I don’t know what to say
I’m feeling kinda stressed
It’s been a nutso day

The telephone won’t stop
My inbox won’t calm down
I’m tempted to run off
And drive halfway ‘cross town

I wish I had the nerve
To just walk out of here
But I need this job and
I’m not the next Shakespeare

So I will get a grip
And do my very best
To get through this Friday
And treat it like a test

A test that I must pass
For bills I have to pay
I want to keep my house
I need a place to stay

It’s now the afternoon
I’m wide awake right now
A spider hit my desk
The size of a small cow

This is so very strange
This little poem of mine
So back to work I go
I think I’ll be just fine



As a very young girl, I spent many a Saturday afternoon outside helping my parents with yard work.  I usually got the chore of picking up sticks.  Mom seemed to love it.  She was always picking up sticks – even during the work week.  I didn’t like picking up sticks.  It was boring.  I wanted to use the push mower.  It looked like so much fun.  I begged and pleaded with Dad and finally wore him down.  He started up the mower for me, and I took my first swipe around a large stump.  Weed-eaters didn’t exist back then.  We used a pair of manual hand-clippers around the trees.  (Squeeze hand.  Clip grass.  Get a hand cramp.  Squeeze hand.  Clip grass.  Is that a blister?)  It took forever.  I figured if I could get close enough to the stumps, I could alleviate that chore.

So, in my first swipe, I totally succeeded.  I got very close to the stump.  And, with my second swipe, I created a wide, deep line straight through the middle of the bright green grass.  Dad sprinted in my direction, frantically waving his hands in the air.  (OH NO, IS THERE A BEE BEHIND ME?)  He grabbed the mower handle from my hands and quickly turned off the engine.  He never said a word.  He simply looked at the close-shaven line that ran through the entire back yard and shook his head.  Later that morning, we headed to the hardware store, and Dad bought a new mower blade.  I didn’t understand why we needed a new blade.  Ours was working perfectly earlier this morning.  It wasn’t until a few days later, when the wide, deep line turned a drab shade of yellow that I understood what had happened.  Even then, Dad never said a word, but it was years before I was allowed to use the push mower again.  I was banished back to the sticks.

Fast forward to present day.  Mom is tired.  The chemo is wreaking havoc.  She’s frustrated.  I’m anxious.  Dad’s worried.  There must be something I can do.  I research her symptoms online, write down the list of recommended foods, and go shopping.  I take the food to Mom, but she’s not hungry.  I hover.  They send me shopping for more supplies.  I return and hover some more.  This is nothing I can do.  NOTHING.

I call her every day, twice a day.  Two days later, she tells me she’s called the hospital ER for advice.  She won’t go to the ER, and she won’t call 911 for an ambulance.  I should go visit her again, I think.  Maybe I can talk her into going to the hospital – then again, maybe not.  I already know how that discussion will go.  Mother knows best.

I walk outside.  The bright sun is warm on my face.  Daffodils sway in the breeze.  In the yard, I see sticks.  We had some wind the night before.  I start picking them up without thinking.  My hands become full.  I walk around to the back yard and get the wheelbarrow.  I spy a dead limb on a nearby shrub.  I walk over with the intention of snapping off a single twig, but half the darn plant breaks off in my hands.  I have a mini-meltdown.  My handsaw is nearby.  I slash.  I hack.  I sever.  I carve.  I chop.  (I get out my thesaurus!)  Five minutes later, the shrub is gone.  Only a small stump remains.  I feel better, but I’m not sure why.  Mom is still sick, and I can’t fix it.

Looking back, I remember how Mom loved to work outside – picking up sticks, planting flowers, pulling weeds, growing a garden full of vegetables.  And, suddenly, I think I understand.  (Light bulb!)  It was something she could control.  Something she had created.  The crap of life continued, but she made her part of the world just a little better, a little brighter.  Mother knows best.