Yesterday, I published a post, The Grand Old Lady Of Shuter Street, about seeing Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers opening for Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell at Toronto’s Massey Hall the other day. As I was drafting it, I noticed it was taking two different directions. One was simply about the venue, the music, and the musicians. The other however, was about me.
I really wasn’t intending on writing about me, I just wanted to share my love for a beautiful place, beautiful music, and beautiful artists and songwriters. But somehow ‘me’ kept creeping in. So I gave up on hitting the backspace and delete keys, let it all come out, and decided to make a second somewhat related post. Here’s the other stuff that was running around my mind, or maybe really my heart, as I was drafting the above post …
Ever hear a song for the first time and you remember that day for the rest of your life? I think Rescue Me will be one of those for me.
It was Saturday July 4th of this year. I was at a park I like to write at. It was just days after I found out I have skin cancer. Although I had suspected the diagnosis and was somewhat mentally prepared for it, the emotional shock of the reality of it hadn’t yet subsided. Knowing it was in early stages and all likely treatable (and hopefully beatable of course), it wasn’t the prospect of death that was looming over me. It was how the hell am I going to tell my kids their mom has the C-word?
Please pardon my use of that expression, the C-word. I’m generally not a fan of it, unless it’s being used to short-form another word that begins with the letter C that I truly do despise and refuse to say. But for the word beginning with C that I am referring to here, my opinion is that if it needs to be said, then just say it: cancer. However in these circumstances, my emotions were taking reign over me and I was temporarily of another view. It did need to be said, I knew that. But with everything in me, I didn’t want to say it. And I had absolutely no clue how to say it. At least not to them.
I had already told a few others, my three siblings and a couple of close friends. But the thought of saying the word cancer to my three precious babies terrified me. It was keeping me up at night and I was having bad dreams about it. Most of my cancer internet researching wasn’t about learning more about this new health identify I had just assumed. It was about how to tell your kids you have cancer, and in ways most suitable for their various ages. (Mine are 15, 20, and 23, first two my girls, oldest is my boy).
My mind was full of all of the possible thoughts that would run through their minds as soon as they heard the word cancer, in spite of all of the other positive statements I was preparing myself to say along with it to try to take away some of its horrifying impact. Is she going to die? Will it spread? Is mom dying? Will she get the other cancers gram (my mom) had along with skin cancer too?
IS MOM GOING TO DIE?
As I sat in the park trying to sift my way through all my reeling thoughts and tangled emotions, I did some things I often do that bring me comfort and guidance in times of struggle and uncertainty. As I said earlier, I was writing. Whatever, just getting some of the words out of my mind and into print. I was drinking coffee, my beloved vice. I was listening to music, streaming SiriusXM on my phone. The sound but more importantly the lyrics of songs can move me in a way no physically present and near to me human being can.
And I was talking to my mama. She passed a few years ago but I chat with her almost daily. Sometimes, when faced with a decision I need to make, or not being sure of what to do, I ask her to send me a message and I ask her to do that through song. She always obliges. And she very quickly accommodated my request this particular day.
The Loft is my favourite channel on SiriusXM. They play a great variety of music and feature a lot of new tracks and new artists. While I was sitting in the park, The Loft was running a show just about new music. They introduced a track from the debut album Didn’t It Rain by Amy Helm and The Handsome Strangers. Although this is her first record, Amy is no stranger to the world of music. She is the only child of American icon Levon Helm, of The Band. She has been singing, playing, writing, and performing since she was a wee one, and was blessed to have shared the stage with not only her dad, but with so many other extraordinary musicians over the years.
The song of Amy’s The Loft played was Rescue Me. Here are the lyrics to the first few lines …
Been gone for so long, had to be so strong
Sometimes, I find, you just don’t know which way to go
The wheels roll on and on
Then I see you smile
I forget for awhile
Those days, so near, won’t drown in these tears
Come on and rescue me
Whoa Nelly. Hit me with a ton of bricks why don’t you mom?
Those, and the other lyrics, turned me right around. I let go of some of the fear and took on some of the strength and courage my mom had in her battles through three different types of cancer, one of them being skin like mine. I became at peace with the fact I didn’t know how I was going to tell my children, at least not yet. I accepted that as the fact of the day and trusted that the words would come to me, when God and my mom were good and ready to hand them over. There was no frantic rushed feeling anymore. It wasn’t like I had to do the deed that night. Perhaps this was God’s and my mom’s way of saying ‘take some time for yourself first dear child’.
The lyrics also made me reflect on how my mom told us four kids that she had cancer. The skin type was the first she was diagnosed with, the other two came years later. And I realized, I had nothing to reflect on. I couldn’t remember. Couldn’t even recall what year it was. Couldn’t remember a damn thing.
And then that realization took me back to my teen years and I remembered something she always used to do with me when I was all bent out of shape over something. My ridiculous angst over a boy. A less than an A mark on a test or essay. Some out of this world fashion faux pas. Whatever. She would always say to me “how important will this be to you when you’re _____?” with the blank being filled in with things like in university, married with children, turning 50, etc. “Will you even remember it then?”, she would add. And it always stopped me in my tracks and I got back to living life instead of whining about it. I smile as I write this because guess what I do with my children now? Yep.
So really, how important was my so-called dilemma I had myself all in knots about? Somewhat important, granted. Telling my kids I had cancer was going to be a necessary evil in my coming days. But so would taking out the garbage, spending money on car repairs, and having surgery to remove a damn tumour. I do suspect I’ll always remember what happened that day in the park, and I’ll probably remember telling my kids the not-so-great news as it was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my life. But will they remember the day and every other little detail about me telling them I have cancer when they turn 50? Doubt it.
Thanks for rescuing me once again mom. From by biggest rival. From myself.
This post also [kind of] fits in with yesterday’s Daily Prompt – I’ve Become My Parents:
Do you ever find yourself doing something your parents used to do when you were a kid, despite the fact you hated it back then?