Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

When the phone rang on Wednesday morning, the black screen lighting up with my mother’s name and number, I had convinced myself that the biopsy had confirmed breast cancer. I was so sure that I had already mentally imagined an emotionally tortuous future where I nursed her through her last days, weakened from chemo and failed surgery, confessing how much she loved me as she slipped from life.

I know, it was a morbid fantasy, the kind that the mind spins when faced with such a shock. And my fantasy revealed that deep down I still hungered for some sort of meaningful, compassionate, and emotionally authentic relationship with my mother even though I had long since resigned myself to the status quo.

But when I answered the phone with a sharp intake of breath only to hear her say, “It’s not cancer!”, I was surprised and confused by my mixed emotions.

Yes, I was relieved. I congratulated her on the good news. I said something like, “You have a new lease on life.” I mean, isn’t that what a cancer scare is supposed to do? Make you reflect on your mortality and vow to celebrate life?

There was a clear pause. “Oh, I wasn’t going anywhere,” she dismissively replied. “You fight this sort of thing.”

It’s hard to convey this disconnect I heard in her voice and the sense of anger I immediately felt that at this moment in time, this event wasn’t more meaningful. I almost wanted the results to be positive so that she would start taking better care of herself, as fucked up as that sounds.

Life. It’s complicated. Complicated emotions. Never black and white. I feel like I was just in a hit and run where no one was hurt and there wasn’t even a scratch on the cars. And I was a little bit mad at her — mad at her for not having cancer! Daughter of the year award! But then, of course, I was relieved and it was as though someone flipped the channel back and said, “Now back to our regularly scheduled programming!”

So what’s the takeaway? What’s my epiphany if my mom isn’t having one herself? I think the big lesson that it shouldn’t take a cancer scare to try and have the meaningful, compassionate, and emotionally authentic relationship I’ve secretly been wanting all along.

5 thoughts on “Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

  1. Interesting. In your fantasy you nursed your mother during her last days, thus behaving as the perfect daughter. Then, reality takes an unexpected detour: your mother does not have cancer. Anger follows along with the conviction that you are not, after all, an award-winning daughter. In your fantasy you are strong, powerful, nurturing; while your mother is weak and powerless. Hardly the equitable and even-handed ground where you can build the emotionally authentic relationship you want with your mother.
    Now what’s really interesting is that she did not wait for you to call her. She took the initiative. She wanted you to know that she is OK, to reassure you. In reality, she was the nurturing one. Which is only natural because she is, after all, your mom.
    I don’t think your words (“you have a new lease on life”) really express how you felt all along, as you were facing your own fears that something really bad may happen to your mother.
    You need her. You know that. Does she?

  2. I’m glad to read you again and happy that your mom doesn’t have cancer. I completely understand you, the need for a fulfilling relationship with your mother. I’m in the almost same situation with my mom. When she had cancer, all of a sudden she “accepted” me somehow because she discover that life was way more important than prejudices. But on the other hand, once she was perfectly fine, she went back into “I really don’t have to accept your choices, I’m old enough and I don’t need to change. What you do is your problem”. As much as it sucks, I know deep down I would love for her to really accept me as I am, but I just change myself: I really don’t need her approval for my happiness, and I try from my part to have a deeper relationship, but if she doesn’t want to, I can’t force her to do so. But keep trying anyway. Don’t leave any efforts from your part if you really want that relationship and the “perfect daughter in her eyes” award! Please keep writing! I enjoy you tremendously!

  3. Just writing to say that I’m re-reading your blog (from the very beginning) and I just miss your voice out there!

    I’m spending a few days in NY and I’m reconnecting with my old partners in crime. It was so much more fun being single when I had my girls & your blog to keep me company (OFAG for the win!).

    I hope all is well 🙂

    • Aw, you’re making me nostalgic, especially since I’m officially divorced now and back out on the prowl. I’ve been meaning to update this blog for the last year. A lot of distance has been covered in the interim. OFAG forever! xo Rouge

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