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For the past few weeks I’ve been having a very hard time grieving over my mother. I know why. I wasn’t feeling great for about three weeks. Not the ordinary pain from the scar tissue or charlie horses from the “phantom limb” like syndrome I have under my left breast, which was operated on over 15 times. Bad as in I felt like I could not get out of bed, I would get exhausted very easily and couldn’t focus. At first I chalked it up to coming off the holidays and just being tired from all of the work that entails. I had just been to the oncologist so, I wasn’t really worried about the cancer (although to say it didn’t cross my mind once or twice would be lying). Finally, I woke up on a Saturday morning with a terrible sore throat. Okay, now I knew, I was just fighting off getting sick and now I was so, it would just run its course (I’m thinking a week or two of just taking it easy and I would be feeling better).

By Wednesday, when I still felt like crap, my husband took me to the doctor. Turns out I had pneumonia. I was prescribed antibiotics, steroids and a cough medicine with codeine in it. By this time, my sore throat had moved into my nose and was dripping down into my chest, although I wasn’t really coughing that much. However, I was still extremely tired. My orders were, because of my health issues, rest, rest and more rest. Luckily, I had caught the pneumonia early.

And rest I did. I worked more after each of my twenty surgeries. I couldn’t work because all I could do was sleep and, when I couldn’t sleep at night (because of those damn steroids), I was loopy on the cough medicine. When I didn’t feel better a week later, I went back to the doctor. Another x-ray was taken and the pneumonia was getting better. I was a bit wheezy, though, so was told to use the cough medicine as needed and use am inhaler and continue to rest. When you have pneumonia (and I never had), it can take a long time to get better, apparently. So, I rested Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I was feeling better by Sunday so decided to go to my nieces birthday party at a roller rink and then to Jack’s basketball game.

When I was a teenager, I could literally roller skate like Dorothy Hamill could ice skate. I could do double sow cows, I could skate forward, backwards, with a partner, with my right leg all the way up and straight, well – you get the idea. I was excited to get on the floor and do my thing. Well, let me all give you a heads up. If you were like me (and, if you are in my age group, you probably were – we spent almost every weekend at the Commack Roller Rink), unless you have kept up with it, or have learned to roller blade in between, roller skating is NOT like riding a bike! I was okay on the carpet. The second my skate hit the wood, I went down like a lead balloon on my right side. Thank God, since I was the first one out there from my family, no one I knew saw me but, about two hundred other people did. They were probably taping it on their cell phones (I’m surprised I haven’t seen it pop up on You Tube or Face Book). With the wind knocked out of me, I lay there for a moment, told myself “I can do this”, got up and, again, went down like a ton of bricks. Now, I couldn’t even get up if I tried. Finally, some guy said “hey, do you need help?” At that point, being so embarrassed and pissed that no one tried to help me up the first time I answered, “No, I’ll just wait for the guy with the striped shirt.” Picture me on the floor with kids and adults skating around me – having to move out of the way to not skate on top of me and no one asks if I need help? Nice.

When the guy with the striped shirt came around (I forget what we used to call them), he asks me, “Do you need help?” By now I am pissed. “Um. Yeah. Clearly I can’t get up. Do you think you can help me up and bring me to the wall?” Geez. Rocket Scientist.

When I got to the wall, I was able to easily get back to the chairs and take off my skates (it’s a lot easier to skate on carpet, believe me). I was so devastated. Convinced that the reason I couldn’t do it was because I haven’t been active in these past fifteen years and so, didn’t have the strength or the balance to stay up. How much more can this cancer take from me?

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So, getting back to the point, that I have been really missing my mommy. I miss her most when I am not feeling well. I would have called her, and she I, at least two or three times a day while I was sick. She always had a way of making me feel better – of putting things into perspective. She would have said things like, “Okay, so it’s pneumonia. You beat cancer – you’ll be fine.” Or, when I was stressing about missing work, “Okay, so you have to miss a couple of weeks – the work will be there when you get back, believe me.” She just knew me like no one else and knew exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. She didn’t get pissed if I snapped at her because of any of the things she said. She just chalked it up to me being stressed and sick.

I also miss her the most when I can’t call her ( I probably would have been crying outside on my cell phone) and tell her about things that happened like what I went through at the roller rink. I really was devastated that not only wasn’t I like Dorothy Hamill anymore but, I couldn’t even take one step on the wood floor. She would have made me laugh when I told her that people were skating around me and NO ONE stopped to help. She would have laughed when I sent her pictures of the grapefruit sized bruise on my ass and the apple sized bruise on my thigh. (For the record, I also scraped my left elbow, had pain in my left arm and couldn’t turn my neck for about three days).

Most of all, I missed my mommy these past few weeks because I knew my dad was going in for a big surgery and, so as not to worry my sisters, there are things I don’t say to them that I was personally worried about, having been through what I have in my own life, I shouldered most of the worry alone. Also, the fact that the last time my dad had surgery, they were not able to remove the tube and he couldn’t breathe on his own. It was done at a surgery center and he had to be transferred to a hospital. They really couldn’t give us answers there except we would have to take a wait and see approach. I’ll never forget Al, Chrissy, Lori and I leaving the hospital that night, all heads down, thinking, “could this really be happening again?” It had not even been a year since we had lost our mother. Luckily, they were able to get the tube out the next day. But, I would have been on the phone with my mom all night, and we would have said things to each other to make each other feel better.

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I just miss her, damn it, and the last few weeks have been a downward spiral into a place I was in the grieving process about a year ago. I was told, though, that grieving is not linear. You will move forward two feet and then, wake up and feel like you stepped back four. This is always the advice that I give my family and friends when they lose loved ones because for me, it really helped. I didn’t question, “why am I feeling so shitty today when I had a good day yesterday?” Because that’s just the way it goes.

As for the perspective part of the piece. Daddy had his surgery yesterday. It was supposed to be Monday but, that’s a long and shitty story that I’ve told at least ten times today and don’t want to get into. It was over six hours long and, originally was scheduled to be done laparoscopically. Unfortunately, that wasn’t able to happen so, that’s why it took longer than anticipated. They actually had to collapse his lung, on purpose, to get where they needed to get to make sure that they got all of the cancer that was left. Now, the surgery went well. They got it all out. But, they had to leave the tube in so that he wouldn’t wake up and be in pain trying to breathe through one lung. This is what made me nervous. I wanted to make sure that that tube would come out with no problem. That was my main worry about this surgery. But, it was staying in for the night. I was told that they would take it out tomorrow.

On so on to the 11:11 part of the story. Since my mother had basically battled cancer three times while I was a kid (the first time when I was an infant), ANY time there was something to wish on; a dandelion before I blew on it, a blow out the birthday candle wish, an eyebrow that had fallen out and needed to be blown wish, and most importantly every time I saw 11:11 on a clock (which happened every once in a while), my wish was always the same “Please make my mommy be okay”. Well, after she passed, I think the day after was the first time I saw 11:11 on a clock and actually, out loud, cursed it. Fuck you, 11:11, you and the rest of those superstitions I grew up with don’t work worth a shit, or something to that effect. After that, my sisters and I started to  see 11:11 constantly. I know I see it at least 10 times a week. It’s not “normal”. Everyone who knows me knows I am a skeptic about those kinds of things but, I am sure, that every time I see it, it’s my mommy letting me know it’s okay, she’s okay, or whatever I’m going through will be fine and work out.

So, after I got off the phone with my sisters (my brother in law, Chris, took him for the surgery.) I said a prayer to God, my grandparents and, of course, my Mommy. I went into the kitchen to get myself something to drink and got cozy on the couch, praying that the night would go quickly so that that freaking tube could come out. I got a text from someone and, when I picked up my phone – you guessed it – 11:11. Needless to say, I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I just knew that when they went to take the tube out, it would be fine.

I waited up for Michael and then when up to sleep at around 1AM. I slept well, even though I am dad’s healthcare proxy and if I hadn’t seen the 11:11 I would have had a restless sleep, if I slept at all, waiting for that damn phone to ring. When I woke up, my sisters were already at the hospital (I have to wait to get the okay to go, having just gotten over pneumonia). They told me that the tube was out and he was groggy from the medications but, other than that, talking to them, making jokes with the nurse, etc. He was doing really well.

So, I miss mommy but, not like I have in the last few weeks. I am on a high because my daddy is okay. And, isn’t that the way of it? Perspective. Today, I could have been mourning both of my parents. Even my ass, which has killed to sit on the last week, is not as painful. And, the deadlines I have been worrying about at work seem doable now.

And 11:11. Say what you will but, I am a believer. It’s how my mommy communicates with me and, although I’d obviously much rather have her here with me on earth, it comforts me to know that she is still looking out for me and letting me know that not only is she there, she’s watching out for all of us.

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