I stopped fiddling with and publishing posts on Nestingfly after my mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. This may not really come as a major surprise to anyone, I’m unsure. I had a follower somewhere in Iceland that perhaps wonders where that carefree, evolving writer that I was went off to.
Nestingfly is dead—I’ll be completely honest. Last night I browsed through my entries on the forum, finding the content meaningless and laughable. In seven months my entire being and perspective on life has drastically shifted, catalyzed by a featherlike evil—an energy that brushes over you and extends infinitely. My life ended and began again on April 18th, 2013. Tennessee is an interesting place for such a moment to take place: it is green and thriving with life. That day the vibrancy felt like a complete façade. No circulation remaining in my left hand, I stared back into the eyes of a terrified, shrinking spirit. It was that of my mother.
Excusing myself from the room, I caught a glimpse of the ultrasound machine being pulled from its ominous corner; I proceeded to phone my father alone from a hollow restroom. My voice oddly echoing, I felt as if I were speaking through a tunnel. I explain that tests are being run immediately—urgently—and that it does not look good. The line is dead but I know that he is still there. A part of him: a substantial part slips out as he exhales, not to return but unbeknownst in that moment.
Developmentally, a parent does not typically switch roles with a child until he or she is an elder—until they have really lived. Foolishly I have for some time dwelled in the depths of assumption, as many of us must do. I assumed that in my forties and fifties I would still be chatting with my mother two hours out of each day, perhaps arranging to relocate her nearer to me. My mother’s mortal nature slipped past me entirely for twenty two years in fact; during that time I was overly confident in our future together, as mother and daughter. A premature idea: I imagined that she would evolve into a poised, adorable character, huddled over washing dishes or vacuuming. I’ve envisioned holding aging hands, the very ones that once bathed me and brushed my hair. But existence alters instantaneously. Her hands look exactly the same as I have always remembered.
Assumptions exist primarily in our future when one really pauses to consider it. We either assume that something is or that something will be. Today I assumed my iced coffee would be a fabulous shopping additive until I turned a corner and bumped into someone. My thrifting adventure quickly turned into twenty-five minutes spent on the floor scrubbing instead of browsing. I never tasted the coffee. Assumptions are empty, cognitive traps.
Cancer seems to come with bungee cords included. Implanted right between the shoulder blades, they allow one to make progress—to emotionally transform and to fight for understanding. On a good day, however, they will readily snap; rather violently you find yourself back where you initially began. The cords themselves are of course pastel—warm like the symbolic ribbon—but quickly we discover that feelings typically associated with beautiful colors do not apply in the realm of serious illness. Gracing billboards nationwide and greeting us as we sign for an electronic purchase—“would you like to donate?”—the breast cancer ribbon is the chromatic monster. It will not blanket a single soul or color your reality a brighter shade. Despite its lovely disguise, I have peered directly into its evil interior.
As for my mother, she has emerged without the swimmies that she has worn throughout much of her life. Day by day her fears are being obliterated through her fearlessness and willingness to do whatever it takes to fight this with grit, not sparkle. One must pack his or her own punch throughout the battle, relying on the army behind them as a secondary source. Luckily for us, she’s on the offense and has the equivalent of thousands behind her.