This Is Our Story
This is us. Two peas in a pod. Pretty easy to tell he’s mine. Spend a little time talking to him and you’d be fully convinced. He came along when I was nearly a child myself. Pregnant at 18 and had been 19 for only a few weeks before he came into this world.
Making the choice to be a stay at home mom wasn’t rare in 1981 but it certainly wasn’t in fashion. No matter. We were doing our thing and loving it.
In an ultraconservative household with no television, one vehicle which Tommy’s father took to work each day and the typical financial challenges of starting life as an adult, you would think there would be some struggle. Some resentment. Some wishing for something more.
I can only remember wishing for one thing in those early days. Holding my tiny babe in my arms, dancing with him around my living room, willing myself to never forget any part of this moment. The smell of his skin. The touch of his fuzzy little head against my cheek. The lilt of peaceful music in the air. The warmth of his body against my chest. Heart to heart. Soul to soul. Those kinds of wishes always come true.
I can actually feel it as I describe it to you now, with immense gratitude and soberness, all at once.
Its Summer of 1992 and one evening, I call out from the kitchen, “Turn that down!!!”, barely being heard over the Animaniacs theme song. Wait. What? You don’t remember that cartoon??? Pinky and the Brain? Dot? Yakko? Ugh, another thing Siri can search for you later. So, it’s the WB cartoon with the theme song that goes something like “We’re Animaniacs, we’re zany to the max, there’s baloney in our slacks…”
Hey, don’t question my parenting. That was a Spielberg thing. 😉
Sitting down for dinner that night I comment about the bruises that had begun to show up on Tommy’s legs. I asked, “Tom Tom, what the heck are you boys doing at day camp?”. He shrugged and look back at his cartoon “Oh it’s nothing Mom, we play dodgeball and everybody looks beat up.” I was uncertain but soon we were absorbed in another round of Mario Brothers and a quick jump in the pool before bedtime.
So how did this life of laughter we created with great intention and purpose get severely interrupted with one phone call? One simple phone call.
When the Pediatrician himself called with our test results, I thought it was strange but he was a friend of my Father, “he’s just being kind”, said my brain, wanting to make sense of this tilt in normality.
“Are you by yourself?” he asks me. OK, tilt was becoming a spin as my mouth went dry and I struggled to fit this question into the style of our typical exchange. “What?” I puzzled. “Tommy is here. I’m making dinner.” Why does this matter my brain struggles to know?
Why do I feel so clammy and am suddenly aware of my heartbeat accelerating? “I have Tommy’s blood test back”, he begins.
Whoa! Now I’m moving into full out reptilian brain response. Blood tests he sent us to the hospital for are back in just a few hours? How is that possible? And even worse, why is that possible?
“I’m sorry Becky”, He continues. “Tommy has Leukemia. I need you to come back to the hospital.” Wait. What? No. That’s not possible. We just need a pill or a shot or a…. What? The hospital?
All this whirls through my mind as I manage to utter the words “Can we come in the morning?” as though my consciousness is keenly aware of the battle we are already in and my mind says, no we’d rather not do this right now. If we must, let’s reschedule for another time. “No, Becky. I need you to meet me there now.” WHAT??! NOW? NOW?
Did he really say NOW? OK, here comes full-on panic attack mode within my entire being. My brain is spinning like a top shooting out messages to run like the Devil himself is chasing me.
My body is happily complying by pumping out so much adrenaline it could fuel a rocket launch and my Mama Bear protective mode goes into overdrive with a silent scream that were it to have been audible, would have made that demon run in terror taking all of hell’s occupants to run for safety.
Evidently, the pause on the phone was extended and the doctor graciously offered “Can I call your Dad for you?”.
Oh, my God. Yes. Salvation. Someone who will fix this for me. Someone who’s better at this than me. Someone who can do it for me. Weird how the brain works. “Yes please call my dad” and we ended the call. A few minutes later while I’m packing the overnight bag as instructed, the phone rings.
The bottom drops out of my stomach. “It’s not bad news. It’s not bad news. It’s not bad news”, my brain began to chant. Then I realize, how could it be anything worse than this???
I walk to the bedroom in my trance-like state, searching for a place to answer in privacy, a Hot Wheels commercial fading into the background. Feeling like I’m out of my body. Watching the experience like it’s happening to someone else. My soul begging for relief.
Remember, this is the phone on the wall, no caller ID era yet I know already who is calling and when I pick up, I instinctively plead “Daddy????”…..
“Is this story eerily familiar to you? Do you see yourself or someone you love in my words? Like your story, there’s so much more to mine and while we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, I have finally integrated this tragedy and have become whole again.” ~Becky