Family Ties

March 13, 2006

Over the weekend I traveled to Illinois to see my family, specifically my mother. Mom, and my oldest biological niece, share a birth date so Saturday's party was for both. Knowing that my mother's time is now limited made the trip hard in many ways.

I wasn't at all looking forward to seeing her, as I wasn't sure how bad she was. As it turned out my mom was looking pretty good, for a terminally ill lung cancer patient. She is obviously tired and in some discomfort, but still able to get around. She displayed very little appetite, and my father told me she hardly eats anything any more. the best part of seeing her was that her hair has come back. In September she was still bald from radiation treatments, and in December she had just a short stubble of hair.

Saturday was a good day for her and we were able to spend over seven hours at my brother's house. My sister-in-law had decorated the family room with balloons and streamers, and both of my youngest nieces were dressed in fairy princess costumes, one as Sleeping Beauty and the other as Snow White. They were both adorable. They both gravitate towards their grandmother, and it is obvious that she loves them totally and unconditionally. It made me feel very good inside to see the three of them interact with each other. It also made my heart break to think that there would only be a few more visits.

The hardest part of the day proved to be singing "Happy Birthday" to my mom. As there were two birthday girls there were two rounds of the song. Singing for Riley was easy, but my throat choked up while singing it for my mom. Unless a miracle happens I'll never get to sing it to her again.

All weekend I had been dreading Sunday morning as that is when I would have to leave. In preparation for seeing my mom I had written a letter and planned some things I wanted to say. However when the time came around I didn't feel an impending sense of need. I reminded them that I would be back again in four weeks on my way to Chicago, and my mom, clearly reading my mind said, "It's okay, Mark, we'll be here." Later when I hugged her goodbye she said, "I'll be okay. I'll see you in four weeks."

In all it was a good visit. My father and I were able to talk some about his situation and his thoughts about the future. We both recognized without saying it, that I have more immediate experience in dealing with the loss of a spouse. It felt good that he was turning to me for input and advice. One of Michele's greatest fears was that she had somehow come between me and my family. I vociferously fought that claim; in my opinion the relationship between me and my family was always lacking and Michele's role in the dynamics of the family hadn't damaged what was already failing. However, I would be less than honest if I didn't acknowledge that the growth I have experienced since losing Michele has helped me to see my family in a different light. With the understanding that our time with any loved one is limited, I find I am more accepting of the relationship my family is capable of, and less demanding that they achieve the level I want.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.