Updated: May 15
It's grey out. It's Saturday, and I am relieved to hear my daughter's chatter on the phone with her best friend. The snow is falling peacefully to my dismay, as I just got home from a run that felt harder than I wished it would. My body is tired and I wish it were really spring.
I am writing about something I haven't publicly written about since my divorce. Or, maybe ever. I'm not particularly eager to make people uncomfortable, and I know how difficult it is to form words for someone dealing with something you can't fix for them. I don't want that kind of attention. I hold my struggles as closely, and as tightly as I can. I don't want my daughter to see them, my best friends, my mom, and even my husband. I don't want anyone to know how much anxiety I feel about Armando's struggle with cancer. The layers are miles deep. Guilt, anxiety, anger, fear, worry, sadness, shame... I can feel each emotion in a matter of minutes.
Maybe I don't believe I am allowed to feel these emotions. I feel guilty that I am not taking care of him anymore, mixed with the relief that his oldest daughter, is. Yet I feel relieved that Nora can escape the hard days and be with me where she can forget, for a while, that her dad is dying.
There are a million ways a mother can feel she is failing at parenting. Allowing screens to be distractions. Working too much. Playing too much. Feeding her kids subpar food. Taking a vacation without kids. Forming a new relationship that takes energy away from her child--living in a society full of shoulds is overwhelming. Yet, the one thing I wish society had clear instructions on how to do "right" is comfort a young child as her dad loses his fight with cancer.
This week was one of the hard ones, yet it doesn't feel fair to call it that. I'm not sick from chemo. I'm under a different roof trying to raise my daughter without her dad. Shouldn't that be easier? I feel immense relief for Sam and Ethan who have come into Nora's life at a time she needed them. I deeply hate the phrase "everything happens for a reason" but I find myself thinking it. Nora needed these two. Ethan who makes her laugh, who makes me laugh. Sam who steps in to offer hugs, rides, and reasoning to her. Sam who helps her with homework, something I'm oddly terrible at, and will say "yes" to almost any activity Nora wants to do. This week: card games, Netflix shows about animals, and rock climbing. Sam who is also not afraid to parent her--ask her to do her chores, pick up after herself, and remove her wet towel from our bed.
This week, my inner battle is:
Should I force Nora to be with her dad even when he is sick? My answer has been no. If she wants to be here, with me, then I let her. My goal, and her goal she made in counseling, was to voice her needs and eliminate her "shoulds". She doesn't like to see her dad sick, and I don't like the version of her when I pick her up after a hard week with her dad. She is sad, quiet, and not wearing her usual smile. Her dad has had cancer since she was 7. I don't want her to lose her youth to cancer. I want her to be 11, to giggle with her friends, and be goofy. My fear: what if all the days her dad has left are like this? Is she avoiding spending all her final opportunities with him?
I will never stop worrying about what it will be like, how she will react, how I will react when the day finally comes and her dad loses is fight. How will we all get through it?
I'm not sure how to close a blog like this. Know that I am struggling. Know that often, almost always, I don't want to talk about it. Know that I hate the question "How are you?" or "How's Armando?" and that like Nora I prefer to live in denial that any of it is happening. Know that when you see me running it is keeping me sane. Know that I am grateful for my husband who has an incredible amount of patience. Know that I still love and care for my ex-husband and talk to him daily. Know that you don't need to understand.
There are a million hard things in life, but daily I do my best to fixate on the good ones, and it is helpful (for me and for Nora) if you do too.
Don't be a stranger, comment below 😘