Flipping Pages: A glimpse at my week

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Page One: Saturday

This time, I drove Bella into the pasture, so she could see the calves up close. Up ahead, a small black mound nestled in the tall grasses. I stopped the ATV and climbed down. Bella remained behind, while I edged closer through the field of gentle beasts. The momma cow mooed at her babe, but there was no response.

A tiny hand found mine; she’d found her courage. “Momma, you know cows don’t sleep lying down,” Bella said. “Is she dead?”

Her Aunt Tricia.

Her babysitter Vanessa.

Her Ompa (grandfather)

Three deaths crammed in four small years. She’s a seasoned soul.

“I don’t know.” I said. “Come on baby. Get up.”

“Get up girl,” Bella said.

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Page 2:  Monday

After dark, the remnants of Oma’s life in Ocala were in one last car load. She’d sold most of her furniture and walked away from the rest. We unloaded the boxes and stacked them in the room designated to be her office.

“Wow,” Oma said as she walked into her new place in Orlando. “It’s so beautiful!”

New paint… cleaned carpet…furnished…decorated… started with a desire to make all things new for her.

A few minutes later, Bella pulled on my arm. “Oma needs you Momma. Come.”

I heard the unusual sound before entering her bedroom. Her face buried in her son’s chest. “Oh Tammy!” Her arm reached for me too. Her wailing and tears made my heart ache. I realized there’s only One who can make all things new.

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Page 3 Wednesday night:

“Ladies, our two members dealing with brain cancer are unable to join us tonight because they are not feeling well right now. We need to rally around them. One needs help with driving her children to where they need to be. The other needs help with food. I will send out an email tomorrow, letting you guys know the details.”

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Page 4: Thursday morning

“You tested positive for a gene mutation called PALB2,” my gynecologist said. “It creates the rarer type of breast cancer, but it is also the most dangerous—the most invasive. It’s behind the Triple Negative Breast cancer that killed your sister.”

I swallowed. All the years of scolding her for diet soda. It was a gene all along.

“Identifying the gene mutation only raises your chances of getting the cancer by 9 percent, but if you flip over here…” She flipped the page. “It clearly states if a close relative such as your sister had the cancer your chances jump to 58 percent. Then, if there are other members of your family who’s had breast cancer it continues to raise your chances even higher.”

Great-grandmother.

Grandmother.

More recent, great aunt.

The gene slithers down the family tree puddling in me.

“I want you to see a specialist,” the doctor went on. “She’ll monitor you more closely, but she may recommend a full mastectomy. Do you have any questions?’

“What would you do if you were me?” I said.

“I would see the specialist without delay, and I would do whatever it is she recommends.”

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Page 5: Thursday afternoon:

“Knowledge is power,” my dear friend Yvonne said on the phone. She should know, her husband battled his own cancer markers for several years. “But I’ll be honest, the flip side is there’s a heavy burden carrying that knowledge.”

I hung up.

Was it better to know or remain blissfully unaware?

I didn’t know.

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Page 6: Thursday evening:

 

A sweaty, small boy emerges from the gym. I’m waiting outside. He smiles and approaches cautiously.

“Hi Bryson, I’m Tammy. The password is ____. Always ask whoever picks you up for the password okay? If they don’t know it, you do not get in a car with them.”

In the car, I put his address in my phone. The directions appeared, but as I turned onto the road they disappeared. This phone needs to be updated. Tried again, this phone needs to be updated.

I’m kicking myself.

“I’ll use my phone,” he said. He becomes my copilot.

Confident for little years, he told me he liked math was a number’s guy–none of my boys liked math. Raised by a single mom who had brain cancer, her tumor now dormant. Wondered if that made children mature faster?

His sister met us in the driveway, handed me a pile of sticky notes. Their mother’s normal thank you. I tend to save them. She wrote, “God is smiling. Psalms 139.” A passage about God knowing us, seeing all, knitting our inward parts in our mother’s womb, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

She didn’t know yet about the gene.

But God did.

 

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Page 7: Thursday night

I shot Bella the look as I held out her pajamas again. She giggled and ignored. Again. Last straw.

“Get your pajamas on now!” I spat at her.

“Hey!” Jay said. “Just calm down. Bella mind your Momma.”

The burden of the knowledge hunched my shoulders. Twisted my insides making me mean.

Later, snuggling in a chair, I opened Bella’s Bible. Adam and Eve were hiding from God. He’d told them they could eat of all the trees in the garden– except that one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Something else had slithered down the tree, something with a voice, and Eve listened. Her bite cursed the world. Why? Why couldn’t you have been satisfied? Why did you have to eat the one God instructed you not to? Why did you want the burden of knowledge? There would be no cancers, no death, no brave boys without fathers.

But…

Then again…

I would have bit the apple too.

Flipping back to page One:

“Momma, go see if the baby calf is dead. We need to do something.” Bella said.

“Hold on. Let’s just watch and see.”

Suddenly, a floppy ear twitched.

A head popped up.

It looked at us.

On shaky legs it wobbled over to its mother dragging a long umbilical cord, before latching on and suckling.

“Awe, she’s so cute,” Bella smiled. “It’s okay Momma!”

Pure joy at the sight of this sticky new life.

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“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold I am making all things new.’” Revelations 21:5a English Standard Version.

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** Name of boy has been changed to insure privacy.

 

 

 

 

Grace Under Bella

 

 

“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.”

— Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

 

Some days I want to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb. Isabella is turning out to be quite a handful of stubborn will and steel backbone.

“She comes by it honestly.” Momma said yesterday on the phone. “You’ve just described all the women in our family, and her paternal grandmother too.”

I just didn’t think I’d be raising one…but I am.

Bella is in the throws of it… those good ole two’s, and I am praying daily she will come out of it before this Momma starts catching invisible flies in a paddy wagon. To be honest, there are days I am raging mad. You see, I’ve packed away my dreams again to raise another child, and one that lately bucks me over everything. I am ashamed to admit my selfishness. I love her with every part of my being, but I was rambling down freedom road. Wait freedom? What is that? Frankly, I don’t know, but it was on the horizon waiting to be discovered. I’ve only experienced a few years without children at home, within those years, I wrote a “slush pile”novel, took care of my sister while undergoing chemo, and for another I was pregnant. Forgive me if this sounds like complaining, I’ve come to believe God doesn’t like to see me get bored.

I admit my fuse has been short. It is a battle between my imposing will and her standing her ground. Somedays, we are like the bulls at the farm, locking horns. There are nights Jay comes home and thinks his wife has gone cray-cray. “She’s just a toddler.” he’d said one evening. Steam poured from my nostrils. (All you men out there, never say this to your wife.) I am envious of him. He’s out the door using his mind building things, having lunch, and adult conversation. When he returns, he gets the good Bella. The nighttime cuddles, books, and tired kisses. She’s an angel, laughing in his lap and charming him with her lashes. I want to know where was that child all day long? Meanwhile, I get the tantrums, “the two more minutes,” the naked girl running around the coffee table, the broken lipsticks, and lotion smeared on everything. I won’t even go into our potty training…which is not going well.  Did I mention I am in my upper forty’s? So, yeah there’s the age thing.

I know your thinking there’s nap time. A frantic rush to get the laundry, dishes, dinner prepped, and floors done. Just one more thing, I tell myself before I allow writing time, but there’s always one more thing isn’t there?

This past weekend at the farm, my sister-in-law, Prem and I found a little black calf outside the electrical fence, along the trail. I parked the ATV and jumped out thinking the babe was dead, but as I approached, it raised its head weakly. We put in the call for help. While waiting for the farm manager to arrive we lowered our daughters from the ATV, so they could see the calf up close. Its large sad eyes looked up at us. He still had an umbilical cord attached, and I knew he was dehydrated. He was helpless and alone, with its mother no where in sight.

Sniper, our farm manager arrived, and he carried the calf down to where majority of the herd was grazing. He placed the calf inside the fence, but a watery ditch separated the calf from the pasture. The calf stood alone.

“Where’s the mother?” I said. “What if she’s not in this herd?”

“She’ll find him eventually.” Sniper said unconcerned. He jumped into his ATV and drove away. While we waited and watched.

The calf’s legs wobbled as he attempted to cross the ditch, but fear kept him from doing it. Finally, he mooed out a cry for help. The sound carried across the pasture and one head popped up from the grass.

“There she is.” I pointed to the far end.  Immediately, she made her way towards him and tried to get him to jump the ditch, but he still refused. Finally, she jumped the ditch and met him where he was. It is something I will never forget, and it was undoubtedly something God wanted me to see. The Momma cow extended grace to her calf. She didn’t insist on her way. She met him where he was.

A mother’s love is full of grace that can mold steel wills into masterpieces. Somewhere drowning in Bella’s toddlerhood I’ve forgotten that.

One afternoon, I admitted to Prem how difficult it’s been. The sun brought fire to her black hair as she leaned on the kitchen counter.

“I’m going to remind you of something you told me not long ago,” she said.

“What?”

“Love them through it,” she said. “Fill up their love tank. This season won’t last forever.”

“I said that?”

“Yep.”

 

Stay tuned for Part II next week.