This young man has had to put his life on hold for me more than once, but these last nine months have been especially trying. My cancer diagnosis has eclipsed the family’s stability. Matt has seen me at my best and my worst. He has sat with friends, wringing his hands, wondering if I would make it through surgery.
Matthew was in the hospital when I was admitted to isolation, in emerg when they admitted me again, there for my first and last chemo. He has been here every single day when no one else was. He has seen me sick, vomiting, weak, hairless, comatose, hooked up to machines. He has seen me struggle, survive, roar in triump only to cry in defeat. He has received texts from friends warning him not to let me have food and water after nine o’clock. He has sat up nights with me … like I did for him when he was a sick infant.
Matt changed course and decided to persue a different degree, so he did a victory lap to pick up a computer science class. At first I was horrified, then I realized that this is his life and he needed to make the choice that was in his heart. As it turned out, he was out of school and just working part-time when I was diagnosed with cancer. It all worked out for the best.
He carries the anxiety gene from my side of the family. Matthew has always been a worrier. In fact, his day care teacher tried to gently tell me by giving him a book called Wemberly Worried. He was just like me at his age … wondering if the school knew of the time change (I’d go at 8am instead of 9am in the fall because nothing could calm my fears that I would miss the bell).
Matt faced instablility when his Dad and I separated. He would now be a child from a broken home, moving back and forth each week from one household to another. I tried my best to accommodate him and his needs. His Dad made him strip off a pair of jeans and a belt at the door because he bought them, and they were staying at his place.
Aside from me, he has very little family. A few cousins scattered across the country. No contact with his father or that side of the family. Matthew worried constantly for nine months that I would not be here to help him. Funny how I think of him as a child … I was his age at 19 years old when I met Richard.
He will always be my baby boy. The one who kept me going all these years. The one I protected with the fierceness of a mother bear.
I can’t sing a note. While my Dad’s side of the family is musically gifted … I took after Mom. Tone Deaf. But I could sing one song – Hush Little Baby – and I would sing it to Matt when he (rarely) cried. He would stop crying, teary eyes and look up at me as if I was an angel. I felt like one, and didn’t care when I sang in Emerg when he was three to hush my sick baby … and some man said “Good God, don’t give up your day job.”
When he wants my attention, he will still say “Mom … Mooooommmm. Mommy! Mom. Mom. Mom.” The teachers at day care told me – when he was 18 months old – he would put his mouth on the fence in the afternoon and say “Mum.Mum.Mum” I would pick him up and tell him I loved him and both of our worlds would be right.
I was the parent who picked him up at daycare every day and we spent our entire evenings together. Every Friday night was movie night, and we would go to Rogers Video to pick up a new movie for the week … we did that on Friday nights until it was no longer possible to pick up DVDs at the video store (what video store?). I was the parent to signed him up for soccer and baseball and swimming, snowboarding, guitar, science camps and camp counsellor training. I took him to all his games. I photographed and cheered from the sidelines for 13 years. I made him feel like a million bucks when he felt awful for pitching a losing game. I raised him alone.
He was so nervous for his last job interview. I drove him to the place in south Pickering and literally had to yell at him to get him out of the car. He was so angry with me that he forgot to be scared … and aced the interview. (I knew he would). He just resigned from there a few weeks ago as he prepared for university. Matt had a great 1.5 years there and I am proud of him, his work ethic and dedication. He can’t swing both schedules for now.
And he has had to put up with me as a Mother. Who else would high five their 19 year old son when she comes home and he tells her that he has pulled the drapes – curtain rod and all – off his bedroom wall? All I could say was “Bow Chicka Bow Bow!” Matt would roll his eyes and say “But that is not how it happened!” Sure, kid. I was 19 once as well … And who’s Mom brings them home handfuls of condoms from the Cancer Centre and dumps them on your desk? Only me.
He and I have always been a team. He wanted my help when he had to build a lunar lander for Grade 5. I took him to Home Depot to pick out the wood, wheels, hardware. We built it on the kitchen floor … and if you ask Matt how his Mom is with power tools he will get a big grin on his face and tell you I almost drilled the floor (his Dad would have been angry!). We got an A+ on that project.
And we will continue to be a team as he starts University. I wish I could have given him a car … a trip … his own place. My biggest failure – I feel – is not being able to give him the freedom to travel. But I am a single parent and now on Long Term Disability. I can barely afford to give him a new laptop bag for his first day of school once all the bills are paid. But I don’t want him to see the tears. I wipe them away on my sleeve when he looks my way. He doesn’t ask for much. “Mom, I don’t need it” he would say. He’s become very money conscious and stresses about the cost of school. Our place is a disaster because I haven’t been able to keep up, and Matt has been doing triple duty with dog care, cooking and working. But he doesn’t care. It’s home.
Is it normal to feel like a failure as you launch them off into their most epic years? University years really are the best years of your life. We will have that talk tomorrow.
I did take him to see his new bus route yesterday. We walked from the 900 bus stop on Hwy 2 to the Pickering GO Station, then back to the car. His schedule is different every day, so I will pick him up at the Pickering GO on Thursday nights to save him some time when the buses run an hour apart.
I did make his favourite dinner last night.
I did promise I would get up at 5am and drive him to the Pickering GO Station for his first day because he is so unsure about where to go and schedules. (I just got back). I should have thought of it last week, but I was busy finishing up chemo. No … he should have thought of it, but he knew I was in the hospital for two days with tests and treatments.
We did manage to get his laptop ordered, but it won’t be here for the first day.
I have always tried to make Christmas an amazing holiday for him. When he was just three, I chcanged the theme of the Christmas tree to “transportation” … it had to move to be on our tree. Trains, planes, automobiles, buses, star ships, a horse and one coffee mug (Mommy’s gasoline … it gets me going). It didn’t matter if it was the family around the tree, or just the two of us. The tree was packed with well thought out presents and a full turkey dinner.
Matt once thought he wanted to be a chef. He learned his love of cooking from me, and he has taken over making Christmas dinner for the last 4 or 5 years. I help with the stuffing and the gravy, but he preps and cooks everything else like a pro. He has cooked dinner more nights in the last year than I have. He’s brought me bowls of korean beef, rice & vegetables in my bedroom because I am too weak to get up. He’s made me coffee, which he hates.
Sometimes I feel like I have failed this kid in so many ways, I can’t count them any more. But he does me proud. He is a wonderful, gentle, polite boy who has grown into an amazing man.
Matt, I love you. You are the reason that I go on. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you.
This isn’t just a new chapter … it’s a new book. This fresh start for you comes as my battle ends. Time to put the focus back on you, not me. My job it to make sure you launch. Remeber what I said when you were six years old? Your job is to go to school. And be the best you can be.
It’s tougher these days … more competition, harder time finding jobs, the cost of living. But you and I are tougher.
And please send Mom a first day of school photo from the campus!
Love you too the moon and back,