Denise, on your 40th


I saw this mid-February, 2018. There is so much to ponder in it. Who is Moms? Or would it be who are the moms? It took me forever to recognize the B in Bristol and understand it wasn’t Poristol. But I thought there was a lot of love in it. 

I wasn’t supposed to see my 40th birthday. I wasn’t supposed to see my twenty-fifth. “She has a malignant neoplasm,” that’s what the pinch-faced doctor looked right over my twelve-year-old head and told my mother. Her hand tightened on mine, like she thought someone might try to take me away right then. It didn’t get any better when he went on to clarify that it was acute myelogenous leukemia. I think she stopped breathing. It sounded to me like some sort of magic spell and I thought, “I’ve been cursed, obviously.”

Oh, and Pops was SO angry. Not at me, just in general. It was fear. I see that now. But he didn’t know how to be scared. So, he took it out on the nurses (who were wonderful) and doctors (who never learned to talk to me, the patient) but did their job all the same. They learned to tiptoe around him and we learned to send him on errands if we thought my cell-count update might not be a good one.

He was there to see me ring the bell at the end of treatment, and when I got my letter of remission, and to walk me down the isle, years later, which he confessed was a dream he thought he’d be denied. But he’s gone now. Heart attack got him, no bit of evil magic.

I thought Mom would follow, honestly. They’d been such a pair my whole life, alternatively bickering and preening for one another. I couldn’t imagine one without the other. But much like she had when she thought she’d loose her little girl, she bucked up, bought a condo in the Houston area that we affectionately call ‘The Bristol’ and got on with living. She always was the stronger of the two.

I try to remember that. My babies are teenagers now and my special peacock understands how to afraid, he won’t need to yell at anyone. But how do I tell them it’s back? I’ve not been to the doctors, but I’d know this particular magic in my bones anywhere and I’ve a world of work to do.

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