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A Tear is all it Took

Updated on May 25, 2009

My Adventuresome Parents: Following their own bucket list

My crazy mom in the bottom of the world
My crazy mom in the bottom of the world
Even with my dad getting around on his electric scooter, my parents make the big trip south
Even with my dad getting around on his electric scooter, my parents make the big trip south
Anyone want to go swimming in the Antarctic? Yup, that's my mom in the middle of the pool.
Anyone want to go swimming in the Antarctic? Yup, that's my mom in the middle of the pool.
My brave parents have always followed a different drummer.
My brave parents have always followed a different drummer.

I'll be a basketcase if anything happens to mom!

"Come on. Let us take you guys to lunch and get you out of the house," my mom told Mark over the phone this morning. Just more than an hour later, my parents were up in our area and waiting for us at a nearby restaurant for a late lunch.

Mark rolled me in my dad's spare wheel chair to a table in the back where my parents were already sitting.

"Would you rather take a cruise or go to Hawaii?" asked my mom. "Could we take the kids out of school for a week? When is their spring break?"

"April, I think."

"That's too late," pondered my mom.

"I thought you were going to Greece in May?" I asked. My mom recently came into some money and it's been burning a hole in her pocket. For years, my sister and I knew we'd never see a dime of our parents' money (if they ever had any) because my mom isn't exactly a saver.

"Well, the plan is..." my mom always gets excited when she begins telling about a new adventure. Last year, my parents went to Antarctica. Yes, they actually went on a trip most people would never consider taking, and that when my dad was 78.

Mom's possible bucket list?

"We're going to start off in England with your sister..."

"You're taking (my sister)?" My sister travels better by herself rather than with family, for the most part. Her hyper and abrasive character generally adds stress to family travel.

"Yes, she's going to stay with her best friend there for a couple of weeks and show us around. Then, we'll fly on to Greece and take a cruise around the Mediterranean, ending up in Barcelona." They wanted to revisit some of the places they had lived when my parents were first married when dad was stationed overseas.

"And when are you doing this?" I asked. "In May, right?"

"Well, maybe sooner than that. Maybe we could fly into Florida and meet you guys for the Disney Cruise on the way back!" Mom's wanted that cruise for too long.

"Could we go to Disney World? I've never been there. Maybe we could stay at that jungle hotel or the big mountain lodge."

"How soon could we get the kids out of school?" my mom asked again. She was sitting to my left, dad was across from me and Mark was to my right. Just then, I noticed something strange.

"What's going on? Why the sudden urgency?" I asked her. Then, I noticed it. Her eyes were welling up with tears and turning red. She tried hiding the stress growing in her face. "Mom, what's going on? You're crying. Why are you trying not to cry?" That was enough to let her emotions to lose some control.

"Okay. Remember how they thought I was having a heart attack a couple weeks ago?" She'd been leaving one of my dad's many doctor's offices, and during the short walk back to her car, she began having shortness of breath and other heart attack symptoms. She was rushed to the hospital, given six nitroglycerin tablets and kept overnight for observation. Her heart was fine.


"Well, they want to check out my lungs."

Shit! Lungs. Lung cancer? Shit! "What? Why?"

Please, don't say the "C" word!

"There might be some polyps on my lungs."

"What does that mean? Does that mean cancer? What are they doing? Do you have an appointment for tests?"

My mom tried to stay calm. "The beginning of June. They're doing a CAT scan."

"June! If this was me, you'd get me into the doctor tomorrow. So why don't they get you in there sooner? Nothing can happen to you, mom." You're my strength!"That's crap! Is this cancer? What is it?" I started crying thinking about the possibility of my mom going through cancer crap after she's gotten everyone else through all their shit; my grandparents until they died, her aunt until she died, my sister's cancer twice, dad's failing health because of his diabetes -- heart, strokes, kidneys, growing blindness, etc. I couldn't fathom the idea of losing my mother to painful lung cancer.

At first I thought, this sucks because mom never smoked; a joint or two, but never a ciggy. But then I remembered, I may not have grown up with any smoking in the house, but that's because my mom stopped smoking when she got pregnant with me.

She had smoked for many years during the years when doctors would get on TV and say how safe and tasty smoking was. Then, she stopped for good when I showed up around the same time dad got out of the Air Force. Before that time, she describes hanging out with the officers' wives and everyone always had a cup of coffee and a cigarette while all the kids played.

Dad never smoked. Wait, I take that back. When he was only 12 years old, his mom caught him smoking. Apparently, there were a lot of smokers in his family, including his mother, if memory serves. Anyway, she made a deal with her son. She told my dad, if he wouldn't light up another cigarette until he turned 16, she would buy him his first pack herself. Dad never smoked again.

"Don't worry. It's probably nothing. A lot of people have these polyps and they just watch them," she said, trying to control her own tears so I would stop crying. "It's not like your cousin. The smaller the dots on the lungs, the worse it is. That's what your cousin (the family doctor) says. But it's probably not that. And if it is like that, I just want to have fun and travel and enjoy myself while I can."

"But I thought you said they think it's just these polyps. Can't they get you in any sooner?"

"Don't worry, Joey." I could tell she didn't want to tell any of this to me earlier; before my surgery or when I was in the hospital. Clearly this has been on her mind, and now it gets to be on all our minds until we get any more news.


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