It is 1977, I am 11 years old and my mother is diagnosed with lung cancer. My parents tell me that my mother has something called tumors on her lungs and they show me the X-ray of where they are. An X-ray. A picture of what looks like nothing is about to change my families life forever. My mother is told that she has 3 months. I am not sure if I am told of the timeline. She lasts 8 months. 8 LOOOOONG months of coughing, comas, cancer, courage, clots, and caring.
I am there when my mother’s hair falls out from chemo. I am lying on my belly watching an old Montgomery Ward black and white TV at the foot of her bed. She is sitting up by the pillows. I see her out of the corner of my eye as she pulls hair out of her head. She is holding a few bunches in her hand. She asks me to go downstairs and get her a garbage bag. I head down annoyed that I have to leave the TV.I am not sure what I am watching.
Grabbing a paper bag from Grand Union from under the sink I head back upstairs and hand it to her. We don’t say anything. I see her crying in my peripheral vision as she takes hair from head and places it in the bag. I am very aware of what she is doing and I think I sort of know in a way but I am 11 and confused.
It is one of the most profound moments of my life and yet I was like a fly on the wall just watching it, not reacting, not speaking just trying to avoid.