Saturday, March 3, 2007

Steel Magnolias

Okay, so I'm going to date myself, but does anyone remember the movie Steel Magnolias? The title came from the fact that mothers are strong during emotional traumas. I often feel like Shirley MacLaine, the mother in the movie.

I come from a long line of strong women. Women who came west on the Oregon Trail, women who lived hard lives, women who overcame difficult circumstances. Steel Magnolias. I am a Steel Magnolia.

During Kim's many cleft surgeries I completely hold it together. Even during her most horrible, heartbreaking surgeries, I know she needs me to be strong for her. To be her rock. To put on an Academy Awards performance and pretend like everything is fine and I am completely calm. I never want her to pick up on my fear.

Now I do the same for Joe. When I'm with him I smile and laugh and pretend that everything is fine. I never want him to pick up on my fear. I'm a Steel Magnolia.

With Kim, once we get home from the hospital and I'm all alone, late at night, I finally let the magnolia wilt and I have a good, long cry. I remember one surgery on her throat, her face was so swollen after surgery she was unrecognizable. And I also remember one day last summer, I saw Joe near the end of his chemo, and if I had bumped into him on the street, I never would have recognized him as my son. I know about chemo and I know what's coming. And I know it's going to be exponentially more difficult and painful this time.

During the crisis, I hold everything together. After it's over, I give in to my anguish.

Once Joe began treatment this time, the steel magnolia went into full gear. I would often feel like a news correspondent when giving information to others on his status. I probably seemed emotionally distant or callus to some.

But it's harder to be a steel magnolia this time and sometimes, I can't control the emotion within and the tears come, unexpectedly (although never in front of Joe). Some of my best friends, who have never seen me cry, have seen my tears these past weeks. But usually, I can quickly pull it together and get the magnolia to steel up again.

Today Joe called, and for the first time since he got his chemo ten days ago, he had some spunk in his voice! He said he is feeling MUCH better today! The relief from his constant nausea is profound.

My relief is profound too. I am thrilled to know my son will have some relief from feeling so sick for the next 10 days - until his next chemo treatment. And even though I know he has a very long road ahead, I feel like the first crisis is over. I can let the magnolia wilt. And as I write this, it is late at night, I am all alone, and tears stream down my face. Sometimes, it's okay to just be a magnolia.


Christina said...

Ann, what a beautiful portrait of a mother you have given us. I loved that movie... the laughter through the tears always stayed with me. I think that's how life is, even in the hardest parts we find things to keep us smiling, keep us going. I'm so glad Joe is feeling better right now. My prayers continue to be with him, and with you.

tncornett said...

I know you are strong. But I know you feel so deeply within. I'm sure your children are appreciative of your strength. God knows, Mom must be where we get it!