My mom used to be what my dad called a three-hundred percent person. She was a teacher…still is a teacher, just not at a school. She finally let her teaching license lapse last year. Or the year before.
When I was younger, I would get dropped off at her school at the end of my school day. We would go home together after she was done with her day. Or close to done. Around five or six we would head home for dinner, games, tv (when we had one–another story), and then reading and bed. After she got me into bed, she would often head back to school to work on her classroom and plans until it was time to come home, change her clothes, wake me up, feed me breakfast, and get us both out the door for another day at school. Like my dad said, three-hundred percent.
During her first round of breast cancer, she didn’t get to be less than 300ish percent. Her class was stacked with (if my memory is correct) over nine ADHD students among other young humans who needed extra care. She took a week off during her first chemo treatments, but chaos and destruction occurred in many ways. This chaos and destruction included two students who wandered off between transitions and were not found until hours later dancing around an empty classroom. I’m tempted not to mention that they hadn’t bothered to visit the actual restroom when they needed to, so there were piles of various substances it is best not to mention in polite company scattered about the room. I did just mention it, but the image helps give an idea of just what the substitute was facing.
So, mom ended up going to chemo in the mornings and going to teach in the afternoons.
After the first round of cancer, she still didn’t slow down. She built an internet business, taught parenting classes after school and on weekends to help support her parents, and kept up her crazy teaching schedule. I was in NYC at the time for my first masters degree, so I wasn’t as much of a witness for this first round.
There are more stories between then and now, but now that stage four everywhere cancer has made it impossible for mom to be the 150 percent person she was back to after her second round of cancer, she only lets herself get down on occasion. When she has visions of a 300 percent project, but cannot execute it herself, she pushes herself to the point of screaming pain as the cancer in her spine gnaws into her with each move.
Today, we had the adopted family over for the three kids’ Christmas with Tia (what they call mom since the youngest was not able to say her name when he was little). Mom spent the two days before creating a giant elf out of a cardboard box, a treasure hunt with 40 rhyming clues leading to ten small prizes throughout the hunt, and enough other things to keep all of us busy. Dad’s biggest grumble is that, since mom is only running at about 75 percent, she expects us to jump in joyfully and help her create the other 225 percent of her magic. Dad has never been a three-hundred percent person, so this is not a natural thing for him. They’ve been married for almost 44 years, so he should be used to being called in for backup by now, but being expected to be the executioner of all things amazing, instead of just the backup makes him almost as grumpy as I am.
In any case, I am grateful that the 30 presents I wrapped for today were gleefully shredded open by the children when they solved each set of clues. I am grateful that mom got one last chance to create her Christmas magic this year. She is at her happiest when orchestrating, so today was her kind of day. I am also grateful that, after I put together all veggie, meat, cheese, and olive trays for throughout the day grazing, I got to sit back and watch. (The whole group did have to go caroling to the neighbors to get one of the clues, but, aside from my off key singing, that wasn’t much work for me!)
Tonight, mom fell asleep in her chair like she does most nights now. When her body is in too much pain for her to push it out of her mind, her brain shuts down with sleep. She refuses to take any pain killers. She says if she takes them now, they won’t work when she really needs them. I am pretty sure she is still a three-hundred percent person…the trouble for her is that 225 percent of her magic is being used to fight pain and keep her moving. Which is why I am so glad my mom is a 300 percent person.