Day 181 – Relay for Life, Texas style

rflVernon, Texas, a little place on the Texas-Oklahoma line; not much to do here except hang with our friends.  Tonight I offered to cook dinner, so off to the grocery store we went.  If I can avoid WalMart, I will, so we stopped at United and picked up some grub.  Our clerk was an airy twenty-something with a bad attitude.  It didn’t matter how much I cajoled, she just wanted to go home and sleep, “I mean, it’s like, I have to go to this Relay for Life thing tonight, and it goes all night!” she said, with a roll of her eyes.  My ears perked up…Relay is here, tonight??  I started throwing questions at her…what time, where?  She didn’t know much, but at least I had been tipped off and I could figure out the rest on my own.

I have a home Relay, it’s in Blackfoot, Idaho – since the beginning I have been participating.  It’s the one charity I always support.  The American Cancer Society will find the cure for cancer and I’m going to help them do that.  For the last four years, I have been a “Grand Club” member, I just haven’t been to the Relay event itself for awhile.  One thing I do know is that every Relay is different.  I’ve been to my “local” Relays, Idaho Falls, Blackfoot and Pocatello.  All of them have a similar feel, they are of similar size and enthusiasm.  Last year we stopped by a Relay in Colorado Springs while we were there.  This year, it was the Relay for WilbargerCounty held at the Covered Arena in Vernon.

It’s a small relay, only 14 teams, 175 participants.  To date they have raised over $29,000 with a goal of $40,000.  It’s also an early Relay.  In Idaho, we don’t Relay until the weather turns, and then sometimes it’s still a guess.  But even with a small Relay, you could feel the excitement in the air; they were having fun and doing good work.  We met the chairman and the staff partner and thanked them both for the hard work.  If ever you have wondered how much work goes in to an event, wonder no longer…volunteer to help instead.

It’s that time again to get on the band wagon and help raise some money.  I Relay for my Mom and all of us who have been touched by cancer; whether directly or not, we all have a dog in this fight!  Stand up and help, it’s up to all of us to rid the world of cancer, one dollar at a time if we have to.  To make a secure online donation straight to the American Cancer Society; Donate here  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/skrehbiel

Day 186 – Remembering Mom

momThirteen years ago today, I lost my mom to cancer.  It was an odd time in my life, my career was hopping, my kids were busy.  Mom and Dad lived just down the street, but it was hard to find time for them too.  I felt guilty all the time because I wasn’t meeting anybodies expectations.

Mom had been sick for a long time, Dad was the primary caregiver and doing the best he could.  She didn’t complain much, but there was a lot she couldn’t do.  My mom had always been fiercely independent and it was weird seeing her bedridden a lot, or in her case, couch-ridden.  My mother loved her living room.

They had bought a house down the street from us after my youngest was born in 1993,  figuring that if they were ever going to be close to their grandkids, they needed to fix the distance.  It was an old house, not well cared for and my mom proceeded to gut the whole thing.  She kept the period pieces, the great windows, the thick baseboards, the coves.  But she removed all the dark woodwork and brightened the kitchen.  My mom was the kind of woman who would sand the baseboards down to a beautiful wood only to repaint them, some would call that a perfectionist.  I would have to agree.

Mom’s living room was painted a butter yellow, she had a plaid couch that she had hunted for for months that had just the right shades of green and yellow in it; a blue chair for sitting in and a couple of other pieces.  The walls had pheasants on them, she could manage to take anything very feminine and include just enough masculine pieces to make my dad comfortable.

About three weeks before mom passed away, she called me at work.  She had fallen off the couch when she heard the doorbell.  Very disoriented, she had fallen on her glasses and mushed them.  Could I please take her to the eye doctor to get them fixed?  I could do that.  It was a very weird afternoon, one of those that you can remember all the details because it was very significant.  In our case, it was the beginning of the end.

Over the course of the week, I worked hard to stop by and see how she was doing, but life kept interfering.  My kids have always been active in lots of activities, it was spring, Kayla had soccer, Haley had girl scouts, Josh was in high school, there was stuff to do.  I dropped in to my folks as often as I could, but I wasn’t able to stay long, just checking in.

The Saturday night before that final Saturday I stopped by just after dusk, the lamp was on in her butter yellow living room and her skin matched the walls.  I gave her a kiss and looked at dad, he didn’t seem to notice anything was wrong.  Mom’s eyesight was giving her fits and she couldn’t see well enough to read her book, I went to the kitchen to grab a Diet Coke and dad followed me.  I asked him about her color, he looked at me surprised.  She had jaundiced right before his eyes, but he hadn’t noticed.  No fault of his, you don’t tend to see changes in people you are with all the time.  On Sunday morning, he took her to the ER in Idaho Falls, they admitted her.

Mom’s cancer was an odd sort; it stemmed from a hereditary disease that she had and grew on the outside of her liver.  It was not liver cancer, but instead a cancer that surrounded her liver and would not let the liver do its’ job, that was why she was jaundiced.  She had many surgeries over the course of her treatment that were designed to cut off the blood supply to the cancer cells, they worked well and were fairly non descript.

By Tuesday, the hospital sent her home on hospice care,  I had to fly to Boise for my job that day.  My sister called, she wanted to know if she should come home.  I answered as honestly as I could.  I don’t know, that has to be your call.  Tracie was home the next day.  Mom spiraled downhill that week.  There were no good days left.  On Friday afternoon, she was lucid and coherent, for about five minutes.  My mom has always been good with one-liners, she threw some out then retreated back in to herself.

On Saturday, we chose to spend the day at the house, Mom, Dad, Tracie and I – my husband had gone out of town; my kids were busy, we were just going to all hang out.  Each of us spent individual time with mom, talking with her quietly.  She couldn’t respond, but it was comforting being able to share things with her.  By mid afternoon the house felt closed in, my daughter had a soccer game, so my sister and I told dad we were taking a break, we would be back after the game.  Hopping in to my mom-mobile, we drove over to the field and hung out, my daughter’s team was all there in their green uniforms, but the other team wasn’t.  How strange, in our league that never happened.  We waited fifteen minutes, then I told my kids I was headed back to grandma’s, I would call them later.

We were back an hour sooner than we had planned to be; mom still on the couch, dad muddling around.  Together we decided it was time for her meds, she hated taking them, so we knew it would be a group effort.  We sat mom up on the couch, I was on the floor in front of her holding her hands; my sister to my right, my dad to my left.  Mom was not cooperative, but then the fight went out of her.  “Wait, wait, wait” I said, “She just left us.”  Her color had changed in an instant, she looked back to normal, peaceful, quiet.  We all sat back, stunned a bit, but thankful we had been there.  April 1, 2000, census day, a beautiful spring Saturday in Idaho.  The day I lost my mom.  Love you.