There was this one night when I was a little girl when I threw up spaghetti. Have you ever thrown up spaghetti? It’s repulsive. It’s like it was never chewed. It comes up your throat and out your mouth like yarn (sorry for the image). Anyway, the reason I remember this night so clearly – besides the puking of long strands of pasta – is because it was the night my mom cried.
My mom was at the hospital when I barfed. Her mother, my Grandma Dorothy, had lung cancer, and she went to visit her after the soon to be up-chucked spaghetti dinner. When my mom finally came home, I expected her to check on my rumbling tummy, but she didn’t. She never even came in my room. Instead, she and my dad talked in hushed (and some not so hushed) voices. She was upset because some of the hospital staff had mistreated Grandma. That’s when she cried.
I didn’t get it that night. I was only about ten years old. But eventually, at some point in my adult life, this memory (along with a few others), helped me figure out that my mom wasn’t just my mom, but also a human being in a difficult situation.
A few days ago, Riley said to me, “Mommy, remember when you were on the toilet and you were crying because Dylan was in the kitchen with those guys and he wouldn’t eat new food?”
I don’t remember the toilet, although Riley’s generally within six to eight three to five inches of me when I’m on the john (unless I lock the door, which only makes a bad situation worse because it causes loud banging and panic, but I digress), so he’s probably right about that part. But I do remember the “guys” in the kitchen and that Dylan wouldn’t try new food, and I definitely remember crying.
“You were sad,” Riley said.
I was sad. It was sad. This memory is from when we had behavioral therapists at the house three nights a week working with Dylan to overcome his sensory issues with food. It was a good idea in theory, but an epic failure in execution, and I cried a lot during those weeks and months.
Isn’t it funny what we remember? The snapshots we hold on to? Like the night I threw up spaghetti and my mom cried about her mother. Like the time Riley saw me cry on the toilet. He was only three and a half at the time, and it’s hard to believe he remembers it so clearly, especially when I don’t, but I bet when my mom reads this post, she’ll have to try hard to remember the night I’ve memorized from so long ago.
Harry’s been in the hospital since last Wednesday. What we thought was a herniated disc turned out to be insulinoma, which is a cancer in the pancreas that screws with insulin production. His back spasms were actually seizures due to plummeting blood sugar. Surgeons removed the malignant mass on Tuesday, and as of today, he’s doing well, but we’re still waiting for his blood sugar to stabilize. (By the way, he does have herniated discs in his neck and back, but they’re the least of his problems!)
For 10 days, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride of good news, bad news, and everything in between, and as you can imagine, I’ve been emotional. I’ve tried to fall apart in private and be brave in front of the boys, but when Dylan asks every morning if Harry will be home after school, and when Riley snuggles with Little Harry (a stuffed animal) and takes Little Harry to school for show & share, I can’t help but fall a part just a little bit right smack in front of them, because I want so badly for Harry to be home (on my lap), too. My kids’ wellbeing and emotional health are my top priorities, but I’m also human, which means sometimes I get caught crying.
I’m not sure what sparked Riley’s memory of the time when I cried on the toilet over a year ago. Maybe he saw me crying in the car this week despite my attempt to do it discreetly. Or, maybe he heard me sob into Harry’s blanket through the wall one night. (His bedroom is next to mine.) Or, maybe it was the single tear that escaped the afternoon he made “get well” pictures for Harry at the kitchen table. Whatever it was, I hope, in the long run, my crying exposes both of my boys to my humanness in a difficult situation in the same manner that I first discovered my own mother’s on the night she cried (and I threw up spaghetti).