The clock is running down rapidly before Yom Kippur, the solemn day that we atone for our wrongdoing and are either allowed to continue living, or… not. High stakes.
Three years ago on Yom Kippur, I skipped the holiday completely. I couldn’t face it. I had been recently diagnosed with the lung metastases, and begun treatment, and I opted out of the whole day. I had never done that before. It was restorative. And it was productive — that was the day I conceived of this blog, which has sustained me through some very dark times.
This afternoon the kids were being difficult. When we got home, I decided to try to have an umpteenth talk with them about their behavior. What I found myself talking about, instead, was my illness. I suddenly needed them to know that while I am feeling fine right now, I can’t count on it being that way forever. Young J’s tears slid silently down his face, mirroring mine. Young A was quiet, and fetched us tissues.
At the end of my speech, I had no idea what the point of it had been. Did I mean to upset them? I really don’t know. Did I mean to pull the rug out from under them? Why would I do that? I did underscore the fact that I’ve been lucky. That medicines are working. That there is hope. But that there is also uncertainty.
There is a lot of parenting knowledge to be picked up from your family, from your community, from television. Some of these are skills which will help you do right by your kids. Some are shining examples of what not to do.
I don’t have many parenting role models with cancer. I was supposed to meet up with someone who might have become one, a friend of a friend… but she died before we got a chance to meet.
So I get to be my own cautionary tale. It must be scary enough to be the child of a parent with a serious disease that you can’t really tell she has, a disease that she insists you too might catch, if you’re not more careful with the sun. So maybe… don’t remind them about the death thing again so soon.
It is the custom before Yom Kippur to ask for forgiveness from people you know. And so I did, tonight at bedtime, in the dark, before I sang to them. I asked their forgiveness. In general. I got it, and I was grateful. I will be more careful from now on.