I just got home from an incredibly hectic shift. Arriving at 6:00 a.m., there were eight people waiting to be treated from the overnight, several waiting for over three hours. When I left at 2:30 p.m., there were, again, eight people waiting to be seen, the wait still over two hours. Not the same people, of course. But still, the feeling of accomplishment was a little lacking.
Chalk it up to the yin and yang of the ER.
This weekend holds more of the same. Much to be happy about, with a touch of sadness mixed in. The yin and yang of my life.
I'm off from work the next four days. As I type, perfect weather hovers outside my office window, an unexpected embrace of warm sunshine befriended by a slight breeze and an endless blue sky. A long-lost hug that will linger for four days, if the weather-lady is right. Just in time to welcome Easter weekend, one of my favorite holidays. Peanut butter eggs, marshmallow chicks, fruit-flavored jellybeans, big chunks of chocolate--by noon Sunday, if my family isn't on a sugar high, then shame on us. If you see my family in church, I will be the one with peanut butter breath. My wife? She'll be the one with fluorescent pink, yellow, and blue sprinkles, remnants from the marshmallow chicks, clinging to her chin.
What makes this a most happy weekend, though, would be that it's...(drum roll, please) my birthday. Yep. Easter Sunday will be my 43rd birthday. I'm surprised, really, that I am entering my mid-40s. I remember very well when 40 seemed ancient to me, and I've surpassed that. Although my mind, spirit, and body are, for the most part, preserved, I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder who the person looking back is. According to my wife, it's my father's son.
Honestly, though, I couldn't really care that it's my birthday, except for the excitement it brings to our home, to my family. For the past week, I've caught my kids and wife whispering to one another, multiple times, only to stop as I approach. "Hmmm," I'd ask, faking bamboozlement, "what are you guys talking about?" My kids, especially my youngest, can't lie to save themselves, and yet they are able to play along remarkably with this.
Our family's birthday tradition? Started by my mother and successfully passed on, I, Mr. Birthday Boy, get to pick out dinner, which this year will be perogies and fresh sausage from the local Polish market. God Bless the Polish. And my birthday cake? Like every year past, Mom's Famous Chocolate Cake, made from scratch (including one cup of brewed coffee), topped with creamy, whipped, melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter frosting.
Doesn't life sound good? And taste good? Believe me, it is all good. Especially the cake.
So for all of my yang, what is the yin? The most simple way to explain it, I guess, is with two words--Mom's cake. Now baked by "my girls," my wife and daughters, and not by Mom.
Four years ago, on April 6th, Mom died. Two days after my 39th birthday.
My memories of Mom are almost all good, barring the last few weeks of her life, when AML ravaged her beaten body. I remember my 39th birthday very well, the feelings of helplessness that day. Trying to smile on the outside while the inside was desperate to change fate. The yin and yang of my young kids trying to celebrate my birthday while Mom lay ill in her own bed, breathing her last few breaths. After years of Mom breathing her beautiful spirit into us seven kids, it was her time to exhale her last breath. And time for us to breathe her spirit into our own families, without her.
After four years, it's easier to celebrate again. Time is the great healer. Thanks to my thoughtful sister, Rosie, who photocopied each of us a copy of Mom's hand-written and manually-typed recipes (refined tips included), chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting is not the only recipe of Mom's that my family enjoys. You should taste her Apple Jewish Coffee Cake. Laminated and bound, these recipes are truly gifts that keep on giving.
This is not depression, trust me. Simply, the memories and reflections of my mother's life are quite strong during this time of year, walking hand-in-hand with the introspection of my own life. As human beings, we have the privilege to experience some of life's lows, embrace them, grow stronger and wiser from them, and use these experiences to better ourselves. An ever evolving task. From this rubble, an appreciation of life's finer moments is gained.
Do any of you know where I am coming from? Any stories to share?
A memorable holiday weekend, filled with fun and laughter, good food, and celebrations of our religious beliefs, awaits my family. I know that. And I look forward to it. Plus, don't forget about the birthday presents I'll need to unwrap! I'm easy that way--give me a good book and a great musical CD, and I'm happy. At points, though, I know my mind will wander to thoughts of my mother.
It will be okay.
After all, I know where all this sunshine came from.
As always, big thanks for reading. A Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate this holiday. Enjoy your weekend. See you next week...