No foolin’ this year.

Lambcake - 1

This year, for better or for worse, social media, the airwaves, and maybe even the pulpit will be full of everyone’s take on the fact that Easter falls on April Fool’s Day. I have nothing unique or clever to add, so I’ll keep this post simple.

Last year, I was feeling blue about Easter; you can see what I wrote below. This year, I’m not blue, so I guess I’ve adapted to our new traditions. As long as the tradition includes my three favorite guys–hubby Michael and sons Matt and Steve–I’ll feel blessed. There will be no lamb cake again this year, but I had to share the picture because it still gives me a smile. Needless to say, don’t look for me on The Great American Baking Show.

If you’re a master lamb cake baker/decorator, please share your photo or your story and maybe I’ll be inspired for next year.

I wish you a day blessed with smiles, comforting traditions, and the presence or happy memories of loved ones. A little sunshine would be nice, too, for those of us with snow still hanging around.

Happy Easter!

 

I’m feeling a little melancholy about Easter, so please indulge me as I tell you about this photo. It makes me smile.

It’s a lamb cake, in case you couldn’t tell. If you think that’s silly, I’d like to hear your explanation about the bunny who lays chocolate eggs.

When my five siblings and I were little, our mom made a lamb cake every Easter. We were Catholic, and the symbolism in this tradition is the reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd.

When my parents downsized some years ago, I inherited the lamb cake mold, and used it a few times in subsequent years. My 20-something sons liked it, but I wouldn’t say it was a “hit.” A jelly bean-eyed, coconut-furred farm animal nestled in a bed of green coconut “grass”  just doesn’t rank with, say, mountain zip-lining.  (I’ll save that adventure for another blog). But my sons declared it “good” and my heart was full like a solid chocolate bunny.

Since my last lamb cake, most of the four of us–my husband and I and our two sons–are now avoiding sugar, calories, gluten, grains, dairy, and/or meat, depending on the individual. So I’m scratching the whole lamb production this year.

And I won’t waste my money on chocolate bunnies, Cadbury eggs, or jelly beans, either, since they’ll sit untouched until candy corn season. I wouldn’t hear a peep over a plastic-grass filled Easter basket, so why bother? And the interest at my house in dyed eggs has died.

I have to face that our traditions are broken and I don’t know how to revive them.  Actually, to be honest, as much as I’m nostalgic for those Kodak moments, I’m not interested in resurrecting anything without some waving of palms or cheering of crowds alongside me. Someday my sons may be ready to carry that cross, but they’re not there yet.

So I’m going to redefine how I want to celebrate Easter. Lambs and cakes and bunnies and painted eggs are all fluff, anyway, just like pink and purple peeps. Spending the day with loved ones, an Easter lily on my dining room table, and a glass of wine on my front porch is all I really need. And spring’s rebirth is a tradition that happens with or without fanfare. I’ll be there to witness it.

The lamb cake mold will stay entombed under the dining room window-seat until there’s reason for it to be born again. The wait will be longer than three days, but good things happen when you believe in miracles–whether it’s a risen Savior, a bunny that lays chocolate eggs, or a son who one day asks to borrow a mold to resurrect a long lost tradition.

My book release party. Someday.

When I walked into my public library last week to return some books, I noticed a flyer for an upcoming book release party. The author was a local memoirist; it looked like she may have written about her journey with dyslexia; that was my guess anyway.

“Perfect!” I thought, making a mental note to attend.

I like to support local authors, and in preparation for the day when I become a published author, the book release party was a good opportunity to observe what’s involved.

When I got home, I put the date in my calendar, but I couldn’t remember the author’s name. A few days later, when I tried to look it up on the library’s website, my internet was down and then I forgot about it.

But I went to the party anyway. When I left the house, I told my husband, “I may be the only one who shows up, so I don’t think I’ll be too long.”

I pictured an insecure woman nervously facing a row of chairs, empty except for me. Giving her a smile of encouragement, I would listen intently, and after her reading, we would commiserate on how difficult it is to get readers’ attention. I would buy her book, her only sale that day. Reading it at home, it would be an amateurish, blow-by-blow chronology, like many self-published memoirs, in my humble-as-yet-unpublished opinion.

Is that music? I thought as I walked up the stairs in the library. It was—a two-piece band. And food. And wine. And a crowd?

Waiting in line to buy her book, I read the jacket and realized it was the author’s son who had dyslexia; she had fought to help him succeed, and now he was about to graduate from Oxford.

It was a story similar to mine: A challenged son who becomes a productive adult because of the love of his mother. The book is “Reversed, A memoir,” by Lois Letchford.

A confident Ms. Letchford enthralled the audience with readings from her book. I know I will be humbled and inspired by her writing, as well as by her story. When I finish reading, I’ll let you know more about it.

Someday, I’ll have my own book launch party. I have the perfect model to follow.

If you can make it, I hope you’ll attend, patiently waiting in line to buy my book, giving me smiles of encouragement. In return, I’ll do my best to inspire you with my story.

The anomaly of my story.

photo of head bust print artwork
Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I almost missed it—National Brian Injury Awareness month, recognized in March.

Maybe it wasn’t on my radar because I don’t talk much about my son’s brain injury; I talk of the brain tumor that caused it. They are intertwined in my story, the tumor in and the injury to his brain.

Not much of my story falls neatly into predetermined categories. Our whole rumble with a brain tumor, diagnosed when Matthew was 11, was an anomaly; it was never black and white, always shades of grey, like brain matter. Before and after his diagnosis, Matthew’s condition was a square peg surrounded by round holes.

  • His symptoms were not consistent with a brain tumor. He had no headaches or seizures, for example.
  • He was so smart that even when his cognitive skills declined between third and sixth grade, he maintained Bs and Cs, contributing to the delay in his diagnosis.
  • His tumor was low-grade and benign, but destructive.
  • I don’t say my son had a brain tumor, I say my son has a brain tumor since it was and is still there, clinging to his brainstem, inoperable.
  • Yet I talk of surgery. The brain tumor itself didn’t cause the brain injury; it was hydrocephalus—fluid trapped in his brain by the location of the tumor—that caused the damage. The hydrocephalus was relieved through brain surgery, drip by drip over years and years
  • A brain tumor isn’t technically a TBI—Traumatic Brain Injury, usually caused by assault or accident. You’ve probably heard of TBIs in stories of football players and wounded warriors. A brain tumor is an Acquired Brain Injury—ACI. Ever hear of that? Neither had we, and it was hard finding the appropriate resources for recovery. We didn’t fit in anywhere.

And, the most important anomaly, the one that makes my story one of hope rather than one of despair:

Matthew’s recovery didn’t stop after five years, as we were told to expect. It didn’t stop after ten or even twenty years. It continues today, amazing him and us as he advances and thrives in life. It’s the only anomaly that really matters.

Sometimes being the square peg is a blessing; I wouldn’t miss that for the world.

Last year, I shared this story about when Matthew was carted away for surgery:

“I’ve been in those shoes – watching as your child is carted away to be cut into.”  

I wrote that recently in response to a fellow writer’s blog post about her son’s surgery.

In my case, the carting and cutting happened when my son Matthew was 11.  It was after three years of increasingly odd behaviors and unsettling personality changes that left him, well, not Matthew.

Three years of doubting my gut and listening to others who knew him less than me.  Three years of fighting my instincts, my husband, and my family.  Three years of wrong doctors and wrong diagnoses.  Finally fighting them, too.

Then, in one moment, clear as black and white on a grainy MRI image – the right diagnosis.  Validating and devastating.

Brain tumor.

The day they carted away my child to cut into his brain, the moment Matthew was out of sight, I fell apart.  It wasn’t entirely the brain tumor or even the cutting that made me crumple.  In fact, we were told he would “bounce back.”  It wasn’t a “serious” tumor, we were told.  Although the bean-sized growth was inoperable, clinging to Matthew’s brain stem, the havoc it had wreaked could be fixed.  We were told.

I crumpled into a hot mess of tears because the three years finally caught up to me.  I cried for all that Matthew had endured, all that I had endured, and because we did endure.  I cried with relief that he would bounce back.  I pictured Matthew running once again like a gazelle, as he did before, when he was still the old Matthew.

I cried so hard I couldn’t see.  There was nowhere in the hospital to go for privacy.  My husband Michael walked me around with my face in my hands, as I tried not to gasp and squeak like I do when I’m in ugly cry mode.  We found an alcove under the stairs in the main lobby where I could try to cry myself out, but we couldn’t stay there long.  We had to get back to the waiting room so they could find us when Matthew was done.

In the waiting room, adorned with colorful paintings and cushy chairs, my blubbering stopped, but not the tears running down my face.  Looking around, I saw that no one cried but me.   How do they do it, I wondered? Someone here’s gotta be facing a more serious operation then Matthew’s.   How can they not be crying?  Parents sat around playing cards, most of them in pairs or small groups – probably grandparents there for moral support.  Some folks even laughed.  But only I cried.  In fact, in the entire Boston Children’s Hospital chapter of our lives, I never saw anyone cry there.  I still don’t understand.

To Michael’s relief, I finally stopped my deluge of tears.  We were able to pretend to read and do a crossword puzzle.  Hours later, a nurse came out to tell us that Matthew’s surgery was successful, and shortly after, we were by his side.  My precious child, so fragile, so brave, the four inch bandage on his shaved head the only evidence that he had been carted away and cut into.

That day was November 3, 1997.  That day, hope broke through the persistent cloud cover, attempting to dissipate it tear-droplet by tear-droplet.  But it would be another year before we realized the true import of the day.   As it turned out, that day was just the eye of the storm.

 

March is National Brain Injury Awareness month.  For information, go to www.biausa.org.