Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Day 7.

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I’ve been finalizing a draft of my memoir manuscript—version eleventy-nine thousand or so—and I needed to clarify some dates and facts. So, this morning, I dragged down a blue-lidded bin from the attic.

I wanted Matt’s report cards and school work from third grade, when he was eight. That was the year his behavior and personality began to change. 

I write in my manuscript, “It was the start of the end of the old Matthew.”

The new Matt was different. The new Matt had a brain tumor, but we wouldn’t know that for another three years. 

I found what I wanted in the bin, along with memorabilia that sent memories swirling through my head like dandelion seeds.

For example, these teddy bear paw print shoes. The shoes say to me “innocence.” Not only because Matt was not even two when he wore them, but because we had no idea what lay ahead. 

Do we ever know?

Today’s another innocent day. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold, so I am grateful for the sun and warm breeze and cold ice tea.

I’m grateful for a laptop and blue-lidded bin and memories that hold my story, and for you with whom I share it.

I’m grateful that all my loved ones have sturdy shoes to support them on their life’s journey.

And I’m so grateful for our new Matt, now 31. I can’t imagine a better version. 

Sharing our stories.

Now that my memoir is becoming more of a reality, with sections of my manuscript getting closer and closer to completion, it’s provided opportunities for our family to talk about what happened two decades ago in ways that we couldn’t back then, as we stumbled through it.

Matt was eleven when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Steve was six.

Now they’re adults, 31 and 26, respectively, and our family is exploring parts of our mutual story that are just now coming to light. My writing, and Matt’s, have been the catalyst.

This past Easter weekend, both sons were hanging out in our living room during some down time before we went out to dinner. Steve slouched in the faux leather club chair, his leg slung over the high arm (my favorite position as well.) Matt sat on the red couch in front of the window.

Matt had asked me to look over some of his recent writing, so I sat next to him on the couch to share the laptop screen. He had written about some of the most difficult aspects of his recovery. I knew some of it, from a mother’s perspective, but I didn’t know how he experienced it.

Wow. Not only is Matt’s writing powerful, but I am even more in awe of his fortitude and determination to get to where he is today.

Steve didn’t say much. When he was a kid, we tried to protect him from the drama as much as possible, and I guess we were successful, as he didn’t know anything about the scene in question. “Holy shit,” he must have been thinking.

Matt isn’t ready to share his recent writing, but if you haven’t seen his previous essay about his diagnosis day, you can read it here. 

I believe as a family, we’re learning to appreciate each other more as we share our stories of those many, many difficult days.

And I appreciate the simple gift of sitting in the living room with my guys, all of us present, all of us healthy, enjoying an ordinary day. What a blessing.

Blessings on my memoir.

I don’t even know where to start when I’ve not written in so long.

My husband Michael and I were in California visiting my parents. While we were there, I coordinated an 85th birthday celebration for my mom. It was a production—a live digital video virtual party (is that even the right way to say it?)—so my five siblings from all over the US could participate. This is not my forte, in case you don’t know—neither the organizing nor the “digital-izing.”

A few times, when I woke up at the crack of dawn, as I tend to do, I worked on an essay about D-day—the day my son Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I plan to submit the piece to a literary magazine, but every time I looked at it, it seemed more and more flawed and I was close to trashing it.

Writing-wise, the week was a bust.

Except.

Except that I asked my parents to read part of my memoir manuscript–the story about how ill-prepared I was as a person and a mom for a rumble with a brain tumor.

I asked them for two reasons. First, I want them to know the full story—the parts that they could not have known being 500 miles away at the time; the parts of my pain that I never shared. My own husband, who lived our drama with me, didn’t know about some of that pain until I asked him to read it last fall.

The other reason I asked my parents to read my manuscript is that I want their blessing on it. Not on my story, but on their story within it—who they are and how they raised me, which made me the parent I was and the person I am.

There’s nothing really unflattering about them in it; my Mom and Dad are the nicest people you ever could meet, and I was raised to be nice. But when you’re faced with a serious life challenge, “nice” doesn’t cut it. And I didn’t know how not to be nice because I had no role models for it. It was on-the-job-training for me.

It’s very possible the book will be published after my parents have died, which is why I asked  for their blessing on it now. And I got it. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

So I haven’t done much new writing. I didn’t finish that essay. I didn’t submit to any magazines.

But I crossed a threshold and I’m energized to get back on track. I have a memoir to finish.