Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Six of One

It's the first day of Lent, also the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the rooster. (Referred to as year of the cock on many Chinese restaurant paper placemats, although let's be honest -- every year is the year of the cock.) We now celebrate both holidays in our home, and it's fitting this year that they fall on the same day. Penitence and celebration - that's how we roll. As I may have mentioned before, my medical saga of last year coincided almost perfectly with the Lenten season. It was on the afternoon of Shrove Tuesday that I received the news that a CT scan showed a large pelvic mass. I spent nearly 40 days in terror, functioning only with the help of my family - most notably my mother who was the calm voice of reason throughout - and a little help from a Xanax prescription. Ot three. Two weeks before Easter, I had my surgery. I was released from the hospital on Palm Sunday. My mother had the unholy nerve to die unexpectedly on Maundy Thursday. And by Easter my house was full of mourners eating food brought by friends and church ladies. The same day my mother died -- several hours AFTER she died in an Alanis Morrissette-variety "irony" -- we got the phone call that we had been matched with our daughter, and the agency emailed her photo to us. I was still sofa-ridden at that point, and I fell asleep that evening with the printouts of her photo on my chest so I could look at her face every time I jolted awake, still hazy, in pain, in shock. My brother and his wife were there, and I drifted in and out while everyone talked. The next morning, my brother said he could feel Mom watching all of us happily. In the midst of my illness, when I was fretting the most about the future and begging for reassurances from doctors, friends, God, everyone, I had a dream that was like a rope in the water. In the dream, I saw Buttercup, sitting on my sofa in our living room, wearing a red outfit with butterfly clasps on the shirt. Red for luck. Butterflies for transformation. A year later, our lives are almost completely different than they were then, and the transformation was a terrible journey through the desert. A terrible journey that I would not change. Things are mostly better. I miss my mother every day. She is so connected to my daughter - their birthdays just 5 days apart. Her death, our first glimpse of Buttercup. She was our biggest cheerleader in waiting for Buttercup's adoption. We spent the funeral reception showing off pictures of her new granddaughter. On Easter 2003, when we were already a few months into our adoption wait, but Buttercup had not yet been born even, my mother stood in my kitchen and asked, "Do you think we'll have our baby by next Easter?" "No. It will take much longer than that." "Darn!" I'm glad we can't see clearly the path from one year to the next. It would be so much less exciting. Today, in honor of Lent, I am fasting until the evening, when I will happily eat as much as I want in honor of Chinese New Year. I am giving up soda. And I am giving up judgement and criticism, which will be much harder than the soda thing. I will do my best to be an instrument of goodness in other people's lives. These are just as much Lenten observances as New Year's resolutions. I will be talking a lot to my mother, whose presence I feel very strongly. And I know that, especially during this first Lent after THAT Lent, she'll be sticking close to me.


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