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Thursday, August 25, 2005


Take a load off, Annie

It’s been a bad week for the girls in my life.

I have always been surrounded by girls. 3 sisters, 4 cousins on one side, 3 on the other, 2 nieces, my mother, grandmothers, my daughter Maggie, all my best friends (sisters included), my mother-in-law, 4 sisters-in-law and the daughters of my friends. We had a barbecue a few weeks ago and took a picture of all the kids. SEVEN little girls in the hammock. Not a boy to be found. Girls everywhere. They are my tribe. My people. I have always been surrounded by remarkable women. Always.

It’s been a tough week for some of my favorites. The kind of week that left me sobbing in my car out of sheer sadness and helplessness. I am usually alarmingly good at stuffing my emotions. Yesterday, however the reservoir overflowed and it all came out with a shocking life and velocity of its own.

There is my Aunt Karen, who is in the process of getting rid of her cancer with the help of some rather unpleasant chemotherapy. She is duking it out in her signature reserved, strong and independent style. Her hair has fallen out, but that is temporary. I think she looks more beautiful than she ever has. To see her sick from the treatments is very difficult. It hurts me to see her suffer the physical and emotional traumas that cancer inflicts on good people. It hurts me to see her working so hard to deal with it on her own. She is not one to welcome sympathy, and with her fierce independence she seems determined to show everyone she can do it.

There is the daughter of some of our best friends. She is two and a half and spirited and independent and trying to cope with a brand new baby sister. She was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She was drinking water in alarming quantities, and had gotten very thin, and her parents brought her in to the doctor and got the diagnosis Tuesday. Starting immediately, they have her on a regimen of three injections a day, and a never ending stream of finger pricks, which remarkably, she seems to be taking in stride. They have been thrown into a sea of glycemic education and are subjected to words like “life expectancy” and “diabetic coma”. No one wants to look at their child and think about things like life expectancy. Hearing that was like a knife in my heart. I can’t imagine what hearing that did to them. Their sweet little girl. The first baby born to a close friend. She is the oldest child to all of us.

There are my beautiful, sassy, witty, talented nieces. The demigoddesses. They are twelve and thirteen. They are both funny and sensitive and creative and thoughtful and kind and whip-smart. Their parents are divorced and their father moved an hour away and married someone without discussing it with them first. He just came back from Vegas married. To a woman who seems to be shamefully self-centered and immature and unwelcoming to the girls. He has spent a total of two weekends with his daughters all summer. He says they understand his need to have a new life. I say what they understand is something much larger. Larger than anything they should be dealing with at their young age. It bothers me when adults expect children to take on their own burdens. The carelessness and selfishness of that behavior makes me want to scream. It’s nonsense. The rationalizations and reasoning. It hurts to watch them try to get their minds around his looming absence. I think to myself what a disservice he is doing to himself, because these girls are amazing. AMAZING. To squander any opportunity to spend time with them is the pinnacle of foolishness. I think to myself that it’s his loss. But it’s their loss that is larger and far reaching. I just want to smack some sense into him. Mostly I want the girls to understand that none of it is their fault. I want them to know that adults can be really stupid sometimes. That their dad is making a lot of mistakes at their expense and it’s NOT THEIR FAULT.

It’s been a brutal season for the girls in my life. I love them all. They are my peeps. So yesterday I drove home from work with a heavy heart and the tears flowed and fell with an energy and a life that was independent of my body. They were being pulled out of my eyes by a strange life force from a faraway galaxy. I cried for them, I cried for me. I cried for all the little girls, young and old, who are carrying burdens not of their own making. Girls who have adult neurosis and hang-ups carelessly spilled all over them. Who take on more than their fair share. Because they have no choice in the matter. They just have to pick up the load they were given and carry it. I wish I could help them.

Maybe I could start by getting rid of some of my own load. Come to think of it, those tears really didn’t come from a galaxy far away. They came from me. I think somewhere in me there is a small person still staggering under a heavy load. She just can’t figure out where to put it. Maybe if she does, she can find a way to help take the load off the rest of the girls.


Blogger Lin said...

You cried and your words made me cry. Beautifully written.

Tell your aunt to hang tough. From one survivor to another, this whole chemo trip sucks, but when it's over life feels indescribably sweet.

The little one diagnosed with Type I diabetes...oh, I just can't imagine the pain her family is feeling. I can't imagine it.

And your nieces...Who knows what to even say to children when their father makes a choice that is so personally painful. Because of the women in their lives, these girls will make it. Other men will need to step up to the plate to help them understand that there are good, decent, unselfish men in this world.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

I am most drawn to the story of your nieces because I have so many opinions (some good, some bad) on the topic of "men as fathers". Wow, this entry gives lots of food for thought. Thank you for that. I hope writing it helped you make sense of your own thoughts and feelings.

12:33 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Meghan, I'm so sorry to hear about all the tragedy in the lives of those you care for.

Your aunt sounds like an incredible woman. I wish all cancer patients were equipped to handle their treatment with the grace and dignity that she has.

How terribly unfair for your friends whose daughter is diabetic. I can hardly bear to imagine what they are feeling, and my heart goes out to them.

As for your nieces, I watched my closest friend growing up go through much the same pain. Her parents divorced when we were in middle school, and her father has since remarried three times. He's absent from her life, her sister's life, her nieces' lives - how do you explain that to children, without making them feel worthless in the process?

I don't have nearly as large a family as you do, but it's primarily female as well, and it hurts me personally every time one of them gets hurt.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Kari said...

May the women and girls in your life find the strength, beauty, and purpose to persevere throughout their challenges and the unfair burdens they are shouldering at this moment. Hugs to them all, and to you for your compassion.

2:53 PM  
Blogger jlb said...

Seems like the weight of the world lands in this post. I'm soo sorry to hear about your aunt, the little girl with diabetes and your nieces.

It wounds like all of these amazing females possess a lot of inner strength. I hope it helps get them through these times.

4:33 PM  
Blogger cmhl said...

beautifully written post-- so sad. I hope you can take some time for yourself, so you can be a better support to the girls.. hang in there..

8:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

wonderful post. Even just loving people helps their outcome a lot, I think, even if it doesn't seem like there's anything practical you can do for them right now.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Prego said...

Wow. That's all... Wow.
I hope nothing but the best for your aunt and your friends' kid. As for the girls, they'll soon discover the mall, the phone and friends galore. They'll be fine. It'll be his loss when he's old and crusty.

6:49 PM  

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