A lot of people have asked how my mom is doing throughout all of this. And some of them look dubious or disbelieving when I respond, "She's doing okay." They assume she's in denial (honestly, that's a river cruise Maida Wedell has never been on) or that she's kind of stuffing all of her dramatic feelings down somewhere and will have some sort of breakdown once all this is over.
You have all heard me joke that my parents are the two most practical people on the planet--but it's as true as it can be, given that I don't actually KNOW everyone on the planet (Dad would beg to differ, though; he is constantly amused and delighted by my status as the only extrovert in the family). Alongside her pragmatism is the fact that, over the past 15 years, she has lost her mother, father, and only sibling--two of them to Alzheimer's/dementia. So she's no stranger to this whole long-goodbyes-to-people-she-loves-in-hospital-settings thing.
The only times I have seen her cry--or not even that, really; mostly tear up--throughout this whole ordeal is when she really gets to thinking about the kindnesses people show, especially when those kindnesses are extended to her children. I've seen her blink tears away when people promise to take care of Carl and me.
What's fascinating to me about this is that I cry at the drop of a hat. I cry when I'm sad, of course; but I also cry when I'm happy, angry, or when there's a particularly touching Kleenex commercial on TV. Mom isn't immune to Hallmark Channel-grade tearjerkers, either, but when it comes to real-life drama, the woman holds it together like she's wrapped in rebar.
All of this is not to say she is in any way stoic or standoffish. Like her daughter, my mom loves a good laugh, and when she's angry, you know it. And despite her introversion, she has a warmth about her that makes you feel like you're the only person in the room when she's talking to you. I guess what it comes down to is that she has this super-human understanding--and acceptance--of the fact that she is not in control. She's not afraid to work for change, but she's also not afraid to acknowledge and move on from the things she CAN'T change. She's like the personification of the serenity prayer: She has the wisdom to know the difference.
And I can tell, when I watch her stand beside my dad's hospital bed, smiling lovingly down at him and smoothing what little hair the chemo allowed him to keep, that she knows exactly which kind of situation this is. She doesn't have to like it. But she accepts it nonetheless.