Since my 4th chemo infusion falls on Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a little love story with you all to kick off this made-up Hallmark (remember them?) holiday. I’ve personally never been a huge fan but regardless of your stance on V-Day, I hope you appreciate the story nonetheless. As always, thank you for your support and love 🙂
I left my parent’s home at 18 and haven’t been back as a permanent resident since. I purposely chose to do the chemo and surgery portion of my cancer treatment in Washington, D.C. Not just because I liked my Johns Hopkin’s oncology team way better, but because I also wanted to make things easier for my parents by ensuring close proximity so they wouldn’t worry so much. Therefore, you can imagine how strange it is for an extremely independent 32-year-old adult to spend this much time with her family without a “Failure to Launch” situation (or at least one I’m aware of).
I have to admit, it’s been really interesting to be home and observe the day-to-day of my parents as a grown adult. The years have aged them but what strikes me the most – is how loving they still are to each other after all this time. My dad is really funny and my mom is constantly laughing at whatever joke or silly thing he has done/said. They still love cooking, exploring and seem to genuinely enjoy doing what one can only classify as normally mundane activities together. But regardless of what they’re doing – it just seems like they have a lot of fun together. It’s a pretty solid display of real life happily ever after, if you ask me. Or anyone else that knows them for that matter.
My parents have been married for 34 years this year. Growing up as an only child was tough. Only children stereotype jokes aside (I know you’re cracking them in your head right now!) – the reality is, it’s lonely. My parents worked all the time and you are forced to be independent from an early age. In fact, I barely remember being a child- I always thought of myself as an adult. Despite all that, my folks and I were always very close (“typical” teenager years aside). So through the years, no matter what metropolis I resided in at the moment, I always found time to go home and see them. Even if sometimes it meant doing a 48-hour cross country round-trip visit.
Growing up, my parents managed to set quite an idyllic example of love and a marriage for me. I’m sure they had typical couple issues behind closed doors, but at least in front of me- they’ve always kept it together. I mean REALLY kept their shit together (update: I tried to put an asterisk for the “i” in shit to you know, class it up but upon reading this, my mom immediately asked me what the * was for since she knows what the word means, so UNCENSORED IT IS!) Anyways, they NEVER fought (super weird, I know) and I remember as a child, marveling how much fun my parents seemed to have with each other. And being home for this short while, I continue to marvel that they seem to have even MORE fun now. I blame a lot of my unrealistic relationship expectations of men on them – although I’m proud to say, I’ve gotten much better at closing the gaps to reality in recent years (thanks, therapist).
When I found out I had cancer, telling them was the hardest of all. I’ll forever always rather me than them – but to deliver this type of news to your own parents, really sucks.
Bringing it back to the present – I had my first round of chemo a couple months ago and during the recovery, my dad had to go to a work conference in Asia. He was away for two weeks. To keep hydrated, they get these huge water jug (cooler?) things that you’d find at an office. I never really noticed them but I went to the kitchen one evening to get something and the chemo side effect hit me super hard. I literally had to sit down on the kitchen floor. As I waited for the side effect to pass, I noticed that I happened to have sat next to two water jugs. One was regular sized and the other about half that size. My mom came to see if I was okay and I asked her what the half-size water jug was all about. She told me that when my dad goes out of town for business, he always leaves a smaller jug around for her since she can’t lift the larger one by herself. (See above photo)
She said it very matter a fact but I found myself really touched by this small, but incredibly sweet gesture. After 34 years of marriage, they still truly look out for each other. On that day, I felt especially inspired that I’m the product of two humans who seem to really get what a true, loving partnership is all about. This human (me) has a lot to work on in that department but it gives me faith that I too, can make it work in the long run. Unlike my naive, hopelessly clueless younger self, I know now that a happy marriage isn’t made up of grand romantic gestures (though they don’t hurt) and all the things that Valentine’s Day flaunts. It’s the little things that people do for each other to show their appreciation that makes a lasting marriage.
Just as a cancer cure is the culmination of small treatments that together, result in bringing a person into health. A happy, long-lasting marriage is the culmination of many years of little acts of love and kindness that results in a person celebrating their decision to share life with their partner.
So on this Valentine’s Day 2017 – I want to thank you Mom and Dad, for setting the ultimate example of a continuously great love story.
This is them the summer of 2015 in a sunflower field in Maryland. My dad forgot to bring a photography ladder. You can see how they resolved the problem.