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An Excerpt From 'Loving Large: a Mother’s Rare Disease Memoir'

Using an excerpt from my memoir, Loving Large: a mother’s rare disease memoir I’m sharing the “telling” story here. This is one that readers have reflected really hit home for them…

I decided to not tell Aaron the diagnosis, opting not to name this phantom menace, sparing Aaron its rarity and the implications for a little while. Surely that was a reasonable approach.

It wasn’t like I could ask someone who’d been through this. I sought platitudes for comfort. I’d know the right moment. I knew my child best and would do what was right. I was his mother, after all. My heart would guide me.

Clichés are right as much as they’re wrong. I was pretty certain there hadn’t been a platitude invented for this one.

I headed for Aaron’s school, thankful I’d have a chance to tell him before we went to get Justin, whose dismissal was later in the day. There was a drive-through drop-off loop at each of the boy’s schools, standard issue school setup. Usually I read a magazine, knit a little, did a crossword or used that time for list making, my compulsion and passion. Now I sat frozen, eyes fixed on the blank page of the notebook in my lap.

The bell went and kids poured out the school doors. I stared into the rearview mirror. There was no time for a dry run and the words weren’t coming anyway. Maybe I could just get out of the car and run, keep running until they found me cowering under shrubs in someone’s back yard. Not likely. I was the adult, his parent. The one tool I knew Aaron would need to get him through this was my support.

I had to swallow repeatedly to keep the nausea from rising into my throat. I clenched and unclenched my fists around the steering wheel. Some support I was going to be. He needed to know because I couldn’t justify not telling him, and because our relationship was founded on us always telling the unvarnished truth. Among the promises I made to my sons was not to sugarcoat things. Turned out crap homework? Let your job slide during a hockey game? Made one of those proverbial “bad choices” all teenage boys make? I always let them know. That road ran both ways. I was always calm with them, and always truthful; it was one of our “deals,” and Rick and I enforced reciprocity.

I carried so many things that were too heavy for my kids, my husband, my friends, for everyone.

Couldn’t I carry this for him too? I sat in my car rationalizing how Aaron wasn’t even 16 yet, how this might be a mistake, how medical mistakes happen all the time, so why scare him, and trying to convince myself that maybe my motherly responsibility was really to not tell him. If I never said it, it wouldn’t be happening, right?

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Aaron’s rust-colored anorak appeared out of the glass doors behind my car. He was impossible to miss, so much taller than the others. Otherwise, the boys all looked the same with their backwards baseball caps—his royal blue and sporting the bold, white horseshoe logo of the Indianapolis Colts—their baggy, low-slung jeans, high cut sneakers, heavy backpacks of books, and the ever-present hoodies. Aaron walked with a little limp, his knees still so sore even though he’d been excused from gym class for two weeks. He was walking with a boy I didn’t know, who was at least a foot shorter than him, and they were laughing together. Aaron’s bright smile and the sound of his laugh just outside the car window made me sick to my stomach. He was so happy. I was about to take that from him.

He yanked open the back door and tossed his bag in, saying “Hey, Mom,” and closed it again, hard. Flopping down into the front seat beside me, he yelled, “See ya,” to the kids gathered on the sidewalk, awaiting their rides. He swung his long legs inside and fastened his seatbelt. What should I do, drive away? Tell him here? What if I get us into a car accident? I hadn’t put the car in gear, which drew his attention. I was immobilized, still flexing my fingers around the steering wheel, staring straight ahead.

“What?” he said.

And I just blurted it, knowing I’d be tossing a live grenade into the tenderest spot in the universe.

“I saw Dr. Tobin today, she got the CT scan results.”

“Yeah? What is it?” Watery, dark eyes and pale cheeks with reddened blotches turned toward me.

“It’s a tumor.”

Pulled the pin. Released the spoon. Ten. Nine. Eight…Aaron exploded. His fists flew. He punched his legs. He pounded the dashboard and shook his head frantically from side to side as if he was trying to loosen a swarm of bees. Then he stared hard at me, tears streaking his face, and shouting, “Noooooooo! No, Mommy! No, Mommy!” Shock had reduced my teen to a toddler. I saw the hands on the clock rotating backward, over and over, taking away time, stealing his present. He hadn’t called me Mommy in years. I felt like my brain was going burst out of my head. I couldn’t bear to look at him, but I couldn’t look away. I had no right to be exempt from this. If he had to bear it, so did I. Wind rushed by my ears. White noise. There was only his pleading, his begging, “Why, why, why me?” I hadn’t dared to move the car yet, my own vision blurred by tears. High school kids sauntered by, looking into the car. Aaron was raking the skin on his face with his fingertips, head thrown back against the headrest. “I knew it. I just knew it. I knew something like this would happen to me. I knew it, Mom.”

I didn’t have any more words. He’d heard enough words from me. I rested my right hand on his leg, offering it to him, and bowed my head. I didn’t know how to bear that his world was crashing in around him while I sat there doing nothing, doing this to him. I was failing him.

(Chapter 4 – Messenger, page 33)

Image of "Loving Large" book cover

Images via contributor

Originally published: November 14, 2020
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