Mom’s ‘Cancer Free’ Checkup and all the Sordid Details

I drove Mom to the big city for her latest cancer free checkup. The beautiful spring weather coupled with Mom’s extra feisty mood made the day full of life. Mom has no problem talking openly with me about anything and when we get alone she tells me all about any and everything that may be bothering her.

“Your father won’t give me a moment’s peace…”

“Did you know I do my therapy three times a week and he wants to watch me even then? I’m telling you Bethie, he’s a full time job.”

“Can I tell you a little bit about our intimate life, Bethie?”

Sigh…okay, some things are best left unsaid especially when Peanut is along for the ride and sitting in the backseat ‘all ears.’ I don’t think a forty nine year old daughter let alone a thirteen year old teen should hear some of the things that Mom can say but this doesn’t seem to stop her. So I just start giggling…and so does Peanut. We giggle at the things that come out of my eighty year old mother cataloguing her thoughts for those later generations who may wonder who Grandma was.

The day starts out with a few remarks about how much work Dad is but as the day moves on, Mom becomes more relaxed as if she has had a few too many drinks. Problem is…she doesn’t drink.

“Where are you going, Bethie? Is this the right way? I am really turned around. Are you sure you want to go this way?”

“It’s raining. Quick, there has got to be a rainbow in the sky somewhere. Where’s that stinkin’ leprechaun? I want to steal his Lucky Charms.” I hear Peanut snort in the back seat.

“What are those girls doing on that corner, Bethie? Do you think they might be…”

I interrupt her before she corrupts Peanut’s mind, “They’re doing nothing, Mom. They are waiting for the light.”

“Oh, by the way they were dressed I thought maybe they were…”

I nod my head to indicate Peanut is listening, “No, Mom. They are just dressed for summer. That is all.”

“Why are you doing that with your head, Bethie? Does your neck hurt? I could drive you know.”

She can’t drive. She hasn’t driven for over ten years. She can barely see past her nose these days. I can’t even imagine her driving. Peanut leans forward. She knows that the nodding of my head was to keep her from hearing something and this makes her want to listen all the more.

As we pull up to Mom’s oncologist she says, “Oh boy. Here we go. It’s time for my va j. j. appointment.  Time to get this over with.”

I pull up to the front of the lobby and Peanut hops out first. Mom has a significant limp. She will not have hip surgery. She refuses even the thought of surgery but she also refuses to use a cane so Peanut and I act as her cane. Peanut and I tag team it. I drive up; Peanut gets out, opens the door for Grandma, and then holds out her bent arm for Mom to lean on. Mom first shoos Peanut away and then grabs her arm. As they get out I go and park the car leaving Mom in Peanut’s care. I watch my teeny little stooped over Mom with her ‘wooden leg’, and Peanut who is half a foot taller than her grandma, walk arm in arm into the building. It’s a sight that has been imprinted as a memory into my heart in the best way possible. You know what I mean, don’t you? Those moments you just know are going to be one of the last images you see as you breathe that last breath.

First stop is the bathroom and then we take the elevator up.  The next stop…is the bathroom. Mom goes ‘just in case’ before she heads into the doctor’s office. She keeps going and going just like the Energizer bunny ‘just in case.’

She heads up to the front desk with her striped powder blue and white purse on her arm and her slipper socks in the other. She calls them her ‘lucky booties.’ They are all black with colorful stripes all around. I got them for her before surgery and ever since she uses them for her cancer free checkup. She says her feet get cold when we wait but I know it has nothing to do with her cold feet. It has to do with her ten toes that all lean to one side from many years of wearing high heels. When she was younger she wore shoes that were too small for her feet but she believed in the phrase ‘Beauty is pain.’ She wore heels until she fell down a flight of basement stairs in her younger years. She said it was a lesson in vanity for her. She broke her hip but had no clue she had until she was in childbirth with me years later.

We get her payment taken care of and then sit in the lobby. Peanut grabs a magazine and buries her face while Mom and I wait. Mom doesn’t like me to read while we’re waiting. It makes her nervous so I just sit with her and talk. She talks exceptionally loud in that quiet waiting room. I find that it is just a habit from being around Dad. He refuses to wear a hearing aid so we all yell around him so he feels included.

“Bethie, did you see that dead varmint in the road and all those huge vultures? They sure were pecking it apart.”

Every eye in the room goes straight to us. I think about asking Mom to talk quietly but don’t want to treat her like a child so I figure let them listen.

She doesn’t wait for an answer. I can tell she is nervous because she is jumping from subject to subject.

“Did you see that crusty on your Dad’s hand? I think the skin doctor will be burning it off next week.”

I smile and try not to cringe even though the woman sitting across from me has that look on her face as if she has eaten a raw onion. She obviously heard Mom.

“Do you think they’re going to check me?”

I know they are but I am hoping that they call her name before she starts getting into the ins and outs of her visit.

I’m lucky this time and the nurse calls her back. Mom doesn’t want to go alone but I don’t mind. She’s a three ring circus once she gets in there.

First comes the scale, “I hate this thing” she tells the nurse. Mom rolls her eyes up in the air. The nurse smiles and writes down Mom’s weight.

Mom threatens the nurse, “You better not tell a soul.”

We get into the room and there is the gown and the piece of paper to put over Mom’s lap.

“I suppose you want me to get naked?” she says accusingly.

“I do. You know the drill,” says the nurse. When the nurse leaves Mom begins undressing. First her flowered clogs, then her maximum support pantyhose, then her jacket, then all the rest. I look at her little old body and realize I see parts of me as well. I get a flash of what I will look like when I am eighty and it is pretty darn good. I help her with her gown and she drapes the paper over her lap.

“Could you get on my lucky booties, Bethie?”

Mom can’t reach her toes so I bend down and put on her booties. I think her curled gnarled toes are cute. I help her up on the table and we wait. While we are waiting she loves to talk about the old days. How all the doctor’s tools were ice cold and metallic. She loves to go through the drama of all four of her pregnancies and how Dad got ‘out of it’ just because he was a man.

Then her doctor comes in. She’s a slight wisp of a woman with the biggest most comforting smile.

“Well hello there, Honey,” she says to Mom. The doctor gives me a big hug. We’ve been through a lot together. She had done surgery on me just three years ago. We talk about our families while Mom sits on the table swinging her legs like a little girl.

The attention turns to Mom, “Have you had a mammogram?”

“Nope and I’m not going to.”

“How about a colonscopy?”

“You know the answer.”

The doctor says out loud as she writes, “And she’s not going to.”

“How’s your appetite?”

Mom replies, “You are kidding, right? Look at me. Look at this butt. My appetite is just fine. You really don’t have to ask if the patient looks like an inflatable pool toy.”

The doctor smiles, “Okay then. We need to do your exam now.”

Mom rolls her eyes upward. She lets out a huge sigh and lays back on the table.

I remind the doctor, “Don’t forget about her leg.”

Mom can put one leg in the stirrups but her other leg is like dead wood. That leg goes up on the doctor’s shoulder.

I have to maintain my composure as I see the picture before my eyes. My mom laying back with her eyes rolled to the ceiling making small talk while the doctor has one of Mom’s legs on her shoulder.

“Looks good, looks good.”

“You mean everything looks good in va j.j. land?”

The doctor bursts out laughing. The nurse’s eyes are watering.

I look at the nurse and say, “It’s okay. You can laugh.”  She takes a big deep breath and lets out a much needed laugh.”

I’m sure these women don’t have many like Mom. This is an oncology office where they see a lot of tears that are usually from sadness and not from laughter.

“All done,” the doctor says.  “You don’t have to come back for a year.”

Hugs go around the room and I help Mom dress.

“Can we go to Hometown Buffet for lunch? I want to celebrate.”

“Of course Mom.” I help her with her booties. “Where do you want these?”

“I want them in my purse for next time.” She places them in a special pocket on the side of her purse and pats them.

I go and pick up the car while Peanut waits with Mom. They are standing on the edge of the sidewalk and Peanut is giggling hysterically. She helps Mom get in the car.

“What are you laughing at?” I ask Peanut.

Peanut looks at Grandma.

“Oh go ahead and get me in trouble,” Mom says grinning.

“Grandma and I were waiting for you on the corner there and Grandma said we better move to a better spot because we looked like a couple of hookers on the corner.”

“Mom!”

“Don’t you ‘Mom’ me, young lady.”

I start driving and wonder in my mind when Peanut will have to begin therapy.  Hookers on a corner….my eighty year old mom…she’s, she’s…BAHAHAHAHA!

Maybe Peanut is the healthiest of us all having her grandparents living under the same roof. Humor and love is a pretty wonderful way to live life.

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