"I was just talking on the phone when the door opened and he just walked right in," Mom said to me nearly two weeks ago on an afternoon phone call.
"I said, "Oh my! I've got to go now!' I nearly dropped the phone," she continued.
Although I wasn't there to share the moment, I smiled to myself as I listened to Mom tell the story of when my 3-year-old nephew walked through the door on a Monday afternoon, scaring her out of her seat and off her phone call with my aunt. I could imagine her scooping Rylan up and kissing him. I could imagine her hugging my younger sister, who made the trek with her son all the way from Arizona, where they live.
It was a hard secret to keep from Mom, let me tell you. When my sister called about a month ago to tell me she and Rylan would fly in and surprise my parents, I knew it would be hard to hide my excitement from my mother. Just two days before their arrival, Mom - who has been known to make decisions on a whim - called me to ask if I was interested in making a quick trip to Phoenix soon to see them.
"Gee Mom, I really can't," I lied. "I have so much going on right now."
Hmm. I need a better excuse. I mean, it's been a year since I've seen this child.
"I'm out of vacation days," I said. "A weekend just isn't enough time."
Needless to say, I went to bed that night hoping she wasn't already standing in an airport somewhere, just missing these two as they arrived. A week later, we were all together, visiting the pumpkin patch, playing in leaves and making memories.
Mom needed the visit more than anything as she has been having a hard time lately.
This year, 2011, has been "The Year of the Tears" for my husband Zach, our families and myself.
Zach (who never gets angry) says he wants to "kick 2011 in the face," and I couldn't agree more. This growing up stuff is hard to do but I find it's all made easier with family by your side.
In July, just days apart, my mom and Zach's dad were diagnosed with cancer. Hearing this news about someone you love is like a punch to the stomach. It comes out of nowhere and you're left looking at these two people wondering "Why them?" "Why now?" "What about our family?"
So, now my father-in-law is cancer-free and on the road to recovery. Mom's surgery is Monday. And the strong beautiful woman she is, she puts on a positive face. Through it all, I've tried to stay positive as well. Modern medicine is way more advanced from the days when she lost her own mother to the same disease in the '90s. I guess that's what makes this so hard...
They say (whoever "they" are, "they" were geniuses) from darkness you grow closer to one another, or something to that effect. From this horrible predicament, my relationship with Mom has blossomed and my cousins, who were always my "siblings" (not the deep-south kind of cousins where your cousins are your siblings and your siblings are your uncles), have given me the greatest support because it's hard having my sister 2,000 miles away.
I find that surrounding yourself with friends and family is the way to go when you're feeling down and out. And my sister's visit was another tiny ray of sunshine peeking through all of the darkness.
The finer things in life are the people you love and live your life for. They help us believe everything will be OK, but prayers are always still appreciated.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.