Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Thank you for shopping at Meijer

Pretend for a moment that you don’t know me at all. Maybe you don’t, and this is really easy. Great. Now pretend that we have some kind of friendly, professional interaction, like, oh, maybe you’re the cashier at the grocery store. You make polite chit-chat, asking if I’m making something special. I smile, perhaps laugh, and tell you that I’m restocking my parents’ refrigerator.

So far, so good.

You ask if they’re coming home from vacation, where they’ve been, and for how long. Having had my brain set on how many onions I needed and whether the cat litter was ringing up at the sale price, I don’t think to lie to you. I’m caregiving for my mother right now.

You relate. You tell me that you helped your parents out so they could stay in their own home when they were aging. You ask how old my mother is.

She’s 53. You seem really surprised, and you tell me she’s young. No shit. She has breast cancer. You offer your sympathies and decide this conversation needs to end on a positive note.

Do I think she’s going to be okay?

It’s a possibility. It is, of course, possible. But what I really want to say is Fuck You for making me answer that question. Fuck You for not being able to tolerate a little bit of uncomfortable silence so that I don’t have to announce to all of the morning shopping crowd that my mother isn’t going to survive this. Fuck you for not leaving well enough alone.

You should have known to stop when we got to that part about breast cancer. What if I had said that no, she wasn’t going to be okay, that the hospice nurse had just arrived, and I finally had an hour to myself to buy some fucking groceries so the rest of us don’t starve while she falls into a coma from the pain killers? Have a good day.


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