I have never needed a special day on the calendar to remind me to think about my mother. In the 13 years since she passed away not a day has passed that I haven't thought about her, haven't failed to appreciate the life she helped create for me, and haven't missed her.
But this year -- there have been so many times this year that I have felt like curling up in a small ball and crying aloud, "I want my mama." I haven't ever done it, but I have wanted to.
A year ago this week I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I have shared bits and pieces of that experience over the past months, always trying to keep a positive outlook and trying to put an optimistic spin on the outcome of my battle. What is it the British say? "Keep a stiff upper lip." I've tried to do that.
Honesty compels me to admit, however, that I have struggled through many dark days, particularly after treatment after treatment and procedure after procedure have failed to work, when I would have liked nothing more than to feel my mother's arms wrapped around me and hear her tell me that everything would be all right. Whenever she told me that throughout my life, I believed her. And almost every time she told me that, she was right.
My mama came up during the "hard times." She was born in 1924 and five years later her father lit out between dusk and dawn and left my grandmother to raise four children alone. My mother and her siblings knew what it was to do without, but they also knew what it was to be loved unconditionally by their own mother, who did whatever she had to do to keep her family together.
My mama learned about love from her mama. As long as she was alive I knew exactly what it felt like to be loved unconditionally. Never was that love more evident than those rare times in my life that I was sick. I wouldn't say that I was spoiled, but -- if the truth be known -- I was spoiled.
We didn't keep "junk" in our house, but let me get just a touch of a sore throat and Mama would run to the store to get me a Popsicle. If I had a cold, she would fix cherry or lime Jell-O -- sometimes both if I wanted -- and chicken and stars soup. I have always preferred rice to noodles. She would take my temperature and put cold compresses on my head if I had a fever and rub Vick's VapoRub on my chest. She would fix me crushed ice with a little bit of lemon juice to suck on and if I had a bad enough cough she would mix a little touch of her Evan-Williams with honey and lemon juice.
Sometimes I looked forward to being a little bit sick just so my mama would baby me.
If I skinned my knee or stumped my toe she would wash off the wound, ever so gently, with a warm cloth and pour Hydrogen Peroxide over it to clean it out. Sometimes she would paint it with red medicine, which I hated, but even then she would blow on it really hard to make it quit stinging.
Nothing could happen to me that my mother couldn't make better.
Now don't hear something I'm not saying. I have gotten excellent care throughout my illness and my lovely wife, Lisa, has been a rock throughout the entire ordeal. But there have been lots of moments when I have wanted my mama.
I don't think I have given an update since my recent trip to M.D. Anderson in Houston. Since so many of you are praying for me you deserve to know that the doctors are saying that I have stage 4 metastatic prostate disease that has taken up in my bones. The outlook isn't particularly rosy, but I have not given up hope by a long shot.
The folks at M.D. Anderson are quite amazing, and we began a therapy in April that the doctors hope will slow down the progression. We will go back in June and if the treatment is not working we will try something else. I am a bit weak and a bit fatigued but I am teaching every day and speaking to every group I can to tell them how God has blessed me through this experience.
I have a ton of unpleasant side effects, but nothing that thousands of other people don't deal with on a daily basis -- and nothing that lemon juice over ice chips or chicken and stars soup or a grape Popsicle can't help.
And when things get really bad, I can just close my eyes and think about my mother and remember that there has been one person on this earth that loved me unconditionally. If your mother is with you, be thankful and tell her how much you love her.
I wish I could tell mine.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.