Grandparents: The Unsung Cancer-Heroes

Parenting is challenging. Despite popular sayings, it does NOT end at 18. From day to day you never know if the other end of the phone has great news, bad news, or questions for more guidance. When you become a grandparent, it becomes a two-fold adventure.I have been thinking about our Diagnosis Day. We drove the two hour drive in a mix of shock and adrenaline. After we prayed, the first thing we did was call our parents.

The many hours of holding my crying son, unable to take away his cancer and his pain, felt like agony. The helplessness, exhaustion and frustration become more than feelings. They take a form and shape, becoming constant companions–villains that must be present for the story to make sense. I look and see my child suffering and feel ripped open, which renders the obvious conclusion: our parents see that when they look at us. Worse, they have two generations of pain that comes from love.

Although we didn’t think it would be possible, a parent has been here every month. They need to be honored for their sacrifices.

My father in law hasn’t been able to visit but he has walked every morning and diligently prayed for all of us. He works diligently to pay for the airfare to send his wife away for weeks. He is a silent warrior that holds the back line for us; a stable rock that makes a home sturdy and fortified.

My mother in law has been here more almost more than she has been home these last six months. She retired only a month before or world was changed and believe me, she hasn’t rested at ALL. She has learned all the medical terms and kept watch at the hospital. She has been showered in foul-smelling formula from a broken tube, rocked to hours of crying, had showers and sleep interrupted and then come to my house. She brought a birthday party to a hospital and made each holiday seen special.  There she helped potty train, cleaned diligently, cooked, laundered and played. She attended school events and took my older son to speech twice a week. Nonna never complained when her freshly made bed was stripped to make a fort.  She snuggled a sad child and tickled his back until he fell asleep when he took our family picture to bed. Nonna gave treats, hugs, discipline and encouragement. That heals hearts. I could trust her to raise my boy, for she did an outstanding job on her son. She also is an experienced grandmother with 11 grands in tow. Nothing ruffles her feathers. Moreover, she never once told be I looked tired or bad. God bless her.

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My dad processed everything in his strong and silent way at first. He called to check in and searched Facebook for updates. He told everyone about our Conqueror and prayed diligently. In his steady way, he encouraged me to press on. Last month he came for two weeks and we didn’t know what to expect.  He came to the hospital to give me a reprieve because he is great with babies and soon had William eating things he wouldn’t eat for me. He played with William for hours, read him books and even handled some diapers. Then he came to the house to battle the toddler…and while he was here potty training went from 0 to 60 just like that. Daddy really came through for me in the way few grandfathers do. Knowing he is proud of me is still one of my most cherished pieces of knowledge.

Twice, on school breaks my mother was able to come. Both times she came just as I became viciously ill and could not stay with William. She cared for him in every way while I recovered and then brought her exuberance to the house. She is a master at encouraging little boy silliness. From hours at the park to buying matching Easter shirts, she showed her ‘first two grandson’ excitement in full tilt. In my broken moments she was able to be compassionate and then give me a mother-style butt whooping in the M’Lynn and Shelby style.

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Suffering is hard. Seeing children suffer is hard. Feeling helpless and also feeling exhausted from helping is hard. Parents of adult children are never obsolete, even if out of the picture. Their presence and absence is profound. Through this struggle my Jonathan has been able to enjoy one on one time with grandparents and realize how many people love him. The benefit has been remarkable.

Here is to the heroes who raised us and are still reinforcing us. May we remember to sing your praises often.


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