We all have strange little personal calculations in our heads. My guy and I were married four and a half years ago in June, and a month later we got our dog Tilly. She was around three and a half then, which would make her about eight now, with a birthday in the winter. Maybe she's an Aquarius. That would make sense. She loves the water.
The other calculation I've been working out, mostly as I walk the dogs, begins with the fact that I'm going to be thirty-three in a few months. I was thirteen when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which means its been almost twenty years since her diagnosis. We talked about it on the phone today. She doesn't like to think about it most of the time, and doesn't feel triumphant. She's lost too many beloveds to cancer to feel like that. She just feels lucky. And she still gets nervous on her annual check-ups.
She had a scary prognosis. Two different types of cancer, one in each breast, which the doctors told us at the time was 'highly unusal'. They didn't catch it early, it spread to her lymph, and she had to undergo two rounds of chemo and radiation. At one point she was told that her chance of remission was very slim and was given six months to live.
She talks about how young my brother and I were when she was diagnosed, about how hard it was for us, especially without my dad around. She's right. It was hard. But it was also an enormous gift. I've never thought of my loved ones as invincible.
Her cancer taught me, in a visceral, body knowing way, that all we really have is this moment. I can't claim to have always lived that way, but I know it, and its helped me to soak up every gorgeous detail of some ordinary days like today washing my dishes, setting my wedding ring on the little hook above the sink, talking to my mother on the phone about the neighbors and my dance costume, air mattresses, and Angela Landsbury's new play on Broadway while the dogs whine and snort to go outside on a rare, sunny day for New York in February.