[Side Note: I talk about cancer and breasts. If that freaks you out, or if you have an aversion to breasts, then get the fuck out. I don’t have time to coddle you, through your fear of the other gender.]
I wear three pieces of jewelry on a consistent basis: a necklace with a pendant that my husband gave me, my engagement ring, and my wedding ring. The pendant he bought from a local 10,000 Villages shop. The engagement ring is his birth mother’s engagement ring (I also own the wedding ring that matches it), but that’s another story. The wedding ring is something we both picked out. His matches mine and both remain unengraved. One day we’ll get around to getting an inscription, but if it wasn’t important to us ten years ago, I have a feeling that it will remain unimportant to us ten years from now.
Well, maybe. Ten years is a long time to some people. We could change our minds. It’s our prerogative.
Anyway, I will usually put on a bracelet or another ring if I feel like it. Never earrings because it bothers my earlobes too much and I am reminded of my mother and her insistence that I wear little hoop earrings all the time. But that is also another story for another occasion.
The bracelet (a constant, up until about five months ago October 2015) is a plain black leather bracelet with a silver engraving that declared to me to “be brave.” You’ve probably seen them. They stand for many things. In this particular instance, I bought it to support a local LGBT organization. As time went on, I also added my IVF journey to “be brave.” And then the Diabetes diagnosis. And then finally to my mother’s continued battle with breast cancer.
The diagnosis knocked her sideways, as I suspect it always beats the person receiving the news sideways. There’s no one a person can not feel a little knocked down once getting that piece of news. My husband and I went to see her after her radical, modified mastectomy. When we walked into her hospital room, I couldn’t help but feel my stomach drop out of my body. It further left me when the nurse showed up to show her (and me) how to change the bottles catching the liquid draining from where her breast used to be.
I can still remember the feeling as I tried to separate myself from the situation. But, one can’t really do that, can they? Especially, if your parents are going through this. No matter how tumultuous the relationship, they are still your parent and one can’t help but be sucked in. But my mother needed (needs) me to be brave. So, I was brave and forced myself to be semi-professional as the nurse showed her how to change the bottles and to measure the liquid coming out. I asked my mom what the liquid was, and she told me it was blood and pus. That makes sense, I thought. What a stupid question, I further thought.
I kept this to myself, of course.
I think it was then that my mother noticed my bracelet and asked me what it was. I told her what I stood for and then I immediately took it off and gave it to her. Helping her put the bracelet on, I told her to be brave. To take it one day at a time. That you can’t look to the future because that isn’t set and to remember that we’re all here for her. I’m pretty sure most of that speech went over my mother’s head, but the gesture was not lost on her.
Later that evening, I prodded her to get up from the bed and take a small walk with me. The hospital she was staying in was the same hospital that I grew up. The area she was in was there when I was a little girl, but the area that I choose to walk her to, was not. It bridged the old hospital with the new, and as we stepped into the new wing of the hospital, we ran into one of the nurses that my mother knew. We chatted a bit, and my mom told her what was going on. Immediately, the nurse took off one the charms she was wearing on her nurse’s uniform and gave it to my mother.
“I’m a 21-year survivor of breast cancer. If I can do it, you can do it,” she said.
I attached it to the bracelet I gave her.
The bracelet is almost too small for my mother’s wrist. But with some finagling, it sits on her wrist and is rarely taken off. I bought her another “be brave” bracelet, this time, a size larger and in a different style. She appreciated it, but I think the one I gave her meant more to her.
I have two watches, one that I used to wear regularly for the past twenty to twenty-five years until it finally gave up its solar catch powers and the other is much too fancy for me to wear on a regular basis. Besides, if any more tiny diamonds fall out of it, I will not forgive myself. Both of these watches were given to me by my parents. Both are Citizen watches and both are “eco-driven,” meaning that they never need the battery to be changed. Like I said, the watch without the tiny diamonds I wore almost exclusively for the better part of my life. There’s nothing super fancy about it, but I was pleased as punch that I never had to worry about buying batteries for it.
Until, of course, the watch stopped working altogether. It usually slows down and stops working altogether during the winter months, because that’s what happens in the winter. I left it on the window sill to recharge but noticed that it still hadn’t moved. Not one second. It was stopped at 2:42 and that’s where it would stay. I still have it. I wouldn’t know what to do with it, actually and throwing it away just seems like a waste to me. It barely takes up any space, and besides, my parents gave it to me. Oh, sure, I still have a lot of things that they gave to me, a lot of them I’ve even thrown away. But for some reason, this watch has stayed with me. And I suppose it will continue to stay with me.
The same goes for the other watch with the tiny diamonds. That’s not going anyway, no matter how un-me it is.