Hi Ho Silver, Away!

Posted: August 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Cancer, Little Rhody, Mom, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop | No Comments »

When my mother was sick and started losing her hair, my sister Ellen went online to find her some turbany hat-type things. I was home in RI when the package arrived, and since Mom and I didn’t know Ellen had ordered them, when we saw the return address—Chemo Savvy—we weren’t sure what to expect.

But when you’re relegated to spending day after day indoors, a mysterious package like this represents a small adventure. So, sitting on the edge of the bed, I knifed the tape off the box and handed it to my mother to open.

Not one to beat around the bush, when she saw what was inside were hats for her balding head, she rolled her eyes. “Oh God. Look at these,” she said, holding one up. Then looking at the label, “Ellen sent them.”

Complaining, especially when she was sick, had become somewhat of an art form for my mother. In fact, she could be ruthless, and many was the time my sisters or I would chase after some kindly nurse or visitor who’d been worn down by my mother’s crabbiness, to convince them while standing in the driveway that she didn’t mean it, she was really just angry at the cancer not them, and tomorrow would be a better day.

From here now I can see that the complaining, and the brutal sarcasm—which had always been her hallmark—must have been a kind of last-ditch form of empowerment. Making fun of the hats distanced her from the unwelcome reality that was upon her. Made it somehow seem like wearing turbans when your hair falls out from chemo was something other people do, not you. Even if it was just for a moment before having to give into whatever it was, she liked to exercise some resistance.

Thankfully, my mother’s sense of humor managed to thrive alongside her grumpy-patient persona. So after the initial, “Now why did she buy these?” remark, followed by an eyebrow raise and an approving cluck that they were at least all cotton, she pulled out one of the hats, put it on, and looked at me while intoning, “Chemo Saaavvvy!”

We sat on the bed for God knows how long, both trying on the hats, commenting to each other, “Kemo Sabe? That hat is Chemo Savvy!” and laughing until we cried.

When all else looked bleak, these moments provided enough of a respite to fortify us for the next gut-wrencher lurking around the corner.

This morning Chez McClusky we had some excellent family time piled into Mark and my bed, reading books, playing with Kate’s new yard sale doll, and kissing the bejesus out of Paige. Since Paige’s favorite alone time activity is clawing at her head, I’ve started putting her to sleep in those cotton skull caps intended for newborns. And since she’s outgrown most of them by now, they don’t fold up at the brims like they’re supposed to.

When the hat’s pulled down low on her eyes, the resulting look is at best like a flapper girl. With her ears sticking out–or more often than not, one ear–she looks slightly Smurfish. Or, if you catch her at just the right angle, as I did today, hat snug around the forehead and loose but crumpled down on top, she looks a little Chemo Savvy.

Oh Miss Paige, who we love so well. You will never know your grandmother, I’m sorry to say. But take it from me, she had a wicked sense of humor. And I just know that if she saw you this morning, she’d be calling you her little Kemo Sabi.

No Comments »

Leave a Reply