I started blogging way back in March of 2007, three days after my dear daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, and have been at it ever since. Writing became a lifeline for Mr. Mary Tyler Mom and I, an almost daily, or more often nightly, ritual that helped us make sense of the hell we found ourselves in so very unexpectedly. When you move to Cancerville and aren’t religious and the only thing you have faith in is one another and the love you share, the immediacy of the internet is intoxicating.
We wrote of our fear, our joy, our family, our love, our terror, our routine, our beautiful Donna. Weirdly, people cared. They wrote back. They held onto everything we put out there and asked for more. Even when Donna died, people read. Even when Mr. Mary Tyler Mom stopped writing – – he is funnier and smarter than I am – – they still read. Even when I spoke the truth about grief and pain and sadness that is unending, people still read. For that I remain grateful.
In January, a few weeks after returning to work after four years of caregiving and grieving, Mary Tyler Mom came into being. I wanted to write, but not only about grief, not only about Donna. I wanted to write about working and mothering. I wanted to be clever and sassy. I wanted to be separate and distinct from my grief. I wanted a new voice. I wanted anonymity. Voila! Mary Tyler Mom was born. She was witty and sassy and clever and hated Gwyneth Paltrow! You know what? Mary Tyler Mom was still sad, a little bitter, burdened with loss.
It is what it is, folks. Mary Tyler Mom is both sassy and sad, silly and mournful, snarky and sentimental. I am her. She is me. We are one in the same.
When you don’t see a post from me in a while it’s because I feel too sad to be sparkly and clever. I’ve not wanted to burden this audience with the depth of what I feel and I’ve not wanted to disillusion my daughter’s journal’s audience with my swears and snark. Quite honestly, it’s not unlike the Madonna-Whore paradigm.
In Donna’s journal (www.caringbridge.org/visit/donnaquirkehornik), I am kind of a saint to a lot of folks. Many of the readers I don’t know. They tell me, often, that I am courageous, brave, a beacon of motherhood, and never with irony. It’s a lot to measure up to, folks, I’ve got to say. I mean, our daughter got cancer. You do what you need to do. I mothered her the best I could, but I made mistakes. Lots of them. Geez, I still hold my head in shame over the apple juice incident and how much my mothering sucked in those moments. (Forgive me dear, Donna, I still struggle.)
Mary Tyler Mom gave me the freedom to not be a saint. To not be an inspiration. To not be so freaking strong all the time. She lets me bitch and moan just for the sake of bitchin’ and moanin’. She let’s me judge under the guise of that aforementioned anonymity. It felt good, but always a bit inauthentic. The truth is, I’m Donna’s Mom and I’m Mary Tyler Mom, too. I am strong. I am inspiring, that’s right, I said it. I am brave and courageous. But I’m also small, and petty, and insecure. I like a little gossip and a lot of snark.
Today is my dear Donna’s would be, should be 6th birthday. It’s been kind of a collision of my worlds for me. When Donna died, Mr. Mary Tyler Mom and I started a charity to honor her memory and do good works in her name. (You can find it here: www.donnasgoodthings.org.) Founding and growing Donna’s Good Things has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I mean, since when does having a child die qualify you as a philanthropist? For cripes sake. Another cancer mom friend of mine who lost her son joked once, long ago, that when your kid dies of cancer, you’ve got no other option but to start a charity and start running 5Ks. Guilty. As. Charged.
But that’s part of me, too. Anyways. Today was Donna’s birthday. At her memorial service I talked about how Mr. Mary Tyler Mom and Mary Tyler Son and I had to go home and start figuring out how to live our lives without Donna. I’m still working on that. Birthdays, for instance. How on God’s green earth are you supposed to celebrate the birthday of a child you’ve buried? A child you, yourself, personally, lowered into the ground? Last year we tried a pizza party with friends and that sucked. Super sucked.
This year we decided to scale back: A small cake for just the three of us. A trip to the zoo. A stop at Children’s Memorial to drop off some donations from Donna’s Good Things. We also asked the facebook fans of Donna’s Good Things, all 592 of them, to post a photo of themselves wearing black to honor Donna’s memory – – black was Donna’s favorite color. Seriously, how many four year old girls choose black as their favorite color? Imma telling you, Donna was amazing.
And the amazing thing is that people did. People we know and people we don’t know took the trouble to wear black today, photograph themselves, then post that bad boy on facebook. For a techonophobe like me, that’s asking a lot. And people did it. It started early – – the first one came in at 4:30 this morning. The last one just a few minutes ago.
There is something incredibly humbling and inspiring about the Donna’s Good Things facebook page today. It makes me want to be better. It makes me want to shout out to the world, “THANK YOU, WORLD! WE ARE SAD AND GRIEVING, BUT YOU CARE!” It makes me want to out Mary Tyler Mom.
So I just did. For reals.