I think I’ve mentioned before how the month of February is probably my least favorite month of the year.
We’re not friends, me and February. First, it’s cold. In Virginia, everything is barren. The wind blows hard and frigid, unless it’s a random 70 degree day.
Which makes my next point: February is confusing.
I can never remember how many days of the month there are. Is it 28? 29? Pretty sure it’s not 30. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a firm end date in February, but February really never cares about my feelings. She’s a cold, unpredictable month.
Then there’s Valentine’s Day.
That holiday, despite retailers’ best intentions, has always been bright, fake and anticlimactic to me. It tends to shine a harsh spotlight on your life and you can see all the shadows and cracks, whether single or dating or married. I thought maybe my first single Valentine’s Day in over a decade would make me sad, but thank God I’m 34 and not 20 or insecure or afraid. A friend surprised me with free leggings, a coworker bought me a salad for lunch, my parents cooked the kids and I dinner and sent us home with chocolate cake. It was a free-flowing, out-of-the-ordinary weekday. The light turned on brilliant and strong, but I wear sunglasses on Valentine’s Day now.
Let’s get to the real reason I dread February. Jackson’s cancer diagnosis anniversary is on February 15 and Abby’s NICU homecoming anniversary is on February 21. Some years the days come, I acknowledge them, and they leave.
Some years the anxiety creeps through my chest and back, weighing me down and making it difficult to swallow. Like February, grief is unpredictable.
Good news! I’m halfway through.
Jackson’s cancer-versary was Wednesday and I was too busy to feel all the feels. He and I talked about it that day. On the way to school, I shared it was the day he was diagnosed with cancer and it’s been eight years! I told him I was proud of him and the boy he was and is. He asked me if we were going to celebrate, but I told him this was one of those days that we just acknowledge because it was an important date. Jackson said, “Well, this is not really a happy anniversary, then.” Brutal honesty from the dude.
“Just means I’m proud of how far you’ve come,” I told him. Tried to take a picture of him before he got out of the car, but Mooooooom. SCA meeting.
The boy is growing up fast and well.
I’ve thought about his comment often the last few days. He’s right; it’s not a happy anniversary.
It’s made me second-guess what I share with him. Should I protect him from the cancer he’s already had by not acknowledging that day with him anymore? He was 13 months old, it’s not like he’ll remember himself.
Should I not acknowledge other dates with him, like the end of treatment or his stem cell transplant anniversary? I’ve always woven his cancer in his life and conversations because he IS different, he IS brave, he IS a survivor of something great.
It dawned on me that there are no SCA meetings without remission. No remission without the chemo or surgery or radiation or immunotherapy. There is no transplant anniversary without a diagnosis anniversary. There are no ages 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 without first having 1 and 2. You know that phrase “It is what it is?”…well “He is what he is.” He is a cancer survivor.
I can’t have a year without a February. Neither can my kids.
I can’t prevent the harsh light or the cracks and the shadows. And it’s not my job as their mom to prevent the unpreventable.
It’s my job to teach them about love and bravery and sharing and compassion and strength. And sunglasses.