mom on the merry-go-round at disney

In late April, my cousin married his bride in NYC. Our whole family made the trip to the big city to celebrate their wedding. Except for Jesse. That Sunday wedding didn’t exactly play well with his work schedule, as he was presenting at a meeting for VPs the following Monday.

I didn’t mind it because I decided to go out a little bit early to Connecticut and spend some time with my big sis from my sorority days back at OU. We don’t get to see each other very often, but every time we do, we pick up right where we left off before. She truly is an amazing woman. You know what else I miss? Our jam sessions to Bare Naked Ladies, handstands in the gym and just spending more time together.

After lots of reminiscing over dinner, giggles back at the house, playing with her kiddos, and a night at their house in Connecticut, I made the trek back to New York City. Upon arrival at the hotel, I was greeted by some family members, and I immediately dropped off my suitcase at the bellhop and I went out to explore the town with them.

This wasn’t my first trip to the big city, but I had never been to the 9/11 Museum. I tagged along with a couple of my aunts, uncles, and cousins to tour the amazing tribute to those no longer with us from that tragic day. It was moving, it was heavy, it was unreal, and it was beautiful. I remembered seeing the giant pit in the ground just months after the devastation, and to see such a wonderful tribute now, was just amazing.

My brother and sister-in-law, along with mom and dad were all coming in from New Jersey where they had flown in to spend time with my dad’s side of the family. They didn’t get to tour the museum, nor take the ferry with us, and ended up waiting on a train that apparently didn’t come as frequently as they were told. Eventually, they made it to the city, and met the rest of us in Battery Park.

I knew that was my mom from a mile away. Her colorful lime shirt glowed beneath her sparkly denim jacket; the rhinestones catching the last rays of the day. My mom was known for her put-together looks, complete with matching jewelry that she loved to wear. She took pride in how she looked. I can’t say the same about myself, as most days I’m adorned in stained jeans and a flannel while working at the bench. But I do enjoy getting dressed up to leave the house any chance I get!

After we all said a few quick hellos and exchanged embraces, my mom spotted the merry-go-round. Now. My mom was a merry-go-round enthusiast. And the one at Battery Park is a beauty, with its plastic sea creature seats that light up in a colorful show as they go up and go down and spin around in a slow circle. It’s a pretty magical ride, and she loved it. Those are some of the best pictures my dad snapped of her. She was genuinely enjoying the ride, being with family, and experiencing all that life had to offer her.

After the merry-go-round had ended, and we had walked all around the park, we decided to go back to the hotel, just a few blocks away. Once checked in, I grabbed my luggage from the front desk and joined mom and dad in their room. Since Jesse didn’t come, I decided to bunk with them. I remember her being really tired and needing to take a nap before dinner. While she was napping, Dad told me that she had been sleeping quite a bit lately.

“She gets tired really quickly,” he said.

I was immediately reminded of their trip to Denver just a short month ago, back in March. I replied,” I remember she was pretty tired when you guys came to visit us last month.”

“Yeah, she’s been sleeping a lot. We have an appointment with her doctors in a week or so and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do. She’s just awfully tired.” His face looked tired.

“Okay, well, keep me posted,” I said. “Let me know what they find. And what the new treatment might be.”

Mom woke up and she was hungry. I wasn’t quite as hungry because of the late lunch I had earlier in the afternoon, but we found a pizza place that was within walking distance for them, and I sent them on their way. I told them I’d just freshen up and meet them there once I had a chance to relax and finished getting ready. After they left, I sat down on the bed to relax, but couldn’t. I had this overwhelming urge to go meet them and share a pie. I didn’t know why, but I texted them, asked them to get a table for three, and walked on over.

By the time I arrived, the pizza place was packed, and it was hard to squeeze me in. Actually, I remember the waiter telling me I couldn’t sit at the table, and they moved us to another one. “Always making it a little complicated, Steph,” I thought to myself. My cousin had invited us to the rehearsal dinner after-party, along with the rest of the family, so we decided to stop by for just a bit. It was a bit of a walk to the bar from where we had dinner, but we went slow and steady for mom, taking in the sights of the streets of New York along the way.

I wasn’t sure how long she would stay out that evening, but she was having the best time. She chatted with friends of family that she hadn’t seen in a while and grinned from ear to ear the whole time. This weekend, her nephew was getting married, and in a couple months, her daughter – me – would be tying the knot. She was positively glowing from all of the happy thoughts surging through her head.

The next day, we took our time and walked around the wedding area. We saw the venue, walked down by the water, grabbed lunch with the fam, and just genuinely enjoyed ourselves. The wedding was unique, complete with music, singing, and fun traditions that my cousins incorporated into their ceremony. Both the bride and groom sang at their reception, and being the true NYC actors they are, put on quite a show.

My mom looked happy! She had such a great time and was enjoying herself immensely, and she was so excited to be there to celebrate my cousin and his new bride. She was out on the dance floor much longer than me (actually I’m not sure if I even danced that night!).

But to me, she looked a little different that night. Don’t get me wrong – she looked beautiful. But something was just a little different. I have literally looked over and over at the pictures I have of her from that night and I swear it looks like part of her was gone. Like a shell of her was left, with all of her personality. Like her body was starting to give in. Like the Big C was slowly gaining the upper hand.

I don’t know if anyone else noticed it, but I did. I didn’t say anything, but I’ve constantly thought about that night. She looked beautiful and was herself as far as anyone else could tell, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something didn’t look quite right. It was in her face. Her gaze. I wondered what they might find at the upcoming doctor’s appointment. Quickly, I turned my thoughts back to the evening. Just enjoy this time with mom, I thought.

Fast forward two weeks later, at my bridal shower, and that’s where this whole blog starts.

I’m so thankful we had her for my cousin’s celebration. Because while it wasn’t my special day, it was special because we all were there to celebrate together.

Miss you, mom, and your rhinestone denim jacket. More than you know.