Friday, September 3, 2010

My Story, Part III (Italy)

A while ago I started writing about my journey with my mom and kind of stopped. This third part was especially difficult because it was probably some of the best times I have ever had with my mom. The happy times should be the easiest to write about but they remind me of why I really wish she were still here. Don't worry, this one won't make you cry...probably.

 If you want to read part I and part II go here and here. If not, this picks up about a year or so after she was diagnosed.

After my mom's first surgery I felt like things were only going to get better. I was still in Salt Lake going to school and had just been elected as a representative for the School of Business in the student government. I thought that life was good. I went down to my parent's house more to help out with cooking, cleaning and Aaron. It was nothing serious because the ladies of the ward were angels and pretty much did everything but I did what I could. Things seemed to be getting better by the day. My mom was getting stronger to prepare for chemo and radiation, the surgery went smooth so there were no later complications and we were all very hopeful.

My mom finally recovered enough to start chemo and radiation a few months later and her body responded really well. The doctors and nurses all said how wonderful she was doing. They should get a raise. I get that they probably already get paid far above what most people do but seriously, they tried to save my mom's life. They fought along side her and gave her their best. Mostly the nurses but she had some great doctors too. I love nurses, even the sassy ones that you can't tell if they love or hate you.

This was around the time that my mom and I started talking everyday. I would call just to say hi even if there was nothing going on. She was mostly bedridden at this point. Confined to a space within 10 feet of a bathroom or throw up bucket. She was tired a lot and couldn't do a lot for herself.

One day, in passing, I had mentioned how I wanted to do a study abroad and she jumped all over that. Since she couldn't massage while she was doing treatments or pretty much anything else she took that on as her job, no, more like her mission. I didn't even know what had been happening when one day she called to let me know that I was going to Italy for the 2006 Summer semester with Cinzia Noble, a BYU professor and the mother of a boy that I had a crush on in Junior High. Hi Sandro!

I was beyond ecstatic and submitted my application immediately. I probably skipped class, as I had a tendency of doing, to fill out the thing because I couldn't wait for an hour. I was so excited! My mom had it all planned out...I left April 28th: Rome for 10 days, Siena for 2 months and then she was going to fly over with Miss Nancy, a massage client and adopted auntie of mine, the end of June, pick me up in Siena the day my program was over and we were going to see the sights together, exactly like we had always wanted to.

She had it all planned out but the doctor's weren't so sure about their high risk cancer patient flying half way around the world to cruise Italy for a fortnight. But that didn't matter because my mom had her mind made up. And when my mom got her mind made up, you just went with it. She haggled with the cancer staff to figure some way that this trip could be possible and they sure enough did. She had treatments the day before she left and was sick for her first few vacation days but the pasta and gelato probably made her feel better real quick.

The third day my mom drove Miss Nancy's VW Golf from Nancy's villa in a tiny town close to Montefalco to Siena to pick me up. I was the happiest girl in the world when they showed up at the Siena train station. I don't think that I had ever been as excited to see my mom as that moment. We buzzed around Siena, met up with my cousin Kimmy, had hot chocolate (my favorite), gelato (another favorite), I showed them my school, the campo, shopping, my apartment and my wonderful roommates and then we left. I said goodbye to the place that had renewed my spirit for the moment and left a piece of my heart on the black cobblestone streets that I cherished.

I don't know how we fit all of my stuff into Nancy's tiny car but we did and never looked back. We went straight to Nancy's to drop off my things and then off to dinner. While in Italy we ate at the most amazing places, watched Aida under the stars in an ancient colosseum in Verona, shopped like crazy in Florence, went to an olive oil farm down the street from Miss Nancy's, watched the World Cup with her neighborhood at the local bar, my mom wrote a children's book about Nancy's home (La Villa del Vento), went to Assisi and a thousand other hill towns, bought a beautiful antique mantle for the villa, installed a toilet seat :), read, slept and fully enjoyed every second of each other's company. It was a fast two weeks that I wished could last for eternity.

My mom and I were friends. We were happy together and that was a turning point in my life. I appreciated my mom and I purely enjoyed her as a friend and as my mom. We told stories that the other never would have guessed and learned that we could really have that mother-daughter bond that so many people told me existed. That was a very happy time. I genuinely loved and appreciated my mother with all of my heart but I had to travel 5,500 miles to make peace with my relationship with her.

When I say "make peace with my relationship with her" it's not that she had ever done anything to hurt me. It was my own issues that would never let me get close to her. I was a very angry teen. I hated my parents, thought that they were stupid, wanted to make my own mistakes, and distance myself from my family. I was an idiot to say the least. And even in college I still dealt with those issues of what independence really meant. Once again, I realize I was an idiot but who wasn't during those hormone raging years? I'm glad to say that that's over. Thank God. (I mean that in the most respectful and sacred way) Thank you God for getting me through those years, it was sure interesting. And thank you for that healing time in Italy, you really knew how much I needed that.

Miss Nancy, me & my mom in Verona waiting for Aida to start

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