October: Birthdays, Anniversaries and Teaspoons of Trepidation

Michele Weldon | October 11, 2009

I’m not crazy about October, used to be, but not so much the last three years. I had been crazy about it because it is the month of my mother’s birthday—her birthday is October 25, she was a Scorpio. She would be 85 this year, but we celebrated her last birthday in 2002. She was in the hospital and she passed away less than a month later. Mostly just my brothers and sisters comment on Mom’s birthday. Sometimes one of my sisters assigns a minor miracle to Mom that day—she found something, won something, it can even be as simple as snagging the perfect parking place.

“It’s Mom’s birthday,” was the explanation. And we all just knew.

It’s also the month of my oldest son, Weldon’s, birthday. October 6. And he just turned 21. I went to visit him at his apartment on campus in Madison, Wis. a few weeks ago. I was in Park City, Utah for a conference the weekend right before his birthday, so my birthday visit was early. I made him eggplant lasagna and bought him a birthday cake with fresh strawberries; told him to freeze the cake. He didn’t. Lew got him a honey baked ham, the kind crusted in brown sugar. The apartment he shares with four men and a woman friend was so messy it made me upset.

“Do you need garbage bags? Cleaning supplies?”

He said he didn’t.

But during the month of Weldon’s birthday I especially remember how much I loved him before he was born, when he was just an idea. And then when he was new and so tiny looking at me with those blue eyes with such determined reliance that I knew that this is what it is like to be loved and trusted and needed.

So October is good that way. For birthdays. But October also scares me. October is more than breast cancer awareness month. It is the month I got breast cancer.

Mine? Three years ago. I am not the count every day since the diagnosis kind of survivor. I don’t serve myself teaspoons of trepidation every day. Mostly I try to suspend the reality and just wait to have a meltdown every October when I go back to the radiologist I love to get the latest news. Mostly I nearly have a stroke in her waiting room.

I prefer to picture the cancer as the past, an aberration in my history. Still every time the anniversary rolls around, I am scared to death. Wait, that’s no longer an innocuous cliché. Part of the reason I am terrified every anniversary of my surgery is that I don’t know why I got cancer. None of us does.

Unless you were chain smoking in an asbestos-battered building, eating chips of paint and wearing moth balls around your neck, your guess was as good as anybody’s. It was a complicated formula of genetics plus environment plus stress plus fate plus who knows what, maybe the perfume my mother wore when she was pregnant or the weed killer my father spread on the backyard lawn. It was the diet soda I drank. The milk I didn’t. It wasn’t the blueberries I ate or the red peppers I loved. It was not necessarily the burned popcorn or the smoked meat.

But cancer is everywhere. Everybody walks around with those pink ribbons on their lapels and the magnetized rubber versions on their cars. Especially in October. The magazine in the seat flap in front of me on the airplane to Salt Lake City had Melissa Etheridge on the cover. It was a special breast cancer issue. And Melissa is one of the many beautiful celebrities who does manger to look fabulous bald.

Breast cancer? You didn’t have to die anymore. No one had to die.

Me? I couldn’t die. I can’t die. The boys would have no one.

Wow. Weldon is 21. He would have to be the adult. Brendan is 18, Colin just 15, and my brother Paul would be the custodian for him. But if Weldon was in charge, my house would look like his apartment.

Like I said, I can’t die.

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Comments (27)
  1. you write beautifully

  2. this is so today! everyone who goes to church at our lady of the holy gymnasium can relate to your life. thanks

  3. It was your column in the Chicago Tribune years ago that grabbed me and warmed my heart week after week. I hope to enjoy you again on a regular basis.

  4. Michele Weldon has an extraordinary story-telling gift. Looking forward to this new book to hear her voice once again speak to me from the pages. Even though I was a ballerina mom and not a wrestling mom, the psyche is the same. It is the same joy to sit and watch your child trying to succeed. Can’t wait to read this!

  5. So beautiful. You made me laugh out loud and cry. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  6. This sounds amazing. I cannot wait to read more!

  7. I look forward to reading this!

  8. Fantastic!

  9. Sounds so great, I can’t wait to read the book!

  10. “I made him eggplant lasagna and bought him a birthday cake with fresh strawberries; told him to freeze the cake. He didn’t.” My favorite line 🙂

  11. Such a great read, can’t wait for more!

  12. Having lost a family member to cancer in the past year, this passage really resonated with me. Looking forward to reading more!

  13. Looking forward to reading more of this…what an inspiring story!

  14. Wonderful writing. And the site looks and sounds great. xoxo

  15. Thanks for the good read!

  16. This is great!

  17. I can’t wait to read this!!!!

  18. Very interesting and beautifully written!

  19. Interesting topic, I am excited to read more! So funny, because that is how my mother is as well, although she’s never been a wrestling mom.

  20. Michele’s writing is intelligent, clean and fresh. You understand what she is saying with her few, precise, to the point words… Leaving you with a full appreciation and heartfelt understanding. Very enjoyable reading.

  21. This is such an inspirational piece of work. It’s a great representation of real life with the fun witty comments to lighten it up. Laughs and tears are sure to come with this one. I want more!

  22. Your words touch me! I love your style and how you capture me into wanting to read it all. I think the essence of it is how you eloquently and openly share your life; and then in turn I feel like having you over for coffee to hear more.

  23. Since we have experienced this with you and your boys it is great to reflect. Nice job!!!

  24. This site is impressive, and your writing style is moving. Love the slideshows… I’d like some shots of Mom in the audience, screaming her lungs out 🙂 My mom used to do that on the soccer field – I still blush when I think about it, but am proud at the same time.

  25. Well, it is October 25, Happy Birthday Mrs. Weldon — you were a force to be reckoned with and always will be.

    Sincerely, Lynn

  26. Betty was also an October birthday (10/2). Thanks for sharing, Michele.

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