That bracelet and the days surrounding his giving it to me were the one bright beam of joy in an otherwise very dark time. My mother’s longterm partner (who I dislike, but that’s a letter for another time) had a difficult bout with cancer this spring. Chemo, radiation, the whole Megillah. After his treatment ended, it turned out my mother herself is also sick. She’s got a slow-growing lung cancer with one tumor that is treatment-resistant. Her diagnosis set off a series of mental health crises in her partner: multiple suicide attempts, hospitalizations, emergency plane tickets and rental cars (me going there, her coming here). Amidst his instability, my mother had surgery last month to remove the largest of the tumors, and we are waiting for the scans to determine whether the cancer has spread anywhere else, including her brain.

But regardless of what they find, her brain is already sick. It has been for a long time, but she refuses to acknowledge it. Cognitively, she worsens with each passing week. Her short term memory is shattered.

And I only just got her back.

We were estranged for years, the result of a childhood I had no control over, and her seemingly uncontrollable rage that she refused to apologize for. That, too, is a whole letter in and of itself, but my imploding marriage and a global pandemic caused some sort of alchemical shift. She did apologize, for everything. For the first time in 30 years, she parented me.

Read more in Ask Polly.

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