When I was in high school, my dad gave my mom the nickname “Alpha Dog.” An alpha dog is the dominant dog in a pack setting. Mom has always been just that. The strong one in the family – which is funny considering my dad was on the Miami-Dade S.W.A.T. team for ten years. My dad is ripped. And had his pinky shot off. But, when we think strong, we think Mom.
Oh, you need to get a Baby Grand up a narrow staircase? The movers can’t figure it out? She’ll do it herself. She’ll knock a hole in the ceiling to get it in if she has to. When she was a teenager and her dad asked her what career path she wanted to take, she said “I want to be Maria in The Sound of Music.” So, she moved to Hollywood and she actually made it (not as Maria von Trapp, but as an actress). She goes and she gets. She takes many things by many storms. And now, she has cancer.
Yesterday, I was her ride home from chemo. I had never been to the chemo place before because they don’t allow kids and my little entourage is 100% comprised of kids. But, I was able to go this time and being in that place, seeing the tubes and the other bald women and the bright red poison (which some of the nurses call “the red devil”) kind of knocked the wind out of me.
I passed hairless people with tired faces. Hairless people with stoic faces. Hairless people with hopeless faces. The hallway into the “Infusion Clinic” might as well have been labeled “Valley of the Shadow of Death.”
And there’s my mom. In her curly blonde wig with her red rimmed glasses, her Bible on her lap, and a big smile, showing the world how to walk through it.
I keep thinking about Psalm 23, which until this cancer thing sometimes felt like a tired and worn out psalm I learned as a little kid. Sure, sure, peace, green fields, still waters.
The words have new meaning now, as I watch my mom walk through something so dark with so much grace and sprightliness.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Cancer isn’t easy for my mom and she isn’t carrying as much heavy furniture around as she was a few months ago. And maybe she’s not the Alpha Dog because her strength comes from somewhere else.