After a LONG hiatus from writing, I am feeling that I need/want to return to the keyboard. It has been a relief to begin to reabsorb back into a somewhat regular routine of life. So much has happened since I last processed my feelings and thoughts through written word. Kaycee is almost 2 years cancer-free. Delaney, our youngest at 16 now, is heading in to her junior year of high school and Addison is 18 and in two days off to University of Puget Sound! Yikes… I have to take all that in, slowly and with intentional thought or I become overwhelmed. Though being overwhelmed is not a new or unique feeling to those of us sending our kids off to college, I am experiencing a kind of time vortex. Somewhere, somehow, I have been fast-forwarded to a season of life that I am not well prepared for. Let me explain…
See, I feel as if I lost 2+ years with both my girls. I remember very clearly when Delaney was in her 8th grade year of middle school and Addie was a sophomore thinking, “Well, we better start thinking about looking at schools for Addie next summer”, then BAM the vortex hit. The suck of time and energy that goes along with a stage four cancer diagnosis hit our family like a freight train. It sucked the vibrancy our of our little family unit and pushed us down, deep into a dark and murky space where you want to leave many of the memories. However, my girls, in all their wonderful glory and resilience, still grew up and and changed. I want to write they changed right before my very eyes… but I can’t. The reality is, I had my sights focused on Kaycee and getting him healthy, that I was not the parent that I dreamed of being for them. I was not a bad parent, but I was not the present-for-my-children-parent I always thought I would be. Our girls in turn had to grow way beyond their years in those 2+ years also.
It is only the last few months that I feel we are truly emerging from the dense fog of being sick to realize all to clearly that time did not stop. My girls are beautiful, strong, empowered, sensitive, caring and kind young women ready to take on the world. They have coping skills that some adults struggle to obtain. They are intelligent, determined and empathetic learners. They possess a deep bond of trust, love and understanding that goes way beyond the regular close sister bond. How did that happen? I know I was there, but life marched on carrying all of us along with it.
Though much of the details of the cancer years are very hard to remember, the goal during that season was clear… get Kaycee healthy and keep the family in tact. Often much of the weight of what was happening at home was heaped on Addie’s shoulders while Kaycee was in and out of the hospital. She cared for her little sister, grocery shopped, took care of the pets, often cleaned the house, learned the love/hate relationship of laundry. She overcame her fears of walking around Seattle by herself so that she and her sister could visit their dad in the hospital. We had family, friends and acquaintances that supported us whenever we asked and checked in on the girls often during this time but the fact of the matter is that Addie had to grow up, instantly! Adulthood was forced upon her because of the circumstances (though she stubbornly refused to get her license until she was 18).
Meanwhile, in the last year I have watched her thrive. With the weight of cancer lifting from our house she has grown into a strong adventure seeker, leader, and goal achiever. I admit, I am in awe of her. Her strength and conviction of character is light-years beyond where I was at that age…. Maybe even where I am today. She traveled to Africa to analyze primate and predator population, She continued to lead both the adult Master’s Crew team and her peer BIR Crew team as the coxswain to victories, landing herself a seat as the coxswain of the men’s crew team for UPS. Most recently, she completed a seven day training camp, BLAZE, for young women, something she dreamed of doing for 3 years. This camp was incredible and so empowering. Run only by women fire fighters, these young women trained at the North Bend fire fighting training facilities to rescue victims, retract car metal with the ‘jaws of life’, put out wildlife and building fires, climb out into the void of a 110 foot ladder etc.. But most importantly she learned she has a power deep within that is fierce. She can and will accomplish anything she puts her mind to. This will not be easily and may take time but she is more than capable of great things.
We dropped her off at this camp thinking it would be a great week; a unique “camp” experience. What we came to realize when we went back for the graduation ceremony was that she had changed. In that short time she proved to us and to herself that she is ready to take on the world. She is capable of failing and picking herself up to try again. She demonstrated that with her determined spirit and focused nature she can succeed. I would like to think Kaycee and I had something to do with helping shape and guide her life choices up to this point but the truth is she, Miss Addison Rose Taylor, has become even more that we could have imagined.
So yes, I am sad that she is leaving us. I will miss her daily smiles and quirky sense of humor. I will miss all the Star Trek, MASH, Supernatural, and Anime jokes that go right over my head. I will miss her pitch-in attitude and her heavy-healed stomping that wakes me in the night. BUT… I am so proud of her. I am so excited to see who she will become this year, next year and for the years to come. I am determined to stay present in her life without being that mom that has to check in all the time, just a few times per week. Because the reality is… time keeps charging on whether we are present or not. We are all (hopefully) changing everyday, striving to become better, versions of ourselves. Addie is ready. She is open to learning and growing more. She is eager to fly and spread her wings. I have no doubt she will continue to amaze us and inspire us. I know there will be failure…in fact, I hope so. I say this not to be insensitive, I say this because failure often drives the spirit to try even more, create a richer more diverse and authentic path to success. This girl, she will change the world, in her own way, through her determination and drive.
Meanwhile, I will be crying a bit as I mourn the space she is leaving in our home and in our hearts. I know it is not permanent she will return, although, it will never be the same and that is the loss that I will work to reconcile. To all of you moms, dads, sisters, and brothers out their…good luck! We can find each other crying or laughing or both at Starbucks for the months of August and September. Together, we have helped shape our future by sending these beautiful minds off to do great things.