COPD: Letter to My Son
When I first started getting sick you were just nine. You were in Cub Scouts and I was one of the den leaders. We had so much fun that year. Watching you make friends and enjoy all the activities is one of my prized memories. You and the other boys were great and we learned a lot.
I also took you swimming at the river, crystal clear and cool, and you learned how to swim underwater and we climbed the hill on the far side to stand under the rock bluffs that soared to the sky. I don’t know if you remember that. I hope so.
I homeschooled you and we learned about Greek mythology and the earth and the sea. You painted some beautiful clown fish, then cut them out on paper. We hung them from the fan and when the fan blew, the fish looked like they were swimming. You made hand puppets and entertained us. You kept an Adventure Book of everything you learned. It was a great experience and I hold it dear.
I also taught you how to cook and you loved it. By that time I was diagnosed with COPD and you, you dear sweet boy, you made and sold baked goods at the farmer’s market to raise money to help with my medical costs.
Then I taught you how to do laundry, wash dishes, clean properly. You weren’t so thrilled about that, but you needed to learn it anyway.
Soon I had to stop swimming in the river and climbing. I had to stop playing ball. Boy Scouts fell by the wayside somewhere. Then, worst of all, I had to stop schooling you.
Now that you’re 13 you’ve had to take on more responsibilities. There have been many times we’ve had to cancel our plans or our playtime because I was sick. But you told me, “It’s okay,” and didn’t make me feel bad about it.
I know sometimes you feel overwhelmed and angry. I know you look out for me and when I have a coughing fit it scares you. You are always right there with a glass of water or my medicine. You are always there to make sure I have my inhaler. You are always there.
I know you hate this disease as much as I do.
But I want to tell you that your feelings are okay. I want to tell you that I’m okay. I need to tell you that I’m still your mother and I still love you and we can still do things together.
When we play ball I can sit in a chair and throw the ball to you. It’s good because it makes you focus harder on hitting the ball and where you hit it to. We can go to the pool instead of the creek and I can use a float and coach you. The fun is still there, the methods are just a little different.
I can still teach you how to cook; you can be my arms and legs and you can learn through my knowledge. We can still go places like the zoo. You and your dad can walk; I’ll just use my wheelchair. We can always watch movies together and play board games together. Except chess. You always beat me at chess.
I can still support you in all your school activities. I’ll be there on Muffins with Mom days. Dad and I will watch all your plays and singing programs. We’ll be with you on movie nights, buying popcorn and setting out a blanket to lay on. We’ll take you to the dances, and we promise not to stay and embarrass you. You will have fun.
Best of all, you can still learn, for I will never stop teaching you.
And because of this illness I can teach you things that maybe I couldn’t before. I will show you how to be brave. I can teach you courage, because I am sometimes frightened of all the tests and limitations but I face them head on with a smile anyway.
I can give you laughter in the face of adversity. I will not lose my sense of humor; sometimes I just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
I can teach you strength. Inner strength, the kind of strength that will hold you together in the toughest of times. The kind that keeps you going when you really want to quit. The kind that makes you stare disaster in the face, heart racing, fists raised, breath hot, ready to slay the beast in front of you.
Just like I will fight this disease. I will hang on when I’m weary, battle tired, and just want to stop. I will do it for you.