This is 'That' Week

This is 'That' Week

It began for me on September 12, but that was back in 1986. Ever since, this has been a week-long stretch of honoring things past. After all, one loses one’s mother only once.

There was actually a more indistinct beginning the previous January, when my mother’s cancerous right kidney was removed. They said they thought they got it in time. The evening before surgery, Jim and I let her in on a very fresh bit of news: after years of battling infertility, I was pregnant. She would become a grandmother (at last!) in September.

Janet healed well over the summer, while at the same time I grew and nurtured the life within me. Both of us were distracted with preparations for a weekend-long celebration of her 60th birthday on September 13.

All that got sidetracked on the 12th, when she was due at a quiet pre-weekend lunch with an old friend and me. In the era before cell phones, all we could do was wait. When she wandered in 90 minutes late, looking dazed and asking, “Am I late?” it fell to me to say, “Mom, I think something’s wrong.”


Kate and Janet in June, 1986, before all that would come to light was known.


Indeed. A subdued trip to the emergency department led to more waiting, and then the gathering of curious clinical eyes around the X-ray backlight. The two tumors nestling in her brain were distressingly easy to see.

The weekend birthday plans were scuttled. Her oncologist plied her with steroids, and started radiation. On Monday, September 15, my due date came and went. On Wednesday, September 17, she disappeared from the hospital for four worrisome hours before she was finally discovered asleep on a porch several blocks away.

On Friday, September 19, she went home, almost like new after a week of treatment and rest (her efforts to keep up a veneer of normalcy had exhausted her). That same evening, I was admitted to the labor and delivery floor of the hospital she’d left just that morning.


Kate and Janet in her garden on the morning of September 19, 1986, between hospital stays we each had at the same hospital that day.


On Saturday, September 20, at 8:08pm we were joyous: a healthy, beautiful baby girl had arrived, one whose birthday we have now celebrated for 33 years.

In 2001, of course, a new date demanding remembrance invaded the world stage: September 11. The epicenters of New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA took the brunt of our widespread pain, but no one has been immune to the consequences of those vicious attacks.

And so, yes, this is that week. Whether personal or collective, whether it’s this exact week or a different one in your personal calendar, take time to honor the past and remember. It seems the right thing to do.


The most loved baby ever, sleeping.

 Unpacking Alaska, 2019

Unpacking Alaska, 2019