Safety pin me to your chest so I can stay put
Please don’t leave me in this mess,
Cause I am this close to unraveling.
Don’t give up on me now this can all be mended,
We can iron this out it can all be mended,
When you’re tearing at the seams,
It can all be mended
It can all be mended now.
— “Mended” by The Autumn Film
On a warm San Jose day, Kickie, Steve, and I piled into the car and headed to Kaiser hospital. “Are you nervous?” I asked Kickie. “A little,” she said. Actually, she was remarkably calm for an 84-year-old woman about to have a lumpectomy to remove a cancerous tumor from her breast.
“You could learn a thing or two from your stepmom,” Steve said in his deep, calming voice. Kickie and Steve both laughed, because they know I’m a total baby about anything to do with doctors or dentists. “Suzie needs a Valium just to get her teeth cleaned,” Steve joked. “I needed a Valium to take Jazzy for her radiation,” I responded, and that was no joke. “Jazzy was going through so much, but she tried to comfort me and keep me calm.”
When Jazzy was undergoing treatments for cancer, she was the bravest dog I’ve ever seen. For six weeks, Monday through Friday, we headed to the oncology department at UC Davis and waited behind several other people trying to push or drag their dogs into the waiting room. But Jazzy knew she was about to see people, more important, children, and be the recipient of butt scratches and ear rubs. She would burst into the building as fast as her stout legs could carry her, dragging me along with her paws slipping and sliding on the tile floor.
Skylar on the other hand is a big baby just like her mom. A routine visit to see her veterinarian is a nightmare. She won’t get out of the car, and I have to ask her favorite vet tech, Dez, to come out and help me pry her claws off the back seat. Once we get her inside the waiting room, Sky crawls under the plastic chairs. She’s too big to hide, so the chairs are lifted off the ground by her muscular body while her big green bug-eyes glare suspiciously from below.
At Kaiser, I pulled up in the passenger-loading zone, and Steve helped Kickie out of the car, wrapping her arm around his as they walked up to the building. After parking, I joined them in the waiting room. Kickie was her usual self, chatting with the receptionists and anyone else who looked her way. She loves people, just like Jazzy did, and I was amazed at how relaxed she remained.
After what seemed like an eternity, a nurse came to get her. “It’s time for your prep,” she said to Kickie. “You can come back in a few minutes and sit with her until she goes in for surgery,” she said to me. Fifteen minutes later, the same nurse led me through the back to the prep area where Kickie was in a bed separated from her neighbors by a curtain. She was hooked up to an IV and had a bonnet over her fiery red hair. As the nurse left, I could see Kickie was starting to get nervous. I reached out and held her hand. “What do you think my Little Blockhead and Blue are doing right now?” Kickie asked. Little Blockhead was the nickname she had given to Skylar the first time I brought her down to meet Grandma. “They’re probably sleeping,” I said. “I love that little doll baby,” Kickie said, smiling. I squeezed her hand. “I know you do …”
The nurse was back. “It’s time to go Mrs. Baker,” she said, helping Kickie out of the bed. I continued to hold her hand, my other arm wrapped around her waist as the nurse pushed the IV beside her. When we got close to the big swinging doors, I stayed behind. “I love you,” I said. “I love you, too, Suzie,” Kickie said, and disappeared behind the doors.
About an hour later, the receptionist led Steve and me to a small private room where the doctor joined us. “We got it all,” she said. “Your mom’s a tough lady. She did great.”
We had been acting brave, perhaps for each other, but Steve and I were finally able to let out a collective sigh of relief. “I’m going to plan something really special for her 85th birthday,” I said. “I’m thinking about the Ritz.” Steve smiled. “She’ll love that. I’ll watch Skylar so you girls can hit the town and go crazy.” I pulled my chair closer to Steve and rested my head on his shoulder. “I’m not sure how crazy you go on your 85th birthday,” I said, “but if anyone can do it up right, it’s Kickie.”