There are plenty of things that are worse than a cancer diagnosis, but the one that comes to mind today is being the parent of a child with a cancer diagnosis. That’s something I pray none of us ever experience – because no matter how old you are, or how old they are, there are few things that would be as difficult. So, if you will indulge me on the day before my birthday, I’m sending a shout out of love and gratitude to the person that brought me into this world – and who has been there for me all these months…my mom, Harriet Haffner Hethrington.
Many of you know Harriet, and she tends to be a “fixer” so you can only imagine that watching “her baby” go through this “ordeal” hasn’t been easy. I know it was very hard for her to go to Florida for the winter when I started treatment but I insisted that she keep with her yearly schedule.
Not to go into a long story, but to provide a little background: In 1957, the year I was born, my mother was all of 23 years old. World War II had ended only 12 years earlier. My mom grew up in Brighton Beach during the war, and as you’ll recall, it wasn’t such a great time to be Jewish. My grandparents were poor and uneducated, and life, as my mother would say, “was no bed of roses.” She’ll tell you she went to work in a doll factory when she was 15 – a time when the polio epidemic in New York was at an all-time high. Her brother (my Uncle) contracted the disease at 8 years old, and luckily survived. Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy time. My mom got engaged to my dad at 16, married at 18 and had my sister at 20. The year I was born they were living in New Jersey, and my mom came to live with my grandmother for the last few weeks of her pregnancy – which is how I came to be born in Brooklyn.
The year I was born, Eisenhower was president, West Side Story opened on Broadway, the Russians were testing long range missiles, and Harriet was one of the first working moms to be a salesperson in a New Jersey car dealership. She was always a woman of firsts. When we moved to CT, she was the first woman in Fairfield County to open her own real estate business (Sherlock Homes) and the first woman to join the Norwalk Board of Realtors. Self-taught in almost every area of life, my mom went on to be a super successful Realtor, lecturer/speaker and teacher. She was a divorcee during the disco years and went on to find love, travel and golf with a sweetheart of a man named Nelson. Unfortunately, we lost him a few years ago to Parkinson’s – something else no one should have to endure. At yet, Harriet lives her life with what any Brooklynite would call “moxie”. Through the loss of her lovely canine companion, Maddy last year; through back surgery, and the other aches and pains that go along with living into your 8th decade; she’s one tough cookie.
I am blessed to have my mom in my life today and I know this year has been as hard for her as it has been for me. I completely understand. When Emily had Lyme disease, I would have done anything to make her better – and yet, we’re all helpless when it comes to the health (and everything else) of our loved ones. All we can do is be there – and I thank God that my mom…and my dad (future blog topic)…are here to celebrate this birthday with me. I know my wish on my candles tomorrow will be to be able to say that as long as possibly possible.