This morning at 5am, my daughter stood by my side of the bed, whispering Mommy and petting my arm. I came awake with the state of mind that I think is reserved for caretakers being awakened in the night – absolutely clear and fully functional yet able to fall back asleep as soon as the need level is assessed.
“What is it, my love?”
“Mommy, I want to lie down next to you.”
We shuffled her into bed between me and R. She pulled her Bunny up close to her chest and snuggled her head into my shoulder as she rolled the length of her body up against mine.
“I’m growing up so big Mommy.”
“I know you are, my love.”
“Not too big for cuddles.”
My mind went back to the last time I snuggled with my mom. She was laying in bed, watching TV, hooked up to oxygen, and recovering from any one of the number of various assaults her body was under – cancer, chemo, radiation, pneumonia, not enough coffee. She was in and out, nodding off in front of whatever was on, then coming awake suddenly at times. I remember that I had had a hard day, although I can’t remember why. Probably some combination of watching your mother die and the drama that comes with being in your early 20s. I laid down next to her in bed and vaguely turned my attention to whatever was on the screen. She turned to me, looked at my face, and knew I was in a tough place in my head. “C’mere,” she said, and put her arm out.
It had been a long time at that point since I had last laid down next to my mom. Although we were an affectionate family, snuggling didn’t really extend past not minding that the other person’s leg touched yours throughout the movie you were watching. As I gingerly placed my head on her radiation burned skin, and tucked my body in close to her shrunken frame, I felt all backward. She was the one who was deathly ill – I should be comforting her. I felt selfish and silly. But I also felt relaxed, and safe. And for that little while, she was just my mom again, and not My Mom, Cancer Patient.
I nuzzled my daughter’s soft blonde hair and kissed her head.
“No,” I whispered. “Never too big for cuddles.”