Life is a Beach Cake

Right now I am at the beginning of one of the hardest parts of the business of family.  Saying good-bye.

Just under 3 weeks ago my husband called a family meeting when he got back from class.  I was already in bed, my elder daughter was in another state and the younger one had been online and needed a moment to disengage.  Facetime engaged and all of us present, he told us that his mother had asked him to swing by after class to tell him something.  She had a mass on her pancreas and was going in for a biopsy immediately.

At that point we still had a lot of hope.  It could be benign.  It could be an abnormal growth that triggered her newly diagnosed diabetes.  There were possibilities.  Not endless ones, but some. We planned to bring the daughter back to Texas for a family beach trip that had been planned a little while ago, which now seemed much more important.

The next day my husband went with his mother and father to the hospital for the biopsy.  My daughter and I met them there. They can’t tell you there that it is cancer, but they can and did say there were growths on the liver, colon and glands and that the one on the liver was easier to reach so they would take the tissue sample from there.  We aren’t dumb.  We knew that meant it was cancer and that it had metastasized. A lot.

My mother in law did not want to call her other son who lived out of town.  This is the kind of news you want to deliver in person.  She didn’t want to interupt his and his wife’s day with this news.  But how do you not.  How do you tell them at the family beach vacation?  How do you make this choice?  Can’t we just not?  After all her parents lived into their 80s.  She called.  It was a speaker phone call with two folks conferenced in.  Sometimes the person talking ran out of words, or the tears were too much, so someone else took over.  To this point it is the worst phone call of my life and I have had some doozies.

Eventually there was nothing left to say and the nurse came in to begin the discharge process.  We dispersed to begin the process of processing the hole that had just opened up in front of us.  No little boys spending long weekends with Grandmama.  No Grandmother helping you plan your wedding.  No mother to cook for.  No wife.

Google is not your friend in these situations.  It brings no good news.  It gives percentage of those who get to host 5 more Thanksgivings.  Not what you want to read.  There are supposed to be 20 more, not a 30% chance of 5.  You rationalize that 5 years will allow all her grandchildren to remember her, but the obnoxious voice of logic says those numbers are for patients whose cancer is caught early.

They said 5-7 days for results.  Appointment on Tuesday.

We all went to the beach.  That was how we started to prepare;  making new memories as a family. We had a house with 2 grandparents, one aunt, two sons and their wives, and 5 grandchildren.  It was quite a rocking beach party:  drip castles, beach walking, wave breaking, fired up grill, beach buggy driving, beach cake (see picture above, photo credit to Chris Casey), fajitas, cuddle puddles, and pumpkin carving.  We have a ways to go in this journey, but I think we started it off on the right foot.

burying-at-the-beach

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Being the Boss’ Kid

There is hardly a member of my immediate family I have not done business with.  I started working for my mother as a child.  Her business was a printing and copying company.  She was opening a new shop in Lubbock, Texas and I was employed as a leaflet distributor, passing out information about the services provided to flatlanders.  That was the first time, but not the last.

Each leaflet I handed out had a value to it.  Each one that came into the store increased my pay.  I am sure part of the reason I was given this job was to keep me out from underfoot.  Additionally it was something that needed to be done, and one thing a printshop has in abundance is paper and ink.  More fliers could be xeroxed as needed.  It was not work that appealed to me.  I was not inherently suited to it.  While I always could talk to anyone if there was something interesting on offer, I didn’t think the new store was all that interesting.  I grew up in them.  They were as common place to me as bologna & cheese sandwiches.

I passed the first 100 or so out with something like enthusiasm.  But the task soon lost its appeal.  I continued to try to pass them out but my dwindling enthusiasm led to fewer people taking the papers as I was no longer a cute toe headed little girl, but rather a churlish child.  I wasn’t supposed to come back to the store until I had given away all the information pages to potential clients.  I had to have empty hands.  Eventually I had had enough.  I wanted to go back into the air conditioned shop instead of walking from building to building passing out “stupid paper.” A grand plan came to me: put a stack in the elevator of one of the office buildings, substantially reducing my pile.  Then I passed out what was left and went back to the shop with a bit of a spring in my step.

I collected my pay and went on my way.  I am sure you know what happened next.  Someone came into the shop with the pile I had left in the elevator.  I don’t remember my mother being angry.  I just remember that I had to pay back double what I had received and pass out another stack the next day.

As a mother, I am sure Mom was more than a bit miffed at me.  No one can frustrate a parent more than their child willfully circumventing the rules.  However in that situation she wasn’t in the role of parent.  She was my boss and she treated me as she would a different child doing piece work.  I wasn’t treated better or worse because of my relationship to the boss.  That is key to working with your family.  They shouldn’t get special treatment or be held to twice as high a standard.  If you want to work with family, this is one of the big rocks on the road to doing it well.  To quote Home Depot, you can do it, we can help.  Schedule a 30 minute breakthrough session today.

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(blog image is from The Flyer Guys Marketing, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)