“Is this it, Mom?”

Feeling like Mother of the Year, I reluctantly answered my sweet, yet apparently-I-like-to-forget-she’s-seventeen year old:  “Yep, pretty much.”

“But does it like, DO anything?”

“You mean other than being one of the world’s seven natural wonders?”

Clearly I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a seventeen year old girl.  Back in the day, if my mom had announced we were going to the Grand Canyon on Spring Break, I would have politely declined in favor of, I gotta practice my free throws, Mom.  Or watch paint dry.

To her credit, Liv is still very much appreciative of the last 5 days.  I tempered my excitement at the “big rocky thing that looks the same from all directions” as she shivered, threw an arm around her, smiled, and said…Ok, let’s roll.  You’ve officially been to the Grand Canyon.

I may not have had that kind of reaction if our drive there had not been its own debacle.  After leaving our hotel in beautiful Sedona we started the trek north, on a road which instantly causes you to wonder aloud if your affairs are in order.  About half-way there, it happens.  A gust of air and a lot of noise…

When we landed in Phoenix two days prior, I quickly realized it was going to take a lot of extra effort to make this trip fun for Liv.  The weather was better than Fort Wayne but hey, so is Antarctica’s lately.  It was not conducive, however, to anything which remotely resembled the possibility of her returning to school with a tan. 

So at the rental car counter, I asked if there were any convertibles available.  I’m all about multi-tasking.  We could have fun, rock out, AND she could catch some rays on the way to our destinations.  Big ‘ol Mother’s Day card that plays Christina Aguilera’s I Turn To You…here I come.

“We have convertible Camaro’s.”

Instantly transported back to circa 1989 prom:  “Perfect.”

(Actually I think it was a Trans Am with T-tops.  And this I only remember because it rendered the Aqua Net hair in danger of reaching neighboring states complete with the obligatory penny roll bangs a total wreck by the time we got there.)

After finding out that the upcharge was the equivalent of Liv’s first year college tuition, I opted instead for an even better choice: a soft top Jeep.  Much more me; much more we’re going to the Grand Canyon!

Ok, I’ve always wanted a Jeep but I may have seen the error of my ways even before leaving the underground parking garage at the Phoenix airport.  Not only is unzipping that thing very Middle-East in all its revelry (writer’s license, people; don’t hit me up with the anti-Semitic anything or I’ll send you Chels’ contact info and she’s a feisty Jew of a best friend) but it’s kind of like when you’re on a really cool road trip to nowhere, a sign appears, and instantly you scream, “Hey!  Let’s go to L.A.!”  only to be bored and tired two exits later.  Brilliant in theory; total time suck in practice.

It was too chilly to go open air on the drive to the Canyon.  My unbelievably gracious, hospitable, and forever friend with whom we’re staying in Scottsdale had put everything back together like a neat little puzzle.  Except half-way there, it decides to come undone. 

“Grab that thing, Liv!  Before it flies away and starts rolling around like those desert cacti!”

The entire thing looked as if it was going to be uprooted like a mighty oak and land in Kansas next to some red shoes and a scarecrow.

“Mom!  I can’t hold onto this thing any longer!  My arm hurts!”

Part of me wanted to bust out in hysteria; the other part still wanted the giant Mother’s Day card next month and knew better.

“Just pull over,” Liv begged, her arm in danger of being numb, limp or possibly amputated.

Literally, both sides of the road looked exactly alike:  nothing but nothing and desolation surrounded by beautiful mountains far off in the distance.

“Ok, got it,” I proudly announce mid turn. 

And then I see it.

One pickup truck containing two heads roughly 20 feet away.  My stomach sank.  And we all know how I excel at trusting my gut in ALL situations. 

“Mom, are you re-zipping that thing or something?”  “Wait.  Why is that look on your face?”

Sometimes I tell Liv too much; other times, not enough.  The joys of parenting.  Toughest job I (and other parents, I’m sure) have ever loved.

“Just got some dust in my eye, sweets.  No worries.”

Well, other than the two still smoking shotgun slugs I stumbled upon while walking around to the passenger side of the Jeep.  It was a scene straight out of Breaking Bad sans the portable meth lab, but NOT sans those two drug cartel guys who had zero lines to rehearse.  Ever.

I love new experiences.  And as I shared with Liv on the drive back to red rock safety shortly thereafter, it’s about taking life in, learning from it, determining what you like and don’t like, deciding with whom you choose to do things (you preferably both like, but compromise lovingly if not), etc etc.  You know, the serious talky-talk quasi-lecture kind of thing that I’m sure was more about me trying to feel like a better mom than her actually listening since she knows everything anyway.

Here’s what I know:  fifteen years later, I am beyond thankful to be here to share these types of experiences with her.  There was a time when I thought she’d grow up without a Mom.  A time when I thought I would miss being there for her first lost tooth, her first heartbreak, and her first near death experience with a faulty Jeep on 89A in the middle of the desert. 

Without a bone marrow transplant, without the determination, perseverance, and knowledge of doctors, and without the support from scores of people that have their own unique experiences and stories, I wouldn’t be writing this. 

I’ve written numerous texts and emails this week as well.  Mostly back and forth to Olivia (as in, Valencic-Miller) cheering her on as she continues to wonder how things are going, if we’re on track, if this or that got done.  I remember all too well. 

We ARE on track, things ARE getting done, and she, along with 4 other candidates, is making a difference.

57 days until the gala.  Which means two things:  8 weeks left to donate and if anyone would like to stand next to me that night be forewarned:  Scottsdale has fantastic shopping and I may have purchased a pair of shoes which finally make the height on my high school basketball roster NOT an accidental typo.

Please consider helping the cause.  Donate, come to an event, come to the gala, or all of the above!

On behalf of parents of sick kids…sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, neighbors who have or have had sick loved ones…and cancer-surviving mothers of teenagers everywhere:  THANK YOU.

It matters.


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