This past Spring: 12:56pm. I was eating lunch at work.  Steve called me.  Huh, he is up early from his post red-eye nap.



What's up?

Joanna, my mom has cancer.

Warmth rushed through my body.

I was stunned. 

You know how there are events in your life that you will always remember that exact moment?  This was one of those moments. 

Yes, I knew she had a biopsy done.  Yes, I knew she had monoclonal gammopathy.  Yes, I knew she had a spot on her jaw that was giving her pain.  Yes, I knew the spot was "gel like" and something the oral surgeon hadn't seen before. 

But, cancer?  I never expected it.  Multiple myeloma to be exact.  A cancer of the blood plasma, which is formed in the bone marrow.

My Mother-in-law went through a 12-week course of oral chemotherapy from Spring into Summer.  She then went through a stem-cell transfer, with a huge dose of chemotherapy in mid-August.  She just returned home after a 4-week stay in the hospital.  Our life, as of late, has been revolving around my Mother-in-law...her treatment, and her road to recovery.  Steve, as of late, has been caring for his Mother, along with his Sister, Father, and a number of remarkable friends. 

During these last number of weeks Steve would work his line, come home for a night, and then head to the hospital 2 1/2 hours away to be with his Mom for the next number of days.  He would get home with a day or so before his next trip, spend a bit of time at home, and then fly out again. 

My role since mid-August has been to keep our house running so that Steve was free to be with his Mother.  This meant that I was caring for the kids on what seemed like a non-stop basis, all the while working and maintaining the house and activities.  There is no question that since I am so used to running the house on my own it was very easy for me to say "go be with your mom...I got this!" because I have enough practice at it.  Plus, I felt like this was my way of contributing to this whole equation since I wasn't going to the hospital.  I know that Steve didn't have much concern for me, since his absence was just an extension of our usual life, and this allowed him to focus on his Mom and not us.  Of course there were times when I was wearing thin, but after a little self medication and phone calls to talk things out with my Mom, I was just fine.

self-medication malbec is my favorite!

And then it dawned on me one day while driving home from work: Steve's duty, as of late, was to care for his Mom when she was in the hospital.  During that time, it was my duty to keep house and home.  I made sure that laundry was always caught up so that Steve could pack in a second.  I always made sure the house was cleaned when he got home, especially since his time at home was so limited.  I made sure there was beer in the fridge so he could blow off some steam when he was home. 

welcome home, honey
don't worry, some of those are mine too

If there was ever a time that I would get upset, especially during the wearing thin moments, I would bite my tongue and remind myself that I was contributing to this situation by keeping Steve's home life settled.  But, for the most part I was keep things settled at home, happily taking care of my work, the house and the kids...and I wasn't coping an attitude about anything.  As a matter of fact, I was encouraging Steve to go be with his Mom.  If Steve said "Joanna, I was thinking about going down..." I would butt-in and say "whatever you have to do!"  Never once did I make Steve feel guilty about being away so much.  As a matter of fact, I even kept things from him to not add any stress/concern into his already full days (like when Ben was having an issues on the school bus with kids that weren't friendly to him).  I was trying hard, and mostly succeeding, at doing a good job at keeping home settled. 

And here is the "ah-ha" moment...but, why is it that when Steve is on a trip doing his duty of earning money for this family, I don't always share the same pleasant attitude?  See where I am headed with this?

According to Google, the definition of duty is:
1. a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility.
2. a task or action that someone is required to perform.
When this thought came to me, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Why is it that when Steve was caring for his Mother I was helping him pack his bag and his car?  But, when he leaves for a trip I can be pissed about him leaving "yet again"?  That isn't fair, now is it?  Steve is only doing his duty as a son to care for his Mom...and as a father and husband, Steve's duty is to fly planes.  These two should be no different, but somehow I had a different attitude with them.
Now now, I do understand that these two things really are different since one involves a beloved Mother, and the other involves a job.  But, when I stepped back and looked at the broad picture of roles in life (Steve as a son, and Steve as a provider...Steve's duties in life) they really are very similar.
When Steve is gone on a trip, what do I get envious of?  Perhaps his eating out, and drinking beer, and having uninterrupted sleep....that is if he isn't on a reduced overnight with a douche Captain that is too worried about his Fox News than enjoying a decent overnight...but he was having all that when he was with his Mom.  She was resting a lot, so he had a lot of down time.  Some evenings he went out to eat. Other nights he would be quiet in a lounge reading books.  I never once got envious of his down time. 
It has been said in my work reviews, year after year, that my outlook may be a bit too rosy.  This is good for the office environment, and not always when it comes to client relationship (I work in financing for small businesses, and sometimes I need to be a bit more firm).  And the same can be said about the words that I just wrote...but, I like that I always have rosy thoughts...I like that I can always look at the silver lining of dark clouds.  (The Optimistic Pilot Wife) And with the silver lining that I found to the recent dark clouds in our life, I pass it along to other pilot wives...
When your pilot leaves for his next trip, send him off with big hugs and kisses.  He doesn't like being away from you.  And he downright hates being away from the kids. 
saying goodbye is never easy
Remember that he is leaving because it is his duty as a husband and father to earn money.  He isn't leaving because he wants to, he is leaving because he has to.

When he is hard at work fulfilling his duty, make sure you fulfill your duty at home so that when he does get home your world is a settled and happy place.  And when he comes home after a long 4-day, greet him with another big hug.  He has missed you and the kids. 



  1. Thanks for the reminder Joanna. I do tend to get mad at him when he is leaving. One of the things that makes me angry is when he is getting ready for work so he can't help the kids get ready in the morning because he has to be on time. I, on the other hand, am always late for work because I have to get the kids ready and to school. I guess I need to just let it go and get it done. I also need to work on giving him a nice good bye when I'm so frustrated in the morning.
    I hope Steve's mom is okay. I will be praying for all of you.

    1. The same thing happened in our house this morning! He got himself ready with no consideration of me and the kids. Frustrating for sure, but since he is home so little in the morning like that I just bite my tongue and keep on going :)

  2. Thank you for this! Love those "A-ha" moments that can really change your attitude. Thinking of you all during this stressful time.

    1. Thank you. Things have calmed down considerably, and we are nearly back to normal.


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