From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Mom and the Menopause Booth

A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take.

Cardinal Mermillod

To promote my first book about menopause, I attended a women’s show in St. Louis. Unfortunately, the frigid February winds turned the expected throng of attendees into a trickle, and a major snowstorm closed the show a day early. The weekend could have been considered a dud, but it became one of my better memories, because I shared that weekend with my mom.

Under normal circumstances, one of my sisters would have accompanied me on a trip like this, but Sister One was out of town on a work assignment, and Sister Two had two small sons who needed her at home. My hubby offered to come, but the thought of a man at a women’s gathering—in a menopause booth—wasn’t too practical. Several of my girlfriends said they would go, but spending a weekend with friends is a good way to lose friends, so that was out, too.

Mom had also volunteered to come with me. In fact, she had been the first to volunteer, but I was afraid her arthritis would make navigating the huge St. Louis Convention Center nearly impossible. She insisted. So we loaded her wheelchair into the van next to a dozen boxes of books, and headed east to St. Louis.

Some women may shudder at the thought of spending a weekend with their mom, but not me. My mom has always been one of my best buddies. I looked forward to spending time with her. In 1999, Mom found a lump in her breast that turned out to be malignant. The doctor thought surgery had removed the cancer, but in 2002 we learned it had returned. Although it was a very slow growing cancer, it had metastasized to Mom’s liver and lungs. So you understand why I cherish every moment I can spend her.

Besides that,Mom’s a hoot. Everyone loves her. Vendors in nearby booths were soon calling her “Mom” and stopping by to chat. When the crowd was slow, Mom would head off in her wheelchair, foot-powered like Fred Flintstone. She’d return twenty minutes later with a lap full of vendor freebies—booklets, pens, bottled water, toiletry samples, munchies, plastic sacks, and even a clock! Our customers loved Mom, too. Although it was blustery outside, one lady passed the booth with beads of sweat literally rolling off her forehead. “Hot flash?” Mom asked, extending a box of pink tissues to the woman. The woman swabbed her face. “Even my hair is wet,” she moaned, fluffing the moist hair along her hairline. “Here, honey. I’ll give you the whole box if you buy one of my daughter’s books.” The sweaty lady bought two and left our booth dabbing happy-tears and a drippy forehead with her newly acquired box of pink tissues.

The women who really connected with my mom were the ones who wanted to talk about hormones and breast cancer. Mom wanted to learn about their cancer experiences. At those times, she wasn’t merely my mother; she was a woman with a need to learn more about the frightening invader in her body.

It’s been three years since our St. Louis excursion. Mom’s cancer has slowly spread into her bones and brain, but she’s spunky as ever. We often reminisce about our St. Louis excursion: How we giggled at the woman who bragged she had never had even one menopausal symptom, apparently unaware of the forest of curly hairs dangling from her chin! How we backed off and raised eyebrows when grumpy women vehemently denied they were menopausal. Of course, it didn’t help that their friends nudged them in the ribs, pointed to our booth and said, “That’s what you need—a book about menopause. Har-har!”

Mom still chuckles about the lady who swung around suddenly, flipping her blonde wig off her head and onto the floor! The gal scooped it up, plopped it back over her messy mop of real hair, and waltzed off like nothing happened. Back in the hotel room after a ten-hour day, Mom and I propped ourselves up in our queen-sized beds and ate popcorn and leftover Italian food and talked. We didn’t sleep much, though, because neither of us could muffle the other’s snoring, even with earplugs!

Without a doubt, that was a wild and crazy weekend, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I will always cherish those memories of Mom with me at the menopause booth.

Donna Rogers

EDITOR’S NOTE: Donna’s mother, Mary DeShon, passed away peacefully on December 4, 2006. She was seventy-five years young. Mary was excited that Donna had submitted “their” menopausal story, and even though she would never see it in print, Mary was extremely proud of her daughter.

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