Grit Your Teeth and Smile by Kate Twitchin

 “Whatever you do, don’t look down.” 

“As if.” 

“I mean it Gerry, don’t look down.” 

“Stop worrying about me and look after yourself.” 

“It’s just...” 

“What?” 

“I don’t want…” 

“I know. Come on, the sooner we start, the sooner it’ll be over.” 

He sighs and shakes his head, still not quite able to understand how it makes me feel and then he takes me in his arms, holding me, giving me strength. 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dread it. We’ve been together, what, eight years, so that’s three times a year for eight years: twenty-four times we’ve been through this, had the same conversation. I’m amazed he’s stuck around but, as he says, it’s only three times a year and, anyway, he enjoys the challenge. The challenge? He says he gets a kick out of facing it, enduring it; slapping on a grin, gritting his teeth and just getting on with it. For me, it’s been a lifelong battle that I’ve never won, always coming away despising myself for my weakness. 

When I was maybe seven or eight, my mother told me I should always have a smile on my face, otherwise I was plain. When I suffered teenage mood swings, doubts and anxieties, she told me I must never show my feelings. 

“Nobody likes a misery guts,” she said. 

When I lost my first baby, and my second and my third, she told me to cheer up, there are folks far worse off than me. 

So, today, when we tell her our news, my news, about the cancer, we’ll be sure not to look down because the last thing we need right now is her telling us how nobody likes a mardy bum.

Published in Issue #22

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