Mom's Marijuana: Insights About Livingby Dan Shapiro
Dan Shapiro's mother was always an avid gardener who tortured her neighbors with excessive quantities of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. When Dan was twenty years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. Leaving Vassar to move home with his parents, he informed them that he'd learned marijuana would help him endure the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. His… See more details below
Dan Shapiro's mother was always an avid gardener who tortured her neighbors with excessive quantities of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. When Dan was twenty years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. Leaving Vassar to move home with his parents, he informed them that he'd learned marijuana would help him endure the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. His vehemently anti-drug mother was certain smoking dope would lead to his ruin. He argued. She countered. He gave up. Then suddenly she came around and gave him money to buy the pot he needed. But when he returned with the small Baggie, she was incredulous. She held out her hand and said, "Give me the seeds." Eleven-foot-high marijuana plants, at first coyly hidden by a row of sunflowers, soon towered over the backyard. It would be nine years before Dan, by then a parent himself, would fully understand the powerful forces behind his mother's decision to plant those seeds in her garden.
At times hilarious, but always intimate, honest, and luminous, Mom's Marijuana takes us from Dan's first diagnosis to his second relapse, to finally sustained, thriving health. Whether it's the decision to paint himself green to frighten his mother after radiation treatment, fighting to survive while surrendering to love with an oncology nurse, or learning the meaning of life and family from events once taken for granted, Dan Shapiro tells his story with a wit and grace that made him a favorite on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
Mom's Marijuana takes us on a literary skinny dip; exposed, cold, and raw, we're plunged into a compulsively, almost obsessively readable account of life with cancer andthe exuberant redemption of health. Mom's Marijuana shows us that it's when the pulse and rhythm of life are stirred violently that we're made to learn the beauty of multitudes, of finding what it is that makes us so brutally vulnerable, plain, and godly all at once.
- Crown Publishing Group
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.74(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.91(d)
Read an Excerpt
My parents always kept a small plot of land in the backyard as a garden. It was roughly the size of an average bedroom. Pretty small. But they hovered around that garden all spring and summer. They plowed, fertilized, hoed, mulched, and sampled the soil. They watered. They pinched leaves. At night they pointed to pictures in books and seed magazines, which eventually accumulated and took over the dining room.
And then, a few months later, there was a crop of something. Usually a crop of mutant something. One year it was zucchini. Thousands of zucchini crawled out of the garden as if cast in a late-night horror film. Neighbors came home to anonymous zucchini breads, pies, and cakes delicately balanced inside of screen doors or stuffed into mailboxes. Dad kept a huge zucchini next to his bed in case there were intruders.
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in April, the planting month. Dr. Brodsky talked with his arms crossed in front of him, listing the chemotherapy agents I would be taking and their side effects. Prednisone. Procarbazine. Nitrogen mustard. Vincristine. The latter two would cause nausea and vomiting. It sounded unpleasant.
A few nights before I was scheduled to start treatment, I called a friend, the only person my age I knew who'd had cancer. He muttered five gruff words into the phone: "Chemo's grim, man, get weed."
I trotted into the living room and nonchalantly announced to the family that I was going to buy marijuana to help with the nausea and vomiting.
There was an oppressive silence, punctuated only by the rapid tapping of my mother's finger on an armchair. Then she began, her voice carrying that staccato edge shegenerally reserved for my father. She told me in no uncertain terms that there would be no drugs in the house. She berated me about the dangers of illicit substances, the horrors that visit lives filled with addiction, and swore to me that her roof would never shelter a drug user. She ended her diatribe with an outstretched finger.
With the vigor of an adolescent with a cause, I argued back that for me, marijuana would be medicine, the only medicine that could temper the violent treatment I faced. That it wasn't addictive, and that my body would soon process toxins far more dangerous than marijuana. At the end of our conversation we were where we began. I knew my mother. Once she was entrenched in a position, argument was futile. I retreated.
I still wonder what happened to her during the night. Maybe she studied the pamphlets the doctors provided, maybe she woke up in a sweat, the remnants of noxious dreams about her son and chemotherapy still etched in her mind's eye. I don't know. But I do know this. The next morning my mother ran her finger down the "Smoke Shop" listings in the phone book. She called a number of establishments, asking detailed questions and jotting down words like bong, carb, and water pipe. Then she gathered her keys and purse, and thirty minutes later was walking down the aisles of a head shop called Stairway to Heaven, taking notes and carefully checking the merchandise for shoddy workmanship. My mother is a Consumer Reports shopper.
I was sitting on the ground in the backyard when my mother's car pulled into the driveway. A few moments later she appeared on the back porch waving a three-foot bong over her head. She proclaimed her find with the same robust voice she'd used for years to call my brother and me to dinner: "Is this one okay? They didn't have blue. . . ."
When I entered the house she delicately handed me the bong and some money. She brushed dust from my shoulder and softly told me to do whatever I needed to get the marijuana. After a quick phone call I left to make my purchase. When I returned with the small Baggie my mother asked to see it. I felt a sharp adolescent fear, conditioned from years of living under my mother's vigilant eyes. I handed it over. She looked into the small bag. Incredulous.
"Where's the rest of it?" she asked.
"That's it, Ma," I said. She squinted at me. "I swear, Ma. That's it."
She murmured quietly, "Honey, give me the seeds."
I thought of huge zucchinis.
When my father learned of my mother's plan he clipped two articles out of the paper with the titles "Police Raid Yields Results" and "Drug House Seized." He put them under a magnet on the refrigerator and underlined the worst parts. That night, as we prepared for dinner, Mom read them, nodded soberly, and said, "Bring them on."
That summer my parents plowed, fertilized, hoed, mulched, and sampled the soil. They watered. They pinched leaves. And that August the mutant crop arrived. Ten bushy plants grew over eleven feet tall in our backyard, eclipsing the sunflowers in front of them. Far more weed than I could have smoked in a lifetime.
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