I Know.

I know what you’re thinking…

You’re thinking dark things to yourself now…like:

how all of those people in your past, the ones you helped nurse through to recovery from breast cancer, colon cancer, even a brain tumor; they’ve all gotten well and forgotten about you, when you needed those kindly offered favors returned. Oh Mama, how well I perceive how you feel.

You’re thinking about all the years that you poured out of yourself into others who are long dead already; you’re thinking about how short your end of the stick turned out to be; you’re thinking that you’ve been conquered by the things that other people do or say…or don’t do or say; you think it’s time to resign and become this helpless refugee who can’t find the motivation in your brain to keep your body moving your bones.

I’m thinking about how strong your spirit is when I look down onto your drawn face and seek out any flicker of light within those sunken eyes; I’m thinking back onto my youngest recollections of you: a beautiful woman in a skirt and pantyhose, wrenching at a flat tire on the freeway shoulder – not giving a fuck. I’m thinking about how much you have gone through in your hard lifetime already, even before Cancer pirated your body and brain; before your partner abandoned you and you became homeless…and, when I think about these things, I can barely breathe. I’m thinking about how you have the right to decide when you’re too tired to fight this bullshit life any longer, to “throw in the towel” as you said this morning to my nodding head and tear-streaked face. I’m thinking about so many things that make me feel as if I’m being strong-armed by some invisible being, robbed and stripped of my medals and badges.

You’re thinking it’s time to go; I’m thinking how much I hate the fact that I understand how you feel, completely.

Mama, you are not helpless, you could never be that; you’re not built that way…but you can be tired; you can be forlorn; just don’t be gone too soon.

Sinking.


“Don’t go out anywhere tomorrow…it’s supposed to rain enough to flood up in the mountains all day, a storm’s comin’ down tomorrow, put off whatever you gotta do until Friday, Hon; we’re planning to stay in and hole up for the day, ourselves.”

Those were the words my mama said to me (the “we” referring to my stepdad and her) as we parted ways on Wednesday afternoon. A storm came down, alright.

Yesterday was the very first day since my mom was diagnosed with cancer that I actually let her be the whole day, thinking she was snuggled in a blanket at home, watching reruns of Bonanza…I got the call at 8pm last night, mom was being taken via ambulance from her house to the hospital; she was unresponsive and burning up. My stepdad thought she was sleeping all day (he likely slept in the TV room in his recliner most of the day as well, as he has been exhausted in every way by everything just as much as any of us)…I don’t know exactly how it all went down but the summary is that by the time her found her essentially unresponsive and incoherent, her fever had likely already caused brain damage, at 104 degrees.

When I arrived at the hospital and saw her, I was overcome with so many different feelings of dread and guilt and disbelief and pity and mercy and various others, too. I have never seen my mama anywhere near so ill, so lost and childlike, scared…I don’t think I have ever seen my mom scared like that before, nor even imagined that she was capable of such fearfulness. My mama has a combative spirit; she is a Taurus; she is the spazz drummer of the band, she is strong-willed and hard-headed…I’ve seen her scrap in the street, I’ve seen her drunk and high, I have seen her in the grips of schizophrenic delusions and paranoia, I have seen her through each and every one of her 6 joint replacement surgeries (and the subsequent recoveries, more notably)…but last night…

It was as if I walked to into a nightmare straight from the warped perceptions of my childhood subconscious; she was so hot to the touch; at one point, she was trying to leave the bed over and over. Once she somewhat came around the first time, she was very angry and completely confused. She couldn’t focus her eyes but she never blinked either; she just stared at the ceiling with her arms crossed, shivering and mumbling things I couldn’t make out. Finally, they had to give her Haldol because she was becoming so out of control in her fever’s rage; eventually they got her to sleep and her fever went down. But the aftermath of that shit has a long life and she hasn’t been able to swim back to the surface like she would have under better circumstances i.e. without the fever’s toll on her brain and the presence of terminal cancer, to name a couple. Upon her transfer to her own hospital however, her BP dropped suddenly and they still haven’t gotten it up without heavy medication. Since her arrival to the ICU, it has been one issue after another with her body and its ability to fight this off, not to mention, her inability to understand what is happening and in turn, the anger and fearfulness. They aren’t sure of the level of damage her brain has endured during the fever and the effects of the drugs they have given he, everything is really touch and go still, she is not well though, she barely hanging in, just barely.

Eye-rony.

Wow, the irony in everything is just overwhelming to me at the moment…

I cancelled our Christmas reservation in the cozy Gold Country B&B yesterday; needless to say, my original plan to go with or without anyone else has fizzled into a memory from a time when the world looked and felt quite different; what was that, like two weeks ago or something? We had both been so looking forward to the trip, too…the very FIRST thing we ever planned together…surely the last one, too…

Mom says we’ll go in the springtime; I smile at her and wink from across the room. I smile and nod a lot to her agreeably, in spite of the tears stinging behind my eyes constantly and unrelentingly. I honestly look like I’ve aged like 10 years in the past week, and don’t give two fucks about it.

So, here’s my newest tangle within myself:

My readers know I have issues…with my Mama, myself, and the past. With her being given a death sentence and failing so suddenly and totally, obviously those issues have begun to kick for the surface. I am trying to remain realistic about things, and have accepted the fact that this is going to leave me with some newborn causes for sessions with the over-caffeinated tree squirrel, regardless of how it all actually unfolds.

Historically speaking, my mother is impossible to please, truly she is…I’ve written about it before. She is NEVER satisfied with the job I’ve done at anything, there’s always something I left off or did incorrectly. Willow gives away little affection, and what she gives, comes guardedly and with strings attached. So, since she has been diagnosed and had to begin treatments and all sorts of degrading and invasive medical procedures, there has not been a single instance in which she has even seemed remotely satisfied with anything I’m doing; be it the way I pilot her wheelchair around the hospital, the way I wash her laundry, the way I pack her bag in the morning, or even how I tie her shoes. It’s been a lot of instances with me trying my best to make her as comfortable as humanly possible, and her being absolutely miserable no matter what I do. I do realize she is in a very bad place, and not much will give her any joy or happiness, per se, but that doesn’t make the fact that I can’t even make her smile bear any less weight on my heavy heart.

The cough:

The coughing is literally non-stop right now; and, please do trust me when I say that I fully understand that this element is NOT harder on ANYBODY than her; she has spent the past two weeks solid in gasping for breath and panicking when it won’t come. Does anyone reading this have the slightest clue what it is like to watch your Mama suffocate from the inside before your very eyes – – – all day, every day – all night, every night? It is sheer terror in its own right, such an absolutely helpless and resigned emotion has crawled into my lap for a while, I guess…

People have said nothing but supportive things to me like,

 

“Spend as much quality time as you can with her…”,

 

or

 

“Tell her whatever you feel it’s important she knows before it is too late…”

 

The problem with this wise theory in our circumstance, however, is that she can’t speak anymore because of the gods damned cough; and she can’t hear anything I say to her over the awful fits of coughing, either. I haven’t been able to communicate anything to her on that level so far….they say the treatment will help to shrink the mass and her cough will get better; that she will get some relief from the chemo, gods willing. But in the meantime, it’s been horrendously difficult all the way around.

Yesterday, I became so irritated that almost smoked a cigarette while she was here at my house. She left this morning with my aunt (her sister, who is a yuppie, and barely found time for my mom even when she was still healthy) for chemo. I have been with her at the hospital every day since last Wednesday, and felt like if I went one more time without a break, I would end up being unfair and out-of-line to my poor mom out of the monotonous irritability that has built up. 8 hours at a time of chemo every day is hardcore, I’m told. I apologized to her last night while we ate dinner for being such a snippy bitch yesterday (I almost want to say that I am having mood swings lately, as the snippiness can seem to just appear out of nowhere with me) and I explained to her that it ISN’T her or anything she’s doing…she understood. She understands, she told me with her eyes – she’s been telling me a lot with her eyes lately, a connection I wasn’t even aware that she and I have until the fucked up event of her terminal cancer.

 

 

Glow.

They are displaying some Doppler radar effect on a screen that details my mother’s body in infra-red 3-D; scrolling up and around and through the entire scan of her body, head to toe. What we are looking for is yellow, that’s the injected dye glowing somewhere it shouldn’t be…the yellow equals my mom’s cancer having the fucking nerve to glow.

Mom’s liver? Clear.

Mom’s kidneys? Clear.

Mom’s Spine? Clear

Mom’s Brain? Clear.

For today, at least, we saw very few yellow patches or spots, which was almost a relief until the scrolling stopped and began to pan from various angles on an area that just about matched the size and mass of my mom’s head – but it is in her chest. Not only is this hideously obese, cancerous mass of death invading my mom’s lungs and vessels, but get this: the fuckin thing has actually wrapped itself around her fucking heart; “like a claw”, as her oncologist so eloquently put it. She starts chemo and radiation tomorrow, simply to be able to get enough relief to breathe a little. She has declined so quickly in the past weeks, it’s crazy. It suddenly and instantaneously made sense to me, watching that thing pulse and glow and suck the very life from my mama’s heart and breaths, why she has been so exhausted for six months…why she has been shriveling away to skin and bones, why she spent weeks in a row one time, not long ago, without being able to keep A THING down…her cough…she coughs from her toes, so hard for so long, she can’t breathe, she’s been working full-time til just a few days ago…I took her remaining packs of cigarettes with me when I left her for the night tonight, she didn’t argue with me. She told me over dinner tonight that she feels like if she quit now and died in a week from now, it would be worth it in order to die a non-smoker. This was poignant as hell in the moment because my mama is never coming out of these woods alive, and we both know that. I will never smoke one around her again or even let her smell it on me…I feel closer to wanting to quit smoking than I can ever recall having been since I started when I was 13…

On a physical level, my mother has always been an exceptional specimen. Her physical strength has always been impressive to me (she used to move furniture “cross-country”), her stamina on the job is unmatched, she is a hard worker. Was a hard worker, she worked up until pretty much the day she literally couldn’t. I just want her to be able to get some air for a while, she suffers so and it’s tough – it exhausts her and has made her irritable most of the time anymore, understandably. She’s so frail…so thin and fragile and childlike; but she’s also still my mother beneath it all…which is a reality that is becoming more surreal by the day.

Inner-Boxing Matches.

Today I had brand new sensation come over me – brand spanking new; never been tickled in the brain by such a notion before in my whole adult (or child) Life. It was a fleeting notion; something that my conscious mind won’t allow any room for in any other context besides that of “in one side, out the other”. And anyway, it was simply and purely a piece of a much bigger thought process belonging to me at the present time, so I’m not going to make a big deal out of it…

 

With all that is happening so swiftly within my existence:

 

Watching my mom die this way;

Being mentally toyed with by those of the douche-bag line;

Finding out a handful of ugly and painful truths relating to a recently re-surfaced (due to my mom’s diagnosis) family member;

A massive fuckton of sheer anxiety in raw form;

Sadness, deep and inconsolable sadness;

 

I just had the thought very briefly, earlier, while swimming in the torturously cold open Pacific Ocean in a pocket of time all by myself, way out beyond the breakers where it’s hard to find the threshold between sea and sky…

 

Maybe I should just swim out beyond the point of return, and exhaust myself until I sink…

 

 

“Anticipatory Grief”.

Well, I almost made it the entire day without falling apart at some point. I made it to around 11pm at least, before disintegrating into the blubbering, snot-nosed train-wreck I’ve been so often lately…it’s crazy.

For a while today, watching movies with my mama, doing her hair, listening to her snore while she dozed…I almost forgot at times, if you can believe that…and then, it’s like a forcefully painful chop to the throat when I realize something random like how she’ll most likely never see another decorated Christmas tree after this holiday. Or, the newfound inability to delete the hundreds of voicemails I’ve accumulated from her on my current phone, no matter how insignificant. I just want to breathe any Life I have into her; it’s so intense: these feelings that I harbor of protectiveness and defeat all wrapped into one big, ball of sheer grief-stricken idleness.

Stupidness.

Aimless.

Sadness.

“Anticipatory Grief”, that’s the label they’ve given to what I am currently experiencing…

but it’s label makes no difference to me or anyone else, some fancy surname or amendment changes nothing about the bottomless depths of grief’s sadness.

Life-Darkening.

I recall quite vividly, being thirteen years old and enduring the sudden and shocking reality check of having lost my primary (up to that point, more or less) parent to a massive heart attack that struck him dead instantaneously, thinking to myself things like,

I wish perhaps he could’ve had an illness or something instead of the instant death, selfishly, so that I might have had the time to make amends to him…

 

The amends I was referring to, were for the “tween-aged” shit-headedness that had reared its ugly head during the months leading up to my Dad’s death; a nose ring, big, rock-hard bangs that looked like some tidal wave in my hair, etc.

Anyway, I now can say with certainty that I would not have wanted that for him at all, in spite of the robbery that such a tragic and sudden death of a parent becomes to a young person, I am very grateful that he went quickly and without the suffering that my mom is looking at, and in many ways is already undertaking. When my grandma died, it tolled terribly on my mother, and still does to date – she has never been the same as she was prior to my grandma’s passing. She stopped eating, sleeping, keeping a healthy schedule for herself quickly and completely became a thing of her past, she even wore my grandma’s old lady clothes around as do some widows and widowers. She was altered deeply by the loss of her mother for good. I remember one time as we sat together and she described her sorrow to me, she turned to me at one point and said something along the lines of,

“With my Mom being dead, sometimes, I wish I was dead, too…”

 

It had been that very statement that opened my eyes to the depths of grief and loss she was experiencing. She had lost the remaining twinkle from her eyes, she felt like the world was an uglier, less satisfying place that matched her dwindling existence. Lately, as in like the past six months or so, she has been wrapping up her loose ends to the best of her increasingly limited ability; she has said things to me that represented goodbyes in variously subtle ways; she makes comments about how she probably doesn’t have that much longer left on this Earth, or how she has had a good run. I never took her too seriously, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even begin to entertain such an idea as losing her so soon…I feel like I just got her and have been getting my mom, little by little. As the cards fall, in reality, I have, since those recent sugar-coated conversations with my “healthy mom”, been forced to swallow her mortality whole.

I have been with her every possible moment since we found out she is dying. She is much further along than the original consult suggested; we will find out exactly how much worse it is on Wednesday. She is resigned, I can tell. She actually apologized to me “for dying like this”, which was a heartbreakingly raw moment between us as well. She is in shock, I think, to be honest. She has a warrior’s game face and the pain thresh-hold of an elephant on peyote. But, she has to be in shock…anyone would be – whether she had a notion or not. She sees the child in my face these past few days as we interact, she says. She says she recognizes the terror and helplessness there when I don’t know she’s watching me, but she is.

She called me up the other night (Friday or Saturday – my days are all running together) to say,

“I don’t want you to mourn me like I mourned my mom, Honey…I know it sounds weird, but, I think that’s when I started to die, really; of sadness and loss…I don’t want that for you, babe…I don’t want that at all. I want for you to try and find a way to accept this and be at peace with this, somehow, will you do that for me?…Will you try?”

 I wasn’t prepared for this to be so painful and life-darkening at all.