Surreality.

Every day I see people who knew you in life, sometimes running into them for the first time in decades; and, they inevitably ask about you as if they expect to find out that you’ve moved away to Canada, like you always threatened to do. The news of your short battle and premature death unfailingly drops jaws all the way around, and I regularly find myself in the position of having to firmly convince someone that you are dead and gone: a highly dissatisfying instance for me.
At least once a month I see a dress or a couch or a set of dishes that oozes your still lingering essence, and this essence permeates my existence for some time – maybe an hour; maybe a day…and as much as it stirs the burn of the embers inside the firepit called Pain, I greedily and secretly lean into the heat because it’s the only way I feel like I still know my Mom. Like I still have my Mom.
Every single night I walk my dog down the street your house is on. Although somebody else lives there and its appearance has been drastically altered since you died, I sometimes see your faint ghost on the front porch doing a crossword puzzle. I see your ghost watering the lawn too, or occasionally it even excitedly waves a hand at me from across Camden Avenue in the darkness.
I catch myself more frequently spitting out random statements and sayings that were always unique to you, alone.
Things like,

“In like Flynn.”

Or I sing stupid bits if stupid songs like,

“Here we come,
on the run,
like a hamburger on a bun.”
Or,
“Jonathan Joe had a mouth like an O”

I know its really you speaking in my voice, but I wonder what any of it means.

I often thank the Gods that you and I were able to at least scratch the surface of our reciprocal amendments to each other before you died so horribly fast and miserably. I’m continually thankful that I was able to thoroughly explain myself to you after all was said and done between us, but before your brain got so full of metastatic tumors that you were unable to comprehend me. I’m ever thankful that your passing wasn’t during any of our many former years apart, and that I was there to hold your hand when you asked me to be, because I can vividly remember that you were afraid, truly afraid. You never lost face though, you remain a bonebreakingly strong idol of my candlelit shrine. And no matter what else life throws at me, I will meet my last day on Earth with your smile on my face and your strength in my bloodstream. And, while your death killed off parts of me and stole any comfort I knew in the big, bad world, I haven’t let it burden me.
Though, I still bitterly wish we could have had Christmas in Sutter Creek, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Every single day passes with a strangling sense of your absence. And some days, I find you staring back at me from a mirror or the reflection from a storefront window as I pass. The tiniest and subtlest bits of your essence still trickle from the hole that losing you that way has left in my heart.

The Wrapping Up of Such Sadness.

It’s been 16 long and theiving months of it all; and now that it’s over and my mama has passed away, it feels like a dream: halfway surreal and traumatic, and halfway a street that’s enveloped by fog too thick to navigate.

It’s over.

It’s over.

All I can say is that it’s over.

..and the torment is wrapped up. My mama has lost the fight.

Futile. 

I’ve never felt so alone.
And, Ive spent my life feeling alone.
…didn’t know this kind of alone was even possible.

Pins and Needles.

My fingertips are pins and needles,
That tuck the hospital corners of your world,
and smooth the blankets of your mind,
It’s chaos, come to adjust the pillows ’round your heart,
Anxiety, come to massage your broken hands,
See my sparkling, salt encrusted crown of worry,
Ever thickening with hardness,
Never weakening with softness,
My fingertips are ten tiny doorways,
That seek you out, thus desperately
It’s a welcome party sporting shotguns,
It’s death, come to holler in the deafened ears,
Life, come to go away again,
See my hate-infused senses trying so hard to love,
Ever faltering with drunkenness,
Ever drinking in this emptiness.

The End.

My mom seemed a little “off” on Thanksgiving…maybe a little more tired than most other times I’d seen her recently. She’d been doing the withdrawal thing for some time leading up to that night…resigning herself to the death that has been chasing her since this time last year. Her spark had been low and she didn’t eat much on Turkey Day. That was the last time I saw my mom.

She must’ve had the stroke sometime after we all left her for the night…
Now, she just lays in her bed at the hospital, no signs of life besides her breathing. She sometimes responds to a question or comment, but mostly, she just lies there starring at a spot on the ceiling.

She has a low-grade fever every night, further damaging what brain cells that have managed to spare themselves from destruction throughout everything. The doctors say that the stroke was caused by her brain mets (her most recent PET scan showed several very small tumors in the frontal lobe above her eyes); they say that is the root cause of the lasting delirium and confusion also.

The full sentences that she manages to get out make no sense at all and range from topics like horse racing to stigmata (not a single topic being anything familiar or realistic). Sometime during the first week of this hospitalization, she blurted out pretty loudly and clearly

“I don’t wanna be part of this two-bit town!”

She also has a recurring theme of horses and sweeping out the garbage into a trash bag or sometimes into a pile, depending on who she is talking to. My Grandma Joey is “visiting her” regularly, despite the fact that my Grandma has been dead for almost 6 years now. My great grandma T left the reservation to come lay hands on my mom (an ominous act if ever there was one), but my mother didn’t recognize her and became agitated and uncomfortable with the presence of my Uncle Horse.

This goes on since the morning  after Turkey Day…no change for better or worse although I can read between the lines that this is likely the wrap up for the bitter end of my mom’s fight with Cancer.

Clingy.

When you aren’t available, the world feels hollow.
I can only pray to nobody and nothing that you haven’t left me behind yet.
After all these years, no grip of mine is tighter than this desperate clinging to you.

Daily Disillusions. One.

Some of my longtime readers may recall how, throughout the lifetime of my blog, I’ve described the very deep-seated issues surrounding my long tattered relationship with my mama; things that stemmed from early childhood and only snowballed throughout my life until I was an adult and became estranged from her on my own terms for a time. Some might recall the ways in which I was openly struggling with the actual severing of ties between her and me due to her direct and quite unhealthy ties to my own daughter in the months prior to her diagnosis. The cruelly finite death sentence of late stage lung cancer that was handed down to her early last December quickly changed my life’s direction, and before I knew it, I became her main (if not her only) confidant, caretaker, nurse and administrative assistant/scheduler.

I can’t believe she has survived so long…at least not when compared to the very short time that was originally laid out in her prognosis, not to mention the very close brush with sudden death she initially undertook on the trail of her first chemo via febrile pneumonia and neutropenia that landed her in the ICU for several weeks. At that point, she was recovering from the dip in her white blood cells that had left her open like a sitting duck for the infections that literally almost killed her in the beginning of her “treatment”, and wanted to spend Christmas at my Aunt and Uncle’s house with our family. Given the circumstances, I was certain that last year would be her final holiday season alive, so I killed myself emotionally and financially to make her holiday as close to perfect as possible.

It was also during that period of time that her husband of 40 years, my long-time father figure, abandoned my mama completely in the face of her illness and impending death. She never went back home again, as her husband repeatedly failed to clear out the presence of my daughter and her disgusting friends from the house.

Some of my readers might recall how I had been struggling for several years with my parents over their unwavering loyalty (to the point of sheer stupidity) to my absolutely sociopathic and parasitic offspring – and the undeniable affect that such loyalties would inevitably leave in their proverbial laps. It only got worse as time went by; and as soon as my mom was out of the house, it went to Hell in a hand-basket. They began getting notices from the landlord within weeks, my daughter having gotten a puppy that destroyed the carpets and some of the walls and woodwork. In the passage of time between then and now, my former step father also managed to lose his car, his savings, his healthcare coverage and anything else worth anything at all that he might have owned.

Two days ago, a 3 day notice to quit the premises was posted on the front door of the house that was once my mama’s home. For some reason, my former step father was surprised enough by this that he called my mom and told her, obviously upsetting her on many levels. She now also has been burdened.by the anxiety, disappointment, worry, and heartbreak attached to learning (being reminded of) of the reality that her entire estate of 50 years’ worth of the obsessively collected, pack-rat-esque, silverfish friendly belongings that she has bent over backward to hang onto throughout handfuls of relocations, burglarized storage units, rats and various destructive insect infestations, and 2 fires: is gone with a 3 day notice to quit the premises.  I know this breaks her heart because I know how she is and I have come to accept and endear the wacky things that she holds closest to her heart, as indecipherable as most may be.

That house is full of my own history also, mine and my daughter’s…and any of the things that I would’ve wanted to have from my mama will be gone as well. I have not been surprised by this unfolding of the Living Hell that has come to define every direction of what I would’ve once called “my family”; I was writing letters on my mom’s behalf to her landlord almost a year ago, so it’s not like my former step father and daughter (who will soon be homeless and without much but the things each can carry somehow) can say they didn’t see this coming.

The entire situation, which has gotten so far out of control that it’s beyond repair or interference from any outside party, is beyond my ability to intellectually grasp on any level. I am ashamed of my former step father for his absolute lack of action in even keeping himself afloat in the face of my daughter’s shenanigans. He has not only allowed and enabled this nightmare to play out like it is – but he also dares to call my dying mother (who is separated from him for the very same lack of action) and heap the load onto her already broken back. I am so sad and miserable over all of it, as I am in no position to offer anything in terms of any kind of aid or guidance to such an obviously lost cause as the situation at my mom’s old house, I want no part of that noise at all.

I also feel very bitter toward my mama again for the shit she painted herself into this corner with; a notion not so foreign to my heart and mind…I just wish she would’ve listened to me in the first place about letting my daughter move into her home when she left the hospital with her tracheotomy a few years ago. Thinking back to that now in this very moment, my eyes are swollen with tears because I remember my mom’s staunch position on “seeing Boo through the removal of the trach and subsequent recovery”, no matter what I said about it. I was dumb-founded by her blind loyalty to someone who had burglarized her home and stolen her car. I have come to feel so embittered by and ashamed of Boo these days, I have no words for that element of things…besides bad ones.

In short, everything is as bad as ever…waiting for that other shoe to drop hard on my head and heart…working with an asshole who fucked with my emotions and made me hate him as a result – having to look at his weasel face every day, has been wearing on me…too distracted to touch myself, too disgusted to touch anyone else…working hard and earning shit…more disillusioned every day beginning with my commute to work at 7am.

It Hurts.

me n mama 2017

“Watching your mother tortuously and slowly sink into the grips of death is equal to that of existing on a daily basis without being able to make anything at all better for someone who has always found a way to make things better for me.”

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.

Selective Listening.

I was aware of the seemingly minor discrepancies that have popped up between my mom’s and aunt’s stories about trivial things at first – but increasingly, these slight alterations in the ways that they perceive things have grown into regular spats between them. I feel like a small child again, stuck between my mom and dad when they argued and said awful things about each other. But now my mom is my dad’s role and my aunt is in my mom’s. My dad and aunt are both “by the book” people; each being a law-abiding citizen and tax-paying voter. My mom…well my mom is just my mom…she’s not into any category by itself, she’s too much of a social butterfly (or used to be) to sit still very for long.

My aunt used to be an ICU nurse, years ago when I was young, before becoming an attorney on the County Counsel; she married well (in terms of security and stability, at least – he’s a jar-head and also a retired lawyer) I think when they are alone, they hardly ever say a word to each other. She loves basketball (being 5’11’, long and lean with legs to stop traffic, even at her age), loves good food and wine, and fosters a rather warped (though rich) sense of humor.

My mom used to move furniture with her (soon-to-be EX) husband, cross-country for decades. We all know the horrible story of her choice in a mate, so she is currently alone. My poor mom is newly homeless, jobless, dying of cancer in one hospital setting after the next with the same three (sometimes five or six) faces hovering around her constantly; mama told me yesterday that she feels helpless and hopeless – like the thorn in the foot.

It was at the wrapping up of such a discouraged conversation, as I folded the paperwork pertaining to her life insurance policy and her bank account back into my purse to mail off on Tuesday, that I turned around to see my stepdad in the doorway of her room, standing with his eyes on the floor in total submission, almost as if he were kneeling at the chopping block already.

Apparently, since my visit to him, he found the balls (although, too late to make any difference) to eradicate my offspring from his residence “for good”, so he claimed.

It became obvious to me within a matter of minutes that they he and my mom have been in contact quite recently, as she had no issue with him pulling up a chair to her bed and sitting with her.

The things he came there for were 1) brought with him certain pieces of mail that mama has been worrying over; 2) told her that he doubled his own life insurance policy since he has no known medical conditions; lastly, but most shockingly and painfully, he announced,

 

“Boo is out of my life for good.”

(I say “painfully” because it was obviously a painful reality for him as he said it to her).

It was at that point that, despite my threats against his life if he came near her, I opted to leave and give them some time once I received the nod and wink from mama. I didn’t want to listen to any of the unhealthy bullshit that they have both grown accustomed to over the time that Boo has been pirating their’ (former) household and lives. I didn’t want to listen to my stepdad (my former karate sensei from the summer between kindergarten and first grade that’s been part of mom’s tribe ever since) talk about planning his own suicide due to the irreversibly damaging choices he’s made for both of them since her diagnosis. And maybe seeing him all broken down and with his bottom lip quivering like that will give my mom some sense of something, after all – who knows?

When my Aunt hears of this, she will lose her gods damned mind and be very angry with me for NOT making my stepdad leave immediately; but that wasn’t what my mom wanted at the time and she is a grown and lucid (for now at least) woman still, isn’t she?

 

Human Loyalties.

Today, I want to discuss the notion of loyalty; and, what loyalty means at the end of the day to me, at least.

My mama has been married to my my stepdad for just over 31 years (their 31st anniversary was on 28th of December); she has NEVER strayed on him or done him dirty in all that time (outside of the trivial bullshit that people do to each other when they spend too much time together) – and he has never done her dirty either.

When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer on December 6, his initial response was to remain in full-blown denial about it until she nearly died the first time she was taken to the ER (the sudden fever of 104 degrees, C-dif and septic pneumonia). It was at that point that he must have realized how near any time that they had remaining together was to being over; and he began to display dickhead behaviors such as flaking off her appointments, not answering or returning her calls and, most shockingly, never coming to visit her when she was recovering in the hospital ICU.

My mom’s heart was broken by this alteration in his behavior, needless to say; and her feelings toward him changed, accordingly. Due to her compromised immune system, her release from the hospital required certain things directly pertaining to her environment and its safety in the face of her vulnerable and weakened state. Again, he did nothing to make this happen for her to be able to go home to her own house to recover. He refused to kick my meth-addicted daughter out completely and permanently (methamphetamine smoke is NOT an okay element for someone in my mother’s condition, nor are any of the people or things associated with it’s destructive nature); he failed to make the few adjustments that were asked of him, failed to show up for the jobs that he and I were supposed to be covering for my mom, and eventually – he disappeared altogether. Yes. Disappeared.

During the past few weeks of living Hell for my mom and the rest of our family, he has been doing gods know what somewhere else, without even a call to inquire about whether his wife was dead or alive. When my mom began to show signs of true delirium (due to a brain seizure that lasted for 5 days), she would re-surface to lucidity pretty often at first. During those times, she would be heart-broken over and over again to “learn” that her husband had abandoned her. Watching her go through that repeatedly was one of the hardest things I have ever had endure, and something snapped inside of me during that blur of days strung together in my mind; it was something I will never forgive him for, doing that to her during such a crucial time of her dwindling life.

When she returned to the hospital in the grips of the seizure (this most recent time), I finally had the freedom and time to track his sorry down and talk to him face to face, a circumstance that may or may not have been what my mom wanted me to do, but was done either way. I described in minute detail, the nightmarish existence my mama had come under over and over upon realizing his absence in her life; I told him that I hoped he and my daughter were happy for what they’d done to my mom; I told him if I ever saw him anywhere near her hospital room or subsequent residence, I would have a bullet put through his brain. I told him what a piece of useless shit he had been turned into in my own perception, and I also told him that my mom should have left him years ago. The very last thing that I made sure to point out to him was the way that: if the tables had been turned and he had been diagnosed with cancer or some other terminal illness, my mom NEVER would have abandoned him. NEVER.

Before I left, I reiterated my threats to him, if he comes near my mama again for any reason.

And those, as rough around the edges as they might be, are my random thoughts on human “loyalties”.

Guess Who Has Resurfaced?

…For now, at least.

And, I will not squawk at a single thing about her mental return, no matter it’s duration. Gods, it is just so fucking good to see my REAL mom again, after the last few weeks of her  degenerative Living Hell. I honestly believed that I would never get to talk with her all about the traumatic events that have led us here; I was sure we’d never be able to sit and sift through the details that ended with the horrid, 5-day-long brain seizure that she endured right under my nose; I was certain that I would never know why and how it all went to shit so fast for her after her diagnosis…I had prepared myself for the reality that my REAL mama died recently, and what I had in her place was the “New Mom”.

(Didn’t I say that there was definitely something besides depression, fatigue, side-effects of chemo or simply late stage cancer happening to my mama?)

The rest of her once: thick, long, widely admired, randomly touched by friends and strangers, alike “dirty dishwater blonde” hair had fallen out while she was in delirium; and she was not happy at all. A few fruit cups and an whole milk cappuccino later, she was directing me through her bureau to find her new t-shirt. It’s  a shirt I bought her when her chemo started last month; though she didn’t find it amusing, much less wore it. She sported it tonight with her bald head and nose hose as I wheeled her around the grounds of the rehab center in the pouring rain, with the song ‘Whose Crying Now?’ by Journey (her all-time favorite band) playing in her lap. She was totally alert and full of her normal piss and vinegar tonight. I loved every minute of it. It was a gods damned good night.

Delay.

FOREWORD:

They say that the delirium is late-stage cancer – nothing more. Perhaps it is, I can’t say at this point. What I can say is that the delirious woman is still my mom; is still worthy of my love and support; is still a person who I love very much, suffering…dying.

baby-of-mine-dumbo-o.gif


Let me tell you a short (though, repetitive) story; one I have come to know by heart without consciously trying…one that plays itself out through each and every nightmare I have if I am lucky enough to fall asleep deeply enough…one that has come to define each and every “visit” I get with my mama, anymore:

The Bedpan: It is an inevitable circumstance, no matter where mama is.

In whichever facility that she is hospitalized, she is bedridden and increasingly unable to move without severe pain. She, therefor, has been reduced to a bedpan or commode when she is lucid, or, a fucking adult diaper, otherwise.

In her lucid times, the diaper must come off, else she have a massive coronary. During these interim of semi-coherence for her, is the perpetually running song and dance of trying to go to the bathroom. My mother is on diuretics for edema in her legs at present, and therefor has to pee like every 15-20 minutes no matter which state she is in…a detail that seems to define every moment that I spend with her anymore: the horrid revolving door of trying to get a fucking bedpan in time.

The orderlies and nurses are slow as molasses in any setting we have been; they seem to take pleasure in the circumstance of making my mama wait until she can’t hold it any longer, and a mess ensues, without fail.

Then, there I am: frustrated beyond words with the staff for letting this happen AGAIN; and there’s mama: so broken down and defeated by the humbling experience that she’s enduring, she just cries while I clean her up. Each and every time this occurs, it sinks my mama lower into her resignation to death and departure. Each time she cries, it does something to me that I can’t yet find the words to express accurately, but I can say with certainty that her tears in this context make me want to seriously hurt someone, or worse.

As a result of this hideous cycle of requests for basic assistance, delayed responses, messes to clean up, and mama’s subsequent withdrawal further into darkness, I have begun to absolutely dread going to see my dying mother at all.

bambi.gif

 

More (Scattered) Thoughts.

I’ve written about it before, the way the shine went out of my mom’s eyes upon the death of her mother; I’ve written about the extended period of mourning and bereavement that she experienced (and continues to experience in many ways, even now); I’ve written about the weird things she did after her mom passed away late one night, i.e. refusing to take off the sweater that belonged to my grandma for at least a year afterwards, or the taking up of chain-smoking cigarettes like it was a sport and she held the title of Champion (she is now paying for those solo marathon smoking fests that sometimes lasted throughout the night on the front porch of her former home). I have written about all these intricacies belonging to the grief that seems to have drained the life right out of my mama in the end; and I have picked apart the ins and outs to the responses and behaviors attached to my (former) mom’s processing of it all. I can now say that I honestly and thoroughly understand and comprehend on a deep level: how and why the shine left her eyes with the emotional blow of her mom’s death – I can see the shine going dull in my own eyes little by little too, if I dare look into a mirror. My skin has changed in texture and color, my mouth perpetually wears a frown – my shoulders sag, I sigh a lot, and deeply.

I have also been on an emotional kind of high-alert in regard to my mom’s feelings and her personal level of overall peace throughout her recent diagnosis of cancer (her death sentence) and the subsequent nightmare-esque circumstances that have become our day to day existence. I have been watching her stiffen her lip and put on the dog through it all, telling herself and everyone else that she doesn’t think cancer is going to kill her, and things like that. I have been able to sympathize with her and what she’s going through all along so far for the most part; but I still can’t seem to bring myself to imagine the world after she’s gone…

I have written about my many longstanding issues with my mom stemming from childhood; I have written about the many years we let pass by hardly knowing one another at all; and the things we knew about each other were not born of fond sentiment (on my own part, at least). I have always been so afraid to turn out like my mom did – the way my young brain has molded her in my recollections from early on – raving and spitting mad, a foul-mouthed Squaw, the drunken breaker of my mine and my brothers’ hearts. I spent so long in judgment of her for how she dealt with the loss of her youngest child, my brother JJ; for how she never allowed me to even mention him in her engaged presence after his tragic death; for how she never acknowledged his hurt and pain, even after he was gone – like I am anyone pass judgment on anyone – look at my kid, for Gods sake. I see so many things differently nowadays, and am glad that I have had the chances to accept her as she is while she was still able to comprehend that acceptance and appreciate what it all meant to both of us.

It’s a weird jumble of thoughts that have been swimming been around in my head and heart lately; and it’s all rather hard to put into words, if not impossible, but I want to try:

I see that we are each, indeed, creatures made of the same stardust – all of us.

I see how it’s a fact of Life – the very essence of Life – everything we do and everything we are is seeded by our parents; each thought that we have, even subconsciously, somehow and on some level ties back to the ones who bore us, nurtured us or contributed to our young lives; the moments when we think out loud and say things that we don’t even completely understand to ourselves, or when we quietly chuckle at a distant memory  from our childhood – it’s all loosely, but surely woven into the very essence of the many individualized notions of love, of being loved, of loving the best we know how to love, to the bitter end of Life…be it ours or our parents’ end, it will be the most bitter taste that the other has ever had to swallow. I know that the sun will not cease to shine on the day after my mom lets go of this world; I know that things will carry on like they always did: cars will drive people to work, and people will get married and babies will be born and my family will eat dinner together somewhere and drunkenly celebrate my mama’s Life…I just can’t picture it.

 

On a lighter note, I got a new job at the cemetery/mortuary today. And I’m not being horribly un-funny either, I am serious. I’ll be keeping books in the back offices, but I think it’s rather fitting all the same…a place where you are encouraged to wear black or dark colors to work EVERYDAY; a place where you aren’t allowed to laugh in the hallways for any reason, a place where you get kudos for the most sullen look in the office. I thought it was perfect. And apparently, so did they.

Wrinkled Brow.

Since your lights went out and lost their’ shine,

when you looked in through these eyes of mine,

and you shed many tears, said thoughtful goodbyes,

and I choked up when you’d start to apologize;

you are so far gone from my reach these days,

you just can’t climb on to the words I say,

they just float along in a blur past your face,

while you try to be strong for everyone’s sake,

doesn’t make you less strong if you’ve given your best,

let it go, give your tired body some overdue rest,

just know: I’ll be here to clean up any mess,

un-wrinkle your brow Mama, try not to stress.

My New Mom.

Because of the collective whirlwind effect created by the sudden appearance of, and the subsequent hijacking of any former Life by this hideous reality, this thing known only as “my mama’s terminal cancer”:

  • I pushed it to the limit with keeping her with me at my house (actually, just a single rented room in a home shared with 2 bachelors) and nearly bit off way more than my can possibly chew;
  • I nearly pushed myself to the point of no return in regard to my own sanity and my own abilities;
  • I allowed myself to totally reside on the back burner for too long, and in turn began the cycle of forgetfulness and neglect in light of my own basic needs and any prior commitments made before the nightmare of Anticipatory Grief entered my day to day existence.
  • I stiffened my upper lip and sucked it up – I refuse to ask anyone for anything in the context of help with my mom, especially my new mom, due to her total and complete lack of any sense of self.
  • I moved her to a place where she isn’t going to be waited on hand and foot like I had been doing for her – having such a personal caregiver isn’t a good routine for her overall independence, despite what she says now.
  • Since the move, she has slowly declined in mentality to the point where as of now, she is too confused to find or answer her phone 9 times out of 10; she still cannot walk on her own either for some reason; she forgets her medicines and forgets to eat, she doesn’t shower at a;; anymore unless she is made to do so; she has no sense of humor, the only remaining thing about my former mama was the crazy thick hair – but that has fallen out now.

 

It’s like I have slowly come to be caring for a total stranger; this person is nothing like my mama. My new mom is stoic and scowls at me for no reason; she snaps at me for offering to help her with things when she is struggling.

 

“I wish you would just get out of my face for a change!”

 

This was what she hissed at me on New Year’s Eve, when I showed up to surprise her with some sparkling cider and pizza. She said she was tired of seeing my face whenever she opened her eyes. I left well before midnight and cried the whole way home.

Not How It Was Meant To Be.

My mom’s cancer diagnosis has turned into my own waking fucking nightmare in every possible way. In the beginning, In the very beginning, I committed myself to going through her treatment regimen  with her, as a supportive and constant and compassionate presence for her to depend on. This was when she was living at home, before she got pneumonia, when she was still fairly physically mobile and very mentally capable. Since the ICU, everything about my mom’s situation has been altered abruptly and uncomfortably for me.
Suddenly, she can’t go home to her own house because it’s not safe for her to be there for various reasons respective to her ability to heal from chemo and now, pneumonia as well. This doesn’t even take into account, the C Dificil infection she is barely recovered from, either. Nor,  does it mention the 12 tanks of oxygen needed at all times now. I haven’t been able to sleep for going on two weeks already, and I feel like tonight  (the night my mom is released from her scary hospitalization) marks just the beginning of a fucking living hell. It has already begun. I am sitting in the kaiser parking lot fuming while the pharmacy fixes the nurse’s fuck-up on my mom’s meds so that we can finally get the fuck out of this horrendously miserable place. But its not as if that means anything to me, though, as its the aftermath of all this fucking bullshit that’s probably going to drive me to fucking kill myself, or die of a massive fucking coronary. The stress and pressure of so much misdirected responsibility is fucking immense, and I do not appreciate any of what’s happening at all. After this absolutely chaotic and miserable experience of becoming a full-time caregiver to a mother who is meaner now than she ever was, I will no longer be willing to be the compassionate person I wanted to be. I no longer want to bring my mom to all of her appointments and support her like I committed to, not when I’ve somehow been forced into becoming a fucking full time caretaker. This is fucking horseshit. I understand people cant prepare for things like cancer, but I am absolutely disgusted by the absolute lack of planning whatsoever for simply the event of a serious medical emergency or basic aging. As a result of her poor choice in a “mate”, her total lack of any kind of organizational skills, and her obsessive compulsive lifelong  hoarding, I have suddenly and completely been thrown into the very unwelcome role of being THE ONLY person to CONSTANTLY care for her like I am a personal fucking nurse. The worst part about all of this is that my mom is in full blown denial about everything. She is delusional. She is mean and shitty to me as I bend myself into a pretzel to not leave her on her own, as she will be without me. THIS is NOT how I want to remember her; I did NOT want to grow even more embittered and resentful towards her at the end of her fucking life. But guess what? It didn’t matter what I wanted when she was healthy; and it matters even less now. My stepfather literally disappeared, she cant find him and he has not seen her once since she got put into ICU. She suddenly wants to divorce him (though, understandably) but who do you think has to take care of all that paperwork and emailing, lawyering and mailing, etc? Mom sure can’t. My brother has been useless, as have any and all of my mother’s siblings save for one, who is only around at random and when her hair looks good or whatever; she does this so she can rub in my mom’s face how healthy she is. I don’t really like her, never have. And really, she hasn’t been here to help with my mom at all when I really think about it, she went ahead and had Xmas at her house (a 45 min drive from mine) and insisted we come, which was Hell. She says things like,

“You are so capable, you can do this, you don’t give yourself enough credit…”

She says these things to me from the other side of her champagne glass with her pinky finger stuck in the air, standing in her massive kitchen, built on a sprawling winery property that she owns. She says this to me as I am worrying nonstop about how I am going to pay rent this month, as I have not worked since my mama’s diagnosis, being so directly tied to her treatment and subsequent rapid decline.

Daunted By Joy.

I must have read it somewhere in each and every piece on terminal cancer that I have pored over since her diagnosis…references to:

“The people you least expect to offer any kind of support to you during this chaotic time will surprise you while those you were certain you could depend on will be nowhere to be found…”

Since my mom’s admission to the ER and subsequently, the ICU and so on, I have been trying to ignore the nagging buzz in my inner ear surrounding my mom’s overall situation at home. I have been trying super hard NOT to judge my dad for letting her sink so low, without even noticing she had such a bad fever and was deathly ill until it was literally just an inarguable fact that she was in some serious trouble; and needed serious help. Like I wrote before, this had been the VERY FIRST DAY I left her alone all day – and look where she ended up before 8pm. Needless to say, I have some serious concerns about her well-being; given the fact that she was quite apparently not being cared for properly BEFORE her chemo dance with death to the tune of septic pneumonia; how can I expect that she will be adequately looked after NOW, being released from the hospital following a closely related (to the lack of care she received that day) near-death experience? Mom will be coming home with me for at least the next few days (I am both overwhelmed with joy and thoroughly daunted at the same time by this reality), through Christmas at least. I can’t bear the thought of sending her to her home and dropping her off to be overlooked and not taken care of during such a crucial time for her ongoing survival.

My dad has been such a dick throughout this whole thing…he has been shining my mom everyday – not showing up at the hospital to see her or never bringing her the stuff she asked for. Not answering his phone or calling back. Not showing up at the job that I’m totally winging in order to cover my mom’s standing commitments to her former clients to let bring me supplies or to help me meet a deadline. It’s been a fucking insane week for everyone, and apparently he has slept through most of. I understand that we all deal with grief differently, and he is probably really heartbroken and distraught. But the fact that he has allowed Boo back in full-time in my mom’s absence has things really fucked up between my parents again at present. And the creature I gave birth to, Boo, can’t just do the right thing, can she?

So, basically, my mom feels as if my dad has “chosen Boo over her” again…and he is just oblivious with his fucking head further up his ass every day, it seems…

I refuse to have any contact with my daughter; while my parents have allowed her to remain a constant presence in their home, despite her many violations against them in the face of their kindness. And now, this leaves us in quite the predicament, because I can’t go home with my mom to her house and take care of her when Boo is smoking meth in the next room. It’s fucking absurd, how my dad won’t open his fucking eyes and just kick my drug-addict hooker daughter the fuck out so that MY MOM CAN RECOVER FROM FUCKING PNEUMONIA IN HER OWN HOME. I am at a loss as to what to do about any of it…I just know I can’t possibly send my mom into that environment as it is now, and won’t even consider it. Gods damn it, she pulled through this recent crisis, and she should have a good Christmas without the worries associated with her living situation…it’s most likely her last one…how does my dad not give a fuck about that?

Wake Up, You’re Dreaming.

I had been dreaming of her the whole time I was asleep, I think. There were these hazy flashes of days long gone; in which she was healthy and full of life, never slowing down to breathe – never really having learned to make any time for herself, always talking until the minute she fell asleep. She was always one of the most unpredictable people in my life, good –bad – or otherwise. I was dreaming of how her incredibly long hair smelled when I was small, and would cling to her neck for the time she’d hold me, which was never long enough in my recollections. I was dreaming of being in total awe, watching her rub “cold cream” into the soft skin covering her sharp cheekbones in the wallpapered bathroom on Skylark Drive. The mint green soap dish I don’t think she ever cleaned once. I dreamed of her ever-present, and accurate, self-comparison to the Princess from the Princess and Pea. I even dreamed vividly and randomly of the vacuum running at 11pm when she was manic…which reminds the waking me of the total absence of any sound other than her snoring coming from her bedroom when she crashed and got depressed. But this morning, I was dreaming of her voice and her smile and her OCD quirks that I always knew I’d miss the instant they ceased. It was the second time I have slept in my own bed at home since whenever it was that she was taken by ambulance to ER with the fever, and I was actually sleeping (dreaming). Oddly, there was already some conscious piece of my mind that was begrudgingly aware of the fact that I would soon have to awaken, so there was some hazy and sleepy hesitancy and disgruntlement already present when my phone started ringing loudly in my ear and woke me from such things.

Let me say this:

Never, have I been yanked from snuggly sleep in the early morning hours by anyone, especially ringing me in my ear on the phone, with an even remotely positive response…until this morning.

The voice on the other end of the line was my Mama’s; not the fever ravaged, brain damaged Mama, either, but My Mama.

“Hey Honey!”

I’m stunned in total wakefulness…

“Hi Mama!”

It’s her voice; the words are spoken with so much gusto and her tone is so calm and genuine; it’s an instant comfort to my heart when I hear it. I honestly feel like it’s been a long time since Life has allowed things to feel as okay as they did during that moment for me…the Gods have given us a little more time together, maybe one last Christmas…maybe not – but she’s stepping down from ICU now and they’ve got most of her problems stabilized, but not all. She’s not out of the woods yet by any means, but she’s alive… and not pissed off about it. On the contrary, she’s starting to come back around to her normal state of mind and perceptive awareness; she has a good grasp on the severity of her condition. Her platelets are still very low, as well as her oxygen levels; but she ate real food today and got out of her bed briefly. She became exhausted by this exercise though, so I don’t think she’ll be doing that again yet. I just hope she continues to improve. Yesterday I was hoping that she would just remain stable. The day before that, I was hoping that they wouldn’t have to give her a blood transfusion or intubate her again. and two nights in row before that, I mean it when I say that I was hoping nothing more than that if the Gods took her then, that they wouldn’t make her suffer much more – but more often those nights, my energies were focused on simply maintaining Life in her dying body.

Several days ago, when she woke up with a start at random, when she began to come of her catatonic-esque state, she had lost all the time in between the present and the night she went to sleep (the day that I last saw her before the fever struck that welcomed pneumonia). She sat bolt upright and gasped at me through her face mask something like,

“It’s okay, don’t be sorry, it’s okay Honey, stop apologizing…”

She was staring into my eyes with a hollowed, searching gaze saying things like that. Later, when she was “awake” for a breathing treatment, she told me that she’d been sure I was kneeling at her bedside, begging her forgiveness; but, I hadn’t been. For a while, this bugged me after she fell back asleep until I realized that she was mentally still in the ER at the hospital the ambulance had dropped her off at initially. I did kneel beside her bed (more like a short table than a bed) there; when I first got there and saw her it was just my reflexive response, I didn’t even think about being in the way of the people trying to stabilize her or anything, I just felt so horrible that she was so sick so suddenly, I was so shocked by her condition, I was truly sorry at that moment. And I did tell her at her bedside that I was so sorry, I desperately begged her forgiveness and kissed her hand.

I quickly pulled myself together though, realizing that she needed me to be strong right then, not some blubbery child. It was just funny to me that she had heard me and understood the context of what I was saying and how I was feeling; this was during what had to have been the closest to death that she has ever been thus far in her time alive. She couldn’t see or move, she was in delirium; but she received my apologies and she felt my concern for her. That’s pretty amazing to me. She is getting better on her loss of days too, so her confusion is dissipating also. I’m not expecting anything from her, one day and night at a time is how the cookie crumbles this Christmas. Which isn’t good and isn’t bad; it just has to be like that.

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.

Relief.

I noticed it the instant she arrived this morning; and walked through my front door on her own: no struggling for breath, no panicked look on her rosy-cheeked face, no coughing…

I smiled bigger than I have dared in weeks at her as she shuffled past me in the entryway for a cup of coffee (she used to love my coffee, but hasn’t wanted any for a long time now). My smile was immediately reciprocated; and my heart warmed me down to my toes at that. I don’t know when she last genuinely smiled at me before today, but I do know it was too long ago.

As I sat down beside her at my kitchen table, and said something like,

 

“Well, well…look who wants coffee again and seems to be feeling a little better…”

 I saw it; the lump on her neck that was the cause for her diagnosis with terminal cancer; or shall I say, the lack of the lump, altogether. It has become invisible to the naked eye since yesterday, somehow, amazingly. Anyway, I am not deluding myself about her survival or anything; I am just SO VERY HAPPY TO SEE HER GETTING SOME RELIEF from the constant inability to breath or stop coughing…so very happy. Today was a throwback for me of my healthy Mama, who smiles and drinks coffee.

 

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.

“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.

Invasive.

I have my own invasive mass of cancerous needs,

dotting my insides like tumors to match yours,

but, mine won’t kill me – not yet at least,

they’ll grow bigger along with yours, though…

as time is inhaled into the night skies,

our allotment dwindles before our eyes,

I’ve always foreseen and known,

but could never fully imagine it’s blow,

like a repeated cinch around my throat,

the defeated pitch of my voice as I choke,

over words and feelings I can’t integrate,

in order to make sense of such sensible fate,

there is a break in the line,

if there’s no you in the future of mine,

there’s no way I will prove to be,

strong as I’ve always liked to believe,

without certain pieces of you ever-hanging,

like homemade chimes over my life,

a dreamcatcher made to be grasped at from my bed,

now, nothing in the Universe feels right in my head,

there’s a new hole somewhere in my soul,

of which spills out unstoppably –

my childlike love and adoration,

I miss you already, even as we plan Christmas,

even as we plan your death, together,

you apologize to me for dying of cancer,

a different person now, you feel bad and regretful,

for the fact that you will, indeed, be leaving me soon,

You whispered:

“…but, I’ve only myself to blame – I did this…”

as I put out a cigarette and wipe my face.

 

 

 

Begins A Dread Ending.

Well, the biopsy results came back this morning…my mother has officially been given 1 to 2 years to live, “depending on her treatment choices”…stage 4 lung cancer that has already metastasized quite aggressively, hence that huge lump growing on her neck that I wrote about recently.

When I was driving her back to her job following this news, it was weird, almost like for the first time in my conscious memory, I didn’t want to let her out of my car – I didn’t want her to go. I’ve tried twice to speak to her since then, and had to hang up abruptly both times because I choked up completely, like a desperately bitter child.

Due to the location of the lump in her throat (it straddles her carotid artery), they have had a difficult time in diagnosing this because they didn’t want to biopsy the regular way and cut her by accident. In the meantime, she was given x-ray, CT scan, and sonogram in order to get precise measurements of its position in relation to her veins and arteries. I took her for a radiology appointment last week; when I saw the thing on the screen in the sonogram room, I went cold; something about it made my knees like jelly for a few seconds, I just got this sense of what it was – the finality it represents…I had to sit down.

Smile, and Nod.

So last year (as well as the previous year), I recall writing a post around my birthday about how my mother flaked me off for the dinner that she had planned and made me commit myself to way ahead of time. She is a professional at this type of thing and has been celebrating my birthday in such a manner since I can remember, in all honesty; so it doesn’t affect me, anymore. If anything, the instance of this type of things wins me money placed on bets made with various people leading up to my birthday, without fail.

  •  May the Gods bless my mother and each and every one of her strange and remarkably injurious shortcomings toward her children.

This year, she surprised me a bit by completely switching the date of my birth to that of yesterday. We sat through a meal last night following an intense disagreement surrounding the day that I was actually born. Upon my pulling out my driver’s license, she even went as far as to try and tell me that they incorrectly recorded my birth details (because I was born on the reservation and the record-keeping wasn’t too reliable back then), a statement which I KNOW to be untrue because my father told me so many times about taking me, himself, to the local hospital and county clerk, etc. to handle my true and technical registration as a person.

In my Life, any discretion between my parents always ends in my own mind with my long-dead (too fucking long already) father winning, hands down. He was a logical man; an engineer brain, a computer geek, and a military spirit…the one and only fluke to his behavior was the uncharacteristic element of “a psychedelic artist”, in spite of being the notorious “wet blanket” among his friends due to his unwillingness to ever try any type of hallucinogen during the 60’s and 70’s. He was a damned good acid-trip painter; and painted shit that made me cross-eyes, even as a sober little girl. But, I digress…

Point is, there has always been a striking contrast between my parents; the story of them is so bizarre and happenstance in its totality that it left me and my brothers pondering their union as very young children, in the face of such differences in their characters. Apparently, these ponderings will never end until we are all dead and gone, because they were strong as ever last night as I “celebrated my birthday” with my beloved mother, Willow, three days early.

Mama.

“Are you okay, Jake?”

(My mother’s nickname for me is Jake)

Hmmmmm…I don’t know, Mama…

let’s review, shall we? How shall I respond to such a painfully dense query? …

Maybe by throwing myself beneath oncoming freeway traffic…

Or peeling the fucking skin from my face with a smile…

Would spontaneous combustion count as a reply to your stupid-ass question?

crying-woman‘Am I okay?’…

fuck no, I’m not okay…come here and I’ll show you.

floki nooooooDear Mama,

I’ve NEVER been okay, and, as my blood-mother – has it ever occurred to you that you should know these things better than anyone? It hurts me so deeply that you take such little interest in knowing me – never have much cared about WHO I AM.
The irony here Mom, is that I am everything I am because of you, essentially, despite your ongoing carelessness and cruelty throughout my entire life. You will never understand me because you don’t care to; you will never hear me because you don’t listen to my words, and never could be still long enough to…do you know how much that hurts me? Even now after all this time I’ve had to accept who you are, it still just doesn’t sit well with me to know that your only daughter is wasted on you, and always was. You’re ignorance has always wounded me deeply, Mom.
Please keep trying, I will too.

Papa always told me that if you are crossing a bridge and become tired, you have only two options:

1) To sit down in the middle of the crossing and die;

2) To go back or forward until you get to one side or the other…

but you don’t just sit down and die, you keep going.