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.

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?

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.