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.

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?

Can’t.

Can’t shake off the burning sting,

can’t scrub away the tub’s dirt ring,

can’t free up the congestive cling,

can’t give up or lay down for the terrible things;

can’t understand my lifespan of such cruelties,

can’t comprehend the game plan that’s ahead of me,

can’t find my way down from ledges: all crumbling,

can’t get my fingers to knock off the fumbling;

can’t see the end of the month of December,

can’t snap myself out of this fugue to remember,

can’t shake off the searing feeling,

can’t break through to do a Gods damned thing.

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.

 

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.

“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.