Smokey Blue.

An accumulation of grotesque emotions, throttling anxieties, and darkening expectations has built up inside of me over the period of time in between now and the day in early December that my Mama was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The earliest days of her treatment were nightmarish; the febrile pneumonia, C-Diff and drop in her blood oxygen level that nearly killed her and kept in the hospital under intensive care over the off and on over the holiday season of the 2016-2017 threshold was an experience that left me in motional shock. My initial intentions of being a staunch ally to my mom were tested and tried (and continue to be worked hard on a daily basis).

An emotional earthquake and subsequent spiritual tsunami have occurred in my soul and mind and heart throughout the best and worst of the newly defined existence shared between her and me, leaving perpetual aftershocks and a flooded wasteland in its wake. The inside of my own eyelids seem unrecognizable to me these days, so hideously changed has the world become since the diagnosis. I am 110% detached from my attachments, withdrawn and withered into a defensive ball colored dark blue to mirror my soul.

I am living inside of a new loop right now:

I long to spend as much time with my mom while I have the chance;

yet, she is so broken down and different from the default mom I still somehow envision and recall, that spending time with her is not pleasant and/or fulfilling in the ways I seek out;

This fact makes me feel guilty and awful, so I typically spend time with her whether it helps or hurts my own state of being, which causes the visits to be those of a highly forgettable, even regrettable strain.

The moments passing by feel like torturous slashes and slices; the time feels as if it is laughing in my face. I know that after she is gone, I will hate myself for all of the things I am doing wrong or not doing at all with/for her; I know that I am letting too many opportunities slip by, but I am can’t do any differently than what I am doing. I don’t have any control over her illness, I couldn’t keep her from starting to smoke again either – which has also become huge tension between us, as it symbolizes things to me that she seem blind to.

I don’t have the heart to tell her that going anywhere with her has become something that my anxiety ridden, ADHD, PTSD brain has to build up to being to do because it is always SUCH an ordeal to go ANYWHERE. And anywhere we do get to, we are unfailingly in the way because of an absolutely and obnoxiously un-foldable walker thing with a seat and handbrakes. She has become resentful towards my aunt and uncle (who have been beyond good to her and taken her into their home immediate family, and daily life. Nothing she does is enjoyable to her for the most part; she told me over the phone the other day that she is ready to die.

This statement hurt me deeply, though I didn’t say anything to that affect. The gist was that despite the grueling and miserable months that I have sacrificed to my mom, and regardless of how many things I hold back and suck up in attempt to ease her reality, she still feels alone and burdensome enough to disregard the miracle of her ongoing existence at present (if that makes any sense).

 

 

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.

The Immensity Of It All.

It feels as if I have swum too far out and snapped my board in half against a storm.

It feels like I am ever-battered by the disappearance and return of surprise rogue breakers.

It feels so full of darkened, smoky expectations and brewing anxieties.

It feels like such a tiny, shrunken world.

It feels as though my chest and esophagus, ears and eyes sizzle with sadness and grief.

It feels so impossible to take this reality into myself, to accept it as truth.

It feels so immense and heavy and is so hard to carry.

But I am forced to pick it up.

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.

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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.

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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.

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?

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.