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.

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 I am 110% detached from my attachments, withdrawn and withered into a defensive ball colored dark blue to mirror my soul.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).

 

 

Candid Moments: Me and Mom on 1/29/2017.

Mom finally got through her second round of chemo yesterday…it’s been a helluva fight for her to just to be well enough to get the course finished. Also, she is officially free of the oxygen tank for now, which is BIG for her given she had 4% saturation when she went into the ICU. 

….told y’all my mama is a badass. 😎

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.

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.

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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.

White Noise.

It’s mind boggling how quickly everything can evaporate away into nothingness; it’s amazing to behold: the way that within the span of time it takes to order certain documents and sign certain papers, everything around you shifts into a totally different form, shape and appearance than that of the former “everything” that defined existence…how little anything means all of the sudden, how trivial the majority of things are in Life…the cold, hard fact that here is no justice, even in death.

I have been catching myself saying things out loud to nobody in particular sometimes; hateful and angry things that come from the bottom of my tattered heart…things like,

 

“Fuck every God, fuck the Gods…there are NO Gods…and if there are Gods, the Gods are bitch-made pieces of shit!”

 

or

 

“Kiddie-fuckers and psychopathic murderers, terrorists and those sick fucks that torture and abuse animals…they’re all walking around, they’re all taking deep breaths, somehow…as my Mama suffers, as she fixedly circles the proverbial drain in a fucking hospital bed, fighting for even the misery of spending one more day that way.”

 

The past two nights were spent consecutively in the same ER, watching my mom’s stiffened figure shake and tremor on a gurney as she detoxed from every pill she takes for chronic pain; nobody cares at all about her because she won’t be staying (she’s a Kaiser member) and my brain felt as if it began to sizzle at some point. I sat on the stool next to her, stifling silent, frustrated tears as I watched my mom feebly trying to scratch at the neck brace/head collar that the hospital staff refused to remove for over 24 hours straight (they supposedly needed some elusive “trauma team” to clear her of the possibility of some serious fracture). She was FINALLY moved upstairs to the trauma care unit early this morning, whereupon she promptly fell hard asleep for the first time since her arrival, at least. The time leading up to this glorious sleep was spent miserably and tortuously in attempting to comfort and calm her delirium. Two nights and days of sheer helplessness and uselessness at her side; just a fucking breathing lump of waste rubbing her head and holding her hand as she swallowed moment after moment of terror-filled hallucinations and imagined unwelcome visitors. At one point, she was thoroughly convinced that “someone, a person” was looking at her from the ceiling tile, before becoming absolutely enthralled by the back of her own hand upon pointing up to show me which tile.

She asked me,

 

“Did I try to kill myself?”

 

This was an unexpected query coming from my mother; definitely a quite surreal elapse of time between she and I in the moment. This struck a chord in me, the daughter that my mama has nearly lost to suicide a handful of times throughout our rocky history together, to hear coming out of my mom’s mouth, as, she has been many things in her time alive – but NEVER has she before displayed even remotely suicidal ideation or tendencies. I stuttered and stammered in response, before just saying the truth:

 

“I don’t know Mama, I don’t think so…I think the pills were by accident, in confusion or something…I hope so, at least…”

 

I was thinking to myself at the time of how I’d surely want to die if I were in her shoes…ditched by my husband of 30 plus years when I needed him most; forgotten by the granddaughter I spent almost 20 years trying to show unconditional love to in attempt to make up for the absence I offered her mom; ripped from any semblance of normalcy or familiarity altogether and made to feel so sick that my hair all fell out;

…need I go on?

Torrential Rain.

Mom went back through the ER tonight via ambulance again; she is still in hospital…she is slipping away again. She was reaching out for me this afternoon and telling me I was beautiful. Her body has been doing that recoiling reflexive thing again and she can’t relax her muscles. She has been taking pills she isn’t meant to take when she isn’t supposed to take them…I knew she isn’t right lately, everyone says it’s the chemo…but, no – it’s something more than just that, it’s not fatigue or depression or even a fever…I don’t know what it is exactly that has gotten her so far out there but something other than just side effects of her treatment is at play, mark my words. And in the meantime, she has slipped into full-blown delirium.

I am in the process of accepting that I’ve seen my mama for the last time already, my real mama, at least. This acceptance thing…it’s been difficult to do when my new mama is so reminiscent of my real mama at times, and I often catch myself trying to talk to my new mama like she was my real mama, only to be snapped back to reality by the reality of talking to a human wall that never responds. I miss my mama so much and I catch myself longing for her even as I sit beside her. It’s so hard to see her so weak and feeble, it’s so hard to have the responsibility of feeding her because she will not remember to eat otherwise, she stares off into nothingness and she drools on herself…my mom drools on herself. She made a mess of her room today for no reason, she is so confused and I can’t un-confuse her, it’s so fucking fucked.

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.