Surreality.

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

“In like Flynn.”

Or I sing stupid bits if stupid songs like,

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

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

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

The 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.

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).

 

 

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.

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?

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.

Wake Up, You’re Dreaming.

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

Let me say this:

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

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

“Hey Honey!”

I’m stunned in total wakefulness…

“Hi Mama!”

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

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

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

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

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

Sinking.


“Don’t go out anywhere tomorrow…it’s supposed to rain enough to flood up in the mountains all day, a storm’s comin’ down tomorrow, put off whatever you gotta do until Friday, Hon; we’re planning to stay in and hole up for the day, ourselves.”

Those were the words my mama said to me (the “we” referring to my stepdad and her) as we parted ways on Wednesday afternoon. A storm came down, alright.

Yesterday was the very first day since my mom was diagnosed with cancer that I actually let her be the whole day, thinking she was snuggled in a blanket at home, watching reruns of Bonanza…I got the call at 8pm last night, mom was being taken via ambulance from her house to the hospital; she was unresponsive and burning up. My stepdad thought she was sleeping all day (he likely slept in the TV room in his recliner most of the day as well, as he has been exhausted in every way by everything just as much as any of us)…I don’t know exactly how it all went down but the summary is that by the time her found her essentially unresponsive and incoherent, her fever had likely already caused brain damage, at 104 degrees.

When I arrived at the hospital and saw her, I was overcome with so many different feelings of dread and guilt and disbelief and pity and mercy and various others, too. I have never seen my mama anywhere near so ill, so lost and childlike, scared…I don’t think I have ever seen my mom scared like that before, nor even imagined that she was capable of such fearfulness. My mama has a combative spirit; she is a Taurus; she is the spazz drummer of the band, she is strong-willed and hard-headed…I’ve seen her scrap in the street, I’ve seen her drunk and high, I have seen her in the grips of schizophrenic delusions and paranoia, I have seen her through each and every one of her 6 joint replacement surgeries (and the subsequent recoveries, more notably)…but last night…

It was as if I walked to into a nightmare straight from the warped perceptions of my childhood subconscious; she was so hot to the touch; at one point, she was trying to leave the bed over and over. Once she somewhat came around the first time, she was very angry and completely confused. She couldn’t focus her eyes but she never blinked either; she just stared at the ceiling with her arms crossed, shivering and mumbling things I couldn’t make out. Finally, they had to give her Haldol because she was becoming so out of control in her fever’s rage; eventually they got her to sleep and her fever went down. But the aftermath of that shit has a long life and she hasn’t been able to swim back to the surface like she would have under better circumstances i.e. without the fever’s toll on her brain and the presence of terminal cancer, to name a couple. Upon her transfer to her own hospital however, her BP dropped suddenly and they still haven’t gotten it up without heavy medication. Since her arrival to the ICU, it has been one issue after another with her body and its ability to fight this off, not to mention, her inability to understand what is happening and in turn, the anger and fearfulness. They aren’t sure of the level of damage her brain has endured during the fever and the effects of the drugs they have given he, everything is really touch and go still, she is not well though, she barely hanging in, just barely.

Relief.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Glow.

They are displaying some Doppler radar effect on a screen that details my mother’s body in infra-red 3-D; scrolling up and around and through the entire scan of her body, head to toe. What we are looking for is yellow, that’s the injected dye glowing somewhere it shouldn’t be…the yellow equals my mom’s cancer having the fucking nerve to glow.

Mom’s liver? Clear.

Mom’s kidneys? Clear.

Mom’s Spine? Clear

Mom’s Brain? Clear.

For today, at least, we saw very few yellow patches or spots, which was almost a relief until the scrolling stopped and began to pan from various angles on an area that just about matched the size and mass of my mom’s head – but it is in her chest. Not only is this hideously obese, cancerous mass of death invading my mom’s lungs and vessels, but get this: the fuckin thing has actually wrapped itself around her fucking heart; “like a claw”, as her oncologist so eloquently put it. She starts chemo and radiation tomorrow, simply to be able to get enough relief to breathe a little. She has declined so quickly in the past weeks, it’s crazy. It suddenly and instantaneously made sense to me, watching that thing pulse and glow and suck the very life from my mama’s heart and breaths, why she has been so exhausted for six months…why she has been shriveling away to skin and bones, why she spent weeks in a row one time, not long ago, without being able to keep A THING down…her cough…she coughs from her toes, so hard for so long, she can’t breathe, she’s been working full-time til just a few days ago…I took her remaining packs of cigarettes with me when I left her for the night tonight, she didn’t argue with me. She told me over dinner tonight that she feels like if she quit now and died in a week from now, it would be worth it in order to die a non-smoker. This was poignant as hell in the moment because my mama is never coming out of these woods alive, and we both know that. I will never smoke one around her again or even let her smell it on me…I feel closer to wanting to quit smoking than I can ever recall having been since I started when I was 13…

On a physical level, my mother has always been an exceptional specimen. Her physical strength has always been impressive to me (she used to move furniture “cross-country”), her stamina on the job is unmatched, she is a hard worker. Was a hard worker, she worked up until pretty much the day she literally couldn’t. I just want her to be able to get some air for a while, she suffers so and it’s tough – it exhausts her and has made her irritable most of the time anymore, understandably. She’s so frail…so thin and fragile and childlike; but she’s also still my mother beneath it all…which is a reality that is becoming more surreal by the day.

“Anticipatory Grief”.

Well, I almost made it the entire day without falling apart at some point. I made it to around 11pm at least, before disintegrating into the blubbering, snot-nosed train-wreck I’ve been so often lately…it’s crazy.

For a while today, watching movies with my mama, doing her hair, listening to her snore while she dozed…I almost forgot at times, if you can believe that…and then, it’s like a forcefully painful chop to the throat when I realize something random like how she’ll most likely never see another decorated Christmas tree after this holiday. Or, the newfound inability to delete the hundreds of voicemails I’ve accumulated from her on my current phone, no matter how insignificant. I just want to breathe any Life I have into her; it’s so intense: these feelings that I harbor of protectiveness and defeat all wrapped into one big, ball of sheer grief-stricken idleness.

Stupidness.

Aimless.

Sadness.

“Anticipatory Grief”, that’s the label they’ve given to what I am currently experiencing…

but it’s label makes no difference to me or anyone else, some fancy surname or amendment changes nothing about the bottomless depths of grief’s sadness.

Invasive.

I have my own invasive mass of cancerous needs,

dotting my insides like tumors to match yours,

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

they’ll grow bigger along with yours, though…

as time is inhaled into the night skies,

our allotment dwindles before our eyes,

I’ve always foreseen and known,

but could never fully imagine it’s blow,

like a repeated cinch around my throat,

the defeated pitch of my voice as I choke,

over words and feelings I can’t integrate,

in order to make sense of such sensible fate,

there is a break in the line,

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

there’s no way I will prove to be,

strong as I’ve always liked to believe,

without certain pieces of you ever-hanging,

like homemade chimes over my life,

a dreamcatcher made to be grasped at from my bed,

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

there’s a new hole somewhere in my soul,

of which spills out unstoppably –

my childlike love and adoration,

I miss you already, even as we plan Christmas,

even as we plan your death, together,

you apologize to me for dying of cancer,

a different person now, you feel bad and regretful,

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

You whispered:

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

as I put out a cigarette and wipe my face.