Friday, August 23, 2019

The New Normal...

I told Brent yesterday that I was doing fine. Except for the not sleeping, the only wanting to eat white flour and sugar, which is exacerbated by the lack of sleep, the lack of patience with everyone, which is exacerbated by the lack of sleep and good nutrition, and the fact that I can't hold a thought in my head for longer than a few minutes. But other than that I was fine.

He said I was doing a good job holding it all together. But that holding it all together is not the same as fine.

Fine.

So maybe I'm not fine.

But I've sort of gotten used to it.

Which is really bothering me.

Even though it's totally necessary. I mean, that's the way it is with any loss, you have to keep going, you have to keep moving forward because you have to keep going. So even with half of my head waiting for that message, the rest of me is still cleaning house, reading books, planning Disney vacations, talking to friends, laughing at jokes...

But it feels weird to know that this is, for now, normal. Like it never should be normal.

Brent's mother called me for my birthday and we chatted for a little bit then she asked if there was anything new with us. And I told her that Mom's health was failing fast. But I told her after we had chatted for awhile about books and movies and...it wasn't like it was the first thing we talked about. And I'm not sure I would have said anything if she hadn't asked. Because it's not something you just start a conversation with right?

But it sort of feels like I should.

Like I should tell people, Hey, this is the most important thing in my head right now so...

But I'm still doing everything else. Just like it's not.

Because this is the new normal right now.

Live, move, check in with my sister every few days, try to sleep, mainline sugar, ignore what that's doing to my own health, don't cry, bargain with the Universe on when it will happen. Rinse and repeat.

This is the new normal. And as awful as it is, I'm getting used to it.


.....


Well, I guess I shouldn't be too terribly surprised. After all we've all acclimated to Trump being president so you can really get used to anything. Well maybe not acclimated, maybe more of just getting used to living with that feeling of dread constantly in your head. Okay, so yeah, it's completely the same.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Happy (?) Birthday!

I'm FIFTY-ONE!

Okay, so it's not as big of a deal as 50 was. Nobody dreads 51. Nobody really thinks much about 51. Once you hit 50 you just keep going until you freak out about 55 or 60, I guess.

I mean, not me. You all know how I feel about it all. If you somehow just stumbled upon me then here's your refresher...

Fifty was nifty. It really was. I had so many of my fellow new to 50s join in on the fun. The Fifty is Nifty bandwagon, the age is a gift not a curse movement. It was really great. A really solid good year.

Until the past few weeks, they've been a little rough. Or more than a little. Only a little in comparison to what I know is ahead.

But it's been a good year. And I expect the next year to be rough and hard and sad, but then good again. Or good overall. Or even good while the bad is happening. Because that is the truth of it all, life is a mixed bag. And even in the midst of the worst of it all, there is true beauty and goodness and laughter.

And things that take your legs out from under you.

So, a few weeks ago I stumbled across this picture and as I do I did the math on how old everyone was. And I know how old we all are because of the fight.


Yes, the fight. I was wearing my boyfriend's necklace. And my mother was not happy about it. See, it was a crucifix. In our religion we only show the cross as empty. Resurrection, not death see? The Catholics show the crucifix. And my mother was not pleased that I would wear a crucifix. And I was not going to not wear it so we fought about it. The compromise was that it's tucked under my dress so you can't see it.

But anyway...because I know how old I was I know how old everyone else is. And in this picture my mother is...yep...51. This is a big part of why I've never had an issue with aging. I'm 14 here, still pretty young, and my mother is 51. It's not that old. And she looks great. But want to see something amazing?


This is her 11 years later. Wearing no makeup. And she looks even better! And, just for another comparison, C is just about the same age in this picture as Brian was in the first one.

But basically my mother has been my blueprint on aging. She didn't view it as a bad thing. She also always looked much younger than she was. Which maybe is why she was never bothered by it?

Up until the cancer came she was also very healthy. I've talked before about how she kept Dad healthy as well. He was the oldest living male in his family by a long shot.

They were also the happiest couple I've ever seen. They truly enjoyed each other.

Which is why I think she's so ready to go now. Dad's been gone for awhile. The cancer has never completely gone away. The constant low dose chemo, the side effects, the tiredness. And just the loneliness. I think she's just tired.

So we are waiting. And it gets closer everyday. She lets go more and more everyday.

So yes, 51 is a little less joyful than I had hoped.

But I've had a good role model in life for finding the joy in the everyday. For smiling and forging onward. It's going to be a rough start to the year. And right now I look every inch of my 51 years, you can see them all in my eyes. And in the lines around my eyes. And in the hollows under my eyes...

But if things hold true, in another decade I'm going to be better...


okay, yes, this is actually 50 and 363 days, but it's close enough

So 51...

We're going with #FiftyOnederful even though at times it is most definitely not going to be that.
I'm sticking with the Daily Gratitude posts because I think over the next few months I'm going to really need them.

And we still have 11 days left of Cake and Compliments for Birthday Month so let's keep it going, shall we?

You are all amazing and have been so incredibly supportive of all my wacky ideas and in holding me up while I pre-grieve. If nobody has ever said it, and even if they have, you are rocks. Solid, dependable and incredibly sexy rocks.

Thank you!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Chilly...

This is the story I was working on last week before I got the message from my sister. I had had a dream the night before about graverobbers selling the things they had taken. As the dream faded I thought, "there's a story in there." This was my start. I think there is something here, I'm just not sure what it will be. But at least this way I won't forget it while I wait.




She could feel the breeze even though there was no air movement. No curtains blowing. No gently moving leaves on the palm tree in the living room. But she could still feel the cool breeze. There would be a thin spot here letting in the air she just needed to find it.

She walked toward the big bay window and right out of the breeze. Okay, that wasn't it. She retraced her steps to feel where the breeze picked back up. She took three steps backwards and the gooseflesh on her arms let her know she was there. She reached out to see if she could feel the edges of the cold air while looking around the room to see where else it might be coming from. Was there a vent that she wasn't seeing at first? Maybe the A/C was running and it was just very quiet. Or one of those bladeless fans tucked in a corner someplace. Nothing.

So now she knew.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment. Blocking out what she could see so she could focus on what she felt. She took a step forward into the chilly air, stretching her fingertips out and feeling the edges of...a stream? It felt like a stream. A stream of air, not of water, but flowing air, in a channel, there were definite boundaries. It was flowing towards something. Away from where she stood flowing toward... She opened her eyes and looked. A painting. There was a painting on the wall.

"Have you always had this piece?"

"We actually just bought this. Isn't it wonderful? I was..." the homeowner trailed off realizing that she would not have asked if it weren't significant. "Is this where it's coming from? I mean, it's just a painting?"

She smiled. "Nothing is just anything. Everything you own you own for a reason. Everything means something to you. Some things mean more than others. Art often means quite a lot."

The homeowner sighed. He didn't want to get rid of the piece. He had paid a lot for it and it was an important work. Or at least that's what the art dealer had told him. He actually didn't know much about art, just that expensive was better. Or at least that was his theory.

"So can you fix it?"

She turned and gave him a puzzled look, "Fix it?"

"Yes, can you make it stop...well...stop being so off putting."

She smiled now. "Is that what you feel? That's it's off putting?"

"Isn't that what you feel? It's cold here, when the rest of the room is warm. If you stay too long you start to feel, well, you start to feel..." The homeowner trailed off again.

She understood. He didn't understand what he felt when he was standing in that stream of cold. He just knew he felt something. And most people didn't like to feel much of anything. Especially someone who thought she could fix his painting.

"No, I can't fix it, because it's not broken."

"Well I don't mean it's broken, necessarily, but can you stop it from doing whatever it is that it's doing? That's why I hired you, afterall."

She shook her head. "No, you hired me to find out where the chill was coming from. I've let you know. That was our transaction."

"You were highly recommended!"

"I have no doubt of that. And I did my job. The painting is the source of the chill."

"Will you tell me how I can fix it myself then?"

"Give it back?"

"Give it back? You mean try to get a refund from the art dealer?"

"Oh no. They didn't own it any more than you do. This piece, this doesn't belong here at all. It's supposed to be on the other side."

"The other side?"

"Yes."

"Of what?"

"Of this." She waved her hand around his living room.

"Of my house?"

"No. Of all of this. You bought an artifact. Like the gold from a Pharaoh's tomb. This was supposed to travel with its original owner. That's what it was painted for. That's what it was imbued with. Someone stole it from the dead. You can either give it back to them, or one day discover what is on the other side of that stream."

"Stream?"

"The chill. The cold breeze. It's a stream. And eventually it will flow strong enough that you won't be able to resist it. The painting was designed for a tomb. And it's not broken. It will be in a tomb. One way or the other."








Friday, August 16, 2019

One Week Later...

So it's been a week since I got the message from my sister that Mom was failing and we were nearing the end.

It's been a hard week. Waiting. Bracing myself every time my phone buzzes. Debating with myself what is or isn't the right thing to do. Trying to figure out October plans but again not wanting to figure out October plans because she's not even gone yet. Talking to her. Talking to my sister.

Yesterday I decided that it was ridiculous to be so mopey. I mean, honestly nothing has changed. She was ill for a week before I even knew she was ill. Pre-grieving was ridiculous. Yes, she is really weak. Yes she is deep in her own mind. But she isn't gone yet. She is still here. Nothing has changed. And her doctor said it could be as long as a month. There is no way I can pre-grieve for a month. It won't change anything. It sure as hell won't make it better. Time to pull up the big girl panties and stop being such a baby about it all.

I decided.

And then this morning while I was making breakfast the sob came up unbidden and I had to choke it back down. Knowing that if I let that one out there was a flood waiting behind it.

So much for what I decided.

It's also really difficult right now because it's been a week. A week seems like a significant amount of time while you are living it. I mean last Friday when I got the message from Susan I was prepared for soon to be that day. Or that weekend. But now that it's been a week? Well hope starts to set in. Maybe they are wrong. Mom is ill, sure, but she'll get better. A week starts to let in hope.

Which is worse in a way. I mean, I spoke with her this week. She's not well. I spoke with my sister. She's much more aware of the day to day than I am and she is preparing for Mom's death. So I need to keep reminding myself that Mom is not getting better. That's not going to happen.

But it's been a week.

And doctors are sometimes wrong. You hear it all the time.

I mean, mostly they aren't. And the only reason you hear about the miracle recoveries is because they are rare and the human brain loves novelty. And honestly a week isn't that long. If I was telling you this story in five years and I said, "Mom took a sudden turn, her health failed, and she was gone within a month." You'd think, "That's so fast."

But during?

It's been a week.

A really long week.



Thursday, August 15, 2019

One Hundred Paces...

He walked the hallway between the waiting room and the nurses' station. It was 100 steps. Really it should have been 102 but he made sure to fudge a little on his stride length to make it 100. A nice round number. It just felt better to count them off that way, 98, 99....100, and turn and start again.

He made the circuit over and over again. Thousands of steps each day for the past week. He needed to do something to pass the time. He hated hospitals so the fact that he was there at all spoke to how important it was. Hospitals were the reminder of too many tubes and needles and too many people poking and prodding. For a very private man the indignities of a hospital stay were too much. An invasion of space in the justification of health. He traced the scar on his chest, too many memories. He just wanted to bolt for the door every time he saw someone in a white coat walk by.

So he paced.

"You know you don't have to be here, right? We can call..."

"That's okay, I'll wait."

He paced back and forth.

Family members passed him in the hall. Going in to her room. Staying for a few minutes. Shuffling back out. Going to the waiting room and sitting in hard plastic chairs waiting for the next time they might be granted entry. And still he paced.

He had tried to stay in the waiting room with everyone else. He really had. But it was too much. They were too much. Everyone handles things differently. That's what he would repeat to himself. Everyone deals with things in their own way. But he still didn't want to see their faces. Their "trying to be okay" faces. Or their "everything is falling apart" faces. He couldn't stand to see his daughter reading a book like nothing was happening or his son staring at the wall crying like the world was ending. So he paced.

Eighty-five, eighty-six, eighty-seven....

Her hand slipped in to his. Eighty-eight, eight-nine, ninety...

Then he heard the alarms.

Ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three...

And the rush of nurses to her room. The doctor on call racing out of the room at the end of the hallway.

He gave her hand a squeeze. "Did you want to wait?"

Ninety-four, ninety-five, ninety-six...

She squeezed back, "I think we've been waiting long enough, don't you?"

Ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred...

They stood together and looked in to the waiting room. Their children sitting rigid listening to the distance alarms sounding. Waiting for the news they knew would come.

"She's with Dad now..."



She turned and smiled at him then. "Yes, I am."


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No News is No News...

I just got off the phone with my sister. I asked her to call me today when Mom was awake so I could talk to her. If she was up for it. If she wasn't then not to, but if she was up for a call then have her do it.

It was the way I finally resolved the call or no dilemma. This way I wouldn't be forcing Mom to wake up or trying to force her to engage, but if she was able...

Kind of a cowardly way of dealing on one hand. Or a really caring way on the other. Just depends on how you want to frame it really.

So anyway...my sister called around 1:30 (2:30 New Mexico time) and I spoke with Mom for about two minutes before she just wanted to go back to sleep. It wasn't long, but it gave me a reference for how she is really doing. I mean, you can talk to people and have them tell you but you don't know for sure, right?

The picture I got of her was like she was in watercolor where she used to be a bold oil painting. She's fading away. Her voice was much weaker. Her thought process was very simple. Not really able to follow any questions I had. But I got to tell her that I love her so that was good.

And then I talked with my sister for awhile. To see how she was (not Mom but my sister) and then how my brother was. I've been thinking a lot about how my brother is going to deal with this. He has always lived with my folks. There were a couple relationships in his 20s that might have changed that, one in particular, but they didn't. So he stayed at home. Technically he didn't live with my parents, they lived with him. It is his house. But still, his life has always been with theirs.

And since Dad died, with just Mom. And I have always thought, and I would think my siblings agree, that he was always Mom's favorite child. He earned it. He was easy. Smart, quiet, loyal, easy. The rest of us have been challenges in our own ways.

So though taking care of Mom has fallen mostly to Susan over the years, I think her death is going to be the hardest on Jeff. Susan has at least lived away from home here and there. She has her own kids to worry about. She has a social circle to do things with. I think Jeff is going to be really lonely.

Which is another element of grief in families, isn't it? You have your own and then you worry about everyone else and theirs as well. Oh I'll be fine but what about.... Oh I'm sad but poor...  I think it's a way of compartmentalizing as well. Of trying to make it not so bad in a way. That you might be sad but someone else is even more sad so you have to just keep going.

Talking with my sister I was also able to get a little more filled in on what happened. The text message that Mom was failing was pretty out of the blue. I mean, she's 87 and has been battling cancer for years so not totally out of the blue, but still. It seemed sudden that she was failing so fast. And it gave me a chance to hear what her doctor has said. And what she is like now. And...

It helped.

As much as anything can.

My sister and I talked about how each of us is dealing. We are falling right in to basic personality traits. Pressure and stress just makes you more of who you are. Jeff is working as much as possible so he can be out of the house and also doing something productive. Susan is going between practical things that need taken care of and back to calling Mom and Dad, Mommy and Daddy. I'm not even sure she realized it. That fragile little kid is there still. She was the baby of the family for a long time before I showed up. And, honestly, I might have been the youngest but I think in some ways she always was the baby. The girly girl. The one that needed taken care of. I was Little Miss I Can Do It Myself pretty much from the start.

And you all know how I am dealing. I am writing. I am trying to figure out how to do it. Not completely by myself though. With my boys, and with you all as well. Everyone offering a hand to hold as I need it. And I really do appreciate it.

Also, had a dream last night, or really early this morning since it was right before the alarm went off...

I had a dream that I was on a cruise with my parents and I was trying to get a picture of all of us. My arms weren't long enough to get everyone in the frame and every time I would check it Dad would be just out of the picture. An edge of his sleeve, part of his hair, but not him. And I was desperately trying to get that picture of all of us. Mom and Dad and Me and Brent and Christopher. Finally I gave up. And Mom said, you could get one without me in it and just put them together later.

Sometimes my subconscious isn't very subtle.

I'm glad I was able to talk to Mom today, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to keep her in the picture.

And still we wait.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Brain Fog...

I am multifocused on a good day. I say multifocused because it sounds better than flighty. And I think it fits a little more. Flighty always seems like maybe not really intelligent. But multifocused seems like you are just seeing a lot of things at once. I'm multifocused.

Or flighty.

It happens all the time. Nothing is really linear in my world. When I clean the house there are usually four rooms at various stages of clean before it's all done. Instead of do this thing then start this next thing I wander. I get distracted. I leave a cup of coffee in the pantry when I am putting away the flour. Or I end up stopping to wonder when I last saw my phone where was I?

That's the best of times.

Right now isn't the best of times.

I'm being reminded of the time right after Dad died. The brain fog. The fact that part of my head was constantly drumming with Dad died, Dad died, Dad died. Now it's Mom is dying. Mom is dying. Mom is dying. And added to that is the bonus material of You should be there. You should stay here. You should be there. You should stay here. So my normal multifocused is stretched really thin.

After working out this morning Brent asked how my workout went. I told him then asked about his. He said, you already asked me that. Oh? Did I? I had zero recollection of a question I had asked and he had answered maybe two minutes before. I shrugged and said he'd need to get used to that for awhile. There was going to be a lot of teflon brain happening.

I posted a long status update about going to the store for sweet potatoes this morning. Paragraphs long. It was actually a condensed version. I'm just not quite all there. I tried to read an article on a new workout theory around muscle development. After the third time restarting it I gave up. I know it was in English, but nothing made sense. I even tried reading it outloud the last time through...nope. Just words in a line but nothing that was intelligible.

I talked with my niece yesterday and she said they had called and had my sister wake up Mom so they could tell her they loved her. Which, of course, I didn't do, so the drumbeat starts with Mom is dying. You should be there. You should stay here. You should have called. You shouldn't call you should let her sleep. You should call. You should go. You should stay. Mom is dying. With a sinister whisper of You are a bad daughter. And then I realized that I had asked Brent if he wanted me to start Waze to get us out of an unfamiliar neighborhood but I was just sitting there staring at my phone.

And then there are going to be times where I seem to forget that Mom is dying. And that's weird too. Like yesterday talking with Christopher and he asked me "But how are you?" and I answered, "Fine." and paused thinking  why would you ask me with that serious tone? Oh...yeah...because your grandmother might be dying but it's my mother and you think that I might be not okay. Yeah...that. So then, of course, I revised my answer to "Fine except you know....the big issue."

So please be patient with me for awhile. I'm going to be even worse than normal, and the odds are I'm not even going to realize it. And my normal is pretty unique so... I'm going to do a lot of even odder things than normal. I'm going to be even less focused than normal. I'm probably going to forget to do the basic niceties and you all know I'm not really good at those even normally.

Mom is dying...You should go....You should stay...You should call...You should let her sleep...you never were a good daughter...You should go...You should stay...Mom is dying...

There is nothing that I can do right now that will be the right thing. Because the only right thing would be for Mom not to be dying. And I can't make that happen. And honestly, that's not the right thing for Mom, that's only the right thing for making me feel better. Mom is ready to go. I'm just not ready to let her leave. So the drumbeat will keep going until it's replaced with the even worse one.