Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hey Asshole, Get Over Yourself

"Half the bloody world is going through a divorce, more than that are having children. All of us have parents who are dying, or have died. It's just the life cycle."

-- Sarah McLachlan in the L.A. Times


I recently learned that the parent of a friend has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. My friend packed up her husband and kids, sold her house, left a job she loves in her chosen field, and moved 2,000+ miles back into her childhood home.

Brain cancer and dementia are two very different diagnoses, but they have a lot in common, among them loss of function, personality changes, and having to take the car keys away from a parent against their will. And death. Almost like brain cancer, but without the radiation and chemo.

...

I spent a long time trying to wrap my head around the fact that my grandmother, my mom's mom, had died at the very early age of 74, but my mom? 59 at diagnosis. If 74 was young, what the hell was 60 or 61? Here I was in my very early 30s and my friends were now losing their grandparents. What the fuck?

And then I read the above excerpt and it hit me. My college roommate lost her dad from a sudden heart attack our freshman year. At least four girlfriends, all a few years older than me, lost their moms to breast cancer a few years back. Plus my old Jazzercise instructor, and another woman from our class, who is now losing her dad, too.

I wasn't that young, and neither was my mom. I was not alone, just temporarily blinded by grief.

...

I can look back now at the seventeen months on that damn emotional roller coaster knowing that the hard part is over. With the stress of my mom's illness gone only the sadness remains. I cannot begin to put into words how much easier and uncomplicated my life is now vs. a year ago.

I think of my friend. Her mom's expected life expectancy? Six to ten years. Forget the uncertainty of will it be six years, or ten, or maybe just four? How much time will they have? My friend has an average of six to ten years of slow moving hell in front of her. All of it, for years, and the majority of her children's childhood.

As it turns out we got off easy. Who knew?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lives, Lost

We met in a college French class, and during my 5 years in Colorado she was my best friend. To this day she remains the kindest, most gentle person I have ever met. I don't know how to put it into words, except to say that even in a place as granola as Boulder, she was the embodiment of Mother Earth.

I have a million wonderful smiling pictures of her, but this one of her and my son has always been my favorite.


She was so excited when I became pregnant with that little guy that she came to visit us in Phoenix just so she could put her hands on my 4 months pregnant belly. When he was 3 months old I brought him up to her. All I remember from that trip is laying on a bed, the two of us spending hours pouring over his little body and soaking up his babyness.


I hadn't seen her face to face in two years, but in our short exchanges through email and facebook I sensed she was having a hard time adjusting to motherhood. Caught up in my own family drama, I didn't reach out the way I should have, despite the fact that she had reached out to support me when my mom was dying. Even though I had yet to meet him, I loved her son fiercely through his pictures. His round little face and perfect boy hair reminded me so much of my own son as a baby.

According to the media the fact that she was suffering from post partum depression wasn't a secret -- her family knew, medical professionals knew, her neighbors even knew. And she was trying to find help.

I know I'm angry and hurt and devastated and irrational, but really, it never should have happened, not in a million years.


RIP sweet baby.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Weeks

Two weeks to the day after losing my Mom we spent the night at the vet, very unexpectedly putting our cat to sleep.

Back to raw.


Rest in peace, Belle. You were a little shit from day one, but in a super cool kind of way. You and your naughty antics will be missed.

(Tinker)Belle, 2001-2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day One: Trying to Use My Words

What I really wanted and needed today was have some quiet time to myself. Quiet time, by myself, uninterrupted.

Strike one, husband had to work. Strike two, my little guy's birthday. Strike three, stay at home mom of an easily angered 23.5 month old. Strike four, I don't want to turn off my phone because there are people I want to be able to reach me: my kid's school, my husband, and my dad.

First thing first, after being told explicitly by her brother last night that I wanted a day without phones, and then reading on Facebook this morning that I wanted to have a day without phones, my sister-in-law, who last year didn't call, didn't send a present, or even a frickin card for either of my kid's birthdays, sends me a Facebook message wanting to know if it's okay for her to call. Right, because when your brother said, "The one and only thing you can do for Heidi right now is NOT CALL" he totally didn't mean it. It's opposite day, y'all!

In the 35 minutes that I was in the Cracker's classroom this afternoon I received 7 unsolicited text messages. The kids actually stopped singing happy birthday to my child to yell out "YOUR PHONE IS BEEPING AGAIN!" I don't have a text plan because I am a stay at home mom. If I can't talk then I can't text either. Seriously, if it isn't need-to-know-right-now-or-the-universe-explodes information fucking e-mail it to me. I promise I will enjoy your non-time-sensitive messages a few minutes (or, gasp, hours!) later when they don't cost me a quarter each. Really, seven BEEP!BEEP!BEEP! texts during a 35 minute party? No, not disruptive at all.

BUT HERE'S THE CAKE!

Scene: The Cracker's classroom. Enter Carmen's mom.

"How is your mom?"
Whispering. "She's gone. (Gulp.) But I'm here to celebrate the Cracker's birthday and he doesn't know."
"HIS ACTUAL BIRTHDAY IS TODAY?"
"It is."
"When?"
"What?"
"When did she die?"
"Yesterday. But the Cracker doesn't know. I can't talk about it right now." And the kid is 5 feet away. Pretty sure this was the point at which I put my sunglasses on, cause you know, welling up now.
"When yesterday?"
Lady, I don't even know your first name. Fuck, I don't even know your your last name.
"Early afternoon. Excuse me, I need to go set up."
She follows. The Cracker comes over and attaches himself to my leg.

"Oh I think he knows. He was so sad yesterday. When are you going home?"
"We're not."
"Is she being cremated?"


What the fuck is wrong with people?! I am using my big girl words. Why can't they listen?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The End of the End

When we first had to tell my son that his beloved grandmother was dying he was 5 and a half years old. The only way I could think of to express maybe months, maybe a year, was to tell him that while she would probably live to see him be 6, we didn't have much hope that she'd make it to see him turn 7.

When Christmas 2009 passed March 30th became her new goal.

We never told my mom about what we'd told him, though I suspected she knew. More than once he broke down and tried to get her to promise that she'd come to his 7th birthday party. It was obviously more to him than regular birthday milestone.

After she made it past the hurdles of mid-February, the days where we thought she wouldn't make it through the night, I found myself worrying about the worst case scenario.

Please not near his birthday. A two week cushion, minimum, is not too much to ask for, right?

On Saturday the hospice nurses volunteered that my mom has taken a final turn, one that suggests she has reached her final 48-72 hours.

On Tuesday my little boy turns 7.

Please let them be wrong.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Life Interrupted

It's been a month since I returned home from saying goodbye to my mom. It gets harder every day.

People call constantly -- they want to know how she's doing. When I don't call back instantly they call more. Ring, ring, ring, leave a message on my home phone. Ten seconds later ring, ring, ring, leave the same message on my cell phone. Repeat. People I hardly know ask me at school. Everyone wants to be informed. What's the latest? Do you want to spill your guts to me?

Thank you, but no.

How about now?

Nothing like trying to calm your mom down while you are both crying during yet another seizure or changing her diaper. AND THE FUCKING PHONE IS RINGING THROUGH IT ALL.

It's a lot like having a newborn for the first time. The needs are basic: clean, diaper, and feed. They sleep constantly but there's too much laundry, always an errand that needs running, and no time to shower let alone catch up on the sleep you didn't get the night before.

...


I feel like I've been honest with people all along, and it's just biting me in the ass. The more I give the more they want. "This is a death sentence." I told them that it would be a year or so. "There is no hope." I continue to give details like the fact that she's bedridden, sleeps 23+ hours/day, can no longer communicate, can't drink, can barely eat, etc, that I am waiting for "the" phone call. I tell them that I'll let them know when she's gone. I tell them that we think days, maybe a week, maybe two, but we don't know. I tell them we were 100% she wasn't going to make it through the night on February 17th. Then again on the 18th. We don't know, but I promise I will let you know when it happens.

And then they ask again, they call again. "How is your mom?"

Same as yesterday. Still dying. Thanks for asking.

She is so young! I really need to express to you how hard it is on me that you are losing her. I don't know what I'd do if it were my mom. Do you want to talk about it because I want to talk about it.

...

The truth is I lost my mom some time ago. Life is moving forward without her. I did not choose this, I am not ready for it, nor would I have been 20 years from now, but I am powerless to stop it. For more than a year I was consumed by cancer and death. And now, even though she is still here, she is gone. She can't talk, she can't respond, she can't swallow, she can't anything.

Ready or not, I am already having to find my way in the world without her.

The sadness? It's there, it's always there. There are times, like right now, when it's overwhelming and I do need a shoulder to cry on. Thank you for your offers, I will come to you when I need to, like I am now. But when I'm laughing and having a great time please stop interrupting to ask again. To tell me again. To remind me again.

Ring, ring, ring.

...

While I was gone my two best girlfriends ran into each other. They shared what they knew, had a good cry in the middle of a public library, and then made a pact to go home to call their own moms. They both told me about it later, each in their own ways, when the time was right.

I cannot even begin to express how much I loved hearing it.

I need you to talk about it with others. I need you to call your own mom. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me; there will be so many opportunities for you to be there, and I will need you.

I also need to be Heidi again, more than your friend with the mom who is dying of cancer way too young.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Middle of the End

When my parents left 3 weeks ago I found so much comfort in the fact that I knew it wasn't goodbye. Not yet. Because my dad had asked me again to come, and I agreed.

On Wednesday I got the call I'd been expecting, the one that said start thinking about making your goodbye trip.

Soon.

***

I saw a dress recently that I really wanted for my girl Olive. It was way above my price range, but something I knew I could sew, and in a fabric I actually already possesed.

(How I deal with my mom's pending death? By buying way too much fabric. Not sure it's cheaper than Crack. Or any less addictive.)

My mom and I talked about the dress I was hoping to make. I sent her a picture of the inspiration, modeled by a 4ish year old girl. A girl with blond big girl hair.

Thursday morning, before coffee, I got a message from my dad.

"She thinks the model in the picture is Olive. I cannot convince her otherwise."

(Light but still) brown haired, short haired, petite 22 month old Olive? The same girl who just last week started sporting her very first pig tails? It was almost all we talked about the week before. Yay! Pigtails! Almost two and she finally has pigtails! There had been pictures emailed, discussions over how to best harness them, and a ridiculous amount celebration.

Maybe she meant that the dress itself was "so Olive"?

Later that night when we talked on the phone she brought it up. "I am so mad at your father. Can you belive he doesn't even know his own granddaughter in a picture when he sees her?!"

Remember last week Mom? The pigtails? Do you remember?

And to then hear her voice at the other end of the line... Heartbreaking.

Cancer is cruel.



***

So I'm making plans to make plans. With every day that passes she seems two days closer to death.

But when? If I go too late it will be like I'm not even there. If I go too soon she knows that we've given up on her. I don't have the answers and I don't know how or where to find them.

But soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What the Fuck

Somebody, and by somebody I mean the Cracker, placed the bathroom trash can next to the toilet and then peed in it all over it.

I fuckin hate six. Six is bullshit.

You can read more about six here. And here. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nana

I don't have it in me to lay it all out right now, but the news on my mom -- it's complicated, it's bad.

Olive has a lot of words, the majority of which we don't understand, but her newest favorite, one of a select few which even a complete stranger would understand is "Nana."

I'm so grateful that my mom got to hear her say it.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010

A few weeks back I got a voice mail from my mom. Her voice was all wrong, her words made no sense. She talked until the system cut her off, about what I’ll never know. I saved it so Jason could listen to it, tell me that I was mistaken, because maybe it was subtle and only I would know because we share 32 years of mother-daughter history, versus their 12 years as in-laws.

But it was wrong. Even he could not deny it.

My fight-or-flight response kicked in. Lala lala la...I can’t hear you. And for a few days it actually worked. I can honestly say that I forgot about it.

...

A box arrived. Two pairs of Hanna Andersson tights for Olive, purchased in a brick and mortar HA store, unreturnable by me, mailed USPS by my mom. Two tiny pairs of tights that might have fit my daughter a year ago, but certainly not now, from a woman who always buys everything two sizes too big. Two tiny pairs of tights sent all alone in the biggest flat rate priority box money can buy, completely missing the point and any savings alltogether.

I called my dad. I’m not sure really why, probably so he could help run interference when she asked to see they way too small tights on my daughter. Mistake. The flood gates open, he immediately began ticking off a long list of all of her new not-quite-right brain tumor behavior. And there's been a lot.

...

She does chemo every two weeks now, until a scan shows that she is no longer responding. Yesterday she had a scan, with the results expected next week.

Seriously, you will be able to knock us over with a feather if she's allowed to go on.

I know I'm not looking for it, it's just there. While she is not nearly as angry as before, more like seriously annoyed, she grabs hold of a topic and won't. let. go. This last month it centers around air travel, airports, the TSA, x-rays, pat-downs, taking off your shoes at security, pets on planes, pets in the luggage claim, overhead bins, and why luggage with wheels are destroying our once civilized society. In 10 days she is due to fly here. She is convinced that she will not be allowed to board the plane, detained as a suspicious person of interest, because she doesn't look "alert" enough. Huh. The more I think about it, maybe that last one isn't all that out-there after all.

...

2010. It's everywhere today, yesterday, last week. Hope, change, possibility...

And the year my mom is going to die.