Tuesday, January 31, 2006
We all return to work tomorrow...ah!—blessed routine! As a sort of send off to our time away from work, Brenda and I hit the mall this afternoon.
We are hardcore shoppers. The purpose was to find a specific item from Bath and Body Works. We are hardcore skincare, fragrance, beauty line freaks. Forty-five minutes and $200 later, we headed back through the mall, and made stops in this store in that. My last dive, as Bren purchased frilly things elsewhere, was into a department store with several racks herded beneath bright "CLEARENCE!" signs.
I knew time was tight. I knew Brenda could swipe that MasterCard of hers faster than Wyatt Earp could draw. With hiccuping breath and quick hands, I clawed through the flocks to find my size. Brenda came to me as my hair escaped strand-by-strand from my ponytail and my collected drool made the descent toward the floor. Frenzied and sounding very much like Scooby Doo, I marched to the cash registers and made my purchase. Three dress shirts. Twenty dollars. I saved $75.
Leaving the store, Brenda chuckled, "Your Mom's up there loving this. You did her proud." Now my mother! SHE was a hardcore shopper! Neither Brenda nor I could stand opposite to her skills of shopping prowess, and nothing thrilled her more than a good sale...well maybe a peanut m&m with the chocolate sucked off. This was indeed a tribute. The torch has been passed.
Getting into it, I punched my bag into the air with a power-to-the-people fist and cried, "I did it all for you, Momma!"
Monday, January 30, 2006
Yesterday was Mom's wake. I was touched by the volume of those who came to celebrate her life, and moved by the warmth they inspired on such a barren day. As many I spoke with mentioned lauralore.com, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for being a part of my mother's life...I know she loved you all. I also wanted to thank those of you in cyberspace who sent flowers and cards...your generosity touched me, and I deeply inhaled the fragrance of life at your request.
Today, we have the funeral. Tomorrow, we get back to the business of living. I don't know which will be more difficult. But for now, I leave you with this, the words that I will have read to Mom during the service today:
I debated whether or not I wanted to formally write something to you for this day…we’ve exchanged so many words over the years, and I still left our conversations feeling that there was a little more to say. I guess there will always be a little more to say, won’t there?
You taught me love, Mom. You taught me nurturing, and I was honored to have the opportunity to care for you during your illness. I didn’t know real love until our roles were reversed, and I was your guardian, your caretaker, and your protector. I didn’t know that love could hurt so sharply, and then reverse on you, cradling you in plushy warmth.
You’ve been my best friend. My husband left me last year…you know; you were there that day. We had just returned from the hospital to find a note. I was stunned, taciturn, and numb. You moved around me restlessly, organizing cupboards, folding laundry. “You have to tell me what you want me to do,” you directed. “I don’t know how to help. I don’t know what to do.” You felt just as destroyed as I felt. I think our hearts must be linked.
My sentiments were echoed in the last month. I didn’t know how to help you; I didn’t know what to do. You were stern on the subject of my witnessing your death. You didn’t want me to see you like that. You wanted me shielded until the very end; you wanted even your last breath to be spent protecting me. It was difficult, the forcing myself away, but I did it…for you, always for you. My memories of you are of joyful laughter and tearful affection, and they are vivid in the murky dark of your absence. One day they will illuminate my days and I will always have the sun at my side, blanketing my life with your warm light.
You called us “kindred spirits”…and I believe we were—are: spirits never die. I learned from your feelings, and you professed to learn from my philosophies. We were caught in a continual mutual admiration, and words were simply unnecessary. Yes, there was always a little more to say…but our hearts spoke the words. Few people can grasp our connection, for few are so blessed. My life was made golden with yours…precious and invaluable. Strength was something we learned together, built together, and wielded together. I still feel you. You are holding my hand, and you are not letting go. My strength will not fail with yours so near. I love you, and I am keeping you alive in me. Have peace, and know no pain.
Friday, January 27, 2006
On the morning of January 26, Mom left the barren landscape of our world to walk the gardens of Heaven. She's in a better place...but, selfishly, I wish her back to this place.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Last night, after four days of sleep deprivation, as well as physical and emotional fatigue, Hospice supplied us with "crisis care" for the twelve hours beginning at eight last evening. My mother's sisters all returned to their homes after four days camped beside Mom. Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life...and in relation to the last six months in particular, that's no small proclamation. It was 2:00 Tuesday morning when we awoke to what we thought was "the end". I will save her some dignity by keeping the details elusive, but coffee was brewed and we began our day with about ninety minutes of sleep to our credit.
She seemed more lucid yesterday than all the days since she's been home. She was responsive. The cadence of "I love you" was echoed. Our eyes met and I knew she was seeing me, not merely looking through me. It tugged at the binds of hope, this reemergence of the woman I know...but I know it isn't in the cards. The hope hurts. She's been adamant from the beginning that she doesn't want people around here at the end. Last night, as her loving family relaxed into slumber, Mom slipped into a coma. No witnesses. Just as she wanted it to be.
She looks so lovely, so precious, as I gaze at her dear face. There is no pain etched there today. I nuzzled her nose with mine and shared her pillow while I cried. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close, embracing her body with life, maybe hoping I could daisy chain her to my own vitality. I was given a kingly gift in Mom...few have such fortune with their allotment of guardians. My mother and I live within one another. A part of her will always live in me...just as a part of me is dying right now. I cupped her head gently to my chest as I swayed to and fro. The ache made the air thick, the room blurry, and out of the silence, without plan, I sang. It was the song she sang to me as I fed on the nourishment of her love while I was so new and unfamiliar with this thing called life. The first two lines seemed to complete the circle of our relationship, and I will look for her waiting for me just inside the gates of Heaven.
Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
And now, we wait for the angels.
Friday, January 20, 2006
They drove away from my dorm in LaCrosse that September morning, and Mom cried the entire way home. Dad comforted her as best he could, but she was inconsolable. It felt as though her baby was going away forever.
We drove from the hospital in Madison this afternoon, and I cried the entire way home. Dad comforted me as best he could, but I was inconsolable, and he joined me in my tears. It feels as though my momma is going away forever.
An ambulance is bringing Mom home tomorrow morning. Hospice is bringing by supplies tonight...setting up a hospital bed. She wants to be at home. She's faded quickly this week. The pain is etched in her face. She struggles just to move her arm. The pain is making her cranky, a complete deviance from her normal demeanor. The shift in personality is perhaps the hardest for me.
But, as I left, I lightly brushed her arm, and said my goodbye. She opened those beautiful hazel eyes and smiled so sweetly...and I just wanted to cradle her and protect her from the world. I want to save her from the end, but ah...I'm meeting with the brick wall of my finite power.
"I think she needs to be told that it's ok to go," several have now lent a voice to the sentiment. Charlie and I have come close to mutual tears at our perceived role in this direction. We've never cried in front of one another. Mom's been declining quickly. I watched them apply Vaseline to her lips and swab the inside of her mouth with water yesterday afternoon. I watched her doze off in the middle of a sentence. I watched her wake up to dry heaves. She hasn't eaten anything in days.
Wednesday afternoon they ordered a CT Scan of her head, ruling out possibilities of brain tumor. It came back clean. So...apparently she's healthy as a horse? There's talk of maybe inserting a tube through her stomach, so they can flush the contents before she vomits. She no longer urinates.
People want to see her, visit with her...she doesn't want them there. She barely wants me there. She doesn't want me, or Charlie, to remember her like this. She tears up when I enter the room and turns her face the other direction for awhile. She hates it...the grief clogs the room and I claw the air for my next breath.
"Wait until I get better," she mumbles in almost-gibberish. She'll visit with all of her friends once she's better again, she promises. This isn't living. She doesn't have the strength to walk. She regurgitates ice chips. She's either in great pain or doped up on pain killers...and there doesn't seem to be a happy medium.
I have a prayer locket, compliments of Aunt Debbie, circa Christmas 2004, in honor of my mother's valiant fight against this disease. I scribbled on a scrap early this week, "Grant her peace," and tucked it inside. My prayers are on a deeper level now. I don't ask for specifics. I don't ask for favors that I'll ever see. I want a reckoning, a final judgement from the higher power. I just want it over, whatever end that may be.
I comprehend so little in all of this; I beg for wisdom.
Now, tell me, how do you invite someone to die when they're so determined to live?
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I keep my cool most of the time. I keep the naysayers and pessimists at arm's length. Every now and then, despite my careful guard, something tears in my outer defense and I am left wilted and dangling without hope of finding steady ground again. Saturday was one of those days. The confusion is almost as thick as the strain now, and I am seeing the tower of Babel revisited. So many voices adorn the air...so few of them make sense.
Finally, at wit's end, I knelt at my Mother's side and asked for honesty. I asked her for direction, I asked her what roll she wanted me to play. "Remember the good days," she muttered. "I don't want people seeing me like this," she continued. "We're kindred spirits, Laura. This conversation is silly. You know in your heart what I want. Don't listen to other people." She drifted off to sleep, the morphine taking hold, and I stumbled downstairs to sob.
Debbie tried to halt my progress with a hug...I batted her arms away. No comfort...I can't allow myself comfort yet. I can't give into that yet. I needed to rebuild my damaged wall because I knew the battle wasn't over yet and I still needed defense. Brenda came down after several minutes and asked quietly, a respectful distance away, "Are you ok?" I get that question a lot as of late. There is no answer. I'll never be completely ok again, but I'm as peaceful with life as I can be right now. Mom told me before she drifted off that I needed to throw the covers over my head and cry like nobody was there, like nobody could hear, like nobody could worry, like nobody could fawn. I wept my sobs dry.
A few hours later, when Dad came to take Mom back to their house, he came to me with understanding eyes. We could both tell that Mom turned a corner on Saturday. I rib my father a lot. I roll my eyes nearly constantly in his presence. Often, I groan in realization that half of my gene set comes from that dorky Norwegian. But another corner has been turned in these last months. My father and I have grown close. He is one of the most decent men that I know, always has been, but I'm beginning to see more of the man these days. More of the heart, patience, and kindness. He has been my dearest friend in the last week.
Today, Mom is in the hospital again. Her pained body is filling with fluid. Dad called me throughout the day with updates and to let his thoughts free. I told him that he sounded tired. He said the same of me. I told him that he sounded weary. He said the same of me. We're all living in a heightened state of fatigue. There's a thread of discord that frays relentlessly, preventing peace, preventing rest. It is a discord with the way life is supposed to go...the good health, merrymaking, laughter, love...and the sense of forever.
Monday, January 16, 2006
So, I like popcorn.
Thus, I have an air popper...and I think it has been my golden ticket for residence with my Aunt Brenda these six months complete. She is a popcorn lover from way back, and she was the fair maven who taught me that popcorn existed before there were even microwaves! (But not before stoves, obviously.)
The thing is, it's a pain to have to monitor the popping of the corn. It takes about two seconds shy of forever coax the little guys out of their shell using the oil-popped method, and it's quite easy to become distracted in the meandering dawdle of two seconds shy of forever...and particularly if you are of an attention deficit disorder state. Brenda, needless to say, finds popcorn popping of this fashion to be all together impossible and not a little improbable too.
The smell of burned popcorn tends to hang upon the air.
Enter the air popper:
Step one: Add popcorn.
Step two: Place bowl beneath spout.
Step three: Plug into outlet.
Step four: Walk away.
Step five: Sing a poor rendition of Aerosmith's Walk This Way.
Step six: Play the air guitar.
Step seven: Collect completed bowl of popcorn.
See? Simple. Sassy. Satisfying. The air popper is nothing short of absolutely perfect in every way. Brenda loves it, and pours the butter and salt as though they were the Promise Land's fabled milk and honey. She's had a popcorn strike going on about the house, a prohibition on the corn who would pop in the name of post-holiday waistline recovery. It's been hell.
Although I force my chosen lifestyle on no one, am outspoken on the subject not, I find it is still an issue. Yes, I am a somewhat-encyclopedia on healthful living...but if that's a resource you want to tap into, you've gotta open the cover. I don't read uninstructed. Brenda tucks her head shyly as I grab my bowl of plain popcorn and she pours the freshly melted butter over hers.
But today—TODAY!—she had a breakthrough as she glanced at a an article entitled something like Thoughts for 2006. Vindication was sweet, I am certain, as she read, "Health nuts are going to feel pretty silly lying in a hospital bed, dying of nothing."
Friday, January 13, 2006
You know you have spent too much time in the hospital when conversations like the following are possible. Mom went to the hospital yesterday for a blood draw and fluids.
"The girl in the lab asked about you. Asked where you were."
"The blond. I told her you found a job. She was happy for you."
"There are two blonds in the lab. The one who had her son in high—"
"No, she has darker hair. The one who worked at the prison?" I nodded. "She's not blond."
"She is so. Anyway, so it was the one who found her husband cheating on her and then married someone seven years younger."
"Yes, her. She's pregnant. I asked."
"Did accessing your port hurt this time?" I frowned. "I wasn't there to hold your hand."
"It was fine...They had to access it twice." At my quizzical look, "That's how they administered my fluids too. The little nurse in the chemo area did it."
"The one from last time? Short blond hair?"
"No, the cute little one."
"Cute little one..."
"Has a baby?"
"Oh! HER! She is adorable...and gentle."
And it went on and on and on...and Brenda looked over at us like we were speaking Greek, really boring Greek, and hoisted herself from the plush chair. She returned to the room with beer in hand.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
...when a co-worker (the workforce has such perks! I have co-workers now!!) tells me that she sees me walking and wants to grab me (pinching her index finger and thumb together delicately all the while), place me in her purse, and take me home...
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