The Honest Answer

“How are you?”
I answered honestly.  “I’m tired, sad, worried, and irritable.”
My mom is very ill.  She went into the hospital Thursday and was moved to the ICU Saturday.  She is sedated and on a ventilator to allow her body to rest and heal.  We can’t even talk to her because her body responds to voices by spiking her blood pressure.  My dad has been by her side most of every day.  My brother and I went to see her and him yesterday.  I realized partway through that really we were there for him, to give him a break from just sitting there with her.  I don’t know what to do for him.  There’s not much I can do for my mom at this point, I don’t know if she even knows that people are there.  But what can I do for my dad?  I got him some groceries today, brought in his mail, fed the cats.  Probably sit with him.  It occurred to me today that he’s got nobody to lean on right now except my brother and I.  Nobody to talk to, to vent to, to worry to, to cry with.  He tears up when he talks to me, and I know he doesn’t want to do that in front of the kids.  But they’re always with me lately.  That’s making me tired too.  I take them to school in the morning, then pick up V at noon and bring her to work with me since my dad is at the hospital and can’t watch her.  Then I leave work early to get K off the bus; bring work home with me not so much because I need to keep up with it so much as I don’t want to use up my PTO.
The situation is affecting the kids too, even though they don’t know the extent of it.  They know that their routine is off, that grandma is sick, that mom cries sometimes.  They suspect that grandpa does too, even though he says that he has something in his eye.  They’re a little wild, and I don’t have much patience right now.  I snap at them; I yell when I probably don’t need to.  Their girl shrieks and whining grate on me now more than it should.  They don’t listen and they don’t follow directions.
V had a 20 minute meltdown today because it wasn’t her turn to push the shopping cart and a line of other injustices.  They asked repeatedly to have a sleepover in the living room, which isn’t allowed on school nights.  K put on the roller skates that are four sizes too small and that she’s been told dozens of times not to wear.  V stripped down to her underwear and left her clothes in the kitchen.  They were both shrieking and tattling on each other.
I remembered the one time that my mom got fed up with us and needed a break.  One time, out of of 15 years of being a stay-at-home mom.  I remember that day, my brother and I were arguing and irritating each other, and not listening to her.  The next thing I know, she’s backing out the driveway in her big old car (Cadillac or Oldsmobile, I can’t remember, but my dad always got her big boats to drive because they were safer), a cigarette in her hand (this was the 80’s).  I was in the driveway, crying, asking her where she was going.  I could see the tense anger on her face as she said she would be back soon.
She was probably only gone a couple minutes, but she came back a different person, my calm, collected mom once again.
I understand that feeling now.  I understand needing just 2 minutes of quiet, of not having to referee fights.  A miniscule amount of time, but so beneficial.
And I feel ashamed of my outbursts at my kids.  I don’t have the patience my mom does.  I’m not the mother she is.
Every year that goes by, I appreciate my parents more.  The sacrifices they made, the things they did and didn’t do.  What they put up with, what they taught.  My mom is the same age her father was when he died.  I’m the same age my mom was she lost her mother (though her mother was older than my mom is now).  My grandma died on my brother’s sixth birthday.  I have always envied her for holding it together through that day, through his party with a bunch of wild boys, and me with my questions: “Why is grandma’s chair here? Why won’t you tell me?”  Finally, later, after the cake had been eaten and gifts opened and guests picked up, she told us.  Every year on my brother’s birthday, I remember that.  How a day she experienced great joy would be a day she experienced great sorrow a few years later.  How strong she was to hold herself together for his sake, for our sake.  How I don’t think I could do that.  I know I couldn’t do that.
My daughter’s birthday is approaching.  I’m not going to lie, I’m afraid of history repeating itself.
I’m afraid that I’m not strong enough to handle that, not anything close to that.  I desperately wish in some moments that I had Stephen to hold me.  He was so good at that, big and strong and knew how to hold me and make me feel safe.  I am tired right now, tired of standing strong on my own, tired of holding it together, so sad for my dad, so worried for my mom.  I want to be with her and him and make it all better, for all of us, for them, for my girls, for me.  My mom is the strong one of the family, and we are all struggling to be half as strong as she is right now.  I wish I could give up half my breath to her, give her a lung to help her breathe.  I’m not ready to lose her.  I need to thank her for everything she’s ever done and still does for us.  I need to tell her how much I admire her and love her and need her.  How much we all need her.
Please get well soon, mom.


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