8 days

It’s been 8 days since my mom died.
When I say it out loud, I say “passed”.  It sounds nicer.  But either way, it’s been eight days since life changed forever, eight days since we gave up hope and let her go.
I can’t tell, really, if it’s been 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months, but the calendar says 8 days.  My sense of time has been so distorted, especially for the first couple days.  Time passed so slowly yet so quickly at the same time.  People ask how I am, and I answer “Hanging in there.  One day at a time.”
Really, it’s one moment at a time.  Not one minute, one moment.  One piece of time.  There are moments that life is normal, working, watching tv, window shopping online.  There are other moments that are crushing, when nothing feels right and everything feels wrong and there can’t possibly be any way that it will ever be good again.  I’ve had more of those moments today than in the last week.  Maybe it’s the stages of grief I’ve heard about – the first one is shock and denial.  I’ve had shock, for sure, but not denial.  It just doesn’t seem real.  The next is pain and guilt.  Check.  The third is anger and bargaining.  I don’t think I’m there yet.  I can’t imagine bargaining; there’s nothing to bargain.  It won’t bring her back.  Next comes depression, reflection, and loneliness.
I think these are out of order.
Or maybe they just happen all at once.  I don’t know.  Where’s “I cry randomly when I’m driving” and “I just want to sink into the floor and be unconscious for awhile”?  What about “I can’t concentrate on anything because my mind is everywhere”?  Or “I think I’ll try finding a guy to date so I can direct my energy elsewhere”?
There was this guy I had been talking to in the weeks before 8 days ago.  We talked quite a bit, and finally met in person the day before 8 days ago.  It was nice – we sat at the bar and talked for upwards of three hours.  He asked me out again, and kissed me before we parted.  We talked pretty steadily over the next week too, me trying to keep things normal and him saying he was thinking of me.  On Saturday, he asked me when he could see me again.  We made plans for the following Saturday.  On Sunday night, we were chatting about normal stuff, mundane stuff really.  And then nothing from him.  All day Monday.  All day Tuesday.  I sent a couple messages – “Good morning”, “I have a babysitter for Saturday, what time works best for you?” – but nothing.  He disappeared.  He’s blocked his profile from me on the site we met on.  I’m flabbergasted.  Why no explanation?  I truly have no idea what happened, and now I’m kind of pissed off.  Lead me on then abandon me?  Bad for my self esteem.
So I had a little pity party for myself, then decided that it would be a good idea to get back on the dating site I met Stephen on.  I created a new account – didn’t reactivate the old one – and uploaded a photo.  I started looking.  I “liked” a few guys.  I came across my ex-husband (we were a 45% match, ha, I can attest to the inaccuracy of their matching system), then I came across Alan.  The guy who led me on then disappeared.
Of course I sent him a message.
It said something like “I’m kind of annoyed that you just stopped talking to me, with no explanation.”  He looked at my profile at 4-something this morning.  I know he’s alive and has internet access, which makes me even more upset.
I spent alot of today talking to guys who find some aspect of me appealing.  It’s freaking exhausting, trying to remember who’s who and what they do and where they live.  At some point, I realized that it was a mixture of grief and the sting of being “dumped” that made me feel the way I did over Alan yesterday.  Then I went on to realize that I got on this site for a distraction, for an ego boost.  I like being told that I’m pretty as much as the next girl.  It makes me feel good to have guys talk to me.
I also realized that I want to be wrapped up in someone’s arms, comforted.  Someone who loves me and cares about me and wants to take care of me.  I missed that so much, and I grieved that too.
A stupid thing to be grieving at a time like this, which made it all worse.  It brought on the “nothing is right” hollow feeling, the panic welling just below the surface, waiting to be unleashed in some scary way.  What if I never find love?  I’ll never be married for 44 years like my parents, not at my age.  What if I never have someone who cares for me and loves me and wants to take care of me?  What if it really is me and my 27 cats when I’m 95, chasing kids off my porch with a broom?
So I sit back and think about it, and I sigh.  I don’t know what else to do.

 

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Eulogy

In this digital age, we don’t think much of taking a photo. Most of us could take out our phone right now and snap one. In the last couple of days as I was looking for photos of mom, I was struck by how few there were. This means two things to me:

  1. Don’t wait. Take the picture. You will be glad you did some day.
  2. There are many more pictures of things that mom did for us or with us than there are of her – birthday parties, holidays, trips, crafts, pets. She always made sure we had what we needed and then some. She always took care of us. She put everyone else ahead of herself.

I owe my mom more than I could ever express. I think that you don’t fully realize the sacrifices that a parent makes for their children until you, yourself, are a parent. Parenting requires selflessness. You want nothing more than for your children to excel and succeed, from their first steps on. Mom wanted this for Joe and I, and did everything in her power to make it happen, never complaining about what she was giving up in order to make that happen. She played with us when we were kids, drawing and coloring and playing games with us, helping us with whatever crazy project we wanted to undertake next. She has done this for my children as well, giving up the free time that retirement brings so that she could care for Kaely and Vidia while I worked. I never told her how very, very much I appreciate that. I will be forever grateful that my girls got to spend such great time with their grandparents. Not every kid gets one-on-one attention year round for their first four or five years. My girls are lucky. I am lucky.

What will I remember most about my mom?

Her patience. She rarely raised her voice. She didn’t get frustrated when we didn’t understand something. When she could see me start to lose my cool with my very strong willed first born, she would tell me “Patience, mama, patience.”

Mom was the only one who could buy makeup for me. She could pick out the exact shades that would look good on me when I wasn’t even in the store with her. I can’t even do that for myself.

It was the same with clothes and shoes – she had a knack for choosing just the right size, style, and color for me, even as my size and tastes changed.

Her memory – mom had a memory like an elephant. She could tell you the date she got her tonsils out as a kid and what she ate after. She remembered the birthdays of all her siblings and their spouses, and all her nieces and nephews.

I learned to be thoughtful from my mom. She was always doing a little something to make you feel special – a note or a sticker in my lunch box, a card mailed to our family post office box just so I would get my own mail, cards and mail at college even though I came home every weekend. A gift for me on my first mother’s day, a valentine every February. I try to continue these things with my kids, but I’m just not as good at it. I don’t have her memory either – maybe that’s the problem.

I don’t know how I’m going to raise my girls without my mom to talk to. We had some tense times when I was a young adult and was sure I knew everything, but we grew into friends as I got older. I am going to miss talking to her terribly. I already have a whole collection of mundane things I want to tell her, because that’s what we did in the afternoons when I picked the girls up from her house after work. I never imagined a time when I wouldn’t be able to do that. I expected her to be around to see the girls graduate from high school and college; get married. I hoped that she would be able to meet her great-grandchildren some day.

If I can be half the mother that she was, I will consider myself a success. I miss you, mom. We all do. We love you. I hope that you’re living it up with Annie again. Until we meet again.

An Update on Life

“How are you holding up?”
“I’m OK.”

That’s the standard answer.  I’ve been up and down and up and down and up and down so many times over the last month.
My mom’s spleen burst in the wee hours of Sunday morning, resulting in its removal.  She received hemoglobin today.  The swelling in her hands is down, but it’s worse in her legs.
Last time I saw her was Friday.  She was a different person then.  She was regaining mobility in her hands and arms and feet, slowly, but making progress.  There was talk of moving her to rehab soon.  She complained regularly that her stomach hurt, but everyone attributed it to the not one but two feeding tube incisions.  There was an air leak in the first one, so a middle of the night surgery pulled it out and put a new one in.  Maybe those stomach pains were her spleen failing?
She was working hard to communicate with us.  My brother installed an app on a tablet and she was having some success using a stylus with it to give us some words.  We printed out communication boards; I made an alphabet board complete with commonly used phrase cards interchangeable via Velcro.  We were getting better at reading lips.  My dad was pleased, to a degree, by the fact that it seemed that she figured out that if she said her stomach hurt, they wouldn’t try to sit her up in a chair that day, and she got a little smirk about it.
Prior to that, she was sedated in the ICU, non-responsive and unable to move her extremities.  She finally received a diagnosis of acute demyelinating neuropathy.  A plasma transplant worked wonders, and she was alert and responsive and asking questions again, after two weeks being out of it.
Today, I arrived and she was sleeping.  I sat and let her sleep.  Within two minutes, a doctor and nurse arrived to check her incisions, and I was quickly shooed out so that they could take care of the “oozing”.  I would call it less “oozing” and more “dripping blood”.  I was quite unnerved.  They let my mother lay in a bed dripping blood down her abdomen?  What kind of hell is this place?
I found a waiting room, then a restroom.  Then I made my way back.  They needed more time.  I decided I would wait outside her room, trying to hear the talk from behind the curtain.  The CCU is surprisingly loud, so that didn’t happen.  The nurse came to tell me that it looked worse than it was, that the edges of all her incisions were weeping because of her thin blood, and they had bundled bandages on top of bandages so it looked like more blood.  They had packed it with a medicated dressing this time, she said, to help stop the bleeding.  She was empathetic; I appreciated that.  A minute later, the doctor came to me.  He had consulted with the surgeon who operated, and he concurred with the nurse.  The blood thinners should be out of her system completely in a few hours, and they would check her again.  If the “oozing” continued, they would take her to the OR and wash out the wound so that they could look for a single source of bleeding.  He was empathic too, in the detached manner that a doctor needs to be.
Finally the imposing nurse let me back in.  Her demeanor changed; she introduced herself and went about making my mom as comfortable as possible.  She got her a cold washcloth for her forehead and adjusted some things.  She chitchatted with me.
My mom was, I hope, loopy from pain meds.  Her left eye looked funny, like it did when she was heavily sedated a few weeks ago in the ICU.  She tried to tell me some things, but she was less distinct than the last time I saw her, or maybe I’m just still bad at lip reading.  I couldn’t find the letter board and I couldn’t interpret the letters she was trying to make in the air with a shaky hand.  I did get this, though: “You shouldn’t be here.”  She tried to tell me why, but I couldn’t make it out.  “You don’t want me here?” No.  “I should be with the girls?”  She nodded her head yes, but I knew from her expression that it was her giving up on me, not the right answer.  She tried hard to tell me something else too, but the only words I could get were “lost on”.  And “on” might not even be right.  If I don’t get it after a few tries, she gives up. It’s frustrating for both of us.
I hope that my dad doesn’t get that late night phone call that they’re headed to the OR to flush her wounds because she’s still bleeding.  I hope that her body starts to work, to clot in the right places, and let her heal.  I hope that I get a chance to find out what’s lost.