When I was twenty-one, I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own townhouse. With the support of my parents and my grandparents, I was able to purchase a three story townhouse about half an hour away from “home” and move out on my own. I’ve mentioned in the past, but I’m the youngest of four children. At the time I moved out, two of my older brothers were still living at home and yet I was ready to be on my own. My mother, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as ready. She worried, as moms are wont to do. Especially since I was living on my own, and no one knew my comings and goings.
So we established a routine that made her more comfortable…at nine thirty p.m. every night, she would call me to see how my day went. When I got to work in the mornings, I’d call her at her office to say good morning and let her know that I’d made it in without issue. On the weekends, I still spoke to her at night, but not always in the mornings. Even when one of my brothers moved in with me for about a year, I still kept the routine with Mom. Even when pre-hub Hub moved in with me (and commuted with me to work), I still kept the routine. When Hub and I got married, the routine remained. Seeing a pattern? Moved into our new house, same routine. Of course there were days we spoke more than once or twice a day, and there were days when she was traveling (or Hub and I were) when we let the routine pause, but it always picked right back up.
When we moved into houses right nearby each other, we still talked at nine thirty every night, with the exception of travel. It was odd, but we talked even more on the phone once we lived closer. And we hung out in her backyard on her deck, or in her house, sometimes for hours at a time. Or multiple times in a day. We’re close, Mom and I. Really awesome friends. We always find things to talk about. To joke about. When she got diagnosed with her cancer, we started our crochet together, so there’d be times when we’d just be sitting together, crocheting quietly. But no matter, we’d still talk at nine thirty at night (and oftentimes at nine thirty in the morning).
As I’ve blogged about, Mom isn’t doing very well at all. Her MRI showed the cancer has spread to her brain. The symptoms she’s dealing with are supposedly from that spread, and she’s started radiation to try to alleviate symptoms. It’s not a good prognosis, as the radiation might not help and/or might not make much difference in life expectancy. And of course, radiation has side effects. We’re all devastated…my father most of all. He’s terrified to lose her. She’s terrified to leave him. Mom’s feeling lethargic all the time, rarely ever opens her eyes, sits in her recliner with her head in her hand. Sometimes she’ll talk to whoever addresses her, sometimes she won’t. Moving even to sit forward in the recliner makes her want to throw up. Going to the bathroom by wheelchair is even worse. Food is her enemy, as it all makes her feel sick. She’s barely drinking. She’s in a terrible depression. I’m positive she’s worried sick about my father. She’s not in pain, per se, but she’s not comfortable and she’s not okay.
Since she’s been feeling poorly–just about Christmas day–she’s not called me at nine thirty. She doesn’t call me in the morning. She doesn’t call me during the day.
I’m programmed, after twenty-two years, almost 365 days a year, to look up at the clock at nine thirty and get her call. Technically, her clock has been two minutes faster than mine here in recent years, but it’s a minor detail. The phone isn’t ringing. The appointed time ticks by. I try to do other things. It’s a terrible, horrible look into my future without my mom.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m over at the house every day. I’m trying to help my father during the daytime when it’s just the two of them at the house. I’ve gone to the doctor’s appointments as usual, I’m going with them to every radiation appointment that I can, and I’m bugging the crap out of my mother. I’m talking to her whether she responds to me or not. I needle her. I try to make her laugh. I do whatever I can to remind her that she’s still her with us. I touch her as often as I can without jostling her. I push her chair when my father lets me. I offer her water, I pass her the puke bucket that she carries in her lap. I ask her for help with my crochet, or point out something about the project I might have in my hand. I ask her if she needs to use the bathroom before the test or before we leave. I do everything I can to stay connected with her, even though she doesn’t seem to want to connect right now.
But at night, my twenty-two year connection is frayed and pulling apart at the threads. My head pops up at nine thirty, but the phone doesn’t ring. And it makes me so sad I can hardly stand to take in a breath. She’s still alive, she still right there, so close by, but I can’t have that link anymore. And I’m so not ready to give it up.
Although Mom’s oncologist gave me his opinion on prognosis time-wise, I don’t actually believe him. I think it’s a pat answer that they give out. I don’t want to speculate as to time, but I don’t think it’s a long time. I’m even more worried about that because of the depression. I know Mom doesn’t want to be like she is right now. Her head is all there, but her body is just being destroyed from the inside out. And although it might not be “pain” that she’s living with, it’s also not a good quality of life that she has. Especially with having to go to radiation once a day every weekday for ten days, and every movement leaving her dry heaving…it’s bad.
We’ve gotten a ramp installed temporarily so that getting Mom in and out of the house in the wheelchair is easier. The next step is to try to find some help for my father, so he doesn’t have to be responsible for Mom’s care 24/7 (even though I try to help and my brother who lives with them does do some stuff to help). I don’t know how they’re going to take to that, but my dad is already fragile with his own health issues. I know he’s devoted to my mother, and uber protective, but he can’t wear himself down and expect to be able to keep going. I’m there as often as I can during the day–sometimes two hours or so, other times for five or six hours–and I’m exhausted (especially since I come home and do more work, like getting their trusts in order, dealing with their insurance, their investments, some business work for Mom…just keeping up with day-to-day stuff for them). He has to be hitting a wall every day. I just need to figure out how to find help. That’s my mission starting Monday, I hope.
With my own cancer check coming up, and Le Moo’s visit to the vet in the same week…it’s more stress looming, mostly because of the timing, since I won’t be able to be with Mom those days, or help them get to the radiation appointments. I’m sick about it, but I can’t be in two places at once. I’m a mess, you guys. I’m holding it together at Mom’s, but by the time I’m walking home from their house, I’m in tears. I cry doing the laundry. I cry and pace the family room as I try to come to terms with what is happening. I cry feeding the dogs. I totally cry when I’m outside with them, walking Butthead on her leash. I cry in the shower. I cry on the toilet. I have a headache and stuffy nose pretty much all the time because of the crying. I’m not sleeping, my head is spinning with things I have to remember, and things I have to do, and things that need to be handled and taken care of.
I am one of those people who hate to make phone calls. I will do everything I can to not have to make cold phone calls. I hate making appointments. I hate calling strangers. I hate calling people we know who aren’t a part of my immediate inner circle. I’m having to do nothing but make those calls. Talk to those people. Chase issues. It’s stressful for me, but there’s no one else to do it. It wears on me. I’m delegating as much stuff as I can, but every time I ask someone to do something, I am reminded (by my own self-critical brain) that I’m the one not working and my brothers (and husband) are all working full time. I’m the one with the time. I’m the one here all the time. So I am plugging along, doing the best I can, and asking for help when I can. But it’s a lot for me. And I’m tired. I came upstairs after dinner and thought, “Phew, it’s the weekend, finally.” But the truth is, this is a 7 day a week mission. If I don’t go over and help my dad tomorrow, he’s doing it all alone. I might not be making calls, but I’ll be working emails and doing paperwork, and I’ll be hanging with Mom and trying to engage with her. And I’ll be getting her food and trying to keep my Dad on track with his own schedule. There’s no weekend from this. There’s only forward and go.
Nine thirty is gone again for another night. And I want to cry. Again.