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Finding connections

I wasn’t sure what to do this year about mother’s day. Last year I sent Hub off to his mother’s house without me, and I spent part of the day with my brother and his then wife (now ex-wife). I talked with T about this on Friday, because I feel some guilt about not going to my mother-in-law’s to be with her, but I just am not ready yet this year. I know she understands–as does Hub–but I am at heart a people-pleaser, and so the guilt sat heavy with me. In the end, though, I couldn’t make myself go.

My father had mentioned to me Friday evening that he was going to go to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave and he asked if I wanted to go. I didn’t answer him at that point, but Sunday morning when I saw him, he brought it up again. He said he knew it made me feel “uncomfortable”, but he wanted to make the offer for me to join him. I tried to be gentle in responding when I said to him, “I don’t feel uncomfortable about going, but the truth is, I don’t feel a connection to Mom there. I don’t feel it to Nana and Papa, either…it doesn’t work that way for me.” (my grandparents are buried in the plots next to my mother). For real, I feel more of a connection to my mother in her “den” closet, where she had a bunch of books stashed on a bookshelf…gardening, trees, cookbooks…I stumbled on them at one point and ended up crying. Because that’s my mother. The cemetery is just a marker for her physical body’s last resting place, but it has no history for me with her. My father only said OK and that he was okay to go alone, which I had to trust was true.

Somewhere around ten a.m., I texted my brother (the one with the ex-wife) to see what he was doing that afternoon. He said “nothing”, so I asked if he wanted to do something. What I really wanted to do was go back to the nursery where Mom and I used to go all the time, and where he and I went after she died. I also offered up the opportunity for him to come to my house to help me bake peanut butter cookies, which he (and my other brother) scarf up as fast as I can make them. His response was a preference to go to the garden center, so in some corner of my mind I knew it was the right thing to do. Even Hub said as much when I told him my plans for the afternoon while he was with his mother…he said my mom would be happy to know I was spending time there with my brother.

So after lunch, my brother and I set out for the nursery, which is about 20 minutes away. We talked a lot in the car about how he’s been doing with his depression and his medication, as well as some other health issues he’s dealing with. But once at the nursery, we talked about plants. We walked around the big place for about two hours–which leaves me exhausted and in pain today unfortunately–just chattering and touching plants and gagging over the high prices. We bought absolutely nothing, but it was worth the time and energy and pain, because it felt right. This brother and I, we have always been the closest of the siblings–with the exception of his married life where he withdrew from the whole family…and even then I tried to stay in touch with him as much as it was possible–so this connection felt good to renew. I know he’s struggling with his depression and his newly single life and his desire for a partner and…well, lots of stuff. And part of today was to remind him that he’s not alone. Doing that for my mom and for him made the day work for me.

I miss my mother so terribly. Every day. I feel like my identity without her has been lost. I don’t know how to get it back…yet. I’m still searching, and maybe someday I’ll find my purpose again.

I described (to T and a friend) the run-up to mother’s day as “being poked with a cattle prod when you’re already on fire”…and it’s true. That’s so much how I felt with all the television commercials and the holiday displays in all the stores and the radio commercials and facebook and instagram and on and on. I worry that it will always feel this way, this painful, this sad, this lost. Living without my mom has changed my life and changed me at my core. I don’t know how to adjust to that, or that adjustment is even possible. Somehow, I have to find a way forward. Last night I watched Bad Moms on television while Hub was still at his mother’s. There’s a point in the movie where Mila Kunis is talking to her movie daughter and she basically says, “I know you can make it through this because I’m your mother and I know what you’re made of.” It was such a dumb, funny, stupid, crazy movie, but that scene and those words (which I can’t remember exactly) really hit me hard. I know my mother believed in me and believed in my strength and my ability to persist. I hope I can find a way to continue to make her proud in that aspect as I try to find my way.


 

As a minor update, I finished all my bactrim pills successfully. I don’t know how much I feel better, but so far it seems the smell is gone, so I take that as success. I wasn’t too much more itchy the last day and half, so that was good. My stomach isn’t entirely back to normal yet, but I know the bactrim stays in your system for several days following the last pill. So hopefully another couple of days and my stomach will be better.

 

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Bactrim blues

So I’ve taken six pills so far for what my doctor diagnosed as a sinus infection.  I wanted to make note of what has been happening with the bactrim, at least for my future reference. Here’s what my historical experience prepared me for:

Upon getting my ABs, I come home and go look up my blog post from when I had to take these particular ABs, and I apparently have nausea, bad taste in my mouth, and dry mouth (editing to add, and dry/itchy eyes near to the end of the course of ABs) to look forward to for ten days at least. Two pills a day over ten days.

I’m definitely getting a lot of heartburn/acid reflux. My appetite is nil and the nausea is there for sure. My stomach hurts almost all the time, but that could also be from the acid reflux/heartburn. What is also a bit distressing is that last night before dinner (after the 4th pill at 9:30am that morning), I had a really bad hot flush on my face and ear, and I had anxiety. I’m not sure if the anxiety came from the hot flush or from the ABs. So I took another pill this morning at about the same time as yesterday…and tonight the hot flush started again before dinner. I didn’t even wait this time, I just got a cold pack and put it on my face until I was pretty well frozen. I didn’t get the anxiety, but I also stopped the hot flush early on, so maybe I stopped the anxiety before it started.

There’s no discernible change in the smell issue, yet. I’ve been trying to use different essential oils to distract myself from the smell (I just realized I had some good oils downstairs I could use…brown sugar and vanilla!), but it doesn’t last long.

Last night we invited my father over for dinner since my brother (the one that lives with him) is out of town for several days. Then tonight we went out for burgers with him and my other brother. Tomorrow Dad’s going to the grocery store with us in the morning, basically because he’s tired of being stuck in the house alone. He and I talked about how hard it is to be alone in the house all the time (while his house-mate is out of town), and I told him how concerned I am about being alone when Hub goes away. I told him I might end up sleeping there at night and he said if I did then they would be able to help me with the dogs in the early morning hours. I said I’d let him know. I’ve been going out for walks every day and when I get to his house, I call him to tell him to send his dog into the yard with us…sometimes he comes out to chat at that point. It’s hard because I used to do this to go hang out with Mom…and it’s not as easy to find things to talk about with Dad all the time. But I’m trying t keep up with the walking outside, so if he wants to chat with me he’ll have the opportunity.

I’m really tired of feeling so crappy. I want to regain my energy. I want to move forward.

 

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One year.

I love you, Mom.

Every moment, even the difficult ones, were a blessing for me because they were spent with you.

I mark this day in honor of a woman whose life mattered.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who loved her family beyond what words can express. It was immeasurable.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who is loved beyond her time on this earth.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who was generous, intelligent, compassionate, and downright amazing.

I mark this day in my heart and soul, like a tattoo that can never be removed.

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Birthdays and grief

My mother’s birthday was a few days before the holidays. As one of my brothers said to me, “I’m sure it’s not creeping up on you, either…” And it wasn’t. T thinks that a lot of my pain and anxiety were around the colonoscopy without my mother being there, and because of my mother’s birthday, and because of the holidays without her.

Yeah, I knew her birthday was coming. I knew it was going to be bad. I also knew I had somewhat of a plan for the day. Before Mom got sick, when she was still crocheting, she hooked up a bunch of preemie hats for our local hospital’s NICU. At the time, it wasn’t a lot of hats, so we kept saying we were holding off before taking them in. After Mom passed, I took all of the small amounts of yarn I had and crocheted more tiny hats. Then I put them all into a bag and left them in my library. Because I knew what I wanted to do.

On Mom’s birthday, I woke up and got dressed. And I called my father to see how he was. He said he was just going to call me because he was going to the cemetery and he wanted to know if I wanted to go. I didn’t really, but I didn’t want him to go alone. So instead of answering him directly, I said if he would take me up to the hospital to drop off the preemie hats, I would go with him to the cemetery. He said okay, so we left about ten minutes later.

At the hospital–where my father’s sister (my aunt) was admitted and stayed for several days, and where my mother went for her lymphedema wraps–I left Dad in the parking lot and I went inside. At the main desk, they checked me in and directed me to the NICU. As I made my way down the hall, I saw someone walk into the elevator, so I hurried to join her so I could save some time waiting for another elevator. Inside, the woman standing across from me smiled, then looked at the bag in my arms and her smile got wider. She asked me if I was bringing hats to the NICU. I said yes, and her eyes seemed to sparkle. She was heading for the NICU herself…she had twin girls who had been born before Thanksgiving–when they were due after Christmas. I said congratulations and I hoped they were doing well, which she said they were. And she told me, “They brought me to see the girls for the first time, and there they were in hand-knitted hats, and it just made my heart skip a beat. That someone out there did that for me and for them, complete strangers!” Her smile was so big.

When the elevator doors opened, I walked with her down the hall and into the NICU waiting area. I wished her luck and she disappeared behind a door that the nurse unlocked for her. I approached the nurse, who was behind a glass windowed reception area, and I put my bag of 40 hats on the counter in between us. And I announced that I was there to drop off crocheted hats for the babies. In all sizes, all colors, all different types of yarns. The nurse smiled and took the bag, then started going through the hats. She oohed and ahhed over some of them, and even rubbed a few on her cheek and said how soft they were. She told me how wonderful if it was to have them, and wanted to know “how many women are there in your group that made these?” I laughed and said it was just my mom and me. The sweet woman said, “oh my goodness, please give your mom a hug for me!”

I basically nodded and smiled, gave a wave, and left the unit for the safety of the hallway. It was hard. I tried not to cry as I made my way back through the hospital and out to the car where my father was waiting. Fortunately, he was busy navigating the parking lot and trying to figure out the best way to get to the cemetery, so our conversation was pretty sparse.

When we were done and I was home, I cried. I cried because those were the last hats I had from her. I cried because I missed her. I cried because I hated where I was in my life without her.

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When my mom was going through chemo, I made her a bunch of hats for her to wear after she lost her hair. Years ago, probably six or seven years, before I was crocheting, she was supposed to crochet me an open-weave sweater to wear over a tank top. She never got to it, for various reasons. I don’t even know what happened to the yarn we picked out. She crocheted me a shawl for my brother’s wedding, and added crocheted sleeves to an evening gown for my cousin’s black-tie wedding. So I really have nothing I can wear that she made for me. I wish I did. The last thing she crocheted was a lap blanket that she was expecting to donate, but a few days after she died, I took it. I wrapped it up in tissue paper and put it into a plastic bag that a set of sheets came in, and I put it away in my guest room. It’s in a drawer in my grandparents’ dresser. It’s ugly as sin color-wise, but I can’t bear to part with it. I also have a ruffled ball that was supposed to be for a baby that was a test-project. It’s on a shelf in my bookcase hidden behind some doors with the perfume that I took from her bathroom drawers a few months after she died.

I honored my  mom as best I could on her birthday. My birthday is coming up soon. Hub usually cooks me a special dinner and he’s been asking me what I want to eat. I kept putting him off, because I honestly do not want to celebrate my birthday. I finally told him I didn’t want anything special on my birthday because I didn’t want to have my birthday. I don’t even want it to be acknowledged, because it’s just another reminder to me that she isn’t here with me. Last year she was in brain radiation on my birthday…she was just getting over the symptoms of the brain mets. We were dealing with the lawyer trying to get my parents’ trusts all finalized and stuff.

Last year, five days before my birthday, I had to call an ambulance at 11pm for Hub because he had an episode of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) where his heart rate was sustained up around 225 or 250bpm. They had to stop his heart twice with medication to get it reset. We went to his follow-up appointment with his cardiologist on my birthday.

Right now, I’m in pain. My arms and back and neck and shoulders hurt. I have headaches on an almost daily basis for multiple hours at a time. My hips hurt when I try to sleep. I still have nausea. I still have jaw pain. I still have anxiety over the jaw pain, though it’s not as persistent as it was in the past few weeks. I’m not sleeping much and I’m not crocheting because I hurt too much.

I don’t want to celebrate. Right now I just want the days to be days, so I don’t have to be so sad.

 

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The new year

I have been watching and listening to everyone say how bad 2016 was and how they couldn’t wait for it to be over. I woke up this morning and read all the posts on FB and here and twitter saying happy new year and 2017 is going to be so much better.

Guys…I’m sad a fuck to see 2016 go. It was a hard year, but you know what? For me, 2016 is hard to let go of because it was the last time I got to be with my mom. It was the last time I was able to hold her hand, hear her laugh, hug her, ask her a question and get an answer… It was the last time I got to celebrate my birthday with her. It was the last time she was here on earth with us.

Yes, I lost her in 2016. Yes, I had to watch her die, and I had to help with the funeral and the headstone and all that horrendous stuff. And yes I’ve had to watch my father and brothers and my husband suffer through the loss. And yes, I’ve had to live through my own pain of loss, and I’m still grieving horribly. But for three months in 2016, I had her here physically on this earth. I got to see her eyes, I got to see her smile, I got to tease her about something stupid. I got to do stuff with her. I got to be with her. I got to have her here.

Leaving 2016 behind… I stayed up until after the calendar ticked over. And all I felt was sad. My life will never be as good as it was when she was alive.

 
 

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Next up in our schedule

The ceremony yesterday went as I expected for the most part. Hub and I–and one of my brothers–stood right with my dad, in case he had an issue during the service. He really shook like a leaf the whole time, so I was grateful that Hub was there right behind me and Dad in case Dad fell or fainted or whatever. Our Rabbi was the only one who spoke, and he said very nice things about Mom…he’s known us for more than 45 years, and he was especially close with my parents for the last twenty or so since my mother served on his temple’s board for many years in several different capacities. In addition to her attending services weekly after my grandfather died. He also read a poem, which I think is kind of a standard poem for funerals, even though this technically wasn’t a funeral.

After the short service was over, I stood at the headstone for a few minutes. While I was there, my brother (the same as above) came back over and sat in one of the chairs that the cemetery provided us. I went over and sat with him (after asking if he wanted to be alone, which he said no), and after a few minutes my father came back, as did my other two brothers and my SIL. We kind of sat there quietly for a few minutes…some of us crying and some of us not.

After about another five minutes, we left Dad at the headstone for a moment and the rest of us moved a distance away. When he joined us, we left and went home to eat lunch with everyone.

The lunch was fine at Dad’s house. We mostly did a buffet style, so it was easy enough to just put stuff out and then congregate at the extended table in the dining room. When everyone but my siblings and SIL left, we hung out for a while until my father ended up falling asleep in his recliner. Then Hub and I went home for the rest of the afternoon. We went back last night to say good-bye to my out-of-town brother and SIL, as they were flying home early this morning.

I don’t feel any differently about my loss. The Rabbi kept telling me that with the passing of this ceremony, maybe my father would find some closure and his depression would lift and he’d be doing better. I don’t think that’s going to be the case for Dad. Mostly because I don’t see Mom’s passing any differently on the other side of the ceremony. It doesn’t change the day-to-day living without her. Not for me, anyway.

Now that we have passed that…milestone?…, I have to move on to things that are waiting for me. One of which is a colonoscopy. Next Monday. I was having some mild stomach issues–that mostly resolved after my PCP appointment–that my primary sent me onward to a gastro doctor. The gastro doctor talked to me about my cancer history, which puts me at higher risk for both breast and colon cancer (which I knew, which was why I went to my PCP right away), and he suggested a colonoscopy. He said it was better safe then sorry, and indicated that if all was well and I didn’t have issues, I could go ten years until my next one. Normally you get a colonoscopy starting at 50, but again because of my history, he wanted to go ahead and do it now. It’s probably nothing major going on, but I don’t want to let anything go, so I’m getting the test.

Sadly, the part that worries me the most is the prep. I hated the surgery prep that I had to do twice in three months for my hysterectomy and then oopharectomy last year. The gastro doctor prescribed a different type of prep–so no gatorade, thankfully–but surgery prep is still really uncomfortable and tiring and anxiety-inducing. The procedure itself will include propofol, so I shouldn’t remember anything. I had that with my other surgeries and they were right, I don’t remember shit after they said “count backwards from 10” and the last number I remember was 9.

I’m also worried about the recovery in the days following. With my physical issues and pain issues, I am sure I’ll be uncomfortable after. I only hope I’ll be recovered in time to go to my in-laws for the holidays.

Coming up after that are appointments for my 18-month follow-up with my oncologist, Le Moo’s yearly “senior” vet visit (and buying lots of dog pills for both dogs), and then my mammo. I also have to get in to get my eyes checked and see the dentist, but I’m saving those for after my mammo.

Life keeps going on…

 

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I don’t wanna (stomps foot)

This morning my brother and sister-in-law flew in. Tonight we had dinner at our house, with Hub and I cooking breakfast for dinner. My father came over, one of my brothers who lives locally came over, and the my SIL and brother from out of town. It was kind of a last minute get-together, but that’s fine. I didn’t want to go out to dinner again (Hub and I took Dad out last night), so we volunteered to cook for everyone tonight.

Tomorrow, we go to the cemetery to have a very small and short ceremony to reveal Mom’s headstone.

Everyone left an hour ago and since then, I’ve been feeling…not ready for tomorrow. There’s absolutely nothing I have to do for the ceremony. We’ve already bought and prepared some food for afterward at my parents’ house, and there’s nothing left to do tonight. I don’t even know if the phrase “not ready” is appropriate.

I don’t wanna go tomorrow. I just don’t wanna.

I’ve known for weeks this was coming up. And as this last week has approached, I’ve felt more and more pain in my body. And more and more angry. And more and more upset. And amazingly enough, I’ve been sleeping even less. No matter how I try to fall asleep, or stay asleep, or get comfortable, or turn out the lights early, or try to linger in bed longer…I’m even more tired.

I’ve talked to T about some of this. She gave me some insights on William Worden’s “grief tasks” which are a slightly different theory from the five stages of grief (1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance). The four grief tasks are:
1. Accept the reality of the loss
2. Work through the pain of grief
3. Adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing
4. Find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life

These tasks are supposed to be wrapped up in each other, so that even while you are working one, you are likely working others at the same time.

Right now, all I know is that I don’t want to go tomorrow. I don’t want to be wrapped up in sadness. I want to talk about Mom and about the good parts of her life. I don’t want to stand there and focus on the grief of it all.

No one really wants to talk about her. I want to remember her life, not languish in her sickness and her death. There was so much more to her than her last two  years. So much more to her than cancer. So much more to her than metastases. So much more to her than her death. She had a life! A long and amazing life. A life full of love and travel and learning and joy and … life.

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Tomorrow will come and go. Another day marked off our calendar, another task completed (the installation of the headstone and the “reveal”)…and still she is gone.

I used to write poetry, just like I used to write fiction books. I tried to write a poem for tomorrow but came up empty. The words don’t come anymore. There’s just this emptiness and the fervent wish to express myself somehow. And then the inability to do so.

 

 

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