3/22/2009

Wicked Good Weekend ...Club members only....




People perceive me as a social person...someone who has a ton of friends...someone who is always doing something... I can say that I have a lot of connections with people and most of the people who are in my 'network' are people who have been there for quite a while... and/or who will be there for a long time... I do like to socialize, but I am less of a social butterfly than people realize... I think it began back as far as jr. high. I was fortunate to have a lot of 'friends' at school, but more often than not, my Friday nights were spent at home, with my parents. If my weekends involved friends it was someone from a very small group of people. As an adult, I can go out and be social but I still often end up at home... often alone. I'm not unhappy about that, most of the time... it affords me time I often need to process my life.

I sometimes think that it is easier for me to be a friend to someone else than to let someone be a friend to me. I prefer to be leaned upon than to lean on someone else. That's just how it is... it's not that I don't have people to lean on... but leaning on myself is often easier...I know I can count on it... The friendships I have in my life are ones that I cherish. Truly. I have people who care deeply about me and I would do anything for them, but at times... I fly solo, often by choice, sometimes by default.

Going through this process of losing my mother to cancer has altered some of my friendships... I am not sure altered is the best word... maybe refocused is better... yeah...refocus is a better word... thinking of a camera lens...some of my friendships have become more distant while others have become much easier to see...Some people are not sure how to act or what to do so they take a wide angle approach... while others zoom in and are there for it all... or want to be. Have I realized that some friendships are not quite what I thought they were, not as strong maybe? Yes... but I can't say that I am surprised by it... and guiltily, am in some way relieved by some of the distance. There are friendships that have surprised me, pleasantly so, people stepping in to help in very practical ways... humbling me... knowing that people would do something just out of their love for me... Then there are the friends who are currently going through a battle if their own with one of their parents, and the situations have drawn us closer... One of my friends... is someone who I need so badly... but feel like leaning on this person is overwhelming to her. I know she loves me, know she WANTS to be there for me, know that she hates I am going through this, but she doesn't know HOW to be there for me... all I need is for her to call me and say hello... I've tried to tell her that, but I think she feels inadequate... doesn't know how I feel and doesn't know how/where to begin to try to make it better for me. It's not about making it better... it's about making it through...

Then there is Rico... Rico and I met about ten years ago... maybe eleven... we were interested in each other as a possible dating option.... and while we didn't go down that road, a friendship developed. About eight years ago Rico was married to a woman he had known for quite a while, and we have remained friends. (With his wife's blessing!) Our conversations over the years covered an array of topics and at times have been pretty intense. The most emotional conversations involved September 11th... his mother's illness and subsequent death, and now my mother's illness and imminent death. Rico is a person who has amazed me... He values his friends in a way that few people do. Since my mom has been sick, Rico has been there. Period. He wasn't freaked out by it which means he didn't pull away... he didn't use an intense thing as a reason to withdraw from me...and we have not intentionally used it as a reason for us to get closer... (though that is a pretty good side effect)... For Rico...my mother's illness is a circumstance that warrants support... that's it... it's that simple...support...

I think that learning of my mom's cancer brought up a lot of things for Rico, from his own experience... and I would not have blamed him if he felt like it was all WAY too close to home and didn't want to hear about any of it... I think that completely ignoring my situation would have been a very natural reaction for Rico... but... he hasn't avoided any of it...he's done exactly the opposite of that... and I can't express how much that means to me...

Because he went through a similar experience with his own mother, he has an understanding that most people don't. Losing a parent, like this, is something that I wish nobody had to experience, ever. But... once you have this experience you can relate to each other on a totally different level. We are members of a specific club, to which neither of us applied...

Last week Rico emailed me, asking if I wanted company... to have someone to talk with... and knowing that my sister was going to be at my parents house this weekend... I was excited to have Rico come and visit. Before coming he made it clear that his visit was intended to be completely stress free for me... he didn't want me to plan anything... just figured we could talk... just figured he could be there for me... and he was...

After not seeing each other in close to nine years...Rico arrived from Denver fairly late on Friday night... after getting him settled in his hotel we decided to go someplace for a drink and dinner. We talked a lot about things with my mom and his mom, and it was really nice. Our phone conversations have been great as well, but having him there, in person, really meant a lot. With him, I can share the things that are in my head...and I don't feel crazy.

Dealing with mom having cancer, dying from cancer...has made me feel the most lonely I have ever felt... lonelier than being the single girl at friends' weddings or at my grandfather's funeral... lonelier than being the third of fifth wheel at any gathering... lonely. In the dark hours of late nights or early mornings.... in those hours of driving alone back and forth... in the moments of crying into my pillows...shaking from fear and anger and grief... it's lonely. And in those times the thoughts do not go away, they magnify... and it's hard... not wanting to reach out to people because it's 3:00 a.m. - why ruin someone else's sleep... just because I am getting 3-4 hours of sleep at night, if I am lucky doesn't mean other people can't sleep more... but Rico has been there... and gets it... so the thoughts that I have, he has probably had... and he asks about it... and because I know he knows... I can share it with him, honestly...openly... and having him here, in person... made that support feel more real.... having someone look into my tear filled eyes, seeing my pain... and not overreacting to it...made me feel connected to him, to someone, to something.... and it made me feel less crazy...

Saturday morning I had some track things to take care of so I picked Rico up at his hotel around 1:00 in the afternoon. We had lunch at one of my favorite local spots and then headed to the ocean. His wife has a connection to this area, having spent summers in Southern Maine when she was a kid, so it was nice to take Rico to areas that she would know. It was beautiful yesterday, the sun was shining and even though it was cold, the ocean was comforting, rhythmic, beautiful... We then went to a beach, then headed out for some drinks.

While I added a new twist to one of my favorite summer beverages Rico drank a shamrock embossed Guiness.... and Rico was taught that Pudding beats out Jello ALWAYS! We had some good laughs as I flirted with the bartender, or at least attempted to...we had fun...I even had one of those moments where something seemed hysterically funny to me and I couldn't stop laughing until there were tears streaming down my face... and Rico laughed too... not with me, at me... but that was ok... As the evening continued we got some dinner and our conversation returned to my mom, his mom... me....him....this process... and it was emotional for us both...

No matter how things play out... no matter how I think, rethink, and think some more about everything... I can't plan/predict what will happen and how I will react to it... and I need to know that however I handle it... is ok...

Rico's lessons are helpful...priceless.... and the comfort he brought to me this weekend is something I have not felt in a long time. Crying in front of someone is such a hard thing for me. I worry that crying in front of people makes me weak...makes them uncomfortable and unsure how to react... I have cried in front of some friends through this... but put in a lot of energy to quickly get myself under control or to add some kind of humor to lighten the mood... Rico let me cry... and there didn't need to be any humor...there didn't need to be any break from it... he let me cry without telling me it was going to be okay... because he knows there is nothing about this that is ok, nothing that will be ok... ever. He let me cry and compassionatly rubbed my shoulder...in silence... he handled my emotions... making me wonder if maybe it's ok to trust that other people can handle that as well...

Out of love, respect, and honor for his mother, and out of the pain he has endured... I think Rico wants to take any of the pain away from me that he can...he wants to bear any burden for me that would mean I would not have to. He cannot lessen my burdens by taking them away from me... because this is something for which I need to be present, need to feel.... BUT... he has lessened my burdens by allowing me to know that I am not alone... that through any of this, as raw as it has gotten and as raw as it's going to get... I am not alone.

I am not sure that there is something tangible that I can give to Rico to prove that he has already done so much for me through this process...His personality and mine are similar... and I understand after he has experienced something so horrible he needs to protect someone from it if he can...I wish that he could...but since that just is not possible... I am so thankful that he is beside me...to help me have the strength, or to remind me I already have the strength to bear this load...

Friendship, kinship... whatever label I could give to my relationship with Rico.... would not give it enough credit for what it truly is...

Rico, Thank you is inadequate.... You have helped me, ARE helping me... and I will continue to need you as this process continues.... Safe travels on your way home....I had a Wicked Good Weekend....



I am adding a video of the ocean, but I am not sure if you will be able to see it or not.

video

3/16/2009

Weak

If I had been drinking all weekend I would say that today I definitely have a hangover... but I wasn't drinking... but I feel terrible anyway... exhausted, wiped out, depressed, so whatever the dealing with life equivalent of a hangover is... that's what I have.

The weekend was rough... There were lots of good moments, but it was very emotional for me... hard. The good parts involved taking some new clothes to my father... I took him some new shirts from Cabela's, one of his favorite stores. He's never been to an actual store, but has bought several items from their catalog over the years... it was nice to see him looking sharp... mom even commented on how good he looked. Dad also went to visit his mother and one of his sisters and that was a wonderful break for him... a break from his daily routine while I stayed with my mom... he also went to church Sunday morning...so he had some time away from the house and away from the immediate circumstances. Though I know none of this is out of his mind. He and I talked about some hard things and I give him so much credit for being so strong in being able to talk about things like that....

But those conversations are hard. Thinking about my father's future, without my mother... is awful. Yet, we need to talk about it because Dad's life will continue without mom... differently of course, but it will continue. He's been thinking about the end... once mom dies... he talked about things like needing to change their membership to one of those buy in bulk warehouses to his name... which is difficult to think about needing to do those things... and asked me about my desire to see my mother after her death....before her cremation. This question... took me aback and made me very emotional... and I did all I could do to avoid it... left the room, pretending to need a drink... changing the subject... trying not to cry in front of my dad , hoping to protect him in some small way from the intensity of my emotions...and I couldn't answer him... not without losing it in front of him and I couldn't allow myself to do that.... then I felt guilty because it took so much for him to ask that question... and it is a question that respects me so much, my needs... and it was one scenario I had yet to think about, to contemplate... in my mind... I am there when mom dies, holding her hand while dad holds her in his arms... I hadn't thought that maybe I won't be there when she dies... and what if I am not? I think that is harder for me to accept...If it happens when I am not there... it's ok... but it's just not what I have envisioned... and I guess his question is a good way for me to try to prepare myself in a different way...for a different scenario...as much as I analyze things... I am amazed that I had not thought of that scenario... Feeling cowardly about avoiding the question, I sent my dad an email answering his question... because I just couldn't look into his eyes and have that conversation.. I am just not strong enough for that. My mom and I have had an amazing relationship... one of those mother and daughter relationships that are portrayed in all the Hallmark or Lifetime movies... the relationship that may cause mothers and daughters who don't have that kind of relationship to feel like they should because that's how it's romanticized.... My mom is one of the closest people to me in my life. She just is... and so... any time I have with her is precious... and I know that our relationship is fine... we know how we feel about each other and I don't need to tell her that after she is gone... I don't think I need any time with her body to remember her heart... But I wonder if I am not there in those final moments... if there is part of me that needs to see her to say goodbye one last time...

Each time I leave them now, I feel like I am saying good bye to her...and each time it gets harder. I was a wreck yesterday... an absolute wreck. ALL day. Driving... a wreck... sitting in my truck in the rest area because I knew it wasn't safe to be driving while crying THAT hard... I was a wreck... getting home and thinking about the weekend... I was a wreck... trying to sleep... a wreck...today was better... but I am hungover from it all...

Mom and I had some quality time together, for which I am thankful. She talked to me about her fears for my dad... sadness and remorse that she is 'doing this' to all of us... I just kept telling her that she is not doing anything to us... that it is happening to all of us, to her... and kept thanking her for allowing me to help her... that it made me feel really good to do something that felt like it made a difference... cooking her a grilled cheese sandwich....getting her cold water... those things make me feel good...at least in the moment.

Sunday I did something to help my mother that was probably the hardest thing I have done yet. (I am sure there are more things ahead.) I shaved my mother's legs. The last time I was there she had mentioned that she was embarrassed by her hairy legs... but left it at that. She brought it up again, when dad was out of the house, while I was helping her wash up. I told her I would do it for her if she wanted me to. At first she refused saying nobody should have to tackle that big job... but I persisted and told her I would like to do something that made her feel good. At that point she was sitting on her bed, in the living room, and just looked up at me with an expression that made me think she had looked at her own mother like that when she was a child... and couldn't believe I would do that for her... then she asked me to sit next to her so she could hug me. It takes a lot for my mom to sit up these days, a lot of energy, and for her to raise both of her arms to hug me was wonderful.. something I will cherish forever. Recently our hugs have been while she is laying in bed and are so gentle to avoid risking disruption to the bags that collect the leaking fluid from her open wounds. (The holes in the incisions are considered wounds because they require wound care.) So to get a full hug... was special. I think I had been craving that, missing that so much without knowing it. A real hug... I am so thankful for that. She wanted to try to shave her legs herself, but by that point she was already shaky from sitting up while washing up... so I insisted on doing it and insisted she just lie down and relax. She did... and I shaved her legs... it was a hard job... not because of the actual task.. but because it was something that she can no longer do... something she is dependent upon someone else to do...my mother is getting weaker... thinner, more frail all the time. washing her legs and then rubbing lotion into them made it obvious how much of her body has already disappeared... she can no longer wear her wedding band on her ring finger because it falls off... so it resides on her index finger.... for now. So holding my mother's legs, and feet, rubbing the lotion in... was a big reality check for me... not reality check...because I know the realities... but it made all of this hit me in a different way... my mom was so appreciative... said it made her feel better, cleaner, more normal.... and while I have had a really hard time closing my eyes and not seeing and feeling her weakening body in front of me... I am glad I did something to make her feel better, because that's all it's about right now.

I feel awkward for sharing something that were really intimate moments between my mother and I, but writing helps me process it... and maybe it prepares someone else for it.... though I hope nobody else has to ever experience losing a loved one like this... but I know someone will... also, my mom loved reading my blog... would remind me often to update it and read the next installment... so I know that she would, on some level, appreciate what I have written here and wouldn't take it as a breach of trust or privacy...

I hate that I don't know how to handle all of these emotions.. that I can't figure it all out and be okay with it... I know there are phases to death...including anger, grief, acceptance... yada yada yada... but no matter how many steps or books there are on this... you can't be prepared for how you will react until it is you.

I hope that when the time comes... if someone I know goes through something similar... that I can be there for them... because the comfort is different coming from people who have gone through it... 'getting it' in such a personal way is irreplaceable. And I hope I can offer that to someone who maybe isn't super close to me... and I need to remember that... to reach out to people when this is happening... because being on THIS side of things... it's really hard to reach out... and sometimes I'm just not strong enough...

3/08/2009

Hard to relax...

I had plans to go see my parents this weekend. I was going to leave here Saturday morning after taking care of some track stuff and return here this afternoon. However, I had heard that it may or may not snow up north and rain or have some sort of mixed precipitation here... and my cold is back... bronchitis again. I haven't been to the doctor to confirm that, but I know it. So I opted to stay put this weekend. I have found it has been hard to relax. I napped yesterday afternoon, got up, did some errands, bought myself a new laptop, came home and went to bed... I found that I need to keep myself busy. Even watching a simple movie isn't enough... My mind wanders and I need to also be emailing, blogging, or surfing the net... why? because without keeping my mind busy, without directing it to do certain things it goes to places that I don't want to go. Staying busy has become a vital part of my survival. Without staying busy I get consumed by thoughts...fears...and it is exhausting. Granted, it takes a lot of energy to keep busy too, but it is a different kind of energy.

Of course I am not naive enough to think that keeping busy eliminates all of the other thinking, thoughts. But, it helps me fool myself a little bit. And I am okay with that... for now. There is plenty of time for thoughts...while I try to fall asleep, or when I wake up in the night... or after my alarm goes off....in the shower, on my drive to work, when the phone rings, when people look at me with compassion... so keeping my mind busy seems a better option.

I do worry though, that I have forgotten how to relax... to be calm... to quiet my mind enough to enjoy time, quiet time. Yesterday it was a beautiful day... I thought about going to the beach to walk, but... I opted to come home and multitask for a while then nap instead...

Stepping back from things I am sure that this profile sounds like a person with depression and anxiety... I am aware of that... aware that I have those tendencies. But... circumstances as they are... there is no medication that can help.

It will be ok. At some point I will be able to sit in my living room, or porch with a good book and enjoy it... that time just isn't now...

3/05/2009

Frozen...


This winter, on the mornings when I go to the gym early... I have seen something beautiful... the trees along the river I cross often look encased in glass. The moisture from the river collects on the branches of the trees and freezes. This morning I did go to the gym and noticed the trees...so on my way to work made sure to have my camera and took a few shots. It was cool because even though the sun was coming up and the sky was bright blue... it was snowing on the river. It was beautiful. I admit that it reminded me of the movie Edward Scissorhands when he is sculpting the ice and makes it snow...

Finding the beauty in today's scenery does not, in any way, shape, or form, mean that I am enjoying the last days of winter... no no no... I am soooooooo unbelievably ready for spring.. but... it was beautiful. Frozen. Maybe I found beauty in it because I want there to be beauty in things that are frozen. I feel like aspects of my life are frozen...

Like the moisture has attached itself to the branches... I feel like many things have attached themselves to me and are keeping held in the same place. I also, at times, feel frozen with fear... And yet, there are times during the day when I can feel completely removed from everything going on with my mother... perhaps that's when the sun melts the ice a bit...This morning, however, I was unable to escape it... I received a fax I had been waiting for...one that I had requested..but... it still hit me hard, like leaving a sixty eight degree house and walking outside to below zero temperatures... how that cold hits you and takes your breath away...

Given all that is going on in my life I decided to withdraw from the online course I had started. I had been unable to focus enough to do the assignments and just haven't taken time to do the readings... so I called the university and tried to withdraw... it wasn't that simple. Since the course is already in full swing, withdrawing now would mean that my transcript would note that I had quit the class and it also would mean that I would only get 25% of the costs reimbursed... not an option. So... I called the registrar and asked about extenuating circumstances... turns out there was a way to do a 'backdated withdrawal' that would allow me to drop the class without it being documented on my transcript and would allow for complete reimbursement... I needed to complete a form AND get a letter from my mother's doctor that she is in fact, dying, and that she needs her family around her to help with her care.

Seriously? Are there really people out there who claim their mothers are dying to warrant this type of policy? I was highly annoyed at first... but think that my level of annoyance was heightened because seeing something in writing telling me that my mother really is dying... was not desirable. So I called a doctor that cared for my mother during her last hospital stay, the doctor who got us connected with Hospice... and explained what I needed, and to them, it was routine... to them it was routine...

So today I got the fax... and there it was... in black and white... terminal....life expectancy... staring at me... and I handled it better than I thought I would... but it was hard... though I was distracted by the doctor's misspelling of my mother's name. I used this doctor because I didn't want to have to call my parents to get permission to get a letter from her primary doctor that said she was dying... so I approached this doctor because part of his department, paliative care, is about the family as well... so it worked... I have been granted the backdated withdrawal...and I have a letter to remind me of this... Cold...

Frozen.

3/02/2009

Snow Day

It's another crazy snow day here in Maine. More snow.... I am trying to be productive today, but am struggling to do that. My mind is too busy... unsettled.

Last night I spoke with a friend of mine who is facing some difficult times with her own family. Her mom has been unwell for quite some time... dealing more with mental declination than physical... my friend and I have talked about which is worse...failing physically or failing mentally....her mom also has some physical wellness concerns, but the pieces that make it the most difficult are the mental ones. Maybe the term 'failing' isn't appropriate in regard to either of our mothers. Sometimes when I think of the word failing, I interpret it as having some aspect of intentional action... and I don't think my mom or my friend's mom have any intention of failing... it's what's happening to them... not what they are doing. My friend has been the promary caretaker for her mother for a while now and has done a fabulous job. Circumstances surrounding her mother's care have recently needed to change due to finances, resources, and regulations... and decisions have needed to be made. My friend has made the decisions she thinks are best for her mother... and is facing scrutiny form other family members... who have not been as present in the care for this woman as my friend has been.

Maybe it's because I watched my mother go through similar things with her own mother and with some family members questioning some of the decisions that were made... but it makes me angry. I'm not saying that the amount of love is more or less depending on time spent with someone or location, but... I AM saying that the role of caretaker is a HUGE one... and no matter what... the people who are not around to make decisions should not question the decisions made by those who are. So my heart goes out to my friend... and I know she is going through a tough time.

I am thankful, however, that she talked to me about it. It felt nice to be able to be her friend in a supportive way... to listen to what she is going through...

One of the many things on my mind lately has been... are my friends not leaning on me because they think I have enough on my plate? I think that my friends are amazing people,who are supporting me through a difficult time... but in a few recent conversations I have learned about some of my friends who have been feeling down about some things... and hadn't shared that with me until recently... While they haven't said it to me, I wonder if they don't want to talk to me about their issues because they worry adding to my burdens.... I want to be there for people... and talking about things going on in the lives of other people helps me focus less on what is happening in my world. Granted, there are limitations to my availability on some level... like this weekend the friend I mentioned before is moving her mom and all of her mom's stuff to a new facility and I would love to be able to help, but I am heading to see my parents... so I can't be there to help her...which is hard for me, but she understands... so it is a hard balance.

My number one priority right now is my mother. Absolutely. But... I also want the other peoople in my life to know they are important to me too... In one conversation, I talked with a friend who has recently had the fact that he is single, without children, brought to the forefront of his mind. He spent time over the holidays with his younger siblings who are both in relationships, one married with a baby, and the other one engaged with a future step child...he also has spent time with some of his cousins, most of whom are younger than he, who are all married with kids... plus there are his friends who are married with kids... and while he is very happy in many aspects of his life... he WANTS marriage and children and gets sad about it... he wants it because he wants it...not because he feels he should do those things, but... he wants it... it made me think about myself and marriage and children... things that I really want in my life... and wonder why it hasn't become part of my life yet... and while all of this is going on with my mom... I am very aware that she will not see me in those roles... and wants that for me... has always wanted that for me... and I don't have the energy and time perhaps that is needed to invest into a potential relationship... and will this result in driving that potential further away?

I don't know.

It's hard... people in the last few days have told me how strong I am... how amazingly well I am handling all of this... and I don't know about any of that. I question myself all the time. Am I spending enough time with my mom... am I supporting my dad enough... am I keeping myself running so much with teaching and coaching to avoid my reality... will my mind ever get quiet again... will I ever sleep well again...will my shoulders ever not have tension in them... and should I even be thinking about all of these things when my dad's mind must be even fuller...his heart must be even more broken... balance I suppose...

Anyway... I have to try to get some things done... be somewhat productive...

3/01/2009

Oh... the weather outside.....

Well... it's snowing again... and I may be home from work tomorrow due to another snow day. While i don't want to be in school until the fourth of July, I am ok with a day off. This weekend was busy... I spent the day yesterday watching middle school track meets... ALL day yesterday... 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m... I was there to take pictures of the kids to embed in the programs I am making for the weekly meets. I got some good pictures, but it is frustrating that so many of them didn't come out well. I had wanted to only spend one day there taking pictures and use those pics for the rest of the programs for the entire season, but... I don't think enough of the pictures came out well... I didn't want to have to go back because I want to head up to seem my parents on the weekends. So... on the pages where I am putting pictures, I am putting a note to parents that if they take some pictures and want them included in the program to email them to me and I will try to make them fit. Good Idea? I sure hope so... that would make my life a bit easier!

It's been a strange week... Last Sunday I was wiped out from my time with my parents combined with poor sleep... Monday was a snow day and I was less productive than I should have been... and the rest of the week felt like a million days in each 24 hours. Part of that is because of the coaching aspect of things. I had a lot of paperwork to do this week... finalizing the rosters, making sure all kids had tshirts, numbers, and all forms completed... next week should be easier... should being the key word. Once the paperwork part is done, it goes a lot more smoothly.

It has helped that my mom had a decent week... she even had a couple of vomit free days. Yahoo! I am planning on heading up there again this weekend... more time with them is important to me. I think some people think I am crazy for driving three hours each way as much as I am.. but I think I probably could go more than I have...and am hoping that now that spring is almost here, the weather should be better and travel easier.

I had an interesting conversation today...and mentioned how fortuante I am to have my parents as my parents... the person on the other end of the conversation said that hearing that was rare... I hope that is not the case. I hope that many people feel fotunate to have had the parents they had.

I am lucky.

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