life gets in the way

My mother has been in the hospital twice in as many weeks, when she went in for the last stay things looked fairly bad.  Her cancer has progressed to the point where a lot of fluid is building up on her abdomen, and ended up causing her to be vomiting pretty continually and unable to eat consistently for more than a month.  They’ve put a shunt in her so she can drain the fluid herself, and she’s gradually improving, but after vomiting for a month it is hard to get back in the swing of eating normally. She’s able to keep some food down now, but she’s still having some trouble, especially at night.

The first thing she was able to keep down was Dean’s Country Fresh Orange Pops:


She’d started eating almost entirely organic and almost entirely abstaining from sugar after her initial surgery, so the fact that that it was an amalgam of discount frozen chemicals that ended up helping her through, and especially the fact that she came to love them, is telling. I’ve tried to track down somewhere to buy them retail, with the help of friends, but have not had any luck so far.

The first surgery had been hard, especially as it had occurred only a few days after she was diagnosed.  (They ended up removing something like 6 lbs. of tissue from her, without anesthetic as she ‘didn’t want to feel weird’). But after she had ended up making what seemed to be an almost complete recovery and a complete relapse, it became kind of normal, and easier.

Her going back into the hospital the first time wasn’t even hard, she looked bad the first day, but by the next day was looking better enough that it seemed she was going to be ok.  I’ve watched my paternal grandfather die and maternal grandmother almost do so over the past year, so have become familiar with the stages and process people seem to go through. The first day seemed iffy, but she was so clearly better the second that it was hard to be worried.

She was clearly not doing well the second time, but it didn’t get really difficult until she started doing housekeeping. She’s the sort of person who is continually hopeful and optimistic, no one has any idea what her prognosis is. Her doctor may not give them, as she says, but even if he did, I think she’d have faith that she was going to get well regardless. Watching her taking care of things that she knew she wanted to accomplish before she died in the context of the sort of person she is, forced me to start coming to terms with the idea that it was likely she probably wouldn’t be around that much longer. Hopefully I’m overreacting, but even so, this sucks.

The main housekeeping she wanted to accomplish with me was telling me more stories about my father, as somehow that had never happened. It’s too early to really tell how my sense of him is going to end up being affected by the stories, but it did renew my interest enough to most retrieve the things of his that I didn’t already have from the attic. I’m really not sure what I’d do with an old-style bulletproof vest at this point. One of the things I ended up with was a box full of the sympathy cards my mother received upon his death, the guest book from his funeral, and this rock:

a rock

Apparently my (half-)brother went and retrieved a stone from the fence that was the agent of my father’s accident when they were tearing it down years later. Things like this make me understand why I’ve ended up a bit more morbid than most people are. The rock is currently in my living room, as that’s where I opened the box. It’s not the sort of thing one wants to keep or display, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it either (or put it away yet for that matter). I also learned that somewhere there might be a collection of the pictures my father took while he was a crime scene photographer…

I read through the sympathy cards.  People write really stupid things in sympathy cards. Apparently there was also a popular line of sympathy cards/booklets/tracts at the time full of really embarrassingly bad poetry that is somehow supposed to help people through the process of grieving. At some point I’ll scan some of the more ridiculous ones. Some of them were more poignant, and a couple of those had ink smeared from my mother’s tears.

While my mother was (unbeknownst to me) being booked into the hospital the second time, I finally solved an issue that I’d been stuck on for months for an art project that I’m doing next year. It had been a long time since I had been that happy, short-lived as it was. Obviously caring for my mother comes first. I’m really not complaining, but more illustrating what has been a continual theme in my life recently. I am (finally) making significant progress towards my goals, but for every gain I make, my life seems determined to interject itself in the way and make everything as difficult as possible.

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  1. i had no idea you were going through this. i’m sorry. i remember your mom very well, so the stories of her behavior fit very well into that.

    i have a close friend with cancer right now so i can also empathize very closely that way.

    i’ll hope for the best.