Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Anniversary

I’ve just been aching the last couple of days. Not physically, on the inside. I went to work and was useful and productive and sweet when I needed to be. Actually, I do ache physically after all that – my shoulders, neck and upper back are showing the strain of having, essentially, lied about how I am all day long.

I don’t WANT to talk about it. I feel like it’s all I ever talk about. I’m tired of feeling like this.

I’ve said a little here about the last couple of years – there’s been a lot of change. In August 2006 my Mum started feeling sick – couldn’t hold down food. She had some tests and called me at work one day to tell me that she’d just been diagnosed with diabetes and it was all my fault. After all, diabetes is hereditary, and I have it, so I must have passed it on to her.

A couple of weeks later she stopped in my office, and said, “I have your stepfather’s glucose meter here, and I don’t know how to use it.” I unpacked it all, and said, “You can’t use it, Mum. There’s no test strips in here.” She was sitting at a round table, and I said, “Mine’s in my purse; I’ll check your sugar.” She held her hand out to me across the table. I looked at the inside of her arm, and said, “You’re yellow.” She said, “Wally [stepfather] says I’m not.” And I stretched my arm out beside hers and said, “You’re yellow.” Then I tested her blood sugar, which was a little high. She said she had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon, and then she left.

I walked into my boss’ office – he was also my parish priest – and said, “That was my Mum – she wanted me to teach her to test her blood sugar.” Rick said, “It sounded something like that. I didn’t know who it was, but you sounded like you had it taken care of, so I just left you to it.” I said, “She’s dying.” There was something about the texture of the skin on her inner forearm. He asked of what, and I said I didn’t know yet. I went home from work and cried myself to sleep, and woke up a couple of hours later. I looked at the clock, and eight minutes later the phone rang. My mother had pancreatic and liver cancers. It took seven weeks. She turned 72 on November 6th, and died on the 13th.

It hadn’t been a good relationship. About 10 days after she was diagnosed, I spent Sunday afternoon with her, and put her to bed for a nap around 5 in the afternoon. I sat with her, and said, “You know, you’re a giant pain in the ass. And I’ve wanted to strangle you at least once a week for the last 35 years. I want you to know – I love you and this is breaking my heart.” Mum said, “I don’t want to break your heart,” and I told her she didn’t get to choose. Then she said, “I didn’t want to be a pain in the ass, especially to my children.” I told her, I don’t think you get out of life without being a pain in the ass to your children. That conversation was all it took. I was able to show up, and be useful, loving and kind to her until the end. I moved in on the last Thursday after work – she’d fallen out of bed twice Wednesday night (trying to get to the bathroom) and my stepfather, who was 92, couldn’t lift her and called paramedics twice. I sat up, dozing and knitting, in a Lazy-Boy beside her bed for a couple of nights, to keep her in it.

I did go to work for a couple of hours Friday morning, while someone else was there. Saturday afternoon, I went out with my sisters-in-law for coffee -- it seemed like a good idea at the time, and I love them, and it was interminable. When I got back, one of the caregivers came to clean Mum up and change her clothes. She was taking a lot of morphine, and she’d zone right out, stroke your arm, whatever you were wearing, and say, “I like your shirt.” That’s what she did with me. I hadn’t taken any clothes with me on the Thursday; I’d gone straight from work, and we were about the same size. I said, “I’m glad you like the shirt, Mum – it’s your shirt.” She didn’t say anything, and I said, “The pants are yours too.” She still didn’t say anything, and I said, “Actually, these panties I’m wearing are yours.” She rolled her eyes at the caregiver, and sighed, “Children.” That was the last lucid conversation. I called the ambulance to take her to the hospital that night. Stayed at the hospital with her, except for a trip out to shower Monday morning. My sister came, and we both stayed, and held her hands, and whispered love to her as she crossed over. It was lovely, and holy.

The women in her family had all, until then, lived into their 90’s, even 100’s. It’s not like I didn’t think we’d ever do this – I thought we had 20 more years. Her younger sister was ill then too, and died this past October. I spent a lot of the time between September ’06 and October ’07 fighting, and hating, and being angry, at Death and God. I would cry and rage at God. A lot.

I’ll tell you something – I did that. I KNEW God was there – incomprehensible and distant, it felt sometimes, but always there. And I was being taken care of by God. Addiction’s a family disease, and I’ve got my share. I was relieved of the obsession and desire for two addictions a few months before Mum got sick. I got to show up every day – God did that for me, and in the nick of time. I got to walk out of the hospital after Mum died, knowing that no-one made me do anything I hadn’t wanted to in all this, and no-one talked me out of doing what felt right. That I’d had to make certain decisions on my own in the weekend before she died, and I’d come away, for the first time, the adult in my own life.

So, why tonight? Well, my marriage had come apart too, after 25 years. We were still sharing living quarters, but I’d been sleeping in the computer room for a long time. Mum knew, while she was dying, that I’d be leaving, and she said one day, “I hoped I’d get to see you in your own apartment.” I said, “When you’re a star in the sky, you can look in the window.”

As my one-year anniversary approached in my 12-Step program, I knew – I needed to be in my own place, out of my marriage, before that anniversary. It will be two years on Thursday, the 17th. I moved a year ago today. My Mum never got to see my place. Her sister, my aunt, was too sick a year ago now to manage the stairs, so she never saw it either. I have furniture from both of them in here. And it’s a clear, cold night in southern Ontario – lots of stars. I just opened the blinds, so any of those stars in the sky that want to, can look in. There is love in the universe, and God is infinitely good.


themethatisme said...

A beautiful post Kate. Words are insifficient really. I am with you. The last few years of my life have been my most difficult and faith has upheld and frustrated me during these times. Peace be with you.

Jan said...

I was hit when I read that your mom was yellow. My mother was, too. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1992, 42 days after diagnosis. She was 72 also. I found God through her dying, or discovered that God was always there and I had not known it.

Wishing you peace and comfort. Thank you.

Oystercard said...

Dear Kate, Thank you for your wonderful post and the tears in my eyes right now

Kate Morningstar said...

Tmtim -- it's going to be good getting to know you -- I only stopped in at Conscientisation for the first time this week. Thank you. A curate in my parish (who'd been a classmate, and is 10 years younger than me) offered me absolution one day, after I said I'd told Jesus to f*** off during my prayers. I told him it was all right -- I'd already apologized and Jesus had already forgiven me.

Jan, the pancreatic cancer seems so fast -- it just must be asymptomatic for a long time. Even while I was so angry and hurt then, I felt protected and beloved. I'd never felt like that before.

Derek, my brother -- you helped carry me through all of it. We're all in this together.

FranIAm said...

Oh my- I do not even know what to say other than this post is a prayer Kate.

God bless you always -especially when you tell him to F- off. He gets that and welcomes it with the same love as any other moment.

susan s. said...

TheMe is right. It is a beautiful post. My mother died in october 2006. She had been, for all intents and purposes bedridden, in a hospital(nursing home) for 4 years.

And as you say, all mothers are a pain in the ass sometimes...even the ones who live far away.

Kate Morningstar said...

Fran -- the Psalm 139 on my masthead was so freeing for me. If God already knows what the words are on my tongue before I speak them, then if I don't speak them, I'm only lying to myself. Now, when I need to, I can bring myself to tell God the truth about what's going on inside, and I believe that gives him some room to work with it.

Susan, I'm sorry about your mother. Seven weeks seemed just about right -- enough time for some family relationships to get worked out, but I'm so grateful she didn't have to suffer any longer than that.

susan s. said...

Yes, Kate, that's what I thought too, but I didn't want to say it first.