Tag Archives: Cancer

Still Here

I suppose for once I have a legitimate excuse for abandoning this blog.

I was watching my mother die.

About a week before my last blog entry my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was unclear at the time just what kind it was because they could not identify the source. I went to stay with my parents for a week and attended innumerable hospital and doctor visits, until finally we were told it was pancreatic cancer and she had 2-3 months to live.

Someday I will write about it. I will tell you about my mother-her strength and kindnesses, her stubbornness and guilt, her anger and love. I’ll let you know how she grew into her role as a 75 year-old woman with grace and humor, finally letting go of most of things that were haunting her and choking her spirit–healed by gardening, swimming twice a week, lunching with “The Red Hat Ladies”, separating from her children, QVC, and a realized dream of seeing the Sistine Chapel.

I will also tell you how the cancer weakened her beyond recognition,  aged her body 20 years in 6 weeks. How she lost so much weight that the skin was just flapping around her bones, the muscles gone. How her face was the only part of her that was still her. And though at times she looked so sick it was astonishing, other times her face was almost angelic. I will talk about my father, how he held her hand, asked her if she wanted to fool around, told her how beautiful she is, stroked her cheek, called her a pain in the ass. How he completely fell apart, questioning his God, his religion. Raising his fists to the heavens, tearing at his hair, whispering over and over, “Bring her back to me.”

I might even tell you what it was like for me, to live with my parents again for weeks at a time, saying all the right things, folding sheets, washing the bathroom floor, rummaging for paperwork they never signed and getting them to finally sign it, eating food I never eat at home just to make them happy, talking to hospice nurses and relatives I haven’t seen since I was 10, making funeral arrangements, sorting through 50 pounds of Avon products, washing dishes, helping my brothers cope.

I will tell you about the final days–giving her morphine that my father wouldn’t give her because it wouldn’t make her better, changing her soiled clothes and bedding, cutting her underwear off her because I could barely move her by myself when my father threw his back out, dabbing her lips with water when she couldn’t swallow, holding her hand and saying she was a great mother and grandmother, because dying simplifies relationships. Telling her she could go when she was choking on her final breaths, her eyes glazed over and staring off into the unknown, my father begging her to stay while I told her she could go, we would be ok, there was nothing to worry about anymore.

I loved my mother dearly, fiercely, irrationally. Someday I will tell you all about it. For now, I’ll just say that I’m back, I am writing, and when the numbness wears off I will be wailing and crying and shaking my fists to the heavens for a damn long time.

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