Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghosts, Ghouls, and Gripes

Halloween is definitely less fun this year.

Images of death, dying, ghosts and the afterlife used to be funny and amusing, today, they are just disconcerting. The week before Halloween is definitely not the best time to lose two family members. I guess it could be argued that there is no good time to lose people, but right before Halloween? No good. I keep wondering what Momom's body and Dad's body would be looking like right now. Then I remember that they are ashes, so I don't have to worry about it. But its tough to get that image out of my head.

Regardless, Prof and I will be handing out candy tonight. Mostly so I can get it the hell out of my house.

Right around when Dad first got into the hospital, Fright-Aid had a really good deal on candy. I bought a shitload. $1.88 a bag! What a steal! Yeah, except that when you have Halloween candy in your house, and people are dying off left and right, and you haven't been to the grocery store in weeks, and you are sad, AND you are hungry, Snickers really starts to satisfy. And they satisfied me until the whole, entire bag was gone. Then I started in on the Butterfingers. And the Kit-Kats. Oh, and the Reece's Cups. Mmmmmm....

But I'm off the kid candy now. A very good friend sent me a Harry and David gift basket filled with goodies. Now I'm moving on to adult candy, like truffles and chocolate covered cherries. And Pepto. Must find some Pepto.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back on the job, kinda

I went back to work today. Kinda.

There was a day-long meeting. You know, the kind of meeting where all the talking heads that make triple your salary and do half the work talk about things they know nothing about, while you steam and stew and try not to get up, tell them they are stupid, and slice their heads off? Yeah. I went to one of those today. And it felt weird. I feel like I should still be in mourning; that its too early to move on and go back to being the loud-mouth know-it-all girl in the corner at the meeting.

I went to work five times in October. Total. Five times. I'm way behind. I'm out of the loop. I totally don't care, but its weird that things have gone on without me. I'm expendable, despite what my enormous ego thinks. Work has managed without me, and while they will be glad to have me back (mostly), they managed without my technical knowledge, policy expertise and potty mouth. I'm so thankful that I work with people that are so supportive, and for an organization with decent benefits.

But going back to work is going to be really, really difficult. My head is elsewhere. I've become accustomed to letting myself sleep as long as I need to; and I need a lot of sleep right now my friends. Dealing with dad's estate, and my emotions, and my mother's emotions AND work? Its going to be tough.

Tougher still? The conversation I had with a well-meaning colleague at 8:35 this morning:

"Hi Phil. How are you doing?"

"Hey Susan. How are things?. How's your dad?"


"Oh. I guess you didn't hear. Dad passed away last week. Grandma too."

Pity face from Phil. Plus bonus sympathetic shoulder rub/pinch.

I hate the pity face. And that conversation? That conversation is bad for me, and bad for the person on the receiving end who was just trying to be nice. I handled it. I think I did ok. But, shit. That is going to happen over and over and over again when I get back into the office for real. I should just wear a big button warning people not to talk to me. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad thing, deaths in the family or not.

People have said that the hardest part is behind me, but I don't think it is. I think the hardest part is yet to come. Getting my life back to "normal", without 2/5 of my family? That's going to be the hard part.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caught in the Middle

My cellphone died as I was talking to my brother about dad's house and how mom is insane. He called me seconds after a phone call with her. Mom called me five minutes later, while I was still on the phone with brother. All they want to do is tell me how the other one is wrong and/or crazy.

I resisted the urge to plug the phone in right after it died and hover next to the wall while mediating between the two. Instead, I plugged it in and left. it. off. Off. Off. Off.

I will deal with them when I'm good and damn ready to, and so the phone has been off all afternoon while I scrubbed mold off of pots and pans that have been left in my sink for weeks.

My mother can't sit still. And my brother gets aggravated when she does stuff he doesn't entirely agree with. And me? I feel like the freakin peacemaker. But I'm too exhausted to be the peacemaker right now.

Mom is at my dad's house, pulling up carpet in the basement. We found the basement flooded on Friday night, after Momom's funeral. It was the hot water heater - it had been leaking for weeks and weeks and since nobody has been living there, nobody noticed. So we dried it out and that's all I wanted to do. I'm not ready to pull up carpet, or put furniture out to the trash, or take things to the Goodwill. I want to sit and chill and think and reflect. She wants to tackle and clean and do. My brother? I'm not sure what he wants to do, but its probably somewhere in between. He wants to get a big dumpster and just get rid of stuff. Mom wants to put it out for the trash slowly. I want to get all my friends over to the house and say "have at it." That requires a dumpster. We can clear that house out in a day, if we wanted to.

Thing is, I don't want to yet. Brother doesn't want to yet. But mom? Mom wants to stay busy. And by staying busy, she is avoiding feeling the grief that I know needs to be felt.

So, Dad has been dead for less than four days, and tensions are already rising about what to do with the house. And I'm caught in the middle. I don't want to hurt Mom's feelings by telling her to lay off, but I'm going to have to. And I hate the thought of telling her stuff she doesn't want to hear so soon after her mom died. But what else can I do?

And so, the phone is off. Maybe I'll turn it on later.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Evil Emotions

I haven't slept in my own bed since last Monday night. I haven't been alone for more than an hour since Wednesday. I'm at home, alone, now. And its unnerving. And scary. I'm afraid that the emotions are going to let loose and I'm going to lose control. I'm afraid that there is sadness suppressed deep down inside, waiting to come out. Sadness I don't even know that I have.

I'm not a big fan of emotions. Love? Yeah, well, we all know where I am on that one. And Sad? Don't like that one too much either. Sad is uncontrollable. Overwhelming. And it comes when you least except it. I like to know. I like to schedule. I'm ok with being sad - I know that I need to take time to grieve, but I want to do it when I want to. Not in the middle of a random conversation. I'd like to pencil it in. You know, squeeze in an hour or so of mourning in between spin class and dinner. Instead, its coming out when it wants to; unscheduled and unprepared for.

I was having chocolate martinis with old family friends on Saturday night. We were telling old high school stories stories, then I started talking about the last week and everything was fine. Then we moved into how the guys had proposed to the girls, and how they had asked the dad first whether they could marry the daughter. All I wanted to say was that if some dude asked my dad whether he could marry me before he asked me, that there was going to be serious trouble. And I only got halfway through my sentence before my face screwed up and tears started coming out. I couldn't finish my thought and it just sucked. Tissues were brought. My nose was blown, and I recovered, but it still sucked.

Today, Prof and I went to see his friend play bluegrass music at the co-op. It was a beautiful fall day. We sat and listened and I smiled and clapped and sang, just appreciating the fact that I was alive and outside. Then they played their last song; an old bluegrass standby called May the Circle be Unbroken. Its about death and being left behind. Oh lord. I started bawling. Two seconds before I had been fine and happy and good. Then do a verse about about a casket and I'm done. I really liked that song too. Before.

I always thought that it was impossible to be sad if there was a banjo playing. I thought wrong.

I also wasn't expecting the anxiety. Prof has been by my side every minute since Wednesday. Saturday, we were invited to a Halloween party. I wanted him to go see his friends, but I had friends in from out of town that I wanted to see. So I told him to "Go! Play with your friends. I'll be ok." And then he said "You sure? Ok then..." And then I had a mini panic attack. Separation anxiety. "Shit. He's really going to go. What am I really going to do?" I felt like I used to feel when I was three and my mom would drop me off at day care and I would hang onto her leg. All clingy and out of control and sad.

It happened again tonight as I gathered up my stuff to move myself back into my own house. Who is going to pat my head and rub my back when I get sad? Who's going to help me fend off my crazy mother? I need to be home. And probably need to be alone. I've never had an issue being alone before, so this new low level fear of being alone is freaking me out.

I've always been so in control and self-sufficient. Its been tough to admit that I'm not unbreakable. And that I need people to help me through the tough times. I suspect that this experience is going to leave me a pretty changed person.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It Sucked and Its Over

Dad passed away at 10:25 pm today. Mom, brother and I were all with him when he took his last breath and when the blood stopped circulating. Prof was there too. Holding me, as I held my father's hand.

My grandmother's funeral is tomorrow night.

I've gotten maybe 2-3 hours of sleep over the past 48 hours. Whoever invented the concept of "bedside vigil" should be shot.

I have a lot I'd like to say and work through, but now is not the time. Now is the time to drink the big glass of Merlot that is sitting in front of me. But, before I do, I wanted to thank everyone out there who has sent me vibes, prayers and thoughts; my close friends, my far away friends and internet strangers. And friends of internet strangers too. Without all of your support and knowing that you were there for me, this would have been a lot more difficult. It was still tough, but I knew I wasn't really alone, no matter how alone I was feeling. Thank you all for that.

It sucked. And its over. And tomorrow, a new phase of my life begins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Its Raining, Its Pouring...

They took my grandma's body from the Hospice House yesterday at about 8am.

At 10 am, I called the social worker at the Hospital.

At noon, the doctor asked my father if he would like to let nature take its course.

At 2, I signed paperwork.

At 4, the paramedics picked him up.

At 4:30, my father was admitted to Hospice House. My grandmother had been dead less than twelve hours, and we brought my dad here to die too.

Yesterday was a very, very difficult day.

Momom was right. This is going to be the hardest week of my life.

Yesterday, my mom and I met at McDonald's for breakfast. I hate McDonald's and have avoided eating there for years and years and years, even on long desolate road trips. But I made an exception in this case. All families meet at McDonald's in their time of great tragedy, right? Plus, my mom and her boyfriend aren't really the Starbucks types. We talked about Momom's funeral, joked about fun things to do with her ashes, then mom came with me to the hospital.

I had absolutely no idea that my day would turn out like it did.

I feel like I've caused his death. Logically, I understand that his kidney disease and his cancer are not my fault, but I'm the one that called the social worker on his ass when he winced in pain so badly it made me nauseous. I signed the paperwork. I gave the doctor a knowing look and a nod of my head when dad was having trouble making his wishes clear.

It was so heartbreaking. The doctor, a big black woman with a sympathetic look in her eyes, leaned in and tried to assess dad's mental condition and his wishes so that she could make a recommendation.

"How are you feeling?"

(mumbling) "Oh, fine." (really Dad? Fine? That's not exactly how I would describe it)

"Do you know what's wrong with you?"

"I'm constipated" (not untrue, but certainly, not the biggest of his issues)

"Do you know what else?"

"Something about I might have cancer." (Doc looks at me. I raise my eyebrows)

"It is cancer."

"That's right. Cancer."

Dad was confused. Wiped out. Having trouble getting word out. How do you get someone in that kind of shape to make decisions for himself? I wish the social worker had been more up front last week because he could have been more clear. We asked him leading questions and he agreed to "let nature take its course" (we think) because he couldn't really do much else. Then I went into the hallway to put the wheels in motion and sign the paperwork. The Doc almost cried when I told her my grandmother had passed away that morning. She hugged me. I was bawling. To lose your grandmother and send your father off to his death on the same day? Its emotionally taxing. Just a little.

They were supposed to come get him at 3 to take him. The ambulance people didn't arrive until 4. So I sat. Watching people. Every time I heard something with wheels go by my heart jumped and I felt sick. It was like he was safe and stable in the hospital. Once they came to get him, that was it. No turning back. Dad would have days left. Not weeks. Not a week. Days.

Its kinda like when you decide to euthanize your pet and you put him in the car for the last time. Except that with the pet, its over quickly. With a person, its a slow death. Unpredictable. Will there be pain? Will there be confusion? Will there be shaking? Drool? Puke? All of the above?

My mom was here at hospice when I got here. My brother came later. I signed some stuff. Went over medical histories. Confirmed that there would be no more dialysis treatments. Stayed for a while and made sure that he was as comfortable as he could be, then drove home to pick up migraine pills at my local pharmacy and pack up some stuff for a few days.

When I got back to the hospice, mom, her boyfriend and my brother were going through pictures of my grandmother for the memorial service. I joined in. It was so unreal, sitting there in the hospice "living room" pulling pictures of my dead grandmother out of the photo album and making sure that my dying father was comfortable.

Prof's house is, thankfully, only about 5 minutes away from here. I spent the night with him and came back this morning to be with dad. Dad hasn't opened his eyes all day and is having a little trouble breathing. I've seen a definite decrease in his condition since last night. The nurses have seen a decline since this morning. Its not going to be long. And that's good, because I can only watch this for so much longer before I totally lose my shit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Its amazing how quickly someone goes from being alive to being dead. From being a part of your present to being part of your history. From being in your life to being in a hearse.

The phone buzzed at 5:33 am this morning. I was in a deep sleep and only heard it just as it stopped buzzing. I knew someone was dead, I just didn't know who it was, Dad or Momom. I rolled over, wrenched to phone from the crappiest charger cord ever invented and fumbled with the key lock button. The missed call was from my Mom.

Momom. Its Momom.

I called Mom back immediately. She very matter of factly told me that Momom had passed just after 5 am. She had been at Hospice for only 9 hours. Mom was with her all night, and was with her when she died. She passed away in her sleep - the very best way to do it. But, my brother and I weren't given the chance to be there. Mom must have known at some point - otherwise, why would she have stayed all night? The hospice nurse said she thought Momom had at least a couple days left, but you can't predict death.

Momom had called me from her cell phone on Thursday to tell me that she was thinking about me, and that she loved me, and that she was sorry I was going through all I was going through with my dad. She said that the next week was going to be the hardest week of my life. I found out today that she told my brother the exact same thing. I wonder if she already knew that she was going to check out soon? It was definitely out of character for her to use her phone for outbound calls and I was touched that while she was slowly dying, she would be worrying about me. No need to worry about me though - I was in Clark's buying comfortable shoes. I drove to the nursing home afterwards to visit. I showed her my new shoes, demonstrated how cushy they were, re-programmed her tv remote, ate some oreos and left.

The last time I saw my grandmother was on Friday. She was markedly worse than she had been the day before. She was having trouble breathing. Her arms and hands were shaking when she tried to do anything. She wanted ice chips, which I got for her. We watched the Balloon Boy land on CNN. I told her it was bullshit. She agreed. But perhaps she just lacked the strength to argue with my commentary on the current state of the 24-hour media.

I didn’t see her this weekend because she was in such bad shape. I wanted to wait for her to have a good day; problem was, she didn’t have any good days left.

She came to the hospice at 8pm last night. She slept all night, and passed away in her sleep. My mom was with her. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to see her one last time. But, she knew I loved her. She was ready to go. She was tired of living. Tired of fighting to breathe. Just tired.

I'm overwhelmed by her death, and the impending death of my father, and my mother's emotional needs, and my emotional needs (which I am pretending don't exist). Momom was right. This is going to be the most difficult week of my life.

Goodbye #1

My grandma died this morning at 5:05 am.

Still processing. More later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two for the price of one

I am watching two family members die simultaneously. It would be comical, if it wasn't so fucking sad.

My dad would be enough death and dying for anyone to deal with. But not for us! We get the special two for one deal. Dying Dad and Dying Grandma.

Momom went back to the hospice facility today. She is in really bad shape. Unable to talk, or catch a decent breath. She can't walk, or use the bathroom and her hands have started shaking terribly, which makes her lose her breath more, and on and on. The hospice nurse said that she is "exchanging very little air." I have no idea what that really means, but it ain't good. She's either not getting enough oxygen, or not expelling enough carbon dioxide, or both. My mother and her boyfriend spent the weekend moving her out of her apartment; her decline started close to the time that Mom told her she was working on the apartment. Momom's home was taken away; and I think it also took away what little will to live she had left.

Dad was barely able to speak today, after his first round of radiation (purely for pain management) and a dialysis treatment. He's back on a purely liquid diet. If you are on your way out, a liquid diet sure doesn't help you want to stick around, that's for sure. He was given two tiny tubs of apple juice, and some chicken broth. He managed 1/2 of one of the apple juices, and that was it. He grunted, rather than spoke. I didn't stay very long. He was in and out of consciousness and I just wanted to let him sleep.

I don't know whether he was wiped out from the dialysis today, or if he's just gotten that much worse over night. I've taken tomorrow off of work and will run from the hospital to the hospice and back again. I expect to lose one, if not both, of them by the end of the week.

I once joked about having them both in the same hospice facility at one time. As that reality approaches, it no longer seems funny.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Crying Things Are

I left the hospital a little after noon on Friday. I had been there every day since the previous Friday and had nothing left to give. I met with Dad and the cancer social worker in the morning. I thought we would resolve something; that she would present real world options about hospice care and nursing home care and make it abundantly clear that dad could not go home. I don't yet know where he thinks he is going when he leaves the hospital, but its not home. He needs 24 hour care. He can't shift himself in the bed without assistance. They are moving him on the bed crane for ease (he only weighs 150 pounds). He's barely eating. Home is not an option.

The options are nursing care, or in-patient hospice. Hospice, for those of you who are blessed to have never needed their services, is an organization that provides end of life care. They specialize in pain management, making patients comfortable and helping families deal with the emotional baggage of a death in the family. Most importantly, Medicare pays for hospice services 100%, including in-patient hospice. But you have to be really dying to get to the in-patient facility. If dad doesn't qualify for the in-patient hospice, I'm going to have to get him into a nursing home. And pay for it. There's not a lot of cash for nursing care, and his house couldn't be sold in time to help pay. Lots of decisions rest on where he can go when (if) he leaves the hospital, and I am a person that needs to plan. I like to know weeks in advance what I'm going to do, and what needs to be done. My meeting with the social worker made it abundantly clear that we aren't going to know what dad qualifies for until hours before he gets discharged from the hospital. Planning for his discharge isn't going to happen. I have to be flexible and ready for anything.

I'm not flexible, and I hate uncertainty. Particularly in this case. Not knowing is fucking with my life, and I'm focusing on it all the time.

So, I took the afternoon off and headed to Prof's house. I caught up on some work; it felt so good to talk to the office and respond to emails. I watched some of the DVRed National Parks PBS special on his big high def tv. I just laid on the couch and tried to block out everything else.

We went out for a nice dinner, then got tickets for Where the Wild Things Are. I knew that the ratings were mixed. The Village Voice said it was like a group therapy session. Other reputable reviewers said that the group dysfunction and inane monster dialogue made it almost unwatchable. But we went anyway.

Largely, I was bored. The monsters were reminded me of dysfunctional Jews from a Woody Allen movie. Seriously. Each personified an undesirable character trait; pessimism, depression, anger, overly anxious to please, cannibalism... Carol the Monster's anger made me uncomfortable; JW's condescension annoyed me. I was glad when Max finally got in his boat and sailed away.

Except that I was bawling.

Max said his goodbyes to all the monsters, except Carol who was too busy in an angry rage to be there. He finally shows up and just watches Max leave. I'm sure everyone in the theater applied that scene to their own families, and their own situation. For me, it hit too close to home. Saying goodbye? Expressing regret? End of a journey? It sucker punched me.

I had to sit there until everyone in the theater had left. Then I got up, trying to hide my face from the Prof, and about ran into the bathroom to try to compose myself. I had been crying for maybe 5 minutes, but my face was red and puffy and my eyes were squinty. I looked a mess. And felt ridiculous. Angry, dysfunctional monsters made me cry; not the news that my dad had cancer.

Its the first time that I've lost my shit all week. The first time I've cried. The first time I've let my feelings anywhere near the surface. It felt awful. Holding it in is much easier.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hospital Breakdown

I'm exhausted. Mentally, emotionally and even physically. My body is stiff and all my muscles are sore from sitting on my ass for a week. Mentally, I'm shot. I'm trying to figure out "what next?" and nobody in the hospital thinks past the end of the day. One day, they are going to release my father and expect someone to take care of the details. It is not out of the range of possibilities that they would send him home, expecting his family to provide 24 hour care. I can't provide 24 hour care for my dying father. I work. I have a home. I have a life. I'm not giving them up to care for a dying man for an unspecified period of time.

Its all resting on me. My father is too sick to make any real decisions or phone calls. I've been hounding the hospital social workers. I've been talking to the doctors. I've been helping him brush his teeth and even occasionally helping him eat. I've seen my dad's raw nakedness as he is lifted on and off bed pans and uses urinals.

I feel very, very alone right now. My brother has not been helpful. While he's stopped by to say hi a couple times over the last week, he's not doing anything productive. He's not taking off work. He's not paying the bills at dad's house. He's not investigating end of life decisions and how long it takes to die if you stop dialysis. Guess who is doing those things? Yeah. Me.

And no, asking the brother to help is not really an option. He's not mature enough, he doesn't care enough. Hospitals make him uncomfortable. "I don't like hospitals, I can't go there everyday." Yeah, cuz I just love hospitals and dying people.

I just want it to be over. Like now. And its become very clear that its not going to end as quickly as I had hoped.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bad to Worser

Its amazing that just when you think you've gotten all the bad news you could possibly get, you get a little more to add on top. My suck bucket doth spilleth over.

But really, its not my suck bucket. Its my dad's suck bucket. His is like a suck pond. Maybe a suck lake. Poor guy had a colonoscopy today. Seriously. If I'm dying, the last thing I would want to do is drink a gallon of Miralax, poo my brains out, then have someone shove a camera up my ass. But someone thought it was a good idea. Oh, plus, 4 hours of dialysis afterwards. And its like they don't even really give you a choice. They just come get him and I think he is too weak or scared to just say no. Nancy Reagan, this should have been your Just Say No campaign. Screw recreational drugs. What this country needs to say no to is unnecessary and painful medical tests.

He failed the tests. Bad. The cancer is in his colon. And his lungs. And his liver. And his hip. We've spent weeks going to doctors trying to find out why he couldn't put any weight on his leg - thought it was fractured or arthritic or something. Nope. Fucking hip has cancer in it. Just like the rest of him.

I was fortunate (?) enough to be in the room when one of the oncologists came in. My brother was there too (unhelpful as always). The oncologist looked like an albino mole. And had the bedside manner of one. He didn't look any of us in the eye. He came in and just started talking. Didn't even introduce himself.

He launched into "well, we got your tests back. Turns out you do have a mass in your colon. We are doing a biopsy now. We also found cancer in your hip. Its inoperable. But, what we recommend is chemotherapy and radiation. It won't cure you; it will just shrink the tumors..."

Then he went on and on about how difficult it is to treat cancer in dialysis patients because the artificial kidneys kick the drugs out so fast, but that there are these special drugs that sometimes work.. and yadda, yadda on and on and on. Dude didn't look up - not once - to read our reaction. I was looking at him cross eyed. Do you SEE my dad? He weighs less than I do. He's old. He's in pain. He's tired. He's blind. Come on! You really think he wants to toss his cookies and lose his hair in addition? So that he can come back to his baseline health level of "life is barely tolerable?" Enough is enough. If he was a dog, we would have put him down already under the life heading of "its the kindest thing to do"

How come they can't have the common decency to treat my dad like a dog?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bathtub of Suck

Forget the bucket. I'm drowning in a bathtub of suck. Who's got the bathtub gin? I need to water it down.

I learned today that my father's cancer is Stage IV; they don't know where its coming from and they don't know where its going. They wheeled him out to scan his brain to see if its moved there. The nurse said the doctors are acting as if he might only have days to live. The doctor said she was unwilling to speculate how long he might have. They are running more tests tonight and tomorrow. They might know more then. But then again, they probably won't.

Call me a horrible person if you'd like, but I am relieved that his cancer might be so bad that death is imminent. He's tired. And weak. He hasn't gotten any joy out of life for years, if not decades. I've spent the last four years caring for him; sometimes intensively, sometimes less so, but always there. Shuttling back and forth to go grocery shopping for him; enduring dinners at Perkins so he could order off the senior menu; feeling guilty when I go away for the weekend; mowing his grass; cooking for him; taking him to doctors appointments; taking him to the hospital... In the past four years, I'd guess I've missed two months worth of work or more because of his various issues. Its funny, because I'm sure he never missed a day of work to take care of me.

I feel sorry for him, but I also resent him. 90% of the tears I have shed in my life were caused, in one way or another, by him. He's the reason I feel the way I do about marriage and relationships. He's the reason I occasionally check myself when the alcohol consumption goes a bit up. He's the reason I haven't moved, or looked for a new job. I couldn't leave - he can't take care of himself.

Now, he could be gone within the week. Or, he could suffer for months. And I could suffer for months. If the cancer doesn't take him quickly, things are going to get very complicated because health insurance won't pay for long-term care and hospice won't take him unless he is really dying. If we have to pay; we have to sell his house. You try selling a house with an avocado bathroom and orange linoleum in this housing market and see what happens. Nothing good, that's for sure. And, I can't simultaneously take care of his health needs while tearing up red carpet from the 60's.

So, I don't know how bad he is, I don't know how long he could live, I don't know where he is going to go if he gets out of the hospital, and I don't know whether to dance with glee or curl up and cry. For now, I'm just going to curl up and go to bed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The C Word

I left the hospital at 6 am, as the drunk college kids were getting their IVs out and headed back to campus. I had been there since 12:30. My dad, who has looked like he needed hospitalization for weeks, finally called 911 because he couldn't breathe.

They ran test after test all night long. The 12-year old resident couldn't tell us anything; nor could the attending, other than that they were keeping him.

Today, after about 4 hours of sleep, I dragged myself back to the hospital. Dad looked terrible. And had terrible news to give me.

"Its cancer."

I haven't talked to a doctor yet, but apparently its all over his liver and intestines. He doesn't want to treat it. I don't know yet what that means for a man on dialysis. Do you stop the dialysis and let the kidney disease kill you, or do you wait for the cancer to get you while continuing dialysis?

Or how about this question: What the fuck am I going to do?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Big Bucket of Suck Theory

I have a new theory on life.

It goes like this: "If you just sit and take what life gives you, all you get handed is a big bucket of suck. But, if you get out there and make things happen for yourself, you get good things you can use to water down the suck.

This idea came to me this summer. I was in the car, on my way to the river at something like 6:30 in the morning. I was so glad to be escaping my life and getting to the river for the day, or the weekend, or whatever it was. And I realized that if it wasn't for whitewater kayaking, the past year or so would have been just about unbearable. Kayaking gave me new friends, new skills, and new confidences. Most importantly though, it gave me a much needed distraction from all that was (is?) going on in my life: dad dramas, health dramas, dad health dramas, friend dramas, pay-cut drama, job drama and of course, boy drama.

The only things that have ever been handed to me for free are raw deals. Nobody just hands out the good stuff. And if they are, they aren't handing it to me. Or anyone I know. I've kept my sanity, and figured out how to make myself happy by actively doing things that make me happy. Ok, well, the black eye didn't make me happy, but it did give me a hell of a story to fill the gaps at dinner parties. And that makes other people happy.

Yeah, I'm going through a tough time right now, with the headaches and the elder care issues, but its nothing compared to what other people go through, and nothing compared to what some of my friends are going through right now. And, despite all the suckage right now, I've still got the boats loaded on the car and ready to go, whenever I get the chance. And that definitely helps water down the suck.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hospice, Hospitals and Headaches

Nothing in the world is more stressful than end of life decisions.

Unless you are involved in two of them at once.

Until my early 20's, I had three grandmas. A great-grandma on my mom's side, mom's mom (momom) and dad's mom. Super Granny (as I named her when I was three or so. I think I had her confused with Super Grover) snuffed out at the age of 94 or so. Dad's mom lasted until 90. She died in the nursing home up the street from dad's house, right after I told her that she looked funny with her teeth out (why would you hold on to life after that?). My last remaining grandma, Momom, checked herself into hospice on Thursday.

She had been in the rehab center/nursing home but to stay there and have insurance pay, she had to do therapy and make progress. Momom's lungs are shot from decades and decades of heavy smoking. Even with 24 hour a day oxygen, the lungs aren't working. Ain't no amount of therapy in the world going to make those lungs start pumping again. She's frustrated, and tired of needles and the blood samples and the restricted diet. She's ready to die - not because her brain is giving up, but because her body has given out on her. She still wants to travel, and see the grand canyon, and ride the train across the county, and cruise with the elderly through the Mediterranean... But she can't. She can't walk across the room to pee, let alone pack a bag and plan a trip.

So, she signed up for hospice, where she can eat what she wants and do what she can, until she can't do it no more. Which honestly, might not be that long. While I definitely have mixed feelings about this, I am happy for her. Happy that she made this decision consciously and happy that her last days will be free of needles and doctors and worry. I am sad for me because I won't have her anymore. And sad for me because I know she still had stories to tell that I never heard, and probably never will due to the fact that she has discovered that hospice nurses give you whatever pills you want, whenever you want them, and that some of them make you feel very, very, good.

On my way to visit her on Thursday evening, I dropped by my dad's house to deliver some pills he needed and some other stuff I picked up at Fright Aid. He looked like he needed to be hospitalized. His leg is swollen. He's in pain. Dialysis isn't keeping up with his fluid buildup. Yet, he is unwilling to do anything about it. "Dad, do you want me to make an appointment? Do you want to go to the ER?" "No, I'm just going to go to bed..." Nice. You just go ahead and get sicker and sicker, so I can run around more and more trying to meet your needs. And when you are finally sick enough to not protest an emergency room visit, the nurses and doctors can judge me for being a bad daughter. Thanks.

I took Friday off so I could visit Momom and be ready to take him to the hospital. Of course, he didn't want to go. So, I cleaned his kitchen (it was dangerously dirty. Couple a man who never learned how to take care of himself with a case of blindness and you get some sort of black mold buildup in the sink..) and made him lunch (had I not been there, he would have eaten a pack of crackers). My mom is on my ass about getting him into a nursing facility. Problem is, he's gotta get sent there by a doctor or the hospital, and to do that, he would actually have to go to one.

Its stressful. I've got a dying momom, a mom who is doing everything in her power to avoid dealing with the fact that her mom is dying, a dad who needs to be in the hospital, a job that I keep missing to deal with all of these things, and a house that just won't clean and organize itself. Strangely enough, despite the stress and the strife, I had no headache yesterday. Perhaps I am getting this thing under control a little bit.