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Posts Tagged ‘friend’

16 Days

Only 16 more days until I turn 32. Even though that must seem young to some of you, it’s hard for me to believe I’ve gotten so old. I remember a time when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to 18.

I’m still very worried about my birthday. I hope it’s not as sad as I’m expecting it to be. I don’t have any plans except to see a dance performance (seriously, you should all come…Ronnie West is the best dancer I’ve ever seen in person, and I know this show is going to be AMAZING…plus, you can wish me a happy birthday!), and then dad’s taking the boy and I out to dinner. It’ll be a very late dinner, which dad wasn’t really up for, but I really wanted to see Ronnie’s show. I’m glad we were able to work it out.

Things have been relatively stable for me. I haven’t lived so close to my best friend since I lived on Johnny’s street in Vilas. I’d forgotten how nice is it. I’m spending the majority of my evenings hanging out at the boy’s house. While my cats are a little sad about it, I’m glad to have the company. It also makes me feel more secure knowing that there’s someone who cares about me living so near, just in case I ever need any help or anything.

I’ve been doing a lot better with food. I actually haven’t binged on food in…it seems like it’s been a month or more? And I’ve corrected my diet over these past two weeks so that I’m getting back into a comfortable routine. I’ve also been much better about exercise. I’m trying to remember that it’s not about how I look, but how I feel. I feel so horribly out of shape. I’ve felt unmotivated and heavy, like it’s just too much effort to move. I do struggle to do the things I used to do, and I can’t do the things I used to do at the same level. People keep saying that it comes back quickly, but I don’t know about that. I just have to keep chugging away at whatever level I can. I’ve been trying to find more fun things to do so that I look forward to it. I got a deal on Shaun T’s dance video series…it’s hilarious having the dude who runs the Insanity program teach me how to disco. I also got a voucher for three private Pilates equipment sessions. I used to do that once a week…did that for years. I had my first session this week, and I felt equal parts blissed out and destroyed. I wish I could afford to continue with it. If I don’t end up going back to HEAT, I might be able to figure out a way to do it. I guess we’ll see.

I still miss mom. Sometimes conversations about death come up, and it’s hard for me to explain what it was like to be present to witness it. I think some people have an idealized version of what it might be like. It’s not pretty. And it leaves holes and scars.

It will be one year in October. Dad rearranged the beach schedule so that we’ll have the beach that week. We’re going to take her ashes.

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Honesty

I’m glad we’ve made it to Wednesday. The weeks keep getting longer and longer.

People keep asking me if I have friends here in Raleigh. It’s an interesting question. I’m sure it comes from the fact that I move around a lot, but I’m curious about why having friends who live down the road is important. I’ve done a lot of work over the past several years to cut drama out of my life, and that meant shutting some doors and opening others. The result is that, while I do have a few friends who live in the area, the majority of my closest friends live elsewhere: the NC mountains, Virginia, Georgia, Florida…even Russia.

I’ve never been an extrovert. I like hanging out with close friends, I love going out to nice dinners with said close friends, and I like going out occasionally, but I’ve gotten so busy that I do most of my heart-to-hearts via email. One of my best friends is the one living in Russia. We met a long time ago at an interesting junction: he was moving to New York a month or so after I met him, and I was heading off to Lesotho a couple of weeks after that. We somehow formed this connection that has spanned six years and three different continents. We were talking recently about that connection, and the best word we could come up with to describe it is honesty. It’s rare to find people with whom you can be 100% honest all the time. It’s definitely something to be valued.

So, yes, I have friends who live nearby. “Nearby” might mean near my heart and not near my house, but it’s still nearby. 🙂

I also have amazing co-workers. I might have mentioned this before, but one of my first managers taught me that what makes a company a great place to work is not its perks, but its people. Should I feel a need to escape my apartment, I have several offers from those fine folks for dinners and/or drinks. I might take them up on it soon even if I don’t need it, per se. They’re a great group of people, and I always have fun with them. The company split up our team due to space restrictions, so most of them moved across the street…those of us who stayed behind took a trip over to visit the others yesterday, and it was crazy. It was like getting a group of old college buddies who hadn’t seen each other in a long time back together for a reunion. Hopefully we’ll get our new building soon so we can all sit together again.

Halloween is a big deal where I work, so I took in my Halloween decorations and we had a blast trying to arrange the cotton spiderwebs. There’s a company party on Friday afternoon, which I’m looking forward to. I have a costume that is just perfect for me. Should be fun!

I’m still trying to finish the eulogy/homily (I need to look up the difference) that I’m going to give on Saturday. I have about half of it ready. I need to get it done soon so I can practice. If I don’t practice, I’m not going to be able to make it through without crying.

I haven’t been sleeping very well. I get to sleep fine, but I have such strange dreams that I don’t sleep through the night, so I don’t wake up rested. I also had a horrible crying spell in the shower a couple of nights ago…had a friend not warned me about this sort of thing, it would have scared me. I’m hoping things will calm down after the funeral. I’m not sure they will, but I can still hope.

I’m surprised by how much I miss mom. I still think it’s so weird, this feeling. She hadn’t really been herself for about a year, and she wasn’t even really there at all these past couple of months. Sometimes all I’d get out of her was eye contact and/or a little smile. You’d think I would have felt some of this loss earlier since the woman I knew as my mom changed so long ago. But it’s not true. I miss her a lot.

And I’m looking forward to seeing dad. I haven’t seen him since Sunday, and while that was just a few days ago, it seems like a long time…I had gotten used to seeing him every day. He’s trying to keep busy, but I think he’s also looking forward to the other side of the funeral. Maybe we’re both curious about what the new “normal” is going to be.

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I am thankful for my dad. He is the most amazing man in the world. Watching him give up everything to take care of my mom has been humbling. My mother is blessed to have such a partner.

I am thankful that my mom still remembers who we are. And that she believes us when we tell her that some of the things she sees aren’t real.

I am thankful that my mom says she is not in any pain (other than the damn catheter).

I am thankful that I am back in Raleigh and am 45 minutes away instead of 6-7 hours away.

I am thankful for my parents’ friends. They have been incredible, rallying to my parents’ side and rearranging their own schedules just to sit with my mom or bring over dinner. Those small things, knowing that he doesn’t have to cook every night or that he has people he can call if he needs to run to the store, have been a great blessing to my dad.

I am thankful for my own friends, who, while scattered all over the globe, offer me unfailing support and love.

I am thankful for my job, for my compassionate co-workers, and for my manager. I was talking with my manager today during our weekly one-on-one meeting and catching him up on everything that happened while at the beach and now that we’re back home (including other stuff going on in my life that is outside the scope of this blog). How many managers care to spend 20 minutes talking about these things? And provide so much flexibility? I told him I’m just glad I love my job, and we talked about how work can create a stable touchstone in the middle of the maelstrom.

I am thankful for my health and that I have an amazing gym right down the road full of people who inspire me, fill me with self-confidence, and care enough not only to ask me how I’m doing, but to really listen.

I am thankful that I could work on this list all night and probably not run out of things to say.

I was talking with my best friend last weekend. He asked how I was doing. I told him, honestly, that when I pause in the moment, I am happy. (I think I wrote about that before.) He said that there’s a saying somewhere that if you stop in the moment and a tiger is not chasing you, all is well.

I guess I can add that I am thankful that no tiger is chasing me.

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Today’s Tuesday, so it’s WFP (work from my parents’ house). Dad said mom has been weaker these past couple of days, but I wasn’t expecting her to be as bad as she is. I forced her to get up just to brush her teeth and wash her face (or wash her teeth and brush her face, as I like to say). And by “forced,” I mean I had to rip the blankets away from her clenched fists. She did not want to get up, that’s for sure.

She was hardly able to make it to the sink. She shuffles baby steps instead of actually walking, and she can’t stand up straight anymore. At the sink, she leaned back into me for support instead of standing on her own.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I got here this morning around 7:40. I heard my parents talking in their bedroom around 8, so I poked my head in. Dad was asking mom who she was talking to last night, if they’d been in Russia again. Mom said she had been in Emerald Isle with the bridesmaids for one of her friend’s sisters because the wedding was later today. She said she was definitely there, that she heard them all talking as clear as day. Dad and I just kind of nodded.

I left for a few minutes, then went back to see what she wanted for breakfast.

“When are the mothers coming for breakfast?” she asked, looking at her watch.

“What mothers?”

“The mothers of the bridesmaids.”

*pause* “Mom,” I said, “there’s no wedding.”

I can’t explain her facial reaction to that. It was almost like a young child who had just been scolded. “Oh,” she said. “Thanks for that.”

I emailed her friend to see if mom was remembering something, but her friend said it wasn’t real.

Things like this make me sad.

But she has this uncanny knowledge of what’s going on. I remember down at the beach last week, mom was getting all agitated because she thought she was going to be late for her dentist appointment. Dad told me later that he’d recently gotten a reminder in the mail for her regular dental check-up. Maybe somehow she knew.

Mom’s friend (the same one whose sister is not getting married) came by this afternoon to talk with mom. Dad had asked her to come over to start talking about funeral arrangements. I remember, and this would have been years ago, mom clearly telling me that she wanted a party: she wanted people to celebrate the fact that she’d finally gone home. I asked her about that today, and she said she definitely did NOT want a party. I asked if she’d changed her mind, and she nodded. So who knows.

I’m sad she’s thinking about this, but it is important. Maybe it will help her to let go. Dad had trouble talking about it without tearing up, but this kind of talk doesn’t bother me. It’s something to do: to me, I get to help plan and orchestrate instead of dwelling on losing my best friend.

I think we’re getting closer to that time. If she stops trying to walk, she will no longer be able to walk. Maybe going to the beach took too much out of her, I don’t know. I just want her to find peace. And for my dad to find peace, too. If there’s any left over for me, I wouldn’t mind a little myself.

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I went over to my parents’ house yesterday to make dinner. Dad was out working all day, and a few of mom’s friends had volunteered to hang out with her so she wouldn’t be alone. She takes her Tarceva at 4, though, and since it’s extremely important that it on time and is highly toxic (we’re not supposed to touch it), he thought it might be a good idea for me to come over a little early.

One of mom’s friends told me that she was confused because my mom had told her that it wasn’t me, but Alison from mom’s Jockey business who was coming over to make dinner, which didn’t make any sense. I asked if dad or mom had told her that, and she said mom. I told her not to believe everything that comes out of mom’s mouth. 😉 Turns out that dad had told mom that “some person named Allison” was coming over at 4 to make dinner. He meant it as a joke, but I guess mom thought he wasn’t talking about me. Go figure.

I was planning on offering to paint mom’s nails, but her friends had beat me to it! She has such wonderful, loving friends.

And mom was GREAT when I showed up! She was walking okay (I helped her to the bathroom since she said she hadn’t gone all day) and talking without any issues. There was no delay between my questions and her answers. I haven’t seen her that alert in weeks. Then she said she wanted to go to sleep since her friends had kept her up all day, so I let her. When she woke up again for dinner, she was her old confused self again. It made me wonder if we shouldn’t be keeping her up and mentally engaged all day instead of sleeping. Maybe that would prevent her from being so groggy and confused.

While mom was resting and dad was still out, I looked through old picture books. I was struck by how much my parents loved me. Each one of the albums was like a flipbook on loving Allison. They’ve had a great life together, and I’m very lucky and honored that they are my parents. I also got to see some pictures I don’t remember seeing before, pictures of when my parents were just dating and engaged. My mom was hot! She had this one green dress…I wonder if she still has it somewhere. I should have scanned the picture. This one isn’t as good, but it’s from around the same time:

What a looker!

I made salmon and fettuccine for dinner, but it was a lower-fat version, and mom said it was a little dry. I thought it was really good, but I haven’t had cheesy pasta in ages, so what do I know? 😉 Dad finished his plate, so it couldn’t have been all bad. Mom only ate a few bites, then wanted to go lie back down. She has some pain when she’s sitting. I asked if she wanted us to finish our dinner in her room. She said that would be nice, so that’s what we did! She got up again for some of the Angus Barn chocolate chess pie (again, the crust was a little dry, but the pie was stellar), then went back to bed.

Once she was all tucked in, I read her from one of the Mother’s Memories books that she filled out a long time ago. There was no date in it, but based on what she was saying about me in the book, I’m guessing it was around 2000-2001. She really seemed to enjoy it, and every time I paused to ask her about something, she was ready with an answer. Long-term memory comes pretty easy to her, and she seemed to love remembering some of those things.

I was worn out by the end of the evening. Dad said that even doing something small like helping mom get ready for bed was exhausting, and he pointed out that a lot of it was emotional. He keeps saying he’s going to try to get a nurse to come stay with mom sometimes. I hope he does. He said that he had tons of people willing to volunteer to help out, but he didn’t want to burden them with the actual caregiving…helping mom up and to the bathroom, especially. He’s also worried about what happens if mom falls: he doesn’t think he’s strong enough to pick her up. I can do it (what else have I been working out for?!), but I’m about 45 minutes away these days.

They’re supposed to go to the beach next week. I hope they do. Dad’s worried about the long car ride and about how to get mom up the stairs (there are a lot of stairs there!), but I know mom would really enjoy being there.

It’s helping to write all these things down. I’ve thought about trying to really write about them, write a story…but I have a feeling it’s going to be like the Peace Corps, where I just can’t write about it until it’s all over. Perspective, I guess. Or emotional distance?

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The title of this post is from a song by the Old Crow Medicine Show.  If you haven’t heard it, you can’t consider yourself a true North Carolinian.  😉

I made it…tired, but here.  Things in the house seem good.  Resigned.  I think they’ve eased into this new life and are doing well.  Mom seemed great!  She waltzed in the door in her new wig looking like Gina Gershon (see Gina Gershonpic to the left).  I can definitely tell it’s a wig, but she’s also had the same hair style for my entire life, so it’s easy to tell the difference.  I think if she were a stranger, I wouldn’t notice.  It’s a nice one.

I’m sure some of you are also following mom’s blog.  I’m glad she’s updating there…I know it’s easier to write things down once and have it done.

She wrote there, and told me when I got here, that they were pretty sure they were not going to get the biopsy results back tomorrow for her scheduled consultation.  It’s been two and a half, if not three weeks now.  That’s ridiculous.  They can’t begin treatment until they have the results because they don’t know which one to use.  The reason that they don’t have it back yet is because there’s a company that holds a patent to this particular test, so obviously they have a huge queue of people waiting for the test.  How awful is that?!  We’ve been talking about copyright and patent in one of my classes this semester, and I totally understand that people need to be compensated for their work, but people are dying here.  Literally.  I wonder how many people get their tests back too late?  Mom’s in pretty good shape, but she can’t wait around forever.  If Duke were allowed to run the test, they would have had it back already.  There needs to be a line drawn between making money and helping sick people.  These drug and “health” companies are really getting to me.

Something else that’s getting to me are all the people who are suddenly experts on holistic medicine and “natural” foods.  I know everyone means well, but sometimes folks are misinformed.  I can’t believe some of the stuff coming through this house.  For example, Mom was given a study about how red wine and chocolate can fight cancer, so she’s now drinking liquid dark chocolate.  Antioxidants are good for you and all, but eating chocolate is not going to be a cure.  Might lift the mood, though!!

I was macrobiotic for a couple of years, and I did a TON of research about it.  It’s known as “the cancer diet” because so many people who had been diagnosed with cancer have been cured solely by following the strict version of the diet.  In fact, all of these “holistic cure” programs follow a very similar diet regimen.  The key is to eat whole, natural, organic foods.  That’s it. All the programs vary in terms of what to eat when, how much of which macro-nutrient to eat, etc., but they’re all recommending the same thing.  Whole, natural, organic, hormone-free, crap-free, as little processed food as possible.  I am not claiming that I can heal my mother by stepping her through the macrobiotic diet.  For one, I haven’t been trained, and I only know what works for me.  But I am going to say that without a doubt, eating a whole, natural, organic diet will help her to heal.  I feel 100% confident in that.  So all of this “natural” stuff that’s full of crap needs to go.

I learned about The Gerson Therapy, which follows an organic vegan diet, through the documentary The Beautiful Truth.  They claim to have scientific proof that they healed folks who were turned away from places like Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic as terminal.  The only thing I don’t like about the sounds of this is the enema they recommend, but just the thought of enemas grosses me out anyway!!  But there are a lot of alternative treatments out there with proof.  It can’t hurt to blend this with Western medicine.  Eating a clean diet can only do good.

And I swear it can taste good too!  This book here by Jessica Porter is a great example of how to make everyday “junk” food with whole-food replacements.

Okay, enough of the rant.

I shared the link to this blog on Facebook, which mom didn’t want me to do originally, but since SHE did, I figured I could as well.  😉  Besides more prayers, which are very much welcomed and needed, something else great came out of it: a new friend.  I learned that a classmate of mine suffered along with her mother as she battled breast and ovarian cancer, and lost.  This friend told me she was there if I ever needed to talk.  It’s nice to know there’s someone there who has gone through something similar.  But the pain I saw in her eyes when she talked about her mother and the cancer was deep and raw, perhaps a foreshadowing of what’s in my future.  I don’t know.

The final essay I wrote for my non-fiction workshop was on grief and loss.  I hadn’t learned about mom’s cancer when I started writing it.  I thought it was going to be a comparison of funerals, grief, and loss in Lesotho and America.  But “the thing absolutely worth knowing,” as my professor eloquently stated, was the difference of how grief is carried in both places.  (And I know I can’t generalize about ALL of America…a Mennonite classmate said their funerals very much mirrored the funerals I described from Lesotho.)  But my experience with grief and loss here is that it is a very individual thing.  People are expected to mourn in private and to outwardly show strength and to smile and accept the “I’m sorry for your loss” commiserations.  In Lesotho, the grief was communal, shared by everyone, and expressed by many.  Everyone participated in the burial.  I felt more able to express the grief I felt, and the tears I shed there came from a deeper place.

I guess my point is that I feel able to share my sadness with this friend, even though we haven’t talked much about this yet.  I felt that some of the pain I saw in her eyes was also for me and for my family since she knew exactly what we were going through.

Anyway, thanks again for reading my rambling thoughts.  I appreciate your time and your prayers and positive thoughts.  Today’s a good day.  Let’s hope for thousands more.

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