Posts Tagged ‘impatience’

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

When my previous therapist and I were talking about grief work, she suggested that I write you a letter. We both knew I wasn’t ready for that, so she told me to keep the idea in the back of my head and take advantage of it when it was time.

When I was talking to my new therapist about how I felt visiting your house these days, she asked if I’d written you a letter. I said no. Then I started crying and said I wasn’t ready. She just nodded.

As both of them told me I should write to you, I guess I should listen.

I suppose I’m finally ready.

It was triggered by something unexpected: a new CD. P!nk’s new album, The Truth About Love, was released yesterday, and I was listening to it in the car today while I was running errands and then heading to the gym. Song #9 is “Beam Me Up.” I started crying after the first verse and didn’t stop until I turned the car off at the gym. Then I listened to it on the way home and started crying again. I put it on the computer while I was settling in and just kept crying. (I’ll put the lyrics and a link to the song at the end here so you can hear it.)

I think this means that I’m not okay and that I still really, really, really miss you.

I’ve tried to be very Buddhist about this whole situation. I know that death is inevitable and that attachments lead to suffering. Sure. It’s true. I’ve also tried to shy away from all the “it’s just not fair” crap. But it’s not fair. I do feel robbed of decades of your love, your advice, your wisdom, your ear, your example. Your hugs. Our arguments. Holidays. Shopping. Celebrations. Shared loss. My life is proving to be so much like yours that I know you could help me walk along my own path. When I don’t know what to do these days, I don’t know to whom I should turn. Dad’s been doing a great job, but there are some things he just doesn’t want to hear. I know it’s hard for him.

There are also still some things I need to know that you never told me. Like, I know all about Richard. Well, I know a lot about Richard. But I don’t know how it finally ended, how you got over it…if you ever got over it. I remember finally meeting him at a funeral–was it Bibba’s?–and, when you pointed and said, “That’s Richard,” my going over to him and saying, “Richard? Hi! I’m Allison, Sallie’s daughter. I’ve heard SO much about you!” I think the expression on his face made your decade.

And more about your first marriage. You must have seen so much of it reflected in my own marriage. I don’t know why you were behind my marriage as strongly as you were. Maybe you just wanted to support me. Maybe you thought that having a man who loved me would be the only thing that mattered, even if that was about the only good quality he brought to the table. I remember asking you how you felt when you got divorced. I don’t remember exactly what you said, but I think it was along the lines of disappointed or like a failure. I said I felt free. You reacted almost like that made you sad.

And how to manage all of this crap. This past year and a half has been so hard on me, mom. I’m at a point where I really don’t feel like I can take anything else happening. I might literally crack. Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am–and I know that I am; I get that from you–but I’m so tired of having to be strong. You were always so good at multitasking and juggling everything. I know it annoyed me sometimes because I never felt I had your full attention, but I understand now. And the way you handled your cancer was a model for all of us. You never complained about anything, never said you felt pain, even when I knew you did. I could use the lessons that you learned during that journey. I wish you could teach me how to suffer with grace.

It’s so hard for me to go back to your house. I’m honestly glad I don’t live there anymore. I don’t know how dad manages. All I see when I walk in is your illness and everything I could have done better. I see myself struggling to learn how to help you use the bathroom and hurting you, I’m sure, in the process. I see myself causing you pain when I tried to move you. I see myself being short or gruff when I was frustrated–not with you, but with the cancer and what it was doing to you. I see myself trying to hurry you when you had no energy for anything. I know that I’m only human and that I did the absolute best that I could, but I could have done better, mom. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the times I hurt you or made you uncomfortable or forced you to do things you didn’t want to do. I know those things don’t matter to you. But they matter to me.

I’m sorry.

People always say things like, “If I could only go back and have five minutes to say everything I need to say, I wouldn’t leave room for any regrets.” I don’t have that regret. I think the one blessing your disease gave to all of us was a chance to say everything. I said everything I needed to say multiple times, and your responses were always what I needed to hear. There was nothing left unsaid. So I don’t have much to add here in that respect. You know that I’m sorry for all of the trouble I caused, and you told me that it wasn’t the bad times that you remembered, but the good. You know that I love you, and I know you love me. I just wish you were here. I wish I had that one minute, “just to stare, happy just to be there, holding your face.”

I miss you, mom. I love you so much. I’m tired of the pain and heartbreak of grief. It feels just as acute right now as it did right after you passed. I’ve heard it never gets any easier. That sucks. The worst part of having a mother who was my best friend, who was such an amazing woman and role model, is how big of a void your passing leaves in my life.

I hope that one day your memory only calls up happiness and not this wrench in my heart. Like you wrote on my poster–that awesome gift you gave me as a going-away present for the Peace Corps with all of my friends’ pictures and space for them to sign their well-wishes. You wrote, down in the corner near a picture of us at the beach: “Honey, may you always think of me with a smile on your face and in your heart–I’ll love you forever and beyond. Mom.”

I miss you, mom. I’ll always love you forever and beyond, too.


Beam Me Up Video

“There’s a whole ‘nother conversation going on
In a parallel universe
Where nothing breaks and nothing hurts
There’s a waltz playing frozen in time
Blades of grass on tiny bare feet
I look at you and you’re looking at me

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter,
I think, a minutes enough,
Just beam me up.

Saw a black bird soaring in the sky,
Barely a breath I caught one last sight
Tell me that was you, saying goodbye,
There are times I feel the shiver and cold,
It only happens when I’m on my own,
That’s how you tell me I’m not alone

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter,
I think, a minutes enough,
Just beam me up.

In my head, I see your baby blues
I hear your voice and I, I break in two and now there’s
One of me with you

So when I need you can I send you a sign
I’ll burn a candle and turn off the lights
I’ll pick a star and watch you shine

Just beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter,
I think, a minutes enough,
Beam me up
Beam me up
Beam me up
Could you beam me up.”


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I miss my mom the most on Saturdays. I was telling my running partner that, and she asked why I thought that was. I suppose it’s because I have more time to sit around and think on Saturdays. It’s usually the day that I clean, so there’s a bigger chance of me running into mom’s pictures in the hallway. And I guess it used to be the day that I always called her. I called her a lot during the week, too, but Saturdays and Sundays were when we were able to slow down a little more, talk a little longer.

There are so many things I want to talk with her about. She was somehow able to listen to me impartially and without judgement, even when I pushed the boundaries of her propriety or when I was heading down a path she didn’t agree with. She always had great advice. Especially when it came to things like my career and my relationships. I could use a little of both right now.

People in my life are still telling me that they’re amazed at how strong I am. I don’t see it. But I also don’t let many people see the parts of me that are cracked to breaking, so maybe it’s just that people don’t know. Maybe I am selfish with my grief.

I thought I was doing pretty well with the whole grief thing. I think I just somehow put it on hold for a little while. It’s creeping back in. Usually on Saturdays.

One of the regular readers of this blog was emphatic about me reading Anna Quindlan’s One True Thing. She wouldn’t let my hand go at the funeral until I promised I’d read it. I ordered it back then, but it’s been sitting on a shelf ever since. I was busy with school, then busy reading other things on my list. I probably also knew I wasn’t ready.

I started reading it this weekend (yes, on Saturday). It’s been painfully difficult and brutally familiar to read. I’m flattered that anyone would think I write like Quindlan: she has some beautiful lines sprinkled here and there. But stepping back into the life that I lived for so many months is…raw. It’s making me feel relieved that someone else understands exactly how it felt. It’s also making me feel guilty for all the things I could have done better. And it reminds me of how strong my mother was.

I am not strong. Not like her. I’m not sure I’ll ever have her grace.

I’m only about halfway through the book. I’m having trouble putting it down, but, at the same time, I’m afraid to finish. I’m not sure I’m ready to relive October 17th, the day I was midwife for my mother’s soul.

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We made it back from the beach with (most of) our sanity. I made Elana’s pancakes (plus blueberries!) again for breakfast since mom likes them so much. Dad and I decided to go ahead and give mom two of her pain pills so that her back wouldn’t bother her so much during the ride…and also so (we desperately hoped) she would just sleep the whole way back.

It worked! But the bad side effect is that the pills really throw mom for a loop. She was out of it all day and had trouble staying awake. I guess that if it got her home without pain and discomfort, it was worth it.

I am exhausted. I had hoped that I would have gotten some time to work on my thesis while we were away, but it didn’t happen. I had to work two half days because I didn’t have enough PTO to cover the whole week. I felt like I cooked/baked every meal we ate (dad helped with dinner one night; dad’s sister made breakfast once). I had to help with mom every time she needed something. Even if I’d sat down to start working, I would have been interrupted every 15 minutes. I’d rather be interrupted from watching the Tudors (I’ve only just discovered this show!) than from my thesis. Mom was disoriented for most of the trip. And she was extremely weak and had trouble walking. Not so much fun.

I hope dad got a chance to relax a bit. I don’t know if he did or not. We did go out to dinner last night, just the two of us, and even though the restaurant was really loud, we had some good conversations. Caregiving is taxing. I’m not sure people realize.

So I’m very happy to be home. I got mom to her house, forced her to eat a little (she wasn’t hungry at all, probably due to the pills), and got her settled in bed (“You made it!” says I; “We made it,” says she), then ran right out the door once dad got there (and I helped him unload his car). I feel kinda bad that I didn’t even ask mom if she had to use the bathroom. Since she didn’t ask, I didn’t offer. It was just too much for me.

I still get frustrated sometimes. For instance, the other night, she was trying to wash her face. I’ve been helping her wash her face for what seems like months, and she always uses the same thing: this Shaklee cleansing lotion stuff, then this tiny bar of face soap. But instead, that night, she grabbed the bar of hand soap and tried to wash her face. I kept trying to tell her it was the wrong thing and would dry out her skin, but she kept on with it and put it all over her face. I got a little irritated, and then she tried to tell me that she’d been using it for 10 years and knew exactly what she was doing. I tried to explain the difference between the two bars of soap on the counter, but it just didn’t work. She didn’t believe me at all, but she did use the cleansing lotion once I cleaned the bar soap off her face, probably just to humor me. I apologized later and told her that I wasn’t frustrated with her, but with her situation, and she said she felt the same way. Not that it justifies raising my voice.

It’s going to be a busy weekend. I HAVE to get to work on my thesis, and we have a wedding to go to on Sunday, then the cats have a vet appointment on Monday (our poor guy might need teeth extracted: now accepting donations to cover vet bills!). And I need to sweat off the 10 lbs I gained from eating so much this past week. Ugh.

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Life has admittedly been a bit hard lately. My new job keeps me busy all day (if I let it!), and I would be 100% thrilled about that if I didn’t have what seems like a million other things to do too. I’m struggling to find time to do my thesis research, which needs to be complete by the end of the month; I did recently find a great lead that makes me feel like I’m on the right track, though. It’s also been a struggle to fill a parental role at home.

I will take yesterday as an example. I blocked out some time over my lunch “break” (still me at my computer tied to email and IRC) to do some of my reading, and I was feeling great about all I had accomplished for work and school during the day. I was thrilled that I would have a relaxing evening at home to veg out and rest before starting early again the next day. I came home in a great mood. I walked in the door to, “Oh, I thought you were your father.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” I say.

Dad had gone into the hospital to have a minor procedure, and he should have been home much earlier, but his appointment was delayed. Mom had been cooped up at home alone all day (she still can’t drive, and she can’t do all that much on her own, so I’m sure she was stir crazy). Mom immediately went into telling me why she didn’t want to shop at Whole Foods (I’m afraid I’ve been overly aggressive about the eat-better thing, but I can’t stand to watch her killing herself anymore), and hearing all of her excuses (all of which boil down essentially to laziness or apathy) got me all riled up again. Then dad got home, and he needed prescriptions filled, but neither one of them could drive, so I had to go back out to the store to get those filled and pick up another one for mom.

So much for a relaxing evening.

Now, none of this is their fault, and I’m not writing about this here so you’ll think I have awful parents. This is just my new reality, and I’m having trouble adjusting. I love my parents very, very much. I wish I could do more for them. I wish I were more patient. I sometimes feel like they don’t realize how much I’m doing…or how much I’m doing for them. I don’t want them to quit asking me to do things for them; I love being able to help out, and that’s why I moved back, but I wish I could plan for these things. If I had known I had to go get prescriptions after work, for example, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all: I wouldn’t have set myself up to expect a free evening, and thus I wouldn’t have been disappointed. If I know I have to help with laundry, I can build that into my Saturday plans. If I know I have to cook…well, you get the idea. I know you will say that some things can’t be planned for, and that’s true. I wish it were just the exception instead of the rule.

Mom isn’t doing very well. She keeps ignoring the advice of her therapist and ends up doing things like falling on the deck. She’s a strange mix of stubbornness and apathy. She’s frustrated that her energy level is still so low. I wish she’d believe me that diet will make a HUGE difference.

Food matters, folks. Think about how you feel after you eat a huge burger and plate of fries. Heavy, greasy, and exhausted, right? Like you just want to take a nap? What about when you skip a meal? Get tired and grumpy? Or what about when you eat a candy bar? That rush and crash? And you still want to believe that food doesn’t matter?!

They did make an appointment with a dietitian, but that isn’t until September. Dad’s trying really hard, but they still end up with things full of junk like sucralose, which is a known toxin. The fact that they shrug it off bothers me. Sometimes I think it would be better not to care. There was this guy on the Biggest Loser last season…his son had basically disowned him, saying that if his father was insisting on killing himself with food, it would be better for him to start thinking of him dead now. That motivated the father to change. I wonder if that’s the last resort here. Nothing else I’ve tried seems to work.

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