Monday, May 25, 2009

Well that was a nice Surprise

Today my mom and I went up to see Kathy. It'd been more than a week since my last visit and I was anxious about seeing her. Steve had told me that she's changed a lot since last week- more disfigurement of her face as a result of no treatment and the advancement of the cancer. My anxiety level seems to correlate with the rapid deterioration of Kathy's health; as the health declines, my anxiety level soars.

Anyway, I give my mom huge props for going up there and seeing Kathy- it is not an easy thing to do and something she so easily could have avoided during this visit. But we went up and visited with Steve's dad for a while before Kathy asked me to come in before my mother did. She told Daddy-o (Steve's dad's name is Steve as well, so to help figure out which Steve I'm talking about, know that Steve is my Steve and Daddy-o is Kathy's Steve) that she wanted to speak with me. After a few minutes of talking Kathy said, "I've got a secret." Turns out she just wanted me to sneak her some vodka in a cup with diet Pepsi and ice. When I told Kathy she'd have to distract Daddy-o and my mom, she managed to get out, "Can't you do that dear? I've got enough going on."

Point taken.

So I slipped out while they slipped in and filled a plastic cup with diet Pepsi, vodka (secretly wondering but not caring if Daddy-o will figure out who opened the brand new unopened bottle of vodka) and ice as Kathy wished. I cringe when she asks me these things (she asked me a few weeks ago to help her figure out how to take some of her pain medication that they're weaning her off of since she couldn't swallow the pill anymore and it shouldn't mix with morphine- which I ended up cutting up with a pair of scissors on a little round mirror she had by her bed. Don't ask me what I was thinking...apparently I turned into a major druggie and helped line her drugs up on the mirror for her to take) not because I disagree- I say whatever this lady wants, this lady gets at this point- but rather because I'm afraid that I'll mix the wrong things and that'll be the end of her.

When I nonchalantly walked back into the room and gave Kathy her cup, she looked at me and winked. Such a small exchange, but it had a huge impact on me- and, more importantly, on Kathy as well. "What will our signal be?" Kathy asked. I gave her the peace sign or a "v" in sign language for vodka. So periodically through the rest of the visit she'd look at me and wink. And I'd look at her glass and give her the peace sign, a thumbs up and a shrug of my shoulder as if to ask "Everything okay over there with that alcoholic beverage you made me get you that could create a toxic and possibly fatal mix with the morphine?" Each time I was rewarded with an upturn of Kathy's eyes (the only indication that she's sort of smiling, which has been made impossible with the cancer eating away at her face) and a wink.

The conversation that really surprised me, and crushed me all the same, was when Kathy looked at my mom and said, "Anne, I don't think I've ever thanked you." And then my mom (in classic Anne Corridan fashion!) goes, "For what? The flowers I sent you?" Kathy shook her head no and looked straight at me and said "For her." My mom acknowledged how grateful she was that I've been able to help and then Kathy started to cry and said, "I'm going to miss her." Good lord. That sent us all over the edge and before I knew it I was crying (after I choked out, "I'm going to miss you too.") and my mom was crying. It was one of those moments that I'll never forget and cherish equally, despite the intense sadness of her words.

My mom then relayed to Kathy that she gets through everyday without my father by believing that the people we love are still with us but just "hovering above." She said she doesn't think that the people we love really ever leave us. And reiterated again that this was how she was able to live each day with my father gone. I got a glimpse into my mother's daily grief of life without my father- something I rarely hear about, but think about everyday. After my mom shared that, Kathy looked straight at my mom, all mesmerized (or possibly the effects of vodka and morphine were settling in) and glassy-eyed, like both me and my mom.

Kathy's always been a bit crazy and out there. Lots of examples- famous Christmas present slide shows that I've put together over the years (now those I'm going to miss), her crazy outfits from African American catalogs, wearing two different shoes because she couldn't choose just one, falling asleep at the dinner table- the same one where she'd place her dog in an antique wooden high chair- and far too many others to list here. But as I was with her today and heard Kathy say to my mom after thanking her for me "Aren't we the lucky ones?" I realized, that maybe being crazy is what gets you through an experience like this. If being crazy allows you to live through a horrific experience like this with humor and more grace and bravery than I've ever seen from this woman, then maybe crazy is all right. Who the fuck am I to judge?

As we wrapped up our visit (after an unsuccessful attempt earlier to leave when Kathy said, "Why? Don't go. I get lonely." Another shot right to the heart), I went over and gave Kathy a kiss on her forehead and told her that I loved her. I turned around one more time as I left her room knowing that it could be the last time I saw her. Cause although I said I'd stop by on Wednesday, the reality of the situation is she may not be there.


Kara,  May 28, 2009 at 6:57 AM  

I love this post.

Unknown May 30, 2009 at 11:54 PM  

You are a beautiful writer. And you were right about my reaction.

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