Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gifts in all the Wrong Places

I spent three hours with my in-laws yesterday. Those visits always take a lot out of me and I leave physically and mentally shattered. I've noticed that my father-in-law is becoming more and more disoriented and disorganized. And although he has had a lot of time to come to terms with the end, he's becoming more emotional about everything. I'm not passing judgment, just remarking on the change of his demeanor since this all started. Quite frankly, I don't know how he does it. I mean I do (because in life when you're dealt a really shitty hand, you just keep going, because for some of us there is no other choice), but I don't. You know? I've been concerned, wondering if this is indicative of something else, but I also recognize now is not the time to be testing theories like that. If after all the dust has settled from Kathy's situation and impending death he is still out of it, forgetful and generally disoriented, then I think that may be something else we need to deal with. Until then, merrily we go.

I went up to the house per Daddy-o's request to go over the funeral plans. I told him I could come up for my lunch hour (hour being the key word there). We started and finished working on finalizing the two different versions of the obituary (one for the LA Times and one for the local papers here and in the Poconos). Steve also shared some of his ideas with me for the service but unfortunately when we finally sat down to go over the agenda he put together, it was nowhere to be found. This happens a lot. Little things like this continue to happen with increasing frequency. We muddled through a few more of his ideas and then I was finally able to leave- three hours later.

In between him trying to find things and us finalizing other things, I'd go in to see Kathy- per her request. Almost as soon as I walked in the door to her room and came into her view, she held up her hand with our "sign" and then asked me to go through her bedside table and look for a bottle she wanted. I assumed she was looking for some pills and poured through the entire messy drawer, often times pulling most of the contents out to prove to her that I had looked everywhere and still no pill bottle she wanted. I must have pulled out six totally empty and a few nearly empty bottles of medication when I unknowingly pulled out the one bottle she was looking for- a freaking nip of Absolute Vodka. What happened next shocked me.

The sight of her continues to frighten me and cause intense anxiety. Yet somehow, I manage to sit through visits that last way beyond my comfort zone. When I passed the tiny bottle to her bony bony hand, she unscrewed the cap, tipped it over ever so gently, got some vodka on her hands, wiped it around like antibacterial soap and then rubbed her freaking mouth, gums and teeth (or at least what's left of them) with whatever her hands didn't soak up. I was wide eyed watching this, and as a small amount of relief washed over her as did the vodka, I realized I have no fucking clue what's going on inside this woman's brain.

She said to me at one point, "I've decided I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to die." I calmly replied with, "Really? Do you want to live this way?" She said, "We'll just make it better."

Kathy told me she was scared to die. That was followed up with, "I don't want it to be too long until I see you again." While the sentiment is nice, I have no intention of following closely behind this woman's timeline to the other side. I'm amazed that she's still alive. It appears as if there's really nothing for her to hold onto. She's managed to have incredibly meaningful conversations with those closest to her. Daddy-o has told her he thinks it's okay for her to go and that he understands. So I just don't get it.

I asked Kathy if she felt like she was holding on for anything. If there was something she felt was unfinished. I explained to her that I've read it's common for people nearing the end of their life to wait until they feel like things are settled and complete. She definitely understood and said that she didn't feel like anything was left unsettled. She's just holding on and even though she claims everything is tied up, I suspect there may be something holding her back from feeling at peace with going inward entirely and dying. Maybe not. I'm okay with being wrong.

I do know that every visit brings more surprises and when she's with it, some very meaningful conversations. Before I left I thanked Kathy for the gift of visiting with her. Because although the sight of her haunts me and causes an insane amount of anxiety, I do feel like it's a gift. And I know she feels the same way. She squeezed my hand tight- another sign of her amazing strength being only 70ish lbs and not eating- gave me something that resembled a smile, we exchanged I love yous and off I went.

Changed yet again by this woman's bravery in the face of death.


What's Already Been Said


  © Free Blogger Templates Photoblog III by 2008

Back to TOP