So I've been writing a lot about anger during Mom's last year. Now that there is time between then and now, I can look back on it and see just how angry we were that Mom was sick.
You know - when I gave birth to my son, one of the nurses I had chatted with me when I was getting settled into my room about my then husband. I had some mixed feelings about how he had handled the whole thing and ultimately, I felt deserted. He took off for 7-Eleven and picked up food for himself when the best I could do was suck on ice chips (and he ate in front of me), he had to be taken care of by a couple of nurses during Chris' actual birth because he almost passed out. They gave him orange juice...while I was in ridiculous pain and scared to death because our baby was under a lot of stress during that birth.
All of this to say the nurse put all of my anger and disappointment into an interesting perspective. She told me my ex's reaction wasn't all that uncommon. Fathers come into the labor room and later the delivery room and can do, basically, nothing. Maybe handle a camera if that's what they decided ahead of time but the actual birth and delivery? Not much they can do. And they stand there, watching their wife in pain, crying and begging for relief and there is NOTHING they can do. Men do not do well with "helpless." Especially not when someone they love is hurting.
As I watched Mom's decline, I thought of that nurse often and realized I completely understood how my ex felt. I was so ridiculouslyl angry because Mom was sick but I was even angrier that I could do absolutely NOTHING to make it better. I couldn't take it from her, I couldn't ease her pain, I couldn't chase the cancer off. I could do nothing. This unseen disease had snuck into the midst of our family and rendered us helpless. Angry and helpless. It was stealing from us the glue that held us together, the one we loved the most and the one we could rely on the greatest. And we couldn't stop it.
Of course, we could see it now. We could see it in the white wisps of hair she had. Her beautiful strawberry blonde (I'll give her that today - I used to tell her she had red hair because she did but she preferred the term strawberry blonde...) hair had all fallen out and at one point she was bald. Then, it started to grow back in with chemo number two and it was so soft, such a beautiful white/silver color and it looked cute so short. I'd ask her, when she was sitting at her desk at work, if I could run my hands through her hair. She'd laugh and let me. It was so soft - softer than cashmere and I loved touching her hair. I miss those days. I miss her giggle and her outright laugh.
You start looking at the many facets of who a person is when you know they're going to be gone. It's definitely hard losing her but I am very grateful for the time we had with her as she fought. If it had been a heart attack or something else sudden, so much would have been left out there - unsaid, undone, unknown. We learned so much in those months and discovered a lot.
And treasured things more. In 2006 my grandmother passed away and when my grandmother still lived in New Jersey, she would create grave blankets every year for members of her family - her mother, her grandmother, my grandfather's parents, various aunts and uncles and eventually my grandfather. When I was little, we'd go over there and Mom would help her. Then, when they moved to the west coast, I helped my grandmother. When my grandmother passed away, Mom and I took up that tradition and made a grave blanket for her. We'd put it out the beginning of December and it would stay until sometime in January. In December, 2009 Mom and I worked together. In December, 2010 Mom "supervised" and then drove down with me. In December, 2011, I made blankets for my grandmother and my mother. When I made that first blanket for her last year, memories ran through my head from 2009.
I seem to be deviating from the actual journey of Mom's cancer, don't I? I think that's in part because during this time period, we were wrapped up in the business of living. Mom was still going through chemo but Mom's retirement happened, Thanksgiving happened, Christmas happened... 2010 was a year of "lasts" and we knew it.
My next post I'll talk about Mom's retirement...