Listening to: Rusted Root – Send Me on My Way

Well, since last time I posted a lot has happened.  My mother fought emphysema from heavy smoking all her life.  It finally escalated into full-blown COPD and she moved in with us.  Eventually we had to have Hospice come in and help us in our home with her.  The change from taking her to the doctor to having a nurse stop by a couple times a week was a huge relief.  Many people wait entirely too long to go on Hospice.  As a circumstance, many people suffer far too long.  My mother’s last six months were as comfortable as we could make them.

My wife and I took turns sleeping on a twin mattress in her bedroom that last week and both of us were in her room the last 48 hours.  I didn’t sleep at all during this time.  I tried, but I couldn’t.  I insisted that my wife sleep when I knew that Mom’s time was close.  She lost her first husband to cancer and I didn’t want her to have to relive his last moments.  I was there at the end.  It was hard to take, but she went as peacefully as could be expected.  She was in a coma and I kept up with her pain medication schedule until the end, so I feel comfortable that she was not in pain at the end.

The only death that I took hard was my father’s, and that was more due to the events that followed his death.  I watched them clean up his corpse and place it in the body bag when I was in my very early twenties.  I didn’t want to watch, but I have no problem understanding how fear and horror can paralyze a man now.  I lived it.  That along with the insensitivity of the preacher of my parent’s church at the time sent me into a tailspin.

Other than that instance, I have never had any profound issues with death.  I see it as the conclusion of our trials here on Earth.  Being freed from a human shell with its many faults and weakness is something that I see as a blessing, especially for someone whose body was as severely damaged as my mother’s.  I still have children to raise up and look forward to, someday in the VERY distant future, meeting my grandchildren.  I am not ready to die, but I don’t have any real fear of death.  I have faith that whatever is on the other side has to be better than here.

That philosophy makes the last two weeks seem bizarre to me.  When Mom died, I immediately went into what I call “worker bee” mode.  Anytime a huge event happens, I react in one of two ways.  If I bear no responsibility in the event, I go into “hermit” mode wherein I hide and avoid the situation as much as possible.  If I have any responsibility, or if I am the primary responsible party like I was with Mom, I jump into “worker bee” mode.  I jump in with both feet and work my ass off until there is no more work to be done or I pass out, whichever comes first.

When Mom died, I woke my wife up and told her it was over.  We called Hospice immediately.  The nurse came by, pronounced her, and called the funeral home.  They came by and picked her up.  Learning from the experience with Dad, I sat outside until they finished.  After she was gone, we went inside and immediately set to cleaning the room up, removing unnecessary furniture and anything else that could hinder Hospice from removing their equipment.

When the funeral home opened for business, I drove there and made some last second arrangements that Mom requested before she fell into the coma.  She had originally planned for a viewing and funeral in South Carolina, but later requested one in Georgia for local family and friends.  I fell asleep during the meeting when the funeral director had to step away to gather some paperwork.  I drove home and literally fell into bed.  My wife fielded further issues, not wanting to wake me.  The next week, I was constantly on the go contacting people, travelling, and planning three visitations & a funeral.

After it was all over, I immediately jumped into repurposing her bedroom.  It was originally our living room, but we never used it since we had a larger family room in our finished basement.  The transformation into a bedroom required us to install two doors, a closet, and a stairlift so she could go up to our bedroom to take a shower.  As executor of her will, I went through her things, giving her clothing to a cousin who we felt could get some use out of them and dividing her other possessions up between the brothers based on some personal criteria.  I gave out the items she had provided in her will to the beneficiaries.  We went to IKEA and bought some new furniture for the room and transformed it back into a small family room.  The den is now where the children go to entertain their friends and the living room is primarily for me and my wife.

I still have financial things we are dealing with, but for the most part, the dust is settling.  We are planning a trip to Disney World and Universal Orlando this month just to unwind.  I have started Summer semester at my university.  My children are around more since it is Summer break for them.  Everything is looking up.

Which is the point of this long, drawn out post.  I am depressed.  I know Mom is in a better place.  I got to spend a lot of time with her these last three years.  I have no regrets at all.  I haven’t been able to nail down a reason why I feel this way, but I have been coasting on the verge of tears all week.  I don’t cry easily.  Don’t get me wrong, I will get teary at the end for a good movie.  Teary and weepy are different from crying.  I feel like a huge dam is about to burst, destroying all in its wake.  Like a boiler has been left unattended for too long and is almost at the explosion point.

I can only account for this feeling by assuming that it has something to do with the drastic change in my lifestyle.  I lived my last three years taking Mom into consideration every waking moment.  She had her breakfast at 10:30am, lunch at 2pm, and supper between 6-8pm every single day.  I took her to get her hair done every Friday at 11am and our to lunch afterward.  After she went on Hospice, that was her only time out of the house.  The kitchen was off limits after 11pm, since her bedroom was connected to it.  We had to ensure that the children were quiet in the den after 11pm as well.  The stairs also connected to her bedroom.  The stairs to the second floor also connected, so we had to get onto people for stomping up them.

When I was out running errand, I had to ensure that someone was there to watch after her.  She passed out once due to low blood pressure while I was out and had other issues that I would need to attend to, so I had to keep a phone near me so that whoever was watching her could get in touch with me.  Every week was filled with the stress of wondering what new drama was going to pop up.  The last few months, it escalated to every day.  My mother was a proud woman and never wanted to burden people with her problems.  Thus, she would never tell us that she heard a metaphorical bomb ticking until after it went off.

I supposed this anxiety I am feeling is a combination of a huge life-change and that anticipation of the next bit of household drama that is never going to come from her health issues situation ever again.  While my mind knows that this part of my life is over, my body has grown so accustomed to the Minuteman mentality that it doesn’t trust the change in the situation.  I might be wrong.  I just don’t know.  All I know is that something has to give soon.  I know I won’t go mad over it, so I am not going to make such a dreadful pronouncement.  I survived high school, my father’s death, and a divorce from my first wife just shy of our tenth wedding anniversary.  If all that didn’t drive me mad (and I came close at times), then this won’t drive me mad.

I had just started writing a new book when all this started and I have not been in a good place to start back on that yet.  I might embark on a side quest to bring some closure to this.  I have some tapes left to me by my stepfather.  They contained stories from his life that I still have to convert to the typewritten page and digital audio.  He was at Pearl Harbor, so they are rather fascinating.  I have also been considering gathering stories about Mom for a collection.  I have to approach her remaining sisters and brother along with my cousins and brothers about it and see what kind of response I get.

The only effective methods I have found for dealing with this kind of stress is through my writing and through being industrious, so I hope this will help bring some resolution for me.  I’ll report in as I go through he process and as I get back to my writing.

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“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human condition”

~ Graham Greene

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