My doctor said I could travel, but Mom was reluctant.
“I’m not traveling with you–you’re a ticking time bomb!” she said. Continue reading
As I started telling you in Part Three, the tedious part of addressing my adrenal tumor started to sink in during the days following my initial diagnosis.
Taking a subway-to-the-bus just to go to the hospital or to Dr. E’s office. Going home or to the office from there is even more awkward.
Walking to the lone CVS in my neighborhood, wondering why it’s one of the few places in all of NYC that doesn’t deliver.
I knew to dread Christmas. Because obviously, Mom and my first Christmas without Dad would be hard. My body created a buffer of sorts: I was sick in bed with bronchitis for three days beginning Christmas Eve, leaving Mom to fend for herself. I was so ill I couldn’t even feel guilty until later.
I anticipated that the month of February would be painful between Valentine’s Day and Mom’s birthday. Dad was a romantic who enjoyed planning surprises for his wife and took pride in his gift giving.
My mother is crying.
I am sitting with my arms around her in a gesture meant to comfort, but it’s a perfunctory effort. My arms may as well be made of wood, and my heart, of stone.
It’s February and we are in Florida, attempting to celebrate my mother’s first birthday without Dad. Mom is raw and unsteady. As brittle and delicate as a fallen leaf. When I arrive at the airport, I hug her and try to find the right thing to say. Saying the wrong thing, even a sincere “how are you?” brings her to tears some days. But my own eyes stay dry.
I am a terrible daughter.
Yep. It’s going to be…interesting.
She doesn’t find me funny (at all) and we tend to bicker. But we’re going via a tour – an upscale tour that will hopefully spare me from embarrassing Americans asking for embarrassing American things – so there will be other people to hang out with when we get on each other’s nerves. Hopefully Mom will make at least one friend to hang out with when she gets annoyed with me (and so I can sneak away for a nap!).
Our tour has a few meal gaps. While I can certainly Google, I would love to arrive in Italy armed with personal suggestions. Continue reading
I had never thought to make a list of questions I don’t want to be asked in the presence of my mother. That is, not until my mother took me to a hometown ER for the first time in my adult life this past Saturday.
Upon my arrival in triage, the ER nurse spoke.
“What is your weight? Please step on the scale.”
WEIGHED IN FRONT OF MY MOTHER? THANKS DUDE-NURSE.
I wobbled in that direction–partly from illness, mostly from dread. I had been sick for about three days, but unfortunately my appetite for Christmas cookies was unaffected. My weight, a number carefully hidden from Mom, would soon be revealed. Continue reading
It probably wasn’t funny to my friends and if anything, I might have made them uncomfortable. Fortunately the subject was changed for us as the hordes of Christmas shoppers pushed us through the market like leaves floating in a strong current.
Briefly separated, I was left thinking about how different this Christmas will be without my sweet Dad.
Last Christmas, I went to one of Dad’s doctor’s appointments with him and my mother. He seemed to be doing well and proudly posed in front of a hospital sign featuring his terrific specialist. Dad’s breathing was pretty good and he was able to walk longer distances than he had in recent history. I was thrilled.
My plane landed early at JFK Tuesday night, but a hiccup with the equipment meant that we didn’t disembark until well after 11 pm. While we waited for the tow, my mind wandered. My phone was dead. Without email, texts, Twitter and Words with Friends, my thoughts were all I had. And they quickly turned sad and dark.
There are a few memories about my father’s death that I have tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to tuck away somewhere unreachable. I try not to think about the heart-breaking ride from hospital to hospice. About how I knew that the end was coming, but felt trapped between not wanting him to die and wishing for the torturous in-between to be over. I remember how he had begun to change physically, no longer looking like the Dad I had known and loved every day of my life.
But what forced my emotions to surface Tuesday night was remembering what it felt like to sit with my head on Dad’s shoulder one last time. It was July 16, hours before he was moved to hospice. Dad had been in ICU for a while now – days? a week? It’s all a blur now – and subject to isolation protocol due to the fact that he had contracted several infections including pneumonia during his hospitalization. Each time Mom and I entered his room, we were required to don a fresh yellow paper gown and blue rubber gloves, all of which we would discard upon exiting. Each re-entry required fresh garb.
On that last day, I couldn’t take the gloves anymore. I tossed them aside as I pulled up a chair close to Dad’s bedside. My sweet mother worried for my safety, but I couldn’t be concerned about myself.
Dad was sedated but sitting up at forty-five degree angle. Carefully, given the monitors and tubes connected to him, I put my head on his shoulder. One of my hands held his while the other stroked his forearm, committing the feeling to memory as I knew it would be one of my last opportunities to touch his warm skin.
Dad’s shoulder, which I leaned on throughout my life both literally and figuratively, felt smaller than I remembered. As we sat there, I took in the feel of his bones against my cheek, thinking of the many times he lifted his arms to carry or hug me. I marveled at the strength within.
“My Daddy,” I thought to myself, like I was a little girl. Tears fell.
I heard the woman in the seat next to mine rustling in her purse.
“Would you like these?” she asked in a lightly accented voice (Czech, I subsequently learned), offering napkins for the tears that had begun falling from my tired eyes.
“Thanks. I’m ok,” I replied before adding “I lost my dad four months ago,” so she wouldn’t think I was mooning over something dumb. I care too much about what people think of me sometimes.
We talked. She was kind.
And then it was finally time to get off the stuffy plane, return home to Brooklyn for the first time in a week and hopefully let this aching heart of mine get some rest.
I worry that…
Hopefully your Thanksgiving holiday is lighthearted and fun – at least compared to mine!