My parents arrived last Wednesday, and left this morning. It was, as always, a difficult visit, but also a good one. My Mom is 81, my Dad is 83. They have been married 58 years, some good, many bad. Interestingly enough my mother denies there were many bad years, even though, during my late childhood and young adulthood, I remember her telling me how stuck she felt, how she would leave him, but had no way to support herself. I also remember acting as go-between, going from room to room, telling each what the other said. ( I am the eldest child, and took care of a lot of things.) I remember more than my siblings, because I was my mother's eldest, her confident.
Three years ago, the day before I fell at work, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer, after years of refusing a colonoscopy because "it was too embarrassing." My brother called the next evening to demand I get to the Poconos ASAP. Alas, I was in no shape to travel, and Mom was in no emotional shape to come to the phone.
We didn't connect for the over month, while I struggled in the hospital, then at home, and she had had surgery, too, and eventually chemo. When we did finally talk on the phone, all I could do was cry and ask her to keep fighting to live.
It was a terrible time for both of us. But, while the seeds of separation were being sowed between Rene and me, my parents marriage began to get better. My father recognized he couldn't imagine life without her, no matter how nitpicky she is. And my mother decided she didn't want to die yet (though she came terribly close), and was surprised that my father came to the hospital everyday to sit with her. I think Mom suddenly recognized that, in his own inarticulate way, he did love her, and she did love him despite his many foibles.
I now find them funny and frustrating, interesting and irritating, stupid and wise, sniping at each other and taking care of each other, the synthesis of 58 years together, good and bad. I cried when they left, hoping like hell that they will make it to next spring, when I can see them again. They leave the Poconos soon, to go back to Denver, where they live eight months a year. I will miss them.
We didn't do much on this visit. Mom was not feeling well, and Dad was happy to hang out doing crossword puzzles and reading the newspaper. I had wanted to take her to see the ocean again, but instead we spent four hours in the ER. The night before they came, she fell and banged her head hard, but, intent on getting to CT, she stemmed the bleeding, and refused to go to the hospital. She refused Wednesday night when I told her she should go, all day Thursday, and most of Friday. She is a stubborn woman.
Finally she muttered that her headache was getting worse, and her vision was blurred. The next thing she knew, I had taken over, and we were on our way to the ER. After a long wait and a CAT scan, a doctor said she was lucky, had no bleeding in the brain. Because she is profoundly deaf, I had to explain what a brain bleed could mean, and why she should have gone earlier. And yet, oddly enough, our time together at the hospital was quite enjoyable a time to talk, catch up, enjoy each other.
My father and I went to the grocery store together, so I could buy food for my recovery. He kept me laughing by talking about their grocery shopping together. Mom makes the list, splits it, and each take a cart and a separate section of the store. Dad's idea is to finish as fast as possible, throwing items in his cart as he hustles (as much as an 83 year old man can hustle) down the aisles she has assigned to him.
My mother, on the other hand, is slow, looking for just the right chicken, detergent, frozen dinner, reading labels as she creeps down her aisles. Dad finishes first, of course, and stand at the front of the store, metaphorically tapping his feet, holding his impatience in check. Finally Mom finishes, finds him, sends him back for the correct items that he missed, and finally they check out together.
I just laughed, and told him to follow along, not worry about getting the correct items, and he happily followed me around the store, then just as happily paid for my groceries-an added gift for me!
We also got together for breakfast with Kevin and Betsy, Rene's brother and sister-in-law and it was really wonderful to see them again, They were family for 14 years, and I miss hanging out with them. Kevin is kind enough to offer to help me with projects around the house, and occasionally I take him up on his offer for small jobs.
Then, that afternoon, we went to Rene's for coffee. It was the first time she has invited me to see her new house, and it was great to see how happy she was to see my parents-who were, afterall, her family for 14 years, too. I was interested to see what she had done with her house, and it was very Rene, indeed, with Disney stuff everywhere and three desk areas for all the work she does, on line, and cutting articles out of three newspapers, to put in her history journals. She did admit that she had done a lot of cleaning up to get the house ready for our tour.
It was really nice to see her and her environment, but painful that she never asked me how I'm doing, or commented on my weight loss. or wished me good luck with the surgery on Thursday. I felt left out, and sad. I still miss her presence in my life, though I know our decision to split was the right one. I don't know if she will ever get over her anger, or if I can let go of some of the cutting things she said at the end. Breaking up is hard to do, to coin a phrase.
My parents enjoyed seeing her a lot, and I am thankful to her that she invited us up to see her.
Now, it is time to turn my mind towards surgery. I need to catch up on housework, bring clothes downstairs, because I won't be climbing the stairs, for fear of falling. I have been ordered not to fall for at least six months post-op, a scary proposition for someone who falls hard at least a couple of times a month.
I also have to prepare mentally, put myself into a positive, relaxed and trusting place, because I believe we heal better when we can connect the spiritual component of life to our bodies.
I also realize that I will not be able to make entries in my journal or make comments in those I read for a long time after surgery, so I seem to be writing a more often, with longer entries than in the past. I have been living a bit more vicariously through the journals that I read, recently, and I think that has to do with Meg going back to work 60 to 70 hours a week, and my need to prepare for surgery.
Someday, I will have a busier, more meaningful life, but now is the time to put energy into recovery.