6 Weeks

We were told by his adult children that he was supposed to die from an inoperable, aggressive brain tumor within six weeks, that was at least three months ago. I thought, for sure, he would die when he was told his wife had passed away but, again, he was so relieved, so grateful she was out of her pain that he actually felt and looked a bit better. Nobody could change or help his diagnosis, he had an inoperable brain tumor but his spirit was so relieved that the love of his life was free of pain and free of suffering, he felt just a little better. They knew his wife was going to die in one or two days and they were correct. You could see relief sketched on his face yet he was not allowed to go to her funeral, he was in hospice care.

Many years ago, when my father laid, by himself, in a hospital room, in another state I called at the exact time when a freshly minted unsettled female voice said:”something has just happened and that the doctors are working on him now.” I didn’t understand, I had no idea what she was talking about but I remember calling my mother. I never thought about it like this but I guess I was there at his death as well. We were together and I still left him that sacred message, so did my mom. “It was okay to go, it was okay, we would take care of each other…”

The cardiologist called me and I asked him if I should come? His voice was gentle, I remember that, and he said “Sweetie, you won’t make it in time, don’t come.” ” Do you promise?” I asked through wracking sobs? “Yes”, he promised. Moments later, my father was dead. I didn’t know until a few days ago my mom had made the same call and was told the same thing. She was ready to drive there alone, in the dark, even though she was terrified to drive.

He had crashed in the hospital while under observation with a fatal heart attack. He had suffered heart attacks before. I still see that digital clock in my mind, the one my dad had given me so many years ago, well, “sold” to me even after all these years. My own children were across the hall, mere babies. I see their sweet, innocent faces, me in my bed, a moment, frozen in time. It was 10:20 pm.

I thought I would never be able to feel happiness again but I did though it was different. I was different as well. Before and After Different. That’s how I now measured my life, in a lot of things.

There are always new phases in our lives, new beginnings, new endings, new chapters, the closures, doors slammed and opened. Right now we are in the middle of a chapter and can’t seem to go forward or back, we are stuck, like dead birds smashed against a windowpane.

Eventually, we will move on. It may take some more time but life does not have to be stagnant forever although sometimes it feels that way. Turn that attitude around and enjoy what you have instead of what you don’t know. Nestle in comfort for the time being. Luxuriate in proximity, memories, familiarity and family.

Change will come, whether you are ready for it or not, it will sneak in like a softly padded black cat stealthily coming in the darkened bedroom, with only green cat eyes following every step you take.

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Life, Celebrate It

Beauty

Beauty (Photo credit: TONY – M)

Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness (Photo credit: mbgrigby)

I’ve been a little down lately and cranky and I feel just a bit lost. I’m trying to get my footing in a very fast-changing world and I don’t know where I will end up. I know a lot of people, my age, who have felt the same way, even worse. The world is a very scary place, sometimes a very sad place and I know that many people are feeling its effects. I feel them too. How could we not? We’re getting older, if we still have parents, they are getting older and our children are just about adults. The sandwich generation is taking its toll, we are looking back over our shoulders wondering where the last 40 years have gone?

Today I talked to a very close friend who shut me up in about 30 seconds when she told me her aunt was having much more significant problems with her child, they had discovered two masses in his body and were in the process of finding out what they were. Hopefully, they were nothing serious but the stress they were going through was paralyzing. It left me embarrassed with my petty annoyances. Sometimes you just have to look at life that way. Yes, whatever you go through is real for you, no one is going to get down on you for what you feel, but in this life we all need to keep thins in perspective. Keep YOUR problems in perspective.

In the meantime, stop focusing on yourself. Today, as I had planned, I filled out the form to be a volunteer at a Hospice, something I’ve always wanted to do. A few days ago I joined a gym for the summer to finally get myself in shape. (I’ve already lost 30 pounds now I just want to be fit) I won’t have to look away from my internist or down at the floor when she asks me the “how much do you exercise question?” I am trying to help myself, to keep my mind and body busy.

If I do more, I will get more in return. I remember my father teaching me that, long, long ago when I was looking for a summer job in college and hadn’t gotten very many call backs from companies after sending out some resumes: “The more you send out, the more you call, the more responses you will receive” he told me. That was then, when people were courteous and he was certainly right, now, nobody seems to care. I spent over 20 years in Human Resources, calling every person, acknowledging every inquiry, what they do now is horrific. They don’t do anything, even after an interview. Nobody seems to care. They don’t treat people like people. What have we become? In a country that needs good manners the most for the discouraged or unemployed, people treat others horribly. My husband went through this years ago for 2 and a half years…we know.

If you need any helpful hints or have any questions before an interview, feel free to write me.

If there is nothing sparkling new in your life now or nothing to look forward to be thankful and appreciate what you have and don’t think about what you lack. Do some good in the world, some random act of kindness. Volunteer, offer someone who is elderly your arm to cross the street or carry their groceries. Hold the door for people, it costs no money and means so much. Celebrate what you do have and don’t cry over what you don’t. It’s really as simple as that.

Celebrate your life with wonder, grace and gratitude and even if you don’t feel like it, smile. Yes, smile. Sometimes if you “pretend”smile, it can help you as well as others. A very special teacher I had, long ago, called it “The Confidence Game.” It’s worth trying. You have nothing to lose.

I wish you peace, I wish you luck, I wish you hope.

Broken

English: Blue Baseball Cap

English: Blue Baseball Cap (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw old Mr.Tom in the produce section of the gigantic, glitzy grocery store; all bright lights and big orange”sale” signs. I hadn’t realized I had gasped inwardly so sharply that I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. This is not the man I remembered at all: the jovial, beer-bellied friend of my mother’s, the man with a hearty laugh and a baseball cap was now just a whisper of his former self. His pants hung low on him, his eyes vacant yet deeply troubled, his complexion was pasty. He was running on auto-pilot and even though I tried to say “hello” and ask about his wife, who I knew was sick, his whole tone of voice had changed completely. “She’s terrible” he spoke sharply and I feared he would yell at me as he had once but he didn’t seem to have the energy or the inclination. He just pushed his grocery cart away and told me that he was “behind schedule and that he could not stay and talk”and then he slipped away through the aisles, like a ghost.

I knew there was nothing I could do,  I knew that there would be worse, much worse things that would happen before,  IF they got better at all. I had been more friendly with Mr. Tom’s wife, a good friend of my mother’s. Mrs. Rae had been ill for years, very slowly weakening, but now she could no longer walk, or eat, or move by herself. She refused help of any kind except for her husband’s help and he was killing himself to accommodate her.

My mother always said they had “the perfect marriage.” I always answered that “no marriage is perfect.” As Mrs. Rae is left dying, taking care of her is killing him too. Is that a perfect marriage? The term “hospice” is never uttered in their house. He is killing himself to care for her and I pray he doesn’t kill himself first. It is a definite possibility. She has every right to die at home if she wishes, but she refuses for anyone to help him too. That is not the perfect marriage, I would not want my husband to die for me while taking care of me.

I don’t know how much Mrs. Rae is suffering from dementia and how much is control. I’m sure it is some of both. He has taken care of her for a very long time, years. Their children stay away. “Why?” my mother fumes and judges? I ask her not to pass judgment but she doesn’t listen to me. I tell her again and again that there are always “two sides to a story” but when her mind is made  up, she will not consider any other thoughts. She never has.

I see Mr. Tom as I peek through the aisles. He doesn’t look at anybody just carefully and slowly lifts one item off the shelf with two hands and places it gingerly in the cart. He doesn’t see me, he doesn’t see anybody. What he is going home to is his loving, dying wife, whom he watches, day and night. She sleeps with her eyes half closed and her mouth open. He has to go over to her sometimes, bending his head over her chest to see if she is breathing. She wants to die and he wants her to die to get them both out of this long, horrifying painful process. It’s a real life horror movie. If only he could get someone to help him it would be better but she will not allow it.

Nobody will listen to them, especially the doctors. So, he sits next to her, night and day, cooking and cleaning and smiling for her, pretending that everything is alright. He will do that until she takes her last breath, this beautiful, dying sparrow, and he will be there to watch it leave her frail, weak, body.