Thursday, May 15, 2008

Much Ado about Death

I just ate an entire box of dark chocolate covered altoid peppermints. This really isn't consistent with my current vision of health and in fact the box has been sitting untouched for several months (so they were nice and fresh when I opened them). But the onion/cauliflower salad I ate for lunch was not sitting well, the mints where there, they obliterated the onion taste an so there you have it. I guess dinner is officially altoid mints and 2 tbls of peanut butter.

Maybe the mints and peanut butter will join up with the cauliflower, onion and tomato and cause a proper blend of fat, fiber and protein somewhere mid intestine-hopefully combining prior to distributing their nutrients, if it matters. I don't know if it matters. There is so much I'm just guessing at right now.

I can only journey so far down the River Styx before I want to scream "life life life". I'm beginning to realize Mom can't take much more of John's demise and I feel a little guilty for my part in bringing it to her front door. But, I think it made him happy to see his sisters a few more times before things went downhill and I think it made them happy too.

But really, how am I to know because no one fucking tells me anything. No one talks about these things, even if only to say "I don't want to talk about it...." I've got to figure out when to keep a convo on point, and when to let it drift because it's too painful. How much to much to keep to myself. What is appropriate to share and what I should keep to myself.... 2008 years of AD type civilization and not a single cliff note for death in America.

Some of this could have probably been thought about before now-pre thinking is good, but premature pre thinking is a no no, especially in this delicate matter. John, like myself, is one of those new fangled family models where there is no spouse or kids to handle the details.

He foresaw this-and early on made mention of the fact that it would be more efficient to handle things a little more forcefully, but I refused to discuss it and quite frankly, I'm glad I did. I would much rather muddle through this, as awful as it is, than be sitting in prison somewhere or emotional prison while I wrestled with the wrong/right aspect. I told him point blank "I will handle any details as they arise, but I will not help or discuss this any further," and I am telling you now as a way of absolving him from my rant.

He also graciously offered his home as a West Coast base of operations if that would make things easier. And that would have for this short time we are in, but probably vastly complicated everything else. Besides there was a 2 dog limit at the condo and these past years would have been impossible without my pack.

The legalities have long been handled, but a gaping flaw exists in the practicalities and family traditions area. We have none/nada/nilch. And, the elder's are reaching a point where survivors must be tended as well, so that the strain of a passing doesn't start a landslide effect.

Yes yes, there are a myriad of things to consider that no one every really talks about. I don't have any answers, just offering up the surprises as things for people to consider at their leisure.

Hospice is going to provide some relief and guidance, but they still require a signature on the dotted line and then someone has to break the ice so all the goodbyes can be said. And you know me, I hate having parties or long goodbyes.

One macabre yet fascinating point-I will become educated in the stages of death as well as notified of any changes. This is actually a relief, I haven't slept well in weeks, knowing things were drawing to an end, but having no clear idea of what the timing would be. Every time the phone rings I flinch and it's a strain to be under red alert all the time.

Until you enter the hospice program, each change is considered a crisis and treated as an emergency. My Uncle has had 3 bowel X-Rays in two months to confirm that he is not constipated. Some of those calls have come in at 11 pm or so. It's good to know he's not constipated, but it would make more sense to call at 11 telling me he is and something must be done, rather than to tell me he isn't and there is nothing to do. Oh well, no enema needed, go back to sleep.

Part of this is due to rebranding of nursing facilities as long term care facilities and not death sentences. In actual fact, they have wings now and people are segregated according to nearness of death. At "Fallen Leaves" (my Uncle's joking name for Autumn Leaves) the litany was "Outerwing, First Floor, Second Floor, Third Floor, Heaven". John told me this, I'm not making it up. He observed that at least they all got started off in the right direction.

At Southpark, there is no second floor-but the Alzheimer's Dementia wing is in back. Yes, the name of the facility he is in is Southpark. So, everytime I head off in that direction I have to sing that damn jingle "Goin on down to Southpark, gonna have myself a time....."

Life is full of irony.


sukipoet said...

Debra Kay, I hope you have or can find some support for yourself during this time via friends or a group or something. This is a lot to carry alone.

In my family people don't talk about anything and I have discovered since living with mom for 8 months that she never talks and if i talk she is deaf so i can only say yes, no kinda things.

Anyway, blessings to you. You are in my thoughts.

Forever Young said...

life is full of irony....
and bitter joy
what the fuck is it all about?
no wonder you feel like you do, no fucking wonder!
keep 'talking' to us, it helps to offload!

Debra Kay said...

It's kind of like my statement to the therapist where I said I thought this would be like a spa visit...not quite how it turned out. The emotional investment and toll is much greater than I ever would have imagined. and part of it is due to my determination not to look away and to feel whatever needs feeling. I can't mend past hurts for any of the family, but I can offer my Uncle a fully emotionally present death and my Mom full emotional support.

It did hit me today that I'm just going to have to handle this the way I handle all kinds of things that I wasn't prepared for. Chin up, shoulders back, act like I know what I'm doing. The rest of my family seems to like having someone who knows what they are doing, and I've never minded knowing the awful truth that I'm just making it up as I go. The ability to adapt is what keeps our species around, although I do wish we'd do a better job of taking care of others while we are at it.

Suki-it's hard to let go of the notion that our elders had the answers-they really don't, but they were never comfortable with acknowledging that they were making it up as they went. I'm guessing that they probably feel judged, maybe because they judged their own parent's when they realized the truth. Break the cycle, don't judge (I know YOU don't, it's a general statement).

FY, I get a lot of relief from sharing whatever crops through my head on this blog, and I hope that others who are in similar situations might stumble upon it and realize that their odd feelings, angry feelings or even guilty feelings are not unique.

One of the things I have to remind myself is that it's OK to feel joy and it's OK to continue to have plans and dreams. Lately I've felt very perverse thinking of fun things I want to do in the next 20 years or so...but hell, if I'm going to be here, I might as well be up to something.