In a very real sense, living alongside someone with a serious illness feels like an echo of pregnancy,
Just with the potential of an outcome that is the antithesis of pregnancy.
Having lived through and around pregnancy, it is the only physical comparison I have to use for a changing body, a body that morphs because of and to accommodate the presence of something internal.
This makes sense to me because my dad has cancer,
and he’s the one with the morphing body.
Things were at a critical point a few weeks ago, with dad in the hospital and full diagnosis still pending.
Now we have the diagnosis, and while it is helpful to know what we’re dealing with (I say ‘we’ as if I am somehow able to help carry the burden he now has, as if the people who love him can do anything about the physical impact the cancer or the treatment have on him), I’m finding that I don’t have the capacity to fully hold in my head the severity of the situation.
He’s doing better.
He’s back at home.
His speech is clearer (he had a stroke and was hospitalized during that critical period).
The things that were causing him physical pain have ebbed.
It is easy to pretend everything is back to normal.
I’m a big fan of the way things were before this all started up. I’d prefer to go back there.
As with all of us, we don’t know what will happen to Dad. Will the chemo work? Will it work enough that the tumors in his lungs, lymph nodes and shoulder will go away entirely? Will we have him with us in five years? In two years? According to the doctors, the chances decrease as more time passes.
On a different scale, that’s true for all of us, serious illness or not.
Now we wait.
We take internal inventories, monitor what our hearts and bodies crave and take special care with each other. It feels like that period after the baby’s been delivered and we’re just starting to remember we can once again do the things we did pre-pregnancy. There’s a collective sigh in my family because we’re through the immediacy of the initial run of hospitalization and meeting with doctors.
I feel like I go through days holding my breath, waiting for an undetermined signal that may never come, the signal that indicates it is safe to relax, safe to unclench my jaw and my heart.
Is the signal the fact that my dad can get around their tiny house without help from a cane or someone’s arm?
Is the signal that Dad and Mom are planning, with doctor’s permission, to go back down to Costa Rica in a couple weeks?
The reality is that there isn’t a signal, and not one person can offer us one. We’re stuck taking things day by day, living in the unknown, trying to be positive but realistic, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. There are moments, full days even, when I forget the illness and its severity. I have that luxury because I don’t live with my parents, don’t have to administer the medicines his body requires multiple times every day, don’t help with the chores of daily living and monthly trips to get chemo. I don’t see everyday the way my dad’s clothes look baggy on him, as if he lost his luggage and had to borrow them from a friend in a pinch.
I can live with a lot of mystery.
I don’t want God to be explainable —
I want there to be supernatural, divine moments when no scientific device can detect or dissect what just happened.
Living in this unknown, however, is different. It doesn’t feel like a holy mystery. It’s not something I enter into with reverence and positive expectancy.
This current unknown is full of life-threatening danger, slow decline and potential devastation.
For a while, I was in a state of constant fight-or-flight. I snapped at my family, exploded over piles of clothes on the floor, cried because a thought of illness entered my head. I stockpiled instant dinners and travel snacks, and kept my physical and emotional overnight bag at the ready. For instant reaction, I was your gal. The rational, nuanced part of my brain was shut down by something more primal, more reactive. Time passed unnoticed, sounds were muted, every movement required triple the effort.
Now the unknown continues, a slow march towards an unclear destination.
We’ve returned to the familiarity and comfort of our routines, except they’re all laced with added weight, the way some cloth is now laced with copper. There’s a feeling of negative expectancy, a bracing for the next hard thing, an assumption, maybe in self-protection, that the unknown will probably not be something welcome. It’s like being on guard for a cat to pounce.
Will the cat of cancer merely bat Dad around, like him a few times, toss him in the air but get bored and move on?
How long can one live in this state of heightened awareness, the shadow lurking around the edges?
Is it possible that this is our new normal?
I’m sorry this is so all over the place. It is as erratic as I feel some days. If you’ve got advice or resources for handling illness or stress, please feel free to share. We are all stronger together.
This will be brief.
Mostly it will be brief because I don’t know how to talk about what is going on in my family.
That may cause some confusion, because I actually mean “family of origin” but I ain’t that fancy and family’s family. My family by marriage is my family. My siblings and their spouses and my parents are my family. My husband and my children are my family. When something impacts one of them, it impacts us all.
My dad is sick. He was in the hospital for a week. We just brought him back to his house (with my mom) last night.
He has cancer. It is lung cancer. No, he is not a smoker, but if you think it matters or somehow a person who did smoke who develops cancer somehow deserved it, then you’ve never seen someone get sick. You don’t wish this on anyone, unless you’re a real dink.
There are many complicating medical factors that I won’t go into here.
I’ve stepped away from blogging, mostly because I’ve been busy trying to stay out of bed. Everything takes a monumental amount of effort, and I’m not the one who’s sick. I’m just on the sidelines and I find it challenging to keep moving.
As of today I’ve bought one Christmas present.
To blog about this, about this journey or the unfolding (or collapsing) of this could be a good thing.
It could also be getting personal gain from a difficult situation. I’m not talking “make lemonade from lemons” here. I’m talking about ambulance chasing, zero-ing in on that elusive “niche” that writers are supposed to find:
“How’d you become such a popular blogger?”
“I cashed in on the fact that my dad developed lung cancer at 67. It worked out pretty sweet for me. Sucks to be him.”
No thank you.
The thing for me is that writing has always been a way of processing things going on, whether that’s in my head or things around me. There’s that so-called “curse of self-awareness” that even as something is happening we’re aware of it, observing it. So as my dad positions on his shoulders a prayer shawl knitted by some kind people at a church in Colorado, I observe the way it clings to him, stretches and shapes to his body, how the yarn is bumpy and multifaceted with color, how I hope it covers him in prayers and envelops him with God’s peace. And as a person who writes and has been training myself to look for these stamp-sized images, I feel guilty for noticing.
It’s as if by observing, I remove myself from experiencing the situation in real time. And the one thing I can do for my dad is to walk through this with him, in real time, no self-preservation of distance or clinical observation. It is awful. But it is also infused with holy moments when all artifice is stripped away, all distance between presentation and reality is removed and we all are ourselves at our most raw, terrified, vulnerable and helpless. But we are together. And there is beauty in that.
Because of all this, and even though it snuck up on me and I’m not ready for it, it is also Christmas, and because I need to analyze why I would be writing about my life right now, I’m going to step away from blogging for a while. I may check in every so often with a quick hello, but I think it best to put it on hold for now.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thanks for being a really fun part of my days. I like y’all a lot. I hope to be back before too long. Have a wonderful Christmas, New Years, and any other holidays in December and January. Blessings. ~TC Larson
Today’s prompt is REFLECT.
I thought you’d be around more often once you moved to the same area, but you arranged things so you’d be gone for months at a time.
You continued on with your own life, your own dreams, and I was left behind.
When you returned I was conflicted: excited to see you but resentful that you’d receive such a reception after choosing to leave in the first place.
I constructed a moat in my mind, a separation between us so I could hold you loosely, not care if you were nearby, not rely on you since I felt you’d become unreliable, despite your ideals or desires. I didn’t understand your need to do it, your need to pursue an independent life of adventure away from the rest of us. You tried to explain it was something you had to do for your own health. I didn’t understand that, probably can’t understand until I’m in the same position and life station.
Then when you wanted a voice, wanted a say in the plans we’d make, I resented it, felt you had abdicated that right by being far away.
I was petty.
I was small.
I was cowardly, holding my thoughts and feelings inside. I lacked the bravery required to have the hard conversations. Leaving things unsaid was my attempt to allow the sediment to settle back into place, let the murky water clear so I could see the relationship for its beauty instead of the small irritants or unintentional, momentary offenses. In the midst of trying to let things roll off my back, I collected some of them along my spine and they became a residue
that tainted my internal attitude.
Those things were petty and unimportant. I was wrong, even if you didn’t know I was being wrong.
(Photo credit: dotpitch)
Today I’m linking up with Lisa-jo Baker and the crew who join her to do Five Minute Friday. She gives a word prompt and people write for five minutes. No second guessing, no censoring, just writing for the fun of writing. Silence your inner critic and write. It is open to anyone who is interested, but there won’t be any more link-ups until January.
When something is bothering you, do you keep it to yourself or talk it out? How do you handle it when you’ve been wrong? In what relationships do you find it most difficult to admit fault…and why?
“I don’t know what to do,” she said.
She’d only been home five minutes before the inner tension was too much and she had to talk to Mom about it.
“What do you want to do?” Mom asked.
“Everything,” she answered. “I want to leave, I want to stay, I want to scream, cry, break stuff and roll into a ball.”
“Which of those sound best right now?”
“Break stuff,” she grinned through her tears. “I won’t though. I have too much self-restraint.”
“Yes, that’s what you’re known for, self-restraint,” Mom said.
“Actually, the only thing that sounds good right now is something to eat. Do you have anything?”
Mom scoffed. “Do I have anything? Baby, sit down. I’ll take care of you.”
She pulled out a stool and sat while Mom rummaged through the fridge, proclaiming all her finds as she pulled them out.
She felt her eyes well up with tears, and she tried to sniff them back.
“Mom,” she began.
Mom kept her head in the fridge but said, “Hmm?”
“How can I feel strong and weak, confident and scared, bitter and generous all at the same time? I think I might be losing it.”
Mom emerged with a container of Cool-Whip in one hand and a container of strawberries in the other.
“No honey, you’re just being you. We’re all that way.”
This is my attempt at a fiction version of Five Minute Friday, though I definitely didn’t get many words down in that amount of time. *sigh* That’s okay. For those who don’t know, Five Minute Friday is a linkup with Lisa-jo Baker and it is lots of fun. Check out all the details on her site: http://lisa-jobaker.com I’d love to find your contribution (if you’re here with FMF), so please leave a link in the comment section below! And as always, thank you sincerely for visiting today.
My husband and father in law were working on adjusting the dock earlier this summer. I opened the sliding glass door, intent on sitting on the deck with a magazine while they slaved away in the cold water. Instead, I saw this and had to do a double take:
Anyway, we’re headed to do some summering so it will be quiet around the blog for a bit. I’d like to take this moment to thank you for being a part of my blogging experience. I really appreciate you. Now you’ll have to excuse me — I have to go help get my husband back onto the deck.
My baby girl starts kindergarten this fall.
It’s crazy, loco, kookoo, , nuts-o, cray-cray.
She is totally ready and excited about it. She’s going to be in the new elementary building, which is a big deal around here.
She will have two big brothers to look out for her when she rides the bus…
or will she?
My husband and I have always told the kids we’re a team, that each person in our family is important, and that we need to look out for each other.
Will any of that come into play when they’re out on their own?
Will they create a bond, independent of us?
Will her big brothers include her, and not begrudgingly?
I want her to have a sense of belonging, of being a valued part of something important.
I want her to be comfortable in herself.
I know this is a big year for her, and I want her to have the security of belonging, but without compromising or changing herself to make it happen.
And it is even more important to me that she feels that she belongs in our family. We should be that safe place, that welcoming, warm, guard-down kind of place where she can be grumpy, scared, sad or goofy without fear of mocking or rejection.
Our home is supposed to be an accepting place for others — we’ve talked about how to be a good host.
My hope is that we’ve translated that into being accepting of our own family as well.
???? What kind of atmosphere are you cultivating in your home? What made you feel like you belonged when you were a child? ????
This Five Minute Friday thing has become a habit around here. It’s a lot of fun and you can be a part of it too. Check out all the details at http://lisajobaker.com . If you’re visiting because of FMF(or if you just happened to show up and it’s Friday), hello and thanks for coming by today!