Hospital Bound, Again

Hospital RoomI had a different post rattling around in my head to put up today, but I just got a call from my mother. She is heading back into the hospital. They said it might be for just overnight, but honestly, I don’t believe that. Her history tells me we are in for another long stay, possibly over Christmas. I am not being pessimistic, I just know how things have gone over the past couple of months.

I don’t know the details yet. I only spoke to her for 30 or 40 seconds by phone. She had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and it seems they had bad news for her. My aunt is going to pick her up and take her in. She said she would call me later when she knew more.

I admit, I’m tired. I try to handle situations, stress, problems with calmness and clarity, but this whole thing is wearing me down. There is so little I can do about it. I can help my Mom by learning how to help her medical issues, I can visit her, bring her prescriptions and other necessities, but I have no power to solve the actual problem. I try to hold onto the idea that things will work out – they always do, somehow – but it is getting harder and harder.

To make it worse, I feel bad about complaining. I’m not the one who is sick. I only talked to my Mom for a few seconds, but I could hear the sadness and pain in her voice. I know going back into the hospital is the last thing she wants. And of her children, I have the least to complain about. My sister was the one who took her in over her convalescence and cared for her through some fairly rough times. Granted, she is a nurse and is best suited for taking care of Mom, but she is also the mother of two small children, one of which is only 6 months old, and a very busy person. So, I end up feeling bad… about feeling bad.

I’m not terribly worried about Christmas. If Mom is in the hospital, we’ll work something out. As my sister said today, we have never been a family of sticklers about celebrating things on a particular date. We’ve been known to celebrate birthdays months after the actual day; we’ll figure out another time to do this. I’m just tired of my Mom hurting and feeling sick. I am tired of the strain it puts on the rest of us. I just want her to heal.


Photo credit: Diane Cordell

Contemplating Christmas

Traditional ChristmasMom’s surgery went about as expected, which is to say that some things have improved, but others have not. We progress with her health at a snail’s pace …a very confused snail, one that keeps doubling back on itself. That, and the fact I presently have an aunt in ICU for other serious health issues, is casting a bit of a pall over the holidays. Ah well. Life is like that sometimes. Besides, I have two amazing, adorable, awesome nieces that always lift my spirits. I can’t wait to see them on Christmas day!

When I was a kid there was a set formula for the holidays. We had traditions – the family getting together in the formal living room and assembling the artificial tree. Dad spending hours untangling the strands of Christmas lights and tracking down faulty bulbs. Opening one special game or toy (or as we got older – movie) on Christmas Eve that could keep us entertained until it was bedtime. We had special ornaments, a special breakfast, a certain way we put up the stockings… countless traditions, big and small. Of course, as we grew up, things started to change.

We tried to keep things the same as they were for many years. Even though we were both out of the house, my sister and I would come back on Christmas Eve and spend the night so we could reenact our childhood the following day. But then, my Dad got cancer. That pretty much changed everything. I vividly remember that Christmas. My sister and I had come home Christmas Eve as usual, but that year everything was off. She and my mother both got the stomach flu and ended up sick in bed. They spent most of Christmas Eve and day huddled together, puking. My Dad, weak, pale coughing, was wrapped in several blankets and spent the day dozing in his Lazy Boy. We called the extended family and warned them to stay away. We didn’t even bother opening presents until 5:00 or 6:00 that night, when my sister and Mom were finally able to sit up for awhile. Me? I was fine. I spent the day in my pjs watching movies and hanging out with my Dad when he was awake. It turned out to be our last Christmas together.

Since then, things have changed even more. Years have passed. My sister and I each got married. I got divorced. She had children. The family is radically different, and we’ve had in-laws and other parties to arrange schedules around. It all worked out, it always does, but a lot of traditions have gone out the window. Honestly, I am not sure that that is such a bad thing. Sure, I miss some things, and I desperately wish my Dad could see his grandchildren, especially at Christmas, but it is what it is. We place such high expectations on this holiday, but Christmases don’t have to be perfect. Joy can be found in all sorts of things – having a few quiet moments alone Christmas morning to sit by my own tree and drink hot chocolate, watching my niece ripping the Christmas tissue into ever smaller pieces instead of playing with her new toys, getting text messages from friends all throughout Christmas day wishing holiday cheer.

This year is still up in the air. All I know, at this point, is that we are having it at my sister’s house. (With two small children it is much easier for us to come to her.) I don’t know what time we are getting together, I don’t know what we’ll be eating – or even what I need to bring. I don’t even know for sure if my Mom will make it. I assume she will, but I try not to have too many expectations when it comes to her right now. I’m going into this holiday blind, and that is okay. However things turn out, whatever happens, I’ll be okay, and I, like many others this time of year, will find my holiday spirit wherever I can.


Photo credit: luckyfish

Health and Wellness

Christmas BirdThings have been on hold the last couple of months. My mother has had some health issues that have superseded just about everything else in my life. It has been a couple of months of long hospital stays and learning how to do IVs and other medical necessities. She is having yet another surgery today, and hopefully, this will be the start of the recovery… but we’ll see. I’ve thought that before.

Parents with health problems are never easy, as many of us know. It is a difficult situation on so many levels. In our minds at least, we are still the children – we are the ones that should be taken care of. But what choice do we have? There comes a time when we see the roles reverse. The children become those who are stronger, sharper, more informed and the parents are weaker, more confused and less able to handle the jungle of medical issues. My sister and I have been working together as team to get through it. We divy up duties, visits, conversations. We also support one another and give each other a place to vent. I’ve always been grateful I have had a sister, but the last couple of months have brought it into crystal clarity.

For the most part, I am able to treat these situations with a calm equanimity. Of course, other times I am petrified inside, but I don’t allow myself to linger on that. Instead I just try to figure out what’s next, what needs to be done. To me, there really isn’t any choice. When it comes to family, there are just things that you have to do.

With Mom it has been a constant dance routine of a few steps forward, a few steps back. I can cheer at the steps forward and laugh with gallows humor at the steps back. The situation is exhausting, but I can keep going, if need be. I can put most of my fears, worry and anxiety on a back shelf. Even though my Mom herself can be a bit… trying at times, I can let most of it slide off me like water off a duck’s back.

Again, that’s most of the time. Other times I get overwhelmingly angry at her. Oh, I know it isn’t even remotely her fault, but logic has little to do with it. The anger wells up in me and I have to do everything in my power not to let it out. And other times I get sad. Not because of what is happening now, but because I see the future. Her health problems are serious, but not life threatening. However, she isn’t going to get any younger. Health problems are bound to happen again.

…I try not to think about that though.

In the meantime, Christmas is right around the corner. I have presents wrapped, Christmas music on the radio, and I’m wearing my Christmas socks. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

Photo credit: Paparutzi