Coping With a Difficult June

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted, and sadly this one isn’t writing-related. Those who’ve been reading my blog know that my mother suffered from dementia and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer one year ago. By March the cancer had spread to her liver and our family doctor estimated that she had only two or three months left. My mom’s dementia made her oblivious to her dire situation. Even when told the truth, her emotional response seemed dim, and within minutes the diagnosis was forgotten.

My mother passed away in hospice care on June 23rd . Neither my sister nor I were there. I’d seen her the day before and had been out all day at an event that Sunday. My sister had planned to visit, but her significant other suffered a heart attack on June 12th and she was exhausted from the worry and daily commutes to the hospital. (It was touch-and-go for a while, but it looks like he’ll be okay. A medical procedure is required but rehab is underway).

It sounds strange to write this, but we were stunned by the call from the hospice nurse. We truly believed we’d have a little more time with her. We’d met with the doctor on Wed., the 19th, who thought she was doing well under the circumstances, and might have four to six weeks left. We understood that this was a guess, and our family doctor cautioned me that pancreatic cancer is wildly unpredictable. She was in hospice three weeks and two days before she passed.

I should have picked up on the signs that the end was near. When I took my son and daughter to visit her on the 16th, she’d been unusually alert and conversational She blew us kisses the last time my sister and I saw her—something she’s never done in her life. She apparently had the nurse help her call her sister in Toronto that Sunday afternoon. For weeks she’d not felt well enough to talk on the phone at all, let alone make a phone call.

Also on June 23rd, my daughter’s good friend, and matron of honor at her upcoming wedding, lost her grandmother that same day.

Flowers for MimoFive days earlier on the 18th, I had to have our twenty-year-old cat Mimo euthanized, as he became too ill to go on. The beautiful flowers in the photo were sent by our vet’s staff who’d been overseeing his care since we brought him in for his first shots back in August 1999. Also on the 18th , my future son-in-law’s family lost their beloved dog to cancer.

I took time off from the day job to reflect, to rest—or try to—but I’m now back at work, which is fine. I like the routine, to focus on other things for part of the day.

Memories swim through my head. I have a room full of her furniture and some belongings that I’d moved out her assisted living apartment two days before her death. There are things to sort through, legal things to take care of.

But there are also things to look forward to, such as my daughter’s September wedding, quickly followed by a move into their new home. My son also began an exciting new career the last week of June. I’m getting back to writing. My lovely coworkers are giving me a rose bush to plant in Mom’s memory. It’s perfect. She wouldn’t want any fuss and mourning or feeling sorry for ourselves.

I’ve learned a lot this past year about life and death, and many things. I’ve said goodbye far more than I wanted to last month, but I’ll cope and move one step and one day at a time. And I’ll remember.

 

Advertisements

Christmas Greetings

sheikh-tuhin-Christmas[1]I took a close look at my calendar this week and nearly fell out of my chair. Christmas is less than a week away. The busy-ness of holiday preparations along with the usual chores and responsibilities means that I often lose track of time. I’m sure many of you can relate.

I don’t do as much Christmas preparation as I used to. My kids (30 & 24) decided a while ago that they were too old for gingerbread-cookie making and stockings. These days, my mother is the one who needs assistance with organizing, purchasing, and wrapping presents, although that’s not much extra work.

My son’s coming home from Calgary for Christmas and I’m delighted to be serving a dinner for ten people, a little larger group than normal, but hey, I got this. I’ve been cooking turkey dinners with all the trimmings for quite some time.

Next year, my daughter will be moving into her new house, and she wants to take over the cooking tradition. Having never cooked a Christmas dinner before, and planning to host fifteen people will definitely require a little help.

I want to take this moment to say Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! I wish you a joyful, happy Christmas with good food and good company. The older I get the more I value family time, and especially this day of celebration to acknowledge all that has brought us together.

Gratitude

I started this blog entry on Canada’s Thanksgiving, a couple of days ago. Our family celebrated on Sunday evening at my home, and given the challenging year that some family members have endured, it was especially wonderful to see everyone gathered together, enjoying themselves.

It’s made me pause and reflect about how grateful I am for many things. Family, friends, my health, and a passion for writing that goes back nearly forty years. I’ve learned a lot, accomplished a fair bit, and still have a lot to learn. A fact that really appeals to me. Who knows what the next few years will bring? I just know that I’ll be grateful for every experience that will teach me something.

I hope all of my Canadian friends had a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving.

All Hallows Story NightSpeaking of gratitude, I’ve just been invited to take part in an evening of readings with a terrific group of local writers. The event will be held at Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam on Tues., October 23, from 7 to 9 pm. You can find more details HERE. Please join this for great entertainment at All Hallows Night!

The Only Constant in Life…

bigstock-Change-Green-Road-Sign-Over-Cl-8148542[1]I’m sure you know the ending to this blog’s title, and you probably also know how true it is. Change is coming for me and my family. My 83-year-old mother had cataract surgery last week and is staying with us until the eye drops are finished. Given that she also has dementia, the very notion of expecting her to put three sets of drops in her eyes in the morning and at bedtime, and two more drops at lunch and supper, would for never have happened. Thus, her visit.

After nearly four stressful years of watching her slowly deteriorate and six months on a waiting list, she will be moving into assisted living next month. The problem is, we haven’t told her. The surgery was a bit traumatic for her, since she didn’t think she needed it in the first place, and the Ativan given at the hospital knocked her off her feet, literally. Having lived on her own for 40+ years, the idea of sharing meals in a communal dining room bothers my mother immensely, even though she’ll have her own little kitchen.

Still, the move needs to happen for her own safety and for the family’s peace of mind (and no, she doesn’t want strangers coming into her home to assist her). We found a wonderful place that offers full memory support, closer to where I live. This should be a win-win, but have you ever heard of an aging parent who says, “Oh, boy! Assisted living? Sign me up!” For many of us, quite the opposite is true.

Once she’s there, my sister and I will go through the arduous task of sorting through what she won’t be taking with her, recycling and reselling what we can before selling her condo.

I’m therefore leaving my day job (a part-time secretarial position), whether permanently or temporarily is unknown. Either way, it looks like I’m heading toward semi-retirement, which is actually fine with me, as it could mean more writing time. I’ll also continue my job as a facilitator for the writing program through Port Moody Parks & Recreation, which I really enjoy.

I’m not looking forward to the talk with my boss at the end of this week, or the inevitable talk that I and my sister must soon have with our mother. Although I don’t like letting people down, the coming changes don’t frighten me. In fact, I welcome them. The amount of work, physical and emotional, is daunting, but I’ve been preparing myself for a while.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep blogging, and reading, and writing, because I love doing those things. I haven’t spent as much time as I‘d like writing or editing lately, but I do a little bit every day. I’m blessed to have something I can feel passionate about, and it keeps me from becoming too morbid about real life.

It’s likely there will be a new routine to adjust to in the fall, and that a lot of good will come from the upheaval this summer. Old chapters are about to close, but honestly, I look forward to starting new ones. In life, as in writing, I always want to know what will happen next.