I went down to Peoria early Wednesday morning to spend Thanksgiving with my family. As I've mentioned before, my mother is in a nursing home after suffering a stroke brought on by her chemotherapy. She's holding her own, but we've been informed that she will not be able to walk on her own again, and will most likely never leave the home. My aunt and uncle told me that night that Mom's oncologist has been very unresponsive and doesn't return phone calls (often when the patient isn't a "success story" anymore, they don't), but when they finally got the breakdown of her records for the insurance company, it said that the cancer is in her bones (which I didn't know--I did know it was in her liver, and so did she--that's why she started the chemo again).
So THAT'S why my aunt said she's terminal. Hmm. Cancer's funny that way...
My mom doesn't realize this, of course, and my aunt doesn't want to tell her, because she says it's a quality of life issue at this point. "If she has anymore chemo, it will kill her," she said. (And I have to agree that it would--she's still weakened three months after the last session.) Mom is living in a happy world where she's comfortable, people are kind and she still thinks that she's going to get out of the home and go back to work (none of which is possible at this point). And as hard as it is knowing that, especially at this time of year, and as weird as it feels starting to pack up and clear out her apartment (I was only there long enough to pack up her kitchen drawers) when she still thinks she's going back there, I feel a little bit of peace right now, too. There is some sense of closure and everyone's been so kind...I understand now how much that means to people now: to the person making the gesture, it seems so insufficient, because we'd like to do so much more. But the person receiving it is more than happy to come and meet you halfway--any kind gesture you make is magnified by 10.
We had a great Thanksgiving lunch at the nursing home Thursday. The staff did a really nice meal for the residents and the families that visited. Mom was so happy that I was there and I got to tell her many times how happy I was to be
there and that I love her. It was more poignant knowing that it's probably the last one we'll shre. One of the volunteers, Judy, who was a friend of my dad and mom's from way back, was serving the meal and leaned over to tell me how proud my grandparents would be to see me there. (Wow...I didn't know eating a great meal was that special! I just couldn't think of anywhere I wanted to be more at that moment. But there are lots of folks whose families don't visit at all, I imagine.)
I'd been feeling really guilty about staying in Chicago and living my "life" while this has been going on. I had a nice talk with my aunt and uncle Wednesday night, though, and they said, "Why, do you think this wouldn't have happened if you lived here? Your mom wants you to be there, because you have to live your own life. If something happened to Jim, we wouldn't expect his daughters to come live back here (they live in SC)." It reassured me that I'm doing everything I can...I'm just glad I've saved up so much vacation time!
I'm still going down in a few weeks to help my uncle move the big pieces from mom's apartment into storage. They've also suggested that I should take her car with me, since she's been telling me to drive it and keep the battery charged and they've said that she won't drive it ever again and it will come to me anyway in the end. So I'm still investigating what needs to be done to transfer the plates, etc. It's not technically my car, and that "city sticker" thing is a bugger. But I won't deny that it'll be nicer to drive her car (a 2004 Malibu) than mine (a 1994 Cavalier that I've had since 1993--the only brand-new car I've ever bought). Hers is more dependable than mine, and there's no short in steering column that causes the turn signals not to work. But I certainly don't like the circumstances.
But I'm continuing doing the things I love the most--music, theatre, volunteering--because they are much needed at this time of year, and since I'm not married and don't have my own family, these things are my "children." (Yes, I finally realized that this is why so many gay people are artists, actors, etc.--they pour their passion into whatever gives them the most fulfillment back. Aren't you impressed? That'll be $14.95, please--hey, that's cheaper than the book once it comes out!)
I'll still call Mom every few days and go down to visit every few weeks, making the most of the time we have left. When the time comes, I'll be glad that I did.
And I'm SOO glad I didn't move to New York instead of Chicago! (Not that I ever had the balls to try NYC anyway, but still...it works out for the best this time!)