Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Interventions Edition

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You all, my mom, who was volatile? fragile? difficult? to begin with, has pushed my sisters too far. I’d say me, too, except that I’m pretty sure I stepped over the brink years ago. In fact, I emailed her therapist for the three of us, asking for her support in helping mom get to a psychiatrist who can diagnose and manage medications instead of relying on her own diagnosis that she relays to her general practitioner who prescribes what she asks for.

The therapist suggested we meet with my mom and she was receptive, although we told her that it was to help find ways to support her which is not entirely the truth. My sister is in town for the week, thank goodness, because I was not doing this on my own. I don’t have the greatest relationship with my mom to begin with and when she starts looking for someone to blame, she going to land directly on me. I spend some of every day afraid of her. It’s exhausting.

But! Without the cancer we wouldn’t have had the chance to do this with her. She would have never had a therapist. And now we have the chance to get through to her, maybe. It won’t be the first time we have tried, but she’s so conscious of what other people think of her, that she’s likely to stay put and listen since it’s good manners. So there’s your latest awful, terrible, no good cancer silver lining.

I’ve Got You

I picked my father up off of the floor for the first time. He’s not a small man and I couldn’t do it alone. He fell in the hallway, crashing into the ground, into the wall, smashing his head and neck into a strange position. I slipped him to the side and watched as he quaked. My not delicate, strong as an ox, can fix everything, dad has fallen a lot lately. Usually, it’s just my mom with him and after an hour or so he recovers enough for the two of them to drag him back into a chair. Next time, 911, my mother says. I don’t think the falls really sunk in until I found myself kneeling, arms around my father, meeting my wife’s eyes.

It’s okay, dad, I’ve got you.
You sure, kid?Of course. You spent so much time scooping me up, it’s my turn now.

But the truth is, I did not have him. I was in no way certain I wasn’t going to collapse. We did it though, the three of us together, dragging him back into a chair. My mother was hiding.

The doctor doesn’t have a good reason for the falls. His cerebellum is swelling on both sides a bit, but that doesn’t explain the way he walks, the tremors, or the falls. Although, the doctor says, the are some things that signify Parkinson’s and they suspect that, if the swelling goes down and things don’t return to the usual, shitty, state of normal, that it may well be this, completely unrelated, disease.

Because of course the fuck it is.

 

By Tomorrow

Find a place to see Christmas lights, my mom says. You know the kind where the shops are decorated and the trees are strung with white lights, she says. It shouldn’t be loud, my dad says. Or crowded, or cold, and it needs to be wheelchair accessible, says my mom. Maybe the downtown walking mall, she says.

I agree that yes there is a tree, but I’m not sure about other decorations. Not the stores. And it’s all outside, I mention, and there will be a lot of people.

No, she says, the street is lined with those trees that are lit up with the teeny white lights.

You are thinking of another place, I say. I don’t know if I can find a place that meets all of these things, I say.

Well, think harder, she says. We want to go tomorrow.

Spoiled

Rampant privilege ahead.

I’m not a social media junkie but I have accounts with the big companies. I use them all differently and some of them infrequently. Twitter is useful when I’m working at a conference, but I use Facebook to keep up with the lives of hundreds of friends. Many of them were only close colleagues for a month or two but the intimate quality of the Foreign Service means I knew their children, had dinner at their homes, and helped them drink the whiskey from their bottom desk drawers on the hard days. It’s a delight to see their lives all over the world and a window to a former life. Mostly, these days, I use Instagram because it’s the pictures that matter most to me and is less of a political platform for the obsessed, irrational, and uninformed.

I also own a smartphone and on it the apps that keep me connected. I am embarrassed to admit that I actually spent time ranting to my wife when Facebook split out the chatting messenger function to a different app. I have changed my tune. I’m incredibly grateful for the change. Because I can’t be there anymore. I can’t see all of the terrible, horrible news my friends share. I can’t see the terrible, horrible bias of their friends. I can’t do anything but crack the door to peek out at the bullshit that is life right now. Call it self-preservation. Beyond the email notifications I get for a few close friends, I don’t see a single picture or hear interesting anecdotes. My larger circle is altogether gone and I miss them. But not enough to endure this world. Not right now.

Emergency Turkey

I have a lot of rage about my mother. And my father’s latest downslide. And our recent trip to North Carolina where my wife changed her shirt for fear of being outed as gay. I have a lot of anxiety about all those things, in addition to anxiety about The State of the World and how every one of my friends reacts to it. I have anxiety about going to work. About holding my wife’s hand. About, frankly, everything. It’s a terrible mess.

Things that aren’t a mess (yet) or are a delightful mess to be in include…

that Tuesday where your Thanksgiving guest list jumps from 17 to 21.
and subsequently you are beyond grateful that the new Wegmans is offering turkeys for a song.
and you realize you actually have a table cloth long enough for a table of 17 as well as enough plates and silverware.
and you are relieved that the Foreign Service taught you one thing, which was how to have a large dinner without panicking.
and to have enough plates.
but also that your wife is an event planner, who has been around the catering block, and who also makes spreadsheets.
so you can cheat off the one from last year when you though a mere 16 was a feat.
but that, for some reason, you didn’t take Tuesday off even though you took Monday and Wednesday.
and that you scheduled meetings all day until 5.
but then you canceled them.
all of them.
and came home to thaw the emergency turkey instead.

I Never Want to See Another Safety Pin

Those safety pins make me mad. I feel my stomach tightening as if it is squeezing into a compressed, knotted, sickening stone. Perhaps it is different where you are. Here, my workplace is handing out tiny pins. Here, the straight white males are proudly displaying them. Women, too, I’m not leaving them out. But this is my paragraph and I’m not mad at women right now. Except the women who told my daughter that it was okay for her to be sexually assaulted. I have plenty of feelings about that. How long will you wear them? Is it like changing your facebook profile pic? Is there some fucking etiquette where we’re all going to culturally agree that we’re not furious anymore? And when is that going to be? A month? A month to mourn? And what are we saying? You, marginalized one, come and tell me your woes that I, as someone with the emotional capital, can help you to bear? Why then is your safety pin so SMALL? Why should someone who needs…what…space?.. have to hunt for it? If you have such room to speak, can you not yell? And not into the void. At those who are in office. Even the ones you elected, all of them. Just because you may have voted for them doesn’t mean you agree with everything, right? And don’t think, because you didn’t vote for hate, you are off this particular hook. You aren’t exempt for not voting for those people. You don’t get an emotional high ground to stand on. You, too, have to YELL. Pins are not yelling. When I was standing, swaying, in a hallway, stifling uncontrollable sobs, I wasn’t looking for pins. In fact, had I seen one, I might have actually avoided you. Because your pin tells me exactly one thing about you. You know how to work a safety pin.

(Rage and sorrow status: blinding)

Here are two links with more thoughtful safety pin perspectives. I think the first is persuasive (spoiler: safety pins, yay). The second is notable for this:

‘Ask yourself what wearing the safety pin means –and if you will sincerely stand up for targeted individuals. Vulnerable communities do not need any more silent, ineffectual “allies.”’

Should You Wear a Safety Pin – Say Something Sunday
Beyond the Safety Pin: The Work Begins Now

Sister Mothers

One of RR’s most favorite things is to have or do the same thing as I do. She does it more with Debra than she does with me and I suppose that could be because of some complicated birth/non-birth mother thing but I’m going to assume it’s more because she’s at a stage of taking joy in finding commonalities. She loves that our hair is the same color. If it touches as we read or cuddle (I KNOW, RR cuddling!) she slyly looks at me with a giant grin and says “sisters!” This comes out more as a growling, troll-under-the-bridge sissssterrrsss but she’s a friendly troll, and I’m a friendly troll so there it is. Sisssterrrsss.

Neither Debra and I went through that my mom is my best friend period, and no one would say we look so much like our mothers at our age that we are just like sisters. I don’t want to cast myself in the role of RR’s sister since I know someday in a fit of rage she’ll probably play the “you’re not my real mother” card. So now RR says sisssttterrr motherrrsss as much as she says sisters. I’ll take it. Examples of other things that make RR say it: singing in harmony, saying the same thing at the same time, saying jinx as soon as we do it, having the same cold, ache, or ailment, liking the same ice cream flavor, and wearing the skirts at the same time. She’s a little disappointed when she hopes we’ll have the same something or other and we don’t, but she handles it gracefully.

(Rage and sorrow status: so ashamed of feeling privileged enough to have panic attacks that I’ve mostly stopped having them publicly)