Thursday, December 31, 2015

Shutting down

I totally want to start off this post all serious and say "as we come to the close of a year..."

But it's not me. 

Because I am so fucking excited that this year is ending. 


This year has been hella hard. 

Too much pain, uncertainty, grieving, loss, and distress has plagued me, my family, both sets of parents.

Last week, the week of Christmas was hard. Christmas Day sucked. SUCKED. For us. 

There were presents and gifts and laughter. And overwhelming excitement and fatigue and lights and wrapping paper and bows. There was anger and frustration and crying and rage. 

There was an epiphany in that I realized my mother is slipping.

Not slipping like she slipped and broke her ass.

But that her mind is going. And her dementia is beyond either me, my brother, or my dad are willing to admit.

I have not seen her in nearly 8-1/2 years. Nathan was 10 months old; getting pregnant again wasn't even on my radar. It was July 2007 when she and my dad and my brother came up to visit.

And I know that I will not see her in the State of Washington again, where Randy and I have made our home since August 2001 (teachers almost always move in the summer). She was unable to come up during My Cancer Adventure. She was barely able to call....

Although I've thought about it off and on for a long time, for several years, today I do not yet have the strength and courage to take my children to Tucson. Neither on an airplane, nor on a road trip. Because I'm just not there. I'm not sure I will ever be able to. And there are a myriad of reasons; but really, I don't want to get in the truck with these two lovely, intense, crazy-making boys and drive down to Tucson; all 1,685 miles of it. Not now. Airplane? No. I'm always concerned we'd be the ones that they make an emergency stop for in Vegas. Because that's exactly where you wanna get tossed off a plane with two boys. Right? Slot machines in the airport. Boobs flying down the highway. Sweet Jesus...I can't even imagine. Thankful we left that city behind a long time ago... ( a galaxy far, far gotta say that, duh!).

Anyway, the key reason right now is that I am still recovering from the hell called "treatment" my body went through this year. Chemo. Radiation. The side effects. No energy. Feeling like I was 12 feet underwater, wondering when I would surface for a coveted breath of fresh air.

I feel like I'm just starting to be able to breathe on my own. I'm able to cook again, but my timing is a little off. I'm able to vacuum, kinda. I'm able to take my kids sledding at Christine's house. And that's a huge accomplishment in an of itself! Four boys--holy schmoley! Crazy. Town.

But my mom.....

My mother called me one time during My Cancer Adventure.


And I had to schedule it as if it were an appointment.

It's incredibly painful. Like a knife in my heart. Oh--and the good news--I found out on Tuesday that my heart is normal! Like a setting on the washing machine. N.O.R.M.A.L. One less thing to worry about. One more thing to be thankful for. 

My mother has a very difficult time dealing with hardship. And on a certain level I get it. It would be much easier to bury your head in the sand than it would be to face yourself in the mirror, look yourself in the eye, and take your terminal illness by the balls and twist.

That's what I did this year. The differences between my mother and me was solidified on Christmas Day. For me, it's not divine intervention; it's just that sometimes, shit works out that way. I called and left a message, and she returned my call the next day. There's always been a weird hierarchy in my family where I have to call on holidays. Awkwardness. As though I have to call upon my parents in a formal way; because she prefers it that way. The Queen Mum. Mmmm....frustration.

They went to Phoenix to see my little brother, but nobody communicated that to me (typical). I didn't think they were dead by the side of the road; but I did think that, since I've not spoken to my mother since before my birthday on Nov. 19, that I've once again failed to live up to her standards.

My entire life, I felt like I've been jumping around like a three-year-old at a birthday party, trying to get her attention.

She didn't call me on my birthday. She texted. I know I shouldn't complain, my mother is alive; but still, it hurts. I called my folks on Thanksgiving, and they didn't call me back. She rarely does. My dad--he probably didn't know that I called; she probably forgot to tell him. But she says she never knows when it's a good time to call. Lame. Lame. LAME EXCUSE.

Hurt. Anger. Frustration. Mourning a relationship that I always coveted but never came. Frustrated that she's only 66 years old and is slipping. Does that mean I only have 23 more years till my own mind starts to go...? The brain is like a muscle. So I'm doing my best to keep it active.

Something happened to my mother--many things happened to her--and the result is a complete shutting down. Broken relationships. Broken family. Harboring anger...and hatred for things out of her control. With no way to let it go. Used to have hobbies, but let them go, too....

And last week her shut down caused me to shut down.

I'm done. For my own sanity. For the sanctity of my family. My husband. My children. For My Self.

I'm done trying to get her attention. From the conversation I had with my brother two days after Christmas, she has no comprehension of the depth of how serious my cancer was.

Every year, for both sets of parents, I have created a calendar with photographs of my kids, my husband, our dog, and me, so that they can see us. Totally egocentric, but they're parents and grandparents, it's an easy thing for me to do and the cost is economical. Take the high road, kid.

And this year, I made the calendar with a lot of photographs that include cancer, and the people that supported me as an individual. And supported us as a family.

It was hard. Going back and looking at myself with no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no hair. 

And I recognized June 13th in a special way, which is the day Randy's Father died.

And I recognized the day of my cancer diagnosis (March 9, two days before my husband's birthday). And the last day of chemo (Sept 21). And the last day of radiation (Nov 19; as said before my birthday; and, again, sometimes shit just works out that way).

And I recognized the dates I always do: my birthday, Randy's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and the boys' birthdays.

But I get it, Mom. I get that having a kid with an illness that cannot be controlled is fucking excruciating. Because I deal with it everyday. Every fucking day, I get it.

But guess what?

You gotta keep moving forward. 

This year was by far the hardest year I've ever lived through. But I did it. With the help of my husband, who lets me sleep when I need to, who is an awesome father to our two Beautiful Boys. When one of them (usually Nathan) wakes in the night, it is Randy who gets up with him, helps him, gets himself a blanket, and lays on their bedroom floor until Nathan falls back to sleep; shushing him so that he doesn't wake up his brother, who is a fairly light sleeper. If they're sick, it falls to me. But Randy is the Night Parent; I am the Day Parent. Randy was the one who was with me when I got my diagnosis, waited during surgery, during the first oncology appointments with the medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist. He is the rock of all rocks.

He's actually a Math Prof Rock Star.

Randy is the one that puts up with my crazy. My tears. My frustration. My anger.

My laughter. My tears. My joy. My celebrations.

I survived cancer because of him and his support.

I survived cancer because of Nathan and Isaac. Because when you're staring a terminal illness in the face, and on the one hand you know that you're going to survive...but on the other hand, you wish life could be have to have the courage to look your child in the eye and say, "I'll be ok. I'm trying my best" and knowing deep down from the depths of your soul that you honestly are.

I survived cancer because my tribe of women--and their husbands, and children--supported me and my husband and my children. Providing care, meals, support, love, an ear, a shoulder. Sharing tears. And laughter. And time. And dancing. The biggest gift was the time these amazing women spent on me and for me. I am forever thankful. I am loved. I am loved by a group of mothers that fill me up in a way that my own mother did when I was young and she was brave.

Taking my kids on the day of my surgery. Feeding them, entertaining them, educating them. Helping them feel safe. Helping them feel supported. Going with me to Seattle for genetic counseling and testing. Shaving my head at my house. Taking pictures. Going with me to chemo--I never went to treatment alone. The balloons and cupcake on my birthday and the last day of radiation.

I survived cancer because when I was younger, my parents taught me how to be courageous. So, I'm not taking away her experience of having a child with a serious illness...and I know she tried her best...I am choosing to close this year out knowing that in order to survive, I need to keep moving forward.

I am looking forward to hearing my husband's voice again. I am looking forward to the growth my children with go through in 2016. I am looking forward to helping my mother-in-law. My friends. My parents. I wonder if my brother and his girlfriend will get married. I am looking forward to making more quilts. To coloring. To writing. To helping myself feel healthier. To saying no when I need to. To resting and recovering from treatment. To being my own friend.

Because while 2016 may be challenging and I have some anxiety about what will happen with my mother and her memory loss, I will look back upon 2015 as the year that I gained more strength. More compassion. More love.

Not for her, necessarily.

But for myself.

For my husband.

For my children.

For my family.

So thank you, 2015, for coming to a close. For shutting down.

Because I know that my family is ready to move forward. We are strong. We are thankful for living in this amazingly supportive community.

We have faith in each other, hope for tomorrow, peace in our hearts, and love surrounds us.

With gratitude.

Rachel Doak Anderson
December 31, 2015 
faith, hope, peace, love 

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