Tag Archives: dying

Writer’s Block

I have my first case of writer’s block. I’m pretty sure it’s because this is the first writing I’ve ever felt I had to do. My posts on here all flow out of me naturally. I witness significant things and want to share them. There’s no pressure. It’s easy.

I have to write my stepfather’s obituary. I offered to. It made sense, at the time, because I’m “the writer”. I thought it would be a piece of cake, just like all my essays on here. It’s not. I’m holding back from even starting, and I can’t figure out why.

I gathered information and personal details from his daughter and my mom.  Turns out, a lot of his life wasn’t filled with happiness. I have to figure out how to omit those things without feeling like I’m falsifying his life. I’ve never written fiction before, and don’t want to start now, with this. I also don’t want to minimize anything about this man, his life, his feelings…or his memory. I’m nervous I might tarnish it if I put too much in, yet also worried about not sharing enough to let the world know how great he was.  I witnessed some pretty significant things during my time caring for this man, so this is an important job.

I can see the obituary floating around, in various pieces, in my mind. I know if I just start writing things down, it will probably start to form on its own. So…why can’t I start?

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Channeling intimacy

I’ve spent the past two months helping my mom take care of her dying husband. Being a nurse, it wasn’t hard. I’ve done it a hundred times. I kept him comfortable…keeping his lips moist, re-positioning him, administering medications, talking, listening…and getting to know him.  You can’t help but bond with someone during this process. It’s intimate.

The other day, as I was brushing his hair, I thought of a dear, old friend of mine. We have a lot of parallels in our lives. The details are different, but similar themes. We both were sexually abused as children by family members, and we both ended up telling our families, once we got older. She told hers a long time ago. I told mine last summer. I can remember talking to her when I was thinking about telling.  Well, I honestly wasn’t just thinking about telling. I knew I was going to tell, and was just figuring out how to get up the courage to do so. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s almost like the universe had its own plans for my journey, and I just had to figure out how to let it all unfold. Anyway, she filled me in on the fallout she endured after telling her family. She wasn’t trying to talk me out of it, but wanted me to know of all the possibilities. Telling her story resulted in a divide in her family. It sounds crazy, but really…many families just can not handle hearing this kind of thing, and end up putting it back on the victim, as they don’t have the tools to deal with such subject matter. That’s what happened to my friend. So, when the time came for her father to near the end of his journey, she was basically excluded. God, it was so sad to hear her tell this story. My heart ached for her, and I felt uncomfortable imagining it happening to me. Yet still…I told. I told because even though she felt pain from the backlash, she was free of her story. I won’t explain it more than that, because if you haven’t been there, you just won’t get it.  There’s always a price for freedom.

At first, my family was extremely supportive. Well, most of my family. You see, I too have people in my life who just don’t have the tools required to process this heavy information. I get it. Hell, even I didn’t have the tools up until last year. It’s some heavy shit. Anyway, as time passed, and I finally started caring about myself and not letting the people in my life who cause me pain be involved with me anymore, the shift started. Because, some of those people just happen to be my family members.  And just like my dear, old friend… I felt the distance start to grow between me and my dad.  I can’t say it’s intentional. I think it’s just a byproduct of familial abuse, unfortunately.  He loves me, but his tool box is empty. I think in order for him to truly process this story, he would crumble. As my dad, he was supposed to be my protector. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to find out this kind of thing happened to your daughter in your own home.  Don’t get me wrong…just because I get it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

So, as I’m nurturing my stepfather, I’m thinking of my friend and her father, and then of me and my father. Our stories run back and forth through my mind, intertwined,  as I wipe his face and rub lotion on his lips. I think of her, wishing she could have done this for her father, and I start doing it for her.  I picture her running the comb though her father’s hair as he lies in bed, talking softly and smiling…enjoying the last intimate moments together. I turned into her, and my stepfather into her father. Then I think of me, and how I’ll most likely be right where my friend was,  and I looked down and saw my own dad.  I channeled all of us as I cared for him…all three men blending in and out of my dreams and wishes. It was sad, yet beautiful. I let my mind run with the imagination and for a few moments, it seemed real. I truly felt as though I was caring for my own dad, and that came as a comfort to me, knowing that this may very well be as close as I ever get to actually doing that.

My stepfather died last night. I was right with him as he took his last breath, and I cried. I cried for him. I cried for my mom. I cried for my friend and for her dad, and I cried for me and my dad. I mourned the loss of my dad, just in case I’m not there to do it when the time comes… and it felt real, I think. It hurt. I wondered if I would choose to tell, had I the chance for a do-over. Would it be worth it to not risk losing him? The pain I felt mourning a father who is still here was palpable, but yes.. I know things would go the same way in my do-over. Like I said, the universe has its plan and it’s my job to let it unfold. Plus, I have to keep reminding myself…it hasn’t finished unfolding yet…

 

 

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An interesting closeness

It’s interesting how close you can get to someone when they’re dying.  In the 13 years I’ve been nursing, I’ve spent my fair share of time keeping people company as they transition to the next chapter. In the hospital, I’d come to know them by listening to their families reminisce. I always told the children, “your dedication now is a testament to how good your parents were“, which always made them smile…and often cry. In the home setting it was better. I could see their decorating style, look at family photos, know what type of car they drove…it was more personal. I got to know them on a closer level. I always enjoyed looking at the photos the most. Obviously, they looked completely different from the person lying in the bed next to me. Healthy skin, smiles, holding grandchildren, serving their country, dancing…it all paints a picture of how they lived and how they loved.

I’ve spent most of the last week at my stepfather’s bedside, letting my mom get some rest. I come over every evening after work and stay till around midnight, when the aide she finally let us arrange arrives. I’ve never really been that close to him. Not that I didn’t like him or anything…we just never bonded. He’s kind of an introvert and tended to avoid social family gatherings. He moved here so she could be near her family when the time came for him to move on. He didn’t want her to grow old all alone, halfway across the country from her kids… where she’s been since I was 9. He’s been chronically ill since I met him. I always felt sort of bad for my mom, not being able to go out and do things…travel, make friends, whatever… ever since they moved here.  I thought she was tied down by him, and I thought that was a shitty deal for her. At the same time, I figured she knew what she was getting in to with him, so sort of washed my hands of it. This past week, though…I got to know him. No, we didn’t have any heart to heart conversations. He’s well past having that ability. It’s hard to understand much of what he says now. I got to know him by watching my mom.

My mom spent the past 10 years slowly transitioning into his caregiver, and it kicked into high gear last month when he fell and broke his hip. The cancer had made his bones so brittle…that was the beginning of the end. He came home in a hospital bed and has been lying in it, in the middle of the living room, ever since…with my mom doting on him. For the first 6 weeks or so, she wouldn’t let us hire any help for him (other than to use the daily aide the hospice provides for an hour). She was devoted. She managed his medications. She re positioned him. She helped him with his urinal. She fed him. As he began to progress through this process, his needs became more frequent. He was ringing the bell for her every half hour during the night. “Please, Mom…let me hire some help”, I pleaded. She was exhausted, but refused. We set up a cot next to his bed so she could lie with him during the night. So, instead of ringing the bell every half hour, he reached over and patted her on the head. She was happy with that. Seeing the two of them, lying side by side in that living room, holding hands through the rails of the hospital bed…that’s when it clicked. God, how could I have not seen this all these years? She doesn’t have a shitty deal at all. She’s one of the lucky ones…she has true love. Something I’ve struggled my entire life to believe even exists, and it’s been right here all along.

His journey is so close to ending. He’s being visited by relatives already on the other side. Or hallucinating. One never knows. Yesterday, as my mom napped, I sat on the side of his bed, holding his hand as he processed whatever crazy shit he was seeing in the corner of the room. I looked at him and thought about how I never know if this is going to be the last time I see him awake or not, and I know my mom must feel that feeling in a much more painful way. I realized I’d never acknowledged his act of love for my mom…moving out here for her. I rubbed his hand. “Hey, Larry. I never did thank you for bringing my mom back here to us. Thank you.” My eyes were stinging, and I swallowed hard to keep from crying. He looked at me, and just gave a slight nod. I wondered if he knew how I resented her all those years for not being here. I never would have been able to let all that go, to create this budding new relationship with her this past year, if he hadn’t moved her here. He rubbed my hand. I think he knew enough.

My heart aches for what my mom is going through. I hate that I used to think her life would be so much easier once she didn’t have to take care of him.

I once was blind, but now I see…

 

 

 

 

This post was written in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness Saturday prompt

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS May 6/17

 

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