No sooner had I finished my Mother’s Day entry the other night as Ralph was off at a concert when I got a panicked call from my mom. My father had collapsed in a faint on the floor of the bathroom. This was new. She wanted me to come over. I reminded her she could call her son that lived a few feet away, upstairs, and told her I’d be right over. I packed the kids up (they were in the bath) and went straight away.
Yesterday my dad had his typical chemo poisoning (along with an EKG ordered to investigate his fainting spell) and seemed the worse for wear. His weight is “up” as in, it’s not the lowest it’s been. But his spirits have been flagging a bit. And my conversation with my mother last night was depressing. She and my father seem miserable. They’re “doing the math” again – his CEA count is steadily climbing, this is the last treatment out there and it’s losing efficacy, etc. Doctors have asked them repeatedly not to focus on the CEA count. My mom is panicking and my father is losing heart.
It isn’t the thought of my father having limited time left in number of months or scant years, facing eradication by this disease. I have accepted this at least mentally, if sadly. But I don’t feel, as my mom does, that “the circumstances have changed” (meaning they’re on the last leg of treatment); we’ve been talking the last six years about the eventuality that cancer will claim his life, increasingly more aware of this when we found out it had become metastatic. What I’m finding troubling is my parents’ process; their drinking, my dad’s depression. My dad’s state of mind seems to fluctuate; at times he does not seem depressed as just – sick and in pain. At times it’s hard to tell why he’s morose, quiet, not speaking to us.
I can’t tell if our – meaning the children and I – frequent visits to their place are a welcome joy and distraction, or simply a loud clamoring nuisance. My children have become as familiar with grandpa and grandma and their home that they are no longer on their best manners, but rather expect enjoyment and community on every visit. My father always seems especially happy to see them. I try not to overstay.
The other day my mother, the children, and I walked past a cat who’d died mysteriously, spread out on the sidelawn of the Elks building – a massive, beautiful striped tom. Now whenever we pass that block my son says, “Kitty is dead!”, clearly not feeling any great momentous emotion about this, but rather still turning it over in his mind: What is dead? How did this happen?
I feel so sad how little I got to know two of my grandparents, while I had only limited exposure with the other two. It isn’t just that I didn’t spend time with them; even when we children did, there are so few stories that survive about the experience. We live here in HQX now, for the time being and for a handful of reasons, but in large part for both my children and parents’ experiences of one another for as long as they may have together.