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Losing a Parent ’
Thursday, June 7th, 2012
A year ago today my mom died. I woke up this morning not sure how to feel. Glad she is out of her pain? Glad she is no longer a burden to me? Relieved that her tragic life ended so peacefully? And yet, I’m sad. It’s hard to know how to feel when your heart is so full of conflict. From my tween years on, she was an addict. For three decades I simultaneously loved, hated and worried about her. Months went by with no communication. Years went by where I didn’t see her. But towards the end, we were all with her. I was able to whisper my final goodbyes.
In those last days she and I made a pact. We would communicate through lilacs. When Phil and I moved to LA, I realized lilacs don’t grow as abundantly here. But a few weeks ago, we went to the Descanso Gardens. I knew she would be waiting.
Phil played with Fia while I walked privately with Emmett.
I carried him up to the purple blossoms.
“Hi Mom. This is Emmett,” I whispered.
She reached out to us. I felt her smile. I felt her. God she would love him. She would be so happy that I had a son. She always talked about how my brother, her firstborn, was such an easy, good baby. How instant that love was. Mom, I know what you mean! I have so much to tell you.
But as I start to think about what could be, I know in my heart what could never have been. Tethered to tubes in the hospital for a year, free of illicit drugs and alcohol, I got glimpses of the mom I had in the early years. I’ve written about it before–how she was the best of them. That is, before the demons took over.
So on this day, I feel a conflict between my head and my heart. Between what I know and how I feel. I say to the good mom, I wish you were here. To hold him. To smell him. To hug me. I say to the tormented mom, May you rest in peace.
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addict, addiction, alcohol, bipolar, death, drugs, grief, illicit drugs, lilacs, losing a mom, Losing a Parent, mortality | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations, Must Read
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
Author’s Note: I wrote this post a couple months before my mom died. I wanted to share it now.
I called my mom to check in. She was out of breath. Told me she had been lying on the deck enjoying the sun. I can picture her– relaxed, closed lips, slightly smiling as the sun beats down on her weathered face and medically worn body. I think about how I’ll miss her. It’s much easier to hate an addict. It’s a lot harder to love one. Especially because these last 9 months have been a gift.
When she first went septic, I thought, “F–k me. So typical of her.”
If only she had gone to the ER when her doctor told her, she wouldn’t have had her entire colon removed.
This led to every complication imaginable.
But my mother has never really done things right. Except maybe this time she has.
If she had gone in right away they would have fixed the problem before it became a disaster. She probably would have gone home a few weeks later. Which means by now, she would have gone through at least another 12K of her dwindling life savings to buy crack (a habit I just recently found out about, and one she decided to pick up at 62 years old). She could very well be in the gutter, dead. I’d dismiss her death as a relief. And think about what a waste it all was. Now I’ve had her back —at least in some capacity—as the mom I knew and loved once long ago. And it’s much harder.
I know the end is coming. They found out they simply can’t do anything more for her. They don’t have enough length in her small intestine to operate; to fix the damn fistula. And with it spewing out bile like Old Faithful, it’s impossible for her body to absorb any nutrients.
The PA told me on the phone that she and two highly skilled doctors stood around staring at it, feeling so helpless. They equated it to the Gulf Oil spill, when brilliant minds around the world simply couldn’t come up with a way to cap it.
When my mom heard the bad news, she said, “I’m so sad I won’t see Fi grow up.” Maybe as a mom myself, that is the hardest thing to grasp. Death is final. And my own mortality seems so tenuous at times. It gives me perspective: life is a privilege. A gift. Not a given.
During these past months with her in the hospital, I have often thought about all that could have been, but also the small window that was. When she’s gone, I’ll remember that in the beginning she was as good a mom as they came. The best. Unconditionally loving, full of personality, adventurous, independent. All things she instilled deeply in me.
I’ll try and skip over the middle years. The nearly 3 decades of a life sadly lived.
And then I’ll focus on the recent–the times that she cared about Fi and me. No matter how much pain she was in, every phone call her first question was, “What’s Fia doing right now?” I’d have to yell over Fi’s verbosity and paint the picture for her. Tell her the new tricks she learned. My mom would laugh deep and strong.
When I came down with the flu this winter, she worried. In every phone call she’d ask how I was feeling. She said she’d always worried about me. Perhaps she didn’t worry in the middle of a drunken stupor, but somewhere deep down, I know she always had me close by. A mom always holds her daughter close to her heart. And I guess that’s what I have to take with me.
I am glad she has her sun. She always loved it. And I hope she basks in it as long as she can….
She passed away June 7, 2011. Fly away Mom. You are free.
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Monday, July 11th, 2011
As she lay dying, I spoke to her on the phone. I told her that it was okay to go. That she would live on through me and Fi.
I told my mom’s sister how much Fia loves sautéed spinach.“Your mom loved that growing up. We’d call her Popeye,” she said. I cringed. Dear lord, please give Fia the good genes from her. Like love of spinach and not crack.
It’s not that my mom didn’t have some amazing traits. In her early years she was smart and beautiful. Kind and colorful. But that was then. In her darkest days her childhood friends would shake their heads and tell me, “Everyone in high school wanted to be Suzy Newlon. Such a shame.” We’d all look down and mumble awkwardly in agreement.
Five decades of alcohol and drug abuse—including picking up a crack habit when she was 62-years-old—a few suicide attempts and a clear-cut diagnosis of bipolar—didn’t really give her a fighting chance.
One recent Christmas she went around her Florida condo complex with a 20-foot ladder. She climbed up the trees and spray-painted the coconuts red. It was an instant hit. On another Christmas she tried to kill herself by jumping off a parking garage.
I truly believe some people are born to conquer addiction while others are just born to stay addicts.
Last year at 64, her life had become desperately depressing and tragic. I rarely spoke to her. Neither did my siblings. But then a miracle occurred.
She had an intestinal rupture and went septic. Almost died. Ended up on life support. And while her health slowly deteriorated, her life got surprisingly better.
For the next 11 months she was mostly confined to a hospital bed. She had psychiatrists who tweaked and tweaked her mental meds. She had hot meals and an entire staff at her beck and call. She was the queen bee and basked in her royal treatment.
“I love it here. I can order a milkshake at 3 in the afternoon,” she’d tell me in her southern drawl.
The next day she would complain that the chicken was dry.
“Mom, this is a hospital, not the Four Seasons,” I’d remind her on the phone.
“I know that, but how hard is it to cook chicken right?”
I’d roll my eyes; secretly glad she was even complaining. In the past, depressive days meant curling up “in the ball” on her couch and refusing to speak to anyone.
At least now we knew where she was and that she was safe. It was also finally safe to bring Fi down to meet her. A hospital—germs and all– is far more sterile than her living conditions had become over the years. And I knew what I was getting: glimpses of the mom I had in childhood; when she was a superstar. Cool, fun, unconditionally loving.
Over this past year almost every trip down she was alert and attentive. She couldn’t get enough of Fi. This is a woman who had missed so much of my life. My wedding, my pregnancy, the birth of my daughter. We were both getting a second chance.
She would tell me how much Fia reminded her of me when I was little. I’d relish the stories. And feel relief that (so far) it seems Fia has much more of me in her genes than her grandmother. I can only pray the ones she does have from either of us are the good ones.
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addiction, bipolar, death, death of a parent, depression, drugs, flowers, genes, hospital, life support, lilac, lilacs, Losing a Parent, losing mom, mom, mom dying, traits | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Must Read