Saturday, June 06, 2009

Event Horizon

Radiating from my parents' bedroom is a series -- a long series -- of lectures on astronomy. For three days I've been moving through a drift of phrases -- quarks, supernovas, quasars, MCDI -- some of which makes sense and a lot doesn't. I haven't stopped to watch the lectures with my father because it's an eight-part series and I arrived somewhere around Disc 5. Still, all this cosmology has come to characterize my personal time here so far, and I am now standing as close to the event horizon -- that threshhold at which matter gets sucked into a black hole from which it cannot escape -- as is possible while defying the siren song of gravity.

Time moves so s-l-o-w-l-y here. An hour feels like three. Dad is immersed in relativity but not so much his relatives. Conversation is limited to astronomy, my mother's medical condition, when my brother last called (always within the hour), what to have for dinner. Right now he's taking a break from "the afterglow of the big bang by making the filling for a strawbery-rhubarb pie.


I've had enormous support and prayer in this endeavor of visiting Unlimited Food Land so I feel, for you and for me, that I need to check in and say I haven't had sugar or flour but it's getting dicey.

One other thing besides my knowledge of how many people are rooting for my abstinence that I have to remember is how Mom brightened when I walked into her room on Thursday wearing a white tank top (I NEVER wear sleeveless clothes but I figure what the hell) and a white capris: a bit of my Other Body's figure is beginning to come back and it made her really happy. She told Jim I'd "slimmed down a lot" when she talked to him yesterday. In a way, I resent winning aproval for losing weight but I don't think this is the time to quibble over my worth according to body size and I, too, of course, am happy to be wearing sunnier, more form fitting clothes. I had more confidence when I talked to Dr. Kidney because I wasn't a lump that could allow him to presume me stupid or lacking control when I walked out to the nurses' station and cornered him. It's an entirely weird thing, this morphing and its two-sided blade of pleasure-giving and confidence on one edge, and privacy and...I've always been me on the other. Sort this out for me, if you can. I'm confused even as I'm going to have to go out and show my father how to make pie crust with the new Cuisineart.

I'm not used to not moving my body. Each day I ask if we can go swimming and Dad tables it for another day. The heat and the lanscape are not inviting for walks. I came out with a pile of articles I tore out of New Yorkers before throwing that magazines away and my head is swimming with trains to Tibet, the physiology of laughter, monocular vision, the New Jersey container ports, Facebook ten months after it started...

Will I or won't I have pie?

Nights are awful. My father becomes loquacious on the six mathematical equations used to measure the distance of stars, or on my mother's rapidly deteriorating mental faculties. Then im calls and wants information I can't give him yet. Dad stays up late and I wait for a double dose of Klonopin to take over, which it only seems to do the next morning when I pull myself from sleep.

I've at least managed to install a wireless router so Jim and I can continue to work while we're here, and we're going to be here a lot. But I feel like I'm in lockdown prison ward and pie sounds like an escape.

My mother has, it was finally determined, fractured her pelvis and upper femur, none of which requires casting or immobility. When she was aken to hospital, her kidneys were barely functioning, her blood pressure was dangerously low, she had fluid in her lungs and her electrolytes were wacked, so she was in cardio for several days. The nephrologist was dismissive of her chances of ever coming home again and got downright caustic when he learned my father is blind. "Resthome?" I asked and he gave a short laugh and said, "Please. We call them `managed care units' here."

The social worker in charge of making transfers from the hospital to rehab had to argue with Dr. Kidney to have Mom admitted. That was Thursday and she'd gotten her very first shot of morphine in her entire 87 years an hour before we got there. Yesterday, Friday, she had no idea she'd been moved to rehab. I asked what her PT and OT sessions had consisted of; she had no memory of three hours spent in therapy. My brother called in the middle of the visit; 15 minutes later Dad asked what Jim had to say and she couldn't remember (although why should she? I repeat myself to him because I can't remember what I said and because there is nothing TO say there's nothing worth remembering). It's going to take time to assess all this and part of her OT is cognitive functioning.

But God it's sad and scary to see, and it's an inevitable state to which she is moving, whether it's this time or not.

Dad misses her but is furious she put herself in harm's way and fell, furious that she's seen her internist the day before and her BP wasn't investigated or the fluid rattle of her lungs pursued. He complains that when he offers to share a lecture series on something like the origins of Judaism, she prefers to watch Dr. Phil. I don't think, given his nature, he has any other way to emote except through anger. All Mom wants is for "my husband to warm my hands" and I have no idea what Dad wants, besides rhubarb-strawberry pie and not to be scared any more.

I want to go swimming, not eat between meals and to cry.

That's the news from Desert Woebegone. Thanks for hanging in there with me.


Quilting Martha said...

Don't eat the pie. You know it won't help.

I can relate to resenting comments about your weight from your mother. In fact, it's just wierd that a person's weight is so open for comment. Sometimes I like it when people notice, and sometimes I don't.

Watching your parents age is horrible hard, isn't it? Hang in there, Frances.

Unknown said...

Can you express a little more forcefully your need to go burn off some of your anxiety in the pool? I know that your father is also anxious but I don't see why, if you're not immediately needed for something, you can't take a short break from the family drama to take care of yourself.

Kaivalya said...

In the showdown between Frances vs. The Pie, I'm putting my money on you! When you're tempted by that pie, just read all of the great support you're getting here in the comments and then go swimming instead!

Keep the faith, hang in there! :-)

(And, on a more serious note, your mom is in my prayers. I can't imagine anything more difficult than what you're faced with right now. Again, hang in there!)

April said...

The "Im still me" comment is poignant. That was my biggest adjustment when I started losing the weight. I wasn't just mad or angry---I was ENRAGED by people's responses to my changing body. Why was I suddenly "worthy?" I was always worthy. I hadn't body had. This still challenges me, so your words rang very true for me.

As far as the abstinence thing goes... you and I have a different take on that front. I've NEVER been abstinent. My "success" has been built entirely on the right and ability to cheat with regularity. It gets me into trouble and I struggle constantly, but I know I could never live "purely." I'd have failed and given up years ago. So I don't have any advice to give you...I don't know what's right for you. Except I can say that you must be kind to yourself and allow yourself to be human, if need be.

Go swimming ~ alone, if necessary. Maybe walk in the early morning, before its too hot? Or before bed, when things have cooled off a bit? Maybe that would help you sleep, too...

Best of luck, Frances. My thoughts are with you.

Lori G. said...

What's even frightening about the "I'm still me" is that when I'm fatter, I tend to be dismissive about myself. I wonder if my own attitude allows others to run over me when I get like this. So I'm reading what you write very closely.

If I'm betting, I'm going to bet on you and not on the pie. When your father & brother gets tired of the pie, throw it out immediately! I hope you will take care of yourself and take some time out to go swimming.

Thinking of you & lots of love!

Anonymous said...

Morphine caused my Dad to suffer from dementia. It took a few days off of it, and he bounced back. Sometimes older people react better to dualadid, Praying for a return to pre-morphine personality for your Mom. I wish food would fix anything, I wish so much, after regaining 135 pounds that food would nourish the real hunger. I can't stop overeating, don't know if I will ever be able to again. I hope you can keep your abstinence. I am praying for you and your family.

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