Sunday, June 21, 2009

One Foot in Front of the Other

I'm sorry for the silence. I got back from Arizona on the 10th and went straight into dogs and cleaning my apartment in anticipation of my nieces' arrival on the 15th, then showing them as much of New York City as time, tickets and energy permitted until Friday morning. I slept most of yesterday. Writing this blog looks to be the crowning personal achievement of some very draining weeks: I go back to Arizona on Thursday for ten days. This will give my brother and me a chance to catch up on our parents' situations -- there are many -- in person, and to be there in case Mom's next nursing facility discharges her earlier than we would like.

I'm walking around these days with my heart in my throat and sometimes in my nose, that tickle of tears coming. We have a lot of changes to make for my parents that are going to be difficult. Mom's fractures need time to heal. We're getting on managed care waiting lists in Montana so that they'll be near family. We'll have to pack up their house and put it on the market. Dad has had to accept that he needs outside help at least a couple of days a week. Medical facilities have their own agendas with Medicare reimbursements that they toggle without sharing records and even my niece, who is a hospital social worker, can only guess at what help or hindrance those records regarding rehabilitation progress contain. We're all exhausted except for Mom, who is slowly losing her mind.

My abstinence is in pieces. My favorite dog, Henry -- Mr. Happy -- is moving to the `burbs in August. I'm out of cigarettes (quitting lasted 8 hours yesterday until I was making reservations to go to Arizona at 11.30 at night) and Zoloft and the place I order my antidepressants from has not returned my email or phone calls. I have not had much Daisy Time and will have less in the months to come. I have to pull myself together today. Get a two-week supply of Zoloft (the withdrawals are horrible), get my food in order, speak to my sponsor, start writing my blogs, start paying attention to the gifts instead of the broken-ness of my life.

Mostly, I think, I have to realize not only that this is what life is and that food doesn't solve it, but that This Is What Life Is. Parents age, and they die. Dogs move. Separations occur. I suffer from depression, food and nicotine addiction. I have talents. All of these things require day-to-day responsibility and acceptance. And none of them are the end of the world. At worst, they mean periods of great grieving -- but my life will probably move on if I'm not hit by a truck or something. There will still be lilacs each spring, Neapolitan mastiff puppies, yogurt, naps.

And yet...Mom! The woman who made me dolls from hollyhock flowers. Who read me fairy tales and told endless stories from her childhood. Who was a dead ringer for Madeline Kahn and sooo elegant.

It's OK to have a breaking heart.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Swimming Dilema

God help me, "dilema" does not look right. There's no dictionary on my father's comuter's tool bar, so please assume I'd do a better job under other circumstances.

I'm hoping to go swimming today. The problem isn't getting time to do it, it's that I need to be chaperoned in by a resident of the retirement city where my parents live. & the chaperone has to have a gust pass punch card, which my father and I couldn't find. A neighbor has offered to take us today if my father's obsession with upsy-downy tomato bags doesn't overtake us. The pie (which I didn't eat) took up so much of yesterday that we visited Mom as she was finishing dinner and was put to bed, a move that elicited a sound of pain so horrible I had to step into the hall to say Hail Marys, my fallback prayer for the worst moments of my life.

My father and I have begun to make phone calls to friends. Perhaps we sense The Time is coming. I don't know. He says only that he misses "Mommy," his ocasional phrase of enormous affection for my brother and my sake. I have no idea what I'm thinking any more except how sad I am. When I said goodbye last night, even her hands were tucked under her covers, like a child. I was crying -- I hit meltdown yesterday -- and said "I love you so much, Mom," to which she replied, "That's all that matters, isn't it?" Her question was partly wry. I know she wants more than words, more than visits, more than the photo albums I brought that caught her attention. I think she wants to be well and, more realistically, to be released from so much pain. She has crippling arthritis, not life threatening but much harder to live with than her pulminary condition.

And I think, like any scared child, she wanted Dad or me to get into bed and hold her, and warm her.

All I could tell Jim when we spoke later that night was to be prepared. He's coming down next Saturday. I don't like thethought of leaving my father, blind, on his own for four days again.

My food isn't perfect by a long shot. I wanted some wine more than I wanted pie, and I had 2 glasses diluted with water and ice. Jim laughed that it was a fair trade-off and I agree. Slightly lit, I proceeded to make my father bacon and eggs and ate the remainder of the eggs and a bolw of grapenuts, which I'd had for breakfast, the only other meal I had yesterday. That was a "good" food day for me. Actually, it's the best so far.

I keep tellling myself how many people -- you among them -- are pulling for me. This is life. I always say I want a life: well, this is what life is. Draining, bewildering, demanding, fractious, disoriented. I have to learn to BE in it, do what I can and not eat. And if I can do that, then someone else who is struggling and eating might have some hope they didn't feel before. It reads corny, for which I'm sorry. But for now, my livelihood is how I deal with my mouth and my body. I don't have the luxury of certain kinds of privacy.

So there are a few answers: I can't go swimming on my own; my brother isn't here sharing the pie; my father is simply more at ease knowing I'm here to find pie tins and pass on phone numbers; and I'm kind of a wreck.

Thanks to all -- love, fmk

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.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Beating Off the Black Beast

This was the weekend I was gonna do it. I was gonna go outside the Bat Cave, get on a subway, see things, do things. I even took Monday off with the idea of getting a Qi Dong massage after seeing my psychiatrist. While abstinence is never in the bag, it's time to start working on Phase II, which includes getting a life beyond Hicks Street.

Then, on Friday night, the phone rang. My brother called to tell me my mother had fallen and was in the cardiac care unit with a broken hip. Upon arrival, her blood pressure was extremely low, her electrolytes were doing jigs, she had water in her lungs again and her kidneys were close to failure. I got off the phone, made plane reservations and called my father to tell him I'd be there Tuesday. "Oh, you don't need to, honey: I just got off the phone with the orthopod and nothing is wrong."

So I called American, got a sympathetic agent who canceled everything at no charge and promptly started freaking out.

I got up Saturday in a nervous twist. I looked at the clock. I had to shower, dress up, go to a meeting and then up to Lincoln Center, then home to a dinner party. I began to gag. I was rooted to my chair. I couldn't move. I watched the clock tick past the meeting time. I did some major hoisting of boxes and clothes around and looked at the clock, now ticking toward the School of American Ballet workshop performance. I froze, unfroze long enough to take Daisy out, came back and went to bed with America's Next Top Model, which has now superseded Seinfeld for availability. All Tyra All the Time. I called my friends who were having the dinner party to tell them what was going on, straggled through the shower and, while I was dressing, called my brother. They had misspoken about her hip. It was fractured. There would be a surgery as soon as her vitals were back up.

I know that my mother could not survive surgery.

My friends are very, very close friends whose ministry is old people. I believe everyone has a ministry, whether you believe in God or not. Mine is Fat Ladies. Theirs is old people. It was a good place to be before I trudged home to wait out my brother's word on booking a flight.

I woke with a dimming headache on Sunday and went back to bed as Daisy ate her breakfast. I called the friend I was going to a dance performance with and begged off. By that afternoon, she was back to no fractured hip. She has a fractured pelvis. Jim and I decided I'd better get out there.

All of my neuroses about leaving the house had leapt up and I was starting to think the Black Beast was waiting in the hall. I was shaking and addle-pated. I couldn't leave to go to the store. All I wanted to do was stay in bed.

Somewhere in that miasma that Sunday became, I was sitting in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette and drinking instant coffee. I really needed to get to the store but I knew I couldn't. Some dishes had accumulated. I looked at them and knew I couldn't wash them. It was going to be bed for me again. I was very, very scared.

I got batshit at Mom and Dad's house. It's 100 degrees there, their pace is slow and needy, there is nothing to do. I eat. I eat all the time. I picked up my 90-day coin two weeks ago and had, Sunday, 106 days of abstinence and a loss of 41 pounds. What would I be in a week? I've worked SO hard this winter and spring, getting abstinent, writing, getting my depression into remission. I was facing a trap in which the only exit is sugar.

I decided to wash one dish. I washed all of them. I decided to brush my teeth. I decided to go to the store. I decided to put some stuff that sprayed out of my reorganization project away. I decided to take Daisy to play ball. We ran into Boomer and his owner and we had a good talk about what was going on. Daisy got her ya-ya's out.

I made my reservations.

Then I went to the Safeway website and ordered the food I need when I walk in the door on Wednesday night. And then, despite being a couple hundred dollars shy of paying in cash, I made my flight/hotel reservations for Prague in the first week of September. I need that trip to be real when I get to Arizona. I need those dates set in concrete so that no one expects me to be anywhere else. I need to hang on to the Frances I want to be in 91 days.

I went to bed late but made real coffee, washed my hair and saw my psychiatrist. Everything in New York seems to be a do-over. Chase could process some of my banking but I ended up having to finish it in Brooklyn where there is a WA-MU unit. I had only last night realized my passport expired earlier this year so I'd run out the application but needed photos. The photographer wasn't there so I had to go back. I had to go back to the bank, as well, because I hadn't left a comfortable margin in my checking account. Then I had to go to the post office and send off my passport, which they're saying is taking 4 - 6 weeks.

I'm kind of packed. I need to do laundry and my Psychology Today blog, but I need to put up a post here saying I'm still scared about Arizona. My father just made a comment about people we should notify and then said, oh not them unless she doesn't make it. I'm scared I'm losing my mom and I know she's in such terrific pain that she's starting to want to go. I respect that. But I want to be there -- THERE -- for both of them, and that means not having my head in a loaf of bread. I want to come back on the 10th being HERE, for me, for my nieces who are coming to NYC for the first time in mid-June, for the work I need to do -- get out of the Cave, start interacting with the real world -- in order to be THERE in Prague. And I need to be prepared for the wide trans-continental planes on which I may be between five people. Do-able if I don't lose it in the 10 days to come.

I'll post while I'm away -- that's part of my plan, as well as going to meetings (I wonder what a senior citizens' community eating disorder meeting is like?) and staying in touch with my sponsor. I'll trade the Black Beast off for the Red Beast if I have to and march around in a fury. But I hope I simply get through it and come back to my own ecstatic yellow dog who doesn't much care what I weigh.

Thanks for reading.