Monday, January 21, 2013

Brain Detritus

I slept so hard again. Hours and hours and hours of it and I still feel half asleep. I dreamed I was on some small island and the whole thing seemed to be one street of commerce, the beach hidden from view and I rode a bicycle from shop to shop and wondered why I had wanted to visit there.
It did not, believe me, look like Cozumel.

Mr. Moon and my brothers were going to attend to Mother's business today but then they realized that today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day and so banks and offices are closed. So much for that plan.
It is beautiful and sunny and cool and tomorrow night it's supposed to get down in the twenties and I'll have to cover up the plants outside and today I need to water them. They are thirsty.

I drink coffee and I think about Owen and how you can be playing with him for four hours and he'll look at you and say, "What you want to do today?" as if you've just met up that very moment and are making your plans.
What you want to do today?
I don't know. Lay flat on the ground and think/not think. Feel/not feel. Boy I tell you what- I am going through the emotions like a hot knife through butter. Today is one week from the last time I saw my mother alive and conscious. I wrote about it and started out with these words: The visit with my mother did not go well. They so rarely do but this was on the horrible scale.
So of course I am thinking of that and how after an hour and a half I had to get out of there, had to flee, left her behind with that chugging oxygen machine, her nausea, her litany of complaints. She actually said this to me that day: "I am ready to die. Not that I think I'm going to see Jesus walk around the corner or anything."
Yay, Mom! No deathbed comings-to-Jesus for you!

But. Do I wish I could go back and make my words sweeter that day? Make my touch more comforting? Give more reassurance?
No. Not really. Can't see as how I could have changed much. I keep thinking that I should be feeling...something. What? Softer? More regret? Maybe. Not going to happen, I don't think. The grief and regret I may have is centered on two things.

One, the way she died which was one last example of my inability to make my mother happy in that her greatest fear was that she would die and be "brought back" which is exactly what happened and no, it's not my damn fault that her DNR form wasn't in her paperwork right there but I should have made sure it was. I just so strongly assumed it was, having spoken to every nurse in the joint about it and how she was ready to die and yes, was a DNR. I had TOLD them that and they understood. I could comfort myself and say that she was unconscious when they coded her but the nurse told me in that scrambled mess of phone calls at the very end that she had regained consciousness before the EMT's took her to the hospital so I can't believe that. If she WAS conscious when they were coding her she was pissed and it probably hurt like hell.
So. Yes. That makes me feel sick and horrible. We have spoken to the powers-that-be at the assisted living and they have already changed their protocol for the handling of DNR forms because of what happened but that doesn't help my mother one bit. And I'm not sure I'll ever get over that one.

Secondly, I grieve because I never did have the mother I wanted and needed. I don't know whether it was something that happened to her in her childhood or whether it was because the years in which I was young were so traumatic to her due to my father and the circumstances of that time or because I just wasn't the child she knew how to mother. I do not know.
But I do know I was a good little girl. I do know I loved my mother desperately.
And I do actually know when that love evolved into something far more jaded and realistic.

I keep going through her jewelry and thinking that there will be something that I'll find that I'll want to keep and wear but there just isn't. Anything that my stepfather gave her is immediately rejected. Okay, there is one pair of earrings that I gave her that I like and quite frankly, I don't remember that she ever wore them. I'd love my grandmother's pearls but I can't find them. I found my grandmother's slender wedding band and yes, I am wearing that and maybe Jessie would like it as a wedding band. I don't know. It just seems so damn sad that a daughter doesn't want one piece of her mother's jewelry after she dies. I mean, isn't that the way it should be? Instead, I just want these things out of here. I want the newspaper clippings out, I want the jewelry out, I don't even want the pictures.
When she moved into the assisted living we had to get rid of all the household items and so what we've got left here is just a few pieces of furniture and her clothes and the personal items. The concentrated remains of things, I guess.
The clothes are gone. Most of the furniture is back at her old house which we still haven't sold, and the personal items that no one else wanted are here. And I wish they weren't.

God. Mother's and my relationship was so odd. I moved away at a young age but then when Glen and I had been married for six years, his mother died and his father and my mother married and she moved here. He died shortly after and she stayed in Tallahassee. It was just so...weird. Suddenly my beloved father-in-law was my stepfather and my husband was my...stepbrother?
All I could think was, Will the incest never end?
And yet, when Glen's daddy died, I was sorrowful for her. What a terrible thing- she'd finally found and married a good man and then he died. My mother did not get the good breaks.

It's all so complicated and thus, my thoughts are complicated and my emotions are swooping and diving and whirling. No wonder I can't do more than one thing at a time. No wonder that when my husband couldn't find any clean socks this morning and we were out of milk that I cried. No wonder I don't want any of my mother's jewelry.

Well, I have said that I am not going to censure my feelings. As if I could. There is such a Hollywood-induced temptation to believe that I should now only feel and remember good things about my mother. To let all of the negative go. I think I'd have to be a zombie of some sort to do that.
And on top of everything else, there is just the plain fact that one somehow never believes that one's mother will die. Even if she has been telling you she wants to for most of your life. And yet, she did die and I was there when she took her last breath, my hand on her head, my other hand holding hers.
Which is a profound experience, no matter what. I think I was, on some level, completely aware that her time had come even though the nurses seemed to think that if we just got her pain meds figured out and her nausea figured out, she'd get better.
My gut knew the truth. Maybe because I am her daughter.
No matter what, I am indeed her daughter.

I think I'll go do the laundry. I think I'll go water the plants. I think I'll go put all of Mother's things in one place that I don't have to look at then every time I walk through the house. I want the comfort of my old funky junk, my gathered treasures, my camellias and madonnas and mermaids. And then watch our president get sworn in again which is something that I know my mother would have loved seeing.

It's complicated. And that's not just a movie title or a Facebook status. It's just the fucking truth.


  1. Thinking about the way things should have been or could have been will drive you nuts. It just is what it is. You did the absolute best you could and more than many could have brought themselves to do, all considered. I'm glad you are letting it all out, and I hope you are still being gentle with yourself as well. I can only imagine that the complicatedness of the situation makes it even harder to process!

  2. One of the many reasons I think I love reading your blog is that you are true to yourself. I am like that too and when I see others that don't sugar-coat things and that admit and accept what they are feeling, I appreciate it. Your relationship with your mom was not a storybook one, and you don't need to pretend that it was. I am glad you respect yourself enough to know that it is ok that you aren't sugar-coating it.

    I hate that you have the DNR guilt. And I say as I did before, I am glad though that it meant your mom had you with her. Holding her hand. It is complicated, but that last moment with her is not.

  3. for what it's worth, i don't think it counts as incest because you married your husband before your mother married his father.

    thinking of you on this cold january day.


  4. Ms. Moon, you are a woman with so much love and such a tender heart. You gave that so freely to your mother. And yes, it is so fucking complicated.

    I think the regret (and for me, guilt!) is so normal. I have often written about the absolution that I am waiting for regarding my mom's death that has not yet come. I regret so much and it is still ripping away at my spirit. Seriously, I can physically feel it as I write this. And that all said, I had an awesome relationship with my mom. But as I think on that I do believe that when someone dies there is a greater love that is bigger than anyone can fathom. Whether it is a God or the Universe or just a release I do believe that all things that we may have done or not done are forgiven with this great love. I can almost audibly hear that people that I have known in my life say to me, "Oh, Barbara. That is all done now. It doesn't matter." It doesn't matter to them anymore. It still matters to the ones still living though. My point is, the things we carry around as regret are forgiven. It is just a process of us getting to the point of feeling it and knowing it is done. That book has been put on the shelf. When you figure out how to do it let me know...

    I wish I could bring over comfort food for you and your family to eat and help you carry your grief.

  5. I'm with Jill. You speak the truth, and you are your truth. When I read your words, I leave feeling more real.

  6. I love the truth you have honored here, and I think rosy thinking, rosy words do everyone more harm than good. Even the deceased they are so often directed at.

    My relationship with my grandmother was rather fraught. When she died, I took a few things of hers into my home. Their presence unnerved me and I've since passed them all on.

    I think honoring and observing every emotion as they come and go is the only way to get through it.

  7. I love how you are working through it all and able to express it with such clarity despite the many, many complications. And I feel honored to be able to journey with you through your blog. As I deal with my relationship with my own mother while she is ill, reading your words helps me reflect on my own feelings as well. I agree with everyone who has mentioned how real you are. That keeps me coming here also. Be strong Ms. Moon.

  8. Yes, death makes us reevaluate all sorts of stuff and for me it is largely unpleasant and uncomfortable. I hope you catch a good wave and ride it through this with the least amount of turbulence possible. That is my wish.

    But know that I am here if you want or need someone outside the immediate circle to let loose on. It would probably do me good too to feel like I was of some use right now.

    Try to stay gentle with you.
    Love you.

  9. I kept a lot of my mother's things. My wife has her jewelry and that includes the old pearls from long ago and my grandmother's wedding broach that is just wonderful. My wife wore that at our wedding. I have lots of regrets too, but I don't dwell too much there. It is nothing that I can undo. It's healthy to process all the feelings, regurgitate them. And then eventually, I think that things will ease up in your head. Take care and know that most of us understand the conflicting feelings. I know that I do.

  10. That is something that your mother married your father in law after you were married to Mr. Moon. How did you feel about that? That means she was Mr. Moon's Step Mother too.

    Thank you for sharing all your thoughts here. Life is so friggin' complicated isn't it?

    Peace to you. S. Jo

  11. It's becoming quite a cliche here in our unique bloggworld, but "you just can't make that shit up" is what I thought as I read your words. I thought, too, about how much I treasure you and your insight, your observations, your humor and your sorrow.

  12. There wasn't anything you could have done about the DNR. Not your call. You did the best you could, and you did well - and you caretook for your mother for long, long enough.

    And now... it doesn't matter.

    My friend who had three near death experiences (Leukemia and a brain tumour) remembers floating out of her body three times, watching her collected family grouped around her body - and said that nothing is the same as you are in that place - emotions are gone. We don't care in the way we do when we are alive. No grudges, no resentment or bitterness or any of that ... human chemical stuff.

    Chances are your mother was also beyond blame and anguish at that stage. And she got to go. She did it.

    I'd like to say my own similar worries faded fast, but the truth is, they didn't. Maybe because I didn't let them? I don't know. I do know my mother would have hated the way I held onto the trauma of her passing - I've no idea how yours would feel about that. And I can't be hypocritical and tell you not to feel it all. So... I know what you're going through now. I can see, though, that you did fine, and there really wasn't any way you could have done it better.

  13. I'm listening to all of this and thinking, the honesty is the thing that keeps you well. xo

  14. I understand exactly what you are feeling in some small way. I was with my mother when she died whilst I was aged just 16. Rarely does a day pass when I don't think about whether I could have done something differently - acted quicker, said something, made her feel something. In reality I know that's just silly talk but what your mind says and what logic dictates are two completely different things. All we cab really be sure of is the love that radiates behind it - nothing can change that.

  15. so many memories. i guess you have to ride the waves of them to get to the peace. it's going to take the time it takes and that's all there is to it but i am sure it goes better when we don't sugar coat what's real and true even if it makes you curl into a ball and cry.

    crying is underrated. hugs, dear mary.


  16. It IS complicated, I'm sure. I can completely understand about not wanting the stuff. I can't imagine wanting anything from my mom's house when she dies, except maybe photos.


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