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Some Irony Going on Here

Sometimes, the more things change,the more things stay the same.

I am so surprised at how fast things are happening in some ways. Three years ago: all three of my brothers seemed to be in decent health, even surprisingly so given their history of drinking, smoking, and using drugs. They were all OK, perhaps not great, but OK.

About two years ago, Dave, the oldest, had a heart attack. He had some arteries cleaned out and some stents put in. He continues to eat a horrendous diet but believes wrongly that he can live a normal life span with the arteries cleaned out and the stents in. His behavior is exactly the same today as thirty years ago. He has learned zero. This is the brother who provides alcohol to his underage son despite losing a daughter to a drunk driver. The maturing process simply never occurred.

Then there is the middle brother, Mike. He is dying of cancer. I am awaiting the call of his death. I saw a video of him taken by my dad a week ago. He looks unbelievably bad. He dropped out of the family decades ago and I don’t blame him one bit. He is very proud of his ability to legally grow marijuana. It is so funny because he had been doing so for decades. It’s just that the authorities don’t want to incarcerate him because he is pure liability. He could die in their custody and they could get sued. He is just not worth their time and energy. He is on disability and everyone is good with that. Why take away what little quality of life he has?

Then there is the youngest brother, Bob. (All of them are older than me and are the product of my mom’s first marriage, but my dad raised all of us.) His is the most interesting story. He was a major narcissist in his teens and twenties. Everything was about Bob. When he came to Michigan, everyone was expected to drop everything to entertain him. He got caught with cocaine in a speed trap my truck-driver dad warned him about. He and his first wife did a lot of drugs together. They were two peas in a pod. They had a daughter and lived near Mike in Illinois.

Bob gets caught with coke. He does some time and tries to get his life together. He marries a woman in Massachusetts. She is a horrible human being. Her family of origin wants nothing to do with her. Bob has a daughter and a son with her. Those children are grown now and want nothing to do with her. She stole her children’s college fund and the judge took a particularly dim view of that.

He divorces her and is suddenly thrust into the position of responsible single parent. He has major guilt of feeling like he abandoned his Illinois daughter. He pays a lot of alimony and doesn’t have two nickels to rub together and lives with the younger  daughter near Boston.

About six months ago, he had a medical incident where the artery between his spleen and liver was completely clogged. It turns out he has some weird blood clotting abnormality and had had a heart attack that he did not know about. He already had COPD. Last week, he found out he has cirrhosis of the liver, probably due to a lifetime of alcohol consumption and recently reduced blood supply to the liver.  He wants to live! Badly.

I have offered to give a chunk of my liver to him. I have no idea if I am a match or not. But, if it will give him a few more good years, it would be worth it. I am not married and have no children. Nobody depends on me.

Bob is coming to Michigan for the July fourth weekend at Dave’s place. When Bob said he could not have a beer, Dave was aghast. “Not even one beer?” “Nope. Not even one beer.” Dave’s priority is, apparently, beer. Are you freaking kidding me?

I would never offer a chunk of my liver to Dave because he is a practicing alcoholic. No doctor is going to give a transplant to someone that still drinks.

I can’t believe that Bob is the good guy now. Bob is learning and growing, albeit the hard way. I am always willing to support someone’s sobriety. I did it for thirty years for Barry. I know how to play this role.

My goal? To give Bob a few good years so he can see his grandchildren in Illinois. That daughter is married and seems to be extremely fertile. Barry’s grandchildren were everything to him. Bob’s younger children are in their twenties. The girl is a nurse and the boy is a cop in Everett, MA. They have no children. I would like Bob to live long enough to see Massachusetts grandkids.

Of course, I may not be a match.

And it is starting to dawn on my parents that I am likely to be the only one that lives long enough to inherit anything whatsoever. Me, the one with suicidal tendencies. There are simply too many levels of irony here to even count. All of this is so twisted.


Helper of a Helper

I am in an odd position. My good friend, L, has a cat. L’s dad has stage four cancer that went from his soft tissue to his lungs. L’s sisters, Lisa and Lori, went to Florida to get the dad and haul him and his wife back to Michigan. Lisa has two cats and a chihuahua. L has been pet sitting and living with the little beasts. But her own cat, Shyla, still needs tending. Enter Cindy. I have been spoiling my favorite dufus, visiting after work.

So I find myself functioning as what I think of as an “underneath support person.” Likely, the dad will never meet me.

My parents may attempt to visit my brother Mike, who has cancer, this week. They were going to go a couple weeks ago, but he was going to be hospitalized for a few days’ worth of treatment. My concern is for Ma. Mike has not really been part of the family for the past couple decades, which I do not blame him for at all. But how devastating must it be to see your own child dying? How could it be anything other than traumatic for her to see him? Perhaps she can complete something for him emotionally or spiritually.

What can I do? I have been trying to keep things normal for her. I have been going to my parents’ place on Sundays for dinner and to play games. I am doing it just to keep up normalcy for Ma. I don’t always feel like going there, but I’ll do it if it’ll help.

My philosophy: Do what I can for those I love, which may be quite limited. And, if I am pretty sure I cannot contribute anything positive, stay far, far away from the situation. Do no harm. Do good or get out.

We are the recipients of care we know nothing about.


Need to Find a New Way

I am stuck but curious. I feel like I have the inkling of a new direction but have no confidence.

Problem: absolutely everything seems to have negative (read: shameful, fearful, emotionally/physically painful) associations. I can’t go left or right, up or down, backwards/forwards. This has made life seriously not worth living.

But my mind is curious. I bought this book, Awake at the Bedside. It is fascinating. It is by a number of authors talking about end-of-life issues, some from a specifically Buddhist perspective. So far, it is talking a lot about “just being” by the dying person and palliative care.

My frustration with Barry’s death was that I was physically there for everything, but not mentally because I was told nine days before he died that hospice probably would not be needed for “months down the road.” I was watching him die and misinterpreting everything as something I would have to deal with for maybe the next year. OMG. When do I put him in a nursing home? When do I get more morphine for him? I was planning the next step and there was no next step. I was planning the next leg of a journey that was over. There is such a difference between being physically someplace and being there emotionally/mentally.

I don’t want anyone else to be as clueless as I was. I want to know the signs of death that I witnessed and misinterpreted. I want to be able to help other caregivers at least a little bit.

How on earth do I do this without inevitably triggering all my shame issues? I feel trapped in my head.

So Many Things Hard to Watch

My family is dysfunctional. Not evil or ill-intention-ed. But perhaps not all that bright.

First, there is my mom. Kind and sweet, just wanting everyone to get along. Her sons are in poor health. My brother Mike has cancer. My dad showed me a picture of Mike on his phone probably a month ago. I was aghast. Mike has these sunken eyes with huge dark circles around them. And he has a large lump slightly above and between his eyebrows. I seriously doubt he will survive the summer. Anyhow, I was talking about that picture and Ma acted surprised, like she had seen the picture and that I was simply mistaken. I told her to look at the picture as soon as Dad got back with the pizza. She did and acted like it was the first time she had seen the lump in the picture. WTF? I told her that I am not a doctor and cannot say conclusively that the lump is a tumor, but, whatever it is, it is not good. Barry had cancer. I know a little bit about tumors. The point is that a person cannot connect the dots if they are incapable of actually seeing the dots.

Then there is my niece’s giant baby. This baby is very happy–and obese. He is over a year old and has zero interest in so much as crawling. The term for this is “developmentally delayed.” He is falling further behind by the day. I love how content this boy is.We should all be as happy as he is. But they are setting him up for a life of ridicule and failure.  have never seen thighs so large on a baby.

Then there is my brother Dave. I always thought he was the smartest of the three brothers, but, if that is true, my family is in sad intellectual shape. He had a heart attack a couple years ago. He had a few arteries scraped out and now wrongly assumes that that gives him a new lease on life and that he can go back to eating  the high-saturated-fat diet he has consumed for years. And–drum roll–he still drinks and smokes cigars. He actually lit one in front of me. Don’t get me wrong: I am suicidal sometimes, but at least I am honest about it. He is committing suicide with every puff and swig and taking no responsibility for it.

None of this is the scary part. Dave’s son drinks alcohol at home and is not 21. That makes Dave and Celeste liable for anything their son does after he drinks. The boy attends MSU, a party school if ever there was one. Let me paint a picture. The boy has a beer. He is not drink by any definition. But he is driving to the local grocery store, someone runs out in front of him, the person is struck, and is injured or killed. The cops do a breathalyzer and he blows a .05. Not legally drunk, but, being under 21, it should be a .00. The victim’s family finds out about Dave and Celeste providing alcohol to someone underage and sue and win. That big house they live in–gone to pay the judgment and legal fees.

You say that is far-fetched and you would be right, except for one little detail: this is how Dave and Celeste got the big house they live in now. Their oldest daughter, Melissa, was killed by a drunk driver. The family of the drunk driver had money. Dave sued and won and that has provided the financial security they have today. Put the shoe on the other foot. The victim’s family could say, “This won’t bring our child back, but it will provide for the future. I’m digging into their deep pockets.” Dave and Celeste’s financial security could be gone in a heart beat.

I get so frustrated with my family because they never learn. It frightens the crap out of me. It is so painful to watch people grow older, but not any wiser, age but not mature.

I want to be there for Ma, but I’m not sure if I can be. I probably come off as a judgmental bitch, but I will not forsake common sense just to go along and get along. She is going to watch her kids die and it will devastate her. What can I say? What do you say when you watch your family make the same mistakes decade after decade after decade? This is why I stay away. I really am not interested in hurting anyone, but I am also not terribly interested in watching a completely preventable train wreck. My strategy in life has always been simple: when I see a train coming, I give one warning, and then I get my own ass off the tracks. But I gave up saying anything a long time ago. I mistakenly believed they were capable of learning and maturing. I try to learn from my mistakes. But part of that effort is to hang around other learning and growing people. And that clearly does not include my family of origin, no matter how much I wish it did.

Full Circle

How on earth did this happen?

Lately, I’ve seen the Time Life commercial about the CMA awards. The words that run through my head are Taylor Swift’s, “When you’re fifteen…”

I’ve been ridiculously depressed lately. It feels like it will last forever. I can’t hink of a way out. I feel trapped. It’s like absolutely everything in my life has a shameful or anger-inducing memory attached to it. Good lord. When did I last feel like this?

When I was fifteen. Back then, when I was suicidal, feeling pretty much like I do now, it was summertime and hot. I’ve been dreading summer for some unknown reason. Then it hit me: this is a rerun of 36 years ago.

What have I done in the last 36 years? Marriage, school, some work, responsibilities…So many dashed hopes and dreams… So much drama. Smoke and mirrors. Pomp and circumstance. Signifying nothing.

Religious activities. Coming back to atheism as my home. Believing in something, just not the god of the bible.

Was Barry even real? Twenty-nine years of  marriage and yet, somehow, without a divorce, I am single.

I went for a tarot card reading this week. It was fascinating. I am going to be  unpacking the meaning for the next year. One thing Dawne said was that I am about to be on an upswing. I hope this is not a 36-year cycle. I have no interest whatsoever in hanging around till I am 87. She told me to spend the next year just be-ing. She was very reassuring, which is the main take-away I had. That is enough for now.

Shaped by Death

I blog when I find a theme consistently hitting me over the head and the most recent one to do so is DEATH. I’m really not trying to be dramatic. I would love to avoid what’s happening. Oh well.

I have three brothers. The oldest one has had a heart attack, but had some arteries cleaned out and now falsely believes he can go back to eating whatever he wants while continuing to smoke and drink. He has learned nothing. The next oldest brother has cancer and his children have told my parents that he has one more treatment and then will be put on hospice. The youngest brother has some strange new clotting abnormality along with the COPD he has had for years.

First the oldest one had the heart attack and I assumed he would die first. Then the middle one got cancer and so I thought he might go first. Then the youngest went to the emergency room with a blocked artery between his spleen and liver and I thought he might go first.

This past Sunday was Easter. Ma wasn’t exactly feeling like celebrating. Who could blame her?

I don’t feel like killing myself right now, but I have decided to give myself the option later. I will attempt to purchase a gun in the next couple months. But I can’t imagine the kind of emotional mess Ma would be in if she lost a child or two or three all within a year. Perhaps I will wait until after she dies. Then my death would be a reunion with her and Barry.

I am the first one in my family to be widowed. I understand these end-of-life issues better than my family members. Looking at the picture of the middle brother, I am a little surprised he is still alive.

It is hard to contemplate what kind of future I want when everything is so iffy. Why is everything happening all at once?

My Frustration with Barry’s Death

The latest edition of Tricycle magazine has an article entitled “A Good Enough Death” that is really well-written. It shares the story of a guy with cancer that is cared for by his sisters and an ex-girlfriend.

The difference between this guy’s caretakers and myself was that I did not know I was watching the dying process. I was watching every sign and symptom and taking each and every occurrence as something I would have to deal with in the long-term. I did not understand the significance of what I was witnessing.

Nine days before Barry died, I had taken him to the doctor;s office. His behavior had changed radically in the previous month. I asked the physician’s assistant, “When do I call hospice?” She poo-pooed my question with, “That could be month’s from now.” She then enrolled Barry in a program for people that don’t qualify for hospice. I believed her and took her at her word.

He stopped eating that weekend. He didn’t have an extra ounce of fat on him, but I still thought he could live another couple of weeks. After the weekend, on Monday, I called the program and asked for someone to come out for an evaluation. They said they could send someone on Wednesday. He qualified for hospice on Wednesday, we got him onto hospice Thursday, and he was dead Friday.

The day he died, I was giving him morphine every hour. I called the hospice nurse because the home care worker said I needed to (due to the mottling on his feet) and because there was no way the morphine would last all weekend with me dosing him every hour. I needed a greater supply than the teeny container I had been given. The hospice nurse arrived and declared him dead within one minute of arrival. I may have given that last dose to a corpse.

Before the nurse arrived, I was wondering how and when to put him into a nursing home and how I would handle all the mental and physical breakdown I was witnessing. I didn’t think he would last six months, but I assumed he would survive the weekend.

I am so glad I told him I loved him and held his hand before the hospice nurse arrived. I even heard the death rattle and wondered if that’s what it was.

I was so clueless.

I was there for every little detail of Barry’s death, comprehending nothing. I did not understand the significance of anything I was witnessing. I don’t know if I was  fully present like I could have been.

The frustration comes from feeling misled. I was believing people that understood no more than I did, but spoke with the voice of authority. I accepted their assertions because I knew no better.

Being present is not a substitute for understanding what is occurring. I might have done things differently had I understood what was going on.

Is all of life like this? God knows I feel clueless much of the time. I continue to make plans. Are they meaningful on any level?

I have felt so stuck for so long. I don’t know what the cure is. I have believed such garbage in the past, especially religious rubbish. I now trust no one, including myself. I have been wrong. They have been wrong. We are all so painfully wrong. The only thing worse than not knowing is believing people who don’t know what they are talking about but pretend that they do. The emperor has no clothes. We are all naked.