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Friday, June 17, 2011

Quantity time

A director I worked with once told me that when it comes to parenting, a parent should aim for quantity time, not quality time. He said quality time is something that's not planned it just happens. So if you spend as much time as you can with your kids, the real quality moments will happen when you least expect it. He spoke of elaborate family trips to parks, vacations, when the kids were often happiest just playing in the backyard.

I had to have routine blood work done today and with no babysitters, had to drag the girls. Two other men waited in the waiting room when we arrived with a third right behind us. I signed in and planned to keep Elena in the stroller because I didn't want her running around the waiting room. Elena struggled to get out. Eliza leaned in and kissed her.

"Mom, she really, really wants to come out," Eliza said, just in case I didn't notice that Elena was straining to get out of her three point harness. "Please, mom, can't we please take her out?"

I refused at first, but seeing that it might take a while, I decided to free her. Elena was elated, practically jumping out of the stroller. Once her feet were on the ground, Elena put her little hands on her hips and started doing her little knee bends.

"You're a dancer," a man seated across from us said.

"I'm a real dancer," Eliza said, rising into a releve. "I'm going to take hip hop this summer."
"Hip hop!" Elena echoed.

"You're not taking hip hop, I am," Eliza said, arabesquing. "She's too little to take dance class."

"You're a good dancer," the man said. "I have a niece who dances too."

Eliza and Elena joined hands and started dancing together. And then Elena started jumping. Two feet on and off the ground, real jumps.

"She's really jumping!" Eliza said, excited. "Before she couldn't do a real jump."
Elena giggled with glee. I watched her jump and realized Eliza may have been right. This may have been the first time Elena did real jumps. How did my daughter see things that I didn't even notice? How could a five-year-old be this observant, this proud?

"She's so cute!" Eliza said, cuddling her up. "You can jump now! Look at my baby!"

"That's a really good big sister," some man said as his name was called, just in case I wasn't aware of this. Believe me, I might be walking around in a fog half the time, but I know Eliza really is an extraordinary child.

This morning I told her I was very worried about Grandma, that we had a lot of not fun things to do and that I'd need her to be understanding and cooperative. And she was. She took Elena into the playroom and let me exercise. She let me make phone calls. She made the most of our time at the lab, a few other errands and then our trek to the hospital to pick mom up.

At the end of the day, Eliza thanked me for a wonderful day. She said her favorite part was when I went to give blood. It may have been the highlight of my day too. Now that school's out and beyond the Disney trip we don't have too many summertime plans, we will have plenty of quantity/quality time.

I don't really know how much time I have with my mother. In truth, none of us knows how much time we have with anyone. Elena is so attached to my mother, I want so much for my mom to be here long enough for Elena to remember her. There's no way of knowing how advanced my mother's cancer is until they do the surgery and if the surgery doesn't work, that's it. There's no other treatment. I think so much of why I'm so happy to be with my mother and my girls together is because my mother really loves me. C stopped loving me shortly after Eliza was born (I became competition) so the entire time I was with him, I never knew what it was like to just be a family without bitterly being viewed as a rival. With my mom, I get to feel like a real family.

My mother is a great person and now her eldest granddaughter is a great child. Everything that is great about my mother and her family, is in my daughter. I am so happy and so proud to be the primary caregiver of this child.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

not much

So my mother has cancer again but supposedly it's treatable. She has to have surgery and I don't think they'll know until they do the surgery how bad it is. So I'm not sure how treatable it is. It's better than what I thought when she went into the hospital. But it's still cancer, it still sucks.

And we're supposed to leave for Disney in six days. I don't want to go but don't see how I could deny Eliza her stupid fucking Disney trip.

Not really much else to say.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Waiting Game

So my sick mother had a CT scan a few days ago to determine the cause of her liver inflammation. The scan revealed a blockage in one kidney but not much else so an MRI and other tests have been ordered. Next week, she'll go into the hospital to try to get most of the tests done in a timely fashion.

I'm a bit of the agnostic type but as I knew some results were coming in yesterday afternoon, after I dropped off Eliza at school, I swung back around to a local church and took Elena inside. I expected an empty church and some quiet time to light a few candles and say my own prayers. Instead I walked in on a mass already in progress. I decided to stay through the mass which was mercifully brief because to say Elena is not well versed on church etiquette is putting it mildly.

I sat in the last pew so I could made a quick exit if necessary. Right behind me was a pedestal containing a basin of holy water. Elena apparently mistook the pedestal as a water fountain and when I let her disappear for a moment behind me, I was shocked to find that she'd somehow managed to climb the pedestal and was slurping holy water. Horrified (and yes, I'll admit it, entertained), I wrestled Elena away from the holy water. She exhibited her displeasure by screaming at full volume for about two minutes. The Priest continued to speak, a few heads turned, the elderly couple closest to me scowled but finally the screaming fit was replaced by Elena's enthusiastic imitation of my shushing, followed by her slapping at my legs, saying, "stop that shh, no shh." Hoping for quiet, I let her toddle to the pew in front of me and ignored her as she lay down and say, loud enough for people in the next county I'm sure, "Nappy nap!" I'm sure you can imagine the fun she had with the kneeler at the bottom of the pew. Finding a "fan" at the end of that pew, ie an elderly man who was charmed by her noisy antics and waved, Elena responded by running over to him and promptly hiking her dress high over her head to show off her tummy and bloomers. The man looked away, I imagine not sure of what to make of this mass-attending strip-tease.

But the mass ended swiftly, I had my quiet moments to say, well beg, what I needed to say. Later that day, I brought both girls to see my mother. They fell asleep in the car so I left them in there while I asked her what the results were. Finding that everything was still up in the air but that my mother seemed a bit stronger, I woke the girls one at a time and led them into the house. We had a lovely evening. Elena ran into the house saying "Gandma! Gandma!" She jumped into my mother's arms and all the weakness seemed to leave my mother. Eliza ran up to my mother's chair and draped herself across my mother's lap. I didn't know that Eliza had been worried but I saw it in that moment, saw the relief in her eyes as she nestled against my mom. We ordered a pizza and my mom managed to eat two slices. Then we headed out to Rita's for an ice, my mother's first non-medical outing in a month. My mother surprised me by getting out of the car to eat the ice at the table. Eliza was cold and headed back into the car, waving to us from the open window. Elena waved back, calling "Hi Sissy! Hi 'Yiza" when Eliza disappeared inside the car. Eliza poked her head out the girls seemed to have their own moment.

So we wait but for now, after that wonderful night, I have more hope than I had a few nights ago. I'm so lucky to still have my mom after all the health issues she's had and I try to cherish each good time as much as I can because I know, there's no guarantees here. I know that life is a finite thing, that death is something none of us escape. But that doesn't mean I'm in any way prepared to lose my mom.

So for now, we had last night. I hold onto that, the image of her seated at the table with me and Elena, happily eating her mango ice, while Eliza waved to us from the car.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Recital Day

Eliza's second recital was a wonder to behold. I think it's more of a special occasion to me than it is to my daughter at this point. It's certainly one of the highlights of the year. This year's recital was marred by my mother's absence. My mom is very sick and knowing she was too weak to attend her granddaughter's recital made the event very bittersweet. I tried to put on a game face for Eliza but all day I felt like crying. I know how much my mother wanted to see her in her costume, up on stage. I'm so worried about my mother right now but that's a whole other issue.

Eliza looked so beautiful in her costume. She was definitely much more into the experience of performing this year. She loves all of it, getting her hair "bunned," the makeup and then stepping into her gorgeous costume.

I thought I'd be depressed but once the lights came up on my girl, I felt nothing but joy and pride. There she was front and center, displaying a real grace and quality of movement. Not only did she know most of both dances, she smiled for much of them. The nerves and joylessness of the first year were gone and she seemed genuinely happy to be there.

As always, these days seem long when the recital drags on forever and my poor girl is tired, but then it's all over and that's it. I spent the entire afternoon with these girls today and now I probably won't see most of them again next year. So often in life, just when you're getting to know some one or something, it disappears.

But still, what a wonderful day. I happily look forward to next year.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just me

My mother has been sick for so long, to hear her say she's not feeling well has become background noise. She's had lyme disease, two rounds of cancer (stage one), heart disease and a brain tumor that kicked into high gear when I was very pregnant with kid#2. That brain tumor was excised, determined benign and seen as "highly curable."

That brain tumor prompted me to act. I moved out of a bad relationship, rented an apartment I had no idea how I'd pay for to be closer to her, and set out to raise two small children, then aged 3 and two months, on my own.

Except I wasn't on my own, I had my mother. She wasn't quite herself, I don't think too many people are after a craniotomy. But she managed to take care of my kids when I commuted into the city to work. Gradually the work increased and with the help of my father and my mother's invaluable next door neighbor Karinna, my girls were in good hands.

I worried about my mother's health, that taking care of my kids was risky, I was two hours away, what would happen if she dropped dead while taking care of my kids. But one job bled into another and she managed to make it through and everything seemed to be okay. When a job I thought might bring me back to NY didn't materialize, I was relieved. I was happy with our current status quo.

Except now my mother's sick again, the cause at this time still undetermined and I've never seen her this weak, this exhausted, this done with living. April started out just fine, with her taking care of my kids while I worked a pretty demanding job. By the end of April, she was almost incapacitated. She hasn't driven in over a month now and hasn't left her house except to see the doctor twice. She is jaundiced, exhausted, resigned. I could be wrong but I think my mother is dying. I know, we're all dying and who's to say that this is her time. Except just like that, she's lost her independence and I'm not sure that little thing is coming back.

There are so many other issues at play here--how do I get her out of the house without stepping over her and declaring her imcompetent, how can I afford an attorney to advise me on what's best for her, how the hell do I get seven years of bank paperwork in order for medicaid when my mother is a hoarder and extremely disorganized to boot? But beyond all the business end of things, I am watching my mother fade out right in front of my eyes and other than shuttling her to doctors and picking up her groceries, I am powerless.

People have said all along, how have I handled taking care of these two little girls on my own and the answer is so clear--I haven't been on my own. With my mother I've been less alone than I ever was with my daughter's father. Even post-brain tumor, she's been there for me. Because she's the only one besides my father who's looked out for me. While C might be there for our daughters, while he's a decent provider and he loves them, he has never, ever been there for me. My brother is autistic, my father's involvement is sporadic.

And now I look at the future with my girls and I see just me. I don't know how I'm supposed to do this.