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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.

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