Thursday morning, and I am about to head over to the West Bank to have my car serviced before I head to Kentucky.
Kentucky? Why are you driving to Kentucky when parades start tomorrow, Gregalicious?
I curate my life here on social media/blogs etc. I don’t talk about friends or family on here or my day job very often. I try not to be offensive, and I try to protect the privacy of my friends, family, and co-workers. Most of them never signed up for this (my writer friends did, kind of, but nevertheless I don’t talk about their personal lives or our friendships on here) and as a general rule, I try to keep my entries non-personal; I don’t write about Paul (he has specifically asked to be left off my social media other than in passing) or what’s going on with him or us on here. But while I generally like to protect everyone’s privacy–and I usually don’t like bleeding in public–I feel like I kind of have to mention this, even if it’s a violation of my family’s privacy.
My mother has been in poor health since Christmas of 2019, when she had a stroke. We almost lost her that time, and since then, she’s had several procedures and been to lots of doctors and had all kinds of things done; it’s hard to keep track because there has been so much. At one point–it’s hard to keep track–she was having chemotherapy because they’d found cancer; she also was suffering because one of her vertebrae had shattered, and eventually had to have surgery to have bone chips removed. The cancer was along her spine, and I think the shattered vertebrae had something to do with the cancer, but it’s hard to remember and hard to keep track, as it has been relatively relentless ever since, one thing after another. I’ve been watching her decline for the past few years, which has been difficult. For the rest of the family it’s been so gradual as to not be noticeable; for me, not seeing her all the day, it was always a shock to see how much she had changed since the last time I’d seen her, and I also knew, each visit, that this might be the last time I saw her.
So, I am heading up there today, with plans to drive back to New Orleans on Sunday. The situation may change, of course; I may not get there in time. I had debated, after getting the text from my sister, about waiting still longer, but as more time passed yesterday I finally realized that if she goes while you’re on the road, that’s one thing–but I think not getting there in time would be easier to live with if I had tried. So, I talked with my supervisor and left the office early yesterday. I came home to straighten up the house and do laundry and other mindless chores while I decided what to take with me and what audiobooks to listen to in the car (I’m going to finish The Lying Game on the way up there, and will listen to Carol Goodman’s The Stranger Behind You on the way back). Scooter, being an empath like all cats, knew something was wrong and kept insisting that I sit down so he could lay in my lap, sleeping and purring to make me feel better. It comes and goes; that’s the thing with grief–you never know when it’s going to sucker punch you again when you aren’t expecting it–and maybe the way I deal with it isn’t the most healthy. I prefer to grieve by myself, quietly; I don’t want sympathy and I don’t want pity and I don’t want everyone to comfort me because all that does is make me sadder and cry more. Talking about it is when I start choking up and getting teary-eyed; so I’d rather not talk about it. I like to process things alone, work it all out for myself. This is one of the reasons I despise funerals and avoid them as much as I can; putting your grief on display like that has always made me nervous and uncomfortable. I’ve never been good with attention–as I kept saying this past weekend in Alabama, “Praise makes me uncomfortable”–that also holds true for this kind of attention as well. We were always raised to be stoic in public–“never bleed in public”–which convinced me that grief is something private. Unfortunately, that has also translated into making me uncomfortable around other people’s grief; I am terrible when someone I care about loses someone they love. I never know what to say or do, and I always feel helpless because my natural instinct is to do whatever I can to make things easier for the people I love–but I can’t take away their grief and pain, so I feel like anything I do or say is futile and useless.
When my final grandparent died right after Hurricane Katrina, I remember heading up to Kentucky (it was Thanksgiving week) and once there, my dad saying to my mother, “Well, I guess we’re the old generation now.” It’s hard not to think about your own mortality when you are losing a parent; especially when you’re already in your sixties when you lose your first parent. (Ironically, I am almost the age my parents were when the last of my grandparents passed.)
And no matter how prepared you are for this (I’ve been steeling myself since December 2019, and it’s always been there in the back of my mind; every time I get a text message I tense up), it’s never an easy thing.
And I have twelve hours in the car to think about it, remember things from the mundane (oh, I’ll never have my mom’s dumplings again) to the painful (Dad is going to be a wreck) and of course, the ever popular what now?
But I know I’d rather tense up and worry when I get a text message than say goodbye.
Not sure when I’ll be back here, Constant Reader. Take care of yourself and give your loved ones a hug for me, okay?