Saturday, August 8, 2009

Responsibilities

I went to a viewing this past Tuesday. I went to pay my respects to my Aunt Connie. She wasn’t really my aunt; she was the ex-wife of one of my dad’s brothers. They divorced over 33 years ago, and had both remarried. I come from a very strict Catholic family; out of my dad’s 9 brothers and sisters, they were the only ones who ever divorced. All of my extended family lives in Indiana; we moved to Ohio when I was 11. My dad was transferred here for work. My Aunt Connie and her new husband were also transferred here with the same company. My cousin Lisa moved here to live with her mom and step-dad; her brother stayed in Indiana with their dad. Lisa and I are the same age. We went through 8 years of grade school together. We shared our high school graduation parties. She is little and blonde and beautiful and I have always been jealous of her. As adults, we rarely talk.

She and her mom were very close. It pained me to see the hurt and loss in her eyes at the funeral home. Her mom’s illness had come on very suddenly; she only lived for 7 weeks after her cancer diagnosis. Lisa and I hugged, and she kept telling me, “She looks so good. I can’t believe how good she looks!” I agreed with her that her mom did look very nice. She looked very peaceful. (I didn’t pay much attention to the outfit she was wearing, but it was later told to me that she and her husband were both wearing their wedding clothes. The very same wedding clothes they wore 30 years ago. It gives me goose bumps just to think about it.) Lisa said, “No seriously, you don’t understand. You have to look at this.” She took me to a photo album that was lying in front of a collage of memories of her mom. The pictures she showed me broke my heart. They were pictures of Lisa curled up in bed with her mom. They were facing each other and smiling. The love they have for each other was radiating from the pictures. These pictures were taken the last week of her mom’s life. She looked emaciated; nothing like the beautiful woman in the casket. I totally understood then what she meant.

I stood next to Lisa as she spoke with her mom’s co-workers and friends. My heart broke for Lisa even more when I overheard her tell people that her mom didn’t know she was going to die. Lisa explained that her mom told her step-dad that, if she was given a time limit, she didn’t want to know. They respected her wishes and didn’t tell her that the doctors sent her home to die; the chemotherapy wasn’t working and there was nothing more that could be done. She thought she was going in for chemotherapy on Monday. She didn’t live to see Monday; she died the Saturday before. Lisa said that the worst part of not telling her mom the truth was that there were so many things left unsaid. So many things she wanted to say to her, so many questions she wanted to ask. The sound of her saying that keeps echoing in my head.

I left the funeral home feeling uneasy. I could not stop thinking about my own mom. I love my mom dearly, but we are not close. I can’t imagine curling up in bed with my mom the way Lisa was with hers. That really bothers me. The only memory I have of any “special” time between my mom and I was during the summer when I was about 10 years old. It didn’t happen every night, but once a week or so I remember these times. My brothers and sister would all go to bed, and I would stay up with my mom until after the news and watch M*A*S*H with her. She would let me have a bottle of Pepsi and share potato chips out of a Tupperware container. I think of that every time M*A*S*H is on TV, or even mentioned. I think my mom still has that Tupperware container.

I can’t remember the last time my parents told me that they loved me. I can’t remember a time when we ever hugged, even as a child. I notice that I have a hard time showing affection to my own kids as they get older. I don’t want to continue on the same path and have my children write a similar blog post about me someday. I do spend a lot of time interacting with my kids, but I know that’s not enough.

My parent’s health is not the best. They are moving slower and slower. My mom has a pacemaker; they are both diabetic and have high blood pressure. I don’t even know how to broach the subject of their wishes with them. One time, I asked my mom why my dad was taking a certain medication, and her answer was, “Just keep your nose out of there. It’s none of your business.”

I think it should be my business. I am the oldest. I know that my siblings won’t be jumping in line to help out when the time comes to make decisions for our parents. I have no idea if they have a will, life insurance, burial plot preference or even in what state (Indiana or Ohio) they want to be laid to rest! Even if I did know what state, I still don’t know which cemetery.

Thinking about any of this makes me sick to my stomach, but what makes the sickest is that I don’t have that special bond with my mom.

11 comments:

  1. Love the look of your blog. I am very proud of you because you are a great Mom to your children. They know you love them and care for them. Your Mom knows this also it just can be hard. Just show love as you can.

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  2. Wow, this is a heavy post. I should have something brilliant to say here, but I don't.
    That never stops me.

    Your cousin's days, weeks, months are gonna suck for a while.
    But even if her mom knew she was dying there'd be questions that remain unanswered.

    We never have as much of our loved ones as we wish we could.
    Hindsight isn't really CLEAR. It's messed-up.

    Maybe this is an opportunity to re-establish ties with her (and maybe open doors with your mom.)

    Wow, this is a heavy post. Forgive my ramblings.

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  3. Aw, so sorry you left the viewing feeling badly. I am lucky to be very close to my parents, but know plenty of people with a stranged relationship. Good luck!

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  4. My heart goes out to you and Lisa. Every relationship is different and that's ok. If you're really down on it it's never too late to try and start a bond with a family member.

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  5. I hope that you are feeling a little better now.

    Best of luck~

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  6. Reading this post makes me wish that my parents were more of the "touchy feely" type. It's not like we are distant, but I don't think they have ever told me that they love me and even giving hugs are awkward. I'm raising my son the opposite--we tell him we love him daily (even though he doesn't understand yet) and give lots of hugs and kisses. Life is too short.

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  7. that makes me sad......... My mom has been gone for over 20 years and I miss her to death.

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  8. I fear that I won't be affectionate with my daughter when she's older too. I want to cuddle with her when she's a teen. I want her to be able to really talk to me. I keep my personal life from my dad. With my mom having Alzheimers it's like she is already gone. Someone else is in her body now. She recognizes me as someone familiar. But she has no idea I'm her daughter and she doesn't know my daughter as her granddaughter. And I live with my parents.

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  9. I am close to my mom now and with my dad but I have waited a long time for this. I am so so sorry this post just broke my heart for u and for lisa

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  10. Shelli, I totally get what you're saying. My mom and I are the same way as you and your mom. I can't recall a time ever hearing my mom say "I love you" to me or giving me a hug that felt truly genuine. When I read the part about your cousin having a pic of her and her mom cuddled up on the bed looking at each other, I felt a little shiver. I'll never share that with my mom. I wish I had but she'll never change and I just have to accept that. I wonder one day if I'll regret not making more of an effort to make things different between her and I but then again, she's the one who set the pace for how things are gonna be.

    The only thing we can do is pray that we have a much better relationship with our children. From all that I've read here, you sound like a wonderful mom....one who is close to her children and whose children can tell her anything and know they will not be judged or singled out. They know they have your unconditional love no matter what.

    I'm so sorry about your aunt. This was a heavy post but also very powerful.

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  11. Continue to try to have a better relationship with your mom. All you can do is try. Some parents just don't know how to express how they really feel.

    Hugs and Mocha,
    Stesha

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