March 03, 2008

How to Deal with the Dying?

I don't know, frankly. No one, NO ONE, has ever died "on me"! Sure, my old boyfriend such as he was, died about 5 years ago, but we hadn't been friends for many years and I had refused to see him for the last several because I feared his judgmental attitude and its effect on my low self esteem (I couldn't afford another bruising...). So while I cried when I heard he had gone into Hospice, it was mostly generic, crying out of shock, and lasted only a few seconds...I always cry when I hear about someone dying, even a stranger! I did not truly grieve when he died, nor did I find myself missing him. After all, I had not seen him in years nor scarcely thought about him, except to resent him.

But today, when I saw Lynn only a few days -- three -- after my last visit, and saw how much she had deteriorated in such a short time, I understood why the Hospice nurse has begun instructing the family as to the "signs" along the way...Oh god, I'm going to cry even as I write this because of course I am not family and do not have the benefit of the hospice comfort and help with this process. (There. I sucked it up and "forgot" about it...and won't cry, I won't cry if it kills me!) I only have Leila, who tries to be there for me as much as she can, telling me secondhand what the Hospice nurse tells them...I don't like to bother Leila too much. After all, Lynn is her sister, the second one to die in two years and the only one left...After Lynn goes she will be all alone. The thought must be very distressing, but for the knowledge that she has K, her 30-years and counting partner.

I know Leila worries about me, but I can't burden her, try not to cry too much in her presence...The problem is that I am terrified to cry alone. I am afraid I will disappear, self-destruct, implode if I do so, and so I do everything in my power not to even think about anything sad when I'm by myself. Hence the art projects and writing and doing anything but letting myself dwell on Lynn's imminent death. Even now, I am writing about it, but not truly , not emotionally thinking about it, lest I feel it and the impending loss, the impending -- what? It isn't the loss itself that makes me cry really. It isn't -- I dunno what it is! But at the moment I refuse to go there. It isn't safe. Not alone, not late at night, not here in my apartment with no one to call or turn to!

So I will write of Lynn, but objectively, with some distance from any emotion I might feel. That is the only way to do it, and it is habitual at this point. Anything else and I could put myself in danger.

Today, Lynn seemed both more distracted or less in touch, and more restless and agitated, both apparently steps in the dying process according to the little hospice booklet Leila let me borrow. She seemed disoriented a lot, and unable to get through an entire sentence without forgetting the last word, which seemed to be unutterably frustrating for her. She kept saying, I want to go ---- but couldn't say where, or , to her husband, "Cy, will you get me ---?" but didn't know then what she wanted. He on the other hand insisted on finishing her sentences with what he wanted her to need or want, which was almost always either food or him! Sometimes she would assent, obviously too tired to disagree, but at other times she would get annoyed and under her breath say something clearly in that vein. Once, I heard her say, "Cy you are a pain in the butt!" but he didn't hear her and said, "Did you say you wanted some ice cream, Bubbe?" Resigned, she turned back towards him and nodded...I felt bad for her, but couldn't say anything in sympathy, because Cy was still there, and I didn't want to interfere between them. After all, she loves him as much as he loves her, and they have danced their dance for 61 years. If she doesn't know him by now, and how to handle him, I certainly shouldn't ...But in fact, she knows him pretty well, and will do what she needs to when she needs to. Right now, she is dealing with her needs and with his as she can and wants to. I will not interfere, no one should and no one does, though we all think Cy, in his grief, is making it be all about his needs not about hers.

I dedicated WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS to Joe and to Lynn and Cy, and after writing acknowledgments all day yesterday, had 2 manuscripts spiral-bound with a cover I designed and printed out (just a makeshift one, but with a photo and title font etc). I made one for Cy and one for my father, who keeps saying he will not live to see my book published...Cy well may not, at 88, and his wife of 61 years dying. Dad has been saying he is going to die for 2 years now, yet he is still going strong. Of course, I don't want to contradict him now, lest I jinx things, which despite his predictions are going so well! And naturally, it's "just in case", too, since we do not know what 2008 will bring. But I hope that the bound ms is unnecessary in my father's case, and that in March 2009 I can hand him a real live book, so to speak, a published book of my poems, finally, 25 years after I wrote my first one.

Tomorrow is Karen's birthday. Instead of buying her a present, I offered to make her a cake, which she took me up on, since it spared her the expense of buying her usual chocolate mousse cake. I dunno how well it came out, though. The chocolate cake part may not be chocolate enough (though I followed the recipe fine) and it may be drier than she likes, though there is goo enough on both top and bottom to satisfy, that much I made sure of! It's a pudding cake, or is supposed to be, but it seems rather thin, one, and is made from cocoa rather than bakers chocolate, which doesn't bode well for the cake itself...Oh well, she said she'd take the risk and she'll have to deal with disappointment if my baking turns out to have been a bust! (Part of the problem is my new bakeware, nonstick but weirdly bigger than the usual standard pans and so sturdy they tell you to turn down the heat 25° from the one recommended! This means I have to adjust all the recipes by a half, and change the time I bake them as well...).

We are having her birthday party at Joe's of course. Which is fine with me, only I hope it doesn't go on too long as I don't do well with parties or with groups and there will be five of us! I dunno even who the other two will be, but I presume I'll have met them before at least once. Now, there will not be 5 chairs, no, and Karen will get one of them, naturally. She always does, pulling rank and saying she needs one, being "physically disabled"...So that means I will have to stand up the entire time. I will never get a chair, not with five people in the room. F-- me! Who am I to need a chair or want to sit down? F-- me altogether! Oh, god, I dread this completely. I may hand the cake to Karen tomorrow and beg off after all. I really do not see why I should go. It is not as if I'm going to be missed or even that I will be good company. I usually fight with Karen at her various parties, in fact. Because I do not want to be there, and because she ALWAYS makes me stand up the entire time because she and Gary "by right" get the chairs!

In fact, I think I will beg off. I can already feel a fight with Karen coming on, and I do not want to fight again, esp not in front of two other people, and I don't want to fight again at all. Joe is sick of it and I am sick of being treated like a second class citizen once more. I can't take it. I HATE visiting Joe with her! I HATE it! And unless it is absolutely necessary, I think I will refuse to do so. When we have to meet with T. L., about the speech generating device, I will go then. But not unless it is a matter of Joe's needing me. If it is only Karen's comfort and enjoyment we are talking about, well, F-- her. I will not do it. And she should be relieved, because it will be better for her, and she will have a better time without me there.

Do you know what else? She not only insists on having a chair, but when there is two chairs, she will take the only comfortable chair, even take it away from me if I am sitting in it. She claims it is "better for her back" but really it is simply padded and more comfortable and she wants it...So she gets it. And Joe will stand up for her not me, because he always does...But she is not working for him any longer so he doesn't need to, so why should he? Because he simply would take her side, I just know it. In fact, though, I need the padded chair more than she does. I have no padding on my back side, and she has way more than enough!!!!! I should say that to her. There is a perfectly good back on the folding chair, and any back is good enough back, but the folding chair hurts my pelvic bones and the decent chair does not. THat is what I will say to her, next time I am TOLD by her to give her the good chair....FFFFF------- her!!!!!!!

As you can see, I have not resolved my ambivalence and actual dislike of Karen, though in fact we "get along" okay at the moment, because I have not yet allowed myself to blow up at her. I also have not had to DO anything with her, or had much to DO with her. I do my thing and let her do hers, and if I talk to her, I keep it short and try to let it roll off my back when she says things that irk me. Or I try to tell her when she annoys me, rather than getting upset with her later and yelling at her later. That's a step in the right direction. But mostly I refuse to go places with her or do things with her...As for tomorrow, I KNEW she would insist on us taking my car to the hospital, as Gary and Karen ALWAYS do, making me spend all my money on gas and car expenses. So this time I parked in the distant lot, where they wouldn't see my car, and planned to tell them my car was in the shop...They couldn't know it was actually still there because they wouldn't see it in the usual lot. I just wanted them to have to take us in one of their cars for a change, even if it did mean they had to clear out a back seat for me (yes, I always have to sit in the back seat because Karen MUST have the front seat and Gary naturally as a male must too... are you beginning to get the picture? At the hotel at Lahey, it was the same thing: Karen got the bed and I got the cot...and it would ever be so. Why? Because Karen claimed that the cot was "too low" and she could not get up from it. But actually the cot was just a rollway bed and was just the same height as a bed...she simply wanted the comfort of a queen size bed, and didn't want to sleep in a single. Her comfort always comes first and she will do whatever it takes to secure the best for herself. F-- everyone else, and that meant including Joe.)

I think now you may be seeing part of what makes me so angry about Karen, her sense of personal entitlement and the way she simply grabs the best or asserts her disability in order to get it away from others, i.e. me. In fact, Josephine thinks she is neither so disabled or so helpless as she claims, only lazy and overweight, and that she could do much more than she does if she had to...She just does nothing because she gets away with it, and ditto the entitlement business re her "physical handicap." Arthritis? Since when has arthritis been so disabling that you need a handicapped sticker and are on complete and total disability, yet you walk without even a cane and drive and can get around everywhere. Maybe she can't climb stairs easily, though I think part of that is her weight and lack of exercise, and the force it places on her hips...She claims to have rheumatoid arthritis in her hands, yet she has NO deformities associated with RA, none at all, and when I couldn't cut up the rutabaga because I wasn't strong enough (she had said RA prevented her from doing so) lo and behold, she suddenly was quite capable of hacking it to pieces!

Argh! enough of this. I sound like a shrew, cutting HER to pieces. But I am sick of her, and her complaints and her entitled attitude and I will not go to her birthday party...She can have her cake and take it in HER car. I will see Joe alone on Friday...I would have seen him today, alas. But I was planning on seeing him Tuesday. Now I won't have seen him at all until then, but it can't be helped. In any event, I can't see him at all if I don't find some way to pay Josphine $25 for the ride, but I'm hoping someone will come through for that...Otherwise, I can't go even then. I simply do not have $25-$50/week to see him and I cannot drive that far on my own...What to do, what to do? I'd ask Lynnie, but she already pays for so much, or my parents do, and last month was SO expensive, with bills up the wazoo...I just don't know where the money for more rides is going to come from!

Enough is enough. And I'm tired and it is late, so forgive me if I don't proofread this for typos or infelicities of expression. Even Homer nods, and I ain't Homer, so what do you expect?

Posted by pamwagg at March 3, 2008 08:12 PM | TrackBack


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