Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Guilt, coping, flailing, neurosis

Two bad days in a row. Mom went to bed early on Sunday, trying to recover from her weekend with her mother. She had planned to hit the Y on Monday, but she wasn’t up to it at all. Brooke and I ran around town, stopping by a pharmacy and three different grocery stores. She would have liked to come with us, but she couldn’t. And truthfully, our errands would have taken twice the time they did if we had had to get her out of the car, to the door of the store, into a wheelchair or scooter (if there was one at all), wheel around after her, get through checkout, park the wheelchair or scooter, and help her back into the car. All on a federal holiday. It would have tired her and exhausted my patience, and I need as much patience as possible right now.

Monday evening, Paul and Hope needed Mom and Dad to look at a house they’re interested in bidding on, and in part, Mom was saving her energy for that. While they were gone, I went on a cleaning rampage and goaded Brooke into helping with some of it. My neuroses, however, are my problem, and it’s not her fault that I found it necessary to spend all of the two and a half hours they were gone cleaning.

Paul, Hope, and Hannah came down for dinner, so Brooke cooked a bit of meat for Dad and Paul. Paul assumed it was all for him and took two-thirds of it before Dad had a chance to notice. But I digress.

Mom went to bed early again, and Hannah and I woke her up in the morning. As Mom rolled over and opened her eyes, Hannah recognized her Grammy and lit up as only babies can—bright eyes, big smile, and a big hearty clap. Her Grammy beamed when she realized Hannah was with her. Having been given instructions to return in half an hour, we left her. Almost an hour later, I poked my head in again to wake her for her second bad day in a row. She was most certainly not well enough to go to the Y. In fact, she stayed in her pajamas all day. They called the doctor midday to see if she should go in, but Dr. L was in clinic in another city.

Fatigue, exhaustion, pain in her hips and right side, shortness of breath, and a severe accumulation of fluid in her abdomen. Her liver bulges out from under her ribcage, and there’s a prominent protuberance on the right where her largest tumor is.

So Tuesday afternoon, we went out to run a couple of errands for Mom and get some jeans for Brooke. Among the clearance racks, I found a lovely red, high-neck cashmere sweater.

For $22.

There was a second sweater in beige with a V-neck. Brooke looked a bit washed out in it, so I called Mom. Mom most certainly doesn’t care about looking washed out. She cares about being comfortable, and while she can’t wear a high-neck sweater to chemo, she can wear a V-neck. And that one was $22, too.

We spent an additional $60 that day. Brooke’s knees had gone through her last holeless pair of jeans, and she finally found a pair that fit at a reasonable price for its place of manufacture. Perhaps obviously, her purchase was far more necessary than mine. But it’s soft. I feel like I’m wrapped in cashmere. It’s a big, soft, relaxing sweater. I intend to get $22 of comfort out of this sweater, and that’s something that I need.

I’m trying really hard not to feel guilty about this.


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