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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Volcanic Eruptions

The sunshine is full and warm, streaming through winter-speckled windows. It is one of the first real spring days we've had in a while and I nearly feel guilty for not stepping out, but fatigue weighs me down.  No Workout Wednesday today. I was too afraid to be cut off from the ring of the phone even though I've never missed a call with earbuds plugged in.

My sister seems to be near her end. But this is my sister, so nobody, not even doctors well-rehearsed in such matters, is willing to make predictions about her.  We've all come to see her as immortal, having survived so much over the decades of ill-health.  She always pulls through. I am reminded of the birthday card I bought this year for my husband that held a large button pinned to the inside. It declared: "I've survived damn near everything". I made him wear it all day.

But this seems grave this time.  Not that it hasn't been before but this is the first time she has retreated this far.  She has been unconscious since yesterday afternoon after suffering a series of violent seizures and, some are guessing, a stroke or two which might be the cause of the seizures. Or, they speculate, maybe she is suffering the effects of the abrupt withdrawal of an anti-depressant she's been on for a few years. She has been on IV for over a week - no food - after something left her incapable of swallowing.  But we've seen all this before, just not this severe and not with the loss of consciousness. She seems to be in a state of constant seizure, rigid and unresponsive, a life-threatening condition called status epilepticus, I believe

My niece is keeping me well informed during a nearly constant, solitary vigil at her mother's bedside.  She sounds strong.  She's coping well, it seems, but then she has had years of practice.  Her mother first fell seriously ill two weeks after her birth.  She is hesitant to declare it is nearly the end but she is bracing herself.  We all are.  How is it after years of preparation for this possible day of departure, we are still not ready?  At least, I am not.  Sadness bubbles up like hot lava all day long.

Last week, when we heard Ann was back in hospital, I momentarily entertained the thought of a hasty trip to see my sister in Vancouver.  One of our daughters was to come home for the weekend. I could leave Saturday morning, be back on Monday when she had to return to her new home. Two nights of looking after Dad.  I even went so far as checking flights and hotels, not really thinking this could actually come to pass. Yet I was feeling daring after, two weeks earlier, I had ventured out for my first successful evening of entertainment in a year and a half, with my very competent caregiver in charge for the six hour break. She was to feed Michael his supper, spend the evening watching a televised hockey game, then put him to bed, the first time ever someone but me would deal with that task. All went smoothly. It helped, I think, that I gave Michael no warning of this plan until the caregiver walked through the door. He seemed calm with the news that I was going out, except for a sudden concern about money and a momentary flash of panic in his eyes that seemed to ask if I was leaving him. I stuffed a twenty dollar bill into his wallet and went out to dine and chat with an old friend. I felt buoyed and confident this could be repeated soon.

But a weekend away could not be sprung upon him at the last moment.  Packing and preparation would tip him off, so I mentioned my wish to go. Immediate fear crossed his face, his silent panic quickly cancelling such a crazy idea. I reassured him I would not go and he seemed to forget about it instantly. I could not leave my daughter alone to cope with the insanity that would most likely befall her father shortly after my departure.  I know my husband too well to subject her to that.

My nerves are raw, intensified as well by unaccustomed disharmony in my family.  An angry and hurt offspring broods silently from afar, scorched by rare but misspoken, judging words from me over a painful personal issue. My apology hangs uselessly between us.  The imposed internet and telephone moratorium shrieks at me through the ether. I am chastened and destabilized.  Michael seems to know that this, more than all the rest of life's issues right now, threatens to unhinge me. There are frequent anxious glances in my direction.

I must be careful to rein in my own anxiety or we will be plunging into our own crisis again.  Two this week are quite enough.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog and I commend you for how strong of a person you are. When you were talking about your sister being sick and her daughter having years of practice taking care of her, it brought me back to a point in my life were that was my role with my mother who recently passed away from cancer.As a fellow caregiver myself,I think its crucial that you take the time to get out and have some YOU time. I think this blog is a great thing that you're doing, in that it can relate to so many different people. Thank you for sharing!