It is the last day of an incredibly difficult year. When I started this blog, I had no idea what this year would hold for me. I anticipated a year of challenge with work – and it has been that – and I hoped for a year of growth with my art.
When I look back on 2011, I think I will remember it as the year that I finally had to Grow Up.
My mother’s health took a serious down-turn in May. She went in for what we thought would be a straight-forward knee replacement. Four days after that surgery, she had a heart attack and nearly died.
I have been called home at least four times since then, each time sure that death was imminent.
During the crisis in May, Honey’s sister was scheduled to be married on the other side of our home state. We spent days crisscrossing that state, trying to meet the obligations of both families. Trying to remember Life even in Death’s shadow.
I spent the summer and fall calling every day for updates, and dreaded the ringing of my phone.
My poor Mother’s body has endured so much this year.
Earlier this month, I received a phone call from my aunt telling me that Mama’s kidneys are failing her, and that she is not a candidate for dialysis. The diagnosis at the time made it sound like we might be talking a matter of days. No more than a few weeks.
So I went home early for Christmas. I am so fortunate that I have a job that allows me to take work with me, and bosses who understood that I had to put my mother first. I am blessed that Honey’s bosses were equally understanding.
We spent two weeks caring for my mother, first in the hospital, and then at home. After talking with doctors and specialists, it became clear that dialysis might not be necessary, and would certainly not prolong her life either way. We elected to take her home under Hospice care. We decorated for Christmas. We counted the sodium in her food and limited her liquids. She became stronger and her spirits improved. I fell even more in love with Honey than I have been. She is a better daughter-in-law than anyone could ever imagine having, and a better spouse than I could have dreamed of. She was as tender with my mother as I was, and kept better humor. It made my heart clench in all the best ways, to hear them laughing together. I did not take that sound or that moment for granted.
I dealt with my father’s grief and denial as best I could. He is doing the best he can, which unfortunately is not always enough. I try to remind my aunt, who is carrying a great deal of the burden involved in keeping their lives going, that he is trying.
I have become the adult in my family. Roles have reversed in so many ways. My mind reels with this.
There are times when I realize that the moment I am in is a poem, and that I should write it. Sometimes, the wound is too fresh. More often than not, my hands have been too occupied with washing my mother’s skin, or her dishes, or helping her stand up.
But yes, there is so much poetry in all of this.
I dread this new year as I have never dreaded one before. It is hard for me to anticipate it as anything less than a harder year than this one has been. And yet, I have to look up and out in order to keep going. I must keep going.
So as I enter this new year, as I leave this old year, I have some very simple hopes. I hope that my Mama continues to strengthen, and will be able to have some enjoyment and happiness in the time she has left. I hope that she has more time than we fear she does. I hope that my Daddy learns to find patience and fortitude, and that he doesn’t give up. I hope that I will have the strength to do this – all of this. I hope that I can keep some of the plates of my normal life spinning. And I hope to continue to see the poetry, and to find a few moments to write it down.
May we all find the simple blessings that wait for us, and see the beauty in the pain as well as the joy.
Happy New Year.