Friday, January 21, 2011

a story, part two

for a couple of weeks before leaving for new york, mom had been having a bit of a problem with her vision. she said it was like a small smudge on her eye, this one blurry greyish spot. but she could move her head or tilt it and see around it, those were her words. "i can see around it". she said she'd go to the eye doctor in new york, it was probably just stress.

mom was getting what appeared to be panic attacks. she was really nervous about starting the new job sometimes. she'd get a bit out of breath and get this spot of pain in her back. i'd help her calm down, we'd breathe together (since i'm practically the queen of panic attacks) and it would pass. she even said she could tell when she was getting upset - that spot in her upper back would start to hurt. it was probably just stress.

now we know better. it was cancer, cancer everywhere. in her lung, causing the pain in her back and shortness of breath. in her brain, causing the vision spot that would eventually result in a total loss of vision - less than a month after we had this conversation.

a fucking month.

mom's new job in new york started november 15th, so we booked her ticket the 13th. on the 12th a couple of friends came by to say goodbye and wish her luck. she went to bed early and we dropped her off at the airport. i spent the day with a good friend and then at epcot, hoarding all the bunratty meade that was left at the food & wine festival.

mom started her job on the 15th. everyone seemed nice. i spoke to her monday and tuesday. she hated the bus - hated taking it. hated the walk. we discussed alternatives. she was tired though - we had short conversations. on the 17th she went to the eye doctor - like we had discussed. my brother and sisterfromanothermister took her. the eye doctor kept her there forever, finally telling her to get an mri asap. mom was hysterical. we tried to be calm and to keep her calm. i talked to her on the 18th and mom seemed better. there wasn't anything that we could do now - just have to suck it up and get the mri. she was worried because she didn't have insurance, wanted to wait 22 more days for it to kick in. we wouldn't let her. i didn't talk to her on the 19th, that friday.

i got in touch with her saturday the 20th. she didn't pick up her phone, didn't call me back. finally i got an email from her saying 'call me now'. so i did.

mom was hysterical. she had fallen getting off the bus friday night. she couldn't see to dial the phone. she was afraid to cross the street because she couldn't see the cars. the difference from 7pm thursday night to 4pm saturday afternoon was terrifying. i consulted with my brother and awesome husband.  i asked mom what she wanted to do.  she said she wouldn't make a decision - she'd do whatever we told her to.  i think she was scared:  56, re-entering the job market, sleeping on  your ex-husband's couch, taking the bus to work - starting over.  and now this? 

"what do you want me to do?" mom kept asking me.  she was scared: mom didn't have insurance yet.  how would we pay for it?  "it's not like they make you write a check on your way out of the ER, mom" i told her.  "we'll do what we have to do - we would rather lose the house and have you". 

we tried to call my dad, who was out on official revbobdad business.  sisterfromanothermister got wind of what was going on through text and was immediately granted an early release from work.  she and my brother ended up getting to my dad's the same time dad did, and they all trooped off to the emergency room together.  by the time they got on the way, it was after 7:30pm.  awesome husband and i tucked into some drinks and got on youtube to watch funny videos.  nothing to do but wait it out, right?  we figured worst case scenario, we had caught a stroke in time.  awesome husband's mother had a minor stroke and had similar vision issues right before it happened.  best case scenario, mom was super stressed out and it was manifesting physically.  either way - we'd know.  mom would know.  she'd know what it was and how to take care of it and that alone would help her feel better.

around 8:30 i got an update from my brother: they had gone through triage, he went in with mom.  he asked if i knew she had been spotting - i had, and was glad she mentioned it to the triage nurse.  mom had gone through menopause like 7 years before (and i hope to whatever gods are out there that i have as easy of a time as she did with menopause) so the spotting thing was kind of strange.  we joked about it before she left - "your uterus is probably just flushing the dust out" i told her.  she agreed. 

but her vitals were fine.  everything was fine... except she couldn't fucking see enough to type or use the phone or walk across the street.  i told my brother to keep me informed and let me know.

i think i got a text somewhere about an xray?  cat scan?  something like that.  i was unperturbed - that's par for the course if mom's having trouble seeing.  we had a few more drinks, and around 11:00 we went to bed.  i put on venture brothers season 4.  there's nothing on television late night saturday.  adult swim goes all japanime.

it hasn't left the dvd player in my bedroom since.

less than two hours later, my life was about to change forever.  i had no idea, punching awesome husband in the arm and telling him to roll the fuck over and stop snoring.  fast forwarding through the first episode on venture bros. season 4 because i always stayed up for that one and fell asleep during the second.  it's like every moment of that night ended up being etched into my memory.  i mean, youtube.  that fucking bed intruder song?  the guys who did that have a whole load of songs like that.  we watched most of them.  and got sucked into the youtube vortex where you keep clicking and clicking and drinking and drinking.  i was dirnking pineapple smirnoff ice.  sounds horrible, i know, but it's like candy, i can't help it.  like crack candy. 

this was probably the last night i was 'steph gas'.  i am, by nature, a planner.  but all i do now is plan, make lists in my head, look at the sorted piles of mom-related things.  it's like i have this picture:  here you are, fat and happy, drinking horrible drinks and laughing at youtube vidoes with awesome husband.  here you are, enjoying a stupid, simple moment of your life, snuggling with awesome husband on the couch singing along to the fucking bed intruder song.  here you are, visions of moving to new york dancing in your head.  already started holiday shopping.  going to wake up a bit earlier than normal tomorrow to go see harry potter 7a.  thinking about going to olive garden afterwards for their soup and salad lunch. 

here you are, living your life the way you've been living it.  trying to go according to a loose plan.  drinking on a saturday night, getting ready for the holidays - the last ones you'll spend in florida - and planning your move back to new york.

here you are, you are here.

until the fucking map gets torn out of your hand. be continued.


  1. It's hard to tell by the way you have written it, but I hope that you don't feel guilty about your drinking and youtube funning that night.

    Life was normal. Seemed normal.

    Who would have honestly anticipated (my general understanding) of what comes next?

    I hope you did enjoy yourself that night, steph, 'cause things are so not fun now. You deserve the happy moments, too.

  2. wow, this is so sad. it is hard to read as i love my mom so much and she is sick and I have to try to contemplate a time when i will have to live without her. I am anxious to read the rest though. i would give you a big hug if i could.

  3. Steph, you did the only thing you knew how to do, just keep it normal. Would it have made any difference if you'd sat there wringing your hands? No, nothing would have changed except that you wouldn't have had those last moments of 'normal' before the world plunged itself without warning into chaos. I really hope you aren't having guilt. Your mom wouldn't have wanted it for you.