Monday, June 23, 2008

The same, but oh, so different...

When I started writing about my husband's father, and his health issues, I was struck by the similarities between my mother's illness, and our current situation. It was so difficult, in the very beginning, for me to differentiate between the two. The stress level was unbelievable, and I felt myself traveling back through time so often that it almost seemed like I was helping to take care of my mom again.

Every time I looked at Husband's dad, I saw her. When he began walking with that shuffling gait so common to brain cancer patients, it was HER arm I held; when it came time to give him his 7:00 p.m. medicine, it was HER mouth into which I poured a handful of pills; when he could not find the right words and became frustrated at his lack of communication, it was HER to whom I whispered words of encouragement...

Now, however, I am struck anew by the differences I see...

My husband's father is not a patient man. He is a man with a short fuse, and having cancer and knowing that he is going to die has only made it worse. He lashes out at anyone, at everyone, and stays in a deep depression from which we cannot seem to pull him. The tension in this family is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Somehow, and I can only hope this will continue for me, I have been able to separate myself from most of the worst of it. I've been lucky enough to be able to smile, to be cheerful, to offer whatever help I can, and to let the harsh words he spews slip away from me without acknowledging them.

I am not a patient woman... I myself am quick to anger, and tend to fall into a helpless funk when things don't go my way. So you can imagine how wonderful it feels to be able to retain a sense of calm in this growing storm. As things get worse, as everyone is nipping at everyone else's heels, I have been able to stand aside, and keep my feelings to myself...

But oh, how I see so many differences...

My husband's dad gets up every morning saying, "Today is the day I am going to die. I'm going to die today." My mother, right up until she lost her ability to speak would often say, "God can heal me if he wants to... if he doesn't, I'm ready."

My husband's dad rescinded his DNR (Do not resuscitate) orders at the hospital, saying "If there's a chance I can have one more day to live, I want to be hooked up to life support." Every time he gets dizzy, weak, or overly tired, he says, "Take me to the hospital. I think I'm going to die today." My mother said, "I want to be here, at home, with my family. Don't take me to a hospital, please."

My husband's dad refuses to eat, saying "I don't like any of this. I'm not hungry. I'm going to die anyway, just let me die." My mother ate whatever we put in front of her, until she could not chew and swallow, and at that point, she dutifully opened her mouth each time we came at her with a straw, a spoon, and finally, a medicine dropper."

My husband's dad complains of each pain, cries with his fears, hangs on to my husband's mother, telling her he doesn't want to leave her. My mother, to the best of my recollection, NEVER complained, not even ONE time. I only saw her cry once. She told us many times that if God was ready for HER, she was ready for HIM.

My husband's dad is petulant, verbally abusive, and filled with self pity. My mother had dignity, and grace, and was absolutely the bravest person I've ever, EVER known.

I am not trying to say, "Oh how my mother was so much better than your dad," to my husband. I am sorry for him with my whole heart, and if I knew some way that I could ease his torture, I would do so in a New York minute. I cannot imagine how it feels to KNOW you have not long to live. I cannot imagine how it feels to not be able to SAY the things that your brain is thinking. To walk with a steady gate. To have to have someone else bathe you. I doubt I would have more courage then he does. I doubt that I could handle it any better.

But SHE is the standard to which I hope to measure up. She had the faith, the grace, the courage and the dignity, and she had it in spades. My mother was a class act...

3 comments:

Bina said...

I hope when my time comes I can be as brave and ready as your mother. What a wonderful woman she must have been.

And I feel sorry for the hubby's dad. He doesn't have to live the last days of his life being miserable. Now is the time he should be thankful for what he had; what he HAS, and stop being so hateful. I damn sure wouldn't want to die that way, thinking that other people saying "God, she was SUCH a bitch! Thank God she is gone!"

Yea, your mother was certainly a class act.

Burfica said...

Not to sound mean and point out the obvious, but seeing how he's acting, it's no wonder your husband turned out the way he did.

I'm sorry for anyone hurting losing a parent that they truly love. After going through the pain myself, it's agonizing, and I wish people didn't have to go through loss like that.

Sleeping Mommy said...

I'm sorry this has been so hard, but it's good that you have perspective and can see the differences.