Over the course of the last week or so, I’ve managed to largely avoid thinking about my mom. Part of me feels guilty for turning away from her in the final stages of her dying, but another part of me has needed the time to regain my strength for what lies ahead. By not calling Decatur as much it is easy to pretend that everything there is okay, by not calling Decatur I can focus on the chaos of my own life without adding the chaos of my mom’s impending death or my dad’s increasing sorrow.
In the past few days I have felt the focus of my emotions shift from my mother towards my father. I am painfully aware that his morale, energy, and general well-being has taken a large hit recently. As my mother descends through the layers of depression and paranoia that plague the terminally ill, the acts of love and kindness he performs for her subject him to an unbelievable difficult roller coaster of emotions.
Coming so soon after Michele’s death, accepting my mother’s death is more than I can take in all at once. Living six hours drive away has been a blessing in that I can’t always be there; I’ve been forced to spend time away from the situation, which has allowed me to take it in at a rate that won’t overwhelm me. I wish there was a way for my father to get the same kind of break, but I suspect that even if it were offered, he’d stay and stick it out.
Being here most of the time, and there only a few days at a time has allowed me to maintain a state of denial about this, when it is helpful to be in denial. I have been able to function (more or less) normally only by setting aside what I know to be the truth through denial. The truth always comes back, however, and those moments are difficult. When I realize that I haven’t been focused on my mom or my dad and I feel like I’ve done something wrong. Thankfully I can still hear Michele’s voice in my head telling me that I have to take care of me first before I can help anyone else.
Staying here this weekend is a part of this denial. I’m gambling that she’ll survive for another week, allowing me to see her again over the Memorial Day holiday. Staying here this week is vital to my mental and emotional health. Staying here this weekend is denying that my father needs companionship to lean on, and that I might not see my mom alive again.