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Never Enough
Never Enough—I slept on the floor of the hospital so my father coule go home. (Mouse Over)

Dear Kim,

I arrived in California Monday night and now I am wondering what the hell I am doing here and what I am supposed to be doing.

I am very worried about my mother who is in Chicago.

My sister Laurel learned that my mother had a 104.5 temperature Saturday and insisted that she go to the emergency room. Laurel couldn’t take her there because she is still having chemo. So our friend Jan went with my father and mother to the hospital where she was admitted late that night.

I had just talked with my mother that afternoon and she gave no indication that she was ill. We talked about this and that. About my upcoming trip and how nice it would be for me to have a break. About the dinner party she gave two nights before.

(Kim: Linda's mom is back in the hospital after a bad reaction to some medicine. She's in a similar spot to your mom...bad heart, needs oxygen, pain in her back, cough that has been going on for more than a year, etc.

It is that time in our lives when our parents leave. We have to make the trip as easy as possible and say goodbye.

I've know people who gave up their own lives for their parents...and didn't really make their trip better. Alot of this comes from guilt, and worry, neither of which improve the trip.)

And then I find out by phone from my sister that my mother had a 104.5 temperature.

104.5.

I am struggling not to go into the land of what if’s.

What if Laurel had not called my mother? Would my dad have understood how sick she was? He didn’t notice when she had a stroke a few years ago. My brother diagnosed it on the phone when he called casually to say hello and noticed that she sounded funny.

What if she had not gone to the hospital? Would she have had organ shut down because of the severity of her temperature?

Laurel called my brother In New York and he flew in on Sunday early in the morning so he could check on things in the hospital and left the same night for a meeting in Washington.

I called on Sunday trying to see how she was, trying to both pack and figure out if I should be packing.

Trying to figure out what to do about this long scheduled trip to California, where I am supposed to be house and dog sitting for an underwater videographer who is going to Indonesia for a month.

The doctors seem to think she had a bad urinary tract infection and a mild heart attack.When I talked with my mother a little while ago, she said she was so frightened last night; they gave her a sleeping pill at the hospital. She does not talk in terms of fear very often. She is very tough.

My brother is flying in again today and will stay until Sunday. My mother is supposed to have an angiogram today.

Semi mystic that I am, I am wondering about signs. About the fact that my mother is supposed to have an angiogram and the name of the dog I am caring for is named Angie.

It is very weird.

I have talked to my sister several times since yesterday.

She is supposed to fly out to California to join me on Friday and is really looking forward to it. After another exhausting round of chemo, she wants to sit in the Japanese tea garden with me and to plant her toes on Venice Beach. To escape the cold grey Chicago winter before the next onslaught of chemo. She wants to reclaim more of her life.

She is adamant that I am doing the right thing by being here, that I need a break, am exhausted and need to take care of myself.

And that there is nothing I can do in Chicago right now. But of course, I feel like maybe I should be in Chicago doing that nothing.

So I am feeling upset and worried. Maybe there is nothing I can do about the worry. Maybe there are legitimate reasons for feeling worried.

But I am also feeling like I am a bad daughter. And that is another issue.

Of course, no matter what I do, I almost always feel like a bad daughter. Because nothing I do has ever felt like enough.

Like it is enough.

But this situation feels like different.

In the past, I have dropped everything to help out. When my mother had colon cancer over ten years ago, I suspended the theatre company, gave up my apartment, sold or gave away everything and went home to help out for several months.

I remember spending New Year’s Eve in the hospital and getting Steve Martin movies for my mother to watch at home, trying to dumb joke her out of a spiraling depression.

I remember begging her to eat when the sores in her mouth made it impossible.

I slept on the floor of the hospital for days so my father would go home.

Her friends could not believe that I would spend that kind of time and energy. They said they had never seen anything like it.

I didn't understand why they were so amazed.

How many nights had my mother sat by my bedside, caring for me through various illnesses, whether as a child or an adult.

It seemed like the thing to do. The natural thing to do. If there is such a thing as natural in the constructed world of relationships of any kind.

So while I was very distressed by the circumstances,I was glad to do it. There was no question in my mind of where I needed and wanted to be.

Today, I have no clarity, except the clarity that I feel torn.

There are a few issues here besides what is going on with my mother.

One is that I am, indeed, exhausted and I do. indeed, need a break.

I have also made a commitment to someone who is leaving for Indonesia tomorrow and he doesn't seem to have much of a support system for helping out. And not many friends.

The house would be one thing, easy enough, but there is the issue of the dog.

How did we suddenly get to this point, where our parents become the children, needing supervision because their own judgment and ability is impaired?

If ever I needed to call upon my Buddhist training to stay in the moment and not race into the future, this is it.

Later,

Joan

Wed, Jan 18, 2006

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