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.
Linda's mom is back in the hospital after a bad reaction to some
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
that time in our lives when our parents leave. We have to make
the trip as easy as possible and say goodbye.
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.)
then I find out by phone from my sister that my mother had a 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
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
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
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
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
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
But I am also feeling like I am a bad daughter. And that is another
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
I slept on the floor of the hospital for days so my father would
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
If ever I needed to call upon my Buddhist training to stay in the
moment and not race into the future, this is it.
Wed, Jan 18, 2006