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Where you're either looking for a fix, or just plain bananas

Long story short... Only not.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
written by Java Junkie

Today is usually a day to celebrate, if you're an American anyway. As we drove along the 183 miles home from Mt. Pleasant, MI. today I couldn't help but notice the absence of the usual enthusiasm that accompanies Independence Day all around. I could count on my hands the number of houses I saw with any kind of American flag-like decorations and half of those I believe are probably year-round declarations of patriotism for those particular households rather than something their yard adorned for the festive day. I did not see one family outside enjoying the summer day, dad at the grill donning a humorous apron, children running through the sprinklers, various friends and relations sitting in lawn chairs enjoying their particular ale of choice until we pulled up to the two house long "court" that my home sits on. The entire drive I was wondering if it was simply my own down mood that made the day feel less than happy or if it was a general feeling of "eh, whatever" spread throughout this part of the country. As I listen to neighbors shoot of various B and C grade fireworks around me, I've decided that it's more than likely mostly me. You see, Me, Monkey and Parker were on our way back from what I had feared would be the hardest trip of my life thus far. We were coming back from spending the weekend going through my mother's house, deciding what should be donated, what should be kept, what should be handed down, handed over and what should be held on to. I was right, by the way. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do second only to keeping my head about me and not going insane when my son Lou was kidnapped.

Two weeks ago today my mother died from a heart attack that she chose to have. She didn't have high blood pressure or cholesterol and not watch what she ate. She hasn't smoked in at least a couple years. She didn't suffer from an severe allergic reaction. When I say she chose this, I mean she chose to die long before she had a heart attack.

I know that some of the people who read my blog might frown upon what I'm about to write as airing dirty laundry. They'd much rather read posts of happy fun filled family visits to the local park or read the controversial editorials both Monkey and I write from time to time. To those people I can only apologize, but when someone who knows what I'm going through emailed me saying "Do what you need to do in order to get through the days, no matter what. Right now it's all about coping. And surviving, and going day to day" for some reason I find myself taking that advice today. I need to do this for me. I need to do this to move on, to get past this place that I sometimes find myself stuck at.

My mother has battled alcoholism for over two decades and honestly more than likely clinical depression for much of her entire life. I say battled even though I don't believe she ever really cared enough about herself to put forth a real effort to try to get control of her problems. She never addressed these things with a doctor until just three or so years ago and was immediately put on antidepressants. However she opted to stop taking them when she "felt better" and never again went back on them even though she said she understood that she felt better BECAUSE of the medication. She opted, instead, to try to find comfort in the middle of nowhere, MI at the bottom of a bottle.

Through the years there have been more attempts than I can actually count or remember to try to help her address her alcoholism. There have been numerous times in my life where I called her every single day, many times running up hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month in long distance phone charges so that she would have some support. So that she didn't feel alone. Time and time again I would find that WHATEVER way I had been trying to be there for her, help her and support her were just pathetic wishful attempts on my part, that she had never even intended to get help or support or stop drinking. She had only been telling me what she thought I had wanted to hear. Time and again I would turn a blind eye to probabilities and past experience and do it all over again. Time and again I would put my own life and family on hold to do everything I possibly could to sort out my mother's life and any stresses she might have so that she could concentrate only on recovery. Time and again I found that I was being made a fool of and simply used for sympathy, self pity and an unwitting enabler.

Sometime about two years ago, maybe a little less, I decided that I couldn't do it anymore and cut off communications with my mother until she got help. There had been other times I had taken similar, however less drastic, measures and had always yielded when she showed signs of getting her life, and her problems, under control. This time, however, I had the prerequisite that she become active in some sort of AA or AA-like treatment program. I came to this decision because I knew she had really lost all control. I knew this because she called and left a message on my answering machine upset that she had to find out that I was pregnant from my sister-in-law. She left the same message a half an hour later. Both messages were two days after I had spent an hour talking to her about my pregnancy and the anxiety I was feeling about it considering my illness and the fact that I almost lost my life bringing Lou into this world but how optimistic I was and the encouraging information I had learned from my mid-wife group. It was not the first time I had spoken to her about my pregnancy. I ended the phone call when my mother, for no reason that I could see, stopped responding to what I was saying. I could hear her breathing but she wouldn't answer when I asked if she was there or if she was ok. In my heart I knew she had passed out.

This last November, over a year later, through casual conversation, my Tover told me that my mother had been going to AA meetings. I couldn't have been happier. My eldest son actually confirmed this when he said his father, my first husband, saw my mother at a meeting. I called her number and we talked. I can't really even remember what we talked about but just that I was very happy she had been taking steps to address her situation. Elated that she was finally working to get control of her problems and her life.

However over the next few weeks I started noticing that she was home every night I called her when she was suppose to be at a meeting. There was always some reason she wasn't at it. It was too cold, she wasn't feeling well, she had errands that she had to run, she didn't go on her day off anymore because she had to drive 40 minutes away, etc. I tried with all of my heart to believe her excuses. To hide from the fact that all over again I had been lied to. I had been told just enough truth to believe. And then, two weeks before Christmas, my mother called sobbing. She had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was a wreck.

I started calling her daily, trying to keep her spirits up. Sometimes I would succeed, sometimes nothing I did seemed to put her at ease, and sometimes it seemed as though she was actually determined to be filled with dismay no matter how encouraging the things the doctors were saying were. Some days she made no sense at all. I'd ask, she'd deny, I'd let it go knowing the incredible amount of stress she was under and not wanting to add to it. I'd help her make lists of questions to ask her doctor, I'd help keep her reasonable when trying to work out the best treatment, I'd help her figure out who she needed to call for what purpose when trying to prepare for her recovery. I'd ignore the slurred words, the exceedingly emotional phone calls, the completely forgotten phone calls. I accepted the excuses of missed sleep, stress, and old age.

In January my mother had a full hysterectomy. I couldn't even be there the day of the surgery because the day before my apartment's head of maintenance informed me that they'd be coming into our apartment the next day and tearing apart the wall between our bathroom and Lou's bedroom to fix a leak. I've had SO many problems in the past with these types of situations, from a past landlord watching my home videos while I was on vacation thinking something, um, adult was filmed, to having my pantie drawer pilfered through and various pieces of Victoria's Secret lingerie being, um, handled by handy men, to having items actually stolen that I just could not bring myself to leave my house in the hands of strangers. Not to mention that Parker was terribly terribly ill and the call to his pediatrician yielded a strong warning to not have him around my mother at all after her surgery and to avoid contact myself if at all possible.

Two weeks later we were able to get up to Michigan to see her while she was recovering at my Tover's. She was bound and determined to drive the hour and a half home, against her doctor's wishes, though. The stresses of spending time in a household with a new baby and two kids under 10 were getting to her, she insisted. So I helped her load her things and her dog Elvis into her car. I spent the next month trying to keep tabs on her recovery in tandem with my Tover. More than once I called Tover concerned that she sounded rather incoherent, almost as if she were hallucinating. I was terribly concerned that she had developed a severe infection. He would call, talk to her, and she would seem "a bit confused but mostly all there." We also called friends of hers to get their opinions and were assured time and again that all was fine. On March 20th my mother was rushed to the hospital when my Tover called her that morning and she sounded so bad he called an ambulance and on her way to answer the door she collapsed. She was in such a state of malnourishment and dehydration that she was hallucinating in the hospital. Monkey and I dropped everything, packed up our boys and drove up to Claire, MI. where we stayed for the next 3 1/2 days essentially dividing our time between sitting by my mother's bedside, finding out that she had quit eating all together and hadn't drank anything in days except a half a gallon of vodka a day, and trying to set up in-patient rehab for my mother that everyone including the hospital social workers knew she needed.

By the time we left she had agreed to in-patient rehab and was saying all the right things. That she wanted to stop drinking, that she didn't want to die, that she would go into rehab. On the way home I started crying. I knew that was the last time I was going to see my mother alive again. I knew she was just saying what she felt she needed to to get us off her back so she could go back to doing what she was doing despite both my Tover's and my assurance to her that if she did NOT go into in-patient rehab that we would walk away from her completely. A week later she called me to tell me she had decided not to go into in-patient rehab. That she was going to go to AA meetings instead so that she could return to work. That day was the last day I spoke to my mother. It was also the last day my brother spoke to her.

On June 21st my Tover called to tell me that our mother had died. Her neighbor found her when the police forced her to use the key my mother had given her when she called the police in concern that my mother wasn't answering her door. They found her in what could best be described as a praying position next to the bed. When my Tover and his wife went to her house the next day, they found full plates of food covered with mold that the neighbors had been bringing her that she had simply been throwing into the sink. In the other side of the sink was nearly every dish in the house, dirty. At some point she had reduced herself to eating out of the ash trays she no longer used for smoking. And then there were the bottles of Vodka. When they saw her at the morgue my Tover lost it. He said she looked like a mummy. He didn't even recognise her from only a couple months before. Essentially, he said, we had simply interrupted her in March. The preliminary exam showed that she died of a heart attack due to severe dehydration but she had lost a considerable amount of weight, too, I'm sure, because she hadn't been eating.

The next couple of days were pretty weird for me. I found the roles of who I thought would be here for me and those I would never expect support from completely reversed. I got phone calls several times over from my step mother, my dad, and even my dad's mother. My mother's sister called a couple times but that was kind of awkward, neither of us really knowing what to say. Tover would call but that was probably the hardest because exactly who is suppose to support who in that situation really. I didn't hear more than one sentence from my best friend, my mother's sister's daughters (yes, my cousins, I know, just trying to show their relationship to my mother) haven't even so much as dialed my number once. My CC called me and we talked for an hour and then I really didn't hear from her again because she wanted to give me any space that I needed. The only sympathy cards I got were from my landlord and my son's girlfriend. Don't get me wrong now. I didn't want or expect cards at all. To be honest when Monkey found a card with simply my first name on it in our mailbox it took opening it to realize what was inside. If it weren't for Monkey and Lou I would have been lost completely. Monkey took a half a day off work and took care of dinner for the next couple of days. He only voiced his concern for my health once when I went on a cleaning streak through the house including the laundry that only a short time before I had been so frustrated about. He held me and was VERY late to work. He let me do what I needed to do and did what I couldn't. Lou watched Parker for two days basically. I was there, it wasn't like Lou was watching him alone, but I wasn't all the way there. I owe the two of them more than I could ever repay, and honestly I hope I never have to.

The days following my mother's death have been a virtual teeter totter of emotions. I sway between being heart broken, extremely angry, guilt ridden and numb. This weekend as we went through my mother's things I would be thrown into a fit of tears by such things as my sister-in-law asking me if I minded she take two of the Dean Koontz books I had given my mother (Odd Thomas and Forever Odd) because those were the only two she didn't have but yet sitting and looking at boxes of photos would bring tender smiles of remembrances to my face. Out of all of the things I brought from my mothers house, the photos, the few pieces of costume jewelry, the Christmas decorations and the nick knacks, it didn't feel like enough. Like I needed more. And then I realized what I was trying to do was fill the void.

I'm still on this teeter totter of emotions and even though the trip to my mother's house was hard, it was also good for me. The last few years have been riddled with anger and hurt and pain from not only my mother's drinking but some very very poor parenting throughout my childhood. But my trip home reminded me of some of the good things about my mother. How beautiful she was before alcohol really got ahold of her, how she use to sing all the time, how even though we were poor as church mice we always had a wonderful time at Christmas before she met her last husband and my Tover moved out and others. Fun visits to my grandparent's house. On Sunday after we had packed up everything, I laid a wildflower I had picked outside her house on her bed and I walked out of her house. I felt like it was all going to be all right. On the way home today I closed my eyes for a nap but slowly woke up a half an hour later to a song I've sang my mother several times over the last half a decade, Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and tears streamed down my face. Here are the words:

Dont worry about a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin: dont worry about a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin, (this is my message to you-ou-ou:)

Singin: dont worry bout a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin: dont worry (dont worry) bout a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin, this is my message to you-ou-ou:

Singin: dont worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. dont worry!
Singin: dont worry about a thing - I wont worry!
cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin: dont worry about a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right - I wont worry!
Singin: dont worry about a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin: dont worry about a thing, oh no!
cause every little thing gonna be all right!

I'm trying to get through this the best I can. I'm trying to forgive her for replacing the woman she could have been if she had only let herself be happy with the woman that she turned into. I'm trying to forgive myself for not being able to show her how much I loved her and for eventually turning away from her. I'm trying to let myself cry all of the tears I feel inside me. I'm trying to remember the fun and quirky things about her that will always make me smile. I'm trying not to take personally those that weren't here for me but appreciate those that were and understand people's need to tell me that she's in a better place now. Mostly I find myself hiding from doing any of these things by following Parker, picking him up every few minutes to cuddle or holding and smothering my niece with kisses when I could. But I am trying.
10:41 PM ::
9 Comments:
  • Glad to see you're posting again, was a little worried. Sounds like you're doin all the 'right things'. I remember when my 1st wife died everyone gave me the 'better place' line and it made me angry. Hang in there. Whoever said "Do what you need to do in order to get through the days, no matter what..." was 'right on'.

    love

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 AM  
  • biodad

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:55 AM  
  • so sorry that this was your mother's path and that you had to make such hard choices about how to respond over the years. It is so hard to watch someone become a shadow of the great person they once were - it's like you are mourning them while they are still alive. And now even more so for you, because you are mourning twice.

    I am currently reading a teen book about a girl who decides that she has to break away from her alcoholic mother in what sounds like a similar spiral, and it is really good, talking about her struggles with guilt and the need for her own survival. (It's called A Room on Lorelei STreet.)

    I hope that it helps you a little to unburden here, and I'm glad your immediate family is gathering around to help with what they can. I know there's not really anything I can say that is going to make any of this better, but I hope you find some comfort in having readers who care and don't mind you spilling whatever you need to spill.

    (almost as long as your post, no?!)

    By Blogger kittenpie, at 12:18 PM  
  • Good post...only not.

    No words, just thoughts sent your way.

    By Blogger TaterTot, at 2:00 PM  
  • hey cc, I'm back online now and hope you are doing OK.
    love & hugs,
    n

    By Blogger nmariluna, at 3:34 PM  
  • Wow, Alisa I'm sorry I wasnt there for you. I'm horrible at this sort of thing. My father was killed in a car accident because he was drinking. I was 7. I learned early on that there are really no right words to say to someone. Because your pain is beyond anyone's comprehension. I know that. You know whatever you need. Just call I'll be there for you.... Love Mom

    By Anonymous Mom, at 8:07 PM  
  • I'm glad you can cry. I didn't cry for my mom until she was gone 6 months because I was still crying for my dad. They died 2 months apart and dad and I had a more difficult relationship. Keep crying as long as you need to. Keep laughing too.

    By Blogger sweet rose, at 8:19 PM  
  • Hi sweetie, I just wanted to say that I thought you were amazing this weekend. You went nonstop from Saturday to Tuesday and I know it was hard for you to muster that kind of physical and emotional energy.

    I also want to say thank you for writing this post, I wrote something similar and was thinking of deleting it because I didn't know if just writing it down was insensitive or not. I feel like I didn't get enough time to get to know the mother that you and Tover remember, and I also feel guilty, angry, sad, all of those at once. Please don't hesitate to call me or your brother ANY TIME if you want to talk. It's so important for us to support each other and be a family. I love you all.

    By Anonymous Elizabeth, at 10:55 PM  
  • You sound like a very strong person! You should be proud of yourself for dealing with this better than most people would. Sending you some big hugs because it sounds like you need some!

    By Blogger radioactive girl, at 10:45 AM  
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