Prognosis Uncertain

8c5e1d_79f715e8f6a34289842d3629e6ee2d6a-mv2That is exactly how I feel…today.

When I began to consider sharing this blog, I thought, somewhere in the recesses of my mind and heart, it would not only be an outlet, a release of everything I was experiencing (which would help me heal), but ultimately be something for the greater good, in the end….. Something powerful, connecting, affirming for me, the writer; for you, the reader. I wanted to be able to share hope, to say God does exist, that He loves and is with us, even in this worst of all possible places. I do believe this can and has happened; but I also wanted to find my way into the sun again, by now.

Today I am not sure I am going to survive this…awfulness, this hole in my soul and heart. I might be living – for years, even decades – but will I be alive? The darkness around me is pretty absolute today (although I am beginning to recognize “today” vs. “every day”). Screaming (so totally NOT me) at the top of my lungs this morning…lying on Mark’s blue shag rug and throwing a desperate tantrum to let God know I can’t do this, I can’t take this, I can’t survive this… left me exhausted, not relieved of this load of sorrow in the least. I wonder why I can’t be more like Steve, who is at least more functional. So I will try and break the spell of sadness…to write through this, for the moment. And then walk around my lake. And then try and go to work. Busy can be good.

Emily G and Liz – college friends – visited this weekend with their husbands. We enjoyed dinner, we walked/ran in a 9-11 memorial 5K (and I even ran a bit, my arthritic knees not complaining at all) and went to a sweaty, but ultimately victorious Nats vs. Phillies game. I knew it would be a good distraction and it was. I am fortunate to have such loving friends, that our husbands all actually like each other (there’s been some campaigning for creating their own “Girls Weekends” which would involve golf, bourbon and laughing just a little bit at us, in all likelihood).

Sarah was in and out – we saw her for, as she puts it, “a hot second” as she came and went to a quick weekend at a beach further east. Her life is full. We had some wrangling this summer…between a quasi-independent young adult and her addled parents who aren’t sure of when to be quiet and when to speak. We wound one another without meaning to. I can only hope that love binds us tightly enough.

In the midst of the weekend, I got a cranky phone call from my MIL who never gets mad, but was quite upset.

Steve had dinner with her two days earlier and delivered to her a bill for $160: two months worth of muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, cranberry juice, assorted toiletries, cookies, cheese and “small bread” (it took me a while to realize she meant crackers). Normally we just withdraw the funds from her account electronically, but she kept asking and asking how much she owed, wanting to pay me back, and we thought maybe it would help her to write the check, to be a participant vs. a recipient.


She protested to Steve (“I can buy my own groceries!”) and then grudgingly wrote the check, but the paper bill, in my handwriting, remained…somewhere in her apartment, or in her pocket. And every time she saw it, or found it, it was – because she has Alzheimer’s – brand new in its sting, an affront to her innate frugality, to her fierce hold on the belief that she is still capable of caring for herself. She doesn’t realize she hasn’t gone to the grocery store in many months. Her use of the car is diminishing to nothing. She is forgetting more and more, staying close to her little apartment in the senior living center, where she feels, and is, safe.

After 48 hours of finding that note over and over, she was angry enough to break out the hidden Can of Wherewithal and actually call me (she never initiates calls) in order to speak bitterly about “this piece of paper I don’t understand, groceries you say I owe you ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DOLLARS for, groceries I don’t even HAVE anywhere here, groceries I don’t even NEED.” I spoke to her in love. I said “It’s all taken care of. Please tear that note up because it’s upsetting you.” But she didn’t.

Steve was dispatched forthwith (“What? But we have to go to the baseball game!”) to find that damn paper and destroy it, along with the check she wrote, in front of her. She calmed, and she forgot. When I called her the next day and casually asked how many muffins she has, she said “Three!” And it was clear she knew she could depend on me to refresh her supplies when it was time.

And Mark is dead and I struggle so hard to understand this fact. I haven’t seen him in a dream, or felt his unique humor, for a while. Going in his room is agony, so mostly I stand in the door and look in. Sometimes I venture inside briefly and bury my face in his clothes, which still smell like him (especially his underwear: don’t judge), but I don’t linger. Today I went in and I stayed and I was overwhelmed.

I still find a coin, or two or three or four coins, almost every day, but I am starting to suspect I’ve become like a crow, or a magpie, over-attracted to perfectly round, flat, sometimes-shiny things. It is unusual, I will freely admit, to find so many, so often. A hint of Something More…of Somewhere Else that is actually closer than close. I just don’t know right now, today, in this moment, what will help me, help us, to come alive again for the duration, for longer than a day. To gather the strength, to unearth the joy we will need to meet all the rest of life, whatever it brings.

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