What I Write When No One Is Looking

“Your blog must be very therapeutic for you.” I hear that often, and it is, but perhaps not for the reason people might think. For me, it has been an exercise in writing for an audience. It forces me to take whatever is on my mind or happening in my life and mold it into something cohesive—a main idea with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Yep, just like we all learned to do in school. My goal with the blog is always to keep it very honest while being mindful of the reader—and so, it’s all true, but it is also filtered. Poorly edited, but always filtered.

Writing in a blog or anything else that will be read by others can be tricky because I am just so used to writing for no one but myself. That personal writing is the truly “therapeutic” stuff. If you want to know what I really feel and think, please, go through the mountain of 70-page, college-rule, spiral-bound notebooks I have accumulated over the past 30 years. Actually, it’s some pretty boring stuff—a lot of time-lines, plans for the day ahead, to-do lists…a lot of fragmented, incomplete thoughts. And yet, this type of writing is so important to me that I am frequently stunned when other people tell me they don’t write. It’s like saying, “I don’t breathe.” Really? How is that possible? I don’t know I could get through a full week without my journal. Actually, have you ever been around a runner who can’t run—maybe due to an injury? Yeah, I get like that when I can’t write.

It's been a long time since I wrote the words "Dear Diary" or dotted an i with a circle--or a heart or a flower or a smiley-face.

It’s been a long time since I wrote the words “Dear Diary” or dotted an i with a circle–or a heart or a flower or a smiley-face.

The following is an actual journal entry that I wrote recently. I’m sharing it because—what the hell? I’ve written over 100 blog entries now and I’ve had over 7000 hits. Why not show you what my real writing looks like?

“Since last night, I’ve been uncomfortably obsessed with H dying. Yes, more than usual and different from what is usual, too.

Normally when I think of her dying, I anticipate how relieved I will feel when it happens. I anticipate a sense of freedom and I mentally make plans to move on. I hope that death will come quickly with no physical pain even though I suspect she is always in some sort of pain now.

Last night and even now as I write, I’m not focused on her pain or my freedom, but really just a sense that it could happen tonight. We could be in her final days. Then, I stop myself and think, “Is that just wishful thinking?” Um, no. I don’t think that it is. I’m really not wishing anything right now.

Over the past few days, H has been out of it. And yes, we have been there before—repeatedly. Somehow, this out-of-it is different, more peaceful. I’d be surprised if she weighs more than 80 lbs. and she has lost all desire to eat. Still, no matter what I write here, I don’t think I can fully explain what I mean. Something has turned here. Something has changed.

Will I be disappointed if H is still alive a week from now? If she made it through the night? I don’t know. I say I experience disappointment daily when I go into her room and discover she is still breathing. What?!?! No visit from the Grim Reaper last night?

And I’ve been trying to remember her in happier times. She came to my graduation ceremony. She threw us an engagement party. She was at the hospital when both of my children were born. She threw us a rehearsal dinner—although I suspect that and the engagement party were really the work of Alex.

I remember her holding E on her first birthday and taking pictures on the front porch. I remember our trip to Williamsburg. We played putt-putt and she made a hole-in-one.

I used to worry that my children’s happy memories of Grandma would be obscured by the memory of how she is now. Now, I realize that my own memories are in the same kind of danger. I keep replaying the memory of when she first moved in with us. There was this one time when she was lucid, but not pissed off and I was helping her in the bathroom. She said, “Thank you.” She told me that I was good to her and she didn’t know how I could be so good and that she was sorry that she couldn’t take care of herself. That had to be September or October of 2012. I don’t know that she has really spoken to me since then. Or at least she hasn’t said much to me since then. We did have that one conversation about not being afraid to die and another one about her wedding china and she laughed at something E said. When was that? Last month? No, around Christmas. I remember telling A that she laughed and I’m not sure he believed me.

I remember holding her hand in the hospital while she was still in ICU and she recognized me. Isn’t that weird? She’s been calling me “Isabelle” so long that I had almost forgotten that she still knew my name right after she fell. The nurses kept saying that she was pulling out her IV at night and trying to get out of bed, and I told them that I would expect no less from her. Who in the hell wants to stay in the hospital, right? She “fired” my father-in-law when he refused to take her home and we all laughed. It was the kind of little inside joke she was always making. We were optimistic back then. We all thought that she and Bob would recover enough to have more happy memories in the making.

Of course, by the time she came home, it was all pretty clear that the level of care she would require…that’s hard, isn’t it? Knowing how quickly it all changed? And how nothing has been the same since then. Nothing. You see a picture of a person all smiles, dressed up and happy and think, “She will stay this way” and then something happens and everything changes.

And so last night I tossed and turned and I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about her and wondering if we have done her a disservice by bringing her into our home—as if we had a choice. Have we kept her alive artificially? I mean, I keep making soup. It’s all she eats—except watery oatmeal, fruit puree and yogurt and sometimes ice cream. If I hadn’t made the decision to make soup while she was in the hospital in May, if I had just put regular food in front of her and expected her to feed herself—like the hospital did—would she still be alive? Or would she have starved? And isn’t that a horrible thought? So little of what she was eating up until then was making it down. And of course, I will continue to make soup right up until she loses the ability to swallow. It would be cruel not to.

And when I thought of her dying in our home, I thought about the logistics, too. Who do you call when something like that happens? A funeral home? I think that’s right. I think that is what Greta told me. I know enough not to dial 9-1-1. And then what? I know she wants to be cremated. I guess we would just hold onto the ashes until Rich, Silje and Emil are here this summer.

I used to have a hard time understanding how or why a family would choose to have a private service at a later date, but now, I get it. Man, oh, man, I get it. I do. I’m pretty sure that is what we would do. Of course, ultimately, A and his sibs are going to be the ones making that decision and I will go along with whatever they want. I really can just remove myself from that whole decision making process.

But yes, I was up at night thinking about all this, and whether it happens today, next week or a year from now, there is a damn good chance H is going to die in my house. She won’t be the first. This is an old house and it’s seen a lot of life and death, and from time to time, I feel the house telling me that. Floor boards were creaking last night. I didn’t hear actual foot-steps this time, just the creaking of boards. I go back and forth as to whether I believe the house is haunted in the traditional sense. I thought about H being one more soul passing through. As morbid as it sounds, I have every intention of dying in this house, too, and so does A. Of course, if one of our children were to die here…well, I don’t know how anyone stays or leaves after something like that happens even if you know that death—everyone’s death—is just a part of life. Born to die, right?

Even when I went to sleep, I dreamt of H dying. Yes, this is what I mean by obsessed. Crazy, huh? And again, it wasn’t a big celebration of “Hooray, I get my life back!” It was more of a “what does it all really mean? Did we do our best?” Contemplative. Sad, but also happy or at least peaceful. Sad, but peaceful, but with an uneasy acceptance of our world falling into a new order.

I think I will always wonder if we handled this all the right way. What could we have done differently? And I suppose we all do the best we can with what we are given. I’m a very forgiving person when I believe that of myself and of others. We are all doing the best we can.

Really, I’ve got to move on. I’ve got to think of something else. For all I know, nothing extraordinary will happen this week. Deborah will be here Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I’ll be home with H on Tuesday and Thursday while both kids are in school.

T and I have a PMAH thing today. That’s if it is still on. I think we are looking at another really cold week. Where is spring? Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. God, I do not want another day trapped in-doors with H and the kids. No, no, no.

And see? That’s the optimism. I don’t think I will be trapped in-doors with H and the children because I AM expecting something big to happen. I just don’t know what. I can’t shake that weird feeling of anticipation. I know. It’s crazy.”


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