Monday, April 6, 2009

Seriously... What the Hell?

My mom's friend is dying.

I haven't really accepted it until now, but I went and reread her CaringBridge journal entry from this past weekend, and it looks like it's pretty official.

20 or so years ago, my brother was on a grade school soccer team. All the parents on that team became friends. All they had in common was that their boys were in the same grade at the same school. Some had older or younger kids, some had no other kids at all. They varied a lot in terms of their income, relationships, education, and ages. But for the last 20 years, they've kind of been the focal point of my mom's social life. When I was in high school, we used to go camping every year over the New Year. We'd rent out several cabins at a group campsite and spend the weekend. I remember one year, when it was the men's turn to cook, and they all--10 or 12 men my dad's age--came marching out of the kitchen in full drag. They'd all gone to used clothing stores and put together these elaborate, ridiculous outfits. My dad's was a navy blue sequined jumpsuit with black feathers at the wrists and collars. It was spectacular. When one of the dads was sent to prison for reasons related to a pyramid scheme, all the other families rallied around his wife and sons. And when he came back, they were still there for him, friends. When my parents got a messy, messy divorce, my mom said she didn't want to lean on them, because she was embarrassed; but I reminded her that they've been her friends for 20 years, and this is what friends do. All the ladies have breakfast together once a month and go camping in the Boundary Waters every year. My mom says this year it looks like they'll be taking ashes with them.

About 5 years ago, my uncle was diagnosed with colon cancer. My mom assured us that this was it for him. He got good treatment, they caught it early, and he's fine. My brother's friend (one of the kids from that long-ago soccer team) was sent to Iraq, and my mom was sure that he wouldn't be coming back. He served his time there and is back in the States now, physically no worse for wear. I've grown used to the fact that my mom always assumes that the world is ending. So what do I do, now that it kind of is? Her friend was diagnosed close to a year ago, with lung cancer. They've treated it, more and more aggressively. She's been on drug trials, but now they're starting to wonder if she can handle them or whether they ought to just back off. My mom says she has only weeks left, but I never know what to think of my mom's conclusions.

I'll take a moment, I promise, to be grateful. I am healthy. So are my kids, my husband, my parents and siblings. I think of this woman's sons and grandchildren, of her husband who is having to mourn while still do all the things to keep life going day to day, and I am immensely grateful. I know this is not about me. But I'm still overwhelmed. She threw my bridal shower and my baby shower. She has been a part of my life, even if mostly behind the scenes, for most of my life. And I don't know what to do. My mom is a mess (between this and ongoing stuff with my dad). I want to do something. They take turns bringing her meals. I live 45 minutes away and have three kids. I want to send flowers, a card, a blanket for crying out loud. But what do you do, send a card that says, "I'm so sorry you're dying"? Maybe they have a "This Really Sucks" bouquet.

I just can't stop thinking about her, about my mom trying to deal with this and also with the mess of sorting out a divorce after 30 years of marriage. And I feel so helpless. Words are the thing that I'm best at, the thing that I bring to the table, and there are times when words just simply aren't enough.

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