Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mortality part 2

My mother has an aortic stenosis. This means the valve in her heart is getting more and more rigid, and eventually it will stop moving altogether and she will die. Her doctor told her it could happen anytime with no warning, "Any time from two weeks to a year." That was five months ago. She mentioned it then, but I put it out of my mind at the time. That seems extraordinary at this moment but my mother has often cried wolf. Last night she mentioned it to my husband again and told him not to tell me as I'm so stressed from work. He, of course, told me after I'd finished speaking with her. I called her back and asked if the diagnosis had changed, if she felt different. If that really meant she had ONLY a year to live, or was it more in the lines of now, or some vague time in the future. She wasn't sure. She said it was just one of those things doctors say. She also said she had no intention of dying. She'll be 83 in October when I'm planning to see her. I haven't seen her face to face for 8 years. As I lay in the bathtub afterwards and cried I wished things had been different, that we'd had the kind of relationship that we'd each wanted, that many of my girlfriend's have with their mothers. Of being friends. But we never did, and she never understood why, and I finally had to shake myself and say that there was nothing to be done about that now.

Now, as I said, she and I talked about this in the spring, yet she led my husband to believe that it was new. She was not surprised when I called her back--that he had told me. What do I make of that? And do I think of her as dying more rapidly any more or less than all the years of my life when she's lived with blood pressure over 200 and high cholesterol and a weight problem, and a carelessness of her health, and two heart attacks and breast cancer and a mastectomy? Or simply the fact that she is 83? I feel as if I've been doing this moment--my mother could die any day--over and over again since I was a child.

And a friend's 17 year old daughter is facing losing her father to cancer, and my husband lost his mother when he was 20 after watching her slowly die for years, and JT lost both parents within a very short space of time while he was in college. I am not a child. I am not even so young as I was when my father died. I am a grown up woman who will someday have to face her mother's death no matter how or when it comes. Buckle up, Novel. A woman at work got a call after I spoke to her about this that her mother had been rushed to the hospital with fluid on the heart from kidney failure. "Here beside the news of holy war and holy need/Ours is just a little sorrowed talk,"--Duran Duran, Ordinary World

I think that defined myself for so long by pushing against my mother, that I am terrified of how I will define myself when she is gone. It was not something I had to deal with in my father's death. I am better now than I would have been even 9 years ago. I have made a sort of peace, but I do not want her to die yet. And I don't know what I think will happen if she doesn't.


Matt said...

I got a phone call the other night on my keitai from my mother. My mother is loath to call me in Japan as it freaks her out when I'm not there and she gets the answering service in Japanese.

I was immediately disturbed. My stepfather will be 85 in 2 weeks, and I expected to hear that he was in the hospital or maybe had died. He's lived without a bladder for about 13 years now, and he was a smoker for most of his life (though he quit about 20 years ago). He's been bleeding from his kidneys for the last week or two, and the doctors say there's not much they can do about it, but to keep an eye out and come to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

My stepfather and I are the most diametrically opposed people, in interests and attitude. But we're both stubborn, and we're both fierce, and fiercely independent. It took me nearly 30 years to really have that man acknowledge what I value and how I feel without it being grudging or confused. I'm afraid he'll die, but I also know he's nearly ready -- his mind has outgrown his body, and there are things he just can't do anymore tethered to the earth.

Your last two sentences make total sense to me.

musing said...


Novel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Novel said...

Thank you. Thank you both for sharing.