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A Life Zinger

I’ve been somewhat quiet lately (for me). This is because I’ve been feeling melancholy. I find that joyfulness, curiosity, profound meanderings, devilish teasing, and excitement, gushes from me like toothpaste when you step on the tube. It’s kind of messy and it surely is an accident, but all the same, what’s inside squirts out with force. But when I’m sad, the cogs of my mind seem to jam up. I have lots churning inside, but moving it through my system is difficult.


 


I’m being vague. Pardon me.


 


Yesterday, they gave my father-in-law 4 months to live. He has lung cancer. (And blood clots, anemia, diabetes, ulcers and pneumonia.  But gee, at least he doesn’t have a hangnail.)


 


He was fine 6 weeks ago, or seemed to be from all appearances. He seemed to be slowing down, but we thought it was just stress and over work. We moved my in-laws up here, one hour away, so they could be near their two adult children and the grandkids. Unpacking boxes, learning a new area and such is difficult on even a healthy 80 year old, but his discomfort and symptoms started to alarm everyone, which led to the discovery of more serious problems.


 


When we were all looking at houses, I argued that relocating them an hour away was too far, considering their age. They also bought a big house – twice as big as their former one, and I thought they should be scaling down- the upkeep had to be considered. I thought we were putting off the inevitable and soon, they would need more assistance from us and a more manageable life situation. But my husband and his sister wanted some distance so their lives wouldn’t be too disrupted by duty visits or un-mandatory expectations, and they assumed their mother had certain needs that had to be met in order for her to be happy – a big posh home in a more suburban environment, one of them.


     I guess it’s harder for kids to see their parents as anything but the competent, self-sufficient caretakers they were in earlier years, because what was obvious to me was ignored by them. The fact is, these people can’t do what they could do in earlier years, and it’s time we address it and help them adapt.


     I kept saying “But, we’ll have to move them again in three to five years, and it will be harder then, because they won’t be in nearly as good health.”


    And they responded with, “We’ll deal with that when the time comes.” (In other words, we want to put off until tomorrow the shit that stresses us out today so leave us alone and stay out if it. They’re OUR parents.)


     As it turns out, less then a month after the move, the location and size of their home proves a poor decision.  This is not a “I told ya so” moment. I’m just very sorry what was an obvious, inevitable scenario came about before the first mortgage payment was made.


 


We’ve been driving the two- hour round trip almost daily to visit Bill, my father in law, in the hospital. Upon the discover of his tumor, Sonia, my mother-in law, succumbed to a stress related illness that made her incapable of walking or moving (bad back) and so she became bedridden too. Now, we had two invalids to care for and the stress factor went through the roof. Dianne, relatively free at this time, moved in with them, putting her life on hold. (She’s been wonderful). Because we have kids to care for and Mark is needed for building the house, and I am in school etc…. all we can do is relieving Dianne as we can and lend our support.


But all of it is awkward and frustrating. It is fair, all things considered, but unfair at the same time, on an individual level.


 


In the meantime, one beloved parent is dying, the other beloved parent, you want to kill – and lying like a panther ready to attack, just under the responsible surface, are all these emotional issues that a life zinger like this provokes. Lingering childhood resentments, relationship regrets and revelations, concerns about who takes responsibility, finances, the well-being of the parent left alone, the future concerns of everyone involved, and all kinds of little nasties, start tampering with the simple issue that Mark and his sister are losing a loved one. It’s just plain sad.


 


My role in this is different than theirs. I have fond feelings towards my father in law, and I feel badly about what he is going through, and I empathize with my mother in law. But my main concern, honestly, is just how to “be there” for my husband. I worry about how he’s taking it, and what kinds of deeply seeded issues are being conjured up. I can’t really soothe him or make this better, so I just encourage him to talk and try to second-guess what it is he needs from me. I’m willing to do whatever he wants regarding the decisions that now must be made. But I also want to preserve his long-term dreams at this time – a time when his defenses are down. It’s hard to figure out just what the “right thing” to do is, for the “right thing” is subjective, depending upon whose interests you give priority.


 


In the meantime, this entire issue makes me ponder what constitutes a well-lived life as I put myself in my in-law’s place. They are only 30 years our senior and that’s not a lot of time to squeeze in all the living I cherish and hope to experience. I wouldn’t presume to pass judgment on the choices my in-laws made now, or critique their life, but witnessing this ending sure makes me contemplate my own time on earth. It inspires me to embrace happiness and health and to live fully, every day and it makes me want to approach my work, my marriage, my family, my interests, and my contributions to the world more passionately too. Life is precious. Gotta celebrate it everyday. Every hour. Every second.


 


I won’t write about my in-laws illness, their marriage, or how they deal with the reality of “till death do you part” becoming more than a vague concept. It just isn’t my story to tell, and to begin philosophizing about these issues would be overstepping boundaries I have set for myself. Sure, it might lead to some interesting conversation, but that wouldn’t  be in the best interest of my husband (who doesn’t read this blog, but does check-in once in a great while for reasons unknown – and the only way to honor him is to respect his privacy and to protect his feelings.) And a blog just isn’t an intimate enough forum for opening up this kind of emotionally packed conversation.


So- I won’t write about it. But because I won’t, I find myself avoiding writing about other things. It seems sort of frivolous and self-serving NOT to address this important life situation, because it is swirling around us like unexpected storm that hit while we were sleeping.    


 


I guess this factual explanation of the details is my acknowledgement of our spot of trouble – an excuse for my being distracted and skirting my blog duties – a disclaimer for why my writing has lacked profound contemplation lately. And it lets my friends know what’s going on in Hendryland this month.


 


Now, I have two heated subjects I’m avoiding. Dance and the demise of our former, admirable school, and … personal loss. That leaves me with mundane subjects, such as animals and crafts and weather. And school, of course, and books. Ah well – self-censorship is rule for maintaining good manners. I read that in Dear Abbey, I think. And a blog is not the same thing as sitting with a glass of wine in a corner of a pub having a heart to heart with a friend you trust. (But, I could use that, I tell you.) Unfortunately, in Blue Ridge, there are no pubs, it’s a dry county, and, as yet, I have no close friends. So, I’m out of luck.


 


Due to this upheaval, I am behind on my homework, housework, healthwork, and my book. I’ve also gained four pounds. I’d say, “Shoot me”, but I’m not feeling as frivolous as usual so I wouldn’t dare make a quip that putting me out of my misery would be welcome. Wouldn’t want to miss a moment of this amazing adventure of life. After all – it’s all good.


 


Now, like it or not, I have to attend to real world duties to attend to.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

2 responses »

  1. A far wiser person than I once said “It is always the darkest before the dawn”. Keep your chin up and smiling and the tough times will pass to reveal a flood of good times. And what’s with the dry county to a devout white wine drinker? Did you not do your homework before moving to Mayberry? What were you thinking?

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