For All Those Who Sit and Cry

I drive by this hospital a few times every week.  I see it (nearly) everyday and I know what it is, what it’s there for.  It’s funny though, ‘cuz I don’t associate the knowledge that that’s where my mother died with the image I see.  There’s a huge disconnect there between the visual and the meaning.

To the best of my knowledge her room was somewhere on the left.  I remember going vaguely left upon entering, but let’s face it, I was a wreck at the time.  (Not to mention for a long while afterwards.)  I even doubt that if I went in there I’d be able to retrace my steps!  (Which is saying something similar.)
I can remember the room, and my mother’s gaunt, emaciated person.  This was the third time the cancer had started progressing after the doctors had announced its remission and/or their/her victory.  She had given up then, refusing to eat.  Seeing if starvation could kill her faster than the cancer itself.  A race to the finish.

My mother was slender to begin with, and after a protracted three month bout of dying, she really didn’t have much by way of excess body fat to sustain her.

By the time “we” were allowed there (“we” being her children), she didn’t have the power left to lick her lips.  Moistening them became my father’s job.  To sit beside her and dip a special little straw they (apparently) have, one with a tiny, concave sponge on the end, indented so it’ll rest easy on the lips’ outward curve, into a cup of water.  Applying it to her mouth.  Humbling for all involved to watch.

Not that she noticed, from the glazed look in her eyes I truly don’t believe she realized we were in the room.  She just stared blankly ahead while we all fell apart.

I don’t know what was more horrifying.  Like looking at both sides of a giant, fucked-up coin.  She’s too physically weak to live as she once did; the memory of which draining her psyche.  You, too emotionally weak to handle her metamorphosis.  Coming together to create one gigantic fucking mess.

All this (unfortunately) came up because one of my friends has been feeling depressed as her birthday nears.  Not out of vanity, she’s turning 28, and that’s the age her brother never reached.  Soon she’ll be older than her older brother.  She’s starting to feel guilty about surviving.  About how she’s venturing into unknown territory; places he had always explored first.

I explained I had a similar uneasy (read: depressing) feeling during my last few birthdays.  I was also approaching 28, which in my error prone mind, was the deadline.  According to my willfully wrong memory, Mom died when I was around 14.  (Frankly I try not to think about it too hard.  Some things I really don’t want to know.)  Perhaps on the cusp/the transition to 15.  So after 28, I had hit a point where I had now officially lived longer without a mother than with.  Now when I explain my behavior with the “raised by wolves” excuse, there’s very little evidence to the contrary.

Her depression fueled my own, since, due to the stage of my mother’s illness I never got the chance to say good-bye, with John, I was scared to say good-bye.  I’m not certain but I can easily entertain the thought that he hated me before he died. 

(Don’t believe me?  Check out some of the earliest “comments” on my profile.  Believe me when I tell you the private messages Puddin Master sent me were nastier.)

Even so, I had been so excited to to play basketball with him again upon my return to Florida.  I was excited even though I couldn’t be certain whether or not he’d punch me when he saw me.  I was still certain that after a cheap shot, though, if he decided to take it, we’d be back to normal.  He’d ask about my seeing Akimbo play in Philly, whether Man Man used a real tuba in concert, I’d give him the [Akimbo] shirt I bought him to scare the little kids at the gym with, and we’d play some “prison-rules” basketball.  He’d win ‘cuz I was too busy being distractable.

We could play “prison-rules” basketball because John was an avid bodybuilder, so I could hit him as hard as I felt like; i.e. with an elbow, and he wouldn’t flinch.  The way basketball should, must, be played.  Unfortunately we never had a chance to play again, for him to worry about me starting a fight in a casual game of pick-up ‘cuz our opponents weren’t used to playing so physical.

As the two funerals I’ve attended that can’t be easily explained away as caused by age, it’s becoming harder to differentiate the two in my mind.  Both seem catastrophically immediate; affecting the young-ish.

Compounding these matters and memories further is my own disease, which shares its, if not, birthplace, then its, at least generally recognized, home near Moffitt.  I spent most of my youth as a patient at USF’s juvenile diabetes center, visiting it from my home in Port Charlotte every three months from the ages of 6 to (again let’s guess and say) 15. 

A disease that hasn’t managed to kill me yet, though it’s been doing its damndest trying.  As I’ve gotten older it appears that my numbers have been getting worse, as my insulin doses increase.  Just one of the wonders of drug resistance building up over time will provide.

Again comes the depression, this time feeling as failure, since it’s very difficult to think about a disease and your body’s struggle wit hit in non-competitive terms.  It always seems as you’re winning or losing; living doesn’t get discussed much.

While it seems natural that after 25 years constant insulin injections my body would (however foolishly) start resisting its own medicine.  After all, resistance happens to all those lesser, recreational drugs too.  All it really means is I need to take more than before.  Yet, like I said, it’s nearly impossible to view this conceit as anything but a failure.
Realizing that I’m losing an unwinnable war does nothing to soften the blow. 

This is funny ‘cuz the truth has always been out there on the table.  Any book discussing Type-1 diabetes heralds the grim details: a diabetic’s body will fall apart around year 50.  The stresses of having a body that’s readily trying to destroy itself from the inside can only go on so long.  While accepting of that truism, I still always hoped it would play out (mildly) different.

I always imagined life would be fine (for someone with a chronic disease) until 50, and then everything would fall apart.  Right after cutting the cake at the birthday party; just a total, systematic failure.  Flashing lights going on-and-off, beaming out of my ears.  Mouth screeching like the siren I always hoped it would be.  You know, how all diabetics (famously) come undone.

Instead I got this, the lazy breakdown.  One telegraphed to everyone around me.  So ubiquitous that no one will even notice.  Not nearly as entertaining as one’s demise should be.

As noted in the beginning, my mother fought (her) cancer (publicly) for three months before throwing in the towel.  Suffering through, by my count, two (short-lived) remissions, or at least, stints, where the doctors let her return home.  Once bringing a wheelchair with her, the next time a hospital bed.  Both stints lasting less than a day before the ambulances rushed to take her back.

The same woman who would yell at me about keeping track of my blood sugar, about how they, my parents, choose life for me when I was too young to choose for myself, so I had better make the most of it, ‘cuz those syringes don’t pay for themselves!, ultimately gave up on herself.

Leaving me here, wondering where else one goes for inspiration.  How long can my (generally) stunning supply of belligerence hold out?  Readers will know I always get a kick out of spitting in God’s face.  Left up to his devices, I’d already be dead!  Thanks to man-made medicine I live.

Dogs and pigs sacrificed in outer space so I may live.  I’ll keep that thought in my head as motivation.  Crazy enough it just might work! 


2 Responses to “For All Those Who Sit and Cry”

  1. I feel like it would be an insult to you to read this and then not say anything, but I’m feeling clumsy now and don’t want to say something stupid. I just want you to know that I read this and I get it. My own mom died of one of the hard to diagnose cancers. She fought it for over five years and I was grown when it started, so I took care of her for those last years when she was so sick. I’m very familiar with those strange hospital rituals that become so familiar even though you don’t want them to. I even had to do a quieter version of the scene in “Terms of Endearment” where Shirley MacLaine starts screaming at the nurses about her daughter’s pain shot.

    Sometimes belligerence doesn’t dwindle so much as morph into that wiser kind of fight that comes with living and thinking for a while. I think you’ll be able to keep up that fight. I hope so.

  2. sandy (martin) stainton Says:

    you write with a punch to the gut, I was just enjoying your prose when I realized this was about John & Sara, my niece and nephew from a previous marriage. I didn’t know them well, we moved to Florida long before they did but remember them as children. Thank you for your story, it brings back memories of John as a little boy

Is ShenaniTims full of shit? Tell him now!

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