Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Redemption (please save me from all the little boxes)

People forgive me, for it has been almost a year since my last confession...er...post.

When I was a child, I spoke those words, or nearly those words, on a regular basis, because I was raised as a Catholic, and that meant going to confession.

"Father forgive me, for I have sinned. It's been (insert time here) weeks since my last confession."

The priest would listen patiently, lecture gently for a while, then assign my punishment...er... act of contrition, which amounted to saying a few Hail Mary's, maybe a Lord's Prayer thrown in for good.

How could I ever forget that routine? As a child, heading for the confession booth, waiting in nervous silence for the priest (always a withered up old white guy) to slam open the tiny wooden divider, and reciting my "sins," (my mother always said to make up a few minor ones if I couldn't honestly think of anything I'd done wrong) was both terrifying and strengthening.

After all, if you can face that sort of torture as a kid, you learn the template to face a lot bigger stuff as an adult. And to not question why, just to react appropriately, sometime with gritted teeth, but always with a stolid Catholic front.

Well, a lot has happened since last November, and I feel like I may have sinned, or not, and that I may be redeemed, as in saved.

I won't write at length about the last year...for that could form a book. Here it is in ten easy points:
  1. Last Christmas, my mother shared the day with us. She was 94. We opened gifts and ate brunch in full view of the tree with all the gifts unwrapped and strewn about. After, my mother wanted to open the gifts. She had no memory of already doing that. She really couldn't remember anything more than ten seconds in the past. Later, after we'd delivered her back to her home, she called and plaintively asked if she was not going to see us that day?
  2. Early in January, my mother-in-law died as Anthony and I sat beside her bed at the Kookytown Hospital. She'd suffered with Alzheimer's Disease for some years, and had broken her arm in December, and was thus hospitalized. She never left the hospital, but over the month she was there, she forgot how to walk, and even chew her food. She'd already long forgotten who we were.
  3. Watching someone die is unpleasant.
  4. Over the next 4 months, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She started to feel some pain, and became weak from blood loss through internal bleeding. Thus began an intense time for me as I watched her decline. I took her to umpteen medical appointments, almost weekly blood transfusions (to keep her from suffering a heart attack due to the blood loss). She became wheel-chair bound. I learned how to get her in and out of the car, and where all the best labs were located for people who use wheel-chairs. I became exhausted from trying to take care of  her while balancing all my other responsibilities.
  5. Anthony's uncle died very suddenly in April, and Anthony prepared and gave the eulogy at his funeral. It was disturbing to see his family so upset, and to then see him, the uncle (or rather, the little box he was in), placed in a bigger glass box in the group mausoleum where he will now reside forever after.
  6. On May 11, 2014, Mother's Day, we (all four of us, me, Anthony, Alexander and Kathleen) visited my mom and had brunch. She barely ate (in fact, she'd been barely eating for some time, and had lost so much weight by then that for the FIRST time in my life, my mother weighed less than me). None-the-less, she seemed delighted to see us, and chatted brightly with my kids. The conversation circled to the same things every ten seconds or so, but that was fine.
  7. Over the next three weeks, my mother began seriously dieing. I started visiting nearly every day. She became confined to her bed, started wearing diapers, and her doctor increased her morphine to dull her pain. She was skeletal, and moaned for my help whenever I visited. She could not move herself to even shift her weight, and I watched her attendants bathe her and replace her diaper, while she cried and moaned for me. When I asked what she needed she couldn't articulate much, except to ask to sit up. In the last few days, she couldn't speak much at all. I'd hold her hand, talk to her without getting a verbal response (although she would look at me), and play her music box over and over. Watching my mother going through this process was extremely unpleasant.
  8. On June 4, the doctor call to tell me she'd died. I felt sort-of-numb, but drove with Anthony to the Kookytown Funeral Home and made and paid for all the cremation arrangements. I wrote and placed the obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press. I let her friends and relatives know. And then I started on the long process of executing her will. It's a lot of work, even though she left her affairs in order. It will take several more months to finish up. One of the details I have yet to deal with is figuring out where I will place her (in her little box) forever more.
  9. In June and July, Alexander and I helped Anthony finally empty his mother's house completely of all the crazy detritus still left-over from her departure. She and her son John had made some insane mess, let me tell you. We wore masks, rented dumpsters, and laboriously emptied the place of years of garbage that had never been sorted or pruned. Most should have been thrown out years ago. After we were done, Anthony got the place on the market, and sold it. Now, he's trying to deal with executing his mother's will. It will take years. She did NOT leave her affairs in order. 
  10. Through the summer, we've helped Alexander get ready for university in the fall. It's his first year. He's moving to Toronto, where he will live in residence and study engineering at the University of Toronto. I have dealt endlessly with my bank, in order to figure out how to withdraw money from his RESP, and in what amounts (it's not easy figuring this out), and helping him apply for student loans, which is overly complicated, to my mind. And I've pressured his father to contribute to the process. Of course, his father has pretty much refused to help with anything. At the last minute, he finally cut a cheque to Alexander for a small portion of the coming year's costs for tuition and residence. But it's not enough, not his fair share, and certainly not what he can afford.
As you may imagine, this has all been a bit much to absorb. I find myself awake at night, reliving this-and-that. Memories from childhood have resurfaced. Every time I find anything with my mother's handwriting on it, I pause. Anything that still smells of her (Estee Lauder powder) is reason for a bump of guilt, remorse, affection, or who know what?

All I know is, I walk around with small lumps of pain popping in my chest, or lying like heavy stones in my gut. People are leaving me, at record rates, it seems. I look for how I may be saved, and even renewed. I'll write about that another time.