I run into fairly friendly acquaintances and they ask "What have you been up to?" And I try to explain what I have been doing with my time. This is how it goes:
Me: "My mother in law has cancer and it has been very stressful."
Other Person:"Oh, does she live with you?"
Other Person: "Oh, so you go and see her every day."
How do you explain a year's worth of being the guardian of a parent, and then becoming their parent?
(And I know that most people just want me to say that I'm fine and they don't want a description and I get that) But sometimes I have to justify (to myself) why I feel so exhausted and worn out.
It is the ups and downs, mostly down, never knowing what is going to happen from month to month, sometimes week to week, and sometimes day to day. And of the challenges and wondering when is "it" going to happen? Watching someone descend into a miserable, painful state of being and yet they are still alive and can remain in the miserable way for an extended period of time.
I thought of how to explain it today.
We have invited GaGa over for lunch tomorrow. She has not been to our house in a while. And a certain level of dread starts to set in. How are things going to go between she and the girls? How much pain is she going to be in? How much thinner is she going to look? How much sense is she going to make as her words don't come to her anymore? Will I have to cut her food like I did last time and then ignore that she is not eating because she has no appetite? Is she going to smile, just once? There is a level of tension so high that it takes a chainsaw to cut through.
It hit me that the description of the "What are you up to?" stress is that when I look at GaGa's frail, shrinking, pained self is that I'm looking at death. I'm not trying to be melodramatic because this is the way it is...
Each and every time I see her.
Every time I talk to her.
Every time I think about her.
Death is always in the back of my mind.
This is not the normal stress of everyday living.
Months ago, when my therapist said she is halfway between life and death, I continue to understand it on deeper and deeper levels. I wonder how much more I have to learn because it keeps coming whether I like it or not. Yet the more I embrace it and examine it, I see God making me stronger. I see little signs, people put in my path that make me smile for a just a moment. And those moments feels oh so sweet.