Friday, December 02, 2005

I Wouldn't Wish This On Anyone

All three of us are quite testy these days. On a good day, the hospital at which my sister works is an hour and a half from my parents' house. Since good traffic days are a rarity in Los Angeles and the insta-communities mushrooming along the eastern border of the county, she spends over two hours of each evening driving to see my mom and wakes up at 5am to spend another two hours returning to her patients. Two nights ago, she arrived at the house later than usual, explaining that a young boy with bruises all over his body (including suspicious places) was admitted as she was preparing to leave. Half in jest, half in sadness, she tells us that she can make it home for dinner as long as everyone agrees not to beat their child to death that day.

The reality of the situation is slowly hitting my father, a man who has managed to go through life without expressing much emotion -- at least none that I have ever seen in my 32 (almost 33) years on earth. It's hard to watch him on the verge of a meltdown. He awakes my mom from her stupor and feeds her every few hours. Somehow, I think he thinks that half a banana is going to make the difference. When I tell him that spiritual, not physical, nourishment is what she needs, he yells at me. This is his way of expressing emotion. A man utterly incapable of saying "I love you" is showing it with feedings of bananas and yogurt all day.

I feel like a walking zombie. Sleep and food seem like a luxury these days and I am certain I am not getting enough of either. It's hard to get sleep at my parents' house because every little noise sends me into a panic about my mom. On the few nights I come home to sleep, I contend with my husband's worse-than-usual snoring and the new couch won't be delivered until next week. Food does not taste very good. Under this stress, I am not good company and my already low patience threshhold is being taxed.

Word has gotten out in the community about my mom and the parade of well-wishers was endless last weekend. It turns out that the day my sister called the mosque to ask about Islamic burials was the same day as a memorial service for Mustapha Akkad, a filmmaker who was killed in the Jordan bombings. Even though my parents have never been members of the mosque, and my dad has offended many of the holyrollers with his philosophizing about Buddhism and the yarmelke sitting on his desk from years of his friend's son's bar mitzvahs, there is a common bond among those who were daring enough to leave their homes, families and cultures behind to go to a new land with dreams of something better. Everyone knows everyone else.

It was a pleasure to catch up with some of the people we haven't seen in over a decade. Most of them were polite, somber, said their $.02 and left. There were four religious bitches my parents barely know and who I cannot stand, however, who showed up unannounced on Sunday and worked my mom into a fit. They wanted to know the entire history of my mom's illness, why doesn't she have a feeding tube, why isn't she on chemo, etc. And, they directed all those questions to my semi-lucid mother. After politely asking them to speak in a more calm, peaceful tone with my mom, after asking them to cease the demands for a play-by-play account of my mom's illness and treatment, and after being ignored by them, I cussed at them until they were so offended they left. In Arab culture, hospitality is number one. Even if you do not like someone, if they are in your home, you have to treat them like royalty or you will bring dishonor upon your family. Since I have been bringing dishonor upon my family since I was at least 16, I figured there was no reason to change things now. I can only hope they were so offended they will never come back, but I doubt I am that lucky.

Things have quieted down since the weekend and the routine at the house is as predictable as it can be. When my sister wakes up to leave to work, she gives my mom her morning dose of morphine. My father follows up with breakfast and they head to the living room. Even though my mom spends the majority of the day sleeping, she insists on getting out of bed, sitting in a chair for part of the day (where she falls asleep) and lying on the couch. Since she is so weak and emaciated at this stage, we carry her around the house, we lift her up so she can sit up to eat. We used to give her the evening dose of morphine at 8pm, but by Wednesday she had developed such a tolerance that she cried in agony by 6:30. It's important to stay ahead of the pain because, if you don't, it is bloody murder to conquer it.

After re-reading the hospice literature, it appears that Friday was the turning point from 1-2 months before death to 1-2 weeks before death. Eyes are glassy, loss of focus, conversations with people who are dead, sleep is much of the day.

It's horrible. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Spending the last week watching my mother deteriorate before our eyes has confirmed what I already thought about the Schiavo case -- that Terri Schiavo's parents were sick, twisted, evil people. How on earth two parents can insist on jamming tubes into their daughter so that she can be no more than a blow-up doll boggles my mind. And to make it a public circus! Where is the dignity? That isn't pro-life, it is pro-torture. But I suppose that shouldn't be shocking since the people who claim to be pro-life are also -- you guessed it -- Dick "Let's Torture Everyone" Cheney's biggest fans. I am not one to wish bad things on people, but it is apparent to me that those who think Terri Schiavo was "murdered" have never seen their mother scream in agony because the morphine ran out; they have never watched their mother, who looked healthy two months earlier, reduced to skin and bones. The people who think Terri Schiavo was murdered are sick, evil people who know nothing about dignity, about mercy, about life.

25 Comments:

At 11:04 AM, December 02, 2005 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

12 02 05

Dear II: I hope you experienced a cleansing from writing this. Glad you have written, sad for your circumstances. I am still sending positive energy to you and your family. Take Care and keep thinking of the positive things...I recall going off to my first term of college years ago and my great grandmother was walking around and cracking jokes etc. I came back a couple of months later and she was skin and bones with an amputated limb. Yet, in my desperation I couldn't help but wish she would be kept alive. I think it has to do with not wanting to let go; and is perhaps selfishly motivated. Nevertheless, I am wishing you and your family well and hoping that your mother's suffering will end.

 
At 11:15 AM, December 02, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Hi Mahndisa -

Reading and writing are my refuge these days. I just finished "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri. Although I rarely read fiction, I am enjoying non-political stuff these days. Thanks for the kind thoughts. I really appreciate it.

 
At 7:46 PM, December 02, 2005 , Blogger Roseville Conservative said...

I will leave the Schiavo thing for another day...

I just wanted to post a comment on your blog and tell you that all of us in the "RC Family" of commenters have you in our thoughts.

Craig and I want you to know that we are praying that God will comfort your soul and that your mother will soon be at peace.

Hang in there II and we will be here for you when you get back home.

Your friend,

Aaron

 
At 8:47 PM, December 02, 2005 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Yars; I second that. Hang in there; you're sorely missed.

:-), StS

 
At 11:15 AM, December 03, 2005 , Blogger mrsleep said...

II, since I'm closer to your fathers age, than your age I will share with you the my experience when my father died.

All of the feelings and emotions you have expressed are natural. All of us like certainty, and stability in our lives. When my Dad died, I didn't know how to act, or what to do. I just knew I had to be strong for my Mom and my family. I walked around in a daze for days :)

You are doing what you have to do, providing as much support to your father, and as much comfort as possible to your Mother.

Never feel sorry about defending your family. The four clueless ones you mentioned were acting selfish, and grandstanding.

Your Cyber family grieves for you and your family. We wish we could provide more comfort for you, and we wish we could take the pain away, but we can't, and we apologize for that.

The Cyber world is an interesting place. We care enough to expose our innermost feelings with basically complete strangers.

We do miss you. We are an odd eclectic bunch of souls. However we share one common bond, caring about making a difference in the world, and standing up for what we belief is right, and willing to fight against what we believe is wrong.

Believe me that you are doing the right thing in making your Mom's last few days as pleasant, and as comforting as possible. It's not easy, it's painful, but it's a labor of love. You have nothing more important in life than giving your love freely and openly to your family.

Sandman, MrSleep, my Cyber masks.

Take care,

Chris

 
At 10:24 AM, December 04, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Chris,

Thanks so much. It has been such a pleasant surprise to find that I do have a world of friends in the blogosphere and we do share a common bond. It is also comforting when people share their personal stories. Somehow, it makes it feel like one day life won't feel so grey.

Dina

 
At 11:24 PM, December 04, 2005 , Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

the four religious women...

you know there is a strong correlation between the highly religious and people who believe that every sadness and tragedy is brought upon ourselves by our own actions. (i am reminded of a very christian woman who relates every bad thing that happens to her to her consumption of sugar and/or cheese.) i can't help but wonder if their inquiry directed at your mother was really some poor attempt to rationalize the suffering they see. people like this can be difficult to tolerate in less stresfful times so i don't think you brought dishonor to yourself and your family by your transgression. i am fairly certain that "honor thy mother and father" is pretty high up there in Arab culture too so lets just say you were picking the lesser of two evils.

long story short...i think you are demonstrating a lot of courage and fortitude, but also maintaining an awareness of your own feelings. i have always respected you, but really, respect is too mild of a word to describe how i am impacted by your balance and grace through this.

 
At 5:10 AM, December 05, 2005 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

ii,

You know my heart is with you, and to those 4 people who have bad manners, it matters not whether they were religious or not. Regardless what Mr. Wilson said, no one who truly understands religion would ever say there is a "strong correlation between the highly religious and people who believe that every sadness and tragedy is brought upon ourselves by our own actions."

Words that infer "every", and "always" are stereotyping hyperbole. Words like "Some" are a much more realistic, and there are "some" who think alike in every persuasion, whether it be "highly religious" or "Highly Atheistic."

In the Bible, we understand that Lot did not bring all of the misfortunes upon himself. That is just as ridiculous as saying that we are "never" responsible for our own consequences.

Death is part of life and we all must face it. We just must do it with dignity and with understanding that Life is so wonderful that there must be more to happen after we are gone.

I already told you about my experiance with my Dad passing away just a few years ago in one of my last emails. Again, it was the hardest thing I ever had to endure. I bawled like a baby at the wake, and I am like your Dad and usually do a good job of trying to control my emotions.

My prayers are with your family.

Your Friend,

Gary.

 
At 10:31 AM, December 05, 2005 , Blogger jj said...

Having watched a close loved one pass from liver failure your post brought back some unpleasant yet........ I cannot think of a word. But glad I could be there to help and comfort and tell them how much I loved them.

I wish you and your family the best in such a hard time. If your mom is on enough morphine she will not feel the pain and it may be harder on you and your family to watch. Stay strong for you your family and your Mom.

 
At 2:11 PM, December 07, 2005 , Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

FAR-

Do you know what the world "correlated" means?

It doesn't infer "every" or "all". As a matter of fact, it is the very kind of specific language we scientists use when we mean to explicitly state that we are not referring to "all" cases.

For instance there is a correlation between people who are relgigious and debate with people without knowing what they are talking about, because they ignore the emotional reactions that dictate where they focus their rationality. What that correlation is, I do not pretend to know...but I do know that you increase the number with your desire to debate my semantics instead of dealing with the content of what i was saying anyway.

But maybe i made the mistake of posting my comments publicly when my relationship to "II" is first and foremost a personal one. But since she is a personal friend of mine, I will address you personally as well:

FAR, you don't know me at all, but what I do know of you is that you are the type of insensitive person that would start a religious debate on the this woman's blog when she has obviously moved from the "opinion" sphere, to something very personal and less open for free wheeling debate. Generally speaking, I am passive, but if knew you personally I would slap you right now and not because I believe I am right or you are stupid, but just because "II" means that much to me, and I don't even like the idea of callous people like you existing in her world. You don't know how lucky you are that someone like her even uses her waking time to debate with you, even if she primarily does it for amusement/distraction. I might get my ass whooped...more than likely I would probably get threatened with criminal charges or a lawsuit, but the difference between you and me is I know my feelings from rationality. Now that is just some purely emotionally charged rhetoric based on my experience and its not up for intellecutal debate. Roll that up in a page of Leviticus and smoke it...

mr. wilson

 
At 12:01 PM, December 09, 2005 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Mr. W.

You are fortunate to know The Intellectural Insurgent on a personal level, and you sound like a good and caring friend. As any good friend should do, you should error on the side of looking out for your dear and closest friends.

Continue to look after her, although methinks she is tough enough to hold her own in these verbal jousting matches.

 
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