Lately I’m struggling

Lately my emotions are all over the place. I randomly remember my mother, a call made to me at work, a conversation at home, the words every night when Josh called out to her… “Goodnight granny”… “Night Josh, sleep tight”… “You too”… and it breaks me. It’s like she’s still alive for a moment, and then the memory of her death last month hits me again. And again. Every time it hurts. I remember her body, still warm, when I eventually made it to the hospital that day – and then the realization that her body was reduced to ashes laying in a box in the lounge cupboard.

Josh isn’t making this any easier. Some days he doesn’t listen to anything I say, anything at all. Some days he flat out refuses to do even the simplest thing. Tonight I sent him to bed without supper after he refused to eat it when I requested. Then I gave in to him and let him get up after half an hour.

In the kitchen stands the blender she bought to make smoothies in October, bought and hardly used. The kitchen cupboards are packed full of her neatly labelled containers. Even the artificial sweetener that only she used. Fat lot of good it did to cut out sugar, huh? Her cake of personal face soap lies under a fine layer of dust on the right hand side of the bathroom basin. I’ve run out of other food and had to shop weekly to replace it, but still have 12 fucking litres of milk because they last forever now, and two days before she died, she bought six that I didn’t know about while I was at work.

Mostly it’s that last phone call she made to me the morning before she died. I was going to visit her in hospital, and would have seen her alive once more if she could just have lived a few hours more. I wonder pointlessly… If the hospital staff realized that her reaction that prevented the bronchoscopy from working was to the medication, then why use similar medication for the procedure that ended up accidentally killing her? But thinking about that changes nothing. Sure, she might have lived longer. But she didn’t.

I torture myself thinking about how things might have been different. A thousand little things, done differently over time have a thousand different effects and each action leads to a slightly different future. So many things could have saved her but none of them did.

It’s after midnight. Lately, if I stay up this late, my thoughts will keep me awake until after four.

A shit end to a shit year

In two days it will be two weeks since my mother died. For the next couple of days, my son will be sleeping over with his cousins at my brother’s place. Alone at home, I expected to be moping around morbidly. But I’m not. I’m OK. That makes it worse somehow.

I’m not used to cooking every day, because I haven’t been. There’s a McDonalds within walking distance, and I’ve been wasting too much money there. But apart from random momentary lapses into the time machine of memory, I’ve gotten used to my mother being gone. This leaves me feeling guilty.

At least nobody has said, “It was her time”. She was supposed to come home that same day; all we knew was there were blood clots on her left lung and that she had to be tested at the hospital. They were supposed to diagnose her, not kill her. So no, don’t tell me it was her fucking time.

My mother never liked Christmas, and now neither do I. Most wonderful time of the year, suck my sweaty balls… I didn’t even get her recipe for traditional English trifle, or more importantly, the stuffing she used on the turkey. Most of all, I will never talk to her again.

Tomorrow night it will be a week since I quit smoking cigarettes. I have succeeded, and I know I will never smoke again, just as I knew I would never use meth again within days of quitting five years ago. I should feel proud, shouldn’t I? But I feel nothing.

It’s now the 19th December 2018. That means four days ago, my son was back with me for three years already. I’d been looking forward to this for months. It’s huge. I was planning on writing about that, writing about how happy we are, and how close we are. (And we are close.) But now I don’t feel.

The irony now is, I’m not that sad about my mother’s death – I’ve accepted the unpleasant fact that she’s gone. Now, I feel sad for not feeling sad. Crazy, huh?

It’s no longer about going through the day, and finding something I want to tell her, and then remembering she’s dead so I can’t. Instead, I find these things I would normally share with her, but I’m well aware that she’s gone, so it hurts. Tonight, there’s a comedy starring Tommy Lee Jones on TV. She loved that man. It’s those little things that jump out and remind me that life is shit.

We’ll be fine, Josh and I. But can this year be fucking over already? I think I’m almost done with mourning, and despite the sombre tone of this post, this dark mood and these dark posts will be gone soon. Everyone and everything dies, even grief.

I’m in Limbo

Last night in my nightmares, I couldn’t breathe properly. I shifted awkwardly between asleep and awake, laying thinking of one memory in particular that haunts me – my mother on that Tuesday night before I dropped her at the hospital on Wednesday morning; my mother sitting at the dining room table after walking from her bedroom to the lounge, just a few meters being enough to leave her out of breath, sitting there panting with her head in her hands. I laid there thinking that, and then shifting back to sleep where I dreamed that I was the one struggling to breathe. Then I woke confused, uncertain if this was a dream or if I really did struggle.

I’ve started wondering if this was really a sensible time to quit cigarettes. My last smoke was quite late on Thursday night, but the craving has been quite intense since then. But it’s not just craving – I’m angry. This anger flares up in response to tiny things that should be insignificant. I don’t remember ever craving meth like this, but I am craving a cigarette. The part of me that wants it begs and pleads, insisting that all I need is one; that I can bum from my neighbour, Mervin downstairs, who normally bums from me. But no! I shut those thoughts down each time, by playing back that mental image of my mother, sitting there with her head in her hands as she struggled to breathe. I hear her voice, as she called me on her last day, a week ago yesterday, to tell me that they would try to drain the fluid from her lung using a needle. I thought I’d see her later that day. They were supposed to help her, not suddenly kill her! That’s why I’m still in shock. And I think of how she died not two hours later, but also that she might have lived much longer if she’d quit smoking sooner. I need to quit and not give in to any cravings, so that I can live longer, for my son.

So I have motivation, but it’s hurting. The more I think about it, the more it hurts.The grief and sense of loss is otherwise not as bad as it was a week ago. It’s still bad, but it’s OK. But the not smoking thing is really fucking me up. Even my sense of the passing of time is different without nicotine. I don’t know how that can be, but some annoying tasks, such as pulling off from a traffic light… seem to take much longer now. The waiting for the lights to change from red to green… seems much longer than it needs to be. I used to take a lot of smoke breaks as well, sometimes before and after doing just about every little thing. Now I have all this extra time and no clue what to do with it.

I am not strong

I’m hardly coping with the loss of my mother. The last couple of days my brother helped out, first with sorting through her things and then with the unpleasant process of meeting the undertaker so that her body could be released, and organising the cremation. He made it clear that he’s doing this to Josh and I, not for her. Their relationship had deteriorated beyond repair, sadly. I’m not going to write anything further about that (It’s nobody’s business), and I do appreciate the help he and his wife have been the last couple of days.

But as for me – I am lost. My relationship with my mother was not that great until she moved in here in 2011, but since then we have grown close, closer than ever before. I downloaded series to watch with her and Josh; I took her to the movies; I discussed every little detail of my life with her. Sometimes I didn’t like her advice; sometimes I didn’t take it; sometimes we argued, and sometimes I took her for granted. But she was there for me. In the years of 2011 to 2013 when I was still struggling with addiction, she stood by me. (OK, she had to because she was staying in my place where I paid the rent and bought the food, but still.) She supported me emotionally when nobody else would. She was my only support. And now she’s gone.

Just the night before I took her to hospital, I called her to see a funny video I’d found on Facebook. In the last couple of months, we watched Westworld Season 2 together. She was looking forward to the final season of Game of Thrones.

She was my rock. She did more for me than anyone ever has. I depended on her for so much. When everything else was shit and my life fell apart, at least I had my mother to stand by me. And now she’s gone.

“Be strong”, people say. I probably shouldn’t criticize… Of all the things people say, that’s probably the best one. But it reminds me of when people congratulate me on getting out of some terrible situations in my years of addiction. “You’re strong”, they say. But I am not.

I am not strong. I am weak. I got through addiction and through some abusive situations, that seemed quite hopeless, not because of strength, but simply because I had to. I chose to live on, to drag myself through another day, then another, another, and another until it didn’t hurt as much any more. I persevered because I had to, not because of being strong.

How fragile is human life?

Yesterday my mother died suddenly. I’m not coping with the loss very well at all.

This has all been a shock. Two weeks ago, I dropped her off at Edenvale Hospital before going to work. It was just supposed to be a checkup, but I found later that day she’d been admitted. She had an enlarged heart due to fluid on her lungs. They also picked up something on her chest but didn’t know what it was, so she was scheduled to go to Johannesburg General hospital for a test, a bronchoscopy. But things did not go as planned.

They let her come home, and she was scheduled to go for the test this past Tuesday. I dropped her off at 6AM, again at Edenvale hospital, and their “messenger” as they call him took her to Johannesburg General hospital. But she hadn’t been told not to eat breakfast, so she had to return home. The messenger berated her, bullied her, telling everyone it was her fault. This was the second time he did so; the prior week another test had to be aborted because of a seafood allergy (which she had disclosed) which left her sensitive to the drip. So on Tuesday after making her walk from one side of the hospital to another (It’s a huge hospital.) because he parked on the wrong side, he let her wait three hours for the transport to go back to Edenvale. Is this how you treat a 70 year old woman who is struggling to breathe because of blood clots on her lungs? is it fun to bully an easy victim?

So on Wednesday, I took her back to the hospital again. They took her back to the larger hospital, where the bronchoscopy had to be abandoned because of a complication caused by her reaction to the medication. But I wasn’t notified. After work on Wednesday, I went to Edenvale hospital, but nobody knew where she was, so I then had to go look for her at Joburg Gen myself. It turned out she was in ICU, where she stayed overnight. After that amount of stress and no sleep, I stayed home on Thursday – I could not go to work in such a state of mind and without having had any sleep.

But on Thursday she was OK. She felt much better, was happy and in good spirits; she even joked with the staff there and made friends.

I went to work on Friday, dressing smarter than my usual jeans and t-shirt because we had an office year end function that afternoon. I planned to attend, and then leave early because visiting hours are 3 to 5PM.

She called me around 10AM to let me know that the bronchoscopy had not been done. Until then, we thought it had and that we simply had to wait two weeks for the results. I was under the impression that she was coming home. But instead, another procedure was going to be done where they would drain the fluid from her lung sing a needle. I asked if she would be anaesthetized but she told me she didn’t know because they had yet to explain it to her. I wished her luck, not knowing that this was the last time I would speak to her.

At 11:55AM I got the call to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but by the time I got there, she was already dead. She had again reacted badly to the medication, went into respiratory arrest, and while they tried to resuscitate her, went into cardiac arrest. They did resuscitate her after 30 minutes, but did not manage to wake her, and after another 30 minutes, and her not responding, they gave up.

The whole thing has been a nightmare. It happened too quickly, and I am shattered. My son and I have depended on her for so long now, but that’s not the worst part… I’ll find a way to cope with all the tasks that need to be done, but so far, I have not been able to make myself go through her things. Apart from her room, her toothbrush is still hanging in the bathroom, as is her towel and her toiletries. Her writing pad is on the dining room table, and I cannot bring myself to disturb those things. It seems sacrilegious somehow.

This is so much more difficult because of her staying with my son and I. In the years before this, we were not so close. But now, having her stay here these seven years had brought us closer together, and I was closer to her now than ever in my childhood.

How fragile are we, that life can so abruptly end? No time to say goodbye or even, “I love you, mommy”. There’s a part of me that fears that it is somehow because I didn’t tell her that I was worried in that last phone call, that somehow if she knew how much I cared and how worried I was, she might still be alive. I know it’s not true, but this part of me believes that if I’d said, “Please don’t die” that maybe she wouldn’t have.