Closure: death and forgiveness

None of us thought we’d die before our “time.” I think it means our presupposed allotted lifetime into old age, perhaps our 70s or 80s. Seeing grandchildren grow. Watching as our bodies change with age, seeing our partners creases form around the same eyes into which we’re used to gazing. Death from stage four cancer didn’t occur to me as my ultimate decider. It did erased the path to the future I’d laid out in front of me. After diagnosis I could find no place to land my next footstep.

I miss my parents these days. The path I’m on no longer leads home to them, either. Their presence represented home for me, which I only realized after they died. No longer could a path carry them back to me, either. The warmth of parental love would be welcomed. That love a parent usually feels for a child no matter what age or stage in their relationship. Death ends an irreplaceable bond and the only unconditional love most humans will ever know. So different from the lives we chose.

A parent’s love, unchosen by us, although m not always healthy but biologically necessary in childhood, becomes evident at some point in our adult lives. Hopefully we work out any resentment or negative emotional turmoil and reach a mature understanding of one another before they die or as in my mother’s case, before memory becomes only the child’s to remember, as the parent may no longer recognize heir own. Perhaps in some way Alzheimer’s and dementia take down the open door and board up the portal to the past leaving nowhere to find our common experiences.

My mother died from Alzheimer’s just before her 74th birthday. Too young for my family, and too soon for me. Money somehow takes over the priorities in many families. My family exhibited no exception in behavior. My younger brother kept me from finding out about my mother’s death. My ex husband sent me his condolences but too late to travel to arrive in Florida from California in time for her service. She wanted to be cremated, and many times in my life had me swear I’d not bury her. Mom was terribly afraid of being buried. My brother and my mother’s sister tried to stop her burial after a text message from me alerting them to her wishes. However, it was too late and the cemetery had already embalmed her. The embalming process made cremation no longer an option.

There’s a bond between a first born daughter and a mother. At least that’s what mom told me. Do you ever hear yourself speaking your mother’s words or her idiosyncratic phrases sometimes? I know I think to myself, “god, I sounded just like Elaine!” And I look like both of my parents. There’s no doubt a genetic blender swirled them together to create me. But they had very different deaths.

As different as their lives.

The strong relationship between my father and I went through its share of turmoil and warmth. We were much more alike intellectually and culturally. He handed me Kurt Vonnegut when I reached 10 years of age, Stranger in a Strange Land at 12. He fed my curiosity and introduced me to art and jazz and rock n’ roll. Never did I doubt his love for me until after his first, and only, 18-hour operation to remove about 50% of a huge benign mitochondrial tumor. The big ugly thing grew slowly and lodged itself against his brain stem. It also grew tendrils that wrapped themselves around his cochlear ear bones making balance a trick – and showing us the need for an MRI. Those tendrils seemed to reach out and give us the finger giving new meaning to #fuckcancer as if it were tweeting #fuckhumans – as if. Brain surgery takes away parts of a person’s personality and can leave anger where once was joy and humor. His anger was directed at me and my brother took full advantage of the situation. He fed my dad’s anger like my father once fed my curios young mind. Lots of influence where a blank picture of me once showed his favorite kid. I took second pole position.

I flew to Miami after a rousing bout with prediabetes and an annoying loss of mobility of my left foot. A neurologist asked if my blood sugar got tested and if diabetes ran in my family. Yes it ran rampant on my mother’s side and my sugar tested 265. I dropped 25 lbs and looked rather grayish. A swift change of diet and no more wine (gasp!) took care of that problem.

But my family is prone to rumor mongering. My brother used it as an opportunity to convince my relatives that I had to be a drug addict and they’ll choose to believe a good yarn before the truth. Most of them doubt I have cancer, so on some level it’s conceivable. Hey, you know it’s easy to hold down an executive level job for nearly three decades as a full time drug addict.

It’s not easy being a woman in a male dominated field and my long and successful career abruptly ended the day of my diagnosis. Dense breasts kept me from early detection and stress spoon fed cortisol to the hidden tumors growing beyond my breast and into my bones before it was caught. Now four plus years later, my mother has been dead for about half of this time, I consider why she was told it would be too upsetting to see me and I was not given any information about the facility in which she lived. If my life were any indication of overcoming hardships this wasn’t one I could put up a fight for from way across the country and without any family willing to support my need to see her. I never intended to relate my cancer to her, but somehow I believe she’d have known regardless of her brain turning her into someone who might not even recognize her own daughter. Maybe it was for the best I didn’t see her that way, but I’ll never know.

I do want to say this: terminal cancer allows me to clearly see through fine tuned lenses the importance of love and forgiving. And if you cannot find forgiveness then to let go and forget. I’m equally as imperfect as both of my imperfect parents. And long ago I forgot those wounds left unhealed. I forgave my own foibles as I forgave them theirs. And as quickly as that — my wounds surfaced and began to heal. As I am the delicate mix of those two who raised themselves more so than me, both abandoned me at different life stages, they also tried to return to heal their guilt, which I admit now I was not ready to completely forgive. But if they saw me now I know they’d both be very proud of me. Grace under pressure exhibiting empathy for others and a spirit of giving where there’s need.

I leave these words in this blog, and hopefully expand it into a book that I hope to leave as a legacy if for no one else but myself and as a gift for my beloved partner of 12 years – C. Yet inter-spaced between the lines and words are my parents. Having closure with them came to me as I’ve taken a long time to think about what to say in this time of my life about such a difficult topic as this. Closure happens as it should when we are ready and cannot be forced by funeral, cremation, burial or memorial. It may happen while they’re living or not. Either way closure happens for the living to lessen sadness and soothe our senses of loss because the dead, as far as we know, have their final closure with the exhalation of their last breath. There’s no forgiving us anymore. We can only forgive ourselves for them.

My father wanted a party for his memorial. He wanted me to insure it’s success, and what a success it was. My mother and his later ex wife both attended. Both commented that my dad wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. This was just as I knew as his medical custodian what he meant when he told me how he wanted to come out of his surgery and when to say no to life support. I thankfully never had to make that decision. I also know the gift he gave me were much more meaningful than money and more dear than any object could posthumously express for him. Giving me those responsibilities showed his confidence in my intellect, his pride in who I am as an adult and his unconditional love for his daughter. I can still feel it as I can still recall so brightly the 250 or so people at his memorial singing with me, “Joy to The World,” by Three Dog Night.

Closure with a parent may take years to happen. The end result of such healing can be expressed by his favorite song: by easing loss and sadness and leaving better memories to give, “joy to you and me.”

Worth a repost

I Judge Myself through Love

Click on the link to read a post of my daily self-directed “prayer.” It’s more philosophical than religious, more a reminder that the antithesis of pain equals Love ❤️

One Fresh Hell, Hold the Tomatoes

Last week found me a visitor to a mental health facility, leaving him there each evening, heading downcast out to my car and my lonely drive home. This place just a few miles from our house, in the foothills just south of the city in an unremarkable single story building where I chose to allow supposed professional responsible human beings to rescue my ailing partner from the shackles of long term anxiety and depression. Leaving without him broke my heart and provided not a whit of relief as a few close friends hoped a “break” in the action might provide. His pained eyes looking upon my sadness as yet another judgement to come down upon me. Another multi-year term added to the #lifer hashtag slung around my neck like an albatross, another petal of hope plucked from the near bare flower of love for him in my heart.

All the while I possess the knowledge that I likely won’t live to see our future through to a plausibly happy conclusion. Even though this love is over 10 years in the making, cruel editors mangled the melodramatic script and the film itself in the can, spliced together and the story arc mangled under the cruel cinematographer’s blade. The final reels go to the studio with all of my scenes cut and lying on the floor.

I hoped for relief at the end of a long week spent alone over the course of treatment, no sparkle reappears in his eyes yet and his happiness not yet resuscitated. It takes the Zoloft about four weeks to help much.

But I’m mostly alone these days. Yearning for my partner’s support and the kind of tender and caring love many of which many metastatic sisters write and blog about, I now look over at him, home in bed, and find one whose dark, inky emotions remain locked away inside his heart, like stars behind clouds on a black night canvas. He lays there disengaged, brooding silently, interrupted by long bouts of sighing. Inside him rises the simmering anger of so many men who find themselves bitten by but embarrassed to speak of such disorders.

Sometimes, it’s just frustratingly difficult to hide my outrage for being his care giver for over three years, of which this past 18 months one of the most heart wrenching trials of my life. My god – this and cancer, too? Fuck. What more can one do but look up and ask the ceiling over our bed long and winding questions about the treacherous nature of spiritual meaning, self-worth, and the relative value of a life. I then break from the summation of my existential questioning of cogito ergo… to find an email in my inbox from someone who reaches out to me to thank me. Grateful for my honest approach to my blog posts they type out a note that reminds me of why it’s worth it to know that it’s my responsibility as a wife to make a decision to help alleviate my partner’s suffering and try to revive him, to ask the wide, wise universe that his soul be returned his body.

He, too, wants only the same for me – happiness – yet indicates we may not stay together. For fuck’s sake — why now and you have got to be joking (the only sentences I can form without punching him in the face.) These trivialities came to him exactly how? On what plane of existence does he live in that this would even be okay? Not even by a substandard, unintelligent alien culture of unfeeling assholes would this rank as logical or even just “fine.”

Then, with that comment lingering in the air as the gas he passed as he falls asleep yet again and I’m left to wonder alone, naturally, what fresh hell might await me tomorrow?

Hopefully a new sandwich called “fresh hell” from the deli and no more than that.

Positively Connected

“Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.” Eckhardt Tolle

Our personalities and sense of self do not stem from our opinions. Not even in our age of entitlement formed through the public ramblings of one single ego-driven tectonic plate moving dictatorial notion. Important, no doubt, to someone impressive to all their tweets and likes command. Of course, every human being beginning at birth has a perspective. Narrow though a newborn’s and pickled though an alcoholic’s – and no single moral standard claims any higher reaches than another. Despite what seems evident to me, there still exists a subsection of hostility driven people, trapped in a prison of anger. Their approach to the world carries an unwavering intent to cause suffering. Yet, we are all responsible for our own suffering as well as responsible for suffering in the world.

So how can this be possible?

I can choose to live as a source of conscious positivity. A great example to illustrate Richard Feynman’s excited and animated discussion of how rubber bands work. Feynman explains in this must watch video by the BBC, how atoms jiggle when excited by other atoms in some way. If I recall one example is a racketball hitting the court. The jiggle created by the contact of bouncing a ball hitting the boards, which ever so slightly increases the heat in the floor because the ball is moving faster than the floor. The measure of increase in temperature then becomes a proof of energy transfer at a molecular level. The floor’s atoms are disrupted by the ball hitting it and that is not even the point although voila, his excitement creates a curiosity in us and an excitement about learning. Similar to positive consciousness of living in the presence of now.

Pedestrian example…notice on days when you’re in a bad mood how others pick up on your negativity and they respond negatively to you in kind? Perhaps you’re driving more aggressively because you spilled coffee all over your car and now speeding over the roads towards a meeting 15 minutes delayed. I can simply arrive at the meeting a bit late, calmly and apologize with a smile. Certainly my reception may start cold, but my cheerfulness and tenacity inevitably override my unfortunate tardiness. My associates’ experience a graceful and present human being and eventually respond in a like manner. I guarantee someone else in your meeting went through a similar situation at some point in their lives. Maybe even that very day. They will remember only what you tell them to remember – meaning how you transfer your energy to the human beings with whom you’re engaged – positive or negative.

Perhaps on my drive I make a negative detour and make myself even later by running a stop sign and getting a ticket. Instead of ruminating and becoming angrier, instead of cursing my spouse or partner, the inanimate coffee, my boss, the other drivers…so much negative energy transference I create in a single drive into a small blip in the course of my life. Why?

Think about it this way perhaps. An opinion in your consciousness when applied to others sets the alarms off, erupting in arguments allowing negative energy to break into your positive space, like a thief. If I view others as equal – no matter their origins and opinions – with an open heart and mind and listen, we find ourselves in positive space with diverse rich colorful discussions, opening minds and knocking on doors rather than knocking them down.

This in 52 years? I earned the understanding of this concept and I’m not sure it’s something I even learned at all. In fact it’s more a feeling in the spiritual sense, than knowledge or a meaning in the mind. Here’s my confusing formula for you science types:

“Now” = what is, what’s gone and what’s going to be. It’s a triplicate paradox – ergo, appropriately, a “tripledox.”

To review how I got there and why that crazy logic train makes sense to me. Some days, my words refuse to connect to any discernible emotional or mind state – or anything I believe worth the investment of my time to sit down and pick up a pen and a piece of paper. As I wrote that last sentence, I realized that is the very worth my time, even if no one else ever reads what my thoughts became. And that’s not why I’m writing. In this moment when the past present and future dance together forever entangled in an infinite ring, what I write becomes very important. Not necessarily to you the reader. (If it does, how Cool is that? We connected.) I write for my physical, spiritual, and mental health.

My connection of mind to pen and paper help me plough through the work I must do to live. And it’s all work right now. I wish I could say differently. But this as all things must pass. Like a fart. Or a tailgating asshole. Or depression. Or bad weather.

And with that, I loathe waking up sometimes. You mean…Princess Positive? Miss Merrymaker? Lady Laughsalot? Moi?

Even hypocritical me. I get so angry I just want to fall off the flat earth and pound hard on the door of the universe – I bet Monty Hall answers and asks me about which door I choose. I say “all three” because you can do what you want in alternate dimensions. Or just because I want to see silver taffeta curtains opening like birthday gifts in my next reality tunnel where I win lunch with Douglas Adams, Dick Feynman, along a three piece lounge set from mid-century modern Michigan circa 1950. Did I digress? Yup. Sorry. And no the women I’d want to lunch with us remain with us. Diverse dream meals-r-us.

In the past 48 hours…

I’ve thrown up, thrown upset crying fits, tossed annoyed looks at The C. Twisted myself emotionally, felt alone, experienced the panic of financially worry about my healthcare, and I can’t get any good deli anywhere in San Jose. But this, too, shall pass. I realize I am where I am because I must be here. And there’s no way to go it alone given the stress of a change of residence and my enemy, thy name is stress. See, I’m dealing with this fucking liver metastasis at the moment. My veins and arteries have no blood count, and my bones work overtime at night so I can’t sleep. I have no appetite, no energy. No visitors. No shit. Lost 25 lbs. not a recommended diet, kids. I’ve had a bad week. It’s hard saying goodbye to everyone and everything all the time. But I can’t linger in this space much longer.

Open all three doors, or Monty gets it – and I’m not in the mood to make a deal. But I will say with the saccharine sweetness of a diabetic candy and the artifice of the broiled roast chicken brown skin from a tanning bed light, you’ll want to go plant wild flowers and kiss your loved ones all on the forehead, and hug your annoyed cat. Or slobbering dog, if your so inclined.

P.S. Another tale of opinions pissing on the heads of others: It would have been my mother’s birthday on the 31st. I wasn’t given any chance at closure because my aunt and brother decided I didn’t get to say goodbye to Elaine Rothman Kaminsky Tramonte. Why? I was told it was because they didn’t want me to upset her. But the laughs on them, because without closure, she’s not gone to me. She’s still here telling me I look fine and to stop worrying, wiping something from my face with a saliva wetted index finger (eww), hugging me. She’s telling me how I’m her beautiful girl and how proud she is of me. And for all the shit life dumped in our laps, she was my mother. She loves me. I’m her first born, her only blood daughter.

How do you keep a child away from a parent? Even as she aged I was still her angel, her shayna maydelah, Esther Williams, “mouth”, and the other 100 nick names she bestowed upon me. And she was my mammelah, mah, mom, mommie, or just my mom.

Flawed. Forever part of me. Forget? Never.