Another bullet-pointer

January 10, 2008

  • To those of you who have been wondering, yes, Dan has survived another crushing Buckeye loss. Though I did have to call Tim at work Tuesday morning (really) to talk Dan out of the bunk bed, because he had decided that he was never going to school again. Dan’s theory on next year? He would like to see us “get a quarterback with some feet,” whatever the hell that means.
  • My mom’s hemoglobin was a whopping 11.7 on Monday morning. That’s what 8 units of blood will do for you, I guess.
  • I’m still trudging along with my Cookie Mom Troop Product Sales Manager duties. For the love of all that is good and holy, don’t let me do this next year. Handcuff me to a radiator in September and tape my mouth shut with duct tape — whatever it takes.
  • Today I encountered a couple of moms who typified for me what I despise about…well, everything. I think that perhaps smugness is my least favorite quality in other humans. Luckily, I am never smug. Ever. About anything…But these moms were talking about issues like birthing and breast feeding and potty training and schooling as though they had the single correct way of “mommying.” I think I’ve heard it described elsewhere as the Sanctimommy Syndrome (and howdy, do I wish that I had coined that phrase). The older I get, the more I am beginning to get this one fundamental truth: none of us really, really knows what we’re doing most of the time. There now, I’ve said it. Embrace this truth and take a deep breath — don’t you feel better? This is not to say that we have no confidence in our parenting (at times), or that we have no moral absolutes to which we ascribe. But applying them to our individual children? It’s tough and much of the time, we’re flying by the seats of our pants. And so many of the issues about which these women were yammering? Who cares? You want to co-sleep with your infant? Go for it. The very idea of co-sleeping makes your head spin around and your sanity take a nose dive? Then don’t. Breast feed your kid until she’s ten if you want, but what’s the point in criticizing the mom who chose to bottle feed? I just wish that mothers often didn’t seem to feel the need to tear down the decisions of other mothers. While all parenting decisions aren’t created equal to be sure, a great many of them have little to no real life impact. Instead, let’s teach our kids to be…oh I don’t know? Kind? (steps off soap box)
  • Speaking of kindness, wow are we working on this issue with one of our lovely offspring. We’re trying to teach that in fact, the tongue is a fire, and we can catch people on fire with words. Oh, how I’m trying to teach my child of the many words I wish that I could un-say.
  • Tomorrow, I turn 40. Wow. I don’t feel that old. I feel like I could be a really good 25 year old about now — I could make all sorts of good and wise 25 year old choices. But I guess I’m going to have to try to make good 40(!) year old choices.


January 7, 2008

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there is no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said “I am making everything new!”

Revelations 21:1-5

And now from beneath the audible, came a low reverberation. It came up through the soles of my feet. I stood still while it hummed upward bone by bone. There is no adequate simile. The pulse of the country worked through my body until I recognized it as music. As language. And the language ran everywhere inside me, like blood, and for feeling, it was as if through time I had been made of earth or mud or other insensate matter. Like a rhyme learned in antiquity a verse blazed to mind: O be quick, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant my feet!

…He [my father, Jeremiah] sat down on the rock and swung his feet in the stream — it was deep and swift; it would take him in a moment. I seized his arm.

Please, I said.

Soon, he replied, which makes better sense under the rules of that country than ours. Very soon! he added, clasping my hands; then, unable to keep from laughing, he pushed off from the rock like a boy going for the first cold swim of spring; and the current got him. The stream was singing aloud, and I heard him singing with it until he dropped over the edge.

The character, Reuben Land, from Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River

An explanation: Reuben and his father, Jeremiah Land, are both on what could be described as the outskirts of heaven. Because of a variety of circumstances, Jeremiah is staying and Reuben cannot. As a side note, this is a stunningly beautiful book, full of rich characters (Jeremiah is right up there with Atticus Finch in terms of my all-time favorite literary characters) and lovely writing. The chapter I’ve excerpted proves to me that art can be inspired, in the God-sense of the word. Aside from God’s own words in Revelations, this is bar none the most gorgeous description of the joy we will feel when we join our Lord forever.

Words. I love them. Implacable. Giraffe. Ethereal. Tawny. So many words I enjoy to roll around on my tongue. I have so little visual talent — I have trouble discerning one shade of color from another; I have virtually no spatial sense (just ask my husband how I wanted to arrange the new furniture in the family room); I simply don’t see the world in pictures — I hear it in words. I especially appreciate when those words contain beauty and when they tell the truth. And words obey me some of the time. I can use them to convey exactly what I need, at least at times.

So it’s interesting that words betray me a bit right now. I can’t explain all of my emotions in words, not yet. I can tell you that the last few days with my mom in the hospital have been, on the whole, unspeakably crappy. (Leif Enger I ain’t my friends.) I can tell you how despairing she’s been, how exhausted she feels in the battle against cancer. I can tell you that the synergy between my parents seems sometimes to be sucking the life away from each of them — each so worried for the other, each so afraid that they won’t be able to function to help the other get well.

I will say that my mom is probably going to try a new cancer treatment — the big gun that we’ve been holding in our pockets until absolutely necessary — the big gun because it’s one of the very last guns. And I could cite all sorts of statistics about how this medicine may or may not work for her. I can’t say why she was vomiting blood (her endoscopy was relatively clean, so no clear explanation there) or why her hemoglobin dropped so precipitously in such a short time. I venture to guess: her body’s just getting worn out. As she has said, she’s tired. Damn tired. And I could speculate that my mom might not try the new treatment if she weren’t trying to hang in there for my dad. I could say, “Yeah, that’s beautiful. That’s love.”

But, bleh. None of that’s exactly what I want to say or how I want to say it.

I have sensed in my spirit for some bit of time that God is preparing me for my mother’s death. A stark sentence to be sure, and I get that this doesn’t mean she’s dying next week. I love my mom so much that God knows I need a lot of time to prepare.

In my own raging inadequacy, I find the words of others — God, himself, and Mr. Enger — such a balm. Everything new. A beautiful bride. No more death or mourning or tears. And oh, the idea that soon means something different in heaven’s economy than in our own! That separation from those we love is much much shorter than we can possibly understand. How I cling to that right now. We’re so agonizingly bound by time and by our own sinfulness that words fail us much of the time in trying to understand the infinite and the perfect. But sometimes words can at least give me a glimmer. And glimmers can be surprisingly strong knots to tie on at the end of one’s rope.

I was all set to post my “Hey it’s 2008!” piece, wherein I said something to the effect that I feel like I’ve been suspended over a great yawning chasm of shittiness for the past few months and how I sense that my parents’ respective health problems will suck me down into said chasm.

But…some small rocks on the edge of the cliff gave way last night, knocking me even closer to the floor of the canyon…my dad called around 8:00 pm last night to say that my mom was vomiting blood.  I arrived at their house to find him somewhat grayish in color and her lying in the bed with a bucket of blood sitting in the bathroom.


Long long story short, my mom is at the James tonight, after receiving two units of red blood cells — her hemoglobin was 4.1, which is ridonkulously low, so low that several medical professionals pondered why she hadn’t passed out completely. The doctors (and heavens, I saw the intern, the resident, the fellow, and the great elusive man himself) seem to think that her stomach is bleeding from the steroids she has taken to hold the cancer at bay.  She is going to have an endoscopy tomorrow, which should tell us more.  Meanwhile, we wait for her hemoglobin to stabilize.  She is, in a word, hopeless about her circumstances, despite the fact that the doctors seem to believe that they can get these issues under control and help her to feel much better.  But she’s tired.  So tired of fighting and being strong.  She just wants to be home, and even at times, I think, wants to be home, home.

Meanwhile, my dad’s surgery isn’t scheduled, but his color is poor and he tires frighteningly quickly.  They are both so worried about the other that they’re having a difficult time taking care of themselves.  This might sound noble — and in a depressing way, I guess it is.  But it’s also a royal pain in the ass.  I feel like they are each a spinning plate and I keep running from one to the other to keep either from shattering to the ground.  I love them both so much, but neither one is a particularly patient patient.  And by necessity, that makes me the bad guy sometimes.  Today, my mom grew angry at me as I persistently explained about her vomiting blood.  As I said, she simply wants to be at home, and I think that a part of her believes that I’m somehow standing in her way.

As for the sandwich, well.  My kids, especially Abby and Rob, acutely feel my every absence, especially if said absence is predicated by the sad fact of a sick grandparent.  They are all clingy and needy, and I totally get that.  Yes, I feel sandwiched between their needs and the needs of my parents.  Great friends help — they do things like pick up your kids from school or make you a wonderful dinner.  Thank God for the body of Christ.  And a great husband — who doesn’t question my reasons ever ever ever — is a rock, as he adapts his schedule to fit around the family in crisis.  And he goes out and buys peach schnapps and orange juice just ’cause.

I’m so so tired tonight.  If anyone could be praying for my family’s tomorrow, I would be ever so grateful.