tHe haPPy grOUch

tHe haPPy grOUch

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's been a few weeks since I've written.., And what a few weeks it has been.
It's funny how quiet I've been these last couple weeks. Not just here in this blog, but in general.
I don't have lengthy conversations with my husband about how I feel, I don't talk to my mother or sister, I only briefly discuss things with my best friend... And yet here I am, about to blog. I suppose anything suppressed eventually leaks.

We recently found out that my Nana has breast cancer.
After the shock wore off, and we finally saw the surgeon, we were all relieved to discover that is is a stage one (early) and grade one (least aggressive) cancer, that can be taken care of with an out-patient lumpectomy. Afterwards, possibly some localized radiation (no chemo due to her age and the non-aggressive nature of it) and some anti-estrogen treatments. That week before seeing the surgeon, however, was a very long and tumultuous week.
We are fortunate that we have such a positive outlook now. If that phrase can even be combined with the word cancer...

At the very time that Nana was diagnosed, Logan was going through some very serious issues with her father's health. Private enough that I can't/won't disclose here. But it was very difficult. Watching, talking with her, yet not being able to truly help. Things have fortunately improved, but there is still a road to be traveled. And she was/is truly affected...

Speaking of Logan...
It seems that we are constantly butting heads. Sometimes downright fighting... About her boyfriend, about her prom night, about her need/want for a puppy (that will supposedly live mainly at her Dad's house), about her independence, about college, or schoolwork, or where she will live after graduation.. You name it, we'll fight about it.
I try to remind myself that teenagers are biologically wired to be self-centered, narcissistic, egomaniacs. It's "not their fault". But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder who the heck this kid is that I am looking at.
But yes, there are also times (most times), that I look upon her with beaming pride and awe. She is grown. She is a young woman now. Eighteen, in fact, as of just this week. And not my little girl anymore. And I'll admit, there is great sadness in that.
Perhaps this was how my mother felt.

Speaking of my mother...
We are also "at war". My mother has always been a person that I could love, and then hate, and then love again. It's a vicious circle, but it seems to be what mothers and daughters do (as I am painfully learning with my own daughter).
My mother has always been a bit of a nose-butter-inner. To exacerbate the issue, I've been single for many years of my child-rearing days, which has somehow allowed her a place as almost a "second parent". Not knowingly or willingly on my part mind you, I just assume that's what happened throughout the years. And so, when I am "disciplining", or having issues, or arguing, or doing whatever with my children, she has a tendency to undermine me. Not just a tendency, a propensity. (Do all mothers do this???)
Unfortunately, it has gone way beyond acceptable for me. This week's worth of fighting with Logan, and her interjecting, prompted an email to Mother which wasn't terribly pleasant. Basically, 16 years worth of  pent-up anger expressed in one email. It hurt her. And I am (mostly) sorry for that. But I am mainly sorry for us both. That our perceived close ties may not be what they were. That our relationship isn't what it was.
Sigh.

And then there's my father...
I swore I wouldn't write about this. But I can't not.
It is literally eating me up inside. Sleepless nights. GI issues. Daily tears. Insufferable anger.
My father has always been a "functioning alcoholic". My family knows it, my friends know it, the girls at the local corner store know it. It's no secret, although we all pretend it is. Alcoholism is the secret disease that a family never discusses. Pay no attention to the elephant in the room, my dear...
Recently, the word "functional" has been lost.
Just before Christmas this last year, my dad had an "episode". He had fallen in his house. Couldn't get up. He was flailing and crying out. My mother called me, and Troy and I rushed next-door. Dad didn't seem to recognize us or his surroundings. We thought he was having a stroke. We got him up, sat him in his recliner, and he became more "with it". After much arguing, he agreed to be taken to the hospital. He spent three days there before they let him out. And surprise-surprise, it wasn't a stroke. It was alcohol induced encephalopathy, otherwise known in the business as "wet brain".
Here's a summary taken from the Betty Ford Institute's website...
The term “wet brain” is not scientifically valid, but refers to a very real condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.  This chronic brain syndrome is caused by long-term alcoholism and is accompanied by a triad of symptoms:  (1) mental disturbance; (2) confusion, drowsiness, and paralysis of eye movements; and (3) ataxia, or a staggering gait.  A primary cause for this is a thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency due to severe malnutrition and poor intestinal absorption of food and vitamins caused by alcohol.  The wet-brain person acts much like the Alzheimer’s victim with loss of recent memory, disorientation with regard to time and place, confusion and confabulation, or telling imagined and untrue experiences as truth.  If wet brain is identified in its early onset, an infusion of thiamine (B1) may have some preventive value.  But, unfortunately, there is no recovery from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome; therefore, it is one of the most tragic consequences of alcoholism.
And so, the diagnosis scared the shit out of Dad. He cleaned up. And this past year was the first time Sharla and I can remember having our father be truly present at Christmas. It was a joyous Christmas indeed.
But as with many alcoholics, Dad regressed, and fell of the wagon, one giant step at time.
His alcoholism has been accompanied by a very rapid progression of failing health. He has a back injury that was operated on years ago that will never get better. He is also now riddled with arthritis. His employment recently ended, with his boss (and dear friend) telling him that he needed to go on "sick leave". As I'm sure you can imagine, that did nothing to help with the consumption. He drinks and sleeps all hours of the day and night.
Between the drink and his body failing him, he can barely get around... He still falls frequently. He walks with a cane. He can't even consider getting in and out of the shower. He's injured himself several times when he falls. He also continues having "episodes". Can't remember things, doesn't know the time or the day, is confused, disoriented...
I brought him to see a podiatrist yesterday at 10am. He was already intoxicated. They put him on a nerve medication to try and ease the pain in his legs and feet from the back injury. Which he probably won't take. He is at least aware enough to know that he shouldn't drink while he's on it.
Next week I'll take him to see an orthopedic surgeon for his knees. He's definitely not a candidate for surgery, so hopefully some cortisone injections will help with the pain and movement.

Mother works full-time to maintain his health insurance. She has lived with this longer than her children have, and so I can only try and empathize, imagine... I wonder if there were years before our birth that were better than these..
She was going to leave him once, before he got so bad... And I don't blame her. I always wondered why she stayed. Always secretly wished for her sake and for ours that she would leave. And she finally decided that she was going to... And now she can't. So she goes to Portland to spend time with Sharla and the kids when she can, she is over-involved with church activities.. any way to escape.. But she is trapped by a despondent, sickly man who would most likely die without her (even part-time) presence. And although I may be angry with her for many things, I am sorry for her for that.
And now I am trapped too. I am the daughter who lives next door. I try to convince him to come down and use our walk-in shower so he can clean himself up. I'm the chauffeur when he needs a doctor's visit. I watch to make sure the dogs have been let out, that's how I know he's at least conscious. I call or email every day, sometimes a few times a day, to make sure that he hasn't fallen, or if he needs something to eat for lunch or dinner.
I didn't want this.
But mostly, I didn't want to watch my father slowly kill himself at only 62.

Troy and I are doing okay. But I admit, I haven't been much in the mood for romantic evenings or quality time, considering. I need to focus more on us. I will try to.

I need a lawn mower.