There are times when it just feels like the weight of the world falls upon your shoulders. There isn't anything you can do really to shift the burden, but it sits there, making it a little bit more difficult to do normal activities. Right now, in spite of a plethora of good fortune that has befallen me over the past few months, there is a pall of illness affecting my family that makes it hard to see what is good in my life.
After an exhilarating trip to Peru, I came home only to find out that my mother had been in the hospital pretty much sense I left for my trip. To be honest, this itself isn't a surprise—it really is not unusual for my mother to have extended visits in a hospital for her various medical issues—but it wasn't exactly the first kind of news I had hoped for when returning back to the States. And, considering I had been gone for almost two weeks, it had been a long stay even by my mom's standards. OF course, I hadn't actually been talking with my mom since it was my dad who was relaying all the information.
Let me point out something for context. My dad is perhaps one of the strongest people I know. Not necessarily physically (although is body has endured a lot on its own) but emotionally and spiritually. I wish I were as resilient as he has been these past 20 or so years where uncertainty is the only constant. Somehow amidst all the crap that my family has gone through (my mom's illnesses and injuries, my sister's defection and struggle with her own health and mental issues, caring for my mom's parents, etc.), he has always maintained that things will get better, that this will one day come to an end. For the first 10 years or so, I gladly joined him in this pronouncement, waiting for the day that my family would once again be healthy and whole. That day has yet to come, and although there is still a part of me that holds out for that…the inner 10-year old who believes that everyone can and should be happy…I have adopted a cynical shell to block out some of the more deceiving rays of hope. I cannot endure many more of the bruises that one incurs after an abrupt reality check knocks you back to earth. I used to think my dad was impervious to those bruises, but the more and more I talk with him, it appears his reserve is finally cracking, and that breaks my heart. I guess in some ways, his hope is one of the few things I could still hold onto in an occasionally bleak situation. With that slipping away, I don't know where to grasp, and while I know that as things develop, I will find a way to cope, it is hard to watch the one person who embodied stability begin to fall apart.
The one person who is still in Texas to help my dad cope with all that goes on with my mother is my grandpa. He, too, is in the hospital now. Yesterday, he was admitted with an infection and a fever. An MRI revealed a few spots on his lungs. While the results are still pending, my mind immediately jumps to the worst. I don't really know how to articulate what losing my grandpa would be like for me personally or for my dad and mom, but it would be huge. I hate even to think much about it, but of course, my mind doesn't really allow me to look beyond it at the moment.
As for my mom, she is still in the hospital. She may be transferred soon to a long-term care facility or a rehabilitation center. Or she may just be discharged altogether. It all depends on the whim of the doctors over the next couple of days, or so it seems. I won't even try to go into what is going on with her in the first place because I cannot wrap my own head around it. Let's just say there are a lot of complications from the medicine she has been on for the past 15+ years, complications from a botched surgery 10 years ago, and a lot of residual mental stress that exacerbates both problems in a way that none of us can quite figure out how to help.
And that is where I feel the most burdened. Here are three people I love and care about very much, and yet I have no clue how to help them. I very much want to be there to help and support them in person, but I am also aware that in doing so, I will lose myself. There is some kind of tacit understanding that if I were to be in Texas, my life would be put on hold as I shuttled Mom to appointments, took care of the house and yard, cared for the household things that are currently neglected. It isn't the life I want for myself and it is not the life that my parents want for me either. The selfish part of me shudders at the thought of even visiting because I do not want to return to that kind of life, particularly when right now I have so many good things in my life. Yet, the guilty part of me feels like I am being a negligent daughter, ignoring my duty to my parents and grandpa, to be the support that they need during this challenging time. My selfishness right now outweighs the guilt, but I have a feeling that soon the scales will shift depending on how much longer this continues.
This could just be another mini crisis in a long series of crises, and things will find their equilibrium once again. Well, at least until the next flare up brings us yet one step closer to that edge. The edge where my mom finally makes good on her threats to just end it all. The edge that will send my dad into complete collapse and I am the only one to help pick up the pieces. The edge that I fall over as I try to grasp too tightly to the world I know, afraid that letting go will be more damaging than anything else. I fear that edge more and more. I am bracing myself for the day we go over it, but I don't think that will be enough. I try to make myself numb and impervious to emotions swirling through my head, but those are impossible to ignore completely and in burying them, I become a bitter, cranky person, someone who I hate to be. I am sad, scared, angry, frustrated. I feel powerless and hopeless. I wish that for once my parents could catch a break from the universe. I wish that there were some way to bargain even for a few good days for them—if I could take on their pain for even a couple of days to give them a respite, I swear I would. But the world doesn't work that way, and we all have to learn how to cope with the hand we have been dealt. I know in a few days, I'll be doing okay. But right now, the world looks so bleak, the future a dark swirl of uncertainty and awfulness. I really am just tired of it all.