My mother, it seems, is dying.
For those of you who know me, this is a very loaded sentence. Like, minefield loaded. Like, supersaturated solution loaded. Like, cruise ship buffet table loaded. No matter how you slice it, no matter which way you approach it, this is pretty much a raging river of emotions and accusations and ramifications held back by a dilapidated dam that is clearly not up to the task of holding off the incoming onslaught. I feel like the little Dutch boy who’s just about to realize sticking his damn finger in a hole is not only pointless, but it’s put him in a position of extraordinary danger and there is now, in fact, nothing he can do to prevent being taken out by the impending deluge.
The exact details are difficult to come by, given that we really haven’t been on speaking terms for 25 years, but the diagnosis is liposarcoma, stage IV. I’ve been doing a lot of research and translation, trying to get a sense of how serious this is, and to provide context. In plain English, that means cancer of the soft tissue, it has spread, and it’s advanced. The medical staff calls it aggressive and non-operable which, translated, seems to mean we are talking months, not years.
For some strange reason, I’m finding it difficult to get my head around this news. I wasn’t prepared for it. She wasn’t the one who was supposed to die of cancer; it was my father’s side of the family tree where that ran rampant. I simply assumed she was so singular a person that she’d live forever, both to torture the living and because the dead wouldn’t have her. To say we’ve had a tumultuous relationship is putting it rather mildly — and that was when we were actively interacting, which we really haven’t been for over two decades. Our story is full of fallout from a myriad of sins and standoffs: conflict, deceit, abuse, jealousy, control, rebellion, codependency, dysfunction, conditional love, innocence lost, rewritten histories, violence, manipulation, and disillusionment. It isn’t a pretty picture, and we need to leave those stories for another day. Like, after a fifth of Patron.
Family ties are the ties that bind, aren’t they? No matter how long you live, or how far you travel, the unresolved things in your life that you’ve tried so hard to put behind you still manage to catch up and blindside you when you least expect them. There are countless memories and moments that ricochet through my mind, each with some form of emotional attachment. Pain. Grief. Guilt. Wistfulness. Nothing is ever completely bad, and nothing can ever be completely written off. We are tethered by our experiences, and as this particular experience plays out, I imagine there’s going to be a lot more pain in this process as we fight our way toward the end.
Seems like a good time to gird up my loins.*
*For a brief respite from yet another moribund post, I offer you a step-by-step tutorial of how to, in fact, gird your loins — updated from this original illustrated guide on manliness. You’re welcome. I promise to find something frothy to write about soon.