So, I know I've been largely absent from here for a bit. I'm rethinking my whole blog thing, lately, since it's been so semi-abandoned, but for now, I'm just going to jump right back in as if we've only stopped talking briefly.
Because I've somehow, yet again, found myself in a dim room, in the early morning hours, listening to the rumble, rumble, whoosh of an oxygen machine and watching the chest of someone I love (as discreetly as possible, of course) to make sure it's still rising up and down. I'm somehow, once more, a keeper of someone else's med and meal schedules, daily logs, VNA appointments, doctors binder, and various other illness-related pieces of flotsam and jetsam. I'm struck, one more time, by how unfair life can be; by how easy/hard it is to pause my own life and help grip the ragged edges of someone else's; by how often I want to hug people; by how excruciating it is to feel both completely useless and optimistically helpful at the same time. By how much of my own illnesses I can cover up, and how much just won't let me even try. By how much I would give for just a couple days off, for all of us.
At least this time, I can be thankful that the couch I'm 'sleeping' on is brand new; that my brother and I somehow managed to make it through all the stages in our youth that would have insured our mutual destruction; that some days spaghetti and meatballs is the meal you've been waiting three weeks to watch somebody eat.
My sister-in-law's cancer came back.
Viciously, and without warning. It came back; it attacked; it took over a lot of places it had no business being; and (in a day I hope is much farther away than it feels right this minute) it's going to take her away from us.
And this is Not About Me.
And I think that's partially why I haven't been writing here: because this blog is about me, and my feelings about things that are going on, and about what kind of mess my brain has conjured up for us on any particular day. But all the stuff that's happening right now, is decidedly Not. About. Me., and so that left it pretty muddled in my mind; pretty difficult to think about, talk about, much less write about.
But I'm on my second week of overnights here, and while today had a bright spot that many of our other recent days have sadly lacked, I feel like if I don't give myself permission to use my words SOMEWHERE, it's going to be bad news for all of us, so... here I am.
Talking about what's not mine, but also what is.
Like memories - still too fresh - of having done this so many times before, and the heavy feeling that settles into my shoulders at the thought of ... well anything, to be quite honest. Staying. Leaving. Helping. Hurting. Waking her up to take her meds or letting her sleep through a dose. Reprimanding her daughter for being late, because I know rules are important, especially now, even though she looks as though I broke her heart for doing so. The taste in my mouth that's dry and bitter and coppery and won't go away.
Of the kiddos I sit here watching - one of them trying to pretend he's not constantly watching his mom out of the corner of his own eyes, as if to reassure himself that she's still there. Who's stressing out about football practice and hockey games and missing CCD and getting - God Forbid! - Bs this semester (his first in high school) in subjects he knows he could master if he Just Tried Harder!!! Never mind that his body is constantly coiled and he tenses up and quiets down when the grown-ups are talking about medical stuff, in the hopes of learning something he thinks might be being withheld from him. As if I can't see how sad he is already, and how hopeful, still. As if I could pick which one of those hurts most.
Or his sister, as she sits and reads her required reading aloud to us each night (Ramona Quimby FTW!), snuggled as close as possible to someone, ANYone, some nights; other nights tucking herself into the lonely corner of the sofa and evil eye-ing off all trespassers into her personal space. Who pouts more and preens more and pretends more and escapes more and seems so god damn confused about everything right now that I just want to secret her off to an abandoned island where she could be safe, and free, and P L A Y without being shhh-ed for making too much noise or reminded, by my mere presence, that the rules are different right now, and she doesn't know how they work. How anything works, because mama is sick and daddy is a mess and all of these other people are 'helping' and she doesn't know why.
Of their mother, the only bonus sister I'm ever going to get, (I assume: my single sisters seem to be set in their straight orientations, but you never know), who sometimes pisses me off and mostly just fit in as best she could/can amidst our crowd of misfits, troublemakers and complications. Who sleeps away another day, and laments her lack of energy, focus, clearheadedness, ability to participate in anything at all, even as she's aware that the meds that are making her that way are supposed to give her more time to stick around and participate in the 'long run.' (and oh, how that phrase chafes and means new things now.)
Of their dad, my original only big brother, who has all the high emotions that run in our family, but none of the healthier release valves some of us have been able to find. So he chaws his tobacco, and I watch the pill bottles closely. He isolates himself in the cellar, and I make sure to send a kid down every now and then to fetch him, so I can feed him up and send him to bed. But he surprises me. He says more open, honest things - to her, to me, to the lovely nurse who helped us on a day when we were sure things were taking a tragic turn - in the short time I've been here than I've probably heard him say in his entire life. Who walks around like he's got an open wound already, even though his wife is still with him. Even though.
Who asked for my help and somehow thought I'd be able to say no.
So here we are - heading into another NaNoBloMo/NaNoWriMo, I might add - and I'm giving myself permission: no REQUIRING myself to stop just letting it soak my brain and hope it'll get better. I'm using my words, about a situation that sucks and is scary, and is too big and huge and makes me want to build a pillow fort (or, even better, just move into a previously constructed pillow fort, with no muss or fuss) in order to hide away from all of this "being a grown-up" bullshit.
I'm determined to be helpful, and if what I can do is sit on the couch and play guard dog so my brother, who really should be sleeping, does a 1am-10am shift to make up for the fact that he has to miss so many days of actually working; than that's what I'm going to do.
And that's were we are, on the eve of this November, on this scariest of nights. Wishing I was five again, when the scariest thing in my life was that creepy as hell mask my dad bought and then decided to jump scare us all (as many time as possible, of course). But confident that even though the illness is Not Mine, and the sum total is Not About Me, I can still have this space to talk about the things that are happening, because the experiences, those are mine. The feelings - the fear, the frustration, the anger, the trepidation, the wanting to, NEEDING to help - those are Mine.
And so is this space, so I'm bringing them together again. As much as I can.