I sat on the sundeck, with my feet on the top step of the stairs, staring out into the snow covered night, thinking about life, death, and family.
My family were inside, laughing, talking, running around and having fun. Some were cleaning up after super, some were visiting, and teenagers ran up and down the stairs of the three story, open concept, home.
I sat outside. On one side was the house, on the other side was a house of a man who had died only a month before, and before me lay the stairs, leading down to the driveway, a snow covered street and a silent town.
I was cold. Sitting on the sundeck was cold, like sitting in a hockey rink watching small town hockey, but still I didn’t want to go in.
What made me flee into the cold?
10 minutes before, I was gathering dishes from the table, watching my nephew and my cousins children play, and seeing my family from a distance away. I grew up in this family. At one time I was in the youngest generation, but somehow as time passed, I became part of the middle generation, and my parents and aunts and uncles became the older generation that couldn’t hear, see, or walk as well. How did that happen?
Watching my cousin’s daughter was like watching my cousin at that age. Where had the time gone?
As I went to the table for more stuff, I realized I was breathing heavily. My chest rose and feel with exertion, and my breathing was shallow. Was I hyperventilating? Was I tired? Was I sick? Was it stress? Whatever it was I needed to sit down.
I felt too week to climb stairs without a railing to any of the bedrooms upstairs or downstairs, but the main floor was full of people.
I found the church bench, that sits below a wall of coat hooks at the back door, and laid down on my back. I may have been slightly hidden, but I wasn’t alone, because I could still hear my uncle talking to my parents, the children laughing as they talked, and other people. I had to get out, but I was too week (and slightly dizzy) to climb stairs.
I slipped on my sister-in-law’s slippers, put on my own coat and opened the back door. My sister-in-law appeared beside me and asked if I was leaving.
“No I just want to be alone on the sundeck”, I replied.
“The sundeck is nice, when the stars are out”, she said, before walking away.
I didn’t notice the stars, although they were most likely there.
I wanted to be alone to calm my breathing, lower my stress and think about life and death and family. My family. The one I grew up in. The one I thought would stay the same forever, and never change. The one I thought, would always spend christmases in my grandparents house.
Now that same family was gathering in a different house. All of my grandparents are dead. They are not the old ones in the family anymore. My parents generation are the old ones.
And my father is dying.
Death is hard. Very very hard.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross writes about death in her series of books. I read almost all of them when my grandmother died, and knowing the stages of grief, and knowing I was normal in following these stages, helped a lot.
I know about death. I’ve read about it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve helped plan funerals. I’ve spoken at funerals.
I almost died myself. I came as close to death as one can go without dying. And part of me wonders if when I saw my grandparents walk by, that maybe for a while I was dead.
And it wasn’t easy. I’ve cried about that moment multiple times.
But all that knowledge and those experiences don’t make my father’s impending death easy. It’s still hard. Very very hard.
It doesn’t make my falling kidney function any less confusing. What do I do? How do I fix it?
This is what I was thinking about as I stood on that step.
How could I survive when Dad dies? It’s hard now. It will be harder then? Will I have the strength to do all that is needed?
How can I take care of my own health, and maintain kidney function? Maintain the health I have now? Or even improve it? Can that even be done?
My brother and cousins all have children. I don’t. I’ve known I’m not healthy enough to be a mother for years, and yet I really really want to be a mother. I see these kids as they lean close and hug their parents, as my cousin is developing not just a mother daughter relationship her daughter, but a friendship.
I don’t have that. And I may never.
And that hurts.
I see how not just Dad is getting old, my uncle is showing his age too, reminding me of my grandmother when she was the same age.
And I think of the moment my grandparents walked by me as I lay in the ICU under sedation, and said “where we go, you can not come”, and how much that still hurts.
But if I had gone with them, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be dead.
And I just needed a moment to think, reflect, and deal with my own emotions and the weakness and tiredness of my body.
Eventually the step got even colder than a bench in a small town hockey rink, and I realized I’m going to get sick if I stayed outside any longer.
I got up and went inside.
A game of charades was starting, and I joined in.
Am I glad I went to the christmas party I didn’t want to go to?
Yes. I had fun.
Connections that were almost lost were remade. I realized I missed a cousin I didn’t know I missed.
We left when it’s almost midnight. The next day my father was too sick and week to go back, as previously planned. The entire group of people at my brother’s house, packed up lunch and came to our house. They even did the dishes before they left, and ignored the mess in our house. We’ve just been too stressed to clean up the things that have piled up over the last few months since dad was told he was dying. It just seems like too much work, and none of us really care anymore.
Sometimes it’s all I can do it brush my teeth, wash my face, have breakfast and get dressed in the morning.
But they didn’t care. They didn’t even mention it. (Not that I heard anyway).
I will end this blog post here because I have to go light the water heater that is constantly going out (at least once a week).
I just wanted to tell you about the christmas party I mentioned in my last blog post. It wasn’t as bad as a feared. It was actually good.
When the ICU staff save a life, they don’t see the life they save.
I’m not even sure I see it. What would that party have been like without me? Would they even have had a party? Would my name be mentioned? How would my father’s life been affected? My mother’s?
I can’t play Scrooge, from the book “A Christmas Carol”. He was able to see what people did in Christmas Future, without him.
I can a little bit. But I am glad I was at that party and not dead. Thankfully I know people won’t celebrate my death, as they might have Scrooge’s.
Thank you for saving lives, you don’t understand, and people you don’t know. Thank you for not asking questions about worth, before securing airways.
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