Monday, April 5, 2010

an open letter to someone I love

Where are you? We've been living in your house for the past 5 days and it's almost like you're not here. Every once in awhile you float through for a bit, only to quickly disappear again. Wait, let me clarify that. You don't float, you shuffle slowly, legs bent at uncomfortable angles, stooped to one side, a grimace on your face. You plop down into a chair, muster a smile and some casual conversation and are gone again before you know it.

This isn't what I'd imagined. Or expected. Where's the diagnosis we could hang a hat on, at least knowing treatment possibilities, a prognosis, a sense of what to expect?

What do you call giving up?

I've spent time with the thyroid scare, the shoulder damage, the stroke victim, the knee replacement. The open heart surgery. The colon cancer. They mysterious gastrointestinal issues with the unexplained weight loss. They're still moving. Going. Trying to heal in whatever ways they can. Mall walking. Exercising in the pool. Volunteering to help strangers. Helping each other. We talked about aging bodies, systems failing. The frustration and fear of what's coming up, not being able to do what they used to take for granted. How often they'd hear sirens, meaning EMT's in the neighborhood. In spite of the above, life is still precious.

Yesterday one of the women at the pool talked about the night before's sunset. The clouds that looked like towering cotton sculptures, backlit with crimson and purple. The wedding they'd driven past, the sky illuminating the gazebo on a hill. I'd been wondering if anyone noticed the beauty or if it was all background noise. But I found people grateful for still being here. They pay attention to the moments.

I don't think you have moments anymore.

I know that you love me, adore my kids. You say you're happiest when we're together. But we're not together even though we're in the same house. There's almost no connection anymore. Little conversation. Hardly any interaction.

Every time we're together now I notice how much less you're engaged. You barely complain anymore. Even that seems to take too much effort. You just retreat into your shell, curling up in your dark bedroom for hours at a time.

I know that you're in pain. But can't you do something to make it better? Taking medicine isn't the only answer. You have to fight back. You have to want to get to a better place. You're letting it win.

I don't know how to feel and so I'm just numb. Wishing there was something concrete I could do. Questions to ask. Calls to make. Information to share. Treatments I could help with.

I wish I could be angry. That I could yell at you and tell you to stop being so selfish. That people love you and need you and you're hurting all of us by not taking care of yourself.

I wish I could force you to move, to listen, to care. To try.

But, you have always done your own thing, regardless of what family, doctors, experts say. Parts of you shut down years ago. This isn't anything new, it's just what has always been, scarily magnified.

You can justify, explain, rationalize, deflect better than anyone I know.

This is too big though. Too important. With permanent ramifications.

You're scaring me. Please come back.

3 comments:

Tubby Tabby's SquawkBox said...

Elissa,

I'm not sure who you are speaking of in this post, but I am assuming it is a parent. My heart goes out to you as I am sure you feel so much helplessness. I will keep you in my thoughts and hope that things will improve.

MrsWhich said...

It's hard to understand another's response to a perspective dulled and sharpened by pain. It's hard enough to be a spirit living in a functional body day after day. I begin to imagine a strong need for much inner time, much renewal of energy to give anything at all to others. It's frustrating to watch, and all you can do is give unconditional love, which doesn't require understanding, just acceptance. Your wish for your loved one to take whatever is possible from life is full of love, and is beautiful. I wonder what this person wishes for his/her self, for you, for your children, and whether they would be willing to share it, in small doses, as a way to reconnect?

sheila said...

This made me very sad...as though I was hearing my own words spoken recently to someone I love. Perhaps one of the most difficult things in life...trying to appeal to someone who is slipping away. Stay strong!