I keep waiting for the smooth even times to share funny anecdotes -- small uneventful stories that will make you laugh -- a time when I can get back to being more of a regular chatty entertaining blogger-gal for you. But that hasn't been my path, and as I get older I am learning more and more that I am less in control of this journey than I want to think I am, my agenda is not The Creator's agenda and I keep having to be reminded of this.
As if on cue, and serving nicely as a visceral reminder of how true this is, Ziggy just sauntered up to me and sprayed my leg with whatever it is that cats use to mark their territories, some mix of urine and pheromones. He also mumbled something in that adorable Siamese way of his, but I'll be damned if I have a clue as to what he was saying.
I pulled a young woman out of a bad car wreck the other day. I was on my way to Mom's house, talking to her on the cell phone when I saw this accident that had just occurred in a busy intersection ahead of me. I pulled over and ran into the middle of things to see what I could do to help.
There was a pretty twenty-two year old woman with dark hair and big beautiful eyes slumped over her steering wheel crying and shaking. The front end of her brand new white Mercedes was crushed and her car had pushed another car up into the front yard of an apartment building near UCLA. All I could think of was calling 911 and getting her out of that broken steaming car.
There were lots of people around, everyone forgetting that 911 doesn't work any more when you dial it from a cell phone. All you get is a busy signal. How stupidly irresponsible and greedy is that? What the hell is the difference between being able to dial 911 from a regular phone and a cell, and why differentiate when people's lives may be at stake? Someone explain this to me please, and while you're at it can you produce and direct a PSA so everyone else will learn this, and then we can all stop wasting precious time and remember to get someone to run for a land line to dial for help?
Along with another woman who appeared and disappeared I pulled Nicole, her name was Nicole, out of her car, and helped her limp over to the grass, then realizing that we were sitting too close to the smoking grill of the other wrecked car I helped her to her feet and walked her far enough away from that car, sat down on the grass again, and then held her, stroking and comforting her like a child, for about an hour, while all of the usual post car accident drama unfolded, and until her parents, who I had called to come for her, arrived and were able to take over. I also found her wallet and called the auto club to come and tow her car and answered lots of questions for her because she was in so much shock. She wouldn't stop shaking, crying, and saying, "Why? Why? Why?" over and over again. Poor little thing.
As luck would have it, she was Iranian so I was able to use the very few soothing words I've learned in Farsi to help calm her down. I don't know how to spell these words but Joona and Hoshkele will pretty much do the trick in any situation. As anyone who has any friends who are Iranian might guess, or really anyone who has children and live in fear of getting a phone call like this, when I called her Mother she started screaming and wailing, hitting herself and pulling her hair. She said, "What are you saying? Nicole in an accident? No, no, NOOOOO!!!!!" Then her husband took the phone out of her hands and I could hear her screaming in the background. I did everything I could to assure then that their daughter was really going to be okay, just some burns and bruises, nothing serious and that it was all going to be just fine. By then the paramedics had arrived and I continued to hold and comfort her while they checked her vitals and asked questions to assess her condition. It's funny how much you can love and care for someone you've never met, how close you can feel to a stranger in such a short time, and then let go. It's a beautiful thing, moving really.
Anyone who remembers my massive freeway collision of a little over a year ago, and the two or three angels who came out of nowhere to offer love and assistance to me, will understand why I feel so grateful for the opportunity to return the favor. Distressing though it was, it was the highlight of my week. A moment of something completely outside of the messy painful upset that has become my life lately. A chance to do something that made me feel good about myself, something without reward other than the way it made me feel.
My friend Atra isn't speaking to me. She won't answer the phone when I call whereas ordinarily she will always pick it up saying merrily into the phone, "Jacqui Joona!" Now she ignores my calls and she won't return any of the messages I leave on her machine. She won't respond to my e-mails. I'm afraid to go over there because I think she is done with me and I just don't want to be rejected. I've seen her do this to people before, she gets angry, and then she cuts them off completely. I just never thought it would happen to me without warning.
Her Mother has been very sick and she is angry with me for not being more helpful, for not visiting more than I have. I feel terrible and guilty because I love her and her Mother very much. I love her whole family but for once I really couldn't be there for her and she doesn't understand this and is hurt. I've apologized and tried to explain. I've done everything but walk over there and confront her but I don't think I can handle being rejected to my face.
She doesn't understand what I've been going through over here on my side of the fence, or if she does she still believes that I am made of the same fire and strength of will that she is, instead of being the very real and flawed human being that I am. Atra can do anything, no matter how sick she is, no matter what she is going through, she can summon the will to go on in any situation. I think I can, but my body is telling me something else entirely.
My Mother's cancer has spread throughout her body. According to all of the oncologists and doctors we have seen at UCLA, Cedars and St. John's there is nothing to do but go home and wait. She may have six months or longer. Eventually the tumor in her lower bowel will grow and spread until it twists everything up inside her and she will not be able to go to the bathroom. She will not want to eat. She will waste away. Hospice workers will come and give her morphine and she will die. I am distraught but I am all she's got and I have to be strong for her. I cannot fall apart. I have to do everything she asks.
She is asking me to make her funeral arrangements while she is still very much alive and has no symptoms other than the fact that she feels weak and doesn't have much of an appetite. She is still her same old difficult but funny, wonderful, and super-wise self. She is still my best friend. Just writing this is making me cry. How will I live without being able to pick up the phone whenever I want to and find my Mom on the other end of the line? Who will I be buying these dresses for? Where will my beautiful blonde blue eyed princess of a Mother be and how will I live without her. She is my touch stone, my link to the past, the only person who remembers my life who hasn't left me and who loves me as unconditionally as anyone ever has.
My Mom wants to be cremated. She came to this decision suddenly. She asked me to call the mortuary and the cemetery and find out all of the options and costs and arrange her funeral and the party afterwards.
Speaking with the man at the mortuary over the phone I listened in dumb shock as he said things like, "You have a wide selection of urns to choose from. You can choose to have your cremains returned to you in what we call 'The Pieta' which is our finest bronze urn with a carved image of Jesus being taken down from the cross and there are several wooden and plastic cubes with room to insert photographs of your loved one. Or you can choose to take your cremains home with you in a plastic bag and store them in a vessel of your own choosing" and "Of course you will need to choose a wooden casket for the viewing. We use wood in this case as it will be burned with the body."
I had to give my Mom a breakdown of all of these choices and prices, the price of her own cremation and funeral while she is still very much alive, and of course she is making choices based on wanting to save money. She said, "Why can't you just borrow a box from them and then take me out and burn me afterwards?" I said, "Do you really want your friends to see you in a cheap pine box at the church?" She asked me where I was going to store her ashes and asked me to make certain the cats wouldn't knock her down and spill her. She said I should get some earthquake putty to ensure she wouldn't get knocked over in case of an earthquake. Can you imagine?
I feel pretty certain you can understand how painful this is to do. Additionally there is the fact that one of my Father's deepest wishes was that we return him to his family crypt in Hamilton Ohio when he died. He so wanted to be buried beside his parents, his dearly loved uncle, his Grandparents and Great Grandparents, and the baby brother he had who only lived a few months. I wanted to honor this request. I even wanted to travel back with him to visit this town that meant so much to him while he was still alive but my Mother wouldn't allow us. Then when he died she insisted on burying him here because she wanted to be buried beside him here in California, in the same cemetery where her parents are buried, and over my protestations, that is where he was interred.
Now, because she is going to spend the rest of eternity in an urn with me, this would leave my Father all alone in a cemetery where he did not want to be, so I am having to make the complicated arrangements to disinter his body and fly back with him to Ohio to ensure that he is buried where he wanted to be all along in his family crypt. But there are a few snags to this plan. I don't remember the name of the cemetery. I don't know where the paperwork is. And since this crypt was built in the mid 1800's my Mother reminded me that he had once said that the space that is reserved for him might be shorter than his coffin is long. Are you following me in terms of how challenging all of this is for one overly-emotional and clinically depressed little being to cope with?
That's not all. Obviously Mom is feeling helpless and out of control, and because she ran a successful business and was in charge of a large factory full of people for many years, she is someone who has always been very much in control of everything in her life and mine. Because she is feeling so frightened, (As anyone in her situation could be,) she is trying to manage her feelings by keeping herself busy preparing for her death.
She is doing things saying that this will supposedly make everything easier for me when she is gone, but the choices she is making are making life much harder for me now. Knowing that I am sentimental and will want to hang on to rather than sell her jewelry she is making plans to sell all of her diamond, pearl, and other fine jewelry so that we can put this money towards estate taxes. It doesn't matter to her that I want to keep these things as mementos, that I treasure them because they are hers. That I have spent my entire life from watching her wear them and admiring them. Her wedding ring is worth so much more to me than the money we will get for it.
She also wants to sell all of her beautiful and fine silver and china because she doesn't want to leave this in her home that she wants me to rent rather than sell. "Darling you don't entertain. When would you ever need things like these? You need the money more. It's already been decided." Oh God this is hard. She was about to sell our vacation house in the desert before she realized that the capital gains would make this a bad move. She made a unilateral decision that she was going to sell it furnished, no matter that our house is filled with some of my own furniture, as well as some pieces I would like to keep, "But Mom that's my coffee table, I had it in my home for years and love it. I only gave it to you to use in the desert, because I was storing it until I moved into a house where the cats won't be able to damage it. I can find another one in one of the thrift stores out there to put in it's place. I don't want to just give it to whoever buys our house. It's an antique. It came from Mrs. Belzer." "Well, that's just too bad Jacqui because I'm selling it!" That kind of thing.
Same goes for everything I have stored in her basement. She wants it cleared out before she calls The Salvation Army. She wants her house ready to rent the moment she crosses over so that I can have the income immediately but she doesn't understand how much work we will have to do on her very dated Bel Air home before we can even consider renting it. It doesn't even have air conditioning. Anyone who is going to pay ten thousand dollars or more a month in rent for a house in Bel Air is going to expect certain basic things that these houses have. People are pretty spoiled these days, they want luxury, they want granite counter tops and spa tubs, not cracked linoleum, and worn yellow wall to wall carpet. But even thinking about this now is repulsive to me. She is still here!
Nevertheless everything that won't be rented with the house has to go. She was going to wrap and pack all of the dozens of Limoges, crystal-covered Judith Lieber, and antique minaudiere boxes I've been giving her for every holiday for the last three decades that cover her dresser on Monday. Tuesday she was going to wrap up every framed family photograph that she keeps on her mantel piece and dressing table until I stopped her. I want her to have the pretty and sentimental things that bring her comfort and happiness around her. But she is in such a rush to settle everything, to wrap it all up, to keep herself busy so that she won't have to feel the fear and sadness that anyone in her position would feel. She doesn't understand that this pretense of helping me is actually making everything much, much harder.
She might live another year or two but she wants to strip her home of all of her mementos and possessions, sell everything off, get it all packed away and organized so she can wait for death to come like some helpless child waiting at a bus terminal with a ticket in her hand and a note pinned to her coat.
I want to help support her in any way that I can. I want to do whatever it is that she needs or wants me to do. But this rushing towards death is so sad and it's breaking my heart. I wish more than anything that she could really see how capable I am of taking care of everything for her after she is gone and just focus on letting me make her happy and comfortable. I wish that we could spend time with each other and enjoy the time we have left. I wish that she wouldn't sell off all of our family heirlooms and the treasured mementos that I want to keep for myself and Beau. Just writing this is making my heart beat so fast that I feel a wave of panic coming over me and I need to lie down. I'll be back to write more later, right now I feel too upset to go on.
I'm back. I don't know if that was a panic attack or a blood sugar crisis of some kind. Wow. I felt my heart beating so fast and then this wave of weirdness kind of washed over me and I thought I was going to faint. Scott came over tonight and we had Thai food that was pretty sweet and starchy. I want to think it was a crash from the food but I'm guessing it has more to do with the material I am forcing myself to face by writing about it. Whatever it was a little time away from the computer, some sugar, a call to my shrink, and half of a Valium seem to have done the trick.
But wait, that's not all. I could write another four or five paragraphs about my relationship with Scott and everything he has been going through, but I think I should put this aside, because considering the state I'm in I don't even want to try to get into this, other than to say that I am so grateful we are still together and working things out. He is a wreck right now, emotionally, and having to just walk through his troubles one day at a time, which is of course killing me because I love him so much and wish I could somehow wave a wand and fix all of it for him. He is in serious financial crisis mode as is Esther and her family which makes for some pretty unstable company right now. But like I said, I just can't even go into this or I'll be taking the other half of that Valium and downing tequila shots thinking I can do a big opening song and dance number for the VMAs or something ; )
I don't know if you remember the additional weight loss surgery that I mentioned I was planning on having a few months back. Well, after a long wait of three months, with lots of snags and hang ups, I just learned yesterday that, "Surprise, we can fit you in Monday." Weeeeee. So this means that this Friday will be my pre-op visit with four of the various weight loss surgery doctors -- hopefully I'll get to see my beloved Dr. Liu -- and starting Saturday I'll be doing the lovely Phospho bowel prep and pretty much fasting until Monday at which time I will be lying on my back with a cashiers cheque in my hand waiting to have my surgeons open me up again and slip a band around my already stapled stomach.
I once said that I was so happy with my weight loss surgery that I would do it again every single year if that's what it took to keep this weight off. Well, here I am again. Believe me my friends if it were a matter of a will that I had power over I wouldn't be planning on having my body cut apart again in order to reverse the weight gain that I can't allow to continue. It may mean that I won't be able to eat anything larger than the size of a well chewed pea but if I can get back to losing this weight, then I can get back to being healthier and hopefully I will regain the stamina I am going to need to be here to support the people I love through everything that we are obviously going to be going through in the upcoming months.
I'm also planning on taking a Sharpie and drawing something funny on my abdomen as a surprise for Doctor Liu during the surgery. I thought I might also tell him, just before they put me under, that now he will have been inside me more than some lovers I have had. Anything for a laugh.
Another big thing that has been keeping me super overwhelmed and busy is this intestinal infection that most of our cats caught that had them spewing diarrhea like sick parrots all over my bed, all over the walls, and all over everything for weeks. Every morning I would awake to new and wonderful surprises. It's been a stressful, expensive, and exhausting disaster, but it looks like we may be turning the tide. We finally tracked down the parasites that are causing all of this and several vet visits with dozens of cats in carriers and several hundreds of dollars later and we seem to be on the mend. Of course we still have another week of having to force one pill and two medications down every single one of our cats throats, which means my hands are being bit and torn by some very frustrated cat people, but it looks like it'll be better soon. I'm so praying for this.
Wow, I got most of it out, and now that we're all caught up, I can check in and write about sillier things and gossip with you about my latest favorite television shows, or tell you how excited I am about attending Artfest in the Spring, and other less important but happier things.
Oh, and my friend Mary's book, Figures of Echo, was made into a Lifetime movie called Custody that is airing this week. You might still be able to catch it. It's sweet and stars Rob Morrow. I'm so happy for her.
Phew, I think that's enough for one entry, don't you?