Friday, January 16, 2009
Stuck in the Middle With . . . Worry and Guilt!
We spotted this charmingly cheery graffiti near some guerrilla gardening along the railroad tracks not far from Vancouver's Granville Island back in November, the day before Nola was born actually. Cheery seems just the ticket today when it's dense grey fog outside AGAIN with more foggy days forecast. As well, my mother's having major surgery today as a first step in dealing with endometrial cancer (a kind that constitutes only 5%, apparently, of endometrial cancer cases) that has already spread to the omentum as well as some lymph nodes. After the surgery, once they clearly know what stage the cancer is at, we'll find out what will be the next step, chemo or radiation, and go from there. The doctors my sister and mom consulted with seem fairly hopeful, especially since my mom is very fit, although tiny, tiny!, at 77. Pater and I had a good visit with her Saturday afternoon, and I just got off the phone from wishing her well -- her voice sounds, quite naturally, tight with anxiety, but she sounded genuinely pleased with anticipation when I said we'd take her to the opera once she recovered from the surgery.
The sister who took her for the diagnostic visit to the Cancer Clinic earlier this month lined up tasks for the rest of us to do while mom was waiting for her surgery. This sister has a good sense of humour and writes well -- her e-mail described the biggest difficulty of that long day of tests: getting mom out of her underwear. At barely 100 pounds, apparently mom still wants her tummy controlled, and those garments are not so easy to wriggle out of, as we all know. So on my sis's list was taking mom shopping for some undies more suitable to the situation. I couldn't help but think of Karen, who once helped her MIL shop for a better bra.
But since Karen was a bit too far away to recruit, my daughter stepped in. She volunteered without prompting (I didn't even realize she was doing it), and I was so proud of her -- she works long, hard days as a sous-chef and days off are precious. She and Granny went for lunch together and then headed to Winner's to find hospital-worthy underwear. I wish I'd been there, and with a camera, 'cause I'm sure there would have been some very cute moments.
Much is said about the sandwich generation, those women, primarily, caught between the needs of the children, and those of their ageing parents. I never experienced this, really, since I was born when my parents were 22 and 26, and I had my youngest when I was 32. There were the years through my dad's cancer ride (he died 8 years ago of prostate cancer), but he and my mom managed much of that on their own until the last year or so. And luckily, I have so many siblings that we were able to share the care. This is still the case, and my sisters who live near mom provide most of the support.
Now though, I do feel torn, finally experiencing that sandwich, except that it's stretched another generation. When I'm over in Vancouver, I'm wanting to help out with Nola, give her parents a break and get to know her. At the same time, I'm trying to spend some "quality time" with Pater, who I don't get to see during the week and have only one full day with the weekends I can get over. Getting to mom's is a significant commute, so I'm often feeling guilty about not getting out there either to visit her or to take her on an outing. Not to mention that she's far, far from an easy conversationalist, being very introverted. No easy answers, I'm afraid, especially since guilt has been my middle name since forever (a Catholic upbringing, being the oldest sibling in a large family, and years of mothering will do that for you!). But I'm trying: last week's visit, stepped-up phoning schedule, and, some time in the not-too-distant future, I hope, a night at the opera. Meanwhile, I'll be waiting to hear how the surgery's gone and hoping for more years of being stuck in the middle . . .