Driving home after class a few days ago, my mind flipped through my Rolodex of addictions wondering which I could pick to ease the empty feeling clawing at my chest from the inside out. Miraculously, instead of driving to a bar or Target, I called my sponsor. Bless her heart, she said what she always says. I know exactly how you feel. When her parents were battling sickness, dementia, cancer and death her abandonment issues were triggered, too.
Until she said it I had no idea that's what it was. My eyes pricked with the sting of recognition.
What have you done in the past when you felt this way? she asked.
Gotten drunk, bought cigarettes or weed, gone home with strange men in bars, I told her.
She laughed and then paused. That's not exactly what I meant, she said. What healthy things have you done when you've felt this way?
Oh, I said. Cried, written, prayed, made calls, blah blah blah blah. It's just not as fun or as fast though, is it?
She recommended I go home and listen to a yoga nidra in bed under piles of blankets and cats and anything else to help create that feeling the safety and security of being held in a tight warm hug. When I followed her directions, the tears came in full and so did the complete and utter surrender to the release of sleep. When I got up an hour later I was ready to face the day, or at least start cooking.
I baked a spice cake slathered with vanilla icing, two sausage and broccoli quiches and curry roasted cauliflower to bring out to my Dad and stepmother's house in the country, wedged between acres of farm land, lakes and the brightly lit roller coasters and ferris wheels of the State Fair like a mystical, magical land of country and carnies. My dad moved 15 times before I turned 18 but has lived here ever since. 25 years. It's my home away from home.
Mary's hair is growing back in and her face glows with an inner light normally reserved for children or saints but the catheter is still inserted in her lung to drain the fluid and the cancer seems back to stay. Dad's tremors are increasing and the numbers of small animals scurrying about everywhere, all the time, inside the house and out are not growing smaller. Sometimes his hallucinations are big, sometimes small, always present. Cancer and Lewy Body Dementia could not have visited a more special, loving couple. For the last couple of years since each received their diagnosis, my heart has been in stages of breaking, healing and re-breaking all over again.
After dinner, which tasted extraordinarily delicious, the deep pleasure in providing nourishment as a tangible manifestation of love, I took a deep breath and suggested it was time to set a date to talk about their wills. "The ruby red pitcher that belonged to your Grandma Billie should be yours," Mary said. I thanked her and then with a series of awkward, false starts explained that division of objects and property was not exactly the conversation I had in mind. Rather, I need to know what happens to one if the other dies. Who wants a DNR? Will it be me making these decisions if the other isn't able? What happens to their bodies when they no longer contain breath?
In two weeks I will return with my laptop to write their answers down. "But how will we get a hard copy if it's on your computer?" my dad asked, technology a distant planet to him now. Don't worry, I can print it out, Dad, I assured him, feeling all of those little internal gears and gadgets creating a capable adult woman inside of me begin to snap into place, ready to rise to the occasions that are required of me, heart, mind, body and soul. I still need to comfort the helpless, terrified child inside, the one who doesn't want her parents to ever leave or change or go anywhere or die, but she can't be the one running the show. I have to take her hand and hold it so she doesn't take over.
** This piece combines several 10 minute pieces written in classes this week.**