Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


The Weight of Her Regret

It has really hit me the past couple of weeks just how ill my Mom is. It wasn't that I was truly in denial, but just a real depth of grief that I've been feeling. I think the bittersweet energy of getting ready for a trip to the Oregon coast this past weekend, the sense of urgency around taking trips with her while she can still enjoy them is part of it. Another was overhearing her say to someone at a gallery that she was dying.

What occurred to me is that I've never heard my Mom make that kind of admission. She's always met cancer, or her other ills, head on and ready for a fight. Her response has always been that she's going to beat this latest assault to her body. Now she doesn't say that, she says that she is dying. She's does offer that she believes in miracles, so who knows what could happen, but that is usually an aside to saying she's finally, right now, alright with dying.

The cancer, somewhat at the top of her stomach, is late into Stage 2. This usually means it has spread to multiple layers of the stomach and/or the lymph nodes. It is causing her discomfort, nausea, and vomiting, particularly if she eats things that are difficult for the stomach to process. Because of these problems she's fighting some malnourishment already.

Last week CK and I picked up Mom and took her to a small place south of Yachats. She had been a little worried at first about what she'd eat, but finally decided she was up for trying new things. I spent much of last week cooking several dishes that were vegan and all soy-free except for the chick pea salad, which had Vegenaise in it. Mom has at times been a little sensitive to soy, although it has been hard to pin down.

We noticed she did pretty well with small meals. I made her a fruit smoothie each morning and added some brown rice protein. She enjoyed our vegan, some raw, dishes very much and didn't seem to get sick from eating them. She did end up eating too much of the lentil/walnut loaf with mashed potatoes & gravy, this made her somewhat nauseated, but she was alright after laying down to rest for a while.

One afternoon we ate out and she ordered a hamburger with bacon and cheese. We didn't say anything, at this juncture it seems rather pointless to bug her. After, back at the inn, CK and I went out onto the rocky shore and Mom lay down. She told us later that this overly indulgent meal ended up making her really nauseated and she eventually vomited. I was relieved when later that day she was able to eat and enjoy a tostada with homemade, refried black beans on a baked corn tortilla.

There she was, very literally made ill by her bad choice and regretting it. I would later point out, after she was feeling better and able to hear it, that the animal proteins and fats are probably more difficult for her stomach to deal with, especially in such a large serving. I don't think a vegan diet will save my Mom's life at all, but I did see in the long weekend that the smaller, vegan meals we're easier on her body.

I later recalled listening to her order that hamburger, hearing the mix of defiance and guilt in her voice. She knew she was doing the wrong thing for her body, but she didn't want to feel like she was somehow denying herself. My Mom's choices so often seem like a child is making them, a child who wants to be indulged and doesn't give a damn about any potential consequences. I've watched this pattern with her again and again, in so many different variations.

Like so many things it seems pointless, cruel even, to shine a light too brightly on her continually making poor choices. Once or twice something she said triggered a painful memory and I felt angry at her for trying to rewrite events in my life, trying to cast herself in a more favorable light. It would strike me how childish the behavior was in many ways, like the bad choices about food, and how sad. The anger would die down pretty quickly I noticed, leaving behind layers and layers of sadness.

I'm sad my Mom is dying. I'll think about something, like what she's doing for Christmas, and it will occur to me that she could be gone before then. I'm sad for the anger I still feel over many of the selfish, mindless choices she's made, but it seems so trivial to bring them up when I watch her and see the layers of pain she's dealing with. I'm sad for all the poor choices she's made and the many ways those choices have left her regretful and unhappy; I can see the weight of the unhappiness and regret on her.

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