The funeral .... is scheduled for Tuesday.

I plan to use this single daylog to update this mind boggling process, as it goes on. I honestly don't know if it will be of interest to anyone or not. But since I'm in a place right now where I could really use someone else's daylog who's been through this - I think perhaps it might have some value here to someone someday.

I'm beyond terrified and totally petrified.

The last funeral I ever went to was when I was 11 years old. It was a very traumatic experience for me. I decided then that I was never going to another funeral again ever. I never have - after all those years I've apparently developed a true phobia at even 'thinking' about going to one. I haven't had any anxiety attacks in quiet some time but I've had several since yesterday just thinking about going to this funeral.

The next 120 or so hours are going to be excruciating. I am going to try my best to do all I can to keep my mind preoccupied, but I also know that I have to spend some time preparing myself. (as if I have a choice)

Strangely enough I don't think any of this has to do with my Uncle Bill, but perhaps I'm fooling myself there. Perhaps deep down my biggest fear is how I will react to actually losing someone for the first time that I love. I've lost someone else I love - the other most important person in the world to me. But I really haven't lost her, because as someone who fine-tuned an incredible expertise at denial at a very young age, she's not really gone. I doubt she ever will be to me unless the reality of this funeral brings that home as well, hopefully it won't though, but obviously it's something I've been concerned with.

The "truth" is:

I've never had to accept the loss of someone I love, guess you could think I am lucky but I don't know about that, seems those who've loved and lost many - are more blessed. Truth is I can say all day 'she's gone' in reality to me though I just feel guilty I haven't went to see her in the past 8 years...

My work has given me the next week off, this is a blessing I guess, but also is going to make the time seem alot longer between now and Tuesday. I had 3 nodes I was working last week prior to all this - now my ability to focus for more than a few minutes on anything has taken a vacation.

I have been laying on a train track... {unable to stand} with a train coming - and the fear now is worse than the fear was then. Don't really know exactly what I'm afraid of - of it being a last straw of my depression issues coupled with S.A.D. ... of it being worse and I can certainly see that it's feasible, than my last experience at a funeral? I remember every moment of that funeral and how I wanted to tear my heart out of my body because my chest hurt so bad and my mind hurt so bad - it wasn't about the person they were burying... but about the others that I cared about there and their hurt.

I think, but have no idea, that this funeral will be different because that one was for someone who died totally unexpectedly and in this case it isn't. But I also think I may be fooling myself there. If I am feeling this devastated about this funeral why wouldn't others? And in that funeral those in pain that caused me so much pain I'd only known a few years. Most those at this funeral I have known and cared about 20+ years.

I wonder if there's a 'term' for 'fear of one's ability to emotionally handle a funeral' - I can't imagine I'm alone in this. I suppose most people at a time like this are more focused on the loss of a loved one than on their fear of emotional devastation / anxiety etc that's impending. But I guess right now I'm not focusing on the loss because as I mentioned I've had so many years to think about that with him, and also I still don't think I'm out of denial on that. He was in my nightmare last night, the first time he's been in my dreams (or nightmare in this case) in years.... it was a very very bad nightmare.... one I"m struggling to get out of my mind, something right out of a Steven King novel but I just can't seem to wrap my mind right now on anything strongly enough to get so many things out of my mind..

I'd like to sleep till Tuesday, but after the few hours I slept last night - I'm not looking forward to a repeat of that. I used to completely control my dreams, and I'll make that attempt tonight hopefully it will work out.

If anyone is interested or might find some value in seeing a former 'superwoman' turned ‘emotional basket case’ deal with this phobia stay tuned. I'll really try not to be too verbose between now and Tuesday in my additions to this post. I'd like to think I'm not just being narcisstic in this rambling, but that somebody skimming this may someday be in these shoes and not feel they are the 'only one' - as I do right now. I feel a little disgust towards myself for focusing on my own fears but honestly I'm not a selfish person, my fears are in my perceived inability to handle others pain when I'm not that strong right now.

I just wish it were Tuesday.

The fear of the unknown is what’s causing these anxiety attacks and the fear OF anxiety attacks once stopped my life cold.

(6 am Fri.) Update:

No change in how I feel about the above, but at least after some actual sleep I can now focus for more than a moment at time on something else.

(1 pm Sat.) Update:

Still no change in how I feel about all of this, have been trying not to think about it as much as possible. I am now (perhaps to keep my mind off the terror of it) trying to figure out what to do at a funeral. I've seen some on TV of course (real ones) but those are usually for heads of state. I don't know anything about how a 'normal' funeral will work. I have a few more days to figure out the basics on that though - anything to keep my mind off the impending stress of this whole thing.

(Monday 6 pm) Update:

The funeral is tommorow...

Luckily - so much has been going on (alot of family in from out of town) that I haven't had time to dwell to much on tommorow yet. I imagine every minute will seem like an hour though tommorow till 1:00. Unsure how I will handle tonight now that I'm alone. I think I've built this into something so impossible for me that anything less will be ok - in other words I'm expecting the worst - so it probably won't be that bad. But then it's a paradox in a way - because I think that. Everyone but me has went and 'viewed the body' yesterday and today... I had no intentions of doing so - the last time I saw him he looked as bad as a holocaust survivor - and I hugged him... I said my goodbyes - I see no point whatsoever in 'viweing the body'. Those who did all broke down (they say) so maybe they won't as bad tommorow - so maybe tommorow won't be so hard. I don't know but this has been so emotionally draining for me that I just want it over. Next 18 hours are going to seem like years, I'm going to try and keep my mind busy but I'm at the point now where it's always on my mind no matter how much else I'm doing mentally. I'm not writting this for pity... I said I'd keep ya'all updated so I'm doing so. If I think it'll be of value I'll post the outcome of this funeral under tommorow's date if it's just more of me rambling I'll update here.

Thank you all for your support - I haven't had a chance to respond to all the condolences I've gotten here but they are touching - thank you.

Children are not a gift from god. There is no mystery to how they arrive in the world. And there is no shortage of methods to prevent unwanted pregnancies. So why then do some people continue to produce children they don't want and have no intention of raising responsibly?

When deciding to become a parent , one must consider all aspects of child-rearing, not just the helpless infant stage. This kid is going to drive you nuts sometimes. Are you prepared for that? She is going to tell you "no!", and "that's not fair," and perhaps "I hate you!" She may get into trouble, and embarrass you. Can you handle it? Or will you give up, wash your hands of her?

Children are a great responsibility. One of the most joyous and difficult tasks of your life. And it is a long-term commitment. All children deserve to be loved, wanted, cherished. There should be someone in each child's life for whom they are most special. Children do not ask to be born; we have them for our own selfish reasons - for immortality, to fulfill a need, to gain attention. Some children come to this world through sheer laziness.

So we owe it to our children, and ourselves, to take the time, make the commitment, and raise them to the best of our abilities. They are our future and the future of our planet.

They will choose your nursing home.

This rant brought to you by a really pissed-off mom.

I hate this holiday.

Sure, Only single people hate Valentine's day, but dammit, we have a right. For one month a year, we get bombarded with discounts on chocolates and red roses and discounts at hotels for couple. It seems like the whole world goes out of its' way to remind you that you are still single.

It's not like I had a say in that decision, y'know.

For the past few months, as a result of the misadventures I've had while attempting to find SO, I've threatened to fly to Tibet or Japan and join a buddhist monastery. Some friends started taking me seriously when I enrolled in our Buddhism class.

Yesterday I had a neon green lace ask me if I had a crush on her last semester. What shocked me wasn't the fact that she asked, it was that she never even noticed. She'd heard this from a friend. Of all the time we spent together, she didn't pick up on it. At all.

So, what are my plans for this day of infamy? I've taken the liberty of procuring a torch, a pitchfork, and some napalm. Any happy couple within sight will reap it in the next 24 hours. And in the end, though I'll have gotten my smirking revenge , and most likely under arrest for murder, the fact remains that I'll still be single in the morning.

It's times like these when I feel that life is Not On My Side.

There is something worse than being single during the Valentine's Season: being with someone you can't stand the sight of anymore. In my experience, however, breaking up with someone during the month of the tissue cupids is good for a trip the hospital, or at least some very bad social karma should anyone you know find out.

"He broke up with you just two weeks before Valentine's? That bastard, I'm going to make sure every woman in the city knows. He'll never get laid again in this town again."

I shudder just thinking of it. I figured out mid-January that I didn't love you any more. By the last week of January, the thought of kissing you was making my hair stand on end. I wish I could have worked up the nerve to tell we were through before the beginning of February. God, if I had stopped couple shots of tequila sooner I think would have been coherent enough to tell you. Well, at least I might have had a chance at it. Instead, you bet me I couldn't out drink you. You won, I guess, because I woke up in your bed, both of us mostly naked, with your head on my shoulder. You've heard the term coyote ugly? At that moment I thought about chewing both my arms off just to make sure that never happened again. Too bad February had officially started - there was nothing for me to do but lump it until March.

So, here we are. Valentines day has arrived at last - I'm over the hump, I'm half way home. I bought you roses, chocolate, and candles. I even made you dinner. I can't let you suspect the truth. More wine? Yes, I think we could both use another glass, I'll open another bottle. I'm going to need it if I'm going to touch you later. We'll snuggle up and watch Pretty Woman, and I'll just keep thinking of Julia Roberts as I caress your shoulder and we eventually head to bed.

Even with Julia's help I don't know if I can see that through. I just have to keep reminding myself, after this it's all down hill. I just need to wait out another two weeks to make it out of February - anything under two weeks after "V-Day" would be as bad as the two weeks before, because everyone would know it was planned before the day of romance. Once we make it into march, I'll be safe at last. I'll sit you down, some place private and quiet and we'll just have a little talk. After that, at long last, I'll be a free man again.

What's the matter, darling? Didn't I cook the steak the way you like it? This is your favorite CD, isn't it? You're shivering a bit, should I turn up the thermostat? ... What? You have something you have to tell me? You're sorry to do this on Valentines day, but you just can't go on like this?

... Wait a minute. You're dumping me?!?

You heartless bitch.

More angst! More rhythm!

There's a pain in my chest, and it's been there for hours. It's supposed to be your heart, today, isn't it? But it's not. I'm happily in love, but super insecure about it right now. I didn't see her today. She's out of the country. I'm a little depressed about that, but not enough to worry about.

What I am worried about is this damn pain. I haven't done anything strenuous in the last.. whenever, I mean, I'm exercising and working out for the first time in ages, but I was fine when I finished earlier. I was sitting here, in front of my computer, and I breathed deeply and... nearly fell of my chair, it was so unexpected. I couldn't sit up right, I can't breathe deeply, and it sucks. It's like a stitch, but not attached to my stomach, attached to my rib. On the right hand side. What is it? Why is it there? What did I do to deserve this? I'd really like to be able to sit up, or lie down straight, if that's ok with you, ribs. I have stuff to do tomorrow, I need to get to sleep, ok? But since I can't, and my girlfriend isn't here to whinge to, I'm gonna whinge to you lot. Sorry about that.

Ok, I don't really have stuff to do tomorrow, just a haircut. My brother is going to Vanuatu, tomorrow, but I doubt I'll go to the airport with my parents. If I can stand up right, maybe. Maybe I'll head out with some friends. Maybe I can't afford that. Actually, that sounds right.

This is a dumb situation. I need to visit the smallest room in the house, but I can't. I need to refill my bottle of water so I don't wake up dehydrated, but I can't. Can't, cause my sister's boyfriend is 'sleeping' on the futon in the back room, where the bathroom is, and my sister is 'sleeping' in her room, on the futon too. I'm not going out there to interrupt them again, the whole thing squicks me. Even if they are sleeping. Whatever. But I'm gonna regret it in the morning.

The weather is hot. My room must be at least 30 degrees C. When I finally get to sleep, after hours of lying there, brain humming like a kazoo in a windtunnel, I wake up three hours later, drenched in sweat, tangled in sheets, parched of mouth and gritty of eye. Then I go back to sleep for a few more hours, until it's a reasonable time. My sleep cycle gravitates to (2-4am) to (12-3pm). I blame Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder for this, and I hope I can get back to something approaching a normal cycle before university starts on March 3, 2003.

Eh, I need to sleep but I cannot. I will sit here and play some form of ancient video game until I pass out or the painkillers kick in. Which they should have done about 20 minutes ago, so I'm not holding out much hope.

Damn, I'm thirsty.

Quite some time later, I have water and the pain is gone. I can't sleep, though, now. My paranoia about my girlfriend is intense, useless and groundless. I hate this. I hate *knowing* she loves me and doubting it, thinking she's off with someone else, whatever. I hate that there is evidence all around me that she loves me, and all I can think of is that she hasn't messaged me back. I know her phone has not been working well lately, I know she's in another country, crossing borders and cellular services all the time. I know. And I'm still scared...

Her phone works. She does love me. See, what did I tell you?

Still can't sleep, though. I will dance on insomnia's grave for this. Or the sandman, or whoever it is that's responsible for sleep distribution these days.

It's valentine's day, but very cold outside.

My day started with running around to help my brother find a gift for his first girlfriend (yes he's 20 years old) but he's not happy with anything so he settles for the rose and chocolate routine. Later that night she gave him a cologne set, hint hint.

I'm not sure if I'll see Norbi today, he's been quite busy and doesn't like to drive in hazardous/snowy weather.

Happy Valentine's Day E2!

A lot of people hate it. You can see from some of the above daylogs, that there is no shortage of hatred, or at least distaste for St. Valentine's Day. A day that is named after a Catholic Saint, yet for which one of the better known symbols is a god from Roman mythology. My sister hates it. I have had several girlfriends throughout my life who didn't like it, and refused to take gifts on that day. (They didn't seem to mind getting flowers on February 15, though - go figure).

Okay, if you're single and lonely - particulary if you're newly single and lonely - I can see how you would be bitter on a day like this. But, I've been single on Valentine's Day before, and I never had much of a disliking for it, and I've never boycotted it. I know a bunch of people (not all single) however, who are doing just that.

Anyway, I've noticed a lack of pro-Valentine's Day daylogs, here, so I needed to put one up.

I'm not a poet, by anyone's stretch of imagination, and I often have a hard time with words. (Nothing to brag about on E2, I know) But I think something positive should be said about today.

I like it. What could be more special than having a whole day set aside, where all you do is think about the person you love. I know - I can do that on any day, but today you know that everyone else is doing it too, and somehow, ironically, that makes it even more special. Kind of like how it you buy junk for your kids 300 days of the year, but Christmas is still special.

What's really great about this day, is that this is only my second Valentine's Day that came along when I was in a committed relationship. It might be a coincidence, but it seems that before last year, I was just getting out of a relationship, or I was in a new relationship on February 14. (You know how awkward that week is, where you're asking yourself and your friends, "Is it too early for me to buy her a big present like that for Valentine's Day? Would this scare her off?"). This time, I'm not only in a long term relationship, I'm engaged to be married to a woman who makes me feel a way that I had always thought was melodramatic crap, spouted by poets to help them get laid or get paid.

Until recently I thought the concept of a soulmate was more of the same sort of crap; just stuff that people said to make their partners feel better, or cover up some sort of insecurity or to boost romance. I can't believe it took me this long to realize that it's really none of those things. It really is an undescribable - and very real - feeling I get when I look at the woman who is the mother of my children, and I know - I just know - that I'm going to be able to look at that face for the rest of my life.

I love you, babe.

More than you'll ever know.

I hope you all have a nice Valentine's Day. Whether you're with someone, or not.

When I got my paycheck, it was still warm from the printer. There's nothing better than a warm paycheck. It's as if the money is still moving around in there, anxiously waiting to be released into the local economy.

This is my first check after becoming a real full-time no-i-don't-need-to-call-my-agency employee. They gave me a nice raise for coming on board. So nice that I'll be suffering from fat wallet syndrome in a few hours. It'll be the first time that's happened since well before the wedding.

I was actually paid much more than I had been expecting. I had spent most of the time since I was hired trying to downplay the amount of money that would be coming. I had performed such a successful job of psyching myself out that my jaw dropped when I saw it. I immediately called my wife at work, leaving a giddy voicemail for her:

"Baby, uh, we're rich. Call me."

She calls me back, and drone on for a decent twenty minutes about all the money we have, and all the bills we're going to be able to pay, and how everything is better, and how we should go out to dinner to celebrate...


"You don't want to go out for dinner? Why not?"

"It's Valentine's Day."

I had completely forgotten. This is because Valentine's Day was one of those things that I blissfully deleted from my memory once I met her. She hates Valentine's Day with a burning passion that I rarely see in day to day life. Valentine's Day is her enemy, and it must be destroyed at all costs. This is just fine with me, as I don't have to go through the motions of buying candy and flowers just because every other yutz in the world things this is such a fscking brilliant idea. Bunch of dumbasses. Have fun wasting your hard-earned cash because the Hallmark store says so. Um, anyway...

Instead, what are we doing? We're taking that short drive to Indiana and blowing this fatty paycheck on cigarettes and booze! See, this is why I married her. Have a fun Valentine's Day, suckers.

I've just missed my flight and Valentine's Day seems tarnished.

Initially I thought about simply a rant to vent my anger, but have decided to try and look at the whole event in broader context and assertain why I ended up missing my flight.

First some background. Being Valentine's Day I decided to book a flight from Heathrow, London to Bilbao, Spain. My girlfriend and I planned on seeing the Guggenheim museum, enjoying some sun, paella and sangria for the weekend. However, events have conspired against us.

Arriving at Heathrow a good 2 hours before our flight was due to depart, anticipating some delays due to the heightened security I mentioned yesterday. After checking in we waited for at least 1.5 hours in the queue to simple get through the security checks. During this time there were constant announcements over the speaker system that people "should not be concerned about missing their flight." All flights would be "called and passengers still in line escorted to the front." So we waited. Departure time was 17.40, pretty soon 18.40 rolled around and still we waited.

Eventually our flight dissapeared from the departure board. On approximately 4 or 5 occasions we enquired with fluorescent yellow vested stewards as to the status of our flight. They assured us that as they had not yet been notified to bring passengers to the front of the queue and the flight had not departed.

Then through the security checks, a brisk walk to the departure gate and...............the flight had departed 25 minutes previously. Deep breaths. We weren't the only ones.

Helpful Iberian airways staff told us we could get the same flight tomorrow evening at no extra cost. This was not suitable as we were flying back at 9.45 the next (Sunday) morning. Now we have to take it up with our travel agent on Monday and hope for a refund or complete reschedule. To say we are unhappy is an understatement.

This all leads me to ask questions. Why did we miss our flight ? Why was the security queue so long ? Why were Heathrow airport staff so incompetant?

I can't answer with regards to Heathrow staff, and somewhere deep inside I can't blame them. They aren't used to dealing with a line of people 5000 deep.

Essentially I have to look at the root of why the UK is on a high security alert to start with. This leads me to put the blame squarely on the UK government and the Prime Minister Tony Blair. If they weren't so insistent on agrivating Iraq and other middle east countries with their insistently beligerant foreign policies the UK would not be a target. If, instead, the UK operated in a peace brokering role, fostering greater understanding between cultures there would be no need for troops on the streets.

I guess now at least I can attend the anti-war demonstration in London tomorrow.

Great, just great...

Well, the Stop The War march in London is tomorrow, and I can't go. It's not a case of transport (a bus has been arranged for protesters from our school to use), more a complete lack of planning on my part. That, and I need a haircut.

Parents can be annoying at times.

Today I had nowhere to go after getting out of school, so I took a stroll through Chicago, to an alley near Clark street where 7 rival mobsters were machine gunned by Al Capone's hitmen on February 14, 1929, 74 years ago today. The victims were lined up against a wall and hosed with a nasty dosage of high velocity lead poisoning by 5 of Capone's men (three of whom posed as policemen). The five gunmen fired well over a hundred and fifty shots.

Happy St. Valentines day from Chicago Illinois.

Can you feel the love?

So I come home today, as any good-natured single geek would on the 14th of Feb; six-pack in one hand, TV Dinner and Adam Sandler movie in the other. It's Valentine's Day again, and this is practically becoming tradition.

As I walk up to my apartment, I notice there's something tied to the door!

A red...ribbony...something...I wonder who it's from? Does everybody's door have one? Hmm, no. That's interesting...Try not to get too excited.

I get closer...huh, it's a thing of Hershey's Kisses, and a note's attached...


"We Love our Residents! 
     -- the staff of Villas at Homestead"

Every Valentine's Day, people around me divide into two basic groups. There are people who are in relationships, and there people who are not. Both groups focus their attention on their relationship status. The ones in relationships go out on dates, stay in on dates, hang out with other people doing similar things. The ones that aren't gather to drink and rant about the lousy state of their love lives. I usually hang out with the second group - I haven't had a date on Valentine's Day since I stopped dating high school girls – but for me Valentine's Day is not about my ineptitude at relationships. For me Valentine's Day is about my mother.

My mother, Nancy, was born on February 14, 1943, to Jack, a WWII vet working in hotels, and Barbara, a telephone operator. She grew up moving around Tennessee and the east coast, mostly in Maine. She identified more with her new england background, although I always thought of her more as being from Tennessee since that's where my grandparents lived when I was a kid.

When she was growing up, mom's family moved slightly less than every year. Grandpa had letter dyslexia so badly that he had trouble holding jobs. They kept moving, hoping that things would be better somewhere else, but they never were.

Mom was smart and did well in school, although she wasn't academically oriented. Her side of the family is marked by three things. They're smart but not academic, they're incredibly stubborn, and they have a raging sweet tooth. Mom did well in school and got into Smith, where I think she studied political science. Other relatives thought Grammy was crazy sending her daughter to school when she had two younger sons to educate. Grammy, who hadn't been to college herself, said that Nancy always did so well that she had to encourage her, and she kept mom in school. After college mom went to Emory to study library science. She represented her department at the graduate student council, where she met my father, who was representing his department, political science. They were married 6 months later.

After grad school, they moved around a bit. They thought they were going to settle in Kentucky, until dad got fired from his teaching position for being a communist. They decided to come to Minneapolis, where dad would attend the U of M law school. A few years later, they decided to have kids, something mom hadn't wanted to do because she'd raised one of her brothers. Mom worked part time at various libraries while we were little, taking more hours as we got older.

When I was little, mom was really into child development. She read to me, signed me up for classes, played with me, and generally devoted a lot of time and energy to me. When my brother was born, her time was, of course, a lot less. Donald was a higher maintenance kid than I was, wouldn't hold still to be read to, always getting into things. I felt like she favored him, especially since she was a lot harder on me. Mom had wanted to take piano lessons as a child, so even though I have no musical inclinations, I had to have piano lessons. She'd wanted to dress fashionably, so she was always trying to get me to dress fashionably. This was a recurring argument in our house; mom wanted to have a child who was into clothes and fashion and looking right, and unfortunately for everyone, that child was my brother. Mom always felt it should be me, that girls should be into that kind of thing, and that I would never get where I wanted to go if I didn't conform to certain behaviors. We were fighting about this before I was out of elementary school, and it escalated every year thereafter.

When I was 12, mom went into the doctor to get a lump on her arm checked out. It turned out to be malignant, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy that summer, with chemotherapy and radiation therapy through the fall. No one told me what was going on, although everyone has claimed since then that they did. At the time, I figured it out from all the books about cancer that suddenly appeared in the house. Mom had six months to live, although no one told me that at all until six months had passed. I was starting junior high when this was happening, so I was in my own personal hell already. In the winter she decided we were going to go skiing, and I fought her over it. I found out she might have been dying during the fight. I have never skied since.

Living with mom after she started chemotherapy was less pleasant. With all the other stresses she was under, she had time for one child, and she chose my brother. She still got on my case about my appearance and whatever I was doing that she thought I shouldn't be, but for the most part she left me alone. This means that after I was twelve, I lived with my parents, but wasn't raised by them. I have very mixed feelings about this; I know that there are still a lot of things left over from this that affect my life today, but at the same time, I'm glad my mother didn't get more of an opportunity to drill her messed up ideas about gender and society into my head. My father during this time and through my entire childhood was a shadow figure, someone who cooked and yelled and fought, but who wasn't really present because he was drinking.

Mom decided early on that she was going to beat the odds against her, and started reading on her own. As a result of the research she did, my mother changed her diet. She cut out dairy and sugar, and cut down on fat, or at least that was the theory. Dad's always done the cooking at our house, so the practice was a little different. Dad thought that if mom didn't want to eat something, she should just not eat it. Mom thought that if she didn't want to eat something, dad shouldn't cook it so she wouldn't be tempted. The crowning fight came over chicken preparation. Mom wanted dad to skin the chicken before he cooked it, so that it would be healthier. Dad wanted to skin the chicken after he cooked it, so that it would taste better. They screamed about this every night for three weeks. They couldn't come to an agreement, couldn't agree to do it half and half. To this day if you bring this argument up to my dad, he'll get mad and rant about how unreasonable my mom was about this. Soon after this started, I became a vegetarian, which made both of them focus their aggressions on me.

Life went on. My parents yelled at me that vegetarianism was going to kill me. I went vegan. They yelled about my clothes. I dyed my hair green. They yelled about my grades. I started skipping class more. Dad stopped drinking. Mom started her own business, doing freelance research, essentially the same job she'd been doing but for a lot more money. I started college, Donald started high school. Things never really returned to normal, but they did go on. Mom's health was good for 7 years after the cancer, when she started getting lung ailments over and over, bronchitis, pneumonia, colds. She'd get them treated, but wouldn't have her lungs checked out, insisting she was fine. She and dad took a road trip down south to see various friends and relatives they hadn't seen in a long time. It was mom's goodbye trip, although no one figured that out at the time. When I came home from my first year of college, she was having trouble with her voice. She had a swollen lymph node pressing on one of her vocal chords, which meant she couldn't talk much above a whisper. She went in to have that checked out. At the physical required before voluntary surgery, the doctor told her he wanted her to check herself into the hospital right then because he was afraid she'd die in the next 24 hours if she didn't.

Mom told him that she had a presentation to give the next morning, and she'd check in in the afternoon. That night at 1am, dad pulled me off the computer. "Get your mom dressed," he told me, "we're going to the emergency room." I dressed my mother, awkwardly, unsure of how to dress someone else, unsure of how to do it without acknowledging that she was sick, something that absolutely could not happen. We got her to the emergency room. Dad and Donald took her in, leaving me to park dad's car, which he didn't let anyone drive at the time. We sat in emergency care with mom until she kicked us out, telling us to go the hell home and go to bed already. She was admitted to the hospital, where she stayed for several weeks. During that time she was examined and biopsied and x-rayed. She spent the whole time insisting that she was fine, she'd just overdosed on vitamin C, making me go to the U of M biomedical library to look up studies of vitamin C megadoses on rats. I knew that vitamin C is a water- soluble vitamin. I looked anyway.

The first several biopsies didn't show anything. They checked her liver, lungs, other organs. They finally found the cancer in her bone marrow. In summer of 1996, mom was diagnosed with cancer in the lungs, lining of the lungs, heart casing, and liver. If she started chemotherapy immediately, she'd probably make it six months. At the very outside, if everything went perfectly, she might live two years. If she didn't start chemotherapy, she'd die in 2 months. She opted to move to Abbott and start chemo, still insisting she was fine. I went back to college, telling dad and Donald to call me every week, to let me know what was going on. At the time I left, mom was on oxygen and couldn't walk across the room without pausing to catch her breath. She'd asked me to make her a painting in a style I'd been doing recently, but when I finished it made her too dizzy to look at.

At school, I was pretty far out of it. I had trouble sleeping, I was scattered in class, I wasn't talking to many people. I had no idea what was going on at home. Previously, mom had been the one to keep in touch with me at school since she was the only one of the three of them who had or was willing to use email. Dad and Donald were lousy about calling. After I'd been at school for about a month, I tried calling. I found out that mom had been out of the hospital for 3 weeks. They'd thought they'd called me.

Communication was on and off for the rest of the fall, mostly off. I had problems with my social circle at school, and my two best friends stopped talking to each other over a girl they both liked. I went home for winter break, relieved for the first time to be going back to my family.

The relief didn't last long. Donald picked me up at the airport, and we started fighting before we got to baggage claim, not stopping the entire time I was home. I spent that break writing a term paper, driving everyone in my family everywhere, one car and four people with very different schedules, and taking care of mom. Mom's chemotherapy stopped working while I was home, and for the first time since she'd started it, she came home worse after a session rather than better. She was bald, too thin, and her skin had an odd quality to it. She couldn't eat solid foods anymore, but was living on prepackaged shakes that were so gross none of the rest of us would touch them. Occasionally she'd have me make her tea, lukewarm and barely steeped. The disease progressed. When it hit her stomach, she made dad and me go out to dinner rather than have us watch her be sick.

Even during the worst of it, mom wouldn't admit that there was anything seriously wrong with her. She'd beaten cancer before, and she could do it again. She was going to recover. She admitted that she was dying exactly once to dad, and that was when she told him that he had to use the life insurance money to pay for my education. She never admitted anything to me or Donald. She told one of her nurses once that it would be okay with her if dad remarried, although she couldn't tell him that. I don't know what else she told anyone, especially since I wasn't there. Dad and I knew what was going on before we got the diagnosis back in the summer. Donald thought she was going to recover up until near the end, or maybe he just wanted to believe that.

I went back to school towards the end of January, starting classes in what became my major. I was even more scattered than previously, and having trouble eating as well as sleeping. Dad and Donald tried to stay in more regular contact, setting the designated call time as Sunday morning, but sometimes they forgot to call and wouldn't be there when I tried or I'd remember too late at night. They told me at the beginning of February that mom wanted birthday cards and could I please make her one. I sent one I'd made with markers and stickers, unhappy that I couldn't call her because her voice wasn't strong enough to carry over the phone. It was then that I realized I would probably never speak to her again. By the time her birthday came around, mom looked like she was just going to hang on in bad shape for a long time, until sometime in the spring. A few days after her birthday, dad arranged for mom to go into a nursing home. He couldn't take care of her anymore. Probably she insisted, too. It was a Wednesday, and I was trying to call, trying to get through, freaking out because I couldn't get a hold of anyone. Dad called me back later to explain what had happened. He'd been sleeping in my room, working full time and trying to take care of mom and Donald. He sounded tired.

That Saturday morning, February 22, 1997, before I was up, the phone rang. I leaned over the edge of my bed to answer it, already feeling the wrongness of the phone call, already knowing what I would hear. My brother was on the line, trying to tell me what had happened without crying. He failed. I wanted the conversation to be over, wanted him to come out and say that she had died, didn't want to listen to him break down because then I'd cry too. He put dad on the line, and dad told me that she'd died around midnight, that it had been painless with all the morphine she'd been on. We sat on the phone not talking for a while, said what we had to, and hung up. I spent the next week not going to class, not knowing if I needed to eat, wearing the same jeans, not knowing if I'd slept. Two weeks later I went home for the funeral, an event with all my aunts and uncles, my mother's mother, people I don't know hugging me, and too much Jesus propaganda.

Aftermath: Moving away from my mother is easily one of the best things that ever happened to me. I went from not talking, holing myself up somewhere to read to voluntarily interacting with other humans. I could do things on my own terms for the first time in my life. After she died, I found that I was more comfortable at home than when she'd been there. At the same time, this is my mother, who I lived with for 19 years, who was great when I was a small child, who I could make a list as long as my life of stuff she did for me. Her death was traumatic for me, partly because watching someone die of cancer is pretty horrible, and partly because I'm probably better off, at least emotionally, with her out of my life. In the last few months of her life, a friend of mine was trying to convince me that I should tell her how much I hated her, how much the things she'd done had hurt me. With my mother's conflict avoidance strategies - "Everything is fine!" - I couldn't do it. Rather than bringing any kind of closure, it would have become very ugly. Instead, I let her die thinking everything was okay between us. I feel better having given her a sense of reconciliation than I could have felt telling her off. Also, I was afraid she'd come back and haunt me.

One thing in particular stands out about my mother's death, and that is that even though her cancer came back, she didn't have a recurrence of breast cancer. Dad thinks that she was exposed to DDT when she was about 12 or 13, and that that's what gave her cancer. I'm hoping that this theory is correct, since it might lower my cancer risk a little. As a woman whose mother had premenopausal breast cancer, I'm in the second highest risk group, after women whose mothers had breast cancer before they were born, which in realistic terms means they're fucked. I'm in the group that's almost certainly fucked, and I've already had one scare over breast cancer. It turned out to be nothing, but it made me think more seriously about how likely it was to happen to me. I know that part of my mother's problem the second time around was that she wouldn't go to the doctor even though she knew something was wrong, and she somehow thought that if she didn't pay attention to it, it would go away. I've been concerned about my cancer risk for the last 15 years, and have made a number of the choices I've made about the way I live with reducing my risk in mind. Realistically, I'm probably fucked. One in 8 american women are now getting breast cancer, up from 1 in 11 in 1973 and still rising, and that's just breast cancer. This is what Valentine's Day is about for me. It's about death, and cancer, and invasive poisonous treatment. It's about trying to cope with the loss of someone I have strong but incomprehensible feelings about.

It's about remembering my mother on her birthday, six years after her death.

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