You Spin Me Round Round Baby Round Round

There is a lot going on in Bebe’s World, everyone. A lot. So much so that you are going to be subjected to about 3 events worth of babble in one post because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want. I’ve been struggling with this bizarre feeling that I hadn’t really been able to explain before but I finally managed to come up with an apt description. I have fallen off of my axis. I’m not quite spinning out of control across the ether or anything, but I just kind of feel like my gravitational sanity axis is amiss. I know why and how this happened. I am just now trying to figure out how to get it back so I can go on about my crazy ass life. You know I should state that I don’t like country music all that much yet somehow, someway, my life could be turned into a weird country song. I would title it “My Trash is Pearly White”.

So let’s start off with Theo McCancerPants. If you have been following along with my stories you will know that my mentally ill drug addicted brother is suffering from cancer. I went to see him a few weeks ago. We were supposed to attend a family session through his rehab joint to discuss how his decisions have affected our lives. We made it as far as the parking lot of the church it was being held. I knew he would back out at the last-minute and not go in. When we were kids he would mysteriously vanish right before family portraits. Security guards would have to chase him down in hospitals when he was sick with his stomach problems and he would try to escape. I knew when I pulled up and saw him sitting there that we wouldn’t go in. I explained that perhaps this flight philosophy he believes in so much isn’t working for him. It didn’t work though. We sat in the car for a while, and then went for coffee. It was the first time in about 5 years or so and we didn’t miss a beat when we saw each other. Still felt the deep sibling love, and the total inescapable feeling that I am sitting with an alien in my car.

By the way, in case you ever wondered what he looks like, I will go ahead and put it out there that he is from the stereotypical crazy addict school of design. I know that mental illness doesn’t always have the same face, body or spirit. Some look sharp and relatively normal, ala Patrick Bates. Others, like my brother, go the long scruffy beard and layers route. His vague notes of stale smoke and his grandmother’s polish cooking kind of permeate around him as well. I’m kind of shocked he is wearing shoes, as I remember a few years ago he vetoed them full-time, along with car insurance which he didn’t believe was necessary.

Aside from his physical appearance, health wise he looked ok. He tried to tell me his cancer came because of the nuclear disaster in Japan and called it The Simpson’s Theory. I can’t tell if he is serious or joking, so I just look at him sideways and he awkwardly laughed. Historically speaking this means he isn’t sure if he is joking or not either. We drink some coffee, we take a picture together, we hug, and I drop him off around the corner of his house and he walks through the neighbor’s yard. I wouldn’t be surprised if he crawled through the basement window to get in.

I talk to him briefly a few weeks later, and the following day I find out he arrived at court for a date with a judge regarding a prior incident he was involved in. He was supposed to have reported to a rehab facility a while back and didn’t. He is now in jail with a very high bond. I am not surprised or even disappointed. He is, relatively speaking, safe. He is warm. His medical needs are being taken care of. Perhaps he will be there long enough to become lucid enough to try and get it together just a little bit. The saga of Theo McCancerPants is not over though. Stay tuned.

The reason I only talked to Theo ever so briefly was because I was dealing with issues with my mother in law. Some of you may remember her as the culprit who has a brief shout out in Inflatable Metaphors for Life for bringing a Little Caesars Pizza to Thanksgiving dinner one year. She said she needed something to eat with her pills. So she brought an extra-large shitty ass pizza. Makes sense right? Yeah well, the issue with her was that she died. She hurt her back somehow, got stuck in her lazy boy, went to the hospital for 11 days and died. My husband traveled halfway across the country to be with her in the hospital because he just knew she was going to either leave the hospital and go to a nursing home, or leave there dead. This is all sad because it wasn’t necessary for her to die. Also, she was young. Really too young to be so old. I feel badly for my husband and his sister. They are good people, and their relationship with their mother was complicated at best. My relationship with her was almost non-existent. She was a hard woman to respect. I pitied her in many ways. But all I ever saw in her was the negative effect she had on her kids, who are mostly my responsibility. It’s like having 2 teenagers to take care of because their most basic emotional needs weren’t really always met. I have to give it to her though. I have never truly believed one could will themself to die. And she did.

I’m completely afraid of her haunting me. So much so that at the wake, I apologized to her for making so much fun of her to my friends. They all played Mother In Law Bingo at my baby shower. They should be sorry too. In case you were wondering, I created a list of things I knew she would do at my shower, and made a game out of it. In a completely coincidental event, I created a party game based on my life long friend’s equally as annoying mother in law who had her foot amputated. Needless to say, Pin the Foot on Peggy was a secret hit in our minds. We didn’t have the heart to actually play it live for real. Jesus, I’m as asshole. I am prepared for the karma I will receive when the boy marries one day. Fully.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I am certainly sad that she died so young. I am deeply saddened for my husband who is left with a vague memory of good moments with his mom. She is now in whatever better place she imagined herself to be  when her time came. I still can’t look at a Little Caesars without wanting to scream. But somehow the anger seems wasteful and sad now. So I will work on making peace with her, and with crappy pizza.

Last but not least, no post of mine would be complete without the mention of poop. The boy has encopresis, which is a behavioral issue that means he withholds his poops for fear of painful movements, which in turn, cause awful horrible painfully enormous movements. Humans are so silly with their survival instincts. It’s not at all uncommon among kids like him, and it hinders potty training like nothing else. He is on a special diet, stool softeners, extra fiber, the sticker on the potty chart plan, and “let’s kick mom in the face as many times as possible” self-defense plan.

Every night I come home after 12 hours of working to the boy and the dad. The dad tries his absolute hardest to understand that much of the boys poop problems are not within his control right this second, but honestly, dad’s best isn’t good enough. He is a nervous wreck that the constant pants pooping is going to destroy the boys chances of being President, or at the very least, an Elks Club Member. So I have to work on calming them both down. The boy poops a ton now, but the consistency is never typical, and mostly, it’s a mess. He tries to clean it up, but mostly, it gets everywhere. I mean it. Everywhere. Floors, walls, blankets, towels, me, him, pajamas, probably even the ceilings. I am covered in poop every night. Until I figured out that wipes of all kinds burn the living shit out of my son’s ass, literally, I would get kicked in the face. Every night. He wasn’t aiming at me, he just flails around in pain, and I’m just the right height. It’s awful to see my guy go through this. I know it will come together eventually. I know that we have made a lot of improvements. I know that a large part of being a mom is to be prepared for shit your whole life, one way or another. But honestly, it makes getting off the train, getting into my shit free zone car, and pulling into my garage nightly really hard.

Last night, a few hours after I had my axis epiphany and right after a shitty emergency bath, I am reading books with the boy in bed. He is reading his numbers, telling me the story, and gets pissed when I ask him to read the numbers in Spanish. It doesn’t matter to me really, I just like to outwardly acknowledge my kid is bilingual and confident enough to be all “screw you, only one language tonight!” I am not bilingual by the way. He just goes to a really fantastic preschool. I turn off the lights and lay (lie?) down with him for a while. This is a new thing. He usually tells me to leave so he can go to sleep. He has a spot in the bed, we aren’t to fuck with it. But lately, he has been kind of dependent on me and I like it. So help me, I like it. Just please goddess don’t let it get really bad. I’ve been slightly spoiled by a kid who loves to sleep. He whispers to himself that he is going to sleep by mama. He crawls up by me, and spoons with me. He holds my hand and buries his hair into my nose. He is perfectly still. I smell his hair. I pick up subtle scent of menthol from his Johnsons & Johnsons snot clearing bath wash. A slight sprinkling of fabric softener coming off his pajamas. A deep earthy whiff of shit, possibly vintage 2 weeks ago?  A dash of jerk here, a sprinkle of pure angel heaven there. When all of these scents combine I determine that this is what my axis must smell like. It’s within my grasp. Close by. I know it.

Bebe

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Now

I do not know where I will go with post. I have a lot going on in my mind and I feel compelled to type until something concrete comes out. As stated in my previous post, my brother has been diagnosed with cancer and it’s put a bit of a crack in our hard-fought for and fiercely maintained foundation that we built. Our family was blasted apart years ago due to alcoholism, abuse, depression, and poor choices. Actually we weren’t blasted apart; we just kind of disintegrated because we weren’t that strong to begin with. Enough of the construction metaphors, though. We are sadly just a typical family.

My husband told me recently that he doesn’t know what to think about my brother and his diagnosis, mostly because he has only known him as a mentally ill prick. Yes, he is mentally ill. And yeah, he is a prick. The two are sometimes related, and sometimes not. Sometimes, someone can just be a prick. I can relate to his feelings. More than once Theo did or said something foul and rude and harsh, often in the middle of a perfectly nice conversation. His triggers are really sneaky and you really just never know what’s going to set him off. I guess my husband heard me sob in the bathroom after talking to him one too many times and put the kibosh on giving a shit about him. I can dig it. So in a display of newly found empathy and surprising articulation, hubby asked me exactly what it is I needed from him from here on out, because he cannot find any emotions regarding the subject. In the past, he would have just acted like a giant brick wall and quite possibly not have noticed had I started on fire. But that was then. His actions with this one request show why we are still married, and why we work when we probably really shouldn’t.

My response to this was that he is to just be there when I react however it is I am going to react when the tough stuff starts to happen. And by tough stuff, I mean making contact with my estranged brother. Namely, speaking with my estranged step-grandmother or seeing my long estranged and very much ex-step-father. He raised me for roughly 20 years, and I never really considered him a step father until it occurred to me that he had let go of any rights to any loyalty from me a long while ago. I made a long and conscientious decision about cutting ties for my own mental health and well-being. It was a good choice that I don’t regret. Next to being in that circle of people again, my brother dying is secondary to my fears. I say that only because I know my strengths, and I have been with two different loved ones while they died, and while I am not a stranger to the harsh realities and emotions that come with this, I know I am equipped with a weird and uncanny measure of accepting what is in front of me and knowing that death is a part of life, and being there when that happens is a rare and profound gift.

The next thing I told my husband I need is to be in charge of the boy, who will have nothing to do with this process. He has no clue who these people are, and he won’t have to. He has two fully functional sets of grandparents; my mom and her wonderful husband and my dad and his incredible wife. In the process of cutting ties and figuring out my life, I found a whole different level of relationship with my biological father and we have worked our way to dad and daughter. My kid can be in the same room with his grandparents, all of them, and enjoy life. Something I didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing.

On the flip side to this really positive interaction between hubby and me, I also warned him that if he felt like saying something dumb, or felt like looking at me like I was a fool, he needed to remember the following: the word of the day, month, and year is compassion. And I have it in spades, by nature, nurture and sheer force of will. While I did segregate myself from my family members, I didn’t stop loving them in a certain way. I didn’t stop thinking about how they wasted every chance they got in life to be better people, and it didn’t escape me that in doing what was right and continuing to love these people and hope the best for them, that my immediate family will benefit. I helped to raise my brother from the time he was born until the day I left home. He has known only small amounts of joy in his life. He is dying. And if hubby were dying, and had all sorts of baggage (which, he does) I would hope and pray that his sister stood by him no matter what. I told him to know that the reason why we are always such fucked up humans is because very few know how to be compassionate, or just don’t want to be. Rightfully so for some people. I am not here to judge other people’s emotions. The reason why I called my family typical is because the pain never stops and the compassion never overcomes and it goes on and on and on. I don’t know one family who doesn’t have some kind of family dynamic that never changed because no one thought to change it, or heal it, or lay it to rest, or whatever healthy verb that needed to happen to set it right. No one taught anyone in that family what was acceptable, what was right, and what was healthy. My mom slowed that cycle down by leaving and working hard on a new life. Now it’s my turn to slow it down a little more. Maybe even stop it.  

I asked him if he understood what the ramifications would be for our son, and for him, and for me, if I chose to not care about my brother, ignore his suffering, and not work with the people who scare me the most throughout this unfolding drama. How would I handle that? What regrets would I have? I am already beginning to mourn the loss of a big part of my mom’s spirit during all of this. She will never be the same, and I need to accept that. Would my son see me crying for hours on end on some random Sunday three years from now? Will he look into my eyes one day and think to himself that there is something wrong with mom? Will he say she has never been the same and I don’t know why? No. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t intend on sheltering him from the realities of the world, and emotions that he will need to have and learn to process. Lord knows I can list right off the top of my head the various things about me he might find himself being embarrassed by, annoyed at, or struggle with. But none of that will be something I carried over with me from my old life. Not if I can help it.

That sounds so loaded and so sanctimonious and I truly do not mean it to be. I am not trying to be a martyr or a saint, and I am not going to turn the other cheek when things start to get hairy, which I know they will. But I am a different person now than I was all of those years ago. I see them differently. I see myself differently. No one is allowed to mistreat me or speak ill of anyone I love, whether it be from Sickly McCancerpants, Chief Drinks Continuously or Old Spirit from Enables-Alot. I will state my business and do my job as a sister, a human being, and someone who to bring love, peace, and fond memories with him to where he goes.

I called him a few days ago and he was asleep. He called me right back though, and we spoke for about an hour. He immediately professed his love to me, how much he misses me, and what life has been like for him without me. I ditto all of that and more, but I also winced every time he opened his mouth, because I was waiting for the trigger to go off. It didn’t. We ended the conversation with the hope that we could slowly talk and piece ourselves together. Prognosis, timelines, angst, and kin were not mentioned. With the exception of how dumb the spelling of my nephew’s name is. I couldn’t argue with that one. I don’t know what my sister was thinking.

I think that from here on out my portion of The Bucket is going to be primarily about this cancer business and how it affects my already fractured, fragile yet resilient ridiculous family. It will be about the various ways I choose to react to what is put before me, because that’s the only thing I can control. My reactions. Theo’s prognosis right now is fairly decent, but not permanent, as nothing is, and while he isn’t at death’s door at the moment, the path seems to be paving itself. Of course this time should be spent praying for miracles and tracking down Dr. Greg House to save the day. Of course I would rather I work on finding a cure and imagining my brother alive and well in twenty years. But it’s not twenty years from now. It’s now.

Bebe

Dear Theo, Letter Two

I posted something deeply personal to my dearest brother a while back https://thecrabbucket.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/dear-theo/ and left it to the air in prayed for healing and resolution. Last week I walked into a cathedral during my lunch break to sit and meditate. To reflect on my issues of the week, to feel closer to the center of everything in my life, and to be calm. As I walked out, I noticed for the first time that there was an open book in the corner with a pen next to it. I went to see what it was and it was the prayer requests for the Sunday mass. Without much thought, as if on autopilot, I wrote Theo’s name down. I never stop thinking about him, and while I know he isn’t of sound mind to appreciate others praying and putting out positive love for a complete stranger, I know I would.

I found out yesterday that he is suffering from pancreatic cancer and it’s not looking good. Actually, I was informed a few days earlier that he had cancer through the grapevine that I typically try to ignore. I didn’t believe it. I discussed it with other siblings, and they didn’t either. We had no doubt he was probably ill. He has been ill his whole life. Stomach problems, arthritis problems, mystery illnesses, asthma, basically everything. Looking back now, I feel like Theo’s whole existence was akin to when foreign matter enters your body and your immune system won’t accept it and tries to destroy it. He is the foreign matter and life is the immune system. The fact that he is now dying of cancer only makes it far more literal.

My siblings and I held a quick meeting about the validity of this claim and I decided that our mother, who made the difficult decision a long time ago to cut Theo out of her life until he could get better, should know about this. She would clarify this with one phone call and we would do what we could from there on out. And it was true. She is understandably beside herself with confusion, fear, sadness, regret, and insurmountable motherly love, and has nowhere to place it. He most likely will not agree to see her or spend time with her, or any of us. My hope is that his physical sickness puts to rest his mental sickness if not only for a moment, so that he will allow his mother to do what she does best. Love. Nurture. Nurse. Make everything ok.

As for me, I still only picture him as a small child and I feel helpless and sad for all involved. I’ve allowed myself to think that when he dies, he will finally be at peace. It’s not something that I will broadcast to my immediate family. I think that they probably feel the same way.

As someone with a strong viewpoint and belief that lessons are to be learned from everything and that death is all part of the whole river of life, I have already seen some good come out of this. Within the one phone call my mom made to her ex-mother in law, kind words were spoken between two women who had a very complicated relationship. The words “I never once doubted you loved all of your children” was said with the same voice that defended her abusive son. The same woman who very clearly stated that “perhaps if more meat and potatoes were on the table, my boy wouldn’t be so angry with you.” As this process takes its course, the only line of communication will most likely be between these two women. One that picked up the pieces of her life and created a brilliant new one, and the other too old to change now and in a weird prison of her own. One that wants desperately to nurse her son; the other who will be doing the nursing. I don’t know if that balance is harmonious, or even fair, but it’s balance. And hearing her say those words brought a lot of closure for my mom.

I do not know what happens next. I do not know what else to think. I will keep writing my brother’s name down in that book and I will keep meditating and carrying Theo on my hip.

Bebe