Friday, July 13, 2012

Family Crisis: The Best The We Can

It's been a difficult couple of weeks. About two weeks ago, Ed got a call from his mother, who was en route to the hospital, at her doctor's suggestion, because of increasing pain caused by some undetermined medical issue - we feared it would be stage IV pancreatic cancer. Ed came home from work - before noon - and we got him on a flight out to Virginia immediately; I hopped a flight the next day after my class.

Judy was admitted to the hospital and stayed for three days, during which time a flurry of medical tests were done, but any potential diagnosis would take up to 10 days due to waiting time for a biopsy and bloodwork to be completed. Hours after we got her home on Friday, we lost power for about 24 hours. She refused to go to a hotel, and refused to let us go as well, which I wasn't having; she provided a printout from the Bed Bug Registry of local hotels that we were not to stay at, but in no uncertain terms was I about to let that happen. She was clearly displeased, but we checked into a hotel the next day and stayed there until our flight home a week later (the hotel was probably on the Bed Bug Registry; we didn't care; despite her questioning, we didn't tell her where we were staying). Between so many people being without power and Independence Day that week, we didn't care about bed bugs - we just needed a bed.

And to be honest, we needed not to be at her house for our own sakes.

The following Tuesday, Ed and I, along with one of Judy's sisters, who had retired the day of our power loss (good timing!) and who had flown out the next day, drove her to Georgetown University Hospital for a procedure which wound up not happening, much to everyone's disappointment. We did get her admitted, though - after waiting about seven hours in the Emergency Room; apparently the place was full up. After several more days of waiting and running around and more tests being done and Ed and I getting the test results from the previous hospital, pancreatic cancer was ruled out, and Judy was diagnosed with lymphoma, which is certainly still terrible news, but which is much more treatable, with a much higher survival rate. We were elated to have this news before we had to fly home the next day.

Nevertheless, there was a fair amount of emotional drama and baggage that I did not appreciate my husband or I being subjected to. She and Ed's father have been separated since late last year, and she's planning on going through the divorce (indeed, it seems to be a priority).

Judy also asked Ed and I to quit our jobs and come take care of her, which we simply could not do; this was one of the most difficult things she could have asked of Ed, who felt that either he would have let his mother die alone, or give up everything he's worked for, without the possibility of recovering financially. Fortunately, a week after she made this request, when we told her we couldn't do this for her, she said she understood. Ed confronted her about some other issues as well; this turned out to be counterproductive, but for his own mental health these things needed to be said. 

Between those and other issues that came up, for the time being I've decided to take a step back and separate myself emotionally. I want to have a good relationship with her, but our world views are so inherently different, and she seems to inherently disinterested in anyone who is not her, that I'm not sure we can have a close relationship right now.

I've been thinking a lot about this since we got back though, almost a week ago. The whole visit devastated Ed; he was emotionally and physically exhausted. I spent a few days being really frustrated with most of Judy's behavior before I worked through what had been angering me. Mostly this had to do with her behavior hurting my husband, and to a lesser extent herself as well.

I was reminded that she's in a place of fraility, both emotionally and physically; that she's frightened, of her prognosis, of the future, of how she will be able to take care of herself financially - something she's never had to do before. And I was reminded that we're all doing the best we can all the time, that her reactions are about her ability (or inability) to handle the mess that her life is right now.

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