Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Half the Family's Sick, Half the Family's Dying

I believe I have written before about the phenomena of Septembering (or Octobering or Novembering).  My friend Lynn came up with the term.  Fall is a favorite time of year for many, many people, but Lynn and I face it each year with a little fear and trepidation.  You see bad stuff happens in the fall, if you are going to have a rough time, it will usually be in one of those months.  Each year Lynn and I would compare notes, do you think this is it?  Do you think there will be more?  Each year we would reach Hanukkah/Christmas with great relief.  The season of suffering was over.  This year I glibly slid through that season, with just one child's broken foot to show for it.  Little did I know what the universe had in store for me in the new year!

Just try to say Februarying!

That's when it started, I think it was the day after my mom's birthday (2/15).  She called to say that Pak was rushing her to the hospital because she had had a collapse of some sort and her BP was 70/45.  We will not get into the discussion of why she was rushed by her very upset husband versus the ambulance, but you can imagine my dismay.  As the day/night went on they began talking about surgery because her bowels were shutting down. So I hopped on a plane and spent the next two days hanging out in her (very nice) hospital room.  It had the added benefit of getting to see my dad who had fallen and hit his head a few days before Christmas, suffering a fairly serious concussion--to the point he didn't remember Christmas (so yes technically it did start before Christmas, but wait there's more!)

Shortly after my birthday I got a call from my step mother telling me my dad had fallen again, had bleeding on the brain and by the way, he'd been in the hospital for a week.  She put him on the phone he had no idea who he was talking to and I'm not sure he was even familiar with the phone itself.  I was leaving that weekend to go on a college visit and then going to Puerto Rico for spring break.  But Taj was very reassuring and there was really nothing I could do more--he was not at risk for dying, so poor Taj had to handle it all.  Well two days before leaving for PR they decide to release him but after care planner (I won't call her a social worker because she sucked) "could not" find a private place for him.  Well I put my social worker hat back on and found him a bed in the rehab at Westminster Canterbury where my mom lives--hee hee his worst nightmare.  Left for PR with great relief he was in a good place and he had his wife and ex-wife to keep him straight.  I did end up flying down there to see him and go to the neurosurgeon with them.  We were told that short term memory may or may not come back.

THEN, my step father is rushed to the hospital because he's bleeding internally.  Gets better, goes home, collapses, almost dies, rushed back to hospital, mended again and well now all sorts of complications keep him in the hospital still as I write.  Oh and he quit breathing one night and was on a ventilator for 4 days - 2 of them conscious (the stuff of nightmares if you ask me).

THEN, my mother in law was diagnosed with colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy and operated on a week later.  Got the tumor, but found cancer in 7 of 23 lymph nodes so will start treatment as soon as the biopsy the spot on her lung this Friday and get a port in (that is if the spot is not lung cancer).

While she was in the hospital, I stayed behind the scenes because I had a cold.  On the floor below her was our Cousin Thea who has been fighting cancer for at least four years now.  The chemo had done so much damage to her body that she had broken her leg.  They operated on her and she was trying to recover enough to go home - to die.  She was terrified of dying in the hospital.  She did get to go home and was there with hospice for a little over a week.  She died yesterday 5/19 at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Weirdly, Friday night I had felt her presence and thought maybe she was gone.  Know nurturing Thea, she spread some of herself to all of us before leaving the physical earth.

About a year and a half ago, she began introducing many of her friends.  She wanted us to know each other at her funeral.  She would say, I want you all to be friends after I'm gone.  She match-made us.  And she was awesome at it.  She introduced us to her friends and by the end of the evening it was as though we'd known each other for years.  And while we all had other/different friends, we all wanted to spend more time together, when can we get together, where, and Thea was our glue.  I hope that she and the memory of her will continue to be our glue.

Thea is probably the coolest Reis of all.  Thea was hip her whole life.  Whenever we would come visit Cincinnati, Thea was part of the tour.  We would always go to "the office" to see Thea.  She would tell us about this cool place and that cool thing, but even in our single days we missed out--we had a full schedule with Frisch's, Skyline, Graeters, and the Blind Lemon.  Plus we knew she was cool but we didn't realize how cool.

Once we moved here we kind of lost touch.  Which is weird.  But true.  I'm so glad that we reconnected a couple years ago.  Glad and sad.  I'm glad that my kids could see what a vital woman she was.  I'm glad that they got to see a vital woman with cancer and how she embraced life and lived it to the fullest.  How she did not get defeated or down.  Sure she got down, but every moment she could, she went for it.  She wore make up, and pretty clothes and awesome shoes.  She cooked fabulous meals and drank fabulous wine.  Certainly she had down and sad times, times she didn't wear fabulous clothes or make up.  Times she couldn't eat.  Times the wig itched or the hat just made her angry.  But she always had her peeps and her pups to comfort her.

I hope that memories of this larger than life woman will soon fill the giant hole left in her absence.