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Ex-Pat remains in the hospital, and as I discussed yesterday, I have started the clean-up process in my old house.

It is terrifying.

I don’t understand how someone can let things get this dirty. I chided Kelsea about it last night (nice welcome home, huh?) and she said that she never touched half of the stuff in the house – which sounds just like her Dad. My response? Whether you touch it or  not, you still live here. So there.

I won’t gross you out with all the details, but suffice it to say that when you have two dogs and two cats, love to cook, and  live by a creek and across the street from a cow pasture, you just have to realize that  hair, dust, and grease can transform some things into creations worthy of Salvador Dali if you don’t stay on top of it. I’m so far under it in this clean-up process that it’s hard to breathe.

But progress was made last night. Several surfaces were cleaned and shined. One carpet, while not salvageable, was at least improved. Walls and ceilings were partially de-cobwebed. A load of laundry was done. The freezer was cleaned. The kitchen table is 90 percent excavated. I have made some decisions about some of my things – what to take to my house, what to leave here, and what to throw away.

This cleaning process became more amenable for me when I realized that this is another stage of leaving my old life behind. When I moved out in 2008, I took things willy-nilly, at random, because I was shocked at what I was doing. I was actually leaving him. I would grab a random stacking file here, a cookbook there, but there was no real packing. Some of my clothes are still in his closet. Which is beneficial when I housesit, but perhaps not helpful for either of us in making a full-fledged parting. Although he has been passive-aggresively letting the cats pee on my clothes that find their way to the closet floor. Grumph.

I talked to him today, and told him what I was doing,and he said not to go crazy on the cleaning. Since the house is half mine, and in the state it is in, I am disregarding that and doing what I think is right.  He may be coming home soon – depends on his fever and blood cultures – and will have a home health nurse coming periodically to help him through six weeks of IV antibiotics through a picc line. It’s my opinion that cleanliness is critical at this time. Dog hair +picc line = back to the hospital.

Kelsea, meanwhile, is embracing the cleaning with all the enthusiasm a teenager on spring break can muster for such an activity. Get what I’m saying? Yippee.

But as dear Ceciliag commented on yesterday’s post, this cleansing will be good for all of us.

Assuming we survive it.



I have been having water dreams lately. Lots and lots of water dreams for weeks, I think. Water dreams are strange things for me. They have always been portents of huge and significant changes. And generally not good changes. They are always similar in character. I am by the ocean and the waves are huge, engulfing everything, and I am trying to survive, to push through them, to stave them off. Doesn’t take a Jungian dream analyst to figure that one out, does it? What I know for sure is that they are certain predictors of something big happening. Generally, how I am able to survive in the dream indicates the level of intimacy with which the change will affect me, but not always. Sometimes, there are people I know with me in the dream, and they are usually impacted in real life whenever the change comes.

So, another water dream last night, coming on the heels of yesterday. Yesterday sucked. I won’t really go into why yesterday sucked. Suffice it to say that it did. BIG TIME. I am hoping today will be better. Hope springs eternal.

Ex-Pat has endocarditis and septicemia. He will be in hospital at least until Friday. According to my readings on the Internet, this is scary stuff. Really scary stuff.

The Internet can be your trusted friend or that devious individual on the street corner hissing to you that the world will end soon and he will take care of your pets when the rapture comes.  When too much information on one topic is available, it is easy and hard at the same time to pick what you are going to believe. I read that septicemia is the same as sepsis, and that the odds of survival are about even. I read that it wasn’t, and that the survival odds are about 90 percent. I read that endocarditis can cause strokes, and that he’d have about six months to live even after recovery. I didn’t read anywhere that he would pop out of his hospital bed on Friday and start romping with the lambs. And what I heard him say last night, when I pointed out to him that without getting treatment he would have died and pretty darn quick at that, was that maybe that would have been better, as his daughter is the only thing he has to live for. (Which to me is a huge reason to keep living.) But he’s lost his will. He’s in too  much pain to walk, and they don’t know why. Things are looking bleak, to say the least.

I think I will try to talk to his doctor to get the full scoop, as he is too doped up to tell me much. Then at least I can share what is real with Kelsea, who comes home today.

On the other hand, I am still at his house, and it is filthy. Filthy. Just disgusting. Even though I said it is not my job to clean this place, and I know it isn’t, I am going to do so, enlisting Kelsea to help, so she can see what clean is, and how to make things that way. I can’t let her live in a place that is like this. In clearing off the kitchen table, I found receipts from 2009. And that was probably the most pleasant of my finds. I remember he was always mad at me because of all the paperwork in the house that I never went through. Now that he’s having to deal with his own mail, and receipts, and crap, I suspect he understands, but he would never own up to it.

I may even tear up all the rugs and try to find replacements at ReStore. They will never be clean, ever, no matter what I do. I will get the handyman to come in and get the holes in the walls patched. I will try to rebuild my own sense of love and trust. I will do two jobs and manage two houses. And then I will sprout wings and a horn out of my head and become a human unicorn.

I’m being realistic.

Aren’t I?

I spent last night sleeping in Kelsea’s bed in my old house. Sleeping in her bed helped me understand her better. How odd does that sound?  All I’m saying is that it is a truly magical bed. It’s one of a pair of twin beds from my grandmother’s house, one I used to sleep in some 45 years ago. (It’s mate was lost in an unfortunate accident when I was moving out of Ex-Pat’s house – que lastima.) I don’t know if its history is part of its magic but I suspect so. Anyway, I slept amazingly well, had amazing dreams, and had a visitation from my Mother in the Hour of the Wolf. Her scent preceded her, and we had a lovely conversation.  I have missed her so. I had no idea she was hanging out in Kelsea’s room, keeping watch over her, but it totally makes sense, given how much she loved her and how alike they are. As I was drifting back to sleep, I checked again, and her scent was still there.  She was sitting with me.  What peaceful comfort.

I’m sure that sounds a little crazy, but hey, the women in my family have the shine.

Moving on, the shower is always a great place for me to come up with creative ideas, work through technical problems, and have epiphanies. I suspect it’s that eternal connection between me and moving water.  When I was in the shower, and thinking about how “enmeshed”  (to use MKL’s term) I am with Ex-Pat, I realized one very important thing – and this is something MKL said to me yesterday: Ex-Pat’s problems are not my problems any more.

Yes, I can help, because he is my daughter’s father. Yes, I can help, because I love the dogs, even though they are his dogs now. Yes, I can help, because the house is half mine on paper. But I am not his wife any more. I have moved on. He hasn’t. That does not mean that he gets to turn to me as if I am still his wife. Which is what he is doing. As Pam said in comments on yesterday’s post, I am a good human being and take care of people, and while that is indeed an admirable quality, in some situations, like this one, the boundary issues must be acknowledged in order to take care of myself and my life. I am not going to screw up my relationship with MKL because I am feeling guilty about Ex-Pat being alone (and hence, spending my time to take care of his needs). Ex-Pat has made his own choices here. And as singlecell reinforced in her comment, he has made his choices. His choices have left him without a support network. That does not mean it is automatically my job to be his support network. I am not the get-out-of-jail-free card anymore.

It’s a habit, a pattern of many years, that is hard to break, but must be broken.

He HAS to take responsibility for getting things taken care of. And doing so does not just mean asking me, and me saying yes. I think, in the shower, I finally realized that I can say no. Just like I finally realized that, even though he has a kitchen full of dirty dishes, it is not my job to clean up the house to make it easier upon his release from the hospital. If he can’t pick up after himself, he can ask another (less enmeshed) friend to help. If he hasn’t got those, then that’s not my problem. And on my way to work, I told him he would have to find other resources and couldn’t just rely on me. He clearly wasn’t happy about it. But it felt right.

The rest of today however, has gone horribly wrong, and I am totally discouraged.

Kelsea came out of karate yesterday pale and in pain.  Class hadn’t hurt her – she had been having terrible pain in her right flank, in short stabs, for over an hour.  I quizzed her, took her home, tucked her in, took her temperature, forced fluids, gave her Tylenol, fed her mac and cheese. She rated the pain a 9 on a scale of 1-10, and asked me if this was what it was like to be in labor.  Of course, I remember labor, but I can’t be in her body to tell what she’s feeling.  Regardless, it was bad pain.  I have come to realize that Kelsea has inherited my father’s legendary high-pain threshold, so when she says it hurts, you can believe it hurts like the devil.

It was still bad this morning – she couldn’t move without intense pain.  And she’d had some nausea.  Time to call the doctor!  Dr. R. agreed with my preliminary diagnosis – it sounded like the dreaded kidney stone.  Kidney stones in kids, while still rare, are dramatically on the rise.  But that meant that our next stop was the hospital for an ultrasound.  I’ve been in the hospital with Kelsea when I had her (contrary to the insurance company’s bizarre statement that I had her at home) and when she had her bad shoulder x-rayed.  Pat’s been there with her when she had an MRI on the same shoulder, and when he accidentally let the shopping cart she was sitting in tip forward, resulting in a parking lot faceplant when she was a baby.  (I’m glad I missed that one and glad she has such a hard head – figuratively and literally.)

But today, when the Hmong ultrasound tech, who mispronounced Kelsea’s name, and scolded me about her having had cereal three hours previously, told me to sit in the corner and watch, it was like an awful movie.  What was playing through my mind was worse. Looking at the complete and total mystery of the ultrasound pictures – is all black bad? or is fuzzy bad? – my mind went everywhere: to her being really sick – like kidney cancer sick, to her being in even more pain, to her having to stay alone in the hospital, to any and all kinds of unknowns that are as bad as they can be.  My thoughts spun out of control.

Despite Ms. Hmong’s protests, I got up and went to stand beside her, to hold her hand, and stroke her hair.  Because that’s all I could do.  That’s all any mother can do sometimes.  It made us both feel better.  Her beautiful blue eyes looked into my hazel ones and we spoke without words.  We both felt that eternally powerful bond of love between us that made us smile.  It was one of the deepest gazes I’ve ever shared with her.  She lay on that table, in that darkened room, looking like a teenager, looking like a woman, looking like my little girl, and being just an amazing, strong human being.

The ultrasound was inconclusive.  We’re waiting for blood work results.  She’s still in pain, but now instead of me, she has her dad and her dogs and cats for comfort. I’m hoping that she’s not an early third-generation victim of the female kidney stone curse that runs through the women in my family.  But if she is, we’ll deal with it.

As a Mom, you never want your child to hurt, to suffer.  You’d do anything to spare your child pain.  And it’s heartbreaking to feel helpless when you can’t fix their pain.  When I can’t fix her pain.

Ah, yes.  The icing on the cake – or perhaps it is better characterized as between the layers? 

What better device to take my mind off the reality of my divorce and my impending unemployment than a lump in my breast?  No, wait – I’ve got it — two lumps in my breast!  One found by me, the other found by my doctor.

Let me preface the remainder of this post by saying it may be TMI for some, but perhaps it can be an educational experience for others.  For me, it’s a journal.

Every breast is different, just as every woman is different.  Now, I haven’t felt a lot of breasts in my time (with the exception of that group grope in the catering kitchen of Lionsgate after Mary got hers done).  It’s not something we women really discuss.  Men have, of course, felt more than I have, assuming they are lucky men, but they are not going around feeling breasts with the same focus as women such as myself.

I’ve got nice breasts, even now.  Back in my teens and twenties, they were small and practical.  Now they’re not small anymore – I would best describe them as “lush”.  I’m really quite fond of them.  From a breast tissue standpoint, they’ve always been lumpy, to use the technical term.  I’ve never felt comfortable doing breast self-exams because of their lumpiness.  I was never sure what I was feeling, and I was always a little queasy doing self-exams, probably because I was uncertain and afraid I would find something, because of my Mother.  And so I, like millions of other women, just wouldn’t do self-exams, unless it happened to cross my mind when I was in just the right headspace.  On the positive side, I have been religiously good about getting mammograms since my very early thirties, also because of my Mother.

So two months ago, when I was in the right headspace, I noticed a sort of thickening in my left breast.  Since I’m naturally lumpy (that really doesn’t sound attractive, does it?) and it was just after my period, I didn’t think much about it.  But three weeks ago, it came to my attention again, and it felt like there might be something unusual there.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  Until about ten days ago.  And I really felt it.  That was a Friday.  I called my doctor on Monday.  She saw me on Tuesday, and confirmed that not only did I have the lump I’d been feeling, but I had another one as well. 

When she confirmed my suspicions, she told me we needed to schedule a mammogram and an ultrasound, and a biopsy.  Biopsy?  That’s the word that makes your hands tingle and your head suddenly feel all light and spinny.  That’s the word that suggests that the dark things that have lived in the corners of my mind for years may be creeping out into the center of the room.  Doctors seem to toss the word out there so casually – do they know how it makes their patient (oops, almost said victim) feel?

The CNP proceeded to ask me more about my Mother’s medical history with her countless cancers, and asked if I had considered genetic testing.  My response was essentially, “Duh..uh..uh..i dunno?”  She said she knew how I felt and that her own mother had died of breast cancer when she (the CNP, not her mother) was eight years old, and she didn’t want the testing and they hadn’t told her that her mother died of cancer until she was “in the ground.”  You know, somehow, this story wasn’t making me feel any better.

On her way out the door, she tossed out the statement that I should talk to a surgeon (which generated a new round of feeling like a dog left on the side of a highway) and gave me a few names.  My parting words to her were, “I think you may have to write those down for me later.”  She laughed. 

How surreal the whole thing was.  Is.

That was Tuesday.  I called for my mammogram and they can’t see me until December 1.  Kelsea’s birthday.  How special.  I remember my Mother telling me on my 18th birthday, when she came in to kiss me goodnight, that she had cancer and was going in for surgery the next day.  She kept waiting to find the right time to tell me, and it somehow never came.  I remember lying in my bed that night, silently crying, tears flowing into my ears, thinking that THIS is what it’s like to be a grown-up.  Great.  I don’t want to tell Kelsea on her 13th birthday if my results are less than positive. 

I told Kathy and Denise, told Pat, told Mr. GF, told Issy, told E-Bro, told my boss Ivan.  That sounds like a lot of people to tell, now that I think about it.  I told people to feel less alone, but it didn’t seem to really help.  All last week, when I went to bed at night, I felt alone.  Very alone.  The hamsters that appear in the wee small hours have added a new team member – Cancer.  A little fuzzy hamster in a black cloak with a scythe.

Everyone has been a great comfort – Denise and Issy have offered to take me to the mammo appointment, Ivan provided me with some referrals for a good surgeon and oncologist (that one set me spinning again).  E-Bro and Bubba Sue are as supportive as they can be and make me feel loved.  Mr. GF offered the security of his arms and dedication regardless of how many breasts I have.

I told Kelsea yesterday.  I am not good at hiding things from her – she knew something was up.  It was hard – not as hard as telling her about the divorce, but hard.  We both shed a few tears and spent the rest of the day snuggling and laughing.  She is certain everything will be all right.  She offered to sleep with me, to keep me company.  It was enough just having her in her own room down the hall.

80% of breast lumps turn out to be non-cancerous.  There are many reasons that they appear, and they can disappear with no treatment at all.  But when you find a lump, cancer is the first thing that comes to mind.  If you watched your Mother die of cancer less than three years ago, after she’d lost one breast to it, and had a lumpectomy years before that, cancer is at the forefront of your thoughts.  Perhaps it’s alarmist, but it simply can’t be helped.  I have to ask myself, “Am I the 1 in 8 who will get breast cancer?”  I am one of ten women in my department at work.   Is it going to be one of us?  Is it going to be me? 

Is it already me?

July 2021


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