Archive for the 'Family in the States' Category


Tough Week(s), One good day

A little less than two weeks ago, my dad had a bad turn. My sister said that he woke up asking where I was, and when my sister told him that I was in London, he said that he had picked me up at the airport the day before. She explained that I hadn’t been in the States for six months. Later, Dad and I talked, and he seemed fine, and all he said was he must have had a weird dream. A week ago, it happened again, but this time he asked where everyone was, what time the (mom’s) funeral was, and where was his outfit.

Dad has never lost grip on reality before. He is a bit of an older father than people my age normally have (I was from his “second” family and my younger half-sisters his “third”). It’s possible that he has the beginnings of senility, but it is likely this is a symptom of the syndrome he has (a syndrome that keeps on giving). He has an appointment with his GP this week, and we should know more.

But this has brought up a lot of things for me: fear of losing my father (one of my few blood relatives, although that list has grown a bit in recent years); upset at hearing my father has lost control of his faculties, even if for a brief period; wanting to be with him and to help my sister; my own gradual acceptance of this disorder and understanding of my place on the “spectrum”, which is not something I have even begun to accept or understand before this really; and, like almost everything upsetting the past six months, mom’s death.

We can’t really afford to travel back to the States right now. As a matter of fact, while I am waiting for my citizenship (and if approved until I get my British passport), I shouldn’t leave the country. I feel guilty for the years I spent away from them. I get upset when I call, and my dad can’t hear me. I don’t want him to die. I don’t want him to become senile in any way. I don’t want my sister’s life to get harder.

On the good side, I had a very good, nearly hour long conversation with Dad today. Because of the lifelong complications he’s had from being a carrier of the permutation for Fragile-X, his sociability is usually not very high. Some days the mood strikes him and he gets talkative. Back in the States, he was able to call me, but now it’s just chance. This is the first time in a few months that he’s been very reciprocal in the conversation. When he’s not talking, it’s hard for me because I am not the world’s most social person (again, the syndrome that keeps on giving. Thanks, genes!). Today, things turned out well.


Moving along

I am starting to feel a bit better about things, but not before I sort of bottomed out about a week ago. Oddly, the bottoming out had nothing to do with Mom’s death other than the events that lead to it probably wouldn’t have happened, at least they wouldn’t have happened at this time, if Mom hadn’t passed. It’s not something I want to get into, and I think I am still recovering a bit, but in a way it was cathartic. Maybe it’s hard to be extremely upset about more than one thing at a time? Maybe the new upset eclipsed the grief to do with Mom enough to give it time to heal to more tolerable levels than it had been? I don’t know.

I am participating in NaNoWriMo, and I know that even if I do not finish the novel this month, it will be finished. At the risk of sounding too confident, I also know it’s good enough to be published. It’s a bit thrilling, because I rarely if ever feel that way about my work.

Getting my diet back under control. I am no longer grief stuffing. The damage was bad, but not as bad as it could be. Less than a stone, and I will have that off in no time. Every day things get a bit better, and I hope that keeps up.


One month and one day

I’ve felt a bit of a shut down creatively. Not completely shut down. I am not saying that I feel darkest depression or paralysing grief over my mother’s death. I did feel that at the appropriate time, and I suppose I am feeling what I am meant to be feeling now in both timing and measure. Kübler-Ross would probably nod her head in confirmation and approval. At one month and one day after my mother’s death, I don’t feel burdened with grief, but it’s still there.

But it’s more complicated than that. This goes beyond the fact that we had a complex relationship even for a mother-daughter one. Although it is incredibly painful that once I strip away any residual anger I had (because what’s the sense in being angry at someone who has already paid the ultimate price for living?), the love I feel for her, that I have always felt for her lies there more powerful and apparent than any anger or frustration I felt. But it’s not like that is the main thing that’s been so difficult.

I could have easily modified this a bit and made this a part of my Expat Survival Series. That’s probably what sets this apart from the ‘normal’ grieving process. When you choose to live your life in a country that is different from the one in which some of your family lives, you too will have to deal with this added complexity if any of that family dies.

It’s totally different than grieving surrounded by people who knew and cared for the person that died. Even my parents’ postal carrier knew my mom, and in a sense, shares a bit in the loss, even if it’s minor. Sure, some people here in the UK can relate through losses in their own lives (if you were to bother telling them about your loss), but being near people going through the grieving process helps you go through your own as well. That feeling that people talk about that comes after the funeral and wake when people stop offering their condolences is amplified if you live abroad.

And you may feel guilty. Well, at least I feel guilty. I should have spent more time with them. I should have done more to make sure she knew I cared about her. I should have not rolled my eyes inwardly when she started talking about her possible death during our visit in mid-September. I should have insisted Mom and Dad got their passports and visited me here in the UK years ago.

I don’t have advice to deal with the guilt. I don’t have advice to deal with the loss and feeling a bit lost without your family. What I do have advice for is to expect it as a possibility and to realise that it is probably just a part of the process.

As I’ve said, I am not crippled by the grief, and I feel a bit better day by day. It no longer shocks me that the seemingly permanent, solid fixture that was my mother is no longer a part of this Earth. I’ve stopped mourning her life as not quite as happy as it could have been. It wasn’t for me to judge the quality of her life. Who am I to say whether she was happy or not? I do still cry for her sometimes, usually every day. I don’t know if that will stop any time soon.

When I was five years old, I had my tonsils out. Unbeknownst to me (and my doctors) at the time, I am very sensitive to most medications and anaesthesia. They had used ether on me, and I started throwing up as soon as I came out from the anaesthesia. I didn’t stop for hours, so they decided to keep me in the hospital overnight.

During the night, after my parents went home in the evening, they moved me from my semi-private room to a ward. I knew I was going home in the morning, so I was up early when I saw my mom walk past the doorway to the ward. I panicked and ran after her. Because I just had my tonsils out, I couldn’t do anything but painfully rasp, “Mommmmmy! Here!” It took a few attempts for her to hear me, but the fear I felt that she would not be able to find me was palatable. Of course, the floor nurse would have just told my mom about the move, but my kindergärtner knowledge of how things worked didn’t comfort me with that realisation. I remember having reoccurring nightmares about her losing me in the hospital and leaving me forgotten in the children’s ward. Later the nightmares became dreams about my mom saving me from one disaster or another. In them she was always striding the same way she did on that morning, and when she found me (in the rubble of the bombing/in the burnt out building/in the plague ward), she’d always smile and open her arms in the same way she did when she found me when I was “lost” all those years ago.

When my mother died, I lost any idea that home was back in the US. I definitely cannot go home again, but I realise as much as that is a loss, it’s also a liberation. I thank her for being what I saw as home and for being the one I know would come and find me when my life fell apart. I am going to have to take it from here. Although I will miss her like crazy, it’s going to be okay. It’s got to be.


More on going “home”

I have been thinking the past few weeks about my wariness about going back to the US for a visit. I could blame it on me being a “bad flier”, or maybe I could recognise that there’s more going on there.

I’ve spent more than half my life away from the place where I grew up. When I go home, inevitably we all fall into our old roles, and my maturity falls away. I end up regressing to the teenage state. It’s even worse when my other sister travels up to our hometown as well. Guess who else is going “home” when I do?

At least this time I will have Mr Moggs with me (maybe I should start calling him “The Duke”). He’s never met my youngest sister, and we’ve both not met her child or my other sister’s youngest two. The Duke (hey, I like it!) and I have been married almost 9 years, and most of my family have only met him once.

Then there’s my middle sister’s husband. He’s a crap stirrer if there ever was one. Oh dear is he one. Not to mention the general embarrassments that are sometimes brought up by relatives or friends. It’s not that I’ve pretended to have a perfect past. It’s not that I’ve pretended to be someone I am not. It’s that by living so far away, by forging a life among strangers, I have been able to let go of things I should be able to let go. I don’t know if it’s typical, but I feel that around my family I am trapped by others’ definitions of who I am and reminders of past screw ups from which I’ve learned and moved on.

This anxiety has overshadowed everything and is making it hard for me to write or even concentrate on anything. Not to mention the fact I feel like I need to stop eating for a few weeks to minimize my cowishness.

But then I remember that I just need to breathe. All this projection is not going to prepare me any better for any obstacle that might come up during my visit. If anything bad happens, I am not likely to be able to anticipate it. I need to let go.

I am going back to possibly say goodbye to my parents. I am going to take nice photos of the beauty in an early New England autumn. I am going to show my family that I love them and have a nice visit. Then I am going back to my real home here in London.

Hopefully I will be able to churn out a less neurotic entry on a totally unrelated subject before I leave.


Worry from abroad

No matter if you live across town, across the country, or across oceans, chances are you will come to worry about your parents. For me, my parents have aged quickly for their years, and from a few months leading up to my move to London in 2007 until the present time, they have seemed to have one crisis after another.

This past year has been tough on my mother. She has had sepsis twice in the past eight months or so. She refuses to go to the hospital until it is too late to do anything simple. The first time she had sepsis, she left an infection go, and then didn’t tell anyone that she was ill until she was totally out of it and near death. Over Christmas, her doctor wanted her to go into the hospital for her pneumonia, which she refused. Neither time did she get out of going to the hospital. The only thing she avoided was the possibility of getting treated easily.

On top of frustration with doctor phobic parents, there is the lack of information. If I call too much (daily or twice a day when they are at the worst), I feel I am bothering people too much. If I don’t call, I am sure it appears that I don’t care.

Then there is the question of whether to visit or not. Everyone claims that mom is doing fine. I doubt very much though if my help wouldn’t be welcomed by my sister.

Right now mom is looking at a discharge soon, but she has to go back for treatment (heart catheterization being one) because the sepsis caused some heart problems. I am hoping for the best, and for her to be more cooperative, but it still makes me feel guilty about living so far away. Ultimately, it is the best for me, but it doesn’t make the worry and missing my family any easier.

July 2018
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