Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006
Dear Diary:

My mom-in-law has pulled so many rabbits out of the hat in this last year that I half expected her to produce another at any moment.

Then today the doctor said all that can be done has been done and now it's just a matter of time, of when. It's a race between the cancer that has invaded her bladder and the pneumonia that has not succumbed to even the most powerful antibiotics.

He guesses it will happen in a week to ten days.

She is alert, too weak to talk anymore, but able to scribble the odd little note. One of them she accompanied with a rueful little half smile: "This is the good Lord punishing me for all that talking," she said of her current muteness. Both the spousal unit and I cracked up with her over that one.

She is afraid of what is to come, so we never leave her alone. We make sure someone is with her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Her bed is by a large bank of windows, overlooking part of the roof of the hospital. It should be a barren sort of place, but they've put up a big Christmas tree in the middle of it. We both look out to see a twinkling pyramid of seasonal lights.

I spend my shifts in companionable silence beside her, reading mostly, while she sleeps. She's been hard of hearing for years and this illness has taken away more of her hearing, so even talking to her is hard now.

I keep my left hand lightly holding hers. There are many times when she appears asleep, but I feel her hand squeeze mine gently. Other times I know she's awake but too tired to open her eyes. I feel the feather like passage of her thumb as she gently traces the curve between my thumb and index finger, confirming my presence.

The rest of my life is an utter shambles. The house is filthy, stuff is thrown everywhere. I'm behind in my home business, and I haven't done a thing towards Christmas. Neither the spousal unit nor I have bought each other a single gift. I tell him it doesn't matter, not any of it, and it doesn't.

The spousal unit's middle brother asked me if I would hold Christmas in my home for the family and of course I agreed. The daughter comes in on Thursday night, the evening of my 32nd wedding anniversary. We will begin a frenzy of cleaning and then cooking for the holiday that has always been held down at the home farm.

None of us can face going there.

My nieces have all offered to bring in part of the food. Somehow we will muddle through this, as painful as it will be, because that's what families do.


There was a moment yesterday when my mom-in-law was extremely alert, just utterly there. I told her the things I should have told her long ago, the unwritten assumptions. I told her how grateful I was that she had taken me into the family the way she did, the extraordinary way she helped me to raise my daughter.

She tried to say something back, but I could not make out her words. The effort to speak exhausted her and she fell asleep. We haven't gone back to it. I'm not sure that she even remembers my words.

And that doesn't matter, either.

If you ask me what I want for Christmas, the answer is simple. I want my mom-in-law to have a quick, painless, easy end to her journey.

This is one of those times when I deeply envy the folks who have a religious faith, because they can pray for things like that. Me, I just sit quietly in a small hospital room and hope for the best.


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Want to delve into my sordid past?
She's mellllllllllllllting - Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 - Back off, Buble - Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 - Dispersed - Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 - Nothing comes for free - Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 - None of her business - Friday, Nov. 04, 2011 -

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