Monday, Jul. 17, 2006
Dear Diary:

"I'm dying," said my mom-in-law last night, panting slightly. Of course, she was not dying, just a little under the weather because of a heat wave we're enduring here.

Yes, I know, heat can be deadly for the elderly, but trust me I can tell the difference between drama and true illness and this was drama. My instincts were confirmed several times today. When I came down to make her meals, she was ridiculously chipper.

But still, when you're 82 and you've had bowel cancer surgery nearly a month ago, you can certainly convince yourself you're dying if you want to.

The spousal unit tends towards comforting his mother. So he kept telling her she was not dying in the most sympathetic way he could, telling her she was probably a little dehydrated, if anything.

I ran back and forth putting washcloths in the freezer to cool them down, applying them to her temples and wrists to cool her down. They worked quickly and she was soon mentioning that she was hungry. Which doesn't mean that she had stopped dying. No, no, the dying had not stopped, but apparently even the dying get peckish.

The spousal unit's oldest brother, who had heart by-pass surgery in January, is more of the Suck It Up school and doesn't have much patience with drama.

"If you're dying, we'd better take you to the emergency room," he crisply told his mother. Uh oh. This was not a good turn of events as far as my mom-in-law was concerned.

Having us all clustered around her making comforting noises is A Good Thing. The hospital? Not A Good Thing. If there is one place my mom-in-law hates and fears, it is The Hospital. But how was she going to get around his impeccable reasoning?

There was a pause.

"I want to die at home," she said solemnly.

Meryl Streep, eat your heart out. Lady, you may think you can do the drama, but I have seen the Dalai Lama of the drama. Ms. Streep, for all your accolades, you are not worthy to kiss the hem of my mom-in-law's house coat.

Truly, it was an Oscar worthy moment.

The spousal unit and I both practically pee ourselves each time we re-live it. I Want To Die At Home has become our new catch phrase.

Yep, we're heading straight to H E Double Toothpicks, not passing Go, not collecting $200.

It's been an interesting experience, taking care of my mom-in-law. Like the time I helped take care of her after her by-pass surgery there's been lots of stress, lots of annoyance and lots of love. At times it kills me that I don't have some sort of magic wand that I can wave and make her heal quickly and surely. At times I want to smack her and tell her to grow up.

She totally loves having us wait on her hand and foot but sometime soon she has to begin taking responsibility for herself again. The nurse who comes weekly to assess her says it's crucial she moves at least two hours a day, but she does far less than that, preferring to order us all around.

So coming up in the next few weeks we'll have to start weaning her off the constant care she's had. She has to begin to make simple meals such as breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks, for herself. I know she can grab snacks. I've seen the pudding cups, the apple sauce cups on her dinner tray when one of us has been delayed for some reason.

Knowing her as I do, she's going to interpret us easing her towards her former life as a slap in the face, proof that we don't love her. There will be drama, tears and recriminations. I dread what's to come, but if we don't push her to use her body, she won't recover from her illness as well as she could.

While it's clear that she's getting better daily, this illness has been a taste of what is inevitably to come. My mom-in-law is 82. Yes, she has come back from two serious surgeries now, heart disease and cancer, but at her age it's inevitable that there are more problems to come and that each time she will lose a little more ground.

When I think about what this could mean in the future, I feel more than a little overwhelmed. I tend to push those thoughts aside very, very quickly.

I don't know what I would do without the gym. Seriously. I channel all my stress out into the treadmills, the elliptical machine, the rowing machine, the free weights. You should see my back. I intersperse a set of three pull-ups at the beginning, middle and end of my workout now. My trainer jokes that if my mom-in-law has a relapse I'll be up to sets of ten in no time. This is a prediction I do not want to test.

The other thing that keeps me going is my gardens. Every morning when I walk out the door I feel so unspeakably blessed that I get to live in this place. My gardens have been wonderful this year. I wish I could take credit for that, but I cannot. It has everything to do with the unbelievable rains we had this spring and early summer. Things have never been more lush, more alive. It's like living inside a poem.

It's been interesting, juggling family responsibilities, work, the gardens and yes, another reno project. Remember our porches? Well, last year we got them to the point of being roofed decks. This year we're closing them in with hand made siding and screens. Oh, and we're thinking about re-painting the house because we've grown tired of the colour and what's the point of summer If You Don't Work Yourself To Death?

My thoughts, exactly.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 440.78 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck
Oh, man, but I am having a hard time building back stamina. Ouch.

Goal for 2006: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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