You can't let go and you can't hold on
You can't go back and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will
Death is getting closer every day, and I have gone into Numb Mode. I don't know why this is, but during times of extreme stress, I become robotic. My mind goes into overdrive, tracking details and putting them in order, like sticky notes on a wall. How do I continue doing what I need to do, while doing what I know I will have to do? Who do I have to call, and when. Long distance scheduling and covering bases I can't see or touch.
My mother's primary caregiver calls. Theresa is so much more than that, probably more than I am at this point. I love her for her kindness and great heart; have been thankful for her presence for so long. Now, she freely sheds the tears my eyes ache to release, and can't. She calls in a panic about details that are going to be reality all too soon, and my machine side tells her that we will handle all that when we need to, don't worry. I'm not worried; they are all just details, just tasks, things to accomplish that hold no mystery.
Death stalks our house like an army approaching from the front, while flanking us in the rear. Looming decisions for both elderly mothers, all in the span of a week. Seven days. On the seventh day, will we get to rest, or will we need to draw even more strength from God knows where? We both slide in and out of overwhelm, sometimes overlapping, sometimes bolstering the other one. We haven't even reached the finish line, and we are spinning into fifth gear, all behind our masks of calm and control.
The masks are real. We feel the brittle shells even as we try to bank the mad energy that is fueled by grief. Our way of expressing this pain is to be useful. Maybe this is why we were meant to be together; because this is how we both are.
Some people I have met are able to recount chapter and verse, all the details of a loved one's passing. I have always been amazed at this. As I listen, they tell the story, as if they are opening a door to a room where time has stood still in their minds. They relive the event, openly, shedding tears and pain in waves as fresh as the day it happened. Then, they pour a cup of coffee and move on to another subject. While I sit as still as possible, hoping the waves of emotion will pass me without touching. If they connect with me, I will be forced to show how deeply they have affected me, and I will shatter.
We still can't speak of our feelings. Even to each other. Even to ourselves. I don't know why this is. Perhaps because it is so deep, so black and bottomless that we have to choose our time carefully, to avoid becoming lost in the pit. Being lost is to be unable to act. Unable to be useful. And usefulness is our way of being in the moment without being broken by its power.
I drive from one task to the other, seemingly focused, as images of my mother dying flash through my head. Avoiding the traffic keeps me from screaming. Organizing details keeps my mind on a narrow path; one stray step will break off my foot and send me tumbling into pain.
The people who have cared for my mother for so long need to be able to talk about their sadness. They need me to listen. They have given so much of themselves to her; it is a privilege to be their shoulder to cry on. I envy them their free flowing tears. My eyes ache; a dry, dull thump of pain, and still I can't shed a tear. I don't know why. I know they are there, and at some point down the road, they will break free and drown my face. But for now, they just lap against the back of my eyes like waves on the shore of a black lake.
Details come at me like balls from a pitching machine; catch one and throw it to left field, catch the next and throw for home plate. All the while, the picture of my mother small and frail in a bed far away, perhaps dreaming of her next destination, perhaps moaning in fear because the control she has had all her life is gone, and that is the scariest thing of all.
Jerry Garcia's voice sings in my head, and I find myself hanging onto the wheel, running in place even as it rolls towards a place I don't want to see. Part of me wishes the others could see how much I do feel; perhaps they would finally understand me. Most of me knows this is impossible - my role was cast long ago, and I still have a few acts left to play. I still have to be the hard one, the capable one, the Iron Bitch in Black. It's what's expected, and I won't let them down.
The wheel will turn, my mother will die, and the details will be handled. And then, perhaps in the middle of some winter night, I will wake up and the tears will finally flow.
This article was written by Sandi Tuttle. To get more great advice from Womens Toolbox Media Diva Sandi Tuttle, visit her website at: www.averagewomansj.com