September Surrender: Day 29
What I’m Letting Go: Bring on the Doom Clouds
Oof, what a day. This is what one of my old seniors would call “F*cked-Up Fridays.” It was just one thing after another. Ten minutes before our show ended, we got the okay to report the news that Senator Dianne Feinstein had died. We covered it right. We paid our respects. Then I get a call from the hospital that my mom was given the okay to go home. But much like my upcoming Italy trip, I felt ill-prepared to make this all happen. And yet it was happening. I was planning on going back to New Jersey again today anyway, but it had a whole new meaning this time around. And no one prepared me for the flooding on the way. I called my dad who was asleep on the couch and let him know mom was coming home. We had the at-home nurse consultation at 4:00PM, so it was imperative I knew the plan before heading out. Unfortunately I didn’t know how grave a spot that would put me in.
There are no windows on my new floor. Not in the newsroom part, anyway. You’d have to walk down the hall to the kitchen area to see Midtown Manhattan. And when I did today, oh how the rain was coming down. It looked like a monsoon out there. And here I was, speaking to both the doctor and the case worker on the phone, looking at the torrential downpour I had to face in less than an hour. Still, I scrambled to get the rest of my work done, rented a car for the day, got all the well-wishes from co-workers about my trip, and attempted to get back to my apartment.
A flash flood warning blared on everyone’s phones, with a warning to not travel until 12:30PM. Screw you, I thought in my head and went to grab an Uber. Only prices were elevated like crazy. $45 to go twenty blocks. I was about to bite the bullet, but when I saw it would take the driver ten minutes to get there, I canceled the trip and went down to the subway. But that was a bust too. The D train was delayed, and the B train was flat out suspended, so I wasted $2.90 on the turnstile. I had zero chance of catching a cab, so I kicked up my heels and walked home in the rain. My rainboots are ankle-length and my socks were shorter than that, so I felt the rubbing the more I walked. It hurt like hell. I didn’t care. My mission wasn’t going to stop until I got home. But then, the tourists. I have no idea what in the world I witnessed, but there was a group of at least sixty people, all holding umbrellas, walking uptown in a massive group. I started getting irritated at how slow they were walking and wanted to curse my bad luck for my difficult walk home.
But there was another thought running through my head, that all these hardships were just a smaller part of my Even Stevenry. I was actively stopping myself from believing the odds were against me. That these were things put in my way purposefully to give me a challenge. I took great comfort in letting go of the doomsayer’s attitude, and instead looked to embrace the challenges. They’re all there for a purpose. Perhaps it’s all a test. Either way, while I’d rather be living on easy street, it was made very clear to me today that I can’t always walk down it. Or maybe I do, I’ll just walk away with a few ankle blisters as I go.
What I’ve Discovered: The Time While We’re Here
I only met my great-grandmother once before she died. I remember the moment pretty vividly. I was four. We arrived at her Brooklyn home on President street. She was sitting in the kitchen with large black and white floor tiles, and I felt afraid. I had never seen someone as old as her before. She didn’t say much, just sat and looked. But my mother and grandmother kept telling me this is Nonna. And so I accepted that. I was just being exposed to another aspect of my family.
She died not too long after that visit. I think that was the first time I learned what death was. The picture I had in my head was her melting into the black and white tiled floor, crying out the whole time. I think I got that from Wizard of Oz, but a lot more bubbling and sizzling. It wasn’t a pleasant realization, and it sort of became an obsession to me as a kid. Death always seemed to be a real fear of mine. I was worried I’d choke on vomit in the night, or fall off a balcony, or get into a car crash. I hated thinking about it. But now, as we’re brushing up against it, I no longer fear it. I’m not anticipating it; I’m just accepting it.
I look back at my family members who are no longer here, and I do wish I had appreciated the time I had with them more. But a lot of them went when I was young. I couldn’t know then. I do now. And so I’ve found ways to appreciate each and every moment I have with those who are still here. Those who I love. This life is finite. Then we go on to the next. Those who matter most you’ll meet in any incarnation. I really do believe that.
What I Hope to Find: It’s Coming
I found my grandparents’ living wills today. They both signed the same thing: to not be revived in case their hearts stopped. They both wanted to go out with dignity, to be cared for until the moment they no longer wanted to be on this earth. For the most part, that’s what happened. I was asked this same question of my mom today. Does she have a living will too? No, but I bet you anything she’d have the same sentiments as her parents.
The homecare workers we met with today were framing these as difficult questions, but they were surprisingly easy for me and my father. We don’t want medical intervention to jumpstart her heart that involves chest compressions that could cause even more trauma. If Mom decides she doesn’t want to be here anymore, we have to honor that. But she’s got a lot of life in her, so these are bridges we need not race across just yet. It just felt quite coincidental to find these documents while getting confronted with this today. It’s not something one should think about on a daily basis, but it’s real. It’s here. I just hope when the time comes, I’m honoring my mom’s wishes. When the time comes, I’ll know. And I believe she’ll know too. We all will.
I think all we can ever hope for is the best end of life care possible. It’s going to happen whether we like it or not. But that time is not now, and it’s probably not tomorrow, so let’s enjoy what we have while we have it. A touch of transience never hurt nobody.