How Are You....Really?
People keep asking me how I am.
I don't know how to answer them anymore.
If I answer with okay, I get a sympathetic moan or grunt in affirmation, a head tilt, then a clearly and slowly enunicated, "No REALLY, how are YOU?"
If I say I am good, even if that is what I am truly feeling in that moment, I get incredulous stares and a shake of the head and am told, "Don't be so tough, you can share your real feelings with me".
If I say I am surviving, going along with the emotions to get through my day and that is simply okay til I find my footing again, I get a smile in return and a quick blurb about how "time will heal" and then the subject is changed.
Seemingly, the best response is the last one, even though I don't feel that all the time. Actually, to be quite honest, I am not feeling much. Because, my brain is still in shock.
I have cried a little. I have hiked until my body cried and screamed at me. I called to get all her medical equipment picked up. I am almost done with my thank you notes. I have started boxing stuff up. But this? This is all motions, not emotions.
I feel those emotions swimming to the top. I am not stopping them from surfacing. I am not purposely holding them down so I can go about my daily business. They just aren't ready to come out.
She has always, always been there. I am 33 years old and I have lived with my mother for 31 of those years. I do not have shame in saying that. I lived with her until I was 17 then after college she moved in with me. I have sat in waiting rooms probably half of my life. My medical interest (and education in part) was due to talking to her, her nurses, physical therapists, orthopaedic surgeon and doctors when I was a pre-teen. I learned then the importance of knowing how a procedure was supposed to go and not being afraid to ask questions. As I grew older and mom had more issues to contend with, I learned along with her. I learned about diabetes and how to administer insulin, COPD, breathing treatments, Congestive Heart Failure, Blood Clots, Cardiovascular disease, how women present differently when having a heart attack than men, how to do CPR even if you're scared shitless, how when thyroid levels are off they can mimic dementia, liver failure and paracentesis', how to call 911 when you are in over your head, kidney failure and dialysis (even though we refused it), pulmonary hypertension...and much more.
I was her advocate. I would ask questions, I would study, I would ask for a 2nd opinion if need be. I would be by her side, hold her hand, laugh at her nerdy and punny jokes she cracked when she was scared and sit in silence when things "felt like too much". I could, and still can, rattle off her medications, dosages, allergies-reactions too, social security number-just the last 4 though, and knew that her insurance card was always tucked in her trusty black wallet with the beautiful eagle stitched on the outside in the left side in the hardest slot to get out. A joke...I think she played on purpose because it was fun to watch me fight with her tiny wallet to get that damn card out.
I have been involved as her caretaker since I was 9.
Since. I. Was. 9.
But she was also my mom. My mom who loved me at my highest weight, my lowest moments, saw past my insecurities, and who pointed out all my strengths.
Caroline wasn't afraid to call me out when I was being too bossy or too serious. She would make me polka with her on Saturday and Sunday mornings. She would joyfully playfight with my chihuahuas and sneak them extra treats. She loved horrible sci-fi and scary movies but sat with me through my 'boring' documentaries. She would laugh melodically when things went wrong and pray in gratitude when they went right.
On her bad days, and towards the end...there were quite a few, she would get tired and understandably cranky at home then apologize later on. I would apologize too for not being able to make her better. She would then apologize for apologizing...and a ridiculous giggle session would occur.
There is not one regret I have in having my mom live with me and being her advocate, her person, her friend, her daughter, her partner-in-crime. But, and this is a big but, I still do not know how to answer people when they ask how I am because frankly I just do not know how to live without my mother.
I just don't.
In the meantime, I'm not redefining myself...just simply finding myself. I am keeping busy. I will be starting grief therapy and get back in my regular therapy. And, I will probably break down ugly crying at a most inopportune time.
That's okay though.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Just like there is no right or wrong way to answer, 'how are you doing?'
For now, one day at a time. And if you ask me how I'm doing and I simply nod and smile, just know...I'm trying to figure it out myself.