Sunday, March 22, 2009

Living with Dying: Who's Life is this Anyway?

Originally posted on MySpace, Mar 22, 2009

I had a Tastefully Simple party last Thursday night. My biggest concern when I booked it was, would I be able to invite enough people to make it worthwhile? I never once thought about Harriett or how comfortable/uncomfortable she'd be. Not until the day of.

The party was successful. We had fun, served Blueberry Pomegranate Margaritas, ate beer bread with all kinds of dips, tasted sauces and jams, cheese balls, cakes and cookies. It all went well and I met some people I didn't know before.

But the entire evening Harriett looked much less than happy. She was greeted by virtually everyone who came. If I was busy and didn't get over to introduce them, most guests introduced themselves to her. But she had very little to say or add and basically looked grumpy. After most of the guests left I helped her up and to bed. She let me know she had waited because she might be wet. That would have embarrassed her. I can't blame her for that. It would embarrass me, too, if I were in her position.

Now I am not sure what I think about the whole thing. We have our weekly scrap date and she seems fine with that. Just one other person, Susan, who she enjoys and has accepted into her small circle of friends. But if I expand on the scrap day and have more people come, am I creating a weekly situation she will be uncomfortable with? I know I have to have my time and do things that are for me, but there are times that it's just not worth the negative feelings I may end up facing. And silly me, I don't feel like asking permission to arrange for an event in my own home.

To be very honest it's not that big a deal to me. I inherited the "hermit" gene from my mother and I am very comfortable staying at home without a lot of outside stimulation. I can't go it forever, but I can do pretty well. The hospice nurse seemed to get a little frustrated with me the other day when I said I was doing okay. We'd had one conversation wherein I wasn't doing so well and I think she thought I should still be in that place. But honestly, if I have the opportunity but decide to stay home, that is almost as good as going out. Bottom line, it's my decision to stay or go.

So why am I thinking so much about this party incident? There may be some guilt inovlved in that I didn't even think about Harriett when I planned it. Or maybe some resentment that I should have thought about her. Perhaps I was a bit disappointed that she appeared to be so grumpy. But then again, 1) that is her usual expression, and 2) she did have more pain than usual that evening.

I think if I boil off all the extraneous stuff, what I get is that I just didn't want to spend my life this way. For more years than I can count, I wished I was a stay at home mom. We lived in-city in Seattle, not a cheap place to live. We needed two incomes and I really was okay with that. But I did envy moms who were at home during the day. Eventually I worked out a plan where I worked part time and was home before and after school with my girls. So, in essence, I was there for them as if I didn't work outside the home.

When we moved to Sandy and Mom and Harriett moved with us, I didn't start working right away. I called myself a Stay At Home Daughter and took care of my mom. When I couldn't stand being at home all the time, Harriett picked up the slack and I got a job. As I've already written, I quit that job when Harriett was diagnosed with her cancer.

I know it's not really true but I feel like all my choices have been taken away. I can't just decide I want to go to work and do it. I can't need an item from the store and drop everything to go get it. Spend an afternoon at Starbucks with a good book on a whim? No can do. Go site-seeing in my new state? Not without some serious planning. Not even on the weekends when most people can just blow off whatever "needs-to-be-done" and just go.

I do have choices, though. The choice I made was to be by my friend. To be the family she doesn't have and to make sure she is loved and cared for and not living on the street.

But some days I just want to say, "I gave up my life for this?" Knowing Harriett doesn't have a choice doesn't make my choice any easier. Gah. Forgive me.

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