My weekend with mom

I know updates have been few and far between of late.  I’ve said it before, and it still rings true today, that I simply have a hard time coming up with positive vibe in my posts when the reality is so far from that for me.  I guess that everlasting positivity is one trait that Nan never passed on to me.

Rather than paint a pretty, yet unrealistic picture, I decided to be honest with where Mom is at, both the positive and the negative.

Pancreatic cancer is a miserable bastard of a disease, and there’s no two ways around it.

A hospice nurse has started coming weekly.  She’s set mom up with a few different devices to help her out around the apartment,  and helped dad with the overwhelmingly complicated task of managing her meds. Their hospice nurse Kelly has been invaluable in this role to help coordinate next steps, keep dad appraised of the situation, and provide a momentary relief from the omnipresent reality in which he faces.  She’s been tremendous in making small observations of mom indicative of further signs of her conditions progression, while also tipping him off to what’s likely to be coming next.

You know, I haven’t written a whole lot about dad on here, but he deserves more credit for what he’s doing than anyone will ever know.  He is  there for her every request.  He has become the bill payer, the care taker, the scheduler, the newsgiver, the chef, the maid, the provider:  he has firmly entrenched himself into roles he never expected he’d have to take on this early.  He deserves so much credit, and a flimsy blog post seems borderline insulting as a way to commend what he’s done.

I saw a side of him this weekend that wasn’t surprising per se, but was also reflective of the evolution he’s made in the last few months.  After my wife Jess said goodbye to mom Sunday night for what may be the final face to face goodbye, he immediately sought her out to give her a hug, and whisper a brief few words to her.  He was comforting, he was calm, he was respectful, he was real.  I’m certainly not suggesting he’s never been capable of these things, but it was a display I don’t think anyone gets used to.  Every time mom gets me on the phone, she tells me how proud of dad she is, as though she’s trying to coax me into feeling the same thing.  Only problem there is that I already am proud of him.

 

Facing mortality has been a fascinating exploration into human beings.  Passing no judgement at all, some do not know what to say, and therefore choose to say little.  Some don’t know how to react and ignore it altogether.  Hell, I’ve reflected those traits myself, and most people tell me I never shut up.  There are also more incredible people than we can count.  We’ve seen more tremendous outpouring of love and support than frankly we knew existed in her and our social circles.  Mom has three of the most incredible friends who have worked out a schedule to stay with her round the clock Monday through Friday while dad still puts in his 40 hours a week (which is yet another tremendous feat I didn’t touch on above).  Mary Farabee, Jane Woolford, and Jackie Faulkingham  are three of moms friends from her short time down in Alabama, but have shown true commitment, and helped to remind us of the definition of true friendship in their spirit and assistance throughout all of this. As dad just said to me in a text message: “They are doing it because they want to, but to us they are true angels on earth.”

As for the namesake of the page you’re on:

Mom.

It has been a month since I saw mom, and I was up early Saturday morning.  I wanted to knock out some work before anyone else was up, and so I sat at their kitchen table clacking away on my laptop.  I had a direct line of sight into their bathroom, and even before she had come out for the morning, I saw mom in the bathroom, brushing her hair, and her teeth and flossing.  There was something about continuing those simple routines that most of us find annoying (my hand is raised on that one), that mom is clinging to.  She’s keeping her sanity by maintaining her routine, and keeping her appearance and dignity. I may have picked on her a little bit for that, but I get it.

The cancer has physically advanced, though it will never, and can never win.  She broke my heart when she would cover her stomach all weekend, so embarrassed by the swelling brought upon by the hell being unleashed inside of her.  She talked about how she used to have a flat stomach, and “now she looks pregnant” (her words, to be clear,… not mine).  She’s still concerned with her appearance, not willing to take the free pass when one is more than readily available for her.

Mom spends a lot of time on the couch, and has set herself up for comfort.  She keeps pictures of dad, Scott and I on the table, while pictures of the kids are readily seen from any possible eyeline she could make from the couch.  She keeps some cards, a photo book, and a stack of thank you notes ready to write for whenever she can muster the energy.  She also has a hand-sewn Becca Hinds created “Unmotivated Kid,” there to remind her of the reason she continues to keep her spirits up.  She watches a lot of nonsense TV; TV that will keep her attention, but also doesn’t matter a whole lot if she slips in and out of a nap.  I tried introducing Dog The Bounty Hunter, but was met with patient (ok, maybe patronizing) “Oh, that’s interesting.”  Though if we’re revealing secrets,… mom has fallen in love with a show called “Monsters-In-Law.”  Everyone has their own trashy TV shows I guess.

Eating has become a challenge.  Her appetite is all but vanquished, and her tolerance for various flavors and textures is an ever changing concept.  That still doesn’t stop her from acting and raving like she’s eating at five star restaurant when Jess made a couple deviled eggs.  She has passed the cooking reins to dad, and the best cook I’ve ever known now swears up and down that dad has apparently been the better chef all along.  What she can eat, she eats sparsely, though she did ask for IHOP French Toast by name Sunday morning, and ate three whole (half) pieces.  So there was that…

Mom spent most of the weekend asking Jess how we were, and what is on our horizon.  We shared an incredible moment Sunday after dinner, one that’s going to stick with all of us forever.  A sad Patrick called Sunday not knowing how much longer he’d be playing hockey for, and Grammie spent a half hour trying to counsel her older grandson and let him know everything would be ok.  From my experience, I have no question he got off the phone feeling a little better than when he got on the phone.

Long story short:  Nothing is different, and nothing is the same.  I’m so incredibly and profoundly sad for what she’s going through, yet so incredibly and profoundly proud of how she’s doing this.

This is without question my favorite picture of mom.  This is a legitimately candid picture taken by Michelle when she came across this Kodak heartwarming scene.  If I’m remembering the story right, she was sweeping up in the kitchen when one of the quads came crawling up to her.  She went down to the floor with one, and before she knew it, three more were crawling over clamoring for Grammie’s attention.  There’s always been something about that picture that I’ve loved.  Maybe it’s the smirk on Emma’s face because she was the one that won the race to get a hug from Grammie…. maybe it’s Becca forcing her way onto the lap as well.  It could be Patrick climbing up her legs, or Sammy just chilling out…. or it could be Grammie.

That’s mom.  People come to her with good or bad, and she maintains everything about who she is.  When Patrick called Sunday night, he got the Grammie long before cancer ever came into the picture and she’d never let it happen any other way.

My weekend with mom ran the emotional spectrum.  I laughed because she’s kept her fantastic sense of humor and would still take a sarcastic shot at me when I deserved it.  I cried when I saw the physical toll this has taken, and the efforts that go into the mundane of every day.  I thought a lot, especially when having to ask if she will ever see Jess again.  And I smiled a lot when I saw my regular ol’ mom.  Physical changes aside, it’s still just mom with that constant decree of “Cancer doesn’t change who she is,” ringing more true than ever before.

I will be down to see her again, and I’m sure there will be more visible effects,…. but I can also guarantee you that it’ll still be the same mom,… and that’s frankly all anyone could ever want.

-Todd

13 Responses to “My weekend with mom on “My weekend with mom”

  • Todd, so beautifully written an such an accuracte description of both your Mom and your Dad

  • Dear Todd,

    As I sit hear weeping, I am in awe of your beautiful words and once again reminded of just why I love your mom AND dad so much!! I think about your mom (and all of you) CONSTANTLY and really appreciate this candid (and I can only imagine very difficult) update. Aunt Nan and I text a few times a week (when she can muster the strength) and I always smile as even through the pain, she is still the Aunt Nan I have always loved. I love you all!

  • Wow this was just so honestly written, I am so proud of all of you and am just in awe of the unity and love surrounding all of you. Your Mom and Dad are just doing what has to be done and doing it with such dignity. I am so proud of your Dad and his committment to see this journey through. But this really is what love is all about and they have written a very special chapter all their own. to love with such wholeness, trying to make it easier for one another is beyound many peoples minds. You have a precious set of parents and I am in awe of what they have hung on to and not let this ulgy beast of cancer take. we love you all so much and here in Maine are walking beside you, love and hugs to you and Jesse, Scott and Michelle, kids and of course the gretest lady I HAVE EVER KNOWN IN ALABAMA

  • Thank you for this update, Todd. It is easy to see why this picture is your favorite. It shows such joy and the story behind it is priceless. You have expressed your frustration at this disease and awe at what your parents stand for so beautifully. It is obvious that a monster like cancer can never take what your Mom and Dad have created. The fight that your Mom has put out is paying off by her ability to not allow this to define her or her family. She is a blessing to all of us and always will be. I guess that is one of her infamous, “silver linings”. Love to all

  • My heart weeps.

  • Todd,
    As I tell your Mom and Dad, just about everyday ” I am here with Nan because it is where I want to be”. My time with your mom mostly consists of me watching “an Angel” sleep. When she has the strength to talk, we just chat and laugh like nothing is wrong, when I know she is in so much pain physically and emotionally. I cherish every minute I get to spend with this amazing lady I call my friend. She is my angel now and I know she will be my angel once she leaves this earth. She has already told me that when we feel a pinch on our shoulder it will be her watching us and telling us “to behave”. I, like everyone else who has posted a comment to this blog, am overwhelmed by your tender words and praise for both of your parents. It just goes to show you, they did their job and raised a truly awsome son.

  • So beautifully an eloquently written, Todd. I know Mom is proud of the man you have become. As far as Dad, I don’t know of anyone who has stepped up to this kind of challenge with more grace and selflessness. I have been a part of this family for half of my life now, first honorary then by marriage, and the ties that hold us all together are a direct result of Mom and Dad’s unfailing love and commitment to each other. Thank you for including that picture of Mom and the kids… A reminder of another surreal time in which she always remained loving, patient, and optimistic. Some day when the kids are older I will show them this website, and at that time continue to pass on how strong this family unit is! Love you so much Todd!

  • Todd…It was an honor and a pleasure to meet both you and Jess this past weekend. Your post is beautifully written. I would expect no less of your dad, or of your mom for that matter if the cards had been dealt differently. They are devoted, loving partners to one another, as well as devoted parents and grandparents, and you must be extremely proud to call them your own.

  • Todd, so love reading your words. The picture you posted is priceless! I wish you all peace…..

  • Thinking of you constantly, praying for comfort and peace! you are such an inspiration to us all! we love you and pray that you will know peace and love in this time of trial! fight like hell

  • Thank you for this pic! It says it al!! We love you and your family!

  • Dear Todd,

    I have known of your mom and dad for about a year. Dave works with my husband Paul and we have been at the same functions a couple of times. When Nan got sick I offered to help out in any way I could. My friends, Mary and Jane asked me to step in and help with sitting with Nan so Dave could go to work. I instantly said yes, of course I would. I got to know Nan quite well, I quickly found out what an outstanding woman she was. Such diginity, such warmth, so kind. I truly regret that it took this awful event for me to get to know her better. But for the short time that I did know her she touched me in such a way that I will never forget. She made me a better person. I truly enjoyed every moment I got to spend with her. I am going to miss her. And Dave, what a great man he is. He also showes so much strength, and his love for Nan never wavered. You and your brother are lucky to have such wonderful parents, and I am lucky to call them my friends.

  • hi again uncle Todd, I am crying my eyes out right now looking at the picture and I think I was smirking about how i won the race to get to grammie 😉 you are so sweet! I cant stop crying right now lokking at all these pictures and memories. I wish that grammie could see you now! form emma

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