Grief Comes Knocking
Another week, another grief. Truly, I know that life is made up of losses. I also know that as you age the losses come more frequently. I just didn’t think I was that old, yet.
Three years ago, one of my closest friends died. While she was over 20 years older than me, we had a special kinship not unlike sisters. We met in college studying art together. A friendship was forged and for the next 30 years we traveled together, studied together, painted together and delivered art and hung shows together. Our families meshed as we shared laughter and tears. When she died, it was a serious blow but her husband and children were still part of my life. We grieved together, and did our best to move forward.
Early Tuesday morning her husband and our friend Don passed away. It was a bit of a shock because although he’d been hospitalized the doctors had told him they’d be re-evaluating his progress in a month to see if he should go into assisted living or be able to return home with help. Our visits were filled with great conversation and laughter and I was able to catch up with his out of town children. Mike and I visited Sunday afternoon with plans to be back later in the week. Less than 48 hours later he was gone.
While I deeply grieve the loss of Don, it also brings back the loss of Jan. I’m grieving losing her all over again. Don is gone, the house is being emptied and will be sold. I have tons of wonderful memories in that house, in her studio. Every inch of that house was imprinted with Jan and Don’s creativity and art. She did mostly watercolor and after Don retired from his career as a metallurgical/purchasing engineer in the auto industry, enlarged his photography into a second career. He has a lovely book of photos of the Pacific Northwest that you can look at here: http://www.blurb.com/b/168800-the-pacific-northwest
Two mornings ago, I woke up in the wee hours with a start. “I’ll buy the house,” I thought. “It’s a wonderful house. It’s got all those memories and connections, I can have my studio where her studio was…I can hold onto them.” In the cold, clear light of day I realized that wasn’t realistic. The only reason I ever went to that town was to visit them. I have no other reason to live there. I don’t know anyone and really don’t want to leave my neighborhood and my city. I have to let it go.
Cue the theme from Frozen. Let it go. Let it go. Easier said than done.
Here come the tears again.
First of all, before I get to the main part of this blog, I want to congratulate Shelby, Cindy and Mary for acquiring an etching for their art collection. There are six more prints left if you are interested.
And now, about Julie...
Mom’s cat is dying. Julie (the name of said cat) is a rescue. Mom took her in 18 years ago, add at least a year onto that and the cat has been on this earth for almost 20 years. That’s a good life for a cat. Mom is determined the cat will live so for at least a year, Julie has been getting insulin shots twice a day. Since Dad can’t remember and Mom can’t use the left side of her body, guess who does that?
Actually, Mike does it most of the time. He gets up early and before work, drives to their apartment and gives the cat her shot. Then again after dinner. I fill in when needed. I think Mike wants to do as much for his parents these days as he can. He’s always been a caring and thoughtful son, but he knows his time is running out and he wants to make it all count. He’s wearing himself out in the process.
A couple weeks ago, Julie started having convulsions. Dad called and one of us took her into the vet. I don’t remember if it was Mike or me because there have been several vet visits in the past few weeks. Julie has stopped eating. Her blood sugar levels have been fluctuating wildly. Not only does she have diabetes, but now she has congestive heart disease and the medications are making her nauseous. Mom does not want to face the future without Julie. Again, I take her to the vet. Is there anything else we can do?
Now, in addition to working and elder care, we are going over three times a day to hand feed (read that force feed) the cat with a syringe on the very off chance that with enough food in her, she’ll take her medicine and with the medication her strength will increase so she’ll last another year or more. Part of me just shakes my head. The cat is failing, let it go in peace. But Mom has hope, and hope is important. I look at how Mom’s life keeps closing in on her. She can no longer walk, getting out and about isn’t impossible but it’s pretty darn hard. Most of her friends have died and Dad’s dementia makes it hard for her to form new friendships. But she does have her cat.
With that in mind, Mike and I do our best to make the animal as comfortable as possible and pray for the best for all involved.
Postscript: Sadly, on September 14, Julie died. Mom is doing her best to deal with yet another loss.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.