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September 4, 2007
I don’t even know where to start… I’m just going to attack it in chronological order.

Last time I wrote was Wednesday. That night, G-ma and G-pa B showed up… total shell-shock. Mama got up Thursday and went to her first radiation. G&G elected not to go with her, which upset her. Jennifer handled it all morning and finally called me – we attached together – she called Daddy (who was at Action Auto) and I called G&G to let them know that Daddy was coming to pick them up and they should be ready. It really helped Mama to have them there, although they were pretty much useless. Mama also had a bone scan done Thursday, which showed that there’s been no bone progression, which is excellent.

Friday – G&G are starting to get the hang of it, although they’re still in shock at Mama’s condition. Mama’s vomiting every few hours, can’t keep anything down. Jennifer calls Duke – Dr. Marcom says that it’s her liver. Jennifer and Tom take Mama to radiation on Friday, which Daddy goes back to work. Bobby meets them at GHS. Tom realizes for the first time that Mama is a cancer patient – she’s too weak to walk in unassisted, and has to use a wheelchair. After I put Mama to bed that night, G-ma told me and Bobby that she couldn’t have been more distraught on Mama’s wedding day if it had been her funeral. That it was a loveless marriage, and Daddy had let Mama carry the full burden and responsibility of raising us. That Mama had had a hard life because of Daddy, and the only good that had come out of it was her 3 children.

Saturday – Jennifer took the first shift while I went for a facial and massage with Amy compliments of Mike. It was nice, but I stressed the entire time knowing that Mama needed me. Got to Townville about 5pm, and Jennifer left. Right before I arrived in T-ville, Jennifer let loose on G-ma about Uncle Rocky’s lack of concern and support. G-ma wanted to defend UR, but didn’t dare in the face of Jennifer’s fury. Mama was sick several times Saturday – while she vomited Saturday night, G-pa sat there with his head in his hands, and G-ma cried and prayed for God to have mercy on her baby. When I went home, I went over to Jennifer’s apt, and she called Uncle Rocky. Woke him up and chewed his ears off – told him that his sister was dying and that she needed him and she didn’t care about his feelings or Daddy’s feelings, all she cared about was Mama’s comfort and peace of mind. She hung up at 12:06am. At 12:35am, Uncle Rocky and David were in the van on the way to SC. They arrived at 7am Sunday morning – Mama’s face lit up. Daddy & Grandma took the credit for “finally getting through to Rock”… but Jennifer, Bobby, Tom, Uncle Rocky, and I know that it was a phone call made at midnight on Saturday night.

Sunday – we hugged Uncle Rocky and thanked him for coming. Jennifer paced and stuffed her face with doughnuts, potato soup, bread, fruit, and other random things until 3:30pm, when she left to pick up her bag from the apt. She and Tom checked into the hospital at 5pm. At 9pm, Merrill, Sue, and I went to sit with her. At 11pm, they told her that she couldn’t have an epidural because her platelet count was too low. Jennifer freaked out…. Merrill, Sue, the nurse and I tried to talk her off the ledge, while Tom said “really, nothing’s changed” – we all glared at him and Merrill told him to “hold a bubble in his mouth.” They gave Jennifer a sleeping pill at 1:30 to knock her out, and Merrill, Sue and I left.

Monday – got up and was at the hospital by 8am. Hearn had come in and broken her water at 5am, and she was having regular contractions (4 minutes apart) by the time we got there. She was still very groggy from the sleeping pill, but was started to feel very uncomfortable. By 9am, Hearn said that she was dilated 4 cm, and they gave her the first of two “cocktails” made up of Phenergrin (for nausea) and Nubain (narcotic for pain). It completely kicked and she fell asleep – only woke up when Dr. Hearn checked her again at 11am, and she was 6 cm dilated. By noon, she was in a good bit of pain because the first cocktail was wearing off, so they gave her another one. The nurse, Denise, told us that it would be at least a few more hours, and that probably the pushing alone would be 1-2 hours. Merrill, Sue and I went to get lunch, and came back at 1:45 – Tom was freaking out because Maggie’s head was already in the birth canal. Mama and Daddy came squealing into the parking lot, and Bobby ran with Mama in the wheelchair so that she could see Jennifer before she actually starting the pushing phase. Mama, Sue, Merrill and I sat outside the door and listened… heard Maggie’s first cry at 2:47. It was truly, truly amazing – Sue starting wailing, and Merrill and I were speechless – Mama was so excited that she almost tipped her wheelchair, which provided comic relief for everyone in the waiting room – Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Rocky, David, Bobby, Amy, and Mike.

We met Maggie for the first time about 20 minutes later. She’s completely, absolutely perfect. I have never felt what I felt for that baby – such a love, an overwhelming sense of joy and also sadness that she’s not mine. Her tiny little body is completely perfect – fingernails, little long monkey toes, her little ears, and light fuzzy hair. She’s not fat, but has round little chubby cheeks and mouth that is just like Jennifer’s – big, loud, and square when she screams. She’s completely, absolutely, without a single doubt, perfect.

When I watched Mama hold Maggie for the first time, I felt such an indescribable sadness – just an aching emptiness in my heart as I watched her smile down at Maggie, eyes shining with tears and happiness and complete joy, and her big, signature smile that’s been the backdrop of my entire life. I knew that what I was seeing would have to be enough for my babies too. She’ll never have the opportunity to hold my babies, and smile down at them just a few minutes after they’re born. I’ll never have the opportunity to see that joy on her face when she holds my baby for the first time. That’s something I’ll never have – I spent so many years waiting for the right time, and never even realizing that it was a privilege that could actually be taken away – and now it’s gone. I truly can’t describe, with all my words, the hurt in my heart when I realize and really understand that my chance is gone, and that Mama won’t be outside the door listening for my baby’s first cry. It’s deeper than tears, deeper than all the words that I have – my throat closes and I feel like I can’t swallow.

I want so badly for God to take her now if he’s going to. I love her too much to want her to suffer just so she can stay here with us. I don’t want to keep the shell of my mother – I want it all – her fully restored health, or nothing with just the memories of her as a healthy, loving, vibrant person. This version of her can never be a substitute. I feel such a helplessness when she’s vomiting, too sick to walk across the room, too ill to even spend the first few hours with the grandbaby that she’s waiting for years to have. Her eyes are so sad and tired, her skin is pale and soft – too soft, and she is waning. I feel like I shouldn’t be able to cry anymore, but I can’t stop – I can’t spend enough time with her, just lying next to her on the bed and holding her hand and watching her sleep. I want to smell her everyday – that smell of my mother that I’ll forget because I can’t remember – I want to bottle it and keep it always so I can let my children smell her and I can sleep with it under my pillow. I hurt. I truly feel like a piece of my heart has cancer and is dying. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

And I’m angry. I’m angry at Daddy. He is selfish and self-serving – he’s not capable of being a caring human being. I’m angry because he’s more concerned about his own needs and wants than he is Mama’s. I’m angry because when Jennifer bought him a bunch of microwave meals, he said “Oh, good those are easy enough for Mama to just cook them for herself.” I’m angry at him because he’s useless when it comes to taking care of Mama, or actually anyone other than himself. He panics, he overreacts, he flies around like a loose cannon, saying hurtful things, doing hurtful things, with no regard for anyone but himself. If finally reached my limit. I called over there this morning, and he answered – gave me the update on Mama, then started talking about his favorite topic – Hospice. Started saying “We just aren’t equipped to deal with this, I can’t handle it, your grandma can’t handle it. This is just wearing her down.” I replied “Daddy, it’s hard on everyone, not just grandma,” and he responded “Sarah, I don’t want to talk rough with you, but there’s no way you would understand this – you don’t have a daughter.” I felt like he had slapped me. I hung up on him. Later, he left a voice mail saying that “maybe he should have let me vent, but he’s standing by what he said – I don’t have a daughter, I don’t know how it feels, I don’t live with it.”

Now what does he fucking think I’m doing if I’m not living with it? WE’RE ALL LIVING WITH IT. WE ALL HAVE CANCER. WHEN MAMA DIES, WE WILL ALL DIE – not physically, but emotionally. I hate him right now. I hate him – I’ve taken all my anger and hatred and bitterness, and I’ve put it on him because he’s available and he deserves it. I just watched my mother cradle my sister’s baby, the first grandchild with tears in her eyes, and felt my heart break because I know that my turn will never come. And he has the cruelty to say “you don’t have a daughter, you wouldn’t understand”?!?! I’m so angry at him – because he always puts himself first. Because he is incapable of empathy and compassion. Because he made Mama’s life miserable, and even now, he can’t bring himself to be loving and tender toward her. Because he uses his words to hurt and maim others to make himself feel more in control. Because control is the only thing that matters to him. Because he’s not the one with cancer – he made my childhood a fucking nightmare, his temper ruled our house, he has had to actually learn the social skills that normal people are born with, and still he’s not the one dying. The fact that Mama has cancer and Daddy doesn’t proves that this entire world is just fucked up beyond reason – there’s no fairness, there’s no rational, there’s no goddamn PURPOSE in any of this.

Sociopath – one who has antisocial personality disorder; experiences a limited range of human emotions; superego (moral judge) is overruled by id (unconscious drives) and ego (conscious response to external reality); one who exhibits:

• Lack of empathy, callousness
• failure to conform to/disregard for social & cultural norms
• deceitfulness; can create or get caught up in a complex belief about their own powers and abilities
• irritability and aggressiveness; very low tolerance to frustration and low threshold for discharge of aggression
• impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead
• consistent irresponsibility or avoidance of obligation
• reckless disregard for safety
• lack of remorse; indifference to or rationalizing having hurt or mistreated another; incapacity to feel guilt
• marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for behavior. The ends justifies the means, and nothing stands in their way.
• grandiose sense of self, sense of extreme entitlement
• authoritarian
• secretive
• paranoid

I think my father is a sociopath. So many of these traits describe him – the sense of entitlement, the lack of empathy, the aggressiveness and ability to rationalize having hurt someone. That’s my father. He’s overcome a lot of the characteristics over the years – he’s able to control his temper for the most part, and he even shows affection to Mama sometimes. But it’s not natural – it’s not something that he does without conscious thought, and it makes him uncomfortable. The last three words could not describe him more accurately… I guess I need to give him credit in that he has honestly tried to overcome his nature, and he’s even told me that he knows that Mama’s had a rough life with him, which is a huge admission for someone with his personality.

And I was talking to Jennifer on the phone, and I realized that Daddy doesn’t respect me. He feels a sense of entitlement when it comes to me – since I’ve been a child, he hasn’t praised me for the things I’ve done right, but only punished me for the things I’ve done wrong. The standard, or expectation, has always been different for me than for Jennifer or Susanna. And he just expects things from me that he praises them for – for example, coming to Townville. He applauds Sue and Jennifer, but has never really acknowledged that what I’m doing is a big deal. The only time he acknowledges it is when Bobby’s around. He minimizes my feelings – no matter what I feel, he or grandma or Sue or someone else always has it worse than me. Our relationship improved when I went to college and got married, but this situation with Mama has brought it all back – the way he talks down to me, the way he “always knows best,” the way he asks my opinion only if he thinks that it will match his. He downplays my feelings – I guess since I don’t cry in front of him, and everyone else does, it must be harder on them than it is on me…. Because after all, I don’t have a daughter, so I don’t know what this feels like. I have been Mama’s support system, caretaker, companion, best friend, for 29 years. I have watched her disintegrate and researched her condition and carried the knowledge of her impending death in my heart so I wouldn’t cause her more pain – while Grandma has only known the falsely happy phone conversations, and the picture that Mama has painted. And this is harder on Grandma than it is on me? I don’t even know why I’m participating in this dynamic – I don’t have to justify my feelings about Mama’s sickness, I don’t have to “prove” that I love her and will miss her the most. That’s not what it’s about. There are no words that will make Daddy understand this from my perspective, or understand just how hurtful his words were this morning. I can lash out at him, and throw the words at him, and try to make something sink through his haze of entitlement, aggression, and control-feeding frenzy. But I know that I’ll walk away frustrated and unable to let it go, while he’ll walk away from any conversation we have just like he walked away from the phone call this morning – he called Jennifer and told her that “Sarah just grouchy this morning.” – because, in accordance with his personality profile, it’s never his fault so obviously it’s mine.