Friday, March 6, 2009

Dimensions of Sadness - Missing Leif

It's been a hard week and I've been posting simple posts of happier times, reflecting the way I wish life still were, not the way it is right now.

My sisters were coming to visit and I got the bright idea to take each of them on a cruise, with my mother. None of them had ever been on a cruise before and my sisters had always wanted to go. Mom is a world traveler that hasn't been on a trip outside the USA since November 2007, so I found a couple of inexpensive (great deals this time of year) short cruises to the Bahamas and booked them. I told everyone my one worry about it was the step up (or down when you come out) to the bathrooms in the staterooms.

We started the cruise with Mom and Lannay with very chilly weather, not at all like you'd expect for a cruise to the Bahamas, and we got to Nassau two hours late because right after we left Cape Canaveral, the ship had to return to port to disembark a passenger who had a life-threatening health crisis. We had a good time in Nassau, and at Coco Cay the next day, but Mom's back was bothering her and she seemed to have trouble walking at Cocoa Cay. I thought it was because she had stepped down a large step onto a water taxi too hard.

That night, the last night of the cruise, she got up in the night to use the bathroom and lost her balance. She fell into the bathroom hard and injured her back, but she didn't tell anyone. My sister Lannay, who was sharing the cabin, heard a noise but didn't find anything when she checked and Mom didn't tell her. She later said she didn't want me to know because I'd "have a hemorrhage."

We returned to Cape Canaveral the next morning, Monday the 23rd, and Mom was still having some back pain but not admitting she had fallen. We went to see the Bodies exhibit at MOSI, the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, and had her in one of their wheelchairs she she didn't have to walk, but didn't know how bad off she was.

The next day, without our knowledge, she went to her doctor and told him about the fall, and had her back x-rayed. It wasn't until the next morning, Wednesday the 25th, that she told Lannay about her fall and by then she was in severe pain. I got another appointment with the doctor that afternoon and we found out she had another compression fracture in her spine. The doctor ordered her to lie flat on her back and to be up as little as possible, but she didn't follow orders and by Thursday she couldn't get up on her own and was in excruciating pain.

I had taken care of Mom when she broke her back with two compression fractures in 1992 and remembered how to get her up and walk her, and I got a wheel chair and walker checked out, but even with me staying there and helping her, by Friday evening the 27th, she was in such terrible pain that we had to call the Emergency Squad to transport her to the South Bay Hospital emergency room. She was admitted to the hospital and put on pain medications, given a CT scan, and the next day an MRI.

On Monday, March 2nd, she had a procedure called kyphoplasty to stabilize the fractured vertebra, but she was still in immense pain. By Wednesday they transferred her to the rehab center at Plaza West here in Sun City Center.

My sister Sherie arrived February 28th and has been so helpful in all the things we had to do for mom at the hospital and rehab center and at her house. I don't know how I would have gotten through this time without her. She was terrific.

All through this, I've been sick with a sinus infection, cough, and nasty sore throat. I've been exhausted, but had to keep going with so much to do. I still haven't unpacked from the cruise.

Today, I took Sherie to the airport. I was so sad to see her go. I really appreciated having her here, not only for all the help, but for the moral and emotional support. She had taken vacation to come here to go on the second cruise, and instead she helped rearrange and clean up at Mom's, visited rehab centers with me, made her own breakfasts and lunches, did dishes, and so much more. I knew I'd miss her when she left, but I wasn't prepared for how all the emotion of the past week and a half would hit me then.

Not only did all my worries about Mom, which had been buried under the work that had to be done, surface, but as it always does when I'm driving alone, the bottomless sadness about missing Leif came pummeling through. I cried all the way home, especially when I passed the exit that would take me to Bay Pines National Cemetery. I've been crying on and off all evening. I just can't shake it. I miss Leif so much! How could nearly 11 months have passed since he died? He helped me out so many times. Who will be there, now that he is not?

We will manage. We have family. We have friends. We are so much more fortunate in so many ways than many in this world, and we know that, but that knowledge doesn't take away the loss.

And I'm so worried about Mom living alone when she gets out of rehab and whether she's going to be able to manage, whether they can get her pain under control, what her future holds. I miss my sisters and having them here to buoy me up. I am so tired, emotionally and physically, still sick.

It will pass. I'll get well. Life will go on.

But so will loss.

I go along, busy, and being busy keeps my mind off things for awhile, but it always floods back. There are two times that it happens most often, when I am driving alone, and when I go outside at night, like taking out the garbage, or going somewhere, and I can see the sky. The night sky and the stars always remind me of Leif and I miss him terribly then.

I miss him terribly now.

The photo above is of Leif and my mother on December 25, 2005 when he was showing her the cell phone we got her for Christmas . . . his idea.

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