Sep 29, 2003

Family ties

Finally. I know I have a lot to say and yet finding the energy to say it hasn't been easy. It's because it's all so emotional for me and there's so much, I have to think about organizing my thoughts.

What follows is obviously from my point of view. Just want to make sure you keep that in mind.

The Arrival
My mother came to visit on the 19th. She came to visit her mother who's been in the hospital (see Sept 18 blog) as well as me. Grandma said to me earlier this summer, "I'm going to ask you something and I hope you don't get upset." She wanted to know if I minded her inviting Mom over from the States. I didn't. But the fact that Grandma asked in that manner should clue you in as to how things are in my so-called family.

Grandma didn't get around to calling her daughter herself. Once again, she fell and ended up in the hospital. I e-mailed my mother and relayed the request.

My feelings have been mixed: A part of me was looking forward to seeing my mother again; another part of me was wary, remembering past fights and hurts. I realized that the little girl inside of me still longed for her mommy. The adult me was far from that enthusiastic. I decided to have as few expectations as possible; the upside to that is that it usually leads to being happily surprised. :-)

So emotional, mushy me teared up on the way to the airport, and teared up again at seeing my mother. She hadn't changed. Still looked like herself. (Truth is, none of us change much in this family.) Still sounded like herself.

The Visit
We still share a sense of humor. Or rather, I remember her sense of humor and I still laugh.

She was here for 5 days and nights. Every evening we walked to the bus and rode to the hospital. Grandma didn't recognize her daughter at first (but she didn't 9 years ago, either). We talked about all sorts of things. Mostly my mother talked. She told of her life in the States, her work, her activities. We both still share an interest in the paranormal and things related, but politically, we're very wide apart now.

I notice some things about my mother, stuff that may have been there the whole time but that I see more clearly now. My conclusion is that she is afraid (of loss) and she may also feel very alone.

Our family has never been close. We've never really been emotionally demonstrative, either. As long as we aren't discussing feelings (i.e. getting personal), we seem to do all right. But the moment we get into anything that may hurt or touch a tender spot, we are on the defensive. Makes it hard to get close. For me, it makes it hard to take the chance on closeness. As I said above, I remember past fights and hurts.

There was a moment when the old pattern made its presence known. But I didn't respond to it. I stayed calm, letting the moment pass. I recognized what I now call The Game. The Game played between my mother and I seems to be Who Of Us Had The Crappier Childhood; it's an unspoken competition between us which frustrates me since she's my mother and therefore partly responsible for my crappy childhood. But recognizing The Game and listening to some things she told from her childhood also clarified a few things from my childhood. Still, I don't need any more dysfunctional parenting. If my mother and I were just friends, not relatives, it would all be so much easier. But she's my mother.

The Departure

I was once again feeling emotional and tearing up as my mother and I rode in a taxi to the airport. Once there, we said our goodbyes without one tear falling and no "I love you's". At that point, I was relieved. I was so oddly – empty.

I had decided to see her plane take off. When the screen read that her flight was "Now Boarding", I teared up. When the screen read "Gate Closed", I teared up and for one moment wished that she'd come bounding up the stairs, telling me she couldn't leave me. My little girl wish. (This is what she should have done when I was 8 years old, and going off to Norway the first time. Neither of my parents had the sense then to tell me that they were sorry to lose me and that they would miss me.)

Except for the two moments of tearing up, I felt nothing. Both baffled me, the emotion and the lack of it. When I saw the actual plane take off, I felt nothing. I just thought, "What a fat-looking plane." Kind of short and wide, y'know? But it was hard to keep in mind that Mom was inside it.

I couldn't make sense of my feelings. I sent messages to a couple of friends about the successful visit but confusing departure. One reply suggested that I would know in a few days, when everything had calmed down.

Well, I didn't want to wait a few days. When I got home, I was pretty tired. So I put on my favorite meditation/nap music and stretched out on the couch, with my cat in my lap.

The first scene from my meditation was me, standing in the midst of a churning sea, completely dry. Right where I was there was calm, but everything around me was severely agitated. I didn't like it. I felt like all my work at maturing, at getting a grip on my own childhood and my relationship with my mother was for nothing because I seemed to not love my mother!

The next scene was me in a calm garden, talking to an old crone. I told her that I didn't know what I was feeling, that I was surprised at my calm. She said, "That's what strength feels like." The one thing I never wanted to let my mother do to me again, was hurt me. And she didn't. She couldn't. And she can't. She'd have to make a huge stink to get me to react now, and it just wouldn't be worth it. It would only make her look bad.

Still, something didn't sit right with me. "Am I strong because I no longer love my mother?" That bothered me. The crone wanted to know why. If it was true, I said, then it was something I had to keep to myself. To let my mother know that her own daughter didn't love her would be to hurt her terribly; it would be cruel. "And you care whether or not she's hurt?" the crone asked. "Yes, I do. Very much." ...Oh... I do still love her. I was relieved. (My mother's not perfect, but she's mine. And I guess that's part of my growing up: Realizing I'd rather love her than hate her or cut her out.)

The Aftermath
I have since realized that I am strong in other areas. My mother has not spent the time with her mother that I have. When Grandma goes, I will miss her, but I will have many good memories to look back on. My mother doesn't and I think she realizes that (hence my comment above about her being afraid of loss). I don't know how much longer Grandma will be around. I've done and said what I've needed to say and do. My mother tried to while she was here. I have to make sure that Grandma heard that.

One thing that has always impressed me about my grandmother is that no matter what, she has never stopped loving her daughter or worrying about her. She has always wanted the best for my mother. She has always wanted to see her daughter happy.

Sep 18, 2003

Woke up this morning to the news that it is Chile's Independence Day. Which instantly took me back a year, to a nurse I spoke to outside Grandma's room at the nursing home.

What a year! Grandma hasn't been home much. She was in the nursing home for her birthday (the 22nd) last year because she'd broken her arm. That was the longest stay, ever. She's fallen three times this year, and had a couple of infections, so she's seen the inside of the ER and the hospital a lot, too. So have I. And we are back again.

I never worry once she's in the hospital. They take good care of her at Haukeland Sykehus, the region's main hospital (and when it was new in 1978, Northern Europe's largest). Not once have I met an uncooperative nurse. It's the nurses I talk to about Grandma's condition. The only doctor I've spoken was the guy who read Grandma's X-rays last year and the cheerful young doctor at the ER. I've never spoken to the doctors who actually treat my grandmother. It occurs to me that they don't treat her. They diagnose her and the nurses treat and follow up.

At any rate, as seen from the outside looking in, the hospital is a well-oiled machine. They always know where my grandma is (even if she doesn't). The whole health care system, run by the city and county, is pretty well-organized. But, it is a bureaucracy, so although basic necessities are always taken care of, getting that little bit extra often falls outside the scope of the rules. But they are perpetually understaffed, too.

I could never be a nurse or caregiver. Though I wonder if they are pleasant because they aren't emotionally involved. I lose my patience with Grandma sometimes, but that's because I remember a vivacious and independent woman. This helpless creature I now call Grandma is familiar but confusing to me. It's unknown terrain for both of us, this thing called aging.

If you think folks are old at 70, wait till they hit 85 or so. There is a difference. 70 is still youthful, believe it or not. The 70's are still a time where body and mind are still both capable and independent. Staying alert and physically fit will help you stay independent into your 80's, should you live so long. That's the one thing that bothers Grandma, and that bothers most people who have spent a lifetime looking after themselves: Being at the mercy of someone else for all your basic needs, like food and washing and going to the toilet. Being helpless.

I sometimes wonder if those struck with dementia aren't the lucky ones, if your life is reduced to wearing adult diapers and being spoon-fed and sleeping 14 hours a day. I have often wondered about whether it is better to have all your faculties or to have none, if you are institutionalized. I haven't reached a conclusion yet.

Grandma's been talking to her mother a lot this week. On Monday, she wanted to know if I'd heard from her mother. I jokingly replied that that would mean I was haunted, a reply Grandma just didn't understand. I then told her that her mother was dead and had been since 1967 or thereabouts. She couldn't fit that information in with her current reality. Grandma was clear; she knew where she was. She was just so certain her mother was still alive. I left her still baffled.

When I visited Grandma again yesterday, she still believed her mother was alive, but she also remembered that I'd said she wasn't. At one point while we were talking about my mother's coming visit (Grandma's daughter), Grandma said, "When you meet her, have her read your palm. She's really good at that!"
"You mean my mother???" I asked.
"No, mine."
"Well, that will have to be when we meet in the afterlife," I laughed.
Grandma laughed too, but couldn't figure out why she kept thinking her mother is alive.

I tried to find out if there was any specific reason why Grandma would be thinking so much about her mother now, but there didn't seem to be. Granted, great-grandmother was talking to Grandma, but she was only saying, "I'm sorry." (Long history of lousy mothering in my family, which is one reason why I haven't wanted kids of my own.) Grandma thought maybe it was because she was going to die now. I told her to at least wait until after her birthday. Her comment didn't scare me or shock me or anything. She'll be 93 on Monday, the 22nd. It's just realism.

It's draining, being the only relative who visits, who is present, who gets the phone calls, who has to take care of practical stuff. Grandma leans on me, but I have no one to lean on. I do have a good friend who is helpful and comforting, but no one in my day-to-day life. If I get busy with Grandma's needs, my life gets put on hold. There's no one at my place keeping the wheels turning. I'm not complaining. I'm trying to get the perfectionist in me to shut up.

The perfectionist in me wants to offer my visiting mother a clean home, a spotless guest room, everything neat and tidy and absolutely ready to be inspected by a guest (What? You've never opened someone's closets while staying with them?). But reality intrudes, with time limits and physical limits, and so she will be staying in my cluttered apartment, but the sheets and towels are clean and the kitchen sink is spotless. If it were me, I'd be happy with that. But if it were me, I'd be focused on the person I'm visiting. That's why I'd be there. I'm not sure what my mother is thinking (nothing new there).

Ah, insight! Of course that's what I have to offer: Me! And if that's not good enough, so what (nothing new there, either).

Sep 13, 2003

I tusjens tegn

Så har jeg gjort det. Deltatt på en tegneseriemesse, nærmere bestemt Raptus. Dette har jeg gjort, men ikke fordi jeg er spesielt tegneserieinteressert (selv om jeg kjøper flere humorblad hver måned). Jeg dro ene og alene for å treffe en tegner som jeg har korrespondert med via e-post siden han brukte meg i en av adventskalendervitsene sine. Så nå har jeg dykket inn i en verden som jeg hittil bare har hørt om: Verden av samlere, av fans av tegnere, av folk som står villig i lang, ordnet kø for å få en lite tegning av f.eks. Will Eisner eller Dan Piraro (to av årets gjestetegnere). Alle som har bidratt til bladene "Rocky" og "Gorilla" fikk lange køer av fans foran sine "tegnebord".

Etter en del SMS-er med min tegneserietegnende e-postvenn, Knut A. G. Hauge, fant jeg i hvert fall rommet. Så fant jeg stativet med alle Mille-kortene. Da spurte jeg damen ved bordet der hvor mannen bak kortene befant seg. Og han befant seg bak et annet bord bak meg. Jeg snudde meg, folkemengden delte seg (de to gikk til hver sin kant), og der var Knut. Han satt ved bordet for Trondheimstegnerne, som viste seg å være en samling mennesker like hyggelige som Knut selv. De prøvde alle å selge Slagg 2 og var fornøyd med sin ene kunde for øyeblikket (meg). Samtlige har tegnet i min utgave av Slagg 2 så den havner aldri på loppemarked. :-)

Derimot havnet den og jeg for anledningen på foredrag med Trondheimstegnerne (hvorav de fleste er ikke-trøndere) og Knuts 12" iBook (sant det er det du har, Knut?) med Bluetooth-styring (skal det være så skal det). Knuts tegning i min utgave av Slagg 2 inkluderer nettopp en iBook, så jeg har nok en grunn for å beholde bladet i all evighet.

Omsider ble det anledning til å ta en kopp kaffe med Knut og hans ungdomskamerat, Sverre. Kaffen ble ledsaget av bergenske skillingsboller og en god del erting av Knut. Etterpå havnet vi atter ved stativet med alle Mille-kortene og elefantkortene og stavkirkekortene (man kan ikke påstå at Knut er ensporet) og jeg fikk litt av historien bak kortene; bl.a. har Sverre fotografert elefanten på Ulrikens topp. Her lærte jeg også flere måter å erte Knut på. (Nei, jeg forteller ikke deg.)

Det er alltid morsomt og litt nervepirrende å omsider skulle møte noen ansikt-til-ansikt som man kun har korrespondert med. Hittil har det alltid blitt over all forventning for meg.

Men kan du skjønne hvordan jeg klarte å dra fra Raptus uten å snope Nemi, Pondus, Modesty Blaise, Jason, Asterix, Rocky, Sandman, Katrine Haaland......

Sep 12, 2003

It's worrisome, having an elderly and sick relative. I'm my grandmother's only relative here in Norway, and I speak the language (she never learned to), so the nurses talk to me. And I have to be the sensible one.

Wednesday evening, a nurse called from the hospital, wanting to talk to me about Grandma's condition. By now, Grandma's been in and out of the hospital and the nursing home enough for both her and I to know what's what. It's not all great. I also didn't like discussing my grandmother's condition without her present. Not an issue like placing her in a nursing home. So I asked if I couldn't talk to someone at the hospital during my visit the following evening (yesterday). Reluctantly, the woman agreed.

So, while waiting for the bus yesterday, my mind was racing, trying to figure out what decision exactly I should make on my grandmother's behalf. She wants to stay in her own home, however infirm she gets. ("Infirm", what a great word; firmness in bones, memory, mind and will is just melting away from my grandmother. Spirit's still solid, though.) I wished I had someone to talk to. So I started to talk to my spirit guide, Katherine. I seem to treat her like an irritating kid sister, a reminder of some more attitude adjustments I need to make. But I digress.

Katherine reminded me that it wasn't really up to me to make any decision. That I actually didn't know my own grandmother's true medical condition (I doubt anyone does). So it's not up to me to contribute in that manner; I don't know my grandma as a patient. My expertise is in knowing Grandma as a person, knowing her psyche.

This little talk with my spirit guide calmed me down. As I got off the bus at the hospital, I affirmed that all discussions and decisions would be for the best of all concerned.

Grandma looked a lot better than she had two days earlier, when I visited her last. She was happy to get a newspaper and her reading glasses. I told her about a discussion on alt.astrology, involving the surprising insights one can get superimposing someone's art onto their birth chart. I mentioned Picasso, as one example. Then I decided that I'd better tell the nurses I was there, so we could have that talk. As I left Grandma's room, I saw a reproduction of two Picasso drawings hanging on the wall.

The nurse that came to speak with me, was about a head taller than me (I'm 163 cm tall), and younger than me, and a very pleasant woman, easy to talk to. It turned out that the home nurses themselves had said they didn't feel they could give Grandma proper care at home. There is the matter of getting Grandma to eat enough, and the home nurses just don't have the time to sit and help her eat. And Grandma now needs round the clock help since she can no longer stand and walk on her own.

So the decision to be made was where to next after Grandma is discharged from the hospital. The nurse handed me the application form for a bed in a nursing home. She explained that filling out the application now is just to get the paperwork moving and that Grandma can refuse to go at any time.

Well, the nurse had convinced me that Grandma needed extra help. Now to convince Grandma, which really wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted her to convince herself.

I went back to Grandma's room. I explained what the nurse had said. Grandma protested against going to the nursing home. She wanted to go home! I filled out the form, requesting a short-term stay at the nursing home, including a paragraph describing Grandma's condition and what the nurse had told me, closing with, "her strongest desire is to remain in her own home." I then asked her to read it through, and tell me what she thought. The application wasn't valid until Grandma signed it. She read it through, set it aside and again said she didn't want to go to any nursing home. She wanted to know what I thought. I answered honestly that I understood the medical reasons and they were good, but I also knew that Grandma really wanted to be at home. I urged her to read it again and think about what I'd written.

Then I focused my mind on an affirmation or prayer or whatever this little sentence I kept repeating to myself is: I ask that the Universe guide Grandma to make the right decision for herself. I kept saying it, focusing on Grandma's IV-bottle and how it was hooked up and looked like, anything to keep my mind from dwelling on my preferred answer in the matter. No matter what, it was best that Grandma herself make the decision.

She finally finished reading, and said she'd go to the nursing home. I thanked the Universe for helping out. She asked if I was happy with that decision and I said I was, that it was what I thought was best, too. She signed the application.

I loitered in the hospital lobby since I had about 20 minutes until my bus. I read September's issue of "Creative Mind Magazine", published by Religious Science International (the organization I belonged to 20+ years ago, when I lived in California). This month's letter from the president included this passage:

Calling upon the Presence [of God] really means becoming aware of God as a present Reality, immediately available to us, because God is immediately available in us. Calling upoing God does not mean we are somehow going to cause God to pay attention to us, whereas before we were being ignored. It means we become aware of an inner God that has never left us, even for a fraction of a second.

Why would we call God to our awareness? To remember who we are. To remember that whether we are aware of it or not, God is the Source of our very existence; It is the Power we use to meet the demands of everyday living."

Boy, did this hit home! Right down to that very last sentence, the part about the demands of everyday living. Wasn't that what I had just done, using only a few sentences? In talking to my spirit guide, in praying/affirming on my way to visit and while Grandma was thinking? And didn't it all turn out better than I imagined? Didn't these demands of everyday living all go smoothly? Yes and yes!

I told myself last night that I must remember to call on God in regards to a lot of other stuff in my life right now that I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by. After all, calling does work. I know this and I've always claimed that that is the one thing I do know: That my prayers are answered.

I wanted to share this with you. I want you to see that this can be done. I would love to see others discover this immediately available power we all have inside of us. If you happen to be someone looking for answers, for some way to cope (better) with life, then learning about affirmations and the power of the Universal Mind that is a part of each and all of us, may help you as much as it has helped me.

Sep 5, 2003

It may very well be that Mercury Rx in Virgo may very well have something to do wiht general energy levels. But I'm wondering that only because both a friend of mine and I have been feeling tired earlier in the evening this week.

To any clutterbugs out there, FlyLady works! But she's not kidding about the baby steps. I finally gave up and started doing exactly what FlyLady herself did: Nothing but shining the kitchen sink. Basically, not so much shining as doing the dishes every evening. I have been able to that, with only a couple of missed evenings, since August 18th. No more piles of dishes in the sink. And I've noticed the same effect that FlyLady noticed: It made me want to clean off the counter next to the sink. I've wiped down the stove a bit more often than before. I felt like wiping down the cupboard doors. I finally pitched a lot of plastic containers, washed and stacked on my counter for months, in the recycling bin. Other benefits: I remember to take my vitamins. I take them in the evening, after I've done the dishes. Haven't missed any now.

FlyLady says it takes a month to get a new habit. So I'm focusing only on the kitchen sink. Baby step. Hopefully, by September 18th, doing the dishes every night and wiping down my sink, will be automatic. It certainly no longer feels like a chore. Yes, you read correctly: It's not a chore.

Exactly what will be my next daily chore, I'm not sure. Probably the bathroom sinks.

Sep 4, 2003

Sometimes I wonder if I suffer from ADD/ADHD or something. I am amazed at how easily I can be distracted. I never could work slow and steady. I always look forward to the break or variety. One symptom (of many) of ADD is an inability to start (and complete) a project on time – like housework. Or constantly showing up late for work (I've been doing that since I started working.)

And I do have to get my guest room in order since my mother is coming to visit later this month. After years of being where the clean laundry and miscellaneous stuff I don't know where to put is dumped, it's time to put everything away and uncover the bed and turn the room back into its original charming self.

And this'll take time and effort, so trying to get my blog archives, etc., together just isn't a priority right now. Hope you don't mind.