From my last blog on the matter, a couple of days after I got down there, my mother's condition deteriorated even further, and we had to put her in the hospice. It was her own idea, she suggested it to the district nurse that afternoon, but by the time we got her up there she'd forgotten, she didn't know where she was, and she got quite upset. By the next day she was much more settled and comfortable, and the hospice is lovely, both the environment and the staff. I'm very comfortable with it because their attitude is the same as mine: that Mum's quality of life is far more important than her quantity at this point. My youngest brother is not quite so accepting of that.
You know what? It'd probably help if you guys could tell my brothers apart. Here's a (not very wonderful) photo - the only one of all three I have on my hard drive.
This was taken at my brother Warwick's wedding in 2004. From left to right:
Warwick - middle brother, currently 50
Lacey - my eldest brother's now-ex, holding their daughter Merle
Nigel - eldest brother, currently 51
Greg - youngest brother, currently 49
Shelley - Warwick's wife. They now have a five-year-old boy, Gareth, who is mildly autistic
Warwick and his family live in Timaru, and he'd been doing a lot of the ferrying my mother to hospital appointments and stuff. Greg arrived about a week before I did - he stays at Mum's over Christmas every year. Nigel arrived the day after I left, and is still there. But two nights ago he phoned to tell me he and Greg had one of their perennial nasty fights and, while they're both living at Mum's, they're not speaking to each other. And he basically begged me to come back down. Frankly, the last thing I want to do at the moment is act as a buffer between two grown adults who should be able to sort their fucking shit out on their own.
Anyway, while I was down, tests revealed that a lot of Mum's confusion and loss of appetite was due to a build-up of calcium in her blood. This is common once the cancer gets into the bone. They put her on a drip, but by the time I left, it really hadn't made any difference. She was extremely frail and sleeping most of the time. Largely what I was doing was going to the hospice every afternoon and sitting with her while she slept, and talking to her friends when they came to visit and dealing with staff and forms and stuff.
But. She got slightly better after I left, back to about where she was when I'd arrived. The boys brought her back to the house for Christmas Day, and we took the kids down. Rhiana had twice refused to go down and see her, but when I told her Grandma had got a bit better, her face lit up, and she was quite happy to go. So it does seem, as I suspected, that she's simply protecting herself from the pain.
Honestly, I haven't coped with this very well. I was mentally prepared, and now it seems this pendulum's got a couple more swings to go yet. Apparently she's worse again now. This could go on for a while - or not. And at the same time, we have to come up with some way of getting our very brittle daughter going back to school and going forward, and honestly I don't even know where to start. David Slack emailed me before Christmas and said nobody should have to deal with all the shit we've had to, and I just cried because I hadn't thought about it like that.
Shit. Anyway. Last year.
- We had Reunion '10. And it was a total success. Yay! We only had one person who couldn't make it, and everyone got on, and there was no bullshit and so many hysterical photographs resurfaced. I do hope all those people who had to drag themselves from other cities and stuff had as good time as I did.
- We bought a house. Yay! We love our house. Especially as it's still standing and in one piece.
- Rhiana started high school. Boo! Didn't go at all well.
- Karl and I went to Foo Camp, with a bunch of our friends. Yay! It was fucking awesome. And I felt like I actually made a contribution. And I met some fabulous people, notably Sue and Fabiana.
- I had clear MRIs. My tumor has not regrown. Yay!
- I got a job writing columns for Metro. Yay! Then I lost it. Boo! I'm pretty sure I still see this as overall a positive experience, even though it was pretty much horribly stressful the whole time and I don't really miss it.
- My mother's cancer spread, and became both inoperable and terminal. Boo! Really a fucking lot.
- Our city became the new Earthquake Capital of New Zealand. Boo! We learned that what constant aftershocks do is make us really angry, and that shouting "Fuck off!" at earthquakes is entirely futile. But we also survived, and had the opportunity to help other people.
- Rhiana stopped going to school completely, and mostly talking to us and doing anything other than reading and watching Buffy. Boo! She cut off all her hair and started carving stuff into her walls. She's currently on a waiting list with Youth Specialty Service to see a counsellor. We're going to try having her do some of her courses by correspondence this year. Moving her to Hagley is still a possibility.
- Kieran sat NCEA, at all three levels. Yay! He's doing physics and maths three years above his level, and his school is designed to let him do that. He loves it. He's interested in what he's doing, he has good friends - all older than he is - and he's thriving. We may not be the worst parents in the entire world after all.
- I continued on from 2009's proud tradition of meeting fabulous, fabulous people through Public Address. I went to a test at the Basin Reserve, something I've always wanted to do. I stayed with the fabulous Megan. I don't easily make friends with women, and I've made very few really close friends since varsity. So the speed and depth of my friendship with Megan still slightly disconcerts me. She's fabulous. Also, she made me the Best Christmas Present Ever.
- I went back on anti-depressants, and took my first ever sleeping pill. Under the circumstances, I think that's pretty understandable.
I have things I'm looking forward to this coming year. Great Blends in Christchurch and Wellington. Further Megan-visits. The possibility of spending next Christmas (my first without my mother) in Featherston with Matt and Susan. And Megan. Also since yesterday, the possibility of meeting my friend Misty from Oklahoma. She emailed asking advice because her husband wants to come to New Zealand a shoot a deer. And as it turns out, Karl's dad used to be a hunting guide. I might even finish writing this damn novel, a process which has been much more disrupted this year than I'd expected.
So... I guess you could say, at least it hasn't been dull.