If Hell is a hot place, then sign me up. The past couple of weeks have been miserable on so many levels. Hell, right here on Earth. Underlying all of it has been COLD. I haven’t been able to warm up. I have been taking hot baths and drinking tons of coffee. I’ve made pot after pot of hot, nourishing soup. I dress in layers and huddle under blankets when I am home. Nothing I do seems to warm me up completely.
Mom is still hanging in there. She is failing, but it is a slow process. We have begun hospice care, and she seems to love the extra attention. She isn’t in any pain. Something hovers around the corners of the room, though, and it chills me. She is often confused, and she has lost her hearing. Visits are brief and quiet. I spend more time talking on the phone talking to the legion of healthcare providers than I do to my mother at this point. Of course, life does not stop while we wait for death. Four kids, work, my own physical needs, all of these things keep inserting themselves into the mix.
Last weekend T and I took Luke and his girlfriend back to school in Milwaukee. I couldn’t/wouldn’t commit to going along until practically the last moment. Mom was stable, and T insisted that I come along. Luke wanted to show us the house where he would be moving at the end of the semester. He had been looking forward to the four of us hanging out together on his turf. It meant a lot to our son. I knew that, so I went along.
I had been doing a pretty good job of concealing (denying!) the fact that I was sick. I had too many things that needed my attention. My mom was dying, for God sakes! What did I have to complain about? I pushed through it and collapsed at the end of each day. The trip to Milwaukee took things over the top.
It was bitterly cold when we left that morning. I got chilled and couldn’t seem to shake it. (uh….a fever tends to do that!) We moved the kids back into their dorms, T and I checked into our hotel, and we all headed out for dinner. By the time we finally settled back into our room, I was shaking with cold. I took a hot bath, but I still shivered. By the time I crawled into the bed, T was concerned. He wrapped me in his arms and held me close to warm me up. Eventually, I stopped shivering, but my sleep was fitful.
The next morning, hours from home, I was still freezing. I tried to ignore it. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and make the drive back home and to the hospital to check on my mom. I jumped into the shower, and I don’t really know what happened. Suddenly T was there. I had passed out. My first thoughts were disappointment in myself. How could I be sick? I had too many things to do! I had too many people depending on me. I couldn’t be sick now. Not now.
I saw the doctor on Sunday when we returned. Of course I didn’t listen to his advice. Take it easy? Uh huh. No. My mother was dying. I couldn’t take it easy right now. I was planning a meeting later in the week in Chicago, an important meeting. Very. “Taking it easy” was not possible at this time. Thanks anyway.
I visited my mom, unpacked, did laundry, ironed, and went to work on Monday. By Tuesday, I wasn’t even able to get out of bed. I tried. Believe me, I tried. At 6:30 a.m., I dragged myself into the bathroom to get ready for work. I sat in the chair by the counter and laid my head down for a moment. I thought it would be a moment, but I fell asleep in the bathroom before I was even able to begin getting ready for work. That was it. I was toast. I had to admit it. I was sick. I spent the day sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping some more.
I was back at work the next day. By now, everyone was looking at me like I scared them. I must look like hell! “Why are you here? Go home!” I couldn’t. I had meetings all day in preparation for the trip to Chicago on Thursday. I had to meet with the hospice staff in my mom’s room later that afternoon. I had too many things going on and too many people depending on me to go home and be sick. I pushed through. I kept going.
On Thursday, I huddled in my seat on the train to Chicago. I froze the entire time, wearing my layers of clothes, wrapped in my scarf and coat. At the hotel, I begged for some coffee from the front desk. A kind woman brought coffee and cream to my room. I sat on the heating unit, looked out the window, and drank my coffee while I warmed my feet. I looked down at the people below. Everyone was scurrying to get where they were going. The wind was biting and bitter. I could feel it sweeping into the cracks around the window far above the people I was watching. I had hoped to see my son while I was in Chicago, but he had been given tickets to a concert. I told him to go. I insisted on it, and then I sat in my room crying because I was so cold…and now alone, too. I had come to the city hours earlier than the others so I could see Andrew. Now I had four hours to sit there freezing and alone until I met them for dinner. Once again, I hated Chicago. The city felt impersonal and uncaring. I was just a speck, a cold, lonely speck. Pathetic. I really, really hate feeling sorry for myself, but I was doing a stellar job of it!
The dinner was work. Schmoozing is work. I had to be ON. We all had to be ON. It was OK, though. The whole dance of egos was interesting to observe. I soaked it all in. The parrying and the posturing amused me. Several people attending the dinner had obviously spent a good deal of time in the bar before they arrived, so things were interesting from the word go. Once again, I was glad that this is my job, but not my LIFE. While some people live and breathe this kind of thing, I have my secret. In my heart, I am a country girl. At the end of all of this, I will be smack dab in the middle of a cornfield, safe and sound, with my ego checked at the door. The reality of my life, mom, wife, daughter, hillbilly at heart, keeps me grounded. I was amused as I watched the dance of self-importance at the table.
I was up at 5:30 this morning to get ready for the meeting. I was excited and the adrenaline was flowing. This was it! This was an important step in a development project that I have been a part of for several years. The results of this project will have a significant and lasting impact on the entire region. I was/am thrilled to be able to be a part of this process. The Willis Tower (forever the Sears Tower to me) is where we held the meeting. As I stood in the lobby, I remembered a time years ago, when Luke was 3 years old. He had broken his leg months earlier, and the treat that kept him going was knowing that once his cast was off, we would take him to the Sears Tower. That day, years ago, had been a victory for him. Now, years later, I was humbled once again. As I stood in the lobby, mentally preparing to make my presentation, I took a deep breath. The Sears Tower! I was giving a presentation in the SEARS TOWER today! Well, look at this little country girl! I squeezed my eyes shut and soaked in the thrill of that moment. People strode purposefully past me. Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go. Everyone seemed confident. I was a part of that! REALLY?? Me??? Yet again, I felt amazed by the journey of my life. The meeting was amazing. All of the planning and hard work paid off. More meetings are set for next week, and our project is not only on track, but it is gaining momentum. I am so very proud (and lucky) to be able to play a small part in this project.
Several hours later when we stepped outside, the snow had begun. It was beautiful, yet daunting. This was not going to make the trip home an easy one. I had train tickets for late in the afternoon. By the time my train arrived, it would be dark, and I had an hour’s drive to make it back home. I cancelled my train reservations, and accepted a ride home with a co-worker who had driven to the city. Once we got on the road, I wondered if I had made a mistake. It was a white-knuckled four hour drive in the snow. We saw one accident after another and had a few near-misses ourselves. All the while, I was freezing.
I’m home now. It’s pitch dark outside. No city lights here. The wind howling up from the fields is the only sound I hear. I’ve been snuggled under a blanket ever since I got home. I took a much-needed nap, and I am finally beginning to warm up. There are many things I should be doing tonight, but none of them will get done. Tonight I am taking care of more important things with a dose of Great-Grandma’s blanket and a warm, cozy house in the country.