moment of reckoning

Well, writing this post will certainly be a daunting task. Exactly 200 days have passed since my last writing, and many things have occurred since 27 June 2011, but my return was prompted not by my extended absence, but by fresh events. Perhaps this post will be spread over a series. Or maybe I’ll step foot into my stream of consciousness and let it rip (I’m hoping this red wine will help get my feet wet).

One month ago I completed my final course and received my Associate’s degree in nursing. I’m happy with my achievement but not satisfied. I hope to get my Bachelor’s degree within five years and my Master’s in ten. Throughout my education journey I’ve encountered a series of obstacles, and with every hurdle came doubt and the fear of failure, yet I cleared all of them. Now, as I wait for my authorization to take the national nursing exam, a new set of doubts has me backpedaling. I feel rather confident in my abilities to pass the exam, but finding a good, educational first job will be difficult. When I began classes three years ago, the economy was beginning to turn south and joblessness was creeping upward. Today, things are much worse, which is quite a statement because the growing panic three years ago was broad and widespread. The fact that it has worsened is ominous indeed. The realities being what they are, hospitals across the country have implemented hiring freezes, and the facilities that are hiring are seeking experienced nurses. Adding to the glut are nurses, who, five years ago would have sought retirement, are still working due to the uncertain financial future they and their families face. The “nursing shortage” widely reported in the media is largely a myth.

But I should stop myself. Two months before graduating my girlfriend of nearly three years decides to end our relationship. Don’t get me wrong: the end of us was almost certainly inevitable; however, the breakup came out of nowhere with no clear, defining moment of reckoning. Initially, I thought the break up would be clean, but about two weeks later I attempt to make small-talk (at this point, I’d come to terms with the break up) and she states matter-of-factly, “Look, I don’t see the need to have a conversation with you every day.” Probably not coincidently, one week later she travels four hours to Chicago to meet a match.com guy. Since that outburst we’ve spoken twice, maybe three times. Oh, and we’re still living together. I guess she’s not one of those make-the-best-out-of-a-bad-situation people.

Now I want to write about the events that pushed me back into this space.  At this point, these troubling events have morphed into one cloud of cancer, a fog that will awaken me during the early morning hours and keep me awake with thoughts of death, a widowed mother, an abandoned nephew and countless questions. Two weeks ago my step-father was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer, and because he is just 62, the cancer is considered aggressive. All concerned were hoping for a quick prostatectomy and hope for the future; however, before surgery could occur, his complaints of chest pain and shortness of breath had to be investigated. My step-father is one of those stubborn, old school, men-don’t-cry types. Apparently he told my mother his chest pain had been an issue since last summer – there’s a thin line between stubbornness and stupidity. Today he discovers there is indeed something wrong with his heart, and Monday he will learn if stints or cardiac bypass surgery will alleviate his issue. Regardless of the treatment, a prostatectomy – the best response to prostate cancer – is now out of the question (his heart issues will be treated with blood thinners for at least the following year, thereby ruling out a surgical intervention for his cancer), leaving radiation as his only available option.

My mother, who’s been married to my step-father for nearly twenty years, is, of course, struggling to cope with all this. Mother has never been one to adequately manage turmoil; anxiety and a seemingly endless need to worry about something have always troubled her (I unfortunately share those two traits). She herself has been debilitated by diabetes, a compromised liver and an as yet to be identified autoimmune disease. Oh, and she’s practically raising her grandson (my five-year-old nephew) because her daughter is still living in a halfway house on the other side of the state. I hesitate to refer to her as my sister because I’ve done everything possible to distance myself from her and her poisonous affairs. Yes, my “sister” since being released from prison for the second time (both sentences were drug related – she’s an addict through and through and apparently void of genuine remorse) has been living in a halfway house for several months. And she’s there because upon being released she had nowhere to go – my mother and father both refused to give her shelter. Sister has struggled with addiction for… I don’t even know when it all began… at least six years. It’s probably closer to eight.

When a loved one is stolen from you and taken away in the arms of addiction you experience the classic signs of grief. There is anger. There is denial. And bargaining. And depression. And, eventually, acceptance. But unlike a death, the focus of your grief is on a person who still inhabits a living space. She still exists despite the fact you have accepted and processed her passing. But, in light of recent events, I now realize I haven’t accepted her passing because her inability to assume her responsibilities and care for her son – as a thirty-year-old mother should – is adding to my mother’s stress. On more than one occasion mother has confided in me a desire for suicide. Do you know what it’s like to hear the woman who delivered you into this world express a desire to voluntarily leave it? And do you know what it’s like to share (but not divulge) those same feelings, that same inclination to leave behind the blue skies and distant laughter?

The other night I awoke from sleep, and as soon as my eyes opened thoughts began speeding. Among them: if mother would commit suicide, my succeeding suicide would bring the tragic end of our family full circle – a grotesque yet appropriate conclusion.

The perception of logic becomes perversely distorted when your family – the organic unit you are born in to and, for a time, the only familial unit you know – is dissolved through divorce and disintegrated by addiction.

I had anticipated writing more, but the wine is gone and my eyes are heavy.

t/c/m

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~ by the coordinates of memories on 13 January 2012.

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