Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Words on Some Paper

Things I Want To Do Before I'm 30 (in no particular order)

  1. Go Skydiving
  2. Learn how to ride a motocycle
  3. Buy a VW Bus and road trip on Route 6 from P-town to Cali
  4. Learn Arabic
  5. Learn how to play the guitar
  6. Become certified as a Registered Dietician
  7. Go downhill skiing/learn how to snow board
  8. Train for and run a marathon
  9. Go to Australia for an extended visit with my cousin
  10. Be the Maid of Honor in my sister's wedding (get crackin', Ange)

Things I Want To Do Before I Die (in no particular order)

  1. Live on every continent for at least 6 months (excluding Antarctica)
  2. Buy/live on a boat and sail around the world
  3. Be a missionary
  4. Help someone reverse their cancer through diet and lifestyle change
  5. Write my Nonna's story
  6. Visit the places where Jesus walked in Israel
  7. Go Cage Diving off the coast of South Africa
  8. Restore a '69 Camaro z28
  9. Write something somewhere that will affect change
  10. Watch Mila grow into womanhood and be there for her every step of the way

Saturday, February 20, 2010

And I Have Become Comfortably Numb

I haven't been to Buffalo for a month and, much as I dread it, I have slipped into that numb state of mind where I just pretend that all of the dread and pain doesn't exist. I've actually become quite adept at avoiding any thought of death or cancer or....Nonna. The worst part is that in my search for solace from this raw, gaping wound, I have shut her out as well. When was the last time I called her just to make sure she ate a good breakfast, or to tell her that I love her?

I am a horrible person.

I am a selfish person.

Tomorrow I will call her and gauge her reaction when I hint of coming up for a visit. This time last week I should've been in Buffalo with my sister loving her and taking care of her. However, a combination of winter storms, illness, and other circumstances prevented that. Those other circumstances were simply that my Nonna didn't want us to come...doesn't want to be a burden on anyone now that she's starting to loose control of bodily functions and needs more and more care. Is it even possible to put into words how much I hate this? How much I want to tell her that it would be a joy and an honor to take care of her when she can't take care of herself? How I desire so badly to be her support now that, at the very end, her immense strength is finally leaving her?

When I spoke with my sister right after we found out that her flight was cancelled and the trip itself was cancelled, she mentioned how there are some animals who, when they know they are dying, will separate themselves from everyone and die alone. I pray that this is not what she is doing in the attempt to not be the burden she's so nervous of becoming.
Yet, despite the doom in my heart, her MRI results showed that the evil tumor in her pancreas has not grown. What does this mean? The cancer is not growing, but her strength continues to wane? Everything is so vague and so uncertain. Is it the chemoradiation that is destroying her body more than the cancer at this point? I don't know. I don't know how much longer she has on this earth. I don't know how I will deal with her passing, whenever it happens.

But, I do know that I will call her tomorrow. And I will tell her that I love her.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Dream

I woke up at 7:30 Monday morning to the sound of my phone vibrating. The caller ID said "Dad" and I knew exactly why he was calling me at that hour in the morning. I knew even more because of the dream from which I was awakened.

I did not know exactly why he was calling me. It turns out he was on his way to Boston and had "butt dialed" me, as they say. However, the sight of his name on my phone and the dream I just had was enough for me to stumble out of bed and curse, making it to the bathroom just in time to let my tears fall. I don't think I hid my crying well enough from the person I was trying to hide my crying from. I really hate being that raw and vulnerable in front of people. For some reason though, he had the right response when I climbed back into bed of not making me talk about it. I like that he doesn't pry for details and lets me contribute information on my own.

But, despite being able to find solace in a few more minutes of sleep and then a day filled with glorious distraction, I was not distracted enough from my dream. I thought about it while I was sorting through receipts and various pieces of paper with drawings and notes. I thought about it eating one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. I thought about it the entire 6 hour drive back to snowy Pittsburgh. I thought about it when I stopped in Johnstown to grocery shop because I knew all the stores in Pittsburgh were depleted from panicked people stocking up for the storm. Most of all, I thought about it last night when I was trying to fall asleep again, begging the heavens that I would have no more dreams.

Sometimes I hate that I have such vivid, prophetic dreams. Why is this the way God chooses to communicate with me? Why must I struggle with finding the meaning to these meaningful visions? But, I will not be going to to find the interpretation to this dream...I know all too well what it means:

I think that in some way, my soul left my body and I was actually at the ocean. The feel of the sand under my feet and the smell of the salt was so palpable. And there she was. Like she always used to be. That ridiculous old-lady bathing suit with the skirt, her bosom popping out of it and her thick Italian accent carrying down the beach. I could feel the lump in my throat. I could feel the tears stinging my eyes. I was in that strange dream-place where I was living completely in the moment of the dream and yet I could see reality so clearly. I knew that this image I have of her is just image. A memory. A phantom of the past and what will never be again in this world.
We were sitting in a circle; all our beach chairs facing each other like an old-fashioned circling of the wagons. My entire family protecting the sanctity of our unit. It was so beautiful. The sand so white, the blue of the water in stark contrast to its white-cap bedecked waves, the sky so bright that it was blinding to look at.
And then there was darkness.
And wind.
And terror.
And when the cloud passed she sat there. Small. Thin. Frail. Pale. This was no image. This was reality. This is Nonna now. Skeletal. The pinched expression of pain permanently sketched on her features. A few less teeth in her mouth. Less hair that has lost its curl on her head. And she was talking. Quoting almost in a robotic way all the things that were going wrong inside her body. All her systems which the cancer was shutting down and squeezing her life away. And as she continued to talk everything began to fade until all I was really aware of was this tremendous pressure on my chest.

And then my phone rang. And that's when I realized that I am still struck to the core with the terror of reality...with not knowing whether it's better to ignore it and become numb, pretending as if the inevitable is not so, or to face it head on and stay in this state of hopeless depression.

What is the worst part about yesterday morning is that I almost wished that I really did know why my dad was calling me at that hour. At least then I will not be haunted by the knowledge of how much pain she is in and how there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Perhaps then all this panic and lostness inside will disappear and I will be able to move through the actual grief and move on and away from it. Then I would stop dreading my phone ringing and the caller ID. Then I would stop wondering every time I drive away from Buffalo, "Is this the last time?"

I'm going up this weekend snow or no snow. Will it be the last time?

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Write, she told me..."

Writing, as always, has been my therapy. My escape. My way to figure out all of the unanswered questions I have in my life. I often think back to a moment in college when it seemed as if life would swallow me whole and she told me to write. She, my inspiration to continually write better, is perhaps one of my oldest friends who constantly amazes me with how her writing is always insightful and fresh.

I'm hoping to see her at the end of this month with my childhood best friend. We will have a "Grown & Sexy Reunion" where we will sit around in sweat pants and eat junk food and talk about how grown and sexy we've become. Her words. Did I mention she's a comedian?

However, this post is not about what a wonderful person she is, but rather, what wonderful people I have in my life. Period.

The last several weeks have been a lesson in grieving...which is strange because I haven't lost anyone yet–my Nonna's heart still beats, her hand is still warm for me to hold. But, just knowing that it will not always be like this—and probably on a day sooner than I would like—has left me exhausted, bitter, and confused. Enter the wonderfully caring, amazingly supportive people who surround me. The people who abstained from talking to me about their own trials because they knew I couldn't handle any more grief. The amazing women who always had the exact right thing to say without ever sounding trite. The incredible family who have held me up despite their own sorrow. The friends who have fantastic things happening in their lives and have helped me to look beyond myself and rejoice with them. All of these combined to get me over one of the most challenging times in my life.

And while I have entered into a place of acceptance and peace, it doesn't mean that the worst is over. It means that I have more good days than bad days now. It means that I don't feel guilty about finding joy in life anymore. But, I still have this restlessness in my soul, this feeling of needing to escape, of needing to fill my life with distractions. I want to get in my car and just start driving. I don't know what stage of grief this is called. But, I know I will get through this as well. I will continue to dig deep and find the strength that I don't think I have.

I will be more than a conqueror.