The year is 1986 and I am taking a hot bath. The water is steaming and the room
is full of opaque clouds. I am hopeful that the hot water will give me some relief from my sadness but there is no relief to be found here or anywhere else. I have just left my father in the ICU in Guadalajara. He is holding onto his life by a thread as thin as spider’s silk. At that time I lived in one of those houses on Santa Fe Avenue with the feel of Victorian architecture. I had painted the bathroom white and bright yellow to make it feel a little more modern. I liked my bathroom but not even those bright colors could cheer me up.
As I sit in the tub and think about my Dad, my tears disappear into the bubbles. The house is very quiet. I could practically hear my tears as they rushed down my face. The phone rang the harsh, clattering, school-bell ring of old phones. I heard my then husband answer it and say only, “Okay, I will let her know.” I knew what he was going to tell me. I knew that my Father had passed away. I could feel it in my heart. I submerged myself in the scalding water hoping that when I came back up, it would not be true.
ut it was true.
Now my Mother’s life is holding onto that thin spider’s silk of hope. Like her, it is thin but strong. All of us, her 7 kids, are holding onto her life just like she is. But it is not easy. Each of us has a unique, strong, loving opinion about how to best manage her health. We all mean well but sometimes we end up making things more complicated than they need to be. We all have her best interest in mind.
Have you ever heard that there are three truths in life? They are ‘My truth, their truth, and the real truth’. When it comes to making difficult decisions, we should always remind ourselves about the “three truths”. She is trapped within a body that has betrayed her and she can’t meaningfully engage with the world. Each of us sees her still with those beautiful, glimmering, blue eyes, isolated from time. Weeks and months pass while she in her own world. Also, as the old cliche says, “The lights are on, but nobody is home.”
I think all 7 of us need therapy. No, as a matter of fact, the whole family does. Nieces, nephews, husbands and even maids. We all need therapy to cope with this. It is having such an effect on all of us.
There is a saying that says “A mother can take care of a hundred kids, but a hundred kids cannot take care of one mother.” But, we are doing our best! In my family, we try (and fail) to make this saying as false as possible. But it can’t be done. I have talked to many people from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries, and it seems to be a universal struggle of parents on the edge of death. Some children are resentful because they think they do everything, or because they think they deserve more credit. And some are so disengaged that it makes the others resentful. But the bottom line is, that just like me and my siblings, and other children of other families, we are all moved by the love we have for our parents.
I am not going to be any different from my parents. So - I have been thinking of giving my kids and grandchildren this request when I get to that point of life.
1. If I am going to need to use a walker, please paint it citrus green, add some lights and some cool tires.
2. If I am going to need a wheelchair, I want to wear the highest heel shoes we have at Goler. (I am sitting down for God’s sake. I am not walking.)
3. If I have prescription meds, give it to me with a shot of tequila or a latte.
4. Let me have my shoe collection where I can see it.
5. If I will not be able to drive, I want a convertible that my grandkids can drive me around in. Or even better, a boyfriend.
6. For now, lastly, my living room should turn into a place where all my friends can also take oxygen in the most delightful atmosphere that they can and will actually look forward to.
Please share your future requests with me as well at Guadalupej4k@gmail.com.