I was talking to a friend this weekend about how everything I’m writing is depressing and I can’t seem to write anything else. I sit down and type and it’s all sadness and despair and I wonder if I should just stop writing until I can write something, anything but this.
He said that there’s a way to make everything funny. Even when you’re feeling the worst you’ve felt in your entire life, you can make it funny.
I will give him that there may be humor in everything. It’s just that I don’t have the strength to find it. But surely there is indeed something funny about people who smile in victory when their mom decides to stop chemotherapy, because that means they’ve won and the pro-chemo siblings have lost. There’s humor in their cluelnessness at the truth that no one has won and everyone is losing: their mother, their family, anything that might help them get through this together.
It is fundamentally hilarious that the person in charge of medical care — making appointments and dispensing medicine and making decisions — believes that medicine should be avoided in favor of believing that God heals all. And that you prove your faith by not taking full advantage of modern medical technology. I can almost laugh at the impossible task of getting the facts about what’s happening when the only person who gets briefings from the doctor is a person who believes that faith is in words and saying out loud that her mother has cancer and only has a few months to live is doubt. So you should only speak what you want to happen, not what actually is.
I was sitting outside of my grandparents’ house today. The only home I have known my entire life, the solid rock of my existence. I was talking to my sister and my uncle. My sister who my mom is no longer speaking to because she asked what pain medication my grandma was on. My uncle who just flew in yesterday from South America and is only now starting to realize the hilarity of an entire family focused on the petty fights of who gets to review the finances and completely ignoring the very real fact that their mother will be dead within months.
“So your mom controls what medicine she’s on and when she sees the doctor? And no one else even knows the doctor’s number?” My uncle was trying to sort through the crazy mess that my sister and I had given up on.
“Yeah”, my sister replied. “And her ideal treatment plan is prayer and vitamins.”
We all agreed that we were all for prayer and vitamins. We just wouldn’t have gone that extra step and canceled the appointments with the oncologist.
“My mom will be mad I bought those energy bars for them.” I decided to just lay it all out and let my uncle know how things really were. “She takes it personally, like I’m saying it’s her fault they’re not eating.”
“She hasn’t talked to me in a week,” my sister added.
And then, of course, she’s one of the most disorganized people you’ll ever meet, so that she’s the only one planning the care that might prolong or shorten her mother’s life is a little, well, you could call it funny too I guess.
I mentioned this to my uncle. I was still trying to be tactful. He is her brother, after all. I just know her so well. Being organized is not a strength.
“Yeah, I know her well too. When we were kids, her nickname was scatterbrain.”
I offered to get in home care to augment my mom’s hostile, passive-aggressive, uneven attention. But my grandparents fear a stranger coming in. They don’t want someone they don’t know going through their stuff. And even more than that, they fear that if someone else is around to take care of them, the family will breathe a collective sigh of relief and disappear. And what they fear more than dying is being alone. If they have to be sick and old and nearing the end of their lives, they at least want to have their family around them.
Which might also be funny if you consider that this family they want around is spending all of their time fighting about who’s been charged with getting the mail and who’s won the anti-chemo fight that only brings death that much sooner to their mom. Their mom who they seemingly have forgotten completely about. When, after all, is there time to actually just stop and spend time with her when you’re so busy arguing about which of you gets power of attorney?
All I can do is sit at the kitchen table with them while they listen to the Angel’s baseball game on the radio. Sit at the patio table and smoke a cigarette with them and watch the sky. But I can’t be funny.