Tag: Saoirse

Some Little Lessons I’ve Learned from Pandemic Thanksgiving + Start of Covid Christmastime

Some Little Lessons I’ve Learned from Pandemic Thanksgiving + Start of Covid Christmastime

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over this Pandemic Thanksgiving + start of Covid Christmastime:   On the Wednesday before your it’s-just-us-this-year Thanksgiving, it’s really nice to cook the big meal with your kids while also not stressing about cleaning the house for company. 

10 Sorta Happy Things in this Summer of 2020

10 Sorta Happy Things in this Summer of 2020

You guys, my kids are climbing the walls. They’re threatening to dig a hole in the backyard and fill it with tap water from the hose and call it a pool. They’re saying it’s too hot to play outside when it’s only 78 degrees. They’re 

Cookies and Creativity and the Quarantine Slump

Cookies and Creativity and the Quarantine Slump

Okay, at this point of quarantine, you’re in one of two camps:

#1: You are a person who’s settled into this “new normal,” and are content and calm. You’ve weeded the flower beds, laid down fresh mulch, and are considering a fresh coat of paint inside your house. You’ve set yourself and your family on a flexible-but-calming schedule, and have a routine for sharing the laptops for work and school. You’re the parent who organizes the Zoom playdates for your kids.


#2: You’re the person who’s finally realized that this could go on forever and the kids eat all the food and the carpets are so dirty and who can freshen up their landscapes when they’re too worried about catching coronavirus if they leave the house for the garden center and you miss restaurant margaritas and your friends and you really should be decluttering the closets/finishing the book/organizing the family finances/making sourdough starter but you can’t, you just can’t, because you are tired of it all. You are a desperate for a routine but also for someone to tell you how to make one. You are the parent who checks in late to the Zoom meetings.

It’s real, friends. It’s real now that we’re in Spring in the northeast and about to face a summer of steaming days and no pools and the kids inside because outside is too hot and there’s nothing to doooooo and how come we can’t get a pool?

It’s real, friends. Mom is declining rather rapidly now and sitting with her is strange and sad because it’s not the same (she’s not the same, nothing’s the same). When we left her house the other day, Cian said, “I miss Grammy.” He looked back at the house. “I mean, she’s there. But I miss her. I don’t know.”

It’s real, friends. I hate hearing people chew and somebody got sparkly nail polish on the couch and I haven’t kept any of my first grader’s completed papers organized. I have to-do lists that I lose so I make new to-do lists but then I shut down upon viewing the to-do lists and sit down to eat cookies instead. No one’s allowed to have bubble gum in the house because if anybody smacks their lips together so help me I will lose it. I stay up too late at night because it’s the only time of the day I don’t have to hear my beautiful family members asking for–or, Lord help me, eating–snacks or help with Google Classroom or can you please help us paint our nails again, Mom, because somehow the glittery polish smudged on this finger and I’m not sure where it went? I love these people so very much, and this gift of time with them is the absolute best but sometimes I wonder how I became the captain of a ship stuck out in the middle of an ocean when I don’t know my stern from my aft.

It’s real, friends. Netflix has replaced exercise, wine has replaced water, and frozen pizza has replaced fresh salad and grilled chicken.

We are in a quarantine slump.

BUT. My mom still calls me “Sweetie.” The kids are making plays and writing “books” and reading books before getting out of bed in the morning. My mom still craves her morning coffee and lights up at the first sip. The kids are walking the dog and doing the dishes and their laundry. My mom still asks me about the children and tells me she loves them. The kids are learning how to cook and bake and mop floors…and they actually like it.

It’s real, friends. And if you’re in Camp #1, I respect you and admire you but don’t think I can be friends with you anymore. (I doubt the #1s are watching Schitt’s Creek at night with a stack of Oreos on their laps?) I’m still firmly in Camp #2, as you guessed about 500 words ago.

BUT. I began writing again, like somebody flipped on a beautiful dusty switch in my brain. I’m almost fifty pages into the rough draft of a new novel. After a solid year and a half of apoplectic overwhelm, I’ve begun to be able to start sifting through the thoughts bouncing around this nervous head of mine and put them to use. David’s work is very busy, for which I am very grateful. But we aren’t redoing the landscaping or painting the house or making sourdough starter at the moment. We aren’t hiking or knitting sherpas or Instagramming homemade masks, but we are walking nature trails and making Nutella crepes and dancing in the car on the half-hour drive to my mom’s. As comfortable members of Camp #2, family is the priority, the work is the outlet, and my mom is the hinge on which our schedule and attention rests.

And now you know the only way I’m showing up for any Zoom get-together is if somebody else schedules it first.

I’ll bring the cookies.


Rest in the Time of Coronavirus (and, um, Brain Cancer)

Rest in the Time of Coronavirus (and, um, Brain Cancer)

I was talking with my brother, Paul, sister-in-law Sarah, and David this week, when Sarah and I got to chatting about writing. She’s diligent, writing 500 words every morning at her computer before starting her work day, and it impresses me. (She also walks miles 

Mom’s Decline, and A Little Psychological Sewing

Mom’s Decline, and A Little Psychological Sewing

I thought maybe I should spare you an update this week, because I’m in a crappy, crappy mood (a friend asked Sunday how Mom was doing, and do you know what I said? “Oh, she’s totally dying.” The poor guy looked like I’d slapped him 

Mom’s Decline: Where We Are

Mom’s Decline: Where We Are

I was on the phone with my mom the other day, laughing about my parenting skills while David was away for work.

“I’m really good, Mom,” I told her, “really patient and calm, right up until about six o’clock.”

She laughed, because she remembers.

“But after six?” I continued. “Nope, I’m done. That’s when the shutters get closed on my brain and the patience goes out the window.”

My mom was listening to me. Sometimes she pays only half a bit of attention to me, especially when the TV is on in front of her (sixteen months into brain cancer, and she can still tell me everything going on in the news), or her caregiver is in the room, or when she’s simply tired or extra-weak that day. But that afternoon, she was listening, and talking, and it almost felt like old times.

“Well,” Mom said. “It takes a lot of patience to have patience!”

When I started to write this update last week, my post was a bit different than it is today. I was going to tell you what I tell everyone who asks: she’s hanging in there. (One acquaintance looked at me straight on after I told her this last month and went, “So, it sucks.” I almost cried. Because yes, yes. It sucks.)

What “hanging in there” meant is that, according to her December scans, her cancer had come back and was slowly spreading, but it wasn’t necessarily bad news, because she was physically holding steady and doing fine, and yay, isn’t that good news? Mom, her neuro-oncologist said, just needs to exercise more. That would help her. He told me afterward, in private, that her decline will be a gradual process–we won’t walk into his office one day after a scan and find that the cancer is everywhere.

It’ll just feel that way, I suppose.

Mom’s Christmas was so much better than last year’s, when she was at the very end of her six-week daily radiation/weekly chemo treatment and felt absolutely exhausted. Last year, all she did was lie on my couch and stare at the TV most of the day. We tiptoed around her, thinking it was the last time we’d have her at Christmas. This year, she sat in the very same spot, and needed a wheelchair to get from the front door to the living room, but she drank mimosas and giggled at the TV and ate (a little bit, mind you, and mostly cookies), and–most importantly–she was able to hang out and talk and laugh. It felt special. And she had a strong couple of weeks with us: we travelled with her to Maryland to see her siblings and their families, she went to dinner and Christmas Eve mass with us and my brother and sister-in-law, we took her and the kids to the movies (Frozen 2, because she had “no desire” to see Star Wars, and after Frozen said that maybe Little Women might be more her speed), and we took her out to lunch to help Cian celebrate his seventh (seventh!) birthday. She drank a margarita and ate most of an enchilada, and was more present for the day than she’d been in a long time. She did well, considering. It was wonderful. I found myself logging every moment in my little brain filing cabinet, because, well. Things have shifted.

David, the kids, and I snuck away (it feels like snuck away, anyway, because we haven’t done this sort of thing since Mom got sick) after the New Year because Santa dropped off some tickets for us to see the Notre Dame women’s basketball team play at Pitt (Santa just knows his audience, doesn’t he?). Tickets were five bucks a pop and David had points for a free hotel room, so off we went to Pittsburgh for the night. We had dinner at Southern Tier Brewing down by the stadiums, and ran into friends at the game. Notre Dame beat Pitt, and the kids got to meet the players afterward and get their autographs, and I do believe that’s the first time I’ve ever seen my girls starstruck.

(“MOM.” At one point Saoirse was staring at Mikayla Vaughn, who was dribbling down the court. Saoirse leaned over to me. “I want to be THAT tall when I grow up.”

Friends? Mikayla is six foot three.)

The kids were over the moon that we stayed in a Marriott (“A HOTEL! It has a BREAKFAST!”), and the next day we were at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History by 10 a.m. to ogle dinosaur bones and the sparkly mineral/gem collection. By lunchtime, we were all famished, I suggested noodles, and a quick Google search led us to the best meal we’ve had in ages at a Tiawenese restaurant in Squirrel Hill. It was an incredible 36 hours. It was special. It was us. And then it was over.

After Christmas, Mom started to have more difficulty waking in the morning, sleeping till about eleven o’clock or so, and she would head up to bed around nine or nine-thirty at night. That has progressed, and now she sleeps until twelve-thirty or even two p.m., and even then has to force herself to start the day. Last night she started up to bed at eight. Her body is so weak that she can’t walk a yard (with a walker and her caregiver) without sitting down. It takes her about an hour and a half to get from her bed to her chair in the living room each day. Her appetite, which was always small, has dwindled further: a protein shake, some Cream of Wheat for breakfast (er, lunch), maybe peanut butter on a slice of bread for dinner, and if we’re lucky, a lemon cupcake my Aunt Mary brings her. Sometimes, she’ll eat more (she had a bacon and scrambled eggs and toast the other night for dinner and it was the best news I’d gotten in weeks), other days less. We still try to bring her meals–chicken noodle soup, a homemade waffle–but they go uneaten.

Mom gets confused and more fatigued as the day goes on. She forgets things: how many children I have. Quinlan’s name. She asked me if her nephew, who’s married with three children, lives alone. I took the girls to see her yesterday, and they were quiet when we left. They told me that they used to be able to talk with Grammy like they talk to me, and now, she doesn’t speak to them at all.

It’s so strange. And frankly, it’s lonely. I’m sad a lot, and grumpy, and a little lost. From what Mom has told me, it’s kind of how she’s feeling, too.

I broke down to David on Saturday. Mom’s caregivers had called to let me know that her legs kept giving out from underneath her. It was snowing and sleeting outside, but all I wanted was to go down to her house and see her myself. He asked me what I had expected to happen as time went on, and I told him: not this. I never expected her body to give out before her brain. I say this full well knowing that her brain is what controls her body, and that I should not actually be surprised, but I don’t know. I think I expected her to go crazy, or go blank, or something else equally horrible first. To watch her be cognizant and aware of her body shutting down breaks my heart. And I can’t put her back together.

Mom has a new scan scheduled for tomorrow, followed by an appointment with her neuro-oncology team. I’ve spoken with them a couple times leading into this. It could be–what we’re all anticipating–the tumor causing this decline. It could also be her body just too full of medications and chemo toxins to deal. It could be lack of nutrition and exercise. It could be depression. This could just be the new normal, but one we’ll be able to ride out for a good length of time. Or it could be, well, a sign of what we fear.

I have never actually wished for someone to have depression before this moment.

When David asked me what I expected, I think he was looking for pragmatism, but my answer is–and has been– purely emotional. To be honest, I didn’t expect to still have Mom with us at this point, so now that I have it, and now that I’ve gotten used to being happily surprised at each appointment, I want to keep that going. She’s been so weak for so long I think it’s her sheer determination and stubbornness that have kept her body working as it does. But she, too, is dreading this appointment tomorrow. She doesn’t want to know what it might tell her.

I’ve been losing my mom for almost a year and a half now, but I still want to hold on to what I have left with her. It’s been almost a year and a half of grieving, but I don’t welcome the grieving yet to come. I’m not ready to be a person without her parents (I’m already down one, you know).

I’m certainly not ready to not have my mom.

The road ahead of my mom–of me–is one I dread walking. But then I recognize that we’re already on it (which is probably why I’m so tired?). What do I expect? A lot of bad things, quite honestly. A crap-ton of sadness. An overwhelming wave of new responsibility when I’m already struggling to manage the one I’m already on. I can’t tell you there’s a whole lot to look forward to. It’s a lonely feeling.

But that’s where we are now. Tomorrow we’ll hope that Mom can get up and out of the house, that the appointments will give us some answers, and that we’ll have, maybe, a better idea of how much road we have still ahead of us.

I’ll keep you posted.

We’ve Turned the Page on the Calendar, and You Should See the Bruise

We’ve Turned the Page on the Calendar, and You Should See the Bruise

Let me tell you a little bit about how 2019 and the entrance to 2020 have gone. We had a snow storm in our area last week, primarily because David was away for work, and when David goes away for work, the skies decide it’s 

Almost a Year After Mom’s Diagnosis, We Find Ourselves Back at the Beginning

Almost a Year After Mom’s Diagnosis, We Find Ourselves Back at the Beginning

Hi, everybody. Are you good? Did you have a nice summer? Or have you forgotten summer now that most schools are in session so you’re busy pulling out the sweaters and warm boots because YAY I DON’T HAVE TO SUNSCREEN THE CHILDREN ALL THE TIME