My Mom is dying by degrees. I think it will happen in the next day or two. Last night I suddenly felt weak and feverish, as if I had come down with the flu. I thought maybe she had passed, and my body was reacting in some mystical way. This morning I was fine and she was still alive. Alive, but worse, and not expected to survive the week.
I don't know what I'm doing. When I'm not checking on my Mom or talking to a nurse, my uncle, my father, I have almost no energy. I try to work but nothing much comes. So I try not to work.
One night this week, in the middle of everything, I had dinner with the executive editor of New Riders, the imprint that will publish my web design book. We had never met before. He asked, "How are you doing?" and I said, "My Mom is dying."
I open the book chapter I'm supposed to be working on, then close it again.
For three nights, a friend stayed with us while her apartment underwent repairs. It was nice to have her here. I hope we made her comfortable. Part of me was with her, but another part was far away, lost in worry and regret.
One afternoon I frittered away downloading music files and then deleting most of them. One night I stayed up 'til dawn re-reading one of the lesser-known James Ellroy novels. In the middle of enjoying it, I asked myself why I was reading about crime and violence while my mother is dying.
I'm supposed to speak in New York and Miami in a week's time. I go on the assumption that I will fulfill these obligations. Then a contract arrives, and I wonder what I am doing. I wonder if I will be in Miami, or in Pittsburgh, or in Canada, scattering my mother's ashes.
A friend from Istanbul will be visiting soon. Last week I invited him to stay with us. Today I uninvited him. I love him dearly, but I don't know whether I'll be in town when he arrives. Or whether I may be in town, sitting in the dark, not wanting to see anyone. I don't know.
My friend Jim, who just buried his father after a long and terrible illness, told me to give myself time to feel everything.
Every night I find personal letters in my inbox, from people whose parents or grandparents have died. Or people who've escaped that kind of grief in their own lives and simply want to send love. There is a divine grace in compassion and sharing. Even the briefest note seems to help. I feel the kindness of each person who writes.
Many of these letters come in the form of Guest Book entries, but I do not publish them. They are too personal.
I feel relieved at not having to update the Guest Book.
I see websites and articles that I would ordinarily talk about in the Daily Report. I store the URLs in a folder. But I don't write a word about them. Everything feels superfluous.
In the midst of all this, the Cool Site of the Day mailing list sent its readers to the Ad Graveyard. So I get letters from first-time visitors, thanking me for making them laugh. I thank them back, as if nothing else is happening. They don't need to know.
Once a night, I force myself to reply to some new, existing, or potential client whose message I've been ignoring because I don't know where I am or what I'm doing. I feel as if I'm playing some kind of cruel practical joke on these people. They write, seeking professional services. A few days pass. Then I write back and tell them my mother is dying. It feels wrong, and yet nothing would feel right.
I guess that's it. I guess that's all of it. For a while, nothing will feel right. Then everything will feel really bad. Then the family will make the gestures families make in times of grief. Then, slowly, life and work will fall back into place, still feeling strange and wrong until one day it feels okay. I'm just guessing. I haven't lived it yet.
I hope that Heaven, for my Mom, is like those Fred Astaire movies she saw as a little girl. Black and white and sweet and glamorous. My Mom was always big on facing reality, however harsh. I think after all these years she could use a break.
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