So much has happened since my last post, I almost don’t know where to start. So I guess I go chronologically.
Sunday was our long drive home from Hershey, PA. In spite of taking numerous breaks to stretch, I spent most of the day with my eyes closed, trying to convince the headache that was trying to take hold to go somewhere else. Mostly unsuccessfully, I might add. It certainly felt good to get home, where I have more options to fight fibromyalgia than I do riding in the car.
To appreciate the rest of this post, you need to know something about me – since my earliest days, I have been what some would call a “goody-two-shoes.” Whether by the Grace of God or some other unknown events, I have never willingly hurt anyone. I have always tried to help others and love to surprise people with things that make their life better in some way. I didn’t even use the word “damn” until I went to college. There are still some words I refuse to use. I don’t lie or cheat or steal. I would never try to hurt anyone. With that in mind . . .
Monday morning I got a call from my step-dad. How was my trip? Did I take anything from the house when I looked after it while they were away? He was looking for something specific. I said no. It was a little white lie. I had taken the item home to clean it (my mother wasn’t able to clean very well for months and with the wood stove they use, everything was sooty) and planned to return it all spiffed up as a surprise. I told him I must have misplaced it when I was looking through the drawers of photographs and would look for it when we came over to talk about cleaning out the house.
No more than 10 minutes after we hung up, my sister called from her work number. How was my trip? Good. Do I know where the item is? Because she doesn’t believe that I misplaced it. (That is, my sister is calling me a liar without using those specific words!). I played dumb with her – who the heck was she to make accusations. What were our Easter plans? We need to visit my husband’s parents sometime during the day. Good, she said, because the way she and my step-dad felt, it might be a very tense meal otherwise.
As anyone with fibromyalgia knows, stress is one of the worse things for us and right now I was swimming in stress hormones. I was feeling hurt and angry and who knows what else. I was having trouble thinking clearly at all because of the stress and rush of adrenaline. The rest of Monday was a blur of fibro fog. I couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything.
My mother had finally been understanding fibromyalgia a little better in the past few years. My step-dad and my sister and her husband – not so much! So they had no real understanding of what their accusations would do to me. Not that they could have stopped that runaway train after it left the station!
By Monday night, I had all the aches and pains a woman could hope for, along with a growing headache. Since I had an appointment the next morning with the surgeon who will be monitoring me after the bariatric surgery, I was hesitant to take too much medication. I needed a clear head for that appointment.
My sister couldn’t leave well enough alone, though. She called again later in the evening. I let my husband talk to her. My head hurt too much already. I was glad I did let him have the pleasure of chatting with her. She basically called me a liar again. My husband is very protective of me and also very controlled in situations like that. If she had spoken to me at that point, my anger would have boiled over for sure. I know I’d have said things I’d later regret, even if they were true. I believe there are times when the truth doesn’t need to be spoken – like when you do it to strike back at someone who is hurting you.
The high pain levels didn’t make for a good night’s sleep. Tuesday morning, I went to the surgeon’s appointment. Still had the headache, though the pain level overall had dropped from 9 out of 10 to perhaps 6. The appointment went well and I’m on target for surgery in June, barring unforeseen issues.
By the time we got home, the pain level was back up to a 9 and I knew the only way I would get this flare-up under some control was to take full doses of my medication and go back to bed. I got everything ready for dinner, left my son instructions on when to put things in the oven, took the meds and hit the sheets. My son may have Asperger’s, but he’s seen the toll fibromyalgia can take on me and is willing to do whatever he can to help me.
On his lunch hour, my husband took the newly cleaned missing item and went to my step-dad’s. He explained what his wife had wanted to do. In the conversation that ensued, my step-dad proceeded to say he still thought the explanation was false – but we’ll just forget about it and move on. He said he didn’t think I cared about my mom and cared more about the things. (That would be funny if it weren’t so insulting. I was the only one who hadn’t been looking at things in the days after my mom’s death. My sister, who can do no wrong apparently, was looking through everything with my daughter.) He said that, because I didn’t cry like my sister and he did at the hospital and wake and funeral, I obviously didn’t love my mother or care about her.
I slept through this conversation, gratefully. Otherwise I might have never gotten the pain to ease up. Okay, it didn’t happen at my house where I was sleeping. My husband told me about it later, when he got home from work. I slept – fitfully but in blissful ignorance – for about 3 hours. I think I have the cat to thank for that. He has a way of knowing when I’m not feeling well, and he slept the 3 hours curled up next to me.
When I did hear what had transpired, I felt several conflicting emotions: pure rage at being judged by my outward appearance – failure to make a big scene about my grief; deja vu – they said the same things after other family members died, too – you think they’d learn that I’m not them and don’t react in the same ways they do; wonderful relief – now I don’t have to play nice at the holidays. I can go to my in-law’s house and not feel guilty.
Since I was young, I have often felt like I didn’t belong in my family. I don’t mean that I thought I was adopted. Far from it. I was close to my dad. I looked like him. I had interests like him. I felt close to his side of the family. Don’t know why – and never figured it needed to be dissected. But in the years after my dad died (which happened when I was 12), I never felt like I quite belonged.
My mother valued family. That’s a good thing. She believed in celebrating life’s milestones – that’s a good thing, to a point. But she could never get enough. It wasn’t enough to go visit for a couple of hours. You had to arrive early and not leave til it was bedtime. My fibromyalgia makes that difficult. Always has. In the early years, I tried to humor her and ended up paying a big pain price. So over the years I’ve learned how to “just say no.” To know my own limits. Toward the end of her life, she was beginning to understand that. I guess the rest of the family is still unenlightened.
I can now celebrate holidays in a way that makes them a real celebration for me. I don’t have to be the sheep following the flock because that’s what you’re supposed to do. That is liberating.
In the meantime, I believe that my mother is in a better place than any of us can imagine. She understands why I said or did things when she was here physically. I believe she is still here with us in spirit. I don’t feel loss the way my sister, who says she believes when she goes to Mass every week, feels loss. I certainly don’t feel loss the way my step-dad, who believes that God has always let him down, feels loss. So why should I weep and wail? I miss my mom and I “well up” from time to time. But tears are not going to change reality, so why waste them? I feel joy for my mother. She won’t be fearful or in pain any more. She will be happy. If she’s happy, why should I be sad?