I am not ok.
I am writing this here because I have been trying to write for days now about how we are doing and what we need and it just hasn't been working because I have been trying to hard to be safe and polite.
Tonight I have lost the ability, or the will, to care about being polite. We are not ok. Not at all.
I feel trapped. So, so damn trapped in this isolated place, this no man's land where the only memories are of my mother's death. We have a sympathetic neighbor or two that we see now and again, and we have a couple friends in the general vicinity, and I don't mean to discount their presence…but I only see them maybe once a month or so? It isn't enough.
My glorious godmother fedexed us an entire cooler full of frozen, home cooked meals all the way from Portland OR, and one of our NY friends had a delivery set up from a local restaurant one night. Many people have sent us boxes of pears and chocolate. Other people have sent money so we can get food, and a cousin shopped for us-these are all wonderful, wonderful gestures, but it somehow lacks the comfort of the midwestern church ladies drowning the mourning family in casseroles that last weeks on end…that is somehow what I am used to, and it isn't here. I can't even remember who to thank when I never see faces, and I stress over where we can safely order from, and is that gifted food allergy safe? And where are all the faces…I don't even have my sister or my dad here…the people who knew my mother existed and was wonderful and loved and loving…here I see strangers, who know nothing of her, who have no idea that she lived and died within these walls just weeks ago.
And it isn't just that. It's the difficulty of daily life here, the fact that James spends 3 whole hours commuting EVERY DAY, which means he is out of the house for 12 hours every day and I am on my own with the kids, and I do my best but I am only one person and I am struggling with this loss and so are they and they need more than just me, and I feel so alone…and I worry about him, biking five miles to catch the train, and then five miles home after dark, riding in bad weather, cold temperatures, on the road…It isn't safe and I worry, I worry, I worry…
The chaos I feel in my spirit seems to be reflected in the situation here…this building, the first place we have ever lived where my children scream that they hate it here and want to move, the chronic fire alarms, the lack of insulation and shaky floors that lead to angry neighbors…the fact that four days after we moved in they bulldozed ALL the trees we could see from our home, and now BOTH sides of our corner unit look out over noisy, dusty, ugly construction sites. The bulldozer under my kitchen window competing with the dump truck clanging outside the bedroom gets to be just too much, and we keep the windows closed to drown the noise, but then my allergies go haywire from the carpeting and no amount of vacuuming and air purifying seem to make a dent in it…
But worst of all is the smell.
Cancer fucking stinks. If you haven't had a personal encounter with it you may not be aware, but cancer has a distinctive, horrible odor, that gets worse as the disease progresses. It is a sickening stench, and strong…her whole room still smells of it, and I can't get rid of it. No amount of cleaning, airing it out, scenting the air, anything…I can't get rid of this horrible smell of my mother dying. And lately I can smell it in the rest of the house, too.
I cannot imagine spending Christmas here, with my children's joy stewing in that smell.
I need and want out, so, so badly. What I need is for someone to find us a suitable home, and help us get out of here…someplace where James can actually be a realistic presence in our lives, where there is no dynamite outside the window or neighbors complaining about my vacuuming habits, where we don't have to get packages during business hours and the fire alarm doesn't go off 8 times in two months. Maybe have some outdoor space - a yard. A fireplace, maybe, so the smell of the woodsmoke could cleanse my heart of that horrid, horrid scent that haunts every breath I take - every breath my babies take - tainting our lives with death.
Here, I can't cry. I don't have time to mourn. This is the first I've written in days, and it is 4 am and I have not slept. Instead, by body is physicalizing the stress. My eczema has hit harder than it ever has before, my whole body is afflicted…my arms, neck, and chest are more or less open wounds at this point, my skin sloughs off so easily…my eyelids have taken turns swelling painfully, and once that subsided I developed an eye twitch that kept me up the other night because my eye kept opening on its own when I tried to sleep.
I have also, horrifyingly, awoken an old, sleeping foe; the nerve disease I battled as a teenager and had finally put into remission has reared it's ugly head once again. It isn't surprising, seeing as this thing is infamous for responding to emotional stimuli and this has been a whopper of a year…known as RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) when I was first diagnosed, it is now more popularly called CRPS (chronic regional pain syndrome) and as that name might suggest, this bugger freakin' hurts. Today I even had to break out my old TENS unit to cope with the pain, something which I never thought I would do again, and weirdly offset the energy in my entire body.
My foot has been turning all shades of blue and purple, swelling, generally being an oversensitive nuisance complete with aching, burning, shooting, intense muscle locking pain, all familiar afflictions that I have no fond nostalgia for.
So there I am - trying to mourn my mother, alone, in intense pain, skin flaking off, eye twitching, with three young kids under my charge, in this uncomfortable place (described best by my friend Liz: "It's agoraphobia coupled with claustrophobia!") that is surrounded by noise pollution and the stench of death to boot.
But here's the kicker, and the real reason I am writing this negativity-ridden post: I have it better than Kelly right now.
Read that all again, and let that sink in for you: I have it better.
I had my mother for 28 years. Not long enough, but long enough that I was able to find my way to some semblance of adulthood with her around, and had her as a guide through the early years of my marriage and the birth of all three of my babies. Now, I have my husband and my children to care for and focus on, to give me strength and support and inspiration in everything I do…
Kelly, though, only celebrated her 20th birthday weeks before we lost mom. Her established life is that of a dorm, which she lost when mom's health turned because she had to withdraw from school in order to be with her. She is just on that edge of adulthood that is so treacherous and scary for everyone who passes through it, regardless of specific life circumstance. She wasn't done being mom's baby, and loosing her has hit Kelly the way the loss would hit a child, despite her maturity. We are both extremely lucky in that we still have our father, who is very devoted and loving, but he will, of course, never replace our mother.
As if losing your mother before you've fully grasped adulthood wasn't enough, poor Kelly caught a kick while she was down when, the day before mom died, she discovered that her long time boyfriend wasn't just returning to his overseas studies when he left her side, but that he was, in fact, returning to another woman.
Yeah. it hurt every bit as much as you can imagine it did. And probably then some.
Listen, he gets credit where credit is due-he came when we got him a ticket to be with her, he was helpful to us as a whole while he was here, helping to feed and entertain the kids…I don't mean to make him seem like a horrible demon, because he has many wonderful qualities that made her fall in love with him…my point here is to explain her pain, not slander him, but:
When she confronted him, and they were trying to work it out, he had the audacity to tell her that he couldn't stop seeing the other woman because she "was sad" - her boyfriend left her and she needed comfort. As Kelly dealt with the fact that she just watched her mother die.
She is suffering so much. So much loss. So much halted potential. And she can't go back to school until next semester. And only a few of her friends (albeit awesome ones) still live near her home base with dad. And that house itself is fraught with memories, since mom lived there for 12 years, and she wants nothing to do with this place, either, which means building a new, safe space here with me isn't a viable option. She feels so lost right now.
Anyway, my point is she loves this boy so much, losing him right now is a huge blow…just when she needs support the most, the support she did have totally imploded. It's so so hard and so so scary to admit that two of the most important relationships in your life are just suddenly gone without warning…mom took away much of her past, and she felt like this boy was taking the future she had relied on to get her through that pain.
She didn't like the way things were playing out, breaking up via Skype and Facebook, and she honestly believed that the best thing for her was to utilize the tickets she already had to fly to Iceland and see/deal with him face to face. So she went. She knew that we would worry, and as such has been making a concerted effort to check in with us/respond to our messages just to let us know that she is ok.
But she is not. Not at all. The main thing keeping her going through all of this has been her friends, but her phone doesn't work overseas, and she doesn't have the proper power adapter for her computer and thus doesn't even have good internet access. She has been using his computer consistently, but it doesn't allow her to rely on her extended network of friends at all.
I was going to say that what she needs is a travel companion. I was going to ask all of my well traveled friends if anyone would happen to be passing through Reykjavik, or would be headed to Europe and might be willing to have a companion for your travels, because what Kelly needed was a friend, someone to travel with, have new, fulfilling experiences with, to get out but not be alone.
But then I got a call from Dad. Evidently Kelly is in a really bad way-a bad enough state that her now ex boyfriend is scared and called his mom because he didn't know what to do, he is afraid to leave her alone. His mom contacted dad, and now Dad is trying to figure out how to get to her, to bring her home safely.
So now she is in Iceland, a cold, wet, dark place where they only have 4 hrs of sunlight a day, almost completely cut off from most of her friends, trapped with her now ex boyfriend and the woman he left her for, and is in way over her head.
We have both been trying to get in touch with her by any means possible, calls, texts, email, Facebook…we haven't had meaningful responses from her since friday, and now this distress call…I got really worked up last night after trying to reach out to a bunch of her friends - wonderful friends, she is lucky to have so many people around her - but young, an inexperienced. They honestly believe they are watching out for her when they tell us we need to just give her space and not try to reach her or intervene, that her ex is just being dramatic and overreacting and this is his problem not hers, but frankly, I've seen too many people that I care about go through this, I've seen people lose this battle, and I am not willing to take chances. I know now from experience how distorted reality can get from the inside, and how easy it is to think you have your own best interest in mind, when you don't. Often, what you want is totally different from what you need, and things can turn south quickly. In those moments, no phone or computer can reach out and stay your hand.
Again, as Liz said: "No one regrets intervening. Everyone regrets not doing so if the end is tragic."
I didn't post this last night because it was written in an emotionally elevated state and I know this is going to be a huge thing to put out there in the world, and part of me knows it is a dangerous thing to do - And if absolutely nothing else, Kelly would be mad at me for doing it... But I know that the more people are aware of the problem, the better the chances we have of her getting the help and support she needs, both now and down the road. And truthfully, I was also hoping beyond hope that her friends were right and that this morning I would wake up to a pissed off message from Kelly, being annoyed at our fretting and telling us to chill out, she's fine. But there are no such messages today. When she has been so consistently checking in to let us know she is well, this radio silence screams "I am not ok, please help me" just as loud as anything can right now.
And I will have no regrets.
Kelly, we love you beyond words.