Irritation. It sounds so much like what it is. Prickly and unsmooth.
When you're dealing with cancer and all that it brings, it seems reasonable to be irritable. Tensions are high, people are thrown together for unnaturally extended periods. The patient feels crappy. The family is worried and sad and trying not to show it. Yet it feels so WRONG to be crabby. It feels so petty.
So I thought I'd vent a little, and maybe I'll get it off my chest and then I won't be so pissy anymore.
My husband took his parents to Colorado for that high-tech treatment last week, and that was really hard. Much harder than anything I did at home. He made the reservations, did all the driving, scoped out the restaurants and found good food. He made sure his Dad had enough beer every evening. Basically, he was the tour guide for the Deluxe Cancer Care Package Tour.
By the time he got home he was understandably burnt out. And a little irritable.
It is not any exaggeration to say that my husband's parents grew up dirt poor during the depression and war years. They have some really sad but gory "when I was a kid" stories. Like going out to the countryside to dig up coal for heat. Or sharing half a can of Tuna between four kids for dinner. Or starting to work at twelve to help support the family. Due to their personal histories, they are incapable of throwing anything away. In their home refrigerator you find lots of rotten vegetables, because when they were near rotting they decided they might still be good. You also find things like multiple bowls topped with saran wrap that might have about two table spoons of yogurt or apple sauce, because dammit, you might want that yogurt tomorrow morning. You can find one slice of tomato, a sixteenth of a pepper, and a leaf of lettuce all mushed together in one plastic baggy.
It's not so much that they save everything. It's that their refrigerator and their counters are so filled with crap that you can't find anything and there is no counter space left to work on.
So when my in-laws came back from Colorado, they brought the depression food plan to our house for a few days. Much to my husband's dismay, his parents packed every single item that had been in their hotel room's mini-fridge. Including, but not limited to, the following: Soon to be totally rotted bananas, a half eaten turkey sandwich with horseradish on it that was loosely wrapped in plastic, (You can imagine how that smelled and how easily it could have and did spread onto other luggage items.) mini-cans of orange juice copped from the hotel's continental breakfast, packages of saltines, and, of course, a six-pack of beer - something that is always easily transportable.
Guess where all that shit ended up. Yep, in OUR fridge. The beer alone takes up a significant percentage of available space.
In no time there was so much shit on the counter that we had about 20 square inches left to cook anything. We have an old kitchen already, we NEED the counter space. I started to feel that the world was closing in on me. And it doesn't help that my husband really, really needed a break and was not getting it. It makes for an irritable husband and wife team. Not good.
Here's another thing. My mother-in-law is only one cancer patient, but she's a cancer patient with an entourage. Taking care of her is the easy part. It's my father-in-law, who, although I really love him, talks at twice the necessary volume at all times, and who never, ever cooks anything more sophisticated than toast. My brother-in-law, whom I also love and about whom I have very little negative to say, always goes where my mother-in-law goes since she's been really ill. This means that he sleeps in my son's room while his mom and dad are in the guestroom, and my son sleeps upstairs. However, my son's clothes and toys are still in his room, so I am constantly sneaking in there for a pair of clean socks or his warm winter jacket. Last week my sister-in-law (his wife) flew in from Japan, so we had yet another body in the house. Although, I will say that she is the most self-sufficient of the bunch, and is a fantastic cook. It's just a lot of people in the house, when were used to our compact family of three. It seems like we're running the dishwasher all the time. And, of course, emptying it all the time as well. My husband's sister periodically visits as well, usually bringing one of her two children.
Along with the family entourage, there are the daily, and nightly, calls from my mother-in-law's "projects." (This is the word that the rest of the family uses when referring to these women.) My mother- in-law has always been a magnet for those people, particularly elderly women, that are alone in the world. She seems to have a built-in sensor for those that are looking for a little human kindness and compassion. She takes these people to their doctors appointments, visits them, and most importantly, just listens. Oftentimes, you used to hear her on the phone, murmuring soothing and empathetic phrases to her little old ladies. "You poor thing." She would say, "Well, you have every right to be upset." "That darn doctor." "I'm sorry." "Well, thanks for calling, you made my day." My mother-in-law is a saint. A martyr too, but definitely a saint as well.
One or two of these projects call every day. They just want to hear that she will be cured. They want to know that the treatment "worked." I don't want to be the one to say that the doctors were pretty definitive about the fact that this is a palliative treatment. That this will not get rid of the cancer, but, we hope, shrink the size of the tumor so that she can eat solids again, so that she can speak without sounding like she has a frog, excuse me, a tumor, in her throat. So every night, I (or my husband) say the same thing. "We won't know for some time the effects of the treatment." "Well she's really tired and feels pretty crummy. She has a sore throat, so wait a day or two to call her." I know I can't wait to get off the phone every time, but I try to be patient and not sound like it. I don't think I am always successful, but I figure it's the least I can do for my mother-in-law.
I guess that's it for now. Writing a bitchy blog is probably better than taking it out on one's family.
The entourage went home to my in-law's house for few days, but the doctors would really like my mother-in-law to be closer to a hospital and medical facilities, so that the doctors can keep in eye on how the tumor is sluffing off. It is possible it could sluff into her throat and choke her. That would be very bad.
Okay. It's time to get recharged for the next round.