I just woke up from the most upsetting dream.
Let me preface it with an obvious statement, I am under a tremendous amount of stress, we all are. The night before last I awoke in the midst of a really bad panic attack. I was too sleep addled to get out of bed to take a Clonazapam that helps ease the chest pains, I toughed it out and promptly forgot about it until later that day when I was talking to Nikki about panic attacks and was reminded of it. It’s a part of our landscape, hardly memorable in their banality.
Aside from the election stress (Can I be relieved now? Is it too soon?), financial stress, constantly moving around stress, about to turn 49 stress, there is the biggest thing …
She is 89 and has stage four ovarian cancer. She was moved to hospice over a week ago and hasn’t eaten for two weeks. I have been to see her several times. The last time I stayed two nights in her room while she slept. That experience deserves its own post but suffice to say it was emotional, beautiful, and deeply satisfying. We feel complete with each other, our love stronger than ever.
I still want to be with her, to lay my eyes on her and to feel her gaze on me, her eyes brimming with love. When I saw her last she was very alert and communicative, it was a celebration of love and life. Knowing her as I do, I fear that my presence is prolonging this part of her life, this part she wishes to be swift and dignified.
“I was trying to figure out how to die, now I’m trying to stay alive,” she said to me, mystified.
As much as I don’t want her to go, I don’t want her to stay on my account. Not when the tumor in her abdomen has grown to the size of a seven month pregnancy. Not when she is refusing pain medication so she can be alert. So I went.
She is with the right people … Lauren, Jim, her darling David and perhaps the most devoted team of caregivers known to this planet.
So I’ve been zooming all over the state while balancing a new job (just a helper gig but it takes a little time to learn the woman I am working for so I am on high alert to her needs) and a freelance writing gig.
My house is super busy so I’m doing lots of turnovers and I’m thinking about Anita (Lonny’s mother) who has to leave her assisted living home because she has started to wander into other people’s rooms and the home isn’t equipped for that level of care. So in the midst of a pandemic she must find a new place to live, at enormous cost. I see the stress this puts on Lonny, he is considering moving her back to his house. I’m not sure how he can handle it.
No one knows better than me (between he and I, of course, his siblings are well aware) how challenging this will be. He managed to be gone all day when she lived with us, leaving me with the lion’s share of her care, he has no idea ho difficult it will be do take that role on full-time, but I do.
Nonetheless, I love Anita. She was so kind and generous to me. She showed me nothing but unwavering love and support, so I will help Lonny if he decides to take this on. I will stay with her some evenings so he can get some time away. I will drive her around if a day program will take her. It will not be good for me, but it will be good for her and she deserves that.
My last bit of preface to this doozy of a dream I had is that I always dream about being bathrooms, it is part of the
hellscape landscape of my subconscious. While being with Marcia, I stood by as nurses helped her use the bedside commode, pulling down her pants, waiting patiently and wiping her, while cheerfully chatting to distract her from the deeply intimate care they are giving her.
I considered what it would feel like to need that kind of help and remembered when I, too, needed that help post c-sections. I didn’t feel embarrassed at the time, I was intensely grateful for the nurses that efficiently saw to my most intimate needs. But it’s on my mind, as you will see.
My dream started off pleasantly. I was in Italy, staying with a very large family in an enormous home. If you’ve been to Italy you would recognize the oddness of this home. Conveniences like plumbing are added over the years, things feel cobbled together, things don’t always make sense in the way American new construction does.
I didn’t speak the language so things were happening around me while I was mostly in the dark. People were departing, others were arriving, but I was happy to be in another country. I thought about Nina, she had something to do with this trip, I didn’t know how long I had been gone or how much longer I had, but I was so glad to be there.
I was seated in a gathering room full of people and I realized I was on a portable toilet, like Marcia had. No one seemed to notice and I had to “go” and thought I could sneak a pee out without anyone knowing but ended up pooping. I was so embarrassed. I tried to sit as hard as I could on the commode to create a seal with my bottom on the seat and hopefully keep the smell from permeating the room. The man next to me made a face.
I was engulfed in embarrassment. Everyone went outside to see a group off and I hung back until everyone was gone, then I grabbed the bowl and darted to the bathroom where I dumped the bowl into the toilet and flushed while I wiped myself. I thought about a particular person who was leaving, who I wanted to say goodbye to, and was missing out on. I didn’t know how to reach him after he was gone and this panicked me.
I saw to my horror that the toilet was overflowing and everything spilled onto the floor, soaking the bathmat and spreading out. I frantically looked for a towel I could use to soak up the water, worried about ruining their linens but also needed to stem the damage.
I noticed that the toilet was in an odd place, right by the door and not tucked away as it would be in an American bathroom. There was another toilet in the room and having no other option, I scooped the shit into my hands and dumped it in the other toilet. Then I realized it wasn’t a toilet, it was a small hot tub and I had just dumped shit into it!
I looked for a way to drain it, some way to cover my tracks. There was a small wet room off the bathroom where one could sit and shower off. I went into there to try to clean myself. I was confused by how many things in that bathroom looked like toilets but weren’t. There was still shit on the floor, in the tub, in the overflowing toilet, on my hands …
Then a young woman walked in. She looked around with horror and then saw a large amount of blood on the tiled floor.
“Where is this blood coming from? Are you bleeding?”
I looked in the mirror to see if I had a nosebleed, but didn’t.
“Pull down your pants, maybe you are menstruating,” she said, while tugging on my skirt. I was was so embarrassed and she tried to soothe my feelings by saying she liked my underwear. No, the blood wasn’t from there.
Then the matriarch of the family walked in.
“What is going on?!”
I tried to explain, to tell her that I just needed time to clean things up, to make them right.
“You are only making them worse! You should have asked for help, now it is a huge disaster.”
“Please,” I cried, “I was just trying to fix it, I didn’t know, I don’t want to be trouble, I am so sorry, I want to fix it, please let me fix it!” and I broke down into hysterical sobs.
I started crying loudly in my sleep because Casey’s voice woke me up from the other room.
“Mom, are you okay?” and he came to me. I was overcome with emotion and kept crying for a bit as he told me I was okay, it was just a dream. He told me that I was talking in my sleep that night, he could hear me despite the closed door. The tears felt like relief. I wish I could have kept going all day.