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Summer Solstice Blues
So, as you're reading this, there's a good chance I'm on my way to Ohio for what is going to be a gut-lurching weekend.

I have to tell you guys something, and I've been holding this back for a long time. The L.A. entries were a nice excuse for procrastination, but I just need to get this over with. The thing is, I don't know how to write about this. So I'm just going to do it. Free association. Sorry if I jump around.

My mom's been fighting cancer for 11 years. Almost half of my entire life. It's becoming clear that she's on her way to losing that battle, and probably pretty soon. She's 49 years old. 50 in a month. I don't want to sound negative, or like I'm giving up hope, but apparently, now is the time to start facing reality. Man, I hate reality. I'll eat a big steaming bowl of denial every single day to avoid life-altering, gravely serious situations.

Here's the medical stuff. She's not actually dying of cancer, although she continues to be plagued by brain tumors. What's happened is that the chemotherapy has depleted her bone marrow, to the point where she's no longer able to properly produce the platelets her body needs. There have been several emergency transfusions. I think the doctors are hedging around the plan of not doing those anymore. I just say they had better fucking keep her pumped full of platelets until I get to Ohio. She's dying because her bloodstream is no longer able to do what it's supposed to to keep her alive.

I have a trip home planned for this weekend, and one for next. Today's the summer solstice, and I'll arrive in the Buckeye State. I'll return Monday, work a little, and then turn around and head back up for Thursday through Tuesday.

As I was discussing dates and booking flights, I just couldn't get it out of my head that I was working out the details for what would probably be the last two times I would ever see my mother alive.

That was a hard sentence to type.

My dad is being so brave. He continues to earn his "Jamie's Hero" status. My mind can't wrap around the concept of him without mom. It just doesn't make sense in my universe.

My sisters are okay. Actually, I don't really feel I can speak for them, but I know they aren't suicidal or hysterical, so they are okay.

I can speak for me. I am not okay. I pretend like I am - go to work, network, dress up, go out, flirt and party. Jamie The Entertainer. But all the time, I feel kind of raw. Like my skin could fall off at any second, or I could just disappear and watch everyone from somewhere unseen. I thought after living with the threat of death for eleven years, I would be seasoned, old hat. I thought I was prepared, but I'm not at all. I'm faking it, like a big imposter who is about to get caught any second.

I believe I've discussed here the wholly unhealthy way I've handled mom-sickness-related stress in the past. That is, I take off. Just split for a couple of days. Sure, my family worries, but I've turned my back on the problem and run away, and that's all that matters.

It's getting pretty hard to accept that not only is there nowhere for me to run this time, but I actually have to make myself run toward the center of the hurt, or I'll regret it forever. I don't want to go to Ohio. I know how selfish that is, but it doesn't change that little voice telling me to get the fuck out of town and don't look back.

I think this would be much better if I could just sleep. Insomnia is really the pits. The circles under my eyes are so dark, if I've had a particularly bad night, I look like I've been beat up. The boys are sure to come a-runnin', now.

Everyone keeps telling me to make sure I say all the things I want to say to her. Honestly, I can't think of anything profound that has to be communicated, or any holes that need to be filled in. I don't know if that means we have a great relationship, or I'm just a distracted dumbass who can't get it together right now. I hope it's the good one. I was going to write her letters, thinking that I write better than I speak, and she could carry them with her during trips to the hospital or the doctor or whatever. But it turns out she can't read anymore. Her brain just won't let her concentrate. If that isn't depressing, you are dead inside.

Man, she's cool, though. You should hear her funeral plans. And sometimes, dad will tell me something she said, and we both crack up. This is going to be so hard.

Like I don't already have enough pressure, today will also be the first time I'll see Neal since before I broke up with him. Even though it's going to be weird and awful and wonderful and impossible, there are some things he and I need to say to each other in person. I'm terribly excited and deeply scared. He's picking me up from the airport.

While the mom-related angst weighs heavier, the Neal-related angst is more immediate, so they're both playing on about equal rotation in my brain. By the way, I should mention - as mom's gotten worse, I've been leaning on Neal more and more. Maybe I'm an idiot or a glutton for punishment, but it's like I don't have a choice. He knows me. He knows mom. He loves my mom. And he's been wonderful. Really.

The word "Mom" has been running through my head lately. Not as a chant or a prayer, but more like an isolated concept, begging me to define it. I can't quite get my brain around who a mom is, or what the role means. But I've certainly grasped how scary and empty things are when that concept, that comforting presence, that constant cushion that is a mom, is taken away, it's... well, I guess I lied. I haven't grasped it. I don't know what it is. The same words keep running through my head - scary, empty, thrown off. None of them fit.

Actually, nothing fits anymore. The worst part? It's going to get worse before it gets better.

But to loosely quote my dad, if we all have just one little speck of the strength possessed by my mother, there isn't any pain in the world that can't be survived. I have a sneaking suspicion that I was blessed with some of that strength. Either way, it's about to be tested.

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