Friday, February 10, 2006

Between work and my family...

...I may just tear out every strand of my hair.

All vacations have been canceled because we're behind. Couldn't get work for months and now we have more than we can handle. I've been working like a mad woman, but it didn't take long to get there. And then there's my family.

Mom, queen of the exaggeration, vomited up blood. I thought it was more like a stake through the heart kind of flood of blood, but it turns out it was probably more like an irritation in her throat because she'd been vomiting for days after spending time with my sister Typhoid Carol and catching whatever yarg she managed to sneeze, cough, and breathe into the air around my parents. I told my parents to stay away from her. They wouldn't listen. Anyway, they put my mother in the hospital, so she must have been convincing. A few days later, after many, many tests and being served meals in bed, they kicked her out knowing no more about what was wrong with her than they knew when she was admitted. I can tell them what is wrong with her, she's a medical phenomenon.

She has had colon cancer twice and had 18 inches of small bowel removed because of adhesions and strictures. I think she also had rectal cancer, too. She has one kidney left and it is filled with tumors. Her liver has tumors, too, and they're called hemangiomas. Think of blood blisters that keep growing and growing until they pop and fill her belly -- but the doctors can't figure out why she needs to be transfused with 2-4 units of blood every 3-4 weeks. Dad also has to give her B12 shots in between the fill-ups. (I always said she was a vampire but no one believes me) She had a hysterectomy when she was 35, turning her into a more concentrated version of the eternal witch on wheels that made growing up so much fun with her crying jags, banshee screams and the usual inability to live with someone who has suddenly tilted off her rocker and can't get up. She has had several mini strokes (no one knows for sure how many) but she still manages to remember her credit card numbers (all 50 of them) and scan outspend Imelda Marcos, Elizabeth Taylor, and Martha Stewart on their best days. Given the chance, my mother could easily bankrupt Queen Elizabeth in about 20 minutes. But the best news was yet to come.

Dad announced on Wednesday, the day before the hospital released Mom, that his prostate cancer is back. They biopsy him on my birthday but they can't do surgery (figure that one out -- I thought a biopsy was surgery because I type operative reports for biopsies all the time) because of his mechanical heart valve, which is the same reason they can't do chemo. Radiation is out because he had radiation the last time and he still has to wear Depends because the radiation damaged the healthy cells along with the cancerous cells (but evidently not all of them because they woke up again) and the muscle and tissue of his rectal sphincter so that he can no longer control his bowels. He said the doctor told him that prostate cancer comes back in 7-10 years; it has been a little less than 7 years since he was first treated. If they do nothing he might have 4 years -- I wonder if their estimate is as accurate as their estimate of the recurrence of the cancer -- before the cancer metastasizes to the brain and he dies. Dad said four more years would make him 82 and that's good enough for him. It's not good enough for me -- even if he keeps to our agreement and takes Mom with him when he goes. (The agreement is that he takes her or he's not allowed to die because I will get stuck with her -- more on that later) I really believed my parents were immortal. After all, Mom is still here no matter what the Universe throws at her. She's like a cockroach or a moth. When the bomb is dropped and all humans are dead, she will still be here screaming and chasing the cockroaches and keeping the moths out of her wool suits.

Every bit of bad news travels with two partners. Mom went into the hospital and Dad's prostate cancer has returned, but I just knew there was another shoe waiting to fall on my head.

I was right.

It fell.

I was informed that I have to pack up here and move back to Ohio to take care of my parents. Obviously, they are unfit to take care of themselves if they can't stay away from Typhoid Carol or keep from burning parts of their new house down with too much incense. After all, I'm not married, I don't own a house, I can take my job with me because I work from home, I don't have any family here, and no one here would care if I left. I am the obvious choice.

I thought they were joking, so I emailed back and told them that since Typhoid Carol is retiring this year she could take care of Mom and Dad. Beanie lives five minutes away and, from what Dad told me the night before, she and her family get Mom and Dad's house when they're gone, so she would be protecting her inheritance so Dad can't burn down the whole house and leave them with a meager 6.5 acres, a two-car garage, big barn, and brand new chicken house. And if Ants's new job turns out to be temporary, he can help with Mom and Dad during the day. Not to mention, my brother also lives 45 minutes away and he could help out. Besides which they don't have DSL and can't get it because they're so far out in the boonies and I need that for work. Dial-up ain't gonna get it. Not to mention that my mother and I can only tolerate each other when there is lots of distance between us. Why else do you think I live nearly 2000 miles away? Our relationship improves with distance. To be really great, I would have to move to Mars -- or better yet, Pluto.

Another shoe landed on my head, spike first. I was being selfish and hateful because I wouldn't give up everything (not that I had much in their estimation to give up) to take care of my parents. The discussion got uglier and uglier and I realized they weren't joking. This was for real. They expected me to give up my life to take care of our parents and then find somewhere else to live when Beanie and her family come to take possession of the house and land. I'll pack the car right away and be on the road by Saturday.

Not going to happen. I love my parents but there are three of them and one of me and they live a whole lot closer. Chances are I'd die before Mom does because I'd probably walk out onto the road and lie down until a car ran over me and then where would that leave them? They'd probably find a necromancer to revive me and keep me alive until she dies in about four million years.

But now it's time for me to get back to my portable job and make some more money. I have to save for that ticket to Mars where I might be able to get a shuttle to Pluto.

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