For those who know me -- I'm a board gaming convention junkie. As the 2018 "con season" approached real life happened…
Early in the spring my mother's cancer -- which she had successfully fought off for a few years -- returned, this time in her brain. This time it was bad. The outlook was grim, and she chose not to fight it. As she was the primary caregiver for my father, who has his own health issues, my siblings and I had to make the difficult decision to put them both in a nursing home. It is a veteran based nursing home, so my father needed to get in first, and then my mother could follow and guarantee care.
I live about a thirteen-hour drive from my parents, with two other siblings living in town and two others able to make extended visits. Unable to help, unable to communicate, and uncertain of the future, I decided to cancel my personal plans and concentrate on this new real life issue.
The first step was to cancel my plans for visiting Geekway to the West. Not just another board gaming convention, Geekway would have been a chance to see a town I'd never visited, a needed vacation, and visit with non-gaming friends who moved out west. Mother's Day was about the same time, and we drove up and took a week visiting with the family. All of my family was there, and we were able the get some family photos and have some meals in together. Overall it was a good trip. We took some final things from my parent's home, thinking this may be the last time we ever saw it. Said some goodbyes wondering if we'd ever see either of them alive again.
Life went on. I did my best to maintain my jokester face on social media and didn't talk much publicly about what has been going on.
I also decided to give away my Gen Con lottery hotel. With no idea of the future. I'd rather have those vacation days available for another trip.
Origins approached and I decided to attend. Work had been terribly stressful. My parents’ health, while poor, had seemed to level off, and I needed a break. I attended, but it wasn't the same in that I really didn't feel like attending as media or schmoozing. I mainly focused on seeing my friends, getting some hugs, and playing some games -- which I did and felt great about it. There were some close friends I was able to talk to about my pressures, and to be an ear to hear their own pains. Unfortunately there were too many.
My brother and I spoke and things were getting rough with mom again. I decided to make another trip. This one is particularly hard as the stress is putting everyone on edge. Mom has a changed a lot from the last visit. Essentially in bed, unable to communicate, and having to be fed. I spent time talking to her with what felt like no response but I was able to feed her. Based on discussion with Hospice she is beyond where everyone expected her to be living with how invasive her cancer was. As part of my family discussion, they said they felt Mom was waiting my return and it was my turn to say goodbye and let her know I/we’d be OK without her. I was already feeling guilty for being so far away -- now this. I did my duty, after spending a while feeding her and talking to her, I asked my brother to take my Dad for a stroll in wheelchair so I could be alone with her. I did talk to my mom. Although I didn’t feel like she had acknowledged my presence once this trip, it looked like she had a tear. Maybe she did hear me.
Before we met, my wife went through all of this with her own mother. She is now having to do it again with my mother, who I feel loves her as much as anyone. She’s been amazingly supportive of me during all of this while dealing with it on her own. We’ve been married 22 years -- that is a long time to get to know my mother. I know it has been tough on her too.
Gen Con is now approaching -- I may make it up over for a day. I just really don't even care. Sure, there are some folks I'd like to get over and see, but that's about it.
The most recent update we got was a call that my mother had several seizures shortly after I left. I can’t help but pause and think -- was something I said or did while there the cause? Part of me selfishly, as well as for her own good, wishes this were also the end. Now she is not eating and on continuous pain meds, the end is very close.
Although my father's health has improved, his dementia is bad. He lives in his own world. I sat in on his mental health check up with his doctor and he is oblivious to what is going on, why he is there, and what is happening to his wife. We met with the doctor and she was ready to immediately declare him incompetent.
This is real life. This is what is important to me right now.
I was ready to publish this and fly home and they called us in and let us know she had signs of 'end of life'. One Hospice worker suggested 24-48 hours. We canceled our flights and spent the day in her room. At 2:15 am on July 18 my entire family watched my mother move on, as she would have like it.