I take grief personally. For many years, I refused to allow it residence. I ignored it, shoved it into the closet of my mind, and learned how to keep it tightly locked away inside. Eleven years ago, when my brother-in-law died, I learned if not how to become friends with grief, I could begin to accept its presence in my life. I even had the honor of assisting my brother-in-law to the other side. And an honor it was.
For a long while I wrote adoption radio shows for Lifetime Adoption. I also worked on AdoptingOnline.com, a book that has won a few awards. In any case, what most people don't know about me is that there is a reason I worked in adoption. While I didn't adopt, my in-laws did, and they adopted a 20 year-old mentally and physically handicapped adult named Bobby.
Back when Bobby was small, a good seventy years ago, people like him were locked away in their rooms and had little if any community support. As he grew older, he took a small job in a liquor store, sweeping up debris and positioning goods on shelves. The owner of that store was my father-in-law.
You can read some of the articles I've written about Bobby here at: : http://adoption.about.com/od/louanncarroll/Louann_Carroll.htm. So many people say what a wonderful thing was done for Bobby, but my husband and I, upon looking back, believe that he gave far more to our family than he got in return.
Yesterday, my husband and I, who have looked after Bobby for the last ten years, learned our dear friend has terminal cancer. Of course, Bobby lay in his hospital bed, happy to have me feeding him Jell-O and buttered bread, while the physician told us that the cancer had metastasized throughout Bobby's body. Not only that, but the physician was surprised he was still alive.
Of course, Bob took that time to smack my hand indicating his need for more Jell-O.
Bobby is deaf and blind in one eye. His hands don't work anymore so he can't feed himself, but his eyes still light up with a twelve year-olds joy at anything sweet. And of course, Bobby couldn't hear the physician's diagnosis so did not feel the aura of dread that encompassed me. My hand shook for a moment, then went back to spooning in red Jell-O. Just earlier we had debated the merits of orange over red Jell-O. Red won.
When the doc left, my sister-in-law and I headed downstairs to the cafeteria. Bobby is on a renal diet so other than red Jell-O, all he got was a salad. I bought lemon pie and Karen bought more red Jell-O. Today I'll get him chocolate pie when I go to feed him dinner. I mean really, why would they keep a dying man on a renal diet? Seems stupid and heartless.
The debate is whether or not to tell Bobby of his diagnosis. I have spent the day searching websites and questioning people and overwhelmingly I am told that a dying person has a right to know. But, I wonder, how do you tell a twelve year-old his time on earth is short?
I know it's done every day and I also know that saying Bobby is twelve is probably pushing it a little. I do believe he would understand the diagnosis, but fear it will frighten him. The family is in conference over the issue and a decision won't be made until this weekend. I prayed last night that God would take him easy while sleeping. Bobby has suffered enough pain and although they have him on morphine, he suffers still.
Grief surrounds me like an insulating bubble. My emotions while not overwhelmingly sad, are just sorta numb. I've told the kids and they are making arraignments to visit as is my mother-in-law. I don't like grief. I really feel like telling everyone where to get off so I can go find a corner where I can sit and cry. But right now, that's impossible.
And for my husband, this is the last male connection he has to his family as his father and brother are gone. He looks a little lost, his eyes a little dimmer, his heart a lot heavier and I ache inside.
I want to make Bobby's death a celebration of his life. I want him to have everything he wants and I want him to have the people he loves around him when he dies. I am filled with I wants which really have nothing to do with what he wants. How do I know that? Because I haven't asked him. To ask him, means we have to tell him, and to tell him means we have to cause him more pain.
I want to cry, but I can't. Life is like that sometimes. What I can do is record my feelings. Somehow, that lessens their impact and makes me better able to cope. In a few minutes I'll leave for the hospital where hopefully, he'll have a better dinner. If not, it's off to Jack in the Box. A hamburger will have to suffice for now.
To be continued..