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Friday, September 14, 2012

The Word for Summer: Guilt

I don't usually sum up our summer in one word, but this summer there are quiet a few words that could take that distinction.

Travel. A trip to Denmark and Sweden. Three trips to Florida. Two trips to Maryland.

Unfortunately Death is a word that could describe this summer. Not just because of my own father either. You know when you're trying to get pregnant and it seems there are pregnant ladies all around you? It seemed like there were so many deaths of my friends' parents in the weeks before and after my father died.

Tanya's dad, Heather's mom, Emily's dad, my dad, Angie's mom, Stacee's mom, Kathryn's dad, Erin's dad, and a reader who emailed me about her father's sudden passing.

Then there were the pancreatic cancer-related deaths. A neighbor of a local friend, Sally Ride, and Joseph Kutcher, Jr. What is interesting about Joesph Kutcher, Jr. is he was from this area and there was an article about his battle with pancreatic cancer in the paper just last year. I sent that article to my dad because he was diagnosed at the same time and he has a daughter who has Down syndrome. Unfortunately the similarities continued when I read that he passed away on July 17; the day of my dad's funeral.

Then there is the guilt. I know it is perfectly normal to have guilty feelings when someone you love passes away. And I am experiencing those guilty feelings. Guilt because from the moment my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer I never allowed myself to believe that the worse thing that could happen would actually happen. I never allowed myself to believe this was terminal. I didn't accept it when he had to retire from his job much earlier than he ever planned to. When his MRI came back saying there was no visible mass in the pancreas head I breathed a sigh of relief. It was as if I was saying, See, it wasn't as dire as everyone thought. He's in the clear now.

I didn't allow myself to fully believe it when the cancer came back in his liver and then his lungs. I had my doubts; couldn't the doctor have just misdiagnosed what he saw on the lung xrays?

I didn't allow myself to believe it was serious when my dad made the decision to stop chemo. I didn't allow myself to believe he was terminal when he said he was signed up with hospice; not even when he said in order to do that his doctor had to sign the paperwork saying he had 6 months to live. I thought the doctor was just doing him a favor by signing that statement and allowing my dad to receive hospice so he could have better pain management care. This was my dad we were talking about, I was still his little girl and he was always going to be around.

Not allowing myself to believe in the terminal-ness of his disease meant I didn't feel an urgency to make more phone calls, send more emails, visit more often. He sent me an email saying he thought once he sent everyone the email informing us of his decision to stop chemo I would have made plans to go visit him right away. Ouch. I was making plans, I just didn't make them immediately because I refused to believe he was going to die anytime soon. When we got back from Denmark (during which time he was admitted to hospice with the worst pain he had ever been in and received a morphine pump) and went to Florida to see him - he was right there waiting for me to get out of the van and he hugged me and through his sobs he said, "I thought I would never see you again." Guilt. So much guilt.

Then there is the guilt of this whole summer I had planned out for Kayla educationally-wise. I was going to do so much with her. We were going to sit down every single day and work, work, work on academics. Not that I wasn't going to let her have a fun summer, I most certainly was. But we've all heard that there is documented regression in kids over the summer break. Kayla is already behind as it is, 2 months of no school wouldn't do her any favors. So I had plans. The school sent every student home with a Scholastic Summer Bridge Activities workbook. We were going to get through that whole workbook before school started. She was going to make progress over this summer; not regression. That workbook traveled with us to Florida, Maryland, and even Denmark. We used it a couple days in Denmark, but it didn't get used every day this summer and we didn't finish it before school started. I felt like I didn't have much of  a chance to do all the academic things I wanted to do with Kayla this summer. Oh the guilt in letting the summer slip by.

The guilt that we only made it to the beach once. We only made it to the water park once. Before I knew it school started back up.

The summer of guilt? Most definitely.
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Anonymous said...

And, thus, we beat ourselves up!! but, now it is in the forefront of your mind, never lurking now because you have spoken openly about "your guilt." Living every day and making decisions are not easy when so much is going on around us. Think about getting a tutor for Kayla,even the "smartest kids" have tutor help!! love mom

Cyndi J said...

Life happens and you are a great mom !

ahoy.jenni said...

I don't think I know anyone who does not feel guilt when a loved one passes away...
Don't beat yourself up, life is too short.
Be happy, have fun, I am sure you are a great mum.

Cate said...

oh, Michelle. I'm sorry. Like it's not all hard enough without throwing guilt on top. I try to remember that there will always, always, always be more that I could have done (or could be doing) and sometimes things just have to play out.

krlr said...

I feel the exact same way - especially the last couple weeks since school started and there's no more pretending we have more time. All that guilt & frustration have turned into a giant mountain of Too Much. And I just don't see a break. There is no relief on the horizon and gritting my teeth & sticking my chin out doesn't seem particularly exciting.

Sorry, that's not exactly uplifting & helpful, is it? All I have is an "I hear ya!".

Stephanie Stock said...

I have the feeling of guilt all. the. time.
But you, you enriched Kayla's life with experiences! I know you don't see it in progress reports but you do make a difference. She is growing and prospering just being in your company!
HUGS to you and all that you went through!

starrlife said...

Sigh.... Hugs and peace Michelle. It is just human to have trouble accepting imminent loss. We are all only human.