I haven’t written for a few weeks as I have been battling to keep my head above the water, never mind my sanity intact.
In my last post I mentioned that we went away for my Father’s 60th birthday with him, my step-mom and my Gran (Nana). Well, the day we left Nana had a fall and that began the slippery slope to her death last Monday. It turned out to be a series of strokes that wrought havoc on her 85 year-old body. It made me so angry that our family had to go through more damage due to stroke. The stroke is an evil thing, as evil as AIDS and Cancer, it’s difference is that it kills a part of your body and leaves you hanging there with no hope of recovery and no definitive end as a stroke does not always offer you the peace of death. She was looking at a bedridden future until the Thursday when the doctors didn’t think her body would pull through and she ended up dying of lung infection. I took the 6 hour journey back to spend the weekend at her bedside. I am so lucky to have had that time with her as she battled with the idea of dying but to see someone you love stripped of every dignity is heartbreaking. I had to leave on Sunday afternoon and she passed away on the Monday morning.
Just a little note on my Gran: Nana was a strong, independent but loving woman, although God bless her, not the cleverest nor the most sensitive. Ours is a family full of strong women with strong views and her and I often clashed. I think it becomes a right of the aged to stop trying to empathize with the young. It’s almost as if your many years on this earth distances you from any current reality differs from your experience and you are entitled not to extend this understanding. Nana never experienced the stress of career balanced with the yearning for children. We always got into arguments about this. You had to choose one or the other. It would be much simpler if this was a reality in today’s world: choose 1 thing and do that well. But we have to work kids and a job into our life equation: otherwise the human race would be in quite a pickle! Anyway, this was a theme for some of our run-ins. But that aside we were close. As a midwife sister she gave me my first bath when I was born. As young children we often lived with her for periods of several months when my Dad changed career paths yet again. She loved my Mother deeply and was devastated when my parents separated. My brother and I were her only grandchildren and so in many ways we are all the family she had. So begins the journey of life without her.
But even in the turmoil of grief that little devil rears its ugly head and pokes and prods the wound. That nagging, little son-of-a-bitch called infertility, who will never let you focus on something else for a any amount of time. Oh no, you will go through the pain but it will make things sting even more. Besides the obvious idea of the cycle of life that you become so acutely aware of there is also dear Aunt Meryl (Nana’s sister) “Isn’t it such a pity you never gave her great-grandchildren”. But that is easily pushed aside as the ridiculous bleatings of the old.
Then W decides to throw me the curve ball that after a month of detoxing he has actually started smoking again. Yes, folks. The dirty habit of filling your lungs with tar and rat poison, also known as the biggest cause of male infertility! Oh, and don’t forget that Nana died of lung infection caused by the stroke because she never recovered from being a smoker 30 years ago. It is an understatement to say I lost it. Hysteria ensued and I had no ‘off’ switch. For the rest of the day I was overcome with anger and bitterness. So much so that I didn’t have room in my head for grieving the loss of my Gran. Is that sick? I felt so betrayed, I felt diminished, as if all my pain and agonizing over this has washed over W and not had any impact at all. That something so small as a nicotine craving could have more of an impact on his actions than my (and what I thought was shared) pain. I know none of this is rational, that cigarette craving is even less so but the equations in my head ran amok and left me shattered. After several hours of hysterics he caved and said he would quit again then and there. Immediately I felt like I had him back, that he was the person I thought he was. I was so relieved.
Cut to several days later. After a very busy week of travel for work, baby-making time popped up and we dutifully worked it into our very busy schedule. Saturday felt like a dream as we had no travel and no commitments other than a braai (bbq) with good friends (also Infertiles). Sunshine and my best friend, wine was in abundance. It seems the detox had one affect on W and that is 0 to drunk in 60 seconds. Luckily he is not often a belligerent drunk. After a shocking game of 30seconds the conversation moved to the dark side where we talked about death and loss. And for all 4 of us the waterworks were turned on. But that can be fairly cathartic and we moved on feeling released of some pressure. But later the ugly little devil worked his way back into our space and the old topic of IF came up yet again. It was good to talk as they understand what we are going through and lately it feels like the only space I feel safe to talk in. But from left field came W’s strange and emotional outcry. “We will never have kids and we need to start accepting it.” And then, “it’s all my fault and there is nothing I can do” and then “we need to give up now, I can’t do this anymore”. I know that men are not in touch with their emotions. I know my husband is even less so. But sometimes you forget that anything actually goes on deep down. Just because they are not in touch with what they feel it doesn’t mean that don’t feel anything. I was pretty startled, I must admit. But there was also no sense I could make in that conversation. He eventually went to bed stricken from the affects of too much beer and too few defense mechanisms. When he woke up he was a bit embarrassed about the melodrama but it was good for us in the end. It was good for me to be the quiet, still one and not the hysterical one. It turned the tables only for a moment but that restored some balance to our collaborative effort in dealing and processing all of this.
And so we are back on track – maybe a little more worn and fragile but nonetheless on track. Track to…what?