Jesus fuck it’s been awhile since I’ve had a normal weekly post, hasn’t it? Or, for that matter, one that wasn’t about music. And there’s a reason for that. Which I am about to (over)share with you.
Well, the secret was that my mother in law had been diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer in June. Something she only discovered when they tried to see what was causing her bleeding. Because of the aggressiveness of her cancer, how far it had already progressed, and her horseshoe kidneys the odds that treatment would be effective in extending her life were… not good. So she opted to forgo treatment.
She was given six months.
Life went on.
In September, my father in law was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Because of his COPD and previous heart issues, (he’d had a quadruple bypass back before my daughter was born) treatment was not a viable option.
We were faced with the realization that in the course of a year, my husband would be an orphan. That we’d finally be debt free and own a house and a car… but, god, at what cost?
They started to make plans. (Or so I thought. This will be important later.)
Months went by with no sharp declines exhibited from either of them. We were lucky. They made it to their birthdays. To Thanksgiving. To their thirtieth wedding anniversary. To Christmas.
And then our luck ran out.
My husband’s uncle passed away at the beginning of the year. Our aunt, his ex-wife, came up from North Carolina to be there for her son. Due to a snowstorm, she went back home on a Thursday.
My mother in law fell sick on that Friday.
My husband started staying with my in-laws overnight to help my father in law with his battery of pills and because my mother in law went from okay to not able to get up overnight.
I pleaded to get her into hospice care. My husband is not a nurse and was not equipped to handle this. But my mother in law didn’t want to. She didn’t want to die alone.
Finally, Sunday night she allowed my husband to call hospice. She went in on Monday. On the very next Sunday, January 28th, we got the call. Come in. It’s the end. My husband was still staying with his father. He still needed pills and was starting to deteriorate himself.
They didn’t make it to hospice in time.
I, on the other hand, did. I arrived between when she took her last breath and when her heart stopped. She wasn’t alone. And my father got there shortly after so I wasn’t alone when I had to break the news to my husband and his father.
I wasn’t alone when my father in law broke.
My sister-in-law flew up from Florida for a few days. Our aunt came back up from North Carolina. And someone stayed with my father in law full time.
We began the long process of getting everything taken care of. At which point I realized my in-laws had done basically nothing. We scrambled to get my father in law on our bank account, get him a will, get my husband’s name on the deed all while … not grieving.
We didn’t have the time.
We were watching my father in law die. My husband was taking care of him. My daughter was just not processing it. Instead, she was lashing out and skipping school as much as a seven-year-old could. She developed a low-grade fever that she had for over a week just from stress.
It was… just fucking awful. We were all run down and stressed and our daughter was lashing out at us and we were just so tired. Valentine’s day came and went without us even noticing.
But we were surviving. Thanks to our family and friends we were making it somehow. My father in law was even well enough to go up to the venue to select the time and date for the celebration of life for my mother in law.
And as soon as that was done, he gave up himself.
Not only did he need someone there all the time, he needed someone awake all the time. My uncle flew up from North Carolina and honestly, without the two of them I have no idea where we would be.
I won’t describe what it was like watching him go downhill, but it was bad. He made me promise we wouldn’t watch him die, but he kept insisting on getting up himself to go to the bathroom even though he couldn’t stand so we couldn’t leave him alone and…
It was bad.
I was there when the nurse told him he was dying, and he broke again. He asked for his boy. He asked if he would be okay. He wasn’t upset that he was dying, he was upset that my husband wouldn’t have his parents.
I can’t stop crying whenever I think about it.
I sat with him a lot. Even though we hadn’t always gotten along. All that had gotten pushed aside when he got sick. It didn’t matter that he’d threatened me before. That he hadn’t really liked me. He was sick. He was my husband’s father. I was going to be there for both of them as much as I could.
And if a day before he finally went into hospice himself he said “I know we never really got along…” well, I was willing to let that go unsaid, but if he needed to get it out, then fine. It’s fine. We said we loved each other. It was enough.
All this time, I was dealing with the paperwork. We got my mother in law’s life insurance check, which was a lifesaver since my husband didn’t have access to their bank account and my father in law was no longer able to sign a check.
Except, my father in law was no longer able to sign a check. So we couldn’t deposit it based on his half a signature. We got the check notarized, but our bank wasn’t sure if they’d be able to accept it. They called their compliance officer. But it was the Friday before President’s Day.
My father in law passed away on February 20th. Before anyone could get there. Just like he wanted. His brother and my husband were in the room when I got there. I’ve never seen two people more broken in my life and I honestly hope I never have to again.
The bank called us back while we were eating our feelings. And that’s when I learned just how fucked we were. So the check we had would go into his estate. No bigs. We had a will and I was already filling out the probate stuff on my phone.
We’d get his life insurance and…
Except we wouldn’t. Because as it turns out, all that “taking care of everything” did not extend to updating the beneficiaries on my father in law’s life insurance.
So my mother in law was his only beneficiary. So everything goes into the estate. Which might take six weeks to get approved after February 28th, which was when all the paperwork was submitted to the court.
Not only is it not effectual to be mad at the deceased, it’s actually actively harmful. I keep wanting to give my mother in law a piece of my mind and then remembering OH YEAH, I NEVER CAN.
Their (now combined) celebration of life was on the 24th. Before we even made it home, my husband came down with flu symptoms. He’s finally starting to recover but still has a horrible cough. And the recovery just means that he’s now able to grieve.
I have no idea how my sister in law is doing. She won’t respond to my calls or texts.
My daughter is… still lashing out and refusing to process, but she’s going to school again and we have the counselor touching base with her. She’s signed up for a group through hospice that we’re going to tomorrow and we’ve got a list of counselors to contact if she wants.
I’m trying to juggle our expenses and the house expenses so we don’t lose the house or the car without putting ourselves even further into debt or letting our own bills go delinquent. Our plans to move in have been put on hold because the electricity needs updating (it’s knob and tube) and the walls, floors, and ceilings need to be redone. Which we can’t do until… that’s right, the estate gets cleared up.
(But I did get their cable canceled, and that was a huge win for me personally.)
And like the last major upheaval in my life (having a baby) I’m overtired but inspired. I have ideas to write and I want to share them with all of you. Wicked Fierce is going to knuckle down and…
I don’t know. We’re going to do something. We just have to.
Listen, it’s just been a hell of a year. But, knock on wood, we’re going to come out of this stronger than ever. We’ll move forward (slowly) as a family. Refocused and repurposed. Closer than ever and with the reminder not only of what is important (family, friends, happiness) but that life is finite and not to squander a single day of it.
Unless, you know, you have to for your mental health.
Seriously, self-care is right up there on my list of important things. Say, for example, writing a rambling blog post to get all the thoughts and emotions out…
You know, the one you just read. And thank you for that. By the way. Thanks for being there for me and listening to me and offering me hugs and animal pictures. You have no idea how important that’s all been.
And I’m not really sure what else to say now… so… um… bye?