My Mom Is Going to Die and I Don’t Know How to Act

A couple weeks ago, I was back in my hometown for a long weekend visit. Sunday morning, I came waltzing into my parents’ house after spending the night drinking beers with a cute boy and acting like I’m still in high school, as I always seem to do when I’m back home.

As soon as I got home and made my coffee and was sitting down for a nice long Pinterest session on my iPad, my parents both came into the family room and sat down opposite to me. Just like in high school, I knew they were coming in for some sort of “talk.” I panicked. Did they find out about my latest maxed out credit card somehow? I’m in my early-late 20s (as I like to call them) and I’m still getting in trouble from my parents for being bad with money.

But I was wrong, of course. There’s no way they could know about that credit card because the bills come to my own address, silly me. Nope, they were just coming in to tell me that my mother’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments had done nothing and the doctor said four to six months. Funny how you don’t need to hear what happens in four to six months to know what people are talking about. Of course, this was all I heard when they were talking to me. They explained everything in a lot more detail that I didn’t really hear or understand, I just stared blankly, waiting for them to finish talking. Actually I don’t even remember what I said when they finished talking. I hope I didn’t just go back on Pinterest.

I didn’t absorb any of this, I just floated around for a couple days. It was like I was trying to force a reaction out of myself, like I thought I should. Every time I walked to work, I would just keep telling myself over and over again, “Your mom is going to die.” And still nothing. I thought something was wrong with me, because I didn’t feel sad, I just felt disconnected from my body.

The first and only time I’ve cried since then (which actually may have only been brought on due to PMS) was the following Wednesday to my good friend and co-worker, who had lost her mother a few years ago to cancer. She would understand what I was feeling (or not feeling). It felt kind of better to tell her.

But ever since that good cry on a Wednesday morning, I’ve felt so normal. I’m doing the same things I always do, laughing the same, maybe I’ve been oddly organized lately but other than that, nothing has changed. The only time I slightly wrap my head around what’s going to happen is when I tell myself things like, “She’ll never see me get married” or “She’ll never meet any grandchildren” or “She’ll never see me produce my first film.” Then I get a little sad, thinking about things she’ll miss out on. But the sadness is so forced that it too does not seem real.

Time to Google: “My mom is dying; what do I do?”

Nothing helpful comes up. I guess I got really used to Google having all the answers to my questions – such a let down, Google! You may as well have told me the answer to life, the Universe and everything is 42.

Shouldn’t I be doing something? Shouldn’t I quit my job and move back home and spend every single possible moment I can with my mom? Help my dad out by driving her to appointments and cleaning the house that seems to be falling apart?

I went home this past weekend believing that I should be spending more time with her. After the weekend was over, I didn’t see how it was special. When I’m around her, it doesn’t seem like she’s going anywhere (until that uncomfortable moments where she tries to get me to pick out all the jewelry that I want). We argue the same as always, and I get bored being around my parents as always. I still doubted my plan to move home. If I moved in with my parents, I would go nuts, even though they have a really nice TV. So no, I don’t really feel like moving back home, two hours away from my friends and job and life. But I don’t really feel like being here and working half-heartedly. I don’t really feel like doing anything.

I hate telling friends. I mean, I’ve only told a couple close ones. It’s awful, though, and not because of what I’m telling them, but how they react. They don’t care in the way that I want them to care. I try to use humour to let them know I’m okay with it, just like I try and make my friends laugh when they’re going through tough times. It doesn’t work, though, and they don’t get it. They’ll look really sympathetic and say, “I’m here for you, always” but then they slowly drift away, and you see all of these pictures on Instagram of all your friends out together, wondering why nobody bothered to invite you. It’s not like I’m sitting around feeling sorry for myself (I tried that tactic, it didn’t work). I understand. It’s awkward for them; I’ve been there. But I kind of just want to shake them and tell them I’m fine, I don’t need to talk about how sad I am! I’m not sad! But I do still need a friend to go to the pub with, and please don’t stop posting “Zac Efron with a Kitten” BuzzFeed articles on my Facebook and calling me to tell me about your embarrassing sexual misadventures! The only reason I told you at all was so you’d understand when I bailed on that music festival in the summer we have tickets for!

My last shot at trying to act like my Mom is dying was to basically just wait for somebody to be rude to a cashier at Starbucks because they’re in a rush so I could yell at them. Something like, “GET A REAL PROBLEM.” I already did that before my Mom got sick, though, so I don’t think that was a great way to act out.

So how do I act? Before the “four to six months” cloud was cast over us, I used to tell my mom that if senile people could do whatever the hell they wanted to and get away with it, she could too because she has a brain tumour. Maybe I can do the same thing, act however I want, feel whatever I feel, even if it’s acting and feeling like normal. Maybe that’s okay.

You can read more from Alyssa Beach-Wallis on her blog and follow her on Twitter.

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