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Sunday, February 4, 2001

In a way, Mom's condition has been good for me. That's selfish, I know, but at least I've been able to contribute something to her recovery, even if it's nothing more than being there. Whenever I see how much other people can do for her, and how much they contribute to her life, I get a strong sense of my own inferiority.

Eric makes her laugh. David makes her laugh and fixes things around the house. John makes her laugh, fixes things, and comes up with weird suggestions (a two-sided plunger to rest her forehead on!). Suzanne does all that and so much more, including cooking for her and carrying on the kind of conversation that lets her know she's still part of the world, and her thoughts still matter, even if no one can look her in the eye.

And me? I do my best, but I'm not as good at any of these things. But I'm there a lot. If she needs something, I can get it, or help her get it. If she has something to say, I can listen. I can keep the dishes in her sink washed and put away where she can find them.

I lasted only about four hours this afternoon, before she kicked me out. She's not eating as well as she was at first, because some of the medication is upsetting her stomach. She's forcing herself to eat enough to keep going, but she wouldn't let me fix her anything tonight. She said she didn't think she could force anything down other than soda crackers.

While I was there I read her the Sunday paper, including the comics, and of course the obituaries. We always have to double check, just in case. No use being surprised.

The demanding part of all this for me is that I've lived by myself for so long that I'm used to being alone, thinking only of myself, doing whatever I want at the moment. I'm not used to thinking about what someone else wants or needs, and it doesn't come naturally to me.

It's not that I'm truly selfish (at least I don't think I am). But I get through my days with a series of routines (and subroutines) that have the goal of getting necessary tasks accomplished and leaving enough time for all the reading, writing and vegetating that my mind and body require.

It's a delicate balance, a complex framework, a house of cards that's teetering a bit these days. But it can always be built up again, once the crisis is past. Maybe it'll even be better and stronger for it.

One bonus I'm likely to get out of this is a deeper appreciation of the blessings in my own life. Just being able to look up and out the window at a beautiful near-spring day like today, and then having the chance to be out in the warm California sun, are benefits that I won't take lightly from now on.

Good days will probably seem even better, now that I have some perspective on how long a seemingly minor inconvenience can make these short winter days feel. This isn't just lost time for Mom. It's time that makes getting through the day seem like a burden.

The hope of sunny days ahead is almost all that can carry a person through this kind of darkness.

I hope that none of this sounds like a complaint on my part. I'm sorry Mom needs my help, but I'm as grateful as I can be that I can give it to her. If there is a complaint here, it's that I'm not equipped to do more, and make it easier for her.

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