I suck at goodbyes. I mean it, I really suck at them, so I do whatever to avoid them. Usually that means not forming lasting attachments or shutting down and pretending it doesn't matter that much to me when goodbye is inevitable. Take whatever abandonment issues I may have had before, compound them with my significant other moving halfway around the world to Russia and throwing our entire world into disarray, my brother being stuck in a Mexican jail for four years, having to put my dog (my best friend and therapy for the past 13 years) down this past September, a bad breakup in December after five years on and off, people I've let close to me either moving from Los Angeles or moving to the Valley (I don't do 818) and well, let's just say my reaction to goodbyes hasn't improved over the years.
I wrote a short story that I read at a literary reading this past Saturday. I had some funny pieces, but this short story, titled "Girls", was inspired by my sister's wedding last week and was an homage of sorts to a short story in Rick Moody's Demonology. It made me sad to reminisce, but sometimes what is bleak and heartbreaking can also make you laugh. I read it to my brother on Saturday afternoon and it made me sad to say those words out loud, but I am glad that enough time and space had passed to enable us to laugh about what we went through growing up together.
My sister has cancer. It's difficult for her to talk, so she blogs. I don't know what to say to her when we see each other, so I just hug her when I see her. I know I shouldn't overreact, but when I read that she signed the "Do Not Resuscitate" papers, that the hospice rolled in the oxygen tanks and that she isn't as lucid because of the morphine and other drugs, I'm just a river of tears.
I'm with her now, sitting beside her while she drifts in and out of a labored sleep and a morphine-induced stupor. One of her doctors, her nurse, and her new husband just left me alone to stand vigil. She spent a good part of the morning hooked up to her oxygen tank and I'm trying so hard to not be alarmed by every sound that comes out of her.
This fear that has engulfed me and my family since she was diagnosed in July 2004 has taken on many forms. I'm sure I've reacted in all ways expected, but I still feel like I've been blindsided. There are fears that I have become used to, fears that I somehow manage, fears that I have faced and some that are just simmering below the surface but hidden well enough so that they don't become debilitating. Some fears are unfounded, some are improbable and some are just stupid. I fear that I might become destitute or I fear that I will be unlucky in love, but I never feared that I would suffer cancer, or that any of my loved ones would. This fear of losing my sister is overwhelming. I fear her dying, I fear her living in unbearable pain, I fear surviving her, never getting over that loss and going through life as an empty shell. I used to fear letting people know how much pain I felt, but it's so close to the surface now. It feels like it permeates everything, informs everything I say and do that there's no point in pretending anymore. I am paralyzed by this fear that I might have to say goodbye.