Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Divide Time"

divide time into before and after    
measure lonely hours by tears and laughter   
remember the freedom of hot desire   
long for winter nights stretched by the fire   
listen for rescuing rings of the phone   
wait through the days and nights all alone   
scream in silent despair and frustration   
bury new needs in cold desperation   
beg daily for help, no one heeds the plea   
search for escape—for a safe place to flee   
divide time into before and after   
measure lonely hours by tears and laughter   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, February 17, 2012

“Asking for Help”

         I hate asking for help. I’ve tried to figure out why, but it’s like peeling an onion. Just when I think I understand my motivations on one level, I reveal another layer. Seeking help makes me feel inadequate. I should handle each and every situation life dishes out with confidence. When I can’t, I feel disoriented and depressed. I realized recently that I differentiate between asking for aid and delegating responsibility. In one, I need someone else to take care of me (or my duties) in some way. I want and need to completely drop control. With the other, I still maintain some level of influence.  
So, if I reach the point where I’m saying, “I can’t do this any longer,” it means I’ve hit rock bottom. I’m Wile E. Coyote plummeting over the cliff, holding the little useless “HELP!” sign in the air right before splatting on the rocky desert floor. Another onion layer reveals that a part of me resents having to ask for help. Shouldn’t those around me be aware enough to know the cliff edge looms? Shouldn’t they run some kind of interference before I find myself peddling in the air? Shouldn’t they volunteer to step in and thwart the Road Runner before he misdirects me into my downfall? Yes. I expect the people around me to read my mind, notice my body language, listen to how I say something, not just what I say. My husband, thank goodness, mastered the nuances of Liz Language years ago. However, he can only do so much by way of helping—he has a full-time job, after all.
My mother’s condition worsens in subtle ways, making it difficult to ask for help because I don’t know what I need. Many people with Huntington’s disease suffer from mood disorders. For my mother, anxiety crept into her daily routine. Later, depression made infrequent and unexpected visits. Eventually, these two moods dominated her days unless she took medication. Lately, other changes in Mom’s personality have begun to surface. Each one signals to me that her HD continues to progress. Medications may control or mask symptoms, but the underlying reality is that she’ll never get better. She’ll only grow worse.
In recent weeks, irritability slips into the room unnoticed. If I don’t smile as I help Mom get into or out of her wheelchair, if fatigue or frustration tinges my tone of voice as I try to figure out what she wants, if my temper flares, then Mom responds with a verbal cut edged with cruelty that I’ve never heard from her. If my mood is dark, she becomes paranoiac and worries that I won’t help her.
I’ve resorted to asking her doctors for help. It’s rare that I request an adjustment to her medications, and usually it’s to help her deal with the anxiety and depression. Today, though, I found myself complaining to Mom’s internist that she’s not sleeping. Her insomnia started with one or two wakeful nights a week, but has turned into four or five nights where she sleeps only two or three hours. She usually doesn’t “catch up” on her sleep by napping the next day, so we all run on a deficit. Not good for anyone’s moods. Of course, the doctor didn’t miss a beat. He instructed me on which medication to increase at night before Mom goes to bed. Nothing in his response made me feel inadequate for asking, or guilty for wanting peaceful nights again.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Misery Loves Company”

Join me in a pity party       
a cup of tea and misery       
One lump or two? It’s up to you
Let's color life in shades of blue
      Let’s sit and share our common woes           
Compare our gloom, decry our foes       
You’ll hug me close, I’ll pat your back       
Competing in what our lives lack       
Spend a day complaining with me       
for misery loves company       

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“Her Rain”

Her rain fell   
         a deluge of broken dreams,   
                     frustrated desires, missed opportunities   
         drenching the world   
                     with her bitter storms   
Her rain fell   
         a flood of regrets and sublimation   
                     poured onto her children   
         drowning each of them   
                     with her skewed and tainted love   
Her rain fell   
         a watery veil of manipulation   
                     pushing against the banks of reality   
         overflowing her boundaries   
                     with her disillusions and dissatisfaction   
Her rain fell   

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"The Second Spring"

That Spring the dew nourished us with fresh gentleness and endless hope     
The world sharpened into polarized crispness with infinite scope     
With loneliness, I strolled in an open meadow of wild flowers     
Always longing for some answers as I strolled away the hours     
I fell in love with the troubadour singing ballads and love songs     
The youth of tawny hair, sinewy muscle—a heart true and strong     
The artist stroking bold vibrant colors on a pristine canvas     
The man embracing the possibilities of our love’s success     
Moving from son to lover to father, he grew in each season     
He donned robes of responsibility with capable reason     
From sun to moon and moon to sun, our lifelines entwined forever     
Through time’s heartbreaks and new challenges, we always stood together     
Our youthful promise dried and died under an endless summer’s heat     
Together we survived the long drought that led to other’s defeat     
And now we enter the Second Spring where azaleas bloom all year     
Paintbrushes, bluebonnets, and thistles blanket meadows both far and near     
In the Second Spring love flows strong, and it sings in notes pure and true     
It flourishes and grows in bountiful joy that’s forever new     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, February 13, 2012

“Into the Night”

         Occasionally, my mother cannot sleep at night. This means no one gets to sleep. We keep a baby monitor in her room, so as she spins restlessly in her bed, we hear her clearly.
When Mom’s symptoms of Huntington’s disease first began, she’d uncontrollably repeat, “Oh man, oh man, oh man,” whenever she experienced a little stress or anxiety. I don’t think she even knew she’d go through this verbal litany. As my mother’s agitation grew, so did the urgency of her words. “Oh man” altered into “God damn! God damn! God damn!” We had to explain this hierarchy of declarations to her aids when she resided in assisted living because one aid grew rude and abrupt at Mom’s utterances. For someone as gentle natured as my mother, her “God damn!” meant she’d hit her limit in some way. Now, as Mom slips into the last stages of her disease, her ability to carry on conversations comes and goes. Some days, she’ll chat constantly, her words easy for me to understand. Other days, she barely utters a syllable throughout the day, except for her two phrases, my easy gauge of her distress levels.
         Last night, Mom somehow turned around her hours. She asked for a fried egg around six o’clock. She demanded that we change her out of her nightgown and dress her in one of her outfits about an hour later. By 9:30, David asked her if she knew it was nighttime, not morning. With her mind playing this time trick, she struggled to get up to watch her television shows until two in the morning. Whenever I went back to her bedroom, she’d complain that she was cold as she kicked off her covers; she’d whine that she was tired as she grabbed my hands to pull her from the bed.
         “Mom, you need to go to sleep!” received angry pouts from her at first. One time when I tried to straighten her covers and get her back into bed, she managed to slap me across the face.

         This is Huntington’s disease.

         I remember my mother spanking me only once in my life. I saw her raise her hand once and strike my sister when her teenaged tongue sliced out a rude comment. I know my brother received a spanking for hiding his progress reports and low grades in his middle school locker. Physical punishment did not occur in our household. I severed a relationship with a brother-in-law who left bruises on my arms from trying to pull me out of a car. My parents raised me that if someone raises a hand to you in anger, get out of that relationship. Period.
         So Mom’s striking out at me reveals one more “loss” that we’ve endured through this battle against this monster. We tiptoed around each other today with neither one of us speaking about her eruption of anger and frustration. I’d like to think that this won’t happen again, but I’ve read enough about the later stages of Huntington’s to know that as the brain changes her personality will change, too.
         Every day when I pick up my journal, I follow the date by writing my two main goals for survival: Stay in Today, Patience. I know, though, that no matter how much I try to smooth out the challenges of my mother’s days (or nights), her disease is winning. I often fail in my efforts to stay focused on the moment. I definitely fail when it comes to patience when our struggle unwinds throughout the day and into the night.   

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Cliff's Edge"

Defiant waves pummel and kick
striking against soaring towers
Mists and cold spray leave the edge slick
siphoning my waning powers
I stand alone on the cliff’s edge
collapsing within my despair
I crawl cautiously to the ledge
where brutal winds whip at my cares
My fingers bleed with razor cuts
sliced by the terrors that grip me
I desperately grasp at the ruts
carved by the sea’s eternity
I lay prone on the jagged ground
in submissive subjugation
My chest constricts as I look down
at Death’s beckoning temptation

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman