Monday, March 21, 2011

We’re still where we were.

My husband and I spent yesterday at the hospice, sometimes sitting with C., sometimes in the “relatives’ room” – which will soon have to be re-dedicated as the “Miles room” – with our niece, our other niece (F.), C’s third daughter (A.) whom I have not previously mentioned, and Little C.

We came home for late-afternoon insulin and carbohydrate, expecting at any moment the phone call which would summon us back. Our niece phoned at 8:30 to say, no change, and that the four of them were going home. I told her, feeling (a) very very tired and (b) guilty, not to phone in the night. I had had a bad night the one before, and would have lain awake listening to the phone not ringing. I discussed that decision at some length with my husband, who could have overruled me, and he agreed.

In the event, it was the right decision. The four women just named found, when it came to the event, that they couldn’t leave their mother/grandmother. Our niece remembered her mother saying, at a much earlier stage of illness, “I don’t need you right beside me, but I need to know you’re there.” So they went home and had half a glass of wine each, and went back and spent the night at the hospice. Our niece phoned here at 6:30 with this news, and we will join them as soon as we can. It won’t be instantly. My husband needs time in the morning.

What C. is going through is meaning 3 (now rare) of “agony” in the OED – “the throes or pangs of death”. It seems to be the essential meaning of “agonia” in Italian.

Thank you, more than I can say, for all your messages. But, Elizabeth, “beloved C.” won’t quite do – it is appropriate for the other players here in Act V, Scene V of her life, but not for me. I went galumphing in, nearly 53 years ago now, on the assumption that when you married someone you got to be a member of their family. C.’s reception of me was polite but cool, certainly not sisterly. It was a shock to me then. I understand a lot more now.

But so it has remained. She is by now, of course, part of the necessary furniture of my world. It won’t be worth my doing anything any more, without her to disapprove.

I have never held much with “love” as a word or as a feeling. All that matters is the doing.

As for knitting, the Mourning Shawl edging got a bit complicated as the day got more stressful. That’s what socks are for. The first of Joe’s 21st Birthday Socks has now left its dreaded 50 rounds of ribbing behind and is speeding on towards the heel. Today is likely to advance it further


  1. Anita8:27 AM

    "I have never held much with “love” as a word or as a feeling. All that matters is the doing."

    Ah - but that is exactly what love is. Love is a verb - a doing word. That is how it works. You are doing that, Jean.

    I keep thinking of you.

  2. In my job I tell people, "Everyone has the right to a means of communication because, without it, they cannot say "I love you". For many of those who are unable to speak it has been an action which has conveyed that.
    Love is definitely a "doing" word.

  3. Dear Jean,

    Yesterday evening I was knitting the heel of a sock and so could not read. My thoughts were with you and your husband during that time.

    Wishing you the strength you need to support your husband and nieces through the "agony".


  4. Dear Jean, you and your family are in my thoughts during this difficult time. Hugs Romina

  5. Thinking back, I never did get on all that well with my Mother-in-law, and I never knew whether she really approved of me, but since she has been gone, I certainly miss that burr beneath the saddle.

    Some time back I happened to say the phrase "love as an act of will" and then had to work out what that meant: something stronger and more potent that the sort with sweet words and twinkly bits. The sort that holds couples, families, and nations together. The sort that accepts people for who they are and doesn't try to change them.

    I think you know about that. Still keeping you in my thoughts.

  6. Whatever your relationship with her, you have spoken of how devoted your husband is to her, so that makes her an important part of your life whether either of you liked it. His sorrow will be part of your life, too, so sending you healing thoughts.

  7. I know the feeling of not getting on well with some in-laws. it makes me feel guilty at times, but also annoyed at myself because of that! it might be much harder for you to deal with the mourning of your husband, who looses his beloved sister, than your own loss actually - it would be like that for me. but still - you're there for him and through that for her - if we can't love relatives, at least we can respect them? I wish you strength for the time to come!
    all the best from ireland

  8. my prayers are with you and your husband and his family. death no matter how anticipated is hard to handle ...

  9. Anonymous6:44 PM

    My mother -in-law drove me cray for the first 30 years of our marriage. For the last 13, she's been the only mother I have.... and I've found I love her much more since then. She will be 89 this fall, and I enjoy every moment I have with her, as my own mother was gone much too soon, at 58,

    Barbara M.

  10. I do admire the uncompromising honesty of your approach here. The 3 am phone call serves no purpose but can be unsettling for years afterwards.

  11. Anonymous9:14 PM

    Your decision - agreed to by your husband - not to have the middle-of-the-night phone call was best. You aren't able to do anything then, anyhow. Sending you and yours best regards and prayers for all the sorrows you are having and anticipating. Take care. - Joe, in Wyoming.