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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My sister

Tuesday morning. I sit here in the peace and quiet of my Paris apartment. My time is my own. I have nothing on the agenda today. No plans. I can and will do anything I want. No worries.

Well, I do have bills to pay. Finances to juggle. But I can meet my needs.

In the meantime, back in Denver, my sister is in the hospital - again. She's just had her third major neck operation, after two back operations and a hip replacement. The problem with all of these operations, besides the obvious impacts on her health, mobility, and finances, has been her almost continuous use of pain medications. Her ever-higher tolerance to narcotics creates an escalating battle to manage her post-surgical pain.

It's not a pretty sight to see her completely out of her mind in pain and in withdrawal; one feels so helpless. The nurses get nervous: "If I give her a higher dose she won't be able to breathe". But if she doesn't get enough she screams and thrashes. It's frightening.

I was with her for the last few surgeries - I took the night shift after my mother and niece Pammy finished the day shift. It was painful for me but helpful for my sister.

I'm not there this time and so the burden falls on my mother and my niece - as it always does. For my mother it is another cross to bear, and she wears herself out spending the day at my sister's bedside and then going home to spend the evening and night at my father's bedside.

While I sit here in Paris as free as a bird.

Where do our responsibilities to each other begin and end? Where do we draw the line and take care of ourselves first?

My mother clearly takes care of everyone else first. And I struggle with the example that she sets.

Do I sound torn? Feeling slightly guilty for my freedom and my great good fortune? Yes. But I'm not ready to come back. I have a life too! And I'm only beginning to see what it means to me. I am 60 years old and I feel like my life is just beginning.

I suddenly have an image of myself as a two-year-old: stamping her foot, her arms crossed, shouting NO! as she tests her independence. Maybe I missed this step somewhere along the way?!

Anyway, I'm not ready to come back. I need this time for myself. So, until my mother or niece or sister call me up begging me to return, I'm staying put.


  1. Hi Elaine,

    It is okay to not be ready to come back.

    You should be proud that you know that you need to stay...for yourself. It will be okay. It is hard to be away when loved ones are in need, but let those here help this time. Philippe and I will call Pammy and see how we can help.

    Love, Rach

  2. Hi Rach,

    Thanks to you and Philippe for being there and being willing to help out. I know my mom and my sister and Pammy will be happy to see you.

    Love, Elaine

  3. Hi Elaine,
    Watching you follow your heart is the greatest gift I could ever dream of. You have always been an inspiration to me. Life is so short, so precious. Thank you for your fine example of how to be an amazing, beautiful and strong woman.
    I dearly love you,

    (and thanks to Philippe and Rachel who have kindly reached out)