Wednesday, August 5, 2015

what's left unsaid.

I haven't written about it yet.

I haven't written about it yet because it sucks.

I haven't written about it yet because it's - too big, I think.

I haven't written about it because there aren't any words, and because there are just so many words.

I haven't written about it because it was a whirlwind of fear, panic, pain, and grief, and processing all that is...not easy.

I haven't written about it because she didn't want me to, even if she didn't say as much. She wanted the whole affair to be kept relatively private, which is not my nature (hence, Blog of Oversharing).

I haven't written about it because she didn't want us to be weepy or negative or sentimental, and because she originally wanted it presented like this: "Tell people I've got some tumors, and I'm starting radiation and chemo soon." A crappy summer, then a shitty football season, and then it'd be much better, she said.

I haven't written about it because "some tumors" were stage four lung cancer in my mom, and what the fuck do you even say about that? 

I haven't written about it because I also haven't cried about it, not really, not since the weekend she landed in the hospital, in early June. That was a month after her official diagnosis, and a little over a month before she succumbed to her diagnosis.

I haven't written...anything. No blog entries, no journal entries, barely even a grocery list. Nothing except that one note on my iPhone, a jumble of shower-thoughts hoping to be assembled into something resembling a matron of honor speech for my friends' wedding this Saturday. Thoughts that sound like forgive each other, even when you don't want to, but that quiver with undertones of ...while you still can, while it still matters.


I posted here about an Instagram project on a Wednesday. That Friday, my dad called during Rowan's naptime. The fierce pain in my mom's side - the pain her doctor had attributed to constipation ("So don't worry, honey; I'm just full of shit," she had laughed a week earlier) - was lung cancer. My dad's voice broke, and so did I.


That first weekend in May, I washed and folded Rowan's summer wardrobe - bright primary colors, butterflies and flowers, cotton and comfort - and cried. In the first few days after the world had tilted askew, everything had new meaning, including these clothes: clothes delivered just a week earlier, and the last clothes my mom ("Obee," to her grandkids) would buy for Rowan. Rowie knew which items were from Obee, and she'd announce with glee as I selected an outfit for her, "Obee dress! Obee shoooooes!" In this new After, I couldn't help but grab my girl as she ran past in an Obee dress and squeeze her into me. She'd pull back and startle at my tears. "Mama sad. Mama sad Obee," she'd observe, sending me bawling anew.

My four siblings and I rallied around my parents immediately, calling and visiting and accompanying them to appointments. My mom's pain levels - debilitating - terrified me. We gathered at their house for Mother's Day, which was also my mom's birthday, which was also the day I wept in the greeting card aisle at CVS, wondering if this would be my last Mother's Day with a living mother. I wept and then halted myself, feeling guilty for putting such a terrible thought out into the universe. We don't know the details yet, I said to myself, repeating Mom's own words in my head. Let's not panic. Instead of panicking, I bought the cards and the flowers and hauled my little family out to see my big family. I didn't even panic when, after a couple very loud hours of celebrating, I found my mom leaning against the wall in the hallway, tears running down her exhausted face. "It's too much, too loud. You guys have to go," she cried. And we did. But I didn't panic.


A few weeks later, my mom finished a two-week course of radiation. Her pain had diminished to almost none, and she went wig-shopping with my dad in anticipation of her upcoming chemotherapy. The day after radiation ended - another Friday during naptime - a text rang through from my dad to all of us kids. Mom had collapsed and couldn't get up. They needed ambulance transport to the hospital. One of her tumors - the one in her spine - had compressed her nerves so that she was becoming paralyzed. The radiation hadn't worked. At the hospital, my dad squeezed me, too hard, and whispered through his tears, "We're losing her. Oh, honey, we're losing her."

I panicked.


I haven't written about May and June and July yet because what else is there to say besides, "My mom died"? What's left unsaid inside that phrase is what each of us went through in May and June and July, radiation and hospital and hospice and death. There are parts of it I know I'll share, once my head is back on straight - mostly about how kind, loving, smart, brave, and positive my mom remained during all of it - and there are parts of it I know I'll never share, except to say that I'm so grateful for my family of origin, and that we experienced this together, side by side, thickening the ties that bind us. 

What's left unsaid is what happens to those of us left behind. My dad, rattling around their huge, empty house. My siblings, bereft and askew. My daughter, who's simultaneously aware ("Bye-bye, Obee. No more Obee" - unprompted) and unaware of what she'll miss out on, forever deprived of a relationship with her maternal grandmother. She'll hear us recount tales of Obee's sense of humor (right down to why she's called Obee), Obee's quick wit, Obee's searing intelligence, Obee's fierce independence, Obee's dedicated mothering - but she won't know. And I haven't written about that because - because I just can't.

Those of us left behind are at least left behind with one another, and with our People. My People sent touching cards, thoughtful texts and messages, gorgeous flowers, and (because they're MY People) chocolate. More of my People have lost their mothers than I realized, and I study them with wonder, desperate to believe that I'll be left standing when the dust settles, too. 


And I am. Standing, that is. (Or, okay, sitting on the couch in a horrible position that always leaves me with neck pain...but, metaphorically, standing.) I'm grieving and readjusting and worried sick about my dad, but I'm standing. No, I haven't written about it - or anything else, for that matter - but here. I'm trying. One stream-of-consciousness post, written in half an hour, to break the seal. And I have to cut it off here, before it devolves into a maudlin reflection on just how very sad I am that my mom won't be calling me after I post this to let me know her always-correct opinions on my writing. (It surprised me every time she did that. She was reading what I wrote?!) I'll end for now by saying this: I am so lucky to have the mother I had, and I am so sad to have lost the mother I had.


  1. Cathy. This absolutely breaks my heart. I've been seeing your sweet Rowan pictures and hoping you're holding up okay; I also hope you feel at least a little relief to have broken the seal. Leave it to you to explain such a painful thing so beautifully. I'm thinking of you and your whole family.

    1. Thanks, M. Although...now I'm realizing that my "breaking the seal" phrasing really sounds like a reference to peeing. :)

  2. even though there wasnt a gorga in our grade (truth: i felt leftout about that. left out of the fun you guys, you gorga clan, seemed to bring with you everywhere) i knew about you all and i think everyone at school knew who your mom was. i dont think i ever talked to her, or came within a reasonable radius of her (though i wanted to. confession of a stalker?) but i know her smile. i knew that she was a very 'present' mom. she knocked her job of 'mom' right out of the park and mothered from a different planet. i was in awe of her, i think thats fair to say. i wish the best for you all as you navigate your days without your favorite, fearless captain. you'll find your way. you are so lucky to have each other, and rowan is lucky to have you. its great that she is seeing you grieve. such a healthy gift. your mom guided you all wonderfully and she will continue to guide you through this. my thoughts are with you.

    1. This made me smile and tear up at the same time, in a good way. I'm so glad you noticed her back then...she was a force to be reckoned with for sure. Thanks for letting me know you remember her. :)



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