Apr. 19th, 2015

I was talking to my mom yesterday evening; I realized I could set the treadmill to 2.5 mph and talk to my parents while walking for half an hour, which is a good thing. Mom's had her last treatment--the 12th--and in a few weeks they'll find out of the tumor has pulled away from the hepatic vein enough for the whipple procedure.

No one is very optimistic about it; the expectation at this point is that she's a permanent cancer patient. However, for pancreatic cancer that's saying something, and everyone is admitting that she's one of the few who's made it through all 12 treatments of this new drug. Most of the others who started it have switched to something less lethal along the way. Mom said that surprised her because she never thought of herself as someone very strong; I said she wasn't lifting railroad ties or anything, but she always had endurance, no question. Sticktoitiveness. But they have put her in touch with palliative care, which I have to admit is a bummer. She says it is for the neuropathy and handling the ongoing pain from that, and I said on the one hand I am very much disturbed by the word "palliative" but on the other hand, I'm all for her not being in pain.

She pointed out that the death of a parent is always a shake-up; when her mom, my grandma, died, she (my mom) was in recovery, i.e. therapy to deal with all the messed-up stuff she had learned from her mother the alcoholic. And mom then pointed out that when Granpa married Margaret (his third and last wife, who was the spitting image of my grandmother at her worst--angry, mean, venal, stupid, belittling him at every turn even as she made sure he got his meds and was well-fed etc.), mom had a LOT of re-assessing to do. ;) I can't even think about Dad re-marrying. I don't think he'd last long enough without mom to even consider it. My uncle is dating again (and having his heart broken, sigh!) and it's not easy, but he's not even 75 yet. Dad's closer to 80 than 70 at this point.

Mom and I have evolved a lot together; we always got along, admittedly. I think I can count the number of all-out screaming fights we have had in my life on the fingers of one hand, and I don't even remember what those were about, per se. I'm pretty sure one of them was about them not letting me date a fellow from the local college when I was in high school (and I mean, seriously, good choice on their part), and the other one was some time around my college graduation and was something about my sister, but honestly I don't remember what it was. But let's be serious; Mom and Dad always came across as center to far right politically and theologically when I was growing up. Homosexuality was a sin (even if it was "just a phase"), not to be considered as a normal way of life; women priests were an oxymoron; Carter was a disaster and Reagan was great, though admittedly we didn't have a lot of political discussions around the dinner table. Dad as a diplomat had to implement the policies of whoever was in charge, and I remember him explaining that to me at some point in high school, that his personal beliefs couldn't affect how he did his job.

Mom swears they've both flip flopped between Democrat and Republican over the course of their lives, but friends from high school and college have both attested that my parents were some of the most conservative people they ever knew. And certainly the hubby, who has been around 20+ years now, says he definitely remembers some very vivid commentary on Slick Willy's presidency, back when we were first married. And of course Dad played a role in the break-up of the Anglican Communion of the past 20 years over theological intransigency (he's currently writing a book on it). So my impression has always been, with some evidence, they were conservatives all the way.

But Mom voted for Kerry, and Dad backs her up on that, with his waggling eyebrows attesting to the depth of the fights they had over that election. She definitely voted for Obama both times, and has had some choice words about the Bush/Cheney administrations, WMDs, and unfunded unjustified wars, demonizing the poor, etc. She strongly shared my revulsion and nausea over the CIA torture report last fall. Mom's claiming to have been a liberal for a long time now--I think it has to do with having gotten into the teacher's union when she was teaching high school for so long, and realizing that they were not the instruments of evil that she'd been raised to believe. That was the first crack!

But these last times I've talked to her, she pointed out she realized she's actually changed her views on gay marriage, and is much more accepting of it than she realized (or than Dad is! arguing with him helped her clarify her views, which is why it came up). And she said Dad has actually gotten comfortable, recently, taking the bread and wine from a woman priest!

I said hang on, I have to call hell and book my next skiing vacation... :) Seriously?? Dad and a woman priest? Mom, in favor of gay rights (even if only tentatively)?? My word. Mom has actually become a social liberal. I mean, it took me long enough--I was stupid for a long time--but I was a young adult and have had decades to re-assess my childhood upbringing and to be introduced to the ideas of privilege, institutionalized bigotry, etc. I never pictured she could change as well, during the last quarter or third of her life.

She continues to be a role model, however imperfect.



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