[cancer|child] There’s a hole in the bottom of her heart where all the love runs out

Last night I had another meltdown. By my standards, this one was fairly epic.

Let me ‘splain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

We were basementing again, and when I say “we”, I mean Team E— with an assist from [info]the_child. I had gone out to Cartlandia to fetch dinner. When I came back, my daughter was in the garage going through some old papers she’d found in the broken down desk I’ve never quite managed to get rid of.

These were drawings and cards she’d made me from the time she was old enough to hold a crayon until about age six or seven. She appeared profoundly sad. We spoke briefly about what she was doing, then I took the food into the house. After I ate, I went out and found her still in the garage, still looking at the old drawings.

[info]the_child was still so very sad. It was heart-breaking. And I know this precise sadness. Missing a sense of an earlier, simpler time when life seemed happy. The feeling sometimes afflicts me to this day. We talked a little, and she let me comfort her. I said, “Sometimes I miss being a little kid.” She said, “That was the best time of my life.” Meaning, before the dyslexia, before the teenage hormone storms and stress, before the personal issues which are hers to recount someday, before I was ill and dying.

She’s adopted. We know nothing about her birth family, and we never will. My daughter feels that as a profound loss, and perhaps the core issue of her psyche is the dread and pain of abandonment. That sense of past and impending betrayal is a hole in the bottom of her heart where all the love runs out.

And me, in my dying, am abandoning her in the most profound way possible. I am tearing open that hole in her heart, and leaving floodgate that may never shut.

I understand this all too well because of my own history. My parents split when I was about four. My mother took me and my sister and moved back to Texas. When I was about five, my dad got custody of us from my mother. As my very first therapist said, back in 1980, by the time I was six, in psychological terms, I had experienced double abandonment. The continuity of the developmental relationship with both my parents had been broken.

The core issue of my psyche is the dread and pain of abandonment. There’s always been a hole in the bottom of my heart where all the love runs out. This explains the ragingly co-dependent and highly depressive relationship life I led in my teens and twenties. Now, on the back end of 30+ years of therapy, it explains why I chose to go the route of polyamory and practice something of an All The Women Are Belong To Me dating life. By dint of decades of hard work, I’ve directed that energy in a constructive fashion; become loving and thoughtful and kind and attentive as a way of both easing my own heart and easing the hearts of those around me. I do not always succeed in those things, but I do the best I can.

I’ve chosen to repay pain and loss with love and kindness.

Now my child stands on that same path, for similar reasons. I will never be able to love her enough. I will not live long enough to help her through the disaster of my own early death.

As I said to Lisa Costello last night, she looked so lost. In that loss, I see the lost boy I was and to some degree still am.

And so I cried my heart out last night, for her and for me. I weep to even write this now, and doubt the wisdom of committing my words to public view in this moment. But this, too, is part of dying. This, too, is part of living. This, too, is part of loving.

I hope [info]the_child someday finds a way to patch that hole and let the love which is all around her fill her heart. I wish I could be here to see that day.

62 thoughts on “[cancer|child] There’s a hole in the bottom of her heart where all the love runs out

  1. Lydia says:

    {{{hugs}}} I think you’ve given her the understanding that she *can* find a way through this — the strength to, not stand, but stand again. She will have so many people loving her and available to her to help; and your honesty will be the biggest help of all.

  2. pelican says:

    Thank you for this, Jay. I hope when/if your daughter reads this someday, she finds it comforting to have been so well seen by someone who loves her so much.

  3. Jim Crider says:

    Sometimes, there isn’t an easy answer that you can give that will make everything all right. Because everything *isn’t* all right. I say this as someone who used to think the reason my mother was getting worse was because I didn’t get to see her enough (the brain stem tumor she had necessitated that she be in a nursing home where she could receive the constant care she required), and if I just saw her more, she’d get better.

    That didn’t happen, of course. Cancer doesn’t give a flying intercourse who comes to see you.

    It took a lot of help, from family, from friends who didn’t understand this crap any more than I did but knew that because I was their friend, they needed to stick with me, and from therapy that I still sometimes revisit because it’s so damned helpful.

    One of my favorite elementary school teachers, Mrs. Pricilla White, who wore “FRODO LIVES!” shirts that always made me happy, even though it was before I knew what that even meant, wrote me a letter after my mother passed that was amazing and I’ve remembered one key part of it and trotted it out when needed in the 36 years since. Paraphrased:

    Life is a bit like jumping on a trampoline. You hit the top of your jump, and get that thrill of weightlessness, but it doesn’t last, and you go back down again. Gravity is like that. And if you just hit stiff-legged, you’ll bounce a little, not as high, not as long, and it hurts, and after a couple of those, you’re not bouncing anymore at all.

    But you want to get back up to the top of the arc again, so you learn to flex your legs as you hit the mesh, softening the landing, and storing the energy that you can use to jump again, higher, longer than the last. You’ve transformed that energy of loss into a gain.

    This is more awkward than the way Mrs. White said it, but it conveys the same emotion, I hope.

    I see the profound love you have for The Child and the strong desire you have to keep going — if not for yourself, then for her. She sees that, and also sees you setting things up for as orderly a death as you can arrange, and it’s the latter that may seem more prominent to her — that you’re giving up, preparing to be gone. Maybe a reminder that you’re doing everything you can to keep going as long as you can — the ongoing chemo and its nasty, painful side effects — because you’re not done yet and want to be around her and the rest of the folks you love as long as possible. Remind her that planning for the worst — while hoping for the best — is the logical way of doing such that those folks you love, absolutely including her, have less mess to deal with when the time comes that you’re gone.

    Jay, what I’ve seen in how you’re going about all this is clearly motivated by love. And while that doesn’t make it hurt less, it’s absolutely coming from the right place.

    1. Laurie Mann says:

      Jim, great observations all the way around. Love the trampoline analogy.

  4. Laurie Mann says:

    It’s hard but good that you can write this down. If she ever had any doubts about how much you love her, pieces like this should help.

    In the future, she will hurt & miss you, and while she may feel abandonned, you are not abandonning her. This is something you’re fighting and it’s not the same thing as choosing to walk out the door. You never chose to be sick, it just happened.

  5. Ben Fenwick says:

    You are brave. Thanks for sharing this. And all that love will matter, very much. She’s known it because of you, and it will carry her. Imagine–she will carry you when your body no longer can. That’s when you’ll be carrying her, too.

  6. Ruthie says:

    I’ve struggled with dyslexia too. Back in the 90s if you told an employer you had dyslexia forget it. So I didn’t tell anyone and I believed in myself and worked hard and made a good living in IT for seventeen years despite it. Joel Siegel wrote this amazing book for his son called, Lessons for Dylan, because he couldn’t be there for all the trials and tribulations. I recommend it. It’s beautiful, poignant and sweet.

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