Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mom Joins the Right Milennium

My mother has struggled mightily to find her own way to move on since my stepdad's death in 2004. She's read every widowhood book in existence as well as all those self-help and "for those who live alone ..." and so on and so forth. Being her, however, none of this has really helped a lot. Or else it's all helped.

This woman is, in many ways, fiercely independent. She always has been, in a strange sort of way. The best example of this I can give is that, when my dad left and things got tight financially for a couple of years, she worked full-time as a school nurse during the week and then added in both weekend days as well as some evenings as an occupational health nurse. That's seven days a week of working, often sixteen hours in one day. She's a Hampton princess, but I've seen very few people match her work ethic. Despite her eccentricities, she is an amazing lady.

When she met then married my stepdad, my mother got to relax a bit. She was able to live a very happy life, and I can truly say that my parents (meaning my mom and stepdad) were madly in love throughout their marriage. I know how rare this is, and I'm fully aware of how much both of them cherished what they had.

My stepdad's diagnosis of lung cancer--a death sentence, as my mother knew right away--was a nightmare. Because of my mother's medical expertise, she did a lot of things that most would have had a visiting nurse or hospice or something take care of. I don't know how she was able to survive his eight-month convalescence when so much of it was on her shoulders, but she did, and she managed to keep her sanity and sense of humor intact for the most part (the fact that he was able to do the same is probably a major factor in that).

Anyway, after his death, she very understandably had some adjustment issues. These have continued for years now, as she's read books about coping with her situation and changed jobs and moved to a different town. She's internalized everything, but she's been reluctant to change many things from the way things were when my stepdad was alive and she was dizzily, gloriously happy all the time.

The most visible--and the most annoying, frankly--involved her computer/internet set-up. My mother saw absolutely no reason to give up the Gateway desktop my stepdad had bought in (I think) 1998. She felt that changing her dial-up internet was completely unnecessary. Using the computer and e-mail program that she had shared with him was, of course, some sort of connection that she was hanging onto. I can understand that, truly I can. All the same, it's gotten to be a bit frustrating when she has a problem or a program that needs to be downloaded or a picture file to open or whatever. She'd call Pythagorus, and he'd go over there and do his best to help her out. He's been mumbling about her technological issues for years.

Pythagorus mumbled quietly, though. I'm not as nice, and I started giving her a hard time about it when I was at her house and wanted to check my e-mail or look something up online or something. Addie, a technophile in her own right, added her voice to the choir, as did my sister Mary when she and Jon stayed at my mother's over Thanksgiving.

Evidently, we finally wore her down about the internet. She had Comcast install a new cable jack in her main living room and also bought a start-up kit for cable internet. Pythagorus was more than happy to set it up for her and he did so ... but when he went to plug it into the dinosaur Gateway, he found that it didn't have an ethernet port. Basically, he told my mother there were two options--getting a portable ethernet for the Gateway or getting a new computer.

She went with Option B.

So Pythagorus went to the computer store with her yesterday and helped her pick out a new computer. We all went down this afternoon to set it up (well, Pythagorus set it up and the rest of us just sort of hung out), and so my mother now has a state-of-the-art Thinkpad with high-speed internet.

I know this was hard for her because, in a way, it's having to let a little bit more of my stepdad go away. I think it must be damn near impossible to survive widowhood (or widowerhood) with your facilities intact. I miss my stepdad every single day, and I cannot imagine the exponential loss my mother must feel.

Even though I feel relief (because I'm sort of an internet junkie and the dial-up was frankly a royal pain in the ass), I think I'm sort of an asshole too, because this was obviously something hard for my mother to do. I mean, it took her almost five years to get here.

Why is there so much pain in life, and why do people handle it so differently?