Deal with it by coming off as really robotic. Dodge the well-meaning hugs of strangers (because that’s all there is in this part of Florida for you, strangers and family) and raise your eyebrows crisply and politely whenever anyone coos “Oh it must be SO HARD for YOU GIRLS because it’s YOUR MOM and it’s just SO DIFFICULT.” Say “Yes, thanks for your help” a lot. Say, “We’ll certainly keep you informed.”
Deal with it by spending a lot of time on Etsy. You will favorite every cute graphic-y clutch wallet: every single one.
Deal with it by subscribing to living room online yoga. Do it sometimes–don’t do it, sometimes. Use one of her yoga mats which miraculously made it up here from Miami. Try not to think about it as her yoga mat; try not to think about how she learned to stand on her head when she was fifty and how impressed you were.
Deal with it by worrying incessantly about what you’re eating. Douse her pancakes with butter and syrup every morning but make sure you feel guilty for each bite of fake sausage. Try to ignore your desire to count calories—you thought you were done with that in 2005, but no–and tell yourself that it’s FINE to have some Greek yogurt, it’s FINE. Buy bags and bags of Milano cookies for her; reproach yourself for the sugar you put in your afternoon tea.
Deal with it by putting a lot of emoticons in your texts and emails and gchats, all of which are getting fewer and farther between.
Deal with it by planning fantasy trips: to Costa Rica, to Vegas, to California, to Canada, to Wales. Worry about what you would pack for these trips. Are you sure you have the right kind of shoes? You should probably spend some more time online shopping.
Deal with it by never crying.
Deal with it by getting an annual pass to the local aquarium and post a picture of the roseate spoonbills to your Facebook. Watch the injured sea turtle and the high-stepping beach birds, just like at home on the island, and watch the river otters. Recall that you used to be in a band where you sang about otters. Your last gig was about a month ago, two nights before you had to leave early, and you will never have another one. You will never write another song. In the open-water exhibit, stare at cownose rays swooping through clouds of silver fish, and wish they had done something else with the floor of that particular tank rather than leave it just plain blank concrete.
Deal with it by going into her room—the only other room in this apartment—every thirty minutes to make sure she’s still breathing. Adjust the oxygen, offer her something to drink, regardless if she makes eye contact, regardless if she understands who you are or who she is or what is happening to all of you. Put some lip balm on her lips. Hold her hand. Kiss her forehead and wish her sweet dreams. Make sure the last thing she hears at night from you is “I love you.” (Does she hear it?) Lay down on the new, exponentially more comfortable foldout couch, and tell yourself to try to get to sleep, that she’s fine, that everything is going to be fine. Relatively speaking, everything is going to be fine. It’s going to be as fine as it can be. It’s going to be more or less fine.
Deal with it by getting up again, thirty minutes later.
Deal with it by falling asleep, briefly, late in the afternoon, before it’s time for her dinner. Let the cat who used to be the kitten you fostered with her four years ago come to sit on your chest.
Deal with it by reading whatever you can get your hands on. Burn through the Narnia and Little House series—they made it from Miami too—and ask your librarian sister to order you books you can’t get so readily in Wellington. Finish a book every night, every two nights. Forget what you’ve read as soon as you’ve read it.
Deal with it by crying.
Deal with it by calling hospice if you think something might be wrong—maybe the pills need to be adjusted?—and by furrowing your brow when every person you talk to seems to have a different opinion, or else no opinion at all. “Well, you know her best,” they say, shrugging. “It’s fine either way.” You are not a doctor. You are not a pharmacist. You and your sister have never done this before. The nurses will wait until the next time you call after hours (it will only be a couple of days) to tell you you’ve been doing it wrong. They will seem incredulous to learn that you have no idea how, exactly, to do this work, and will end the conversation by telling you to remember to call them if you need anything.
Deal with it by stopping listening to music altogether—you do not want a soundtrack to this particular part of your life. You do not want any negative associations with any songs, because who knows when you might need them again.