Too Close To Call

She sleeps most of the day, now, and most of the night. Today she opened her eyes for breakfast and could use a straw but by lunchtime that was all over and she was drinking mochaccino smoothie spoonful by spoonful again. It’s Election Day and in between the bed bath and the pills and the lotion and the lunch I check the political blogs obsessively. Nothing yet, nothing yet. The Florida polls close at 7:00. STAY IN LINE, says the Obama campaign’s Twitter feed.

Some of it—most of it—doesn’t really look like sleep. Half sleep, maybe. For several weeks she has been talking and whispering to herself; we used to hear sentences or individual words but since Saturday it’s been just…sounds, mostly. Sometimes when I go in for the 6 am pills she says “Mommy!” Today there was a lot of something I don’t quite know how to describe. Moaning? No. Crying? No. Just hours of long, slow, soft, “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh. Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhwwwwwwww. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh.” Five hours, six hours, seven hours. “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhwwwwwww. Awwwwwwwww. Aaaaaaahhhhh.” “I voted today!” or “VOTE!” say my social media.

“Mom, do you have any pain?” I ask her. “No,” she says clearly. “Aaaaaaaahhhhh. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh. Awwwwwwww.”

“Mom, do you have any pain? Does something hurt? Can I help you? Do you need something?”


“Mom, can I…”

“Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh.”

I’ve been in the apartment alone all day today; my nephew came up with a rash yesterday at day care and my sister had to take him in to the doctor this morning. It’s not contagious but by the time they were done with everything it didn’t make sense for her to take him to day care for an hour and then have to turn right around to get him again. I don’t mind being here by myself. I grind up the pills in the pill crusher, check the blogs again, send emails. I lie on the floor and do half-hearted crunches because I feel too tired for yoga. I drink tea. I read a book. I pet the cats.

“Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.”

I finally turn on the streaming election coverage after a talk with my sister and with my mom’s best friend about upping the pain meds. We’re all in agreement; we don’t know, really, what kind of pain she’s in, but she’s surely uncomfortable. Surely she is. There is no way to know, though. There is no way to know what she feels or what she thinks because she doesn’t use language in a way any of us can understand.

The last couple of weeks I was in Wellington I would reliably break down whenever I thought about what she was feeling about the whole thing. “I just don’t want her to be scared,” I would sob. “I just don’t want her to be scared.” I still (don’t) want that, so I call hospice to talk about meds. They will send out the regular nurse tomorrow, and in the meantime I give her her sleeping pill. A bunch of the Midwest states go for Romney, Pennsylvania goes to Obama. I make myself a hot chocolate, and the room next door is quiet.

She sleeps; she sleeps. The oxygen condenser thrums and buzzes. I distract myself from cancer with politics, from politics with cancer. It’s too soon to know. It’s too close to call. MSNBC takes a break and I go in to apply her lip balm and give her a kiss goodnight. This will go on all night.


  1. Sending you love, love.

  2. So familiar. I pray for you every day xxx

  3. From the way you describe it I don’t think she’s scared and you girls are why.


  4. Much love & big hugs to you my dear xx

  5. thank you for sharing your journey, as painful as it is. Much love to you xx

  6. Hi Chiara,
    I’m wondering if the sound she is making is because of how relaxed her body is with the medication she is already taking, I am sure the nurse will be able to help so just hang on. I am making you a beautiful hat with lots of love knitted into it as I think about you whenever I am knitting it (hoping you are all right) and isnt that all we can hope. Please look after yourself as well as your Mum.

  7. Chiara, I am thinking of you and your family a lot, arohatinonui e hoa, kia kaha… xxxxxx

  8. I’ve read your blog for years, a stranger to you really. I’m sorry to read what your family, especially your mother, is going through. It’s bringing back memories of my mothers journey with cancer. It’s not an easy journey at all. God Bless.

  9. Sending you love and hugs my dear friend