Infusing more life into life


72 Hours Away: Optimized, scrappy, and far down the rabbit hole

December 20, 2017

When I saw my mother last September, it had been almost a year.

She looked dreadful.

l was so angry. Why had she kept the devastation of her body from me? Why hadn’t my father or sisters called? How come a picture hadn’t been sent? The alarms should have been sounded.

I have a face like an open book. No one had told me that the 5th floor of the Brampton hospital was the Palliative Oncology ward, prior to my walking up to the nurses station to find my mom in her hallway bed.

In Canada, there is such a thing as a hallway bed. The wall was numbered on her floor with 3-5 stations and the bed was wheeled against the wall. There were 2 other patients in this status at the time. One had partition.

Although my mother looked like a she was living in a body that had been eroded by metastasized cancer, she, herself, had no part in that existence.

She said, “the hospital is packed.” Couldn’t I see? And they have to “put you where they put you.”   And she dismissed my “why are you on this floor?” And my look with a “Never mind that.”

I decided to let her have her way. I was still mad though. Pissed, actually.

She was, by my assessment, IN SO DEEP. 


My current boss said once, I am “optimized for a sh*t storm.” My first boss said, he never worried about me since I was “scrappy.”  But, even I wondered what to do. I didn’t have tools to get out of this storm and 95% of my standard tool kit had been eroded by the late timing of the intervention.

I loved her. I was mad as hell. My hands were tied. And, I was so sad.

To be an emotional person, raised in deliberste stoicism is so hard. I, of course, would hug you every day. But, that was not the way. My mother didn’t like that. And I get all the reasons why you would protect a little black girl in that way. But it was a tax. I had to discern when my hugs were okay. I think it is important to share this part because there are very few of us who can write that in all ways, we were suited for our family of origin. The dynamic of voiced emotions when silence or retreat would do, was the trauma the family endured to raise me. Conversely, the unpredictable nature of my delivering no emotion when that was exactly not what was wanted, made me contrary and difficult. My own inner narrative, “you can’t have it both ways.”


It wasn’t surprising when I pressed the issue to find out where the heck all this pain was coming from that something happened. Let me start with the conclusion, some of my mother’s pain could be alleviated by seeing a different kind of doctor. And, by the time, I returned to Portland, her physician had “called to inform her” that the appointment had been set up.

But, here’s also what happened when I pressed the issue, my mother unraveled. She said, to her doctor, “please don’t tell my daughter what is going on with me. No, doctor. No.” And I could write a super break your heart descriptive of this moment. But that is not relevant to this story. Plus, if you can’t feel it. My words wouldn’t really help anyway.

Of course, I knew. Mummy also didn’t want to make it easy. Her doctors’ hands were tied. So, we were at an impasse. I left my Mom to the nurses. Mummy wanted me to supervise her shower. I was too mad, in shock, and because I didn’t want to do it anyway, I punted. I said and I have no recollection of the exact wording that I was leaving and I would be back later. And, because, you know that mother-daughter place, I added  maybe she should have someone she trusts help her with her shower. Pissed. Disappointed. Unable to assemble a plan that could pull her out of this rabbit hole, I also went to the nurse station out of her line of sight so someone would assist her.

I decided to change my travel plans and not head back to home, but to return to Brampton after two days in D.C. In DC a lot happened, the least of which was that I met Lupita and David Oyelowo at a private screening of the Queen of Katwe, as the fangirl that I am. 


I will explain how those 72 hours away changed a lot of things.  


More later.


Me, being hugged. I needed that hug that day. Thanks David Oyelowo. Sept 2016.




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A visionary technologist by day, Delia is also a published author and public speaker, often focusing on topics of project management, research practices, user experience and diversity in the workplace. Involved in the community and external business world, Delia co-founded Designing Me, an organization that steers professional women into executive and leadership positions. Her Got Strategy workshop assists junior and mid-level professionals in setting and executing a career strategy.

© 2017 by Delia Grenville

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