My mother died in September, a little over a year after her Stage IV cancer diagnosis. She never came to terms with the necessity of moving into a nursing home due to her extreme physical de-conditioning and medical care needs. Also, especially the last 6 months or so, she was exhibiting more and more cognitive impairment. This didn’t help the fact that she couldn’t understand the situation; she was very angry with me most of the time.
Since she passed, I’ve been having occasional nightmares about her. Not necessarily scary dreams, but they disturb me and interrupt my sleep – I’ll be cranky and tired the next day or two, as well.
These dreams almost always take the form of being in an institutional like setting. The most recent seemed like we were sitting in a school cafeteria, crafting, in a brightly lit area at the long tables. In every dream, she is in her wheelchair, looking like she did soon after her diagnosis, before she became really frail.
Usually, I have a vivid feeling that she is there, and she is glaring at me with her mad face (I saw a lot of that in real life), and she is very angry with me. She doesn’t say much to me, just pierces me with dagger eyes, until something snaps me out of it – my subconscious tells me, this isn’t real. She’s no longer here. But, I wake up feeling sad, and terrible, and just defeated.
So, I was telling my sister about it recently. She offered the idea that Mom was maybe in Purgatory, working through her anger and it was coming through to me. I said, but why do I have to be there with her? Do I at least get credit when it’s my turn?
And, my sister said, oh,after this past year, you get AP credit. You definitely get AP credit.
DISCLAIMER: I USE SOME STEREOTYPES TO BACK UP AN OPINION. IF THAT OFFENDS YOU, GO AWAY.
I have an hypothesis. Mind you, I’ve not yet undergone any scientific-method based testing of said hypothesis to confirm or refute its accuracy. It is currently based on observations borne out of the question, “Why aren’t more women majoring in Computer Science and related High-Tech areas?”
When I entered my Computer Engineering program in 1981, approximately 20% of the Freshman class were female. By the time we graduated that number had dwindled a bit, but let’s just say it was still near to 20%.
Today, the number of women choosing to major in Engineering is hovering roughly near the exact same volume as it was when I started (Reference). Also, those are just the percentages choosing to major in it; I personally know quite a few who have chosen not to stick with it as a career.
Because this topic is being written/reported on reasonably frequently at this time, I found my self wondering “Why? Why are girls shying away from CS?”
I started paying attention to the flocks of programmers I see occasionally in town. I live in a town with a very high concentration of them, so it isn’t unusual to see them in the wild. Mostly during the daytime, I noticed, lunching at Mexican restaurants. That piqued another thought. Why don’t I notice more of them out and about, socializing, at night?
I remember my college days. I remember how socially awkward a lot of tech majors were. Not to say that everyone is, but a higher proportion than the typical med student or political science enthusiast. Face it, Computer Geeks are stereotyped as anti-social, gamer, dark room dwelling, hidey-hole living, programming bots FOR A REASON.
Now, through time, CS majors have been predominantly male. They love video games. They will immerse themselves in them, sometimes for days at a time (Yes, I am guilty of this a time or two, I used to have the time to play them, not recently, though). Keep those facts in mind for a few minutes. Stay with me, now.
A few weeks ago, we took our teenaged-girls to a new spot in town that re-creates the old arcades of my teen and college years. It is FILLED with all the old classics – Joust, Gauntlet, Galaga, Frogger (alas, much to my disappointment, no Burgertime was to be found), as well as an entire wall full of pinball machines. The kids played for three (3!) hours. They were laughing, and wandering from game to game. They would stop and watch me or my sister play something for a bit, and then move on to something else. Once or twice, they joined in with us at Gauntlet.
Girls are definitely social creatures. All humans are to some degree or another, but teenage girls make a career out of it.
Observing them at the arcade provided me with an aha moment. During my formative years, late high school, gaming was done in a very public venue. You had to go to a destination to play, for the most part. Once there, you socialized. Maybe you hung out and gabbed with friends while the other ones were playing.
Contrast that with the gaming of today. Most of it is done, alone, in one’s home, with a virtual reality type set up. Boys seem to stay with video games longer, so they are isolating themselves. We girls do not like that. We want to be out. Video games are just fine with us, but we want to touch your shoulder or have you lean on us while running through that maze.
I cannot really put a finger on it, but deep down, I think that is one reason why women are turned off of tech and tech programs. There seems to be LESS in-person social interaction among fellow students than 30 years ago. And girls might need it more than boys.
I don’t know what the solution is, though. I try to encourage the girls I know who are interested in tech and engineering by dispelling their fears that they’ll be thought of as geeks or nerds. I remind them that campuses are full of other students with lots of interests and they will not be relegated to the basement with only a small group of buddies.
I can only do so much, though. I think the solution is to bring back arcades. But, add a few pool tables into the mix. That was my game.
My mother has Stage IV, very, very likely terminal in a not so very long time form of cancer. She asked me to get her some sort of computer so she can get her email and browse the internet where she is recuperating from surgery.
I thought, she needs something easy to use, inexpensive, and must have a real keyboard, not a touch screen. So, I headed off to the big box electronic store to have a look at the chromebooks.
The sales fruit fly immediately began buzzing me. I told him what I was looking for, price and lightweight being key factors, and he kept trying to convince me that I wanted an upgrade. After a round of Pentium (fast) vs. Celeron (slow), I told him I’m looking at the el cheapo. Then he smugly said, those are only going to last a couple of years, max.
I finally became so annoyed with this guy that I snapped, “Well she has a TERMINAL illness, so I don’t think that will factor into this decision.” Poor guy. I thought he was going to cry.
I didn’t buy anything there because I was irritated. So, I meandered over to the nearby office store to look. When that helpful sales guy came up, I started off with the “She’s terminal, she just wants something simple, I just don’t want to spend a ton.” He helped me quickly choose, and then, he said, “I guess you won’t be purchasing that extended warranty, huh?”
Yes. I know my sense of humor can be sick, but really, I’d much rather laugh than cry. I’ve done enough of that.
I’m not feeling it, but I’m hanging onto that statement made by a religious comrade I am going to see today.
You see, my mom has cancer. It’s a breast cancer that was found a few weeks ago. It’s a very aggressive form that has grown to over 6cm since her last regular mammogram (it wasn’t seen at all then). Since she had stage 0 breast cancer 6 years ago, she’s been getting the higher level diagnostic mammograms for monitoring.
This new occurrence is already at stage 4, and has metastasized in her liver. The prognosis for that one is pretty grim for a younger, healthier person. But, Mom is elderly. She recently had a fall, resulting in a broken shoulder, resulting in a physical decline where she could not walk, resulting in a 3 month stint of in-patient rehabilitation, to get her stronger, so she can live with dignity and independence, even if some assistance is required. That is a story in and of itself of a terrible trek through what is now our medical and medicare bureaucratic reality.
The light at the end of the tunnel was the proverbial train, because the mass was detected during the week we were planning her discharge. She was so looking forward to moving into her new apartment and having her companion pets with her.
Naturally, she’s struggling with processing what the diagnosis means, what her options are, etc. The only promise I can make to her is that I will help her, and I will support her in her choices.
While trying to arrange for her physical and spiritual needs, I realized that I am succumbing to some depression as well. So, I reached out to a friend, who also happens to be a deacon at my church, and am going to sit with him to talk today. After I texted him and explained what was going on, we made plans to meet.
Later that day, a simple message popped up on my messages, “All shall be well.”
I’m not feeling it, but I’m hanging onto it.