One thing I have found is that if I am not able to maintain some kind of regular routine in my life, I quickly lose perspective in all areas. I question myself and lose confidence. I question others and wonder about their motives, or I perceive imagined slights. (What did he/she mean by that???) I become overwhelmed by anything even slightly resembling clutter. The pile of mail on the kitchen table makes me feel like I’m very close to being eligible for my debut on “Hoarders.” Worst of all, I see a look of wariness in the eyes of my staff. (Oh, no! She’s on the warpath!) Thankfully, while my family notices my craziness, they don’t seem bothered by it. They usually just roll their eyes and ignore me. Continue Reading »
I had planned on writing about our trip tonight. I had saved away things that I wanted to write about, but as it turns out, our trip home was the most eventful part of the trip.
T and I had a very late, and boozy, night last night, so we didn’t push ourselves to get going too early this morning. In fact, we detoured to see the place where the fictional Mary Richards was to have lived during the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was duly impressed by the architecture as I have a strange fascination with the brutalist movement. Continue Reading »
My daughter, Grace, was born in November 1987. She was ten weeks premature and lived for 17 days. Amazingly, she would be older now than I was at the time of her birth. When I look back on those 17 days, and the months that followed, it is like viewing a different person, not the woman I am today. Yes, I know these memories are a part of who I am now, but I look back in sympathy and sadness over what that young woman endured. I was little more than I child, yet I had to face some very adult situations and decisions. It saddens me to remember those terrible days, yet I would go back and relive them in an instant to once more hold my baby, Grace. Continue Reading »
Imagine what it would be like to be plucked from your life for a year, two years, maybe even longer. Then quite suddenly, you were back! Well, you were back to the same place, but of course, things had changed during your absence. That’s how my life feels now, but I’m sure no one around me notices a thing. They hadn’t even noticed that I had been gone.
Before I go any further with these thoughts, let me say that my intent is not to criticize my family or friends. I have been blessed with a supportive family and truly wonderful friends. Unfortunately, some of the burden of these past few years has been mine alone to carry. It was my dad who died. It was my mother who was sick. I was the one the hospital, nurses, and doctors called when there was an emergency. I was the one who made the phone calls to check in on my mom. T made many trips to visit my mom. The girls went along many times, too. When the boys were home, they made their obligatory visits. They helped haul and carry things during her three moves these past couple of years. The one constant in my mom’s life was ME. If T was there, so was I. If the girls were there, or the boys paid a visit, I was there, too. I was there, there, there. And now I am not.
It has been two weeks now. Two weekends in a row I have gotten up on a Saturday AND a Sunday morning with the entire day in front of me. It has been a strange experience. Oh, I have plenty to do, plenty I should do, plenty I can do, just nothing that I HAVE to do. The obligation is over, and it’s sad in a way. I feel sad to feel so lightened.
I feel like a stranger in my own life. I look around, and so much has changed. My parents are gone. Just gone. Poof! It suddenly feels sudden! Two hellish years, and it feels so sudden! What in the hell happened?
The past two weeks have been so strange. I miss the boys. Did you know they are gone? Of course, they’re gone, but suddenly the house feels very empty without their messes, their loud voices, and their laughter. They are both so happy and so involved in their own lives. What is/has been going on here at home has been secondary at best to them. That is as it should be, and I’m proud that they are happy and haven’t felt that I am their responsibility. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
Em is almost out of high school. We will be celebrating her 18th birthday in a matter of days. She is “in love” for the first time. Yes, they use those words right in front of us! Her boyfriend is sweet, protective of her, and has the most beautiful smile. The funny thing is, he bears an almost eerie resemblance to T at that same age.
Lola is a big girl now. She’s selling Girl Scout cookies, volunteering at an animal shelter, and has perfect grades. They have all grown and changed so much. When did that happen? I have been so busy dealing, just dealing, with all of my responsibilities that I haven’t really seen a darn thing that has been going on around me.
What about T? What has happened during the past few years with T? Like always, T is there, has been there, will be there if I need him. He is the foundation. He has made sure that the necessary things have gotten done. He has cooked many (most?) of the meals. He does the laundry. He drives Lola to Girl Scout meetings. He helps with the homework, gives advice, and listens. Of course, he doesn’t even know that he’s doing these things or that it is anything unique. He just does them. He doesn’t think things to death. He just picks up the slack when it has been necessary.
I am trying to remember who I was before these past two hellish years, and where I fit in now. The problem is, two years ago, I was a different person. I had different dreams and vastly different ideas of where I thought my life was headed. My view of my family and my marriage were different, too. Remembering, or trying to once again become, who I was two years ago is irrelevant. I don’t even want to be that woman again. Anyway, it would not even be possible.
I had an extra-long weekend. Lola stayed home sick from school today, and I took the day off to be home with her. As we took an afternoon snooze, I laid there thinking about this strange, disoriented feeling I have had since my mother’s death. I thought about how it feels like I have been plucked from some strange place and plopped down right back where I was two years ago.
As I laid there, I thought about Doris Day in the movie “Move Over, Darling.” She had been rescued from a deserted island and returned home expecting to find her family as she had left them. There aren’t any further similarities, thankfully, but that’s how I feel right now. I feel like I have been on a deserted island and have returned back home expecting to find things unchanged, but that isn’t possible. Life goes on and on. Even if it seems at times that we, as individuals, have been stuck on a hamster wheel, those around us keep moving on and on. I’m just going to have to work hard to catch up with everyone else.
Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection. Advance and do not fear the thorns in the path, for they draw only corrupt blood. ~ Khalil Gibran
“As T and I sat on each side of her bed, we talked quietly of the other deaths we have witnessed together. There have been too many. I looked at him and I thought, “One of us will be here in a bed like this while the other sits in a chair holding a hand.” Just as I had that thought, my mom opened her eyes. It was the first time all night that she was aware of our presence in her room. She turned her head and looked at T. A big smile lit up her face. She reached for his hand and said, “You are a good man.”
She asked him where I was, and he said, “Right here by your side,” and he gently turned her head. She said, “I love you,” and reached for my hand. It all only lasted a moment and she was asleep once more. There was no more conversation or consciousness.
T and I sat there on each side of the bed holding her hand. This mother who caused me grief, strife, and years of conflict held onto our hands, the three of us connected. Forgiveness should not be something that is given lightly, freely, or without justification. Forgiveness is earned. Tonight, I forgave my mom huge, vast quantities of past injuries. She confirmed the one thing I know to be true. T IS a good man.”
I wrote those words a little over a week ago. I was writing them during the final moments of my mother’s life, perhaps I wrote them even as she died. That late night/early morning I sat alone in the living room cuddled under a blanket with my feet propped up on the coffee table and my laptop warming my lap. I needed to write so that I would not forget those peaceful, touching moments. I didn’t know that they would be our last moments together. I knew the end was very near, but I thought she might make it through another day.
That night, I finished writing, shut down my computer, and headed up the stairs to get ready for bed. Only moment later, my phone rang. It was 1:30 a.m. A nurse was calling to tell me that my mother had passed. She had been alive at midnight when the nurse had checked on her, but now she was gone. I was naked when I received that call, stripped bare and standing in the bathroom. I stood there holding the phone, and my first thought was how ironic it was that I was nude.
I didn’t know what to do next. The nurse wondered what funeral home we were going to use. She wanted a phone number. She said that they needed to make arrangements for “the body.” I was naked, standing in the bathroom. It was 1:30 a.m.! I didn’t necessarily carry that kind of information around with me. I wrapped myself in a towel, woke up T, fired up the computer and began making calls. The ball was set in motion. There were an amazing amount of details, arrangements, and phone calls to make.
This past week has been exhausting. I was still borderline sick. T ended up getting sick, and Lola woke up on Thursday with a 102 degree fever. We have had a funeral, cleaned out an apartment, and had a son home for the weekend. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. There have been wonderful visits with family that I haven’t seen in years. Our friends have been kind, caring, and supportive. I love my friends who instead of bringing casseroles brought the ingredients for chocolate martinis. In the midst of pain, there was laughter, friendship, and love.
This weekend is the first time in two years that I haven’t been drawn to visit a hospital or an assisted living facility. I tried to see Mom on most weekends. On the weekends when I wasn’t able to make it to visit her, I felt a weight of guilt. This weekend has been the first time in over two years that I have been able to choose without conflicting feelings the activities I engaged in. Still, it has not been a great weekend. I am drained and exhausted. My emotions are fragile as hell. I looked at a tree today, and it brought back a memory that made me cry.
These past two-plus years have been terrible. There is no other way to describe them. It all began in December 2009 when I lost the person I thought was my best friend. By choice, this person turned away, ran away, changed paths. However you’d like to phrase it, this person who meant so very much to me, decided that I didn’t really mean that much to them. A handful of days later, I lost my dear, dear father. Losing Dad left me with the sole responsibility of my very sick mother. Eventually, I was called upon to support her through the withdrawal of treatment and the weeks leading to her death. Two years of senseless hell. At times, it has felt like I have been trapped in my life, and there was no way out, nowhere to turn. At times, I have crumbled and fallen apart, but for the most part I have just dealt with the circumstances. Like a drone, I have learned to deal with what life threw my way. I coped as best I knew how. I trudged through the days, the weeks, the months, and it all added up to two-plus years.
In the sadness of this past week, there have been moments where HOPE has popped through like bright sunshine. I can take a trip now without feeling guilty. I will have a summer of working in my yard on the weekends instead of running to the hospital. Little by little, I am beginning to see that I have a chance to reclaim my life. T and I are talking about a short trip to Vegas or to a beach sometime soon. I’m planning a trip this spring to visit a friend in Georgia. We will be able to have moments of doing NOTHING, and not feeling like we should be doing SOMETHING.
The apartment is empty. Now it is time to turn our attention to the house. We need to sort through the rest of my parents’ belongings. We’ll keep a few things that have sentimental value, but most of it will go on an auction in a month or so. This afternoon, I went to the house alone. I haven’t been there in weeks, and it was the first time to stand in my childhood home knowing that BOTH of my parents are dead. It hit me hard. I have no one left who shares my memories. I went from room to room, and the memories were vivid. I saw things. I saw my parents as they were years ago. I saw a little girl and her little black dog. I remembered where the piano once stood, and the Christmas tree, and where Dad sat to drink his morning coffee. I remembered addressing my wedding invitations as I sat on the floor of the living room. I remembered my own now-grown children coloring at the little table in the sunroom. Where did my life go? Where did my family go? I wandered from room to room, and I felt like an orphan. I cried and cried. I finally let it all out. Two years of loss and pain.
I couldn’t stop crying until I walked into my dad’s room. I stood in his closet and put my arms around the one special shirt of Dad’s that I had saved. It was just a silly polo. I had bought it for Luke, but he hadn’t liked it. Grandpa liked it, though, so Luke told him to he could have it. It cracked the boys up to see Grandpa wearing a purple American Eagle shirt, but I think that made Grandpa love it even more. I stood there looking at that purple polo alone in the closet. I put my hand out and touched the fabric. My dad had been here. He had been real, wonderful, and loving. Oh, how I miss him! As I stood there, I felt his love. Yes, lives are too short, but the love lives on and on.
We have watched my mother’s health steadily fail for the past six months. In December she fell and ended up in the hospital. She wasn’t strong enough to join us for Christmas. It was my first year without MY family for Christmas, and even though Mom and I have had our issues, not having any parents or grandparents around for the holidays was a very sad thing to face.
On New Year’s Eve, Mom was taken from the restorative care unit to the hospital due to congestive heart failure. More dialysis, in addition to the three other times each week, helped to relieve the symptoms. As the days passed, it became clear that she was failing. Her weight dropped below 100 pounds. Her mind was becoming fuzzy. She began to lose control of her bodily functions. She hid her medication. She though that she was on a cruise ship. She thought the nurses were trying to kill her.
I called a meeting with her Nephrologist. I wanted to know what the long-term prognosis was. Would Mom ever be able to return to independent living? The answer was no, yet he still “held out hope.” Hope for what, I am not sure. Her kidneys had not functioned at all for years. She can no longer walk. She is on oxygen, and a million different medications. I’m not sure what his definition of “HOPE” is. She wasn’t going to regain health. What he meant by HOPE was that she could be kept alive with extensive medical intervention so that she could linger for a few weeks in a nursing home. I asked him if anyone had ever considered discontinuing the dialysis. Well, yes. Had they ever discussed that with my mother? Well, no, they hadn’t really thought it would come to this point. They hadn’t thought that she would live this long. (So many of years of medical training, and they hadn’t considered all of the possibilities?) I was shocked. Well, here we were. It had happened, and it was time to make some decisions. What I was looking at seemed cruel. This was no way for a human being to live….and to be kept alive.
The doctor and I approached my mom with the facts. We made it her choice to consider ceasing dialysis. She decided to continue to receive treatment. I was in support of her decision. It was obvious that she needed to let everything sink in. We all needed to buy some time to make the adjustment to the next step. Mom was moved back to the rehabilitation facility and would continue to be transported to the dialysis center three times each week. This was last Thursday.
On Friday morning, I received a call from a nurse. Mom was refusing all treatment. She said that she had had enough. I was at work, had walked out of a meeting to take the call. I asked the nurse to tell my mom that I encouraged her to go to her treatment and that I would be by to talk to her after work.
T and I drove down that evening to talk with her about what was going on. I explained that a nurse had called to tell me what had happened, and my mom said, “They should mind their own damn business.” She said that she was done. She was tired. I felt a sense of relief. I have her medical power of attorney, and I didn’t want to have to make that decision without her consent. I called Mom’s friends to tell them what was going on and asked them to pay her a visit. I spent most of my weekend by her side. It was calm and peaceful. She slept most of the time. Sometimes, she was disoriented and asked if Dad was out in the yard. I tried to get her to drink or eat small bits of food that I felt would be soothing. We watched “Parent Trap.” The old one with Haley Mills.
On Monday, something changed. She woke up demanding to go to dialysis. Her nurse called me. They were under the impression that dialysis treatment had been discontinued. What did I want them to do? What should they tell her? Initially, I told them, no….no more dialysis. Then I stood there wondering what I had just done. Was I denying my own mother medical treatment when she was requesting it? I called T. What should I do? I asked him to meet me at my mom’s room.
She was angry and disoriented. She said, “Well, yes….I am going to dialysis. I will die if I don’t go!” I was stunned. We had had moments of peace over the past few days. I didn’t know what to do. I stood there feeling helpless. She lashed out at me. She said, “I can see by the smirk on your face that you enjoy having this kind of control over my life. You want to pull the plug.” I was speechless. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I looked at the floor and reminded myself over and over not to say anything that I would live to regret the rest of my life. I looked at her calmly and told her that there was not one thing about any of this that I was enjoying. I told her that she had made the decision. She asked me where Dad was, and I blurted out that he had been dead for two years. I burst out crying and had to turn around. T sat there in the middle of a terrible situation. I remember him talking calming in a low voice to her, but I don’t know what he said.
When I came back near them, and was more composed, she looked at me and apologized. She said that she wished she knew where our relationship had gone wrong. I felt adrenaline flood through my body. Thirty years of wrong. How could we resolve thirty years of wrong? I had been determined to do right, not to let past differences and slights cloud my judgement in making the best medical decision for another human being. I had been kind and caring. All of this came out of the blue, and it shocked me. I have never been so hurt and shaken in my life. I wanted to run from the room, and running away is not usual for me. I wanted to melt. I wanted to cease to exist in the middle of this life of mine. Too much hurt. Too much. I was shaking and crying. I told her to go to dialysis. I said that I refused to feel responsible for making this decision to discontinue treatment. “Go! Please go. You don’t have a plug. I am not pulling a plug!” I left the room to tell the nurse to make arrangements for my mom to be transported to dialysis. The nurse looked shocked. She advised that my mother may not make it through a treatment.
There was another call this morning. This time it was from the Kidney Center. They had been surprised to see my mother show up for treatment. They discussed a feeding tube with her. They discussed hospice care. They suggested discontinuing treatment. They wondered what I thought. After all, I have that damn power of attorney. I told them that one of their own doctors had told my mother that there was hope. Yes, hope for a day, a week. They didn’t think that she would live out the month even with treatment. There was a meeting later this afternoon with all of the Kidney Center staff. They would discuss my mother’s case at that time and call me later.
It was determined that treatment was no longer of any benefit to my mother. She could continue to receive treatments, but at this point, they may do more harm than good. A feeding tube would enable her to have a little more time, but my mother had already said that she didn’t want to go that route. Did I want them to talk to her and arrange hospice treatment or would I prefer to tell her myself?
Tonight T and I went to tell my mother that there was no longer any hope. A few days, a week, a month at best. We entered her room, and she was sleeping. I woke her up and asked how she was feeling. She was groggy for a while, and we three sat and watched HGTV. I didn’t know how to begin this conversation. I was at a loss. T finally began talking. Quietly we explained everything. She just looked at us. What do you say when someone tells you that it’s real, you are now dying? Mom, this is it. There isn’t anything left to do. I told her that I wanted the time she had left to be comfortable and full of family and friends rather than more and more medical care. I told her what to expect physically. There should be no pain. It would be peaceful. (I pray to God.) I asked her if there was anything she wanted.
She asked me if I believed in Heaven and Hell. I told her no, I don’t. I said, “I believe life is Hell enough, what waits on the other side is Peace.”
As T and I drove home, he told me that when I had stepped out to talk to the nurse, my mom had asked him if I was OK. He told her that this was not easy for me. She is all I have left of my family. When she is gone, I don’t have anyone else left of my family. He told her that I was carrying a burden of guilt, because I didn’t want her to think that I was responsible for ending her treatments. She said, “Why would Pam think that?” He reminded her of what she had said the previous day, and asked her not to say such things again. He told her that we would do our best to care for her, and asked her to leave me with peace. I was shocked by what he told me. I didn’t know he would defend and protect me in such a way, and I loved him for being able to say the words that I was not able to speak.
T and I went to Chicago last weekend for an open house/parent’s day at Andrew’s school. We both took Friday off work. I was excited because we were taking the train for this trip, and it would be T’s first time riding the train. I had hoped that he would love the experience, but he wasn’t too impressed. I suppose I understand that. He didn’t like the lack of control he felt without a car. He did like not having to pay an arm and a leg for parking, though.
We had a great time. Our visit with Andrew was really, really wonderful. After checking into our super-fabulous room, we met Andrew at a Starbucks near the “L” station by our hotel. We talked. We hung out. We went for an early dinner at one of our favorite spots and gorged on BBQ sandwiches. Then we headed over to the Hancock Center to have a drink at the Signature Room on the 95th floor. The view was spectacular, made even more fantastic with the addition of the twinkling Christmas lights. We each had a martini. The bill was over $50 for three drinks! After we left the Hancock, we shopped a little and wandered our way over to another favorite spot where we feasted on crab cakes and filet sliders. The weather cooperated, and it was wonderfully warm for December. I did stop to buy some ear muffs, though, and T and Andrew laughed when they made me talk too loud and say, “what” each time they spoke to me.
The visit, demonstrations, and tour of Andrew’s school were impressive to say the least. While the changes in our son have been evident, we began to realize that his newfound focus and drive can be credited in part to an intense curriculum. The students are immersed in their discipline from day one. I can’t begin to express how very proud I am that Andrew has taken hold of his new life in Chicago and appears to be thriving and loving every minute. Our visit was over all too soon. They were golden moments that I am certain each of us will always cherish. It’s a rare gift to be able to have such happy, fun, content moments with our grown son. As we made our way back home, both T and I were quiet. We had taken a day and night to forget about everything that weighs down our lives. Now we were speeding right back to all of the things that made things not so perfect.
It didn’t take long once we got home to lose the relaxed, peaceful feeling we had in Chicago. All of our regular weekend chores were waiting for us. The girls had stayed home by themselves, and we had allowed Em to have a couple of girlfriends spend the night. They had a fantastic time, and I’m glad….but oh, what a mess was waiting for us. They had done A LOT of cooking. The made cupcakes, pancakes, bacon and eggs. While they had “cleaned up” the kitchen, it wasn’t exactly up to Mama Martha Stewart’s standards. You could have practically skated on the bacon grease that covered the hardwood floors in front on the stove.
When we got home, the girls were hungry. They wanted dinner. They wondered if I was going to go to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping. “There’s nothing good in the house!” Uh, no…not that evening! There was laundry to do, cat fur to vacuum, and I was feeling guilty knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fit in a visit to my mother that weekend.
While I enjoyed having a Friday without work, I should have been in the office. It’s budget approval time, and I had two really horrible meetings to prepare for on Monday. I should have been working on Friday, but being a Mom had to come first in this instance. It is such a balancing act at times. Panic was beginning to creep in while I was attempting to do a weekend’s worth of work in one day at home.
By Sunday evening, I was not feeling well. My batteries were running low. As I pulled into the driveway way after dark from my trip to the city with a load of Christmas gifts and groceries, T informed me that he had brought home a Christmas tree. Ugh! I put away the groceries and made dinner while he put the lights on the tree and Lola bounced around excitedly asking me when I was going to get the boxes of ornaments out of the basement. UGH! All I wanted to do was sit down, but what I really needed to do was a week’s worth of ironing. Decorating a Christmas tree had not factored into my plans for the evening. I could feel myself slipping. I was near tears. I didn’t want to be grouchy. I wanted to go back to that happy, relaxed feeling I had less than 24 hours earlier.
As I ironed, a friend sent me a text asking about getting together sometime with mutual friends to have a holiday drink. These are friends from “back in the day.” We are all past PTA presidents, and spent many mornings sipping coffee while our now-grown kids played. I loved the idea of getting together again to catch up on each other’s lives. We’re all working now. The kids (almost all of them) are all grown, and we don’t get together as often as we once did. My friend sent a text. “How about Sunday, December 11?” and I lost it.
December 11. I hate that day. It is the most horrible, despicable day. December 11 is the day my daughter Grace died. December 11 is the day my dad died. Two people I loved. It was on December 11 that I held my daughter in my arms as she looked into my eyes and took her last breath. On a December 11, I wandered through the pitch dark house, room to room, flicking on lights and calling my dad’s name. On December 11, I found my father dead on the living room floor. December 11 is full of horrible moments frozen in time.
I told my friend, “I’m sorry. I can’t on December 11.” I sent no more texts. I couldn’t. How could I explain that I am crazy on that day each year? How can I explain that I live in fear of that day? On December 11, I want to gather everyone I love all in the same room. I want to make them sit within my view. I want to hold a vigil over them. I want to lock the doors and stay in the house.
That one little text, with the words “December 11” threw me for a loop, and I still haven’t been able to recover. I sat in the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t help with the Christmas tree. I sat down later that evening and talked to T about it. He knew, or at least understood, my reaction. He’s seen it for years…The December 11th Syndrome. It’s real, and it sucks.
Things have been hazy since then. The cloud of depression has descended. I tried to explain that to T, too. The clogged-up, cottony feeling of depression. I told T about times in the past when I had wished for a semi to cross the center line while I was driving. I had wished for a patch of ice to spin my car around, out of control, and throw me off the road. I explained to T about the times when the depression became almost unbearable. I told him about times when I truly had not wanted to go on, but could not figure a way out of each day…the endless string of days filled with pain. I told him that sometimes, and now was one of those times, dealing with depression is an exhausting struggle. It felt better to talk and to say it all out loud.
Through the haze of this depression, I have been functioning as well as I possibly can. I’ve been working and taking care of my responsibilities. Life goes on. People are nice, or people are rude and mean. What I am going through is unnoticed and unimportant to most people around me. Most people don’t even know. I created the budgets. I attended the meetings. I answered questions and phone calls. Like an automaton, I continue to function day after day.
Strange moments have pushed themselves forward, to the front of the haze. Last night, I fell asleep on the couch and dreamed a happy dream. I had a puppy, a bloodhound (strange!) and I was happy. Something happened, though, and woke up. I was was awake for hours alone in the middle of the night. Near dawn, I fell asleep once again. This time my dream was full of fear and sadness. I don’t remember exactly what happened in the dream, but I was surrounded by grieving people. The room was full of despair. A door opened, and in walked a dear friend. I was up and wrapped in a comforting embrace. This morning, I sent my friend a thank you text for being such a reliable, comforting part of my real life. That steady friendship had made its way into my dreams just when I needed a friend.
And the strangeness continues.
This afternoon, I received a text from another friend. “Sorry I won’t be able to meet for dinner. Problems at work. Had to fly to CA.” I had no idea that I had even made dinner plans. So I rescheduled a dinner that I apparently would have missed.
Tonight, when all I wanted and needed was to completely relax and regenerate at the end of a bad day, I received a phone call from the hospital. My mom had fallen, and they thought her leg was broken. There was no need for me to come right away. Mom was being taken in for an x-rays, and I wouldn’t even be able to see her. They told me to wait for a call. I didn’t change my clothes. I didn’t throw on my comfy yoga pants and giant sweatshirt. I stayed in my office clothes in anticipation of a trip to the hospital. I waited. I did laundry. I vacuumed. I helped Lola with her homework. I made dinner. I carried my phone around waiting and waiting. Thankfully, my mom called at 8:30. Her leg isn’t broken. She can’t walk, though, and has been admitted to the hospital. No, there was no need come to the hospital tonight, but I need to go first thing in the morning. Arrangements will need to be made. The hospital will only keep her overnight. The assisted living facility won’t allow her back if she isn’t able to walk. It’s up to me, once again, to figure out where my mother will be going. Again. Again, and by myself. I have meetings scheduled for the morning. How am I supposed to fit this in, too?
After talking to my mother on the phone for a while, I felt reassured that she would be OK for the evening. I hung up and headed into the living room to let T know what was going on. There he sat on the couch with a 12-gauge shotgun on his lap. A man with a gun. It was shocking, and instinctively, I took a step back. It was my dad’s gun. We had brought it to our house, because it didn’t seem safe to leave guns in a vacant house. Of course, the gun wasn’t loaded. T doesn’t even like guns. He wants them out of the house, and was looking online for a fair selling price. Still…it’s a strange thing to walk into the living room and see your husband sitting there with a gun across his lap.
All evening, I thought of the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity…” Tonight I was praying, not for serenity, but a break from what seems like an endless series of crises. In closing this post, I ask you all to please be kind. None of us can know the internal struggles of those around us. A kind word, a smile, an act of friendship just might make someone’s day a little better at a time when they need it the most.
Today is one of those horrible anniversaries of a BAD November day, a day that was most likely the worst day of my life. I have been thinking a lot about that fact this past week in anticipation of this hated date. It truly was the worst day of my life, and that makes me feel bad. It makes me feel guilty. I have lost loved ones through death, but not on this date. On this date, my horrible experience was something worse than that of losing someone through death. That makes me feel bad and guilty, so I have been trying to examine what happened and what went wrong. Unfortunately, all the fingers point to me. I have no one to blame but myself for getting to a point in my life where I was truly alone in my pain and grief.
While the experience of losing a child, or my dad, or when Andrew had his terrible accident were all gut-wrenchingly horrible to live through, I didn’t blame myself. Those things were “just life” or bad luck. During those terrible times, I felt surrounded by love. I had a safety net. I had people there to catch me when I fell and to soften the blow. On this WORST November day, I was utterly alone. I was crushed by ugliness, lies, and betrayal, but no one knew. No one cared. I had destroyed my safety net. Those good people who had once been there for me where no longer around. My dad was gone. My friends had long since washed their hands of my troubles. My family was clueless. I had taught them through my actions to simply “leave me alone,” so they did.
I had made a mess of my life, but I thought I could handle it. I thought everything would be OK. That was not the case, though, not on that dark November night. On that night, the very flimsy ground that was my foundation crumbled out from under me. No one cared. I had misplaced my trust. Those I thought cared, did not. Those who did care, had no clue. I was truly alone for the first time in my life. I wanted to die. Truly, literally, I wanted to end my own life. It scares me now to remember that BAD November day. It scares me that those whom I thought would care, did not. It scares me that those who did care, had no clue. It has been a long struggle back from that dark place. Many times, I have wished for a quick magical cure, but there is no magical cure to the pain life sometimes brings.
Last night, I thought about the times in my life that have been seasons of grief. I thought about those other, more rational times of grief, and I realized how things have changed in my life in the past several years. My Dad, my friend and father, he TALKED to me. He and I talked about anything and everything. During some of the most horrible times in my life, I could always count on Dad’s daily phone call. On days when all I wanted was to pull the covers over my head, Dad would call, and I always answered. We would talk about politics, religion, local news, or current events. He always had a story. He always made me smile. He pulled me through some of the toughest times in my life. He has been gone now for almost two years. Without a doubt, those two years have been the worst years of my life, not because my dad has been gone, but because my life was a mess (and only got worse) at the time of his death. Oh, how different these past two years would have been if my dad had been there as a steady, loving part of my life.
These past two years have been terrible. I have learned some valuable lessons the hard way. We are all responsible for our own actions. I will repeat that one, because it is important. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS. No I didn’t deserve to go through such a hellish experience, but as I said, when I look back at the circumstances, all fingers point at me. If my trust was misplaced, who placed it wrongly? Me. If I went through a terrible experience, and no one was around for me to lean on, whose fault was that? Mine. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN ACTIONS.
Slowly, I am rebuilding the foundation of my life. Many of the people who were once part of my support system are gone, but I am learning to reach out again to the good people in my life. More importantly, I am trying my best to be good to others and to be there for those good people in my life.