Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Dying, Not Dead

I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru to get my 54 cent ice cream cone. The kid on the speaker was exceptionally friendly and pleasant. When I got to the first window, I asked if he was the guy that took my order. Yes, he was. I told him how nice it was to be treated in such a friendly manner and he grinned from ear to ear. He told me he tries to make a difference every day. He said about once a month or so, someone makes a comment like I did and it makes his day.

I chuckled and told him about the blog I wrote entitled “Customer Service is Dead.” He asked for the web address. Then he asked me to promise him I would write an update and let everyone know there is hope in the world. I gave him my word.

I drove to the next window to get my ice cream and asked for the manager. She walked over with that look on her face. You know the one. “Now what the hell happened?” I told her the boy at the first window was fantastic and again I saw a grin from ear to ear. She said they love him there. He’s a great kid. Very active in his church, pleasant, helps people all the time. Then she said, “You know, there isn’t much customer service to be found these days.” So I told her about my blog too.

So here you are, young boy who brings hope to the world. If you actually read this, please send me a comment.


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It’s Official: Customer Service is Dead

We all need vacations or getaways to stay refreshed and keep perspective. I remember after Tim died, two of my friends took me away for a night. We went to Skaneateles and did a spa day. It was just what the doctor ordered.

If I ever needed a break, it has been in the last couple of months. My vacation to Virginia Beach fell through which was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Except, just when you think you can’t take anymore, something else happens…

My consolation prize was a night away in Lewiston, NY at the Barton Hill Hotel. It’s not the beach, but I figured it would at least give me a breath of much-needed fresh air. The package came with a massage. I ordered the groupon deal after calling the hotel to be sure it had the services we wanted. Then came the first blow. After purchasing it, I called to make the massage appointment. Oops. No appointments available until after we check out of the hotel. Yes, you read it right. I checked with them before I purchased the thing. But you know how it is. The hotel desk is a few feet away from the spa desk. They can’t possibly actually know what they are talking about, even being in the computer age.

I’m a reasonable woman though, right? So they said they would give us late checkout so there would be no issue with getting the massage, being able to shower and then leave the hotel. It wasn’t the best, but it was a pretty close second. I got through the beginning of an exceptionally tough week (more serious issues than the norm like suicide and rape) by counting down the days til my getaway.

Here’s the short version of what happened.

Check in at hotel. Drag all your stuff up to the room, only to find the keys don’t work.
Drag all your stuff back down to the lobby and wait for new keys to be programmed.
Get to the room, discover the clock/radio doesn’t work. No music. It gets replaced.
It takes FOUR trips to the lobby to actually get the towels that were requested.

MOST DISTRESSING ISSUE OF ALL: the door to the room doesn’t even actually lock. It can be pushed open. All our stuff is in there and we are leaving for the day. Back to the lobby AGAIN. We are told that it is a humidity problem (which we suspect isn’t true) but are told they will check on it immediately. When returning to the room after dark, of course our door still was open. Luckily, nothing was stolen.

Now I have to admit to myself that I guess I’m not a reasonable woman after all. I mean, who expects their hotel room to actually be secure? Most places you go to, even the shadiest of motels, don’t have a locked door. That is just too crazy of a thing to hope for when you travel. Right?

After traveling to a different floor for ice buckets and ice (because they are not easily accessible), I wake up in the morning to discover the bucket had leaked all over. My cell phone was laying in a pool of water. Nice.

But hey, look at the bright side. We go for our complimentary breakfast on the terrace at this “beautiful” inn (that is if you don’t mind all the water damaged ceilings and other run-down aspects) and are pleased to find that it consisted basically of cereal and toast. I’ve stayed at cheap motels with better breakfasts than that.

The kicker? We go for a walk in the morning and decide to just double-check on the arrangements for our late check out time. Even though this was literally the FOURTH conversation I have had with the staff about this, suddenly there is a huge problem. They are booked for the weekend so they can’t possibly accommodate us. In fact, it appeared from the looks on their faces, that we were crazy for even thinking that was a possibility. Check out time is literally in the middle of the massage time and that is too bad for us.

A manager? I want to speak to a manager? Silly me. There is none on the premises. Of course not. Literally every employee we talked to looked like they were in high school or barely graduated. No idea how to handle a business, much less one fraught with problems.

In disgust, the massages were canceled and we checked out EARLY.

Now, everyone is allowed to make mistakes. I make enough of my own so I try to be gracious to others. But what I can’t stand, is when a person(s) doesn’t take responsibility for it.

After countless phone calls, emails, and other such follow-up, here is what happened:

Nothing.

The hotel offered a free night. Are you kidding me? I’m no dummy. That doesn’t cost them a cent. I kindly explained that we have no desire whatsoever to ever set foot in the place again. I want my money back. I work freaking hard to be able to afford a getaway. I needed to be refreshed and instead I paid for a stress-filled 24 hours. So the hotel says, sorry. We would love to give you your money back, but the deal was through groupon so their hands are tied (which is also a lie, but I’m willing to work with it).

Groupon? I could have fell over when they told me that… guess what? The hotel refused to allow them to give me a refund. So they gave me money off my NEXT groupon purchase. Not much better than the hotel offering a free night. I WANT MY MONEY BACK, or at least a portion of it. Disgusting. Like I want to purchase another groupon offer in the near future.

I shouldn’t be surprised. The old me would have shrugged my shoulders and made the most of it. The new me isn’t wired that way anymore. I’m pissed off and can’t seem to help it. I needed to do something for ME after exhausting so much energy day after day helping other people. I just want what I paid for. Is that so crazy?

So it is official. The age of the consumer is no more. I’ve already wasted enough energy on this. The Better Business Bureau lists complains similar to mine. In the end, the hotel just refuses to do what’s right, so what’s the point?

Anyhow, I’m trying to find something clever and funny to end with. My creativity seems to be lacking. Must be because of the lack of soul refreshing that was sought after and not found…lol.

Moral of the story? GO TO VIRGINIA BEACH!!


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Delayed Reaction

Frankie celebrated his twelfth birthday last week. For those of you that have been following us for a while, you might remember that one of the things that Tim did before he passed away, was to write birthday cards for Frankie until he turns 18. Tonight, Frankie and I read his card together.

But here is the thing. We just read it tonight. His birthday was the eighth. That was twelve days ago.

I was talking on the phone to a professor from one of the colleges that is going to book me to speak at one of their interdisciplinary training days. During that conversation, I remembered the card. Frankie was camping with his aunt so that brings us to the late date in reading it.

At first, I was quite distraught. I felt horrible and guilty for not remembering the card on the day of his birthday. What does that mean? Tim is still a part of our lives every single day. A few days ago, my friend and I were playing Yahtzee and I came across one of Tim’s score sheets. I recognized his perfect handwriting immediately. I showed it to Frankie and then I noticed the date was 1998. That was two years before I even met Tim. It caused me some teary eyed moments. It always gets to me when the reminder is unexpected. My friend told me later that she saw my face and was worried that the night was going to be ruined for me. But it was a few minutes and then it passed.

The point of that story, was that seeing his writing didn’t jerk my memory about the birthday card either. It wasn’t until the phone conversation I had later.

When I sat down with Frankie and the card, I asked him if he was upset that I forgot about it earlier. Of course, he had forgotten about it, too. He was not upset with me. He liked the card. I think I saw a little mist in his eyes, but it was a good shared moment.

I’ve been processing all of this. I’ve seen the look on a face or two when I’ve told the story. A couple of people looked like I was feeling- surprised that I had majorly screwed up like that. But it did start to occur to me, that maybe this is a positive thing. We love Tim. We miss him. We think about him every day. But maybe we are also starting to move on, just a little bit further. Maybe it is good that we are not hanging on in the same way. We are remembering him, but are also living in the present. Frankie agreed with me. Rather than being angry with me, we shared a moment of being thankful for Tim’s incredible thoughtfulness, but felt free to be moving on at the same time.

Or maybe I’m just rationalizing a major screw-up.

But I don’t think so. It was a good night.


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Smatterings

I don’t have one topic today, so I think I will just have a smattering of paragraphs regarding different topics in my life.

Last weekend, a 7th grade roller skating friend found me on the internet. I was surprised and thought it was great fun to hear from him. He is quite successful- career/financial wise, but also has two great kids and a wife he still adores after 25 years. Anyhow, he wrote this to me after reading some of my blogs: “Your blog (so far) doesn’t read like menopause… almost more like ‘coming of age/wisdom/power.’ Like you are a whole person now… not shying away from those other less comfortable modes and feelings. And from what I see, still quite a unique and lovely person too.”

I liked that, of course. Made me feel great. Coming of age/wisdom/power. Is it one of those paradoxes in life I always talk about? The less wise and more powerless I feel, maybe the opposite is actually true? Nice thought. So I’m not going to tell him that twice this week I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. That’s the first hard “evidence” of the dreaded “M” word so let’s not tell him, ok?

So, what else? Haven’t really been dating anyone new. I haven’t been on the Match site at all. I’m still lonely, but I think I’ve finally called “uncle” for a while. Who knows when that will change? I just don’t see much point in it. Everyone looks great on paper. They all seem nice for the initial meetings. But in the end, it doesn’t mean a hill of beans, so why bother? Hey, maybe I really am getting wiser! 🙂

On the home front, well, that isn’t so pretty. I will probably regret writing this for the world to see, but I had a really, really bad day this week. I actually SOS-called Summer this week. I was having visions of taking a baseball bat and destroying our 54 inch TV screen. I wanted to bash in the WII system, Kindle, and laptop while I was at it. It scared me. That is REALLY, REALLY not like me. I didn’t do it, or course. But I was scared I would.

Why? I was sick of parenting. I didn’t care if Frankie is “grieving,” or “going through normal pre-teen stuff,” or whatever other reason there might be for his behavior. He can just be so mean and hurtful to me, and because I am who I am, he knows exactly how to do it. He knows how to push my buttons. And he does it by rejecting me. By letting me know that he doesn’t like it when I’m around, or even in the room for the matter. He recoils when I touch him. And after taking him to the Bills’ Training Camp and then throwing him two birthday parties, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just didn’t have the stomach for it.

Today is a new day. I hold my breath every day that it will go better. So far, so good. We are heading to a baseball game and I’m willing it to be fun for all of us.

I am hoping to take a vacation next week. I don’t know if it will fall through or not, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I NEED A VACATION!!

I usually get worried feedback. Don’t worry. I’m hanging in there. I even plan to smile today 🙂


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H.O.P.E.

As usual, on blog days I often feel like my mind is blank. It’s not that I don’t have things to say, but rather that I get tired of my own story and assume everyone else must be tired of it as well. Last night, my friend said, “Write about hope.”

Not an easy assignment when that is often the last thing I feel. So maybe I can be a smart ass about it and come up with some sort of clever acronym for something else?

H. The first thing that comes to mind? Hell. Oh, that’s not good. After wracking my brain, I think a hopeful person would have come up with happiness. I guess I can say with integrity that I hope to be happy someday. Rather than rare, fleeting moments of laughter, I do hope that someday, “happy” will be something I can feel a majority of the time. Dare I say that right now, though, hell is more descriptive?

O. Optimism is the word that jumps to mind. I used to be called the Eternal Optimist. No matter what happened, I would get back on the horse again. I would never quit trying. Now, it’s more like I just have the urge to kick the horse and curse at it. Not so nice or admirable.

P. Pissed off. Now that one I can identify with. I still hold tight to the concept that I might be going through menopause. I have no hot flashes and no blood tests to support my theory whatsoever. But when I sit around with a bunch of women, they all say things like, “Yep, that sounds like menopause.” How else do you explain why “The One Who Never Gives Up” has become “Stop Pissing Me Off Before I Go Postal?”

E. Excited. Energy. Elated. Encouraged. Again, all words that I can no longer relate to. If there is a word that is the antithesis of every one of those words, that would be me. EXHAUSTION… yes, that is the E word for me.

If my friend reads this, he will probably want to clock me for taking his idea and dripping it in sarcasm.

But then, what is hope?

I guess when I think about it, I have to distinguish between hope and faith. They are closely linked, I know. And I am quite sure they affect each other. And I am quite sure it would be a good idea to possess a healthy amount of both.

Faith I see as more of the belief that these things will actually come to me. I just need to be patient and endure, and know that it is only a matter of time. That is where I am lacking. I am not confident in any way that I will regain happiness, optimism, and the energy I used to exude. I just don’t see it happening.

But hope? I have to admit, in spite of my own pessimism, I hope to God for all of those things. I hope every day that something will change. That I will regain my confidence and strength. Even though it is hard to get up every day, I still do it. Sometimes I spend a lot of time in my bed, but eventually I am up and functioning. I must have hope, right? In spite of depression, in spite of anxiety, in spite of exhaustion, I get up every day and keep trying. God help me if I ever truly give up hope.

And by the way, thanks for continuing to read… even when I’m dripping in menopausal, faithless moods. YOU are faithful!


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Scary

I was talking to my friend, Trish this week. I may have mentioned her before. She found me after she read my book. She is my age and also widowed, but she has SIX kids. I tell her she’s my hero all the time, and she tells me the same. We often vent to each other because there are some things only another young widow with kids can understand. I was telling her about my latest fears and she got all pissed off. She lamented about how unfair it is for us and our children. Whenever we get sick, there is this instant panic about cancer and dying. No kid should have to worry about that, but our kids do.

I certainly could identify with the recent breast cancer scare I had. But any mother will tell you, we would rather give up a limb (or anything else for that matter) than have our kids suffer in any way.

I am known for keeping my head on straight in a crisis. I usually fall apart afterward when the danger has passed. When Tim was alive, that was the way things played out when the kids were younger. He kind of froze and I had to handle everything. Make the calls, make the decisions, and pretend to be calm while it was happening to keep everyone else sane. Tim was there and supportive, but he was on the sidelines.

But in the land of almost four years into grief, I don’t handle much of anything like I used to. My rational head has grown even further away from my emotional heart.

Frankie came to me about a month ago and said he had blood in his urine. Slight panic, but I got him in to our trusty Dr. Grace immediately. She put him on antibiotics for a suspected UTI and off we went. On Monday, Frankie came to me and told me he wasn’t better. It had come back.

Slightly more panic than last time, but I just make the call to trusty Dr. Grace again immediately. The office calls back and says “Grace wants you to see Dr. So and So, a urology specialist within 48 hours. What’s your schedule like?” So while I still have my rational brain, my emotions start freaking out. There is no more “calm until the danger is passed.” I just lose it immediately. The worst part of it? Frankie admits to another person that he is scared too. Of course he is scared. His dad died from something that was supposed to be simple. This is where Trish starts bitching about how unfair life is for our kids. They panic more than other kids because of what they have witnessed firsthand. But truth be told, I panic too.

Why the rush to get in within 48 hours? That’s the scary part. They can’t get him in until Thursday morning but they are doing the best they can. On Tuesday, the office calls and says they want to do a history on Frankie. I know it’s routine. But she asks this question: “Does Frankie have anyone in his family line that has had any sort of cancer in the stomach/bladder region?” I started crying and couldn’t even answer her for a moment. Hell, yes. HIS DAD DIED FROM GALLBLADDER CANCER AT A RIDICULOUSLY YOUNG AGE. And now we are scared to death too.

Frankie does not want to go and have some male doctor look at his body. He is most nervous about that, at this point. I do the best I can to allay his fears. But inside I’m angry. Why isn’t there a man in his life that can talk to him about this stuff? That would have been very helpful to have had a guy with us. Especially if there was a guy who had some experience with urologists or whatever to help Frankie be less anxious. But there is just me. As usual. A woman, who Frankie has decided to be very angry at and distanced from. I’m all he’s got, but I’m not what he needs right now as a 12 year-old boy.

We go in and register him. I realize I’m shaky and nauseous, but I deserve an award for appearing calm to Frankie. Thankfully, the doctor is young and has three young boys. He wants to examine him and so Frankie gives the usual demand that I leave the room. I come back in after and the doc says he wants Frankie to have a renal ultrasound.

We go to check out and the woman reads the notes and scrunches her face. She makes a call and says she doesn’t understand. Why are there two requests? And does he really want the tests done immediately? She is just doing her job, but every expression and comment makes me more and more concerned. I truly am worried that I am going to hurl all over her desk.

We go and get the ultrasounds and they direct us back to the doc’s office. They said the doc would have the results right away. We get back to the doc’s and the woman tells us the doc doesn’t want to see us for a week. I asked if we would be getting the test results and she says not til the appointment next week. I ask if he’s going to do anything to start treatment til then and she says no. I give Frankie the keys to the car and say to her quietly, that we are both very worried. His dad died of cancer, you see, so could someone call us today and let me know that nothing crazy is going on? She agreed to put a request in and then said some people have blood in their urine all their lives and it’s not a big deal. That actually made me feel a little better, but I don’t really know if she was qualified to say that. But it was the first not so scary thing anyone has said to us.

Frankie is visibly less worried now that the appointment is over. I am starting to calm down. But I can’t even begin to express the anxiety I have felt the last couple of days. I just want to scream, cry, hit someone or something, run away, throw up, or check into a hospital for myself. I am less and less in control of my emotions and fears at a time when Frankie needs me to be the rock I used to be in B.C. time (before cancer).

You don’t need to send comments about what a great mom I am. It doesn’t matter right now, because Frankie thinks I suck at it. And right now, that is all I can hear and process. This is only going to get worse as he hits puberty and needs a male in his life more and more. Just pray hard that I get it together soon. I’ve got to stop crying all the time. I may not be a father for him, but I damn well better start being a strong mom. I am doing the best I can, but he needs more than that. So pray hard. We need you!