Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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The Old Man is Snoring…

It’s raining, it’s pouring… Both literally and figuratively.

It’s been quite a week. Last Friday, I was talking to my dad who was experiencing some bleeding. I could tell by his voice and his willingness to go to an urgent care center that it was a significant amount and he was scared. Sister Renee took him. I had tickets to the theater. (Jekyll and Hyde the musical at the Lancaster Opera House. You should go if you can. Absolutely phenomenal show.) I got a call that the doc was concerned about the amount of blood loss and wanted to send him by ambulance to the hospital.

I didn’t get there until after 11 pm. He was still in the ER but was preparing to move to a room. A little after midnight, Renee and I left once he was settled. My brother, Renee, and I all took turns each day staying with him. I am the primary health advocate though so I usually ask all the questions. On Saturday, they did a scope procedure on his esophagus. The doc came out and gave me the beautiful color photographs. Of course, I had no idea what I was even looking at. What I did understand, was there was not even a drop of blood. That meant starting prep for a colonoscopy the next morning. If you have ever had one, you know that is a nightmare.

I had to leave in the evening because Frankie had his first hockey scrimmage of the year. Colin tells me he’s the best player on the team this year so he’s going to shine. It’s at a college downtown so I drive us all there. Frankie started the game, and not even 30 seconds in to the first period, he gets checked. I mean, he gets checked hard. I mean, like the parents all went “ooo” when it happened. I joked with my friend that I might have to find that kid who messed with my son and kick his butt. It wasn’t a dirty hit, but Frankie went down flat. He got off the ice.

A few minutes later I realized he didn’t return to the ice. Frankie is a total toughie. He doesn’t complain about pain and I never even know he is hurt usually until I find the ice pack somewhere in the house. I texted Colin and asked if he thought Frankie was ok. Colin was already walking over to me. He said something was wrong and I needed to go over to the bench. I did, and my toughie said that yes, he thought we should go to the hospital. It is not an easy task to walk across benches and the distance of an ice rink with only one leg so Colin ended up hoisting Frankie over his shoulders. I took a picture but they said they would curse me if I posted it. Anyhow, we spend the next four and a half hours at Children’s hospital. Several x-rays later, they determined no break, but a sprain above the ankle. Crutches for a week then re-evaluation. I probably told 20 medical people about how the first 30 seconds of the first game of the season, blah blah. Poor kid. Thankfully, Renee said she would sleep at the hospital with Dad so I didn’t have to return. Got home about 1 am.

By Monday, Dad had a transfusion and they were hopeful that the bleeding had stopped. Renee came in to take over for me, and a few minutes after getting there did the most bizarre side step I had ever seen. I managed to catch her before she hit the floor. I got her to the chair and she slumped to one side. The hospital staff was most impressive. Within two minutes there were about 8-10 people there to assess what was happening. It sure looked like a stroke. Her BP was 202. They took her down to emergency and tested her brain and heart. Until her family was able to get there, I just ran between the floors of ER and Dad’s room, depending on who seemed to need me more. Renee was released without an explanation of why she had such an episode. What’s up with this? Three of my family members in the hospital within four days.

Tuesday, sister Janet flew in from Tennessee. Phew. Renee was going to meet us at the hospital, but I got a call and then a text from her. She fell again, this time in her house. I encouraged her to go to another hospital by ambulance, but she decided to stay home. I think they should check her ears for crystal formations. I didn’t think of it at the time because it looked like a stroke. I haven’t checked in with her today, but I hope she is feeling ok. She really can’t drive or even walk. I’m afraid next time she will crack her head open!

Yesterday Janet stayed with Dad the whole day. She spent the night before there with him and I got to stay home the whole day. (Well, that’s not true. I had to give a 90 minute lecture, but I didn’t have to go back and forth to the hospital.) I was nervous about not going because Dad was supposed to be released to rehab. I wanted to be there for the transition but I also knew Janet could handle it. I also have a son on crutches who doesn’t think they are nearly as much fun as he thought they were going to be. I also woke up with a massive cold so my head felt like a balloon.

Unfortunately, Dad never made it to rehab. His blood levels dropped again. Has to stay for another procedure, and hopefully this time they will be able to stop the bleeding for good. Poor guy. So, I’m off to the hospital as soon as I post this blog. Any day where I only have one hospital to go to is a good one, lol. I heard “when it rains, it pours” so many times this week, I knew what the blog title was going to be.

To end on a positive note, if you follow my blog you know I am a tough customer when it comes to medical care. There have been some moments where I wanted to hit my head on the wall, but the vast majority of time, I have to say I was terribly impressed by both hospitals this weekend. I kept thinking about how exhausted I was, but if I had to be in fight mood because my peeps weren’t getting good care, well that would have just pushed me right over the edge of the cliff. I am grateful and also hopeful that there are some shifts happening in the medical field that are positive!


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Life Lessons

Have you ever made a big mistake? Like one with deep regret? I had that happen this week. My dog Taffy has been getting a bit more of a pain the older she gets. Let’s just say that a few months ago she was diagnosed as “neurotic” and given a prescription for Prozac when she needs it. No, I’m not kidding. She was perfectly normal when she started living with us seven years ago. Just saying. This is a picture of her in my car.

Taffy

Taffy

Last week she ran out of the car and crossed the street to chase a squirrel, right in front of a car. Now I have to leash her from the car to the woods, then when we leave the woods to the car. It’s less and less I can let her off the leash. This week, I took her to the creek at the end of the walk and let her go in for a drink. That stinker took off to the other side of the creek and went down past the bridge. I followed her as far as I could but then lost sight of her. There is nothing to do at that point but go home and wait for someone to call me.

Eventually the call came. It showed up as “police” so I answered and said, “Do you have my doggie?” The officer laughed. He said he had Taffy and she was under arrest. He couldn’t capture the other one. I was confused so he asked how many dogs I had. He said Taffy had found a friend which was probably why she ran away. He was waiting at the parking lot where I had walked her. She always comes back. She isn’t really running AWAY from ME, she is just running.

Well I pulled in and that is when I made the big mistake. I could have won the best Facebook post of the year. If I was Catherine, I would have never made this mistake. I didn’t even think to ask to take a picture. There was Taffy, sitting in the back of the police car, looking out the window. Her face was priceless but predictable. It said, “What? What? I didn’t do ANYthing!” I could’ve died. The officer and I had a big chuckle over it. When I drove off with my naughty girl who now has a police record, that’s when I regretted not getting a photo of her.

LESSON: Always take a picture, even if there are cops involved.

My sister was over yesterday and she said how last week’s blog was her favorite. I told her that I totally forgot about Frankie’s Louis Armstrong impersonation, which is quite impressive. I asked him to do it for her and of course he utterly refused. In fact, he refused for hours. I told him about the blog and he got really offended. He said, “Mom!! You can’t write about me unless I give you permission. You can’t!” I told him I used his writing name Frankie, but he knows that is bull because most of the readers know who he really is. I decided it best at age 14 to not inform him that legally, I own him and his rights until he is 18. I found that out when I wrote the first book. (Incidentally, you also own your dead spouse’s rights in case you ever need to know.) On a serious note, I really do try to think about how he might feel when he is older and I am hoping he will appreciate what I have done when he is at an age where he doesn’t think everything I do is ludicrous.

LESSON: It’s okay to leave out information if it saves you from a teenager’s yelling and screaming for a few hours.

SERIOUS LIFE LESSON: No matter what heartache life brings you, no matter what loss – don’t ever let the loss be your sense of humor.


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Frankie

I’m learning a lot about cross-country this year. I’m also learning a lot about where the schools are all over Western New York. It’s crazy. Fifty minutes to drive to the school, and the race is about 11 minutes. At first, Frankie told me I didn’t need to come to the meets because it wasn’t a big deal. But one week I was running late and I got a call on my phone. Hmmm… I think in spite of what he says it’s important I be there. You know teenage boys. They want to keep their distance, so this sports thing is making me feel warm inside.

I can’t even possibly explain what it is like to ride home in a car with him for 50 minutes. But I’m going to try anyway. A video would be much better, but if they know you are recording them, the gig is up. Anyone with a teenager knows that the seat next to the stereo buttons is the most important seat in the car. Usually, if I hear a song and forget myself and start to sing or dance, that is Frankie’s signal to change the station. I know, he’s a punk.

Last night was different though. It didn’t matter what I did or not. He was on a roll. Fifty minutes of flipping through stations. Rap is not one of my favorite genres. That is, unless Frankie is the one doing it. When he knows all the words it always amazes me. But when he doesn’t? He makes crap up on the fly and it absolutely kills me. It makes me laugh, then it scares me. What the heck goes on in that kid’s head?

Whatever station is next is just that. Classical. Frankie makes up a quick rap to classical about how the Pilgrims (I assume inspired by his upcoming favorite holiday of Thanksgiving) had developed the first flutes (inspired by the flute song on the radio) the sound of which would lure turkeys to the feast (inspired by the lone live turkey that was sitting by the side of the expressway).

Jazz? No problem. He starts dancing like a very, very chill dude. He mimics a guy who is probably mellowed up by smoking weed, and talks about being “jazzed as shit” by the way the melody has carried him.

Suddenly, he breaks from music entirely and sees a car in the other lane crossing over into ours. He yells at the top of his lungs, “Hey mister! You are smothering me. Smothering me I’m telling you. Man, I need my space!”

Spanish station? He starts chattering rapidly the speed that Spanish usually sounds like. He doesn’t know much of anything in Spanish except counting but he can make stuff up like no one can. He is especially good at the Canadian stations. He is the star French student at school so he throws out random words that sound like he’s fluent.

When I finally get home and walk in the house, I tell Dad I am exhausted and there is something wrong with my son. Without skipping a beat, Frankie puts on his most serious face and says, “Mom, that really hurts my feelings. Besides, that never happened.”

Many times his humor is inappropriate for his age, but he gets away with it because I crack up laughing. He’s funny as hell and creative too. He just tells me that I need to get out more because I’m amused too easily. He has definitely come a long way from his newborn picture that is the logo for Baby Coop Publishing. Did you know that was his actual picture? That cute, perfect newborn face.

Anyhow, I was going to blog about all my new genetic knowledge. Then I was going to blog about “Oc-fuckin-tober” as tomorrow is the six-year anniversary of Tim’s death, which I celebrated by having my first full-blown panic attack in several years. But instead, I decided to write about my nutty kid. He was a bright spot for me. I’m sure words don’t come close to making you laugh the way a video would, but I thought I would try.


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The Limits of Unconditional Love

I believe true, pure unconditional love is only capable from God. I think the closest we come to that as humans is the love a parent has for their child. I also think we can try to sift through what true love is (there is the tough love variety and other sorts) and give it our best shot to love as perfectly as we can through our incredibly imperfect selves.

I remember a big aha moment in family therapy. We were having struggles with Matthew who was then in high school. The very painful time came when our counselor talked to Tim about whether or not he should continue to live with us. I remember looking at Scott completely befuddled. I was a counselor too and I knew better, but I just couldn’t see it in my own life. I really thought if I could just love Matthew like my own child, give him that constancy he desperately needed, stability, etc. etc. etc., that he would come around. He didn’t though. He just didn’t. Scott looked at me with compassion and just said that life and people don’t follow a formula. No matter what we do, sometimes people just don’t respond the way we think they should. I knew that in my head, but I was still devastated in my heart. I tried so hard to be a the best mom I could, but it wasn’t enough back then. It just wasn’t where Matthew was. That brings me back to the God-thing. We still have free will. So unconditional love comes with no guarantees.

Thanks to the gender-fluid movement, referring to a person as a “they” is now considered grammatically correct even though it is a plural form used for a singular person. I like it though, because now I can write without defining a gender which helps protect anonymity. Sorry for the sidebar.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about sticking up for myself and not being a doormat. I learned that from a lot of sources, but one person in particular had a great influence of me. They are pretty rough around the edges, but with time I did a pretty good job of accepting them the way they were. Whenever they hurt me, I told them so I didn’t repeat the doormat pattern. But I always forgave and I continued to love. I had always hoped they would learn from me as well. Maybe they would soften a bit, learn to be a tiny bit less selfish. Maybe try to care a little for someone other than themselves. I hoped it, and I know their friends did too.

Sometimes though, the opposite happens. Loving like that can create something else that is NOT good – that of just being taken for granted. Even though I showed my friendship in numerable ways with little in return, all it did was allowed that person to take me for granted. And instead of being a little bit better as I grew tougher, they actually sank even lower. They became even more selfish and hurt me even worse. I can write about this because they told me they don’t read my blog because they just have no interest in the topics I choose. It doesn’t matter that I am one of their best friends and I write about what is important to me. That is of no consequence to them because I am not of consequence to them.

The other side effect of learning to stand up for myself, is being introduced to the concept of revenge. It was not something I visited often in my life. It was not usually a struggle. I guess in truth, it still isn’t in the sense that I don’t struggle to not act on it. But I am surprised by my thoughts. I think about wanting to hurt the people who have hurt me. I think about it often with my neighbors who continue to draw out the incident from last year and keep hurting us in spite of our lack of retaliation.

And I think about my friend and how they have hurt me. I can think of a million ways they could hurt. If they could hurt just a tenth of how much they hurt me, I would be satisfied. But then I hit the brick wall and remember that people like them can’t even be hurt. They would have to care in order to hurt. And some people truly don’t give a shit about anyone else.

The crazy thing is, I left the friendship in their court. I said if they could show me respect I would still hang in there. The response was a confident yes, they want my friendship. And then they disappeared. Anyone who knows me, knows ignoring me is one of the deepest cuts for me.

I know the answer I will eventually get to, is that I choose to love because it is who I am. I don’t do it for the reciprocation. But right now, the well is dry. I’m exhausted from caring for others so deeply and having it get me nowhere but more hurt and rejection. Shame on me, right? I will get there, I always bounce back. Because it spite of learning to defend myself, I am still at my core, NOT an asshole. I am NOT selfish. So I will find hope again. But going through the dark road to get there? It sucks beyond description. SUCKS.