Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Millard Suburban

Part of my new career is talking about death/dying and grief/loss, and part of the goal is to help improve the medical system. I admit, I am hard to please when it comes to hospitals and doctors. It’s not because I’m cynical and picky, but I do honestly believe that our system is very, very broken.

When I went to Punta Cana for four days, so many people told me I needed to go for a whole week. Boy, would I love that. You barely get time to drop your guards down and it’s time to return. But I’m a single mom, a therapist, and I help take care of my dad. I just feel like I can’t be gone longer than that. And sure enough, there was one client emergency and my dad ended up in the hospital. Sigh.

Anyhow, I have to say, I love Millard Suburban Hospital. Dad has been there three times since April. Of course no person or entity is perfect, but I really like these guys. When I got the text about Dad, I started in right away. First I had to handle a situation for Frankie because obviously Dad wouldn’t be staying with him if he was in the hospital. Next was sorting out what was actually going on. Dad does his best to understand the medical stuff, but sometimes things get mixed-up. Everyone who was local was visiting him and trying to talk to doctors, but there was some confusion.

I called the hospital and explained my dilemma of being Dad’s medical advocate (as well as legal and financial) but that I was out of the country. I got a call back from the nurse practitioner. She remembered me and Dad from October’s stay. I immediately felt better. She did her best to explain what was going on. She also said he was stable and I didn’t need to get on a plane and come home. She also said she would call every day and let me know if there was any change.

She did exactly that. She even remembered to say “Happy Birthday” in her message on the day of my actual birthday. (She is turning 50 this year too!) She also had the surgeon call me directly. He explained things to me even further. He was able to clarify some of the more confusing aspects of what was happening, which turned out really just to be a clarification of terms. I told him that I was returning home Tuesday night but not until midnight. I asked if there was any way to keep Dad there until Wednesday so he was not released to his apartment where he lives alone. No problem.

He did exactly that.

I really appreciate this hospital. I figure I do enough complaining about all the bad stuff that happens, I wanted to acknowledge the good stuff that happens. I think I would like to go there if I ever have the need to be in a hospital. Thank you to all the staff who took such good care of a man who all of his family love very much. And thank you for bothering to care about a 50-year-old who was on a much-needed break. You put my mind at ease, which all the beautiful paradise-like sun in the world couldn’t have done if I was worried about my father. Kudos!

(P.S. For those of you that follow me on Facebook, yes! This is the same surgeon that I met in person when I got home and could barely concentrate because he was so handsome… Just another perk of the hospital!)


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Re-connecting

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to have not one, but two birthday parties. I mean hey, 50 is a big deal, right? The first night was at my favorite Mexican restaurant and we had about 25 people come for dinner. After we went to a bar that had a dance band. My friend laughed and said I was one of the youngest people there but we had a great time. That night, someone came up behind me to wish me a birthday and I had to stop and think. She reminded me she and her partner used to be clients of mine. I was so very happy to see them. I was honored they would take the time to come up to me, and I was truly thrilled to see they were still together. Later, I watched them dance together and they were just delightful to watch. Made my heart warm.

Darcy's 50th birthday-Darcy, Catherine

Darcy's 50th birthday- Michelle, Darcy, Cathy, Catherine, Onalee, Carla

Darcy's 50th birthday-Catherine ,Missy, Michelle, Onalee, Darcy, Karen

Toward the end of the evening, one of my students from the master’s program showed up. I know she drove a long way. She couldn’t even stay, but she wanted to say hello and give me a hug in person. I couldn’t believe it.

The second night, I had an informal gathering back in Niagara county where I grew up. Almost 25 people came that night too. This group was my family, friends, and mostly high school friends. It was a mini-reunion of sorts. I figured most of them will be turning 50 this year too, although some of them had already beat me. Most of the night was filled with people I don’t get to see very often. One of my closest friends from high school (although she went to a different high school) totally surprised me by coming. I haven’t seen her since… well, I don’t exactly know when. It’s been a very long time. She looked EXACTLY the same, hadn’t aged a bit.

A couple of the girls I was a cheerleader with. That brought some laughs and eye rolls. One girl was a year older than me and I was pleasantly surprised to see her as well. But the real shock came when she told me she reads my blogs and loves them. She said I write with honesty (or something like that). I had no idea she even read them or knew I had a blog. I was so humbled by that. And today when I was weary and didn’t feel like writing, I remembered her comment and it brought a huge smile to my face and enthusiasm to write.

Another girl I didn’t recognize at first. She reminded me she had moved in our later years of school. I had plenty to drink throughout the night, but I was aware enough to remember several comments she made throughout the night. She was truly grateful to have connected with me on Facebook and then be invited to our get together. She had such kind things to say about me and how I behaved in high school. There are actually some traits I seem to have carried on into adulthood and they are actually GOOD ones. So many things we hope we grow out of. She also made my heart warm to think that I could make others feel good without even knowing I was doing it.

One of my friends organized most of this. Created the event, bought cupcakes, you know the drill. She has been having a really tough time lately, but in spite of that, she made sure I had a great birthday. I hope to return the favor soon when her birthday arrives. I love you girlfriend!

I could go on and on. My deepest thanks to all of you who sent cards, gifts (even though I said no gifts!), drove out in the snow, or drove a long way to be part of my milestone birthday. Whether I see you often or once every few decades or so, I appreciate you. I love people, I invest in people, people are my priority. Whether I mentioned you specifically in this blog or not, I was humbled by all the outpouring of love and friendship. Don’t ever think when I fall into the abyss here and there when my depression gets the better of me, that I have forgotten the treasure of friends. I don’t. I swear, I don’t, not even when I’m down and out.

Hugs and kisses to all!


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Turning 50

Yesterday I was talking to a client and mentioned being 49. I gasped and said, “Oh! Crap, I forgot. I’m 50!” I’d been dreading turning 50 for about six years. Who knew that it would be one of the best birthdays ever?

For about a year, I have been trying to plan a trip away. I mean a real trip. Not visiting relatives or friends (although I love those trips too) but someplace warm and sunny. Punta Cana was the ticket. I had three friends go as well, all from different states. Closest thing to paradise I have ever seen. I was only gone Friday-Tuesday, and two of those days were mostly traveling, but I think we made the most of it.

My friends made sure most of the places we had dinner knew it was my birthday. The whole weekend felt like my birthday and it was a blast. First, there are the swimming pools with the swim-up bars. Who wouldn’t love that? img_20170203_151847232

Isn’t that ridiculously gorgeous?

On my actual birthday, there were only three of us left. We weren’t going to do excursions, but we decided to do the party boat so that we could go snorkeling. They take you out to the ocean and feed the fish so they are swarming. I didn’t really have anything to compare it to, but I was delighted. I obviously couldn’t take pictures of that part, but here we are on the boat. (By the way, there was plenty of music and dancing on the boat as well.)

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The surprise came when we headed back. I thought we were finished but instead they parked us in shallow waters with about ten other party boats. Everyone got in the water along with a raft floating in the middle with alcohol and food. It’s hard to see in the picture, but there were gobs of people all over the place partying IN the ocean!

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I mean, what a riot!

We got back to our resort exhausted, more than a little tipsy, but feeling like we had the time of our lives. As if that wasn’t enough, I went back to my room to shower and change for the evening and found this:

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I couldn’t believe my friends had brought all those things on the trip with them (balloons, banners, cards, gifts) and then somehow arranged to get into my room and surprise me. I was like a five-year-old again. I meet people all the time who aren’t stressed about their age. I’m not in theory, but in reality I do usually get depressed. I think it is because I am not where I think I was going to be. And unfortunately, thanks to depression and some unexpected hardships, I’m not always happy about where I am.

This year was a blast. I was literally in paradise with perfect weather, socializing with people from all over the country and world, and some of my dearest friends. This weekend I will not be in paradise, but I will be with many more of my dear friends celebrating and I’m sure that will be lovely as well. Welcome the big five-zero! Happy birthday was literal this year… happy, happy, happy. Love you all!


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Orthodontists

Frankie got his braces off. If anyone asks your opinion about putting braces on a kid at a younger age, I would advise not to. We tried it. It made sense to me. If you put them on early, the goal is to make room for your teeth to come in correctly, eliminating the need to have them later. We did it and the orthodontist considered it a success because Frankie didn’t need to have eight teeth pulled. Frankie and I? We both thought it would have been much easier to have the teeth pulled in one shot. He ended up needing a second set of braces anyway. I had eight teeth pulled when I was his age before I got my braces.

Anyhow, he got them off for the second time this week. He gets the retainers on Thursday. It’s an interesting office. Up until a few months ago, there were only women in the office. I mean, thousands of women. Now there is one young guy that works there. Brave guy. It drives Frankie crazy there, but I love it.

When I came to get him, the receptionist said they post the “new smiles” on their Facebook page and even video. There is a literal red carpet, balloons, etc. to celebrate. But Frankie said he didn’t want his picture posted there or on Instagram. They thought maybe if I talked to him, he would consent. I laughed out loud. Obviously they have no idea what this kid’s relationship to his mother is. He generally tries to do the polar opposite of anything I do.

I told them that he gets mad at me when I post things on Facebook with him. He will say very indignantly, “Mom, I didn’t give you permission to post that.” I ever so politely tell him, “Sweetie, I own you until you are 18. I don’t need your permission. So sorry.” The receptionist laughed. It occurred to me that I don’t sound like a very good psychology person. I should be saying that I need to respect his privacy, or whatever. I guess if I thought that he truly didn’t want it other than to disappoint me, I would try to respect his wishes. But there are lots of people who love and support him and are interested in his life.

As Frankie walked down the red carpet, I told the doc that it was probably my fault he doesn’t like to post stuff. I wrote a book about our family and now he doesn’t want anything to be out there. She looked at me and said, “It’s not your fault,” with a surprised face that wondered why I would ever think such a silly thing.

That’s part of why I love her. She is fun. She is nice. She treats all the patients with respect. But make no mistake. She is clear about where a kid’s place is. Anytime a comment was made, even in the tiniest way, she always spoke up and reminded Frankie that he is responsible for himself. I love her strength. And I appreciate the occasional reminders that I am a great parent and I get to make decisions around the house, in spite of whatever teenagers happen to feel differently (even if it is developmentally normal for them to push the envelope).

I don’t have a good picture of Frankie’s new smile. He let me take one, but it was a frightening picture more than it was flattering. So just trust me. Round two with the braces worked. He looks fabulous. And thanks to the folks at the orthodontist’s office for boosting me in ways they have no idea they even did!