Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Computers: Friend or Foe?

When it comes to phones, home repairs, or computers, those who know me well often say things like this to me: “Gee, you seem to have a lot more problems than anyone else I know.” This is validating, but also adds to my madness. I try to do everything the way I’m supposed to but I still end up pulling my hair out.

Since I’ve had so damn many computer issues, I have a really great friend who is my IT guy. Most of the time he accepts pool and hot tub usage in exchange, but I think he gets the short end of the stick. We have everything set up to be fool-proof. I have a program that backs up my data every single night to an external drive. That way if something happens to my computer, the data won’t be compromised. Then I went the extra mile. I bought another external drive to back up the back up. Two copies of everything. Fool-proof, right?

Wrong.

One of the things I hate on my computer and phone is that “they” can update things without your permission. Makes me crazy. I mean, we pay for the stuff. Why should they be able to have control over the devices? Half the time, it seems to me that the updates are “down” dates. They “fix” things that aren’t broken and create new issues. The last two weeks I have been struggling with Windows 10 and the updates that happen whether you want them to or not.

All of a sudden, I can’t use my computer. I’m not exaggerating. One letter on the keyboard and the thing would spin for almost 10 minutes. I can’t work like that! Turns out, that is the problem was with the new update. You can take it off, but it just keeps putting it back on. My computer eventually started restarting itself over and over, rendering itself completely useless. Guess what happened? My hard drive crashed.

Son of a bitch!

All of the work I have done for the last couple of weeks were saved and showing up daily as current. But apparently, the drive was getting ready to crash so when it backed up every night, it wasn’t backing up my work. The documents I have do not show any of the current work I was doing. That is fun when you go to balance your checkbook (and your dad’s) and realize none of the bills you paid were saved. The rest of the stuff I lost was literally hours of reading and research that has to be redone now.

The highlight of the week was yesterday when I thought I was calling Microsoft. After 45 minutes with this guy, I realized he wasn’t helping me at all. He just kept trying to get me to buy stuff. I tell him to disconnect from my computer but he ignores me. I can’t get to the button to disconnect him because he is controlling my mouse. I was literally insane. I was screaming at the very top of my lungs, calling him every profanity I could think of and he just kept deleting crap on my computer. Turns out the number I called was not legitimate. That was great, because losing all my work and being unable to do any current work wasn’t stressful or dramatic enough.

HA!

Anyhow, slowly piecing things back together but I’m sure it will take a lot of time to get things operating normally again. Love the technology most of the time, but man, sometimes I want to literally throw it out the window. Am I the only one?

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Release

Phew!

After a very emotional and exhausting week, Dad is coming home tomorrow! I know it could have been a much longer time, but it felt like it was a really long road. It was weird leaving rehab today, knowing that on a Saturday morning none of them would be there when he is discharged. After a while, it feels like they are family. The physical and occupational therapy department were really great with him. They liked working with him too because he is just a nice guy and they appreciate him. It sort of reminded me of when I left Hospice after Tim died. These are people you start to see every single day, and suddenly you know you will probably never see them again.

Plus, there is the connection of feeling grateful to someone who has helped the person you love. When someone takes good care of your family, your child, whoever, there is a warmth toward them that doesn’t go away. There were obvious problems that I’ve blogged about previously, but there were many who did their jobs extremely well.

Dad is counting down the hours. They are letting him out at 9 am to accommodate my schedule because I have a hellish day tomorrow. I need to get him all packed up, transported home, unpacked, and have his meds ready for the week, all before 11 am. I appreciate them getting him out earlier for me.

My sister from Tennessee and I talked about the need for someone to keep an eye on things for the next week. The assisted living home where he resides think it’s a great idea as well. Truth be told, I think Dad does too. No more falls. He needs to be careful. Sometimes he still struggles with buttons or shoes. Someone should be nearby when he showers, just in case he loses his balance. We can hire staff to handle those things, but it’s frankly a ridiculous amount of additional money. I’m hoping we can handle it ourselves.

Monday he meets the doctor at his living complex. I’m hoping we like her. After that, I will have to buckle down and help him with all his Christmas preparations. We’ve done what we can already, but there will be plenty of last minute things. Too bad hardship doesn’t check in with your schedule. It always seem to happen at the most difficult time. But there is no one that can control that. And in a self-centered society that promotes individual happiness, the art of sacrifice is sometimes a lost virtue. I’ve been studying a psychologist who bucks that bologny and pushes for putting others ahead of yourself. It’s refreshing to read him.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support and visits and love and the countless hours listening to me vent. And yay to dad, who does his best to push on, even though he has been ready for a long time to be done with this side of heaven. Love you, Dad!


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Granddaughters

This week I had one of the best weekends of my life. I was totally burned out and exhausted from everything going on around here but I came back with my heart full and ready to tackle things again.

I went to Georgia to see my daughter Emily. The occasion? The birth of my granddaughter Sabrina! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her. As you can see from the pictures I had received, she is utterly perfect and the wait to go was torture.

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Miss Sabrina, like most newborns, was not sleeping through the night. In fact, she was eating every 90 minutes, even though she is formula fed. Emily was as exhausted and burned out as I was. I got to spend the last couple of nights with Sabrina in the same room with me so I could get up with her. We discovered using a pacifier would hold her off and then she would eat more when it was time. One night she actually slept five hours!

I need lots of sleep. A good night for me is eight to ten hours. While I was there, I didn’t get much more than four hours of sleep and it didn’t even matter. I decided after spending the first night with her cuddled up on my chest for most of it, that we were bonded for life.

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But I got much more than I bargained for. Emily’s partner also has five children. I discovered all five of them were going to be there for the weekend as well. Aubry told them that she would share her grammy. “You can kiss my grammy if you want.” Before 24 hours was over, the younger ones were calling me Grammy. In one trip I went from two grandkids in Georgia to eight! I couldn’t help but look around their beautiful house and remember that when I was young, this what I had envisioned for myself. It’s not what happened, but this is happening now and it’s beyond lovely.

The dad would tell the girls to go chill out and give me a break. I told him that I live with all boys who hang out upstairs and don’t think it’s cool to be with me. I am often very lonely. I was loving having them fighting over my attention. I didn’t need a break!

They had to take turns, but I got my hair done, my make-up put on, and had several different nail creations. I’m not used to girls! Emily just kept telling me how brave I was. It’s true, some of the end results were a bit frightening. I decided when the bright red wouldn’t come off my nails, that I would show them off proudly as the sign of a good grammy.

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My sister and her family even came up from Tennessee for a night. That night there were nine kids! And my great-nephew is unbelievably cute. What a weekend it was. I came back and went directly to rehab to find my dad doing incredibly well. He looks like himself, is smiling and joking. We are talking about discharge next week!

Talk about blessed. What a week!


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The Real Talent

Some of you that know our family might remember when Frankie was 6 years old in kindergarten. It was his big year. He wrote a story called “The Kite and the Snowflake” and won third place in the Reading Rainbow contest out of 700 entries. (He clearly should have gotten first, of course!) It was an amazingly thoughtful and poignant story. The principal made it into an actual book and held a school-wide assembly for him to read it to the student body. He got invited to the Board of Education for the same. It put him on the map. I credit his teacher for discovering it, buried in the middle of a scribbled journal.

He is now 15 and I ask him to clean out his folders once every six weeks. He puts everything in the recycling bin and then I fish it out. I keep a few things here and there for his memory boxes. I caught this poem written on the back of a sheet of paper. I confirmed he actually wrote it and he even gave me permission to post it which surprised me. Anyway, I know I have a mother’s bias (obviously) but I think he is the real writer in the family. Let me know if you agree this is pretty great. It has the hallmarks of a teenager that make you chuckle, but overall I thinks he captures a deep understanding. The assignment was to write a poem from a Jewish perspective. (Thank God I never got assignments like that when I was in school!)

Where is my God?

My fellow Jews and I stand alone.

There’s nowhere to go or no place to call home.

My friends hidden behind ash.

Here I stand with no cash.

We are torn down by being beaten or blasted.

Maybe Hitler thinks all Jews should be trashed.

One thing that is not really cool?

All Jews are segregated from the great German schools.

Our God seems to be unreliable.

Therefore, us Jews are considered undesirable.

My depression is growing because my God isn’t near.

I can’t numb the pain because I can’t afford beer.

One thing is for sure, my God is not found.

Life is hard without Him around.

 

Yep, I’m a proud mama.

 


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At 50?

I can’t believe at age 50 I feel like I’m back to square one. I know I’m not alone in this. Who would have ever believed that the big questions like career and partners would still be up in the air and a struggle when your life is more than half over?

I did a presentation this week about two hours away. A whole group of us participated in a death/dying conference like the ones we had done in Buffalo. It went great. Almost every speaker was dynamite and the audience seemed receptive and even enthusiastic.

I was the last speaker of the day which was tough because I knew everyone was tired. It went over extremely well though and I knew I had reached people by the feedback. The problem was, I didn’t make a penny.

So frustrating. I know I possess a good skill set. I can speak and I can write. I can do them both very well. The other panelists all came from companies or hospitals they represent. They are getting “paid” because it is part of their salary. I’m the only lone ranger in that sense so if there isn’t a speaking stipend (which 90% of the time there is not) then I can only hope I sell books.

I didn’t sell one book. I watched the woman next to me sell about 10 books. Same topic, different angle. Both of us good speakers. WTF?

This is not new. This is the scenario 99% of the time. I am well past the point of being able to write/speak simply because it is helpful to others. My heart is there, but my pocketbook is not. I am the sole breadwinner in my house. I have a family to provide for. And my social security is being cut in half in less than a year. Holy crap that is scary.

I’m going to have to reinvent my career and I have no idea what to do. Well, actually I have tons of ideas, but knowing which path to follow is confusing at best. Add coping with severe depression on almost a daily basis now, and it is beyond overwhelming.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I thought that was settled years ago. I even had a brave moment this week and attempted to go on a date. I got stood up. I know it isn’t personal because we hadn’t even met yet, but cripes. Stick your toe back in and find out the water is frigid.

That’s was scary about being so depressed. You have to take risks in life and be proactive if you want to meet your goals. But if you are already down and out, you can’t afford to fail. At anything. What a freaking catch-22.

For the moment then, I will just stay stuck. Not sure what the heck to do with myself. I know I can’t stay this way, but I’m terrified to do anything else, with any of these areas of my life.

Maybe 80 is the new 50. Maybe I just have to wait another 30 years and things will fall into place. One can only hope :).


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Preaching to the Choir

My dad moved into assisted living this week. I burned the candle at both ends for a couple of weeks, but he applied, got accepted and moved in rather quickly. On move in day, we had finished all the paperwork but the moving truck hadn’t arrived so we decided to go shopping for some items he needed for his new apartment.

I do not generally enjoy shopping, but this was actually kind of fun. I felt like a mom with a kid going off to college that needed to furnish his dorm room. We went in with a list. The windows are all new and sometimes people don’t even use curtains anymore but Dad is old school. He had the curtains already, but he needed new curtain rods.

We went to the appropriate aisle and I was prepared with the measurements from the maintenance man. There are so many options for curtain rods now. Dad? Well, he wanted those plain white metal ones that bend in an “L” at the end. I did my best to try to change his mind. “Dad, there are so many cute ones. How about this one?  Or this kind? Or this? They aren’t that much more expensive.” Nope. The curtains cover these rods anyway so what does it matter? “Jeeze, Dad. You’re no fun. I can’t believe you are picking the boring ones.” There was an older lady, probably close to Dad’s age in the same aisle. I heard her snicker a bit at our conversation.

We moved on to the next item on the list. We happened to bump into that same woman. Or perhaps not. Perhaps she followed us. She walks up to me, puts her hand on my arm and says ever so firmly, “Now young lady, you know that your opinion doesn’t matter one bit. After all, it is HIS house and he should pick out what he wants.”

I was a bit taken aback, but I thought she was really going to be embarrassed when I pulled those old, ugly white curtain rods out of my cart and showed her that he indeed makes his own decisions. I said that he always calls the shot but I like to rib him a little. It’s what we do.

She was having none of it. She went on to say that, “Someday, YOU will be a senior citizen too and THEN you will understand things.” Her disgust of me was crystal clear. My mind was racing. Me? The one who tends to my dad’s every need? Surely she should know that my sister and I both worked in nursing homes. There was no McDonald’s jobs. We took care of the elderly. Surely she should know that when I lived in Chicago I set up an “Adopt a Grandparent” program for those elderly folks that had no family. I have a lifetime of being respectful to senior citizens.

Her final parting shot (as if the first two weren’t enough) was, “My goodness. Your father and I were certainly raised very differently than your generation was.”

Huh.

She couldn’t have been more wrong about me. It got me thinking though. Jay pointed out to me that people like us go to all the trouble in our heads (or out loud) to defend ourselves when really we don’t owe anyone an explanation. But we even if there is no one to hear, we have to justify ourselves to ourselves. Crazy.

I also wondered how many times I have heard a snippet of our conversation and thought that I had accurately surmised the dynamics with all of my expertise and experience. What the hell do I actually know anyway? I can be pretty accurate with my intuition, but it’s nowhere near 100%. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I have an urge to confront a total stranger (or a beloved person for that matter).


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Love

“I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”

That is a song by Bonnie Raitt and I realized it was my life song several years ago. It is one of the first songs I ever learned at Karaoke. It is written in the context of a lover, but I identify with it on many levels of relationships. I have spent much too much of my lifetime trying to get people to care about me that don’t, then more time mourning because I’m not loved the way I had hoped to be.

My dad is a stoic German. He isn’t comfortable saying I love you. My sister was always able to be satisfied knowing that he loves us. He is kind, generous, predictable, stable and a provider and so on. But I always wanted (and still do) him to say it as well.

Then I got married in my early twenties. After my husband became an atheist, he also no longer believed in marriage or romance. He told me repeatedly that he had never loved me. He tricked himself into believing in love because he wanted to have sex. We were Christians and believed in waiting for marriage. Therefore, he tried to tell himself he loved me in order to relieve his sexual urges. When I would show him the box of letters he wrote me during our engagement, (one a day, sometimes two a day) he dismissed them as lies.

I dated a guy after Tim died that I thought was a real possibility of being someone I could stay with. He went to karaoke with me and heard me sing my Bonnie Raitt song. When I came back to my seat, he whispered in my ear, “You will never have to sing that song again. You need a new life song now.” My heart soared at the thought. About three weeks later, he left Frankie and I without any explanation or closure.

Later, I dated a guy on/off for about three years. Every couple of months he felt the need to remind me that I loved him more than he loved me, that he didn’t want anything permanent in our future. I didn’t either, but for some reason it had to come up over and over.

Now I have a teenager who I tell I love every few days and I get no response or an “ok” for an answer. Where did that come from? He grew up in a home that has love expressed consistently. Yeah, I know. Normal teenage stuff.

I have a guy friend who doesn’t say I love you to a girlfriend until he is ready to ask her to marry him. Two and a half years of dating but they don’t exchange that phrase.

I have a girl friend who doesn’t think much of saying it at all. Her response is, “Don’t say it, show it.”

Everyone has different perspectives I guess.

The New Testament was written in the Greek language. There are at least three different words for “love” depending on the nuance of the word. That is part of the problem. We only have one word that I know of. It is an incredibly complex subject (love) with millions of meanings, but it is a wonderful thing.

When I say, “I love you,” to someone I met recently but “fell head over heals” for, it means something different from when I feel love for them six months later. It means something different twenty years later. And if I whisper it on someone’s death-bed, it means something different. But it is all love. All of it.

Then there is love as an action or choice. Sometimes we love someone even if we don’t like them very much at the moment. We choose to behave in a loving way because that is just what is needed.

Here is another theme song for me.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.”

Written by Hal David. Yep, that is also the damn story of my life. I tell all my friends and family, 90% of the time, that I love them. At the end of every phone call. I guess when you have lost lots of people (and some very suddenly) you are very aware how important it is. Sure, I understand that it can become meaningless if it is overused. But can you overuse love?

This is my heartbeat, the core of who I am. But my experience has been the first song. Just the way it is. I am going to keep trying to love, in whatever form it is, no matter the response I get back from the world. It gets really, really hard sometimes, but I am going to try.