A breath of fresh air

For a few days, we had weather that was nice. By nice I mean temps in the 50’s with no snow, rain, or ice. I’ll take it, I guess. I was able to get some yard work done, raking out beds and picking up sticks. Paul was out chopping wood. It felt nice to get stuff done. But not really as I felt sore and sneezed and sniffled like crazy with allergies. I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.

I went through all my clothes, summer and winter and everything in between. I got rid of a huge pile, not necessarily to be a minimalist though I do prefer that to clutter. A lot of clothes no longer fit me. I felt sad to part with my favorite shorts and jeans. Clothes that have been favorites for decades from thinner days. I don’t know about you, but I have clothes that are just too good to wear. It’s almost to the level of sacred. I rarely, rarely wear them because they are just so special. Then I lament I don’t wear them enough. I know I will think about it next fall when I pull out the winter clothes that are no longer there.

My mom came over to visit today. We worked on a puzzle. For a while, all has been well. The kids are all okay as far as I know. It’s quiet, lonely, and boring without all the problems I’ve had over the past couple of years. It’s funny because this is all I wanted during the stressful days. But now that I have it, I don’t really want it because I feel stagnant and unmotivated.

What is there to write about? Should I make a post telling you that mom and I worked on a puzzle. To make it more exciting, I will tell you it is a bicentennial puzzle my mom gave me from her house actually from 1976 back when I was two years old. It’s so old it actually might be worth something. LOL! It contains political pins to vote for people I’ve never even heard of before. It really makes me feel rather sad about the passage of time.

Yesterday was my grandma’s birthday. If she was still living she would’ve been 97 years old. She was a beautiful person inside and out, one of the best people I’ve ever known. I wish I could preserve all the cherished memories with her and pass them down to my kids. They barely remember her. I can’t give them the memories of her that I have though. Some day I’m afraid all she will be is a name and a date on a genealogy chart. You see, she wasn’t famous. She was a farmer’s daughter with only an 8th grade education. She never drove a car. She was quiet. We could sit in silence for hours and be at total peace. I’m afraid she will be forgotten.

The rains are starting. It’s going to rain through tomorrow with over an inch of rain expected. Then it is going to be cold and windy as winter again. Maybe we’ll get more snow. What we had on the ground just melted. It was nice to get a breath of fresh air, but I seem to want something more than that.

Good note endings

For me, it is the anticipation of an event that causes excitement, apprehension, or foreboding. The planning of a vacation. Waiting for a special day. Saying good bye..

It is not always a bad thing to know that your loved one is dying. I think of a friend whose mother died unexpectedly right after an argument. We have been given this special time to mend relationships, to end things on a good note..

Friday night we took Angel to say good bye to her grandma before leaving for college. Friday my son Alex came down with strep, the second in our household. I didn’t want Angel to leave without saying good bye to her grandma. I admit I was worried that although Paul, Angel, and I weren’t symptomatic that we could be carriers of strep into a nursing home full of vulnerable people. It wasn’t a good feeling. I asked the nurse and pharmacist, but they didn’t give me a straight answer. We decided to go anyway, since this would probably be Angel’s final visit with her grandma.

We arrived at the nursing home late on Friday night. It was a big complex and we didn’t know where to go. The outside doors were locked and we ended up walking around outside in the bitter cold on icy sidewalks trying to find a way in. I felt exhausted and cold. I was so tired that I didn’t want to be there, but it wasn’t about me.

We were finally able to find the main entrance. It was warm, empty, and inviting. There was a video showing a happy elderly couple entering their new home. It pleasantly reminded me of a time share commercial. We were the only visitors there on a Friday night, with the exception of my mother-in-law’s husband Darryl.

It was quiet there. The employees talked about when they were going to take their cigarette breaks. Curious elderly people wandered over to Martha’s room to see the excitement of visitors on a Friday night.

Martha was in her bed hooked up to oxygen. She looked good. Darryl said that his mother was in the nursing home now because she can no longer take care of herself. The conversation got too close to the truth of Martha’s situation. We talked of funerals that we attended together of other family members and Darryl’s moms declining health.

Martha wondered why she was in the nursing home like her husband’s mother. She told us that she was going home soon. She said that they were going to start her on Chemo all over again. She was so convinced of this that I almost believed her. I wanted to.

Martha told us how great Darryl has been to her all of these years. She said that her only regret was that she didn’t meet Darryl sooner. She wished she could have given Paul a father when he was a child. Martha held Darryl’s hand and told him how much she loved and appreciated having him in her life.

When it was time to go, Angel sang a prayer. It was very peaceful and calming. There weren’t any tears or sad good byes like I was expecting.

Our visit ended on a good note..

Saying good bye?

I have often wondered why we say the words good bye. What is ever good about parting with someone that you care about?

This morning I said good bye to Angel as she left to go back to college. I won’t be seeing her again until March.

Last night Angel said good bye to her grandma, probably for the last time.

It was a rough week. Darryl called earlier this week very distraught. The doctor told him that Martha was never going to go back home again. She was going to be transferred from the hospital into a nursing home. They thought that she was going to beat this terminal stage 4 cancer thing. It is hard to blame them for feeling that way as they don’t have the internet at home and we are all new to this stage 4 cancer thing.

Living with her day to day, I’m sure that Darryl didn’t see how the cancer eroded her body like we did. Losing 100 lbs isn’t as noticeable if you lose it 1 lb a day. It broke Paul’s heart to see his step-dad break down and start talking about final wishes and funeral arrangements. We knew we had to arrange one last visit with Angel and her grandma before she left.

The night that Darryl called, Paul cried. Before all of this, in the 20+ years I’ve known Paul, he has only cried a handful of times. Mainly when his grandma, who helped raise him, died. Dealing with his mother dying has brought out a whole new range of emotions, some of them not very good. I want to fix things, but I can’t.

Sometimes I worry about Paul. He takes on too much responsibility. He is a great leader and everyone wants his help on this board, committee, or that. I find that most people care more about what he can do for them instead of him.

Besides Paul and my friend Cindy (who keeps calling and asking how I am doing), I have been pushing everyone in my life away. When things get difficult I shut everyone out. No personal Facebook statuses for me. I don’t want anyone to know. It surprises me that I even talk to you. Sorry, no offense, I’m sure you are a great person.

Instead of dealing with my emotions, I put more things on my plate. No, not food, if I’m really stressed I barely eat. Working long hours…yes…trying out for a part in the play…yes…signing up for an 18 mile trail run…yes…another marathon…yes, yes, yes….a half iron…yes, yes, oh yes!

Keeping very busy has always been a tactic of mine.

I’m not sure I can keep going at this pace. But I am afraid. If I stop juggling all of these busyness balls, I will surely drown.

I will keep going. I am determined to persevere. And I am going to keep writing (take you along on this journey with me)! Lucky you! XOXXO

 

 

A flame’s last few flickersĀ 

Yesterday I spent the evening in the ICU.

My mother-in-law Martha collapsed on her way to her doctor appointment. An elderly friend of Martha was taking her to her appointment, pulled over when Martha said she was going to be sick, and couldn’t get her back in the car.

The rescue squad transported her to the nearest hospital where they had no room in their ICU. Then they transported her to a hospital a couple of hours away. This was good news for us because Martha was 20 minutes away versus 2 hours away. 

We drove in nervous silence to the hospital. It was a long, windy, and bitterly cold day. It seemed like I had to park miles away from the door. The sharp winds whipped my face and stung. I ran to get in as fast as I could, but I really didn’t want to go. I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid of how I might respond.

We searched for a long time down empty corridors for Martha’s room. We didn’t know where to go or what was happening. We weren’t sure what to expect. We had many questions and no answers.

We finally found the ICU. Only 2 visitors were allowed at a time. Paul and Angel went in first. While we were waiting, Martha’s husband Darryl arrived. Angel came out crying. My other 2 children went in. Angel sat on my lap and I held her in my arms while she cried. 

Darryl and I were the last ones to enter. Paul helped me tie on my gown and I put latex gloves on as was ICU protocol. Then I saw Martha. She was so weak, sick, and fragile looking. She asked me if I was okay since I looked so tired. Her concern for me was strangely touching as she was the one in the hospital bed hooked up to machines. She was getting a blood transfusion and had a couple more bags being emptied into her body. She had to sign a consent form but couldn’t quite remember how to spell her name. 

She told me that if she didn’t make it home, I should go through her items with the girls and take what I wanted even though she said she doesn’t have much. I told her I would.

It was all very beautiful and ugly at the same time. All of our previous issues faded away into the past. Yet I felt like I was in the way of the nurse. I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing I could do. Nothing but be there for her as her light starts to fade during her flame’s last few flickers.  

Soon our brief time together came to an end. I tore off my gown and threw it in the garbage along with my gloves. I washed my hands in the the sink. Martha told me that she loved me. I told her that I loved her back. 

After a long glance, I walked away and didn’t look back.     

Over the river and through the woods

  

Yesterday morning I awoke with a feeling of trepidation. I think I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect..

I drove over the river (or I should say over the railroad tracks, I’ve never seen so many tracks crossing the highway anywhere else) and through the deep dark woods of WI to take the kids to see grandma (my mother-in-law Martha). She didn’t make it over for Thanksgivng. In fact, she has gotten to the point where she is no longer eating much more than applesauce. 

For years, my son Alex and my husband Paul joined Paul’s stepdad Darryl to hunt. For the last couple of years, Martha would come to my house and spend the weekend playing cards, working puzzles, and watching movies. But she is too sick to go anywhere now. She has stage 4 terminal cancer. The chemo stopped working and the cancer has spread. The guys have been visiting her the last couple of weekends, but I haven’t had the chance to visit for awhile. I felt that it was important to take Angel out to see her while she was home from college for a few days. Will it be the last time?

I was afraid. Afraid of what I would find. Paul has been coming home upset from his time spent there. He didn’t know why. Then after awhile, he said that it was horrible seeing his mother die.

So I was afraid. My stomach felt upset. Would she be in great pain? Would she forget my name like the last time I visited. It’s hard to see someone who was once so vibrant and full of life fade away. She lost over 50 lbs and is just skin and bones. Her hair is starting to grow back in a brown patch of fuzz, so different from her black curly long hair she once had. Her gait is slow, she aged 20 years in a year. 

She was happy to see us. 

I was able to sneak away for awhile to see the deer stands. In all these years, I have never seen where they hunt.  In all those years, they only got one buck. To think just this last week we awoke to find a deer delivered to the end of our driveway, but the meat was not salvageable.  
Regardless, if they don’t bring back a buck, every year they bring back a Christmas tree. 

I had to show you a picture of Alex and Paul at Alex’s tree stand. 

Our visit with Martha went better than the girls and I expected. Martha is such an unrealistic optimist that I think she makes herself feel better. She kept talking about the day that she will get better and be able to come over to visit. That day will never come, but maybe it is better that she believes it.  It was nice to see her so upbeat and not have to see her suffer. The thought of watching a loved one suffer is unbearable.

Thanksgiving break is officially over now. Today I dropped Angel off to catch her carpool for the 4 hour drive back to school. It was strange to see her go back again with her suitcase full. I don’t always like my new reality, but I have learned to accept it. If only I could stop time for just a few seconds…

I dropped Angel off and came home to a glorious blue Christmas tree. I am excited for the beginning of the next holiday season. A time of hope and light. A time of such intense busyness that I forget all of my troubles.. 

I am going to decorate my tree tonight..

28. My love language

Day 28: What is your love language?

I have to say that my love language is definitely quality time followed pretty closely by acts of service. I show others that I love them in the same way. The other common love languages don’t do anything for me at all. I feel uncomfortable with encouraging words, I don’t like being touched, and I would rather buy what I want rather than get gifts..

Maybe that is why I felt so loved by my grandma. When I came over, she dropped everything that she was doing to sit down and talk with me. We often would share a cup of tea and talk about what happened while we were apart. Our time together never ended up in an argument or with her giving unsolicited advice. Sometimes we would sit in silence and work puzzles together. She would make my favorite meals and send me off with a batch of fresh cookies. She sewed doll clothes for me while I played with my doll house on the floor next to her. She was the one that painstakingly painted the little house walls and decorated it for me. She played board games with me. She stitched up my clothes that were ripped and put the buttons back on.

Growing up, my mother worked all of the time. When she wasn’t working, she was taking care of my autistic brother Matt. She didn’t have a lot of extra time for me. But she always brought me home gifts. I knew that she cared, but it wasn’t my way of receiving love.

Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason that I stayed home with my kids when they were little was to shower them with quality time. I also showered them with acts of service. I still do, but they don’t seem to want that as much anymore as teens.

Maybe my love language is also a reason why I get so upset when I make plans with friends or family and they cancel out last minute for no good reason. It makes me feel like I am not important to them.

My husband’s love language is words of encouragement. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t come naturally to me. Growing up, criticism was doled out more than kind words. The words just sound so fake coming out of my mouth. I feel so inadequate sometimes.. Paul tries to show me that he loves me by giving me quality time, but it doesn’t come naturally to him either. It always seems like it has to be a conscious effort to show love in ways that are alien to us.

It is very possible to give and receive love from people that have different languages and live a fulfilled life. But it is always wonderful to have a few people in your life that speak your language.. It really made me miss my grandma today..