Goals. What you picture. What is real. And lollipops.

Almost 6 weeks since surgery. I had forgotten from my first surgery what recovery was like. It’s a roller coaster. I’m doing more at six weeks post surgery than I did last time. The surgery is a tough one.  But I think I pictured a more pain free existence. I know I’m not going to have no pain there’s sooo much damage from radiation. But It’s better -don’t get me wrong – and maybe it’s because I’ve had a couple of rough days this last few days that maybe I’m feeling a little down.

 I was down at our new beach house a couple days ago and I was walking my dog Rudy. I must have been walking him with my right arm -the recently operated side- it was an unconscious thing- he must have pulled my arm which for me is like a big no no. Thankfully it wasn’t a hard enough pull that I really remember exactly when it happened. I remember mostly walking him with my left hand but we did come upon another dog and maybe it was then that I grabbed the leash with both hands and got pulled. I didn’t have the leash put in in its anti-pull setup. I bought it just for that but I was only taking him for a quick pee that turned into a walk to the bay and on the way back is when we met with John our neightbor and his dog Abby. So my bad. And later after a nice nap on the couch in Cool Breeze Cottage family room I woke up with lots of pain.  The burning pain and  radiating pain that makes me cough. The thing that I’ve wanted to be rid of but doesn’t seem to want to leave. It’s deflating. But likely due to radiation damage. 

I saw my surgeon last Thursday and he’s pleased with my recovery. I think he’s surprised that I don’t take more pain medication but I do take enough just so I can get out an about. I have been hoping that the need to use it will abate as I heal more. I’m to begin working on more range of motion exercises which I fear will bring me the pain I’ve had since the pulling incident a couple days ago.  But I can’t be afraid because there is the thought that more range of motion might alleviate some of the pain-eventually. Much of my pain since the first surgery that removed surgical clips is related to scarring and to nerve damage from radiation treatments. The damage tightens skin and tissue and causes entrapment of the nerves….and the nerves get damaged from radiation as well.  

Why I have such a severe case is unknown. But the long term painful effects of cancer treatments are really just being studied.  In many ways I’m a guinea pig every time I go under the knife and entrust myself to the skills of my nerve surgeon. My surgeon continues to suggest things we can try in the future. Fat grafting is one. It shows much promise. But it’s hard for me to picture my life like this. As a person with chronic pain.  Overall I’m much better than I was but I am afraid to get too optimistic. I am also bummed that we can’t solve the issue that makes me cough but I think we are getting closer to the cause- but fixing it may not be possible. Managing it may be my only option. 

Last Thursday I was feeling good. Then The dog pulled me and I feel like I went backwards. This has happened before- a few weeks ago when I overdid range of motion exercises. I recovered and continued healing. I got down then, and I felt the same fear then that I have now. That fear that I’ve done some damage to myself and it won’t get better. I don’t want to feel so negatively but it’s so hard not to be sometimes. The last four years have not been easy and the last year has taken me from someone who could walk out the door and not think a thing but whether I had my sunglasses to someone who has to worry about whether I have my pillow -which I need because I can’t sit without pain if I don’t have it-, whether I have pain meds with me, or if I have an ice pack or heating pad. It’s not what I pictured my life would be. 

I picture my life much differently. I see myself more free and more pain free. Then there is the reality of the now. I still feel sidelined much of the time.  I have to meld what I picture for myself to the realities. I know that we can have plans for ourselves and life will often take us on a different path. I will keep the pictures I have in my head as eventual realities. They are goals. They keep me going. Maybe they will be but not exactly as I picture. Coming to grips with the realities of what life is is very hard for me. On days like this I feel sorry for myself. I cry. On days like this I know I need to get my butt up and do something. Even if it takes medication to get me moving I need to do it. 

The other day at the nerve surgeons office I saw a young girl. She was from Israel. She was beautiful, maybe 25. She was with her translator. I was standing at the snack counter grabbing a lollipop – my surgeon always has lollipops-the good kind-Tootsie Pops. I offered her the container she shook her head no and smiled. She stood up to leave. She did well standing on her two prosthetics, happy, bc whatever procedure she had that day made her pain free. It wouldn’t last it was just a diagnostic procedure, but her smile was beautiful. I knew from chatter in the back office that she had been the victim of an IED explosion as she was traveling  in a bus- lost the lower part of both her legs. Seeing her was real life smacking you in the face. I wanted to hug her but offering her the lollipop was all I could do. You could see she was a girl who didn’t want pity -she just wanted to be rid of her pain. 

 Perspective. 

I thought of her today as I was writing this post. We all have to wake up with our realities. I think I’ll get myself up and go live my life and deal with mine.

It’s all in your perspective.  Sometimes my day sucks but I have a choice what I’m going to do with my day.

I’m going to try to go to the garden center and buy a perennial for my cleaned out garden bed….

I’m pretty sure that I’ll think of that girl often.

Cool Breeze Cottage

My dad called me “Cool Breeze” when I was a teen. I hated it. It implied that I was trying so hard to be cool.  Which in fact I was trying to be cool but he needn’t point it out on a daily basis. 

My dad called a spade a spade(I kind of inherited that trait from him but I think I’m a little softer in my approach but my teens might not agree.) . And he was half joking. It was his way of taking out his frequent frustration with his teen daughter in a comical way. But I was an all about drama teen and I did not like the name at all. 

He would sometimes make it all drawn out. “Here comes Coooool BReeeze , Cooooool Breeze”. It probably didn’t help I carried a large comb in my back pocket and a big attitude on my shoulder.

I tried to ignore it. Sometimes it almost made me laugh when he said it. My dad liked when people were in on the joke but I would not give him the satisfaction. We weren’t buds. And I was trying so hard to be cool. Forget that I was majorly insecure. I would play the part of cool teen. But sometimes my facade cracked.  That’s why the name stung. I was so far from cool. 

But I get it now. And I miss my dad and would love to talk to him again and say “remember when you used to call me Cool Breeze?”  And we’d laugh. 

Over the years we’ve talked about  old Cool Breeze. And I even gave him the satisfaction of a laugh. And the name became a memory –any sting I had from it is long gone. It became a story between a daughter and a dad who sometimes struggled to find things to chat about.  I tear up writing this because I can chat up the best of them -why was it so hard to find things to say to my dad?  And he me?  

I sure can think of lots of things to say now. We weren’t perfect but I miss that man. I tell him that everyday when I wake up. Sometimes I hear him in my head. 

And recently  I was searching for a name for our newly purchased beach cottage. A dream that came true only because my dad isn’t here and my brother bought me out of my dad’s Florida condo thst we both inherited. But our beach cottage is a true dream that became real on April 10, 2017.  It’s still sinking in – and I thought we have to name it something to remind me of my dad. I went through a bunch of ideas. I didn’t like any. Then one day I began pondering name possibilities and Cool Breeze just popped into my head. 

Of course- so I sent Kevin a text “how does Cool Breeze Cottage sound?”

“Perfect”. He wrote back. 

And so I want to introduce you to Cool Breeze Cottage in Delaware. It’s six miles to the beach but a couple minute walk to the Indian River Bay.  Far enough to get away from the crazy summer crowds  of Bethany Beach but close enough to join in when we want. 

We are one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood but when I first saw it online I didn’t know that. And something about the place drew me in. I wasn’t going to look at it because it was out of the price range. But on one sunny day in February we drove out to the shore to look at a few places. I was in pain and traveling for me involved laying in the back of our conversion van with my dog and  popping pain meds and streaming shows on my iPad while Kevin drove. My goal was to get out of the van look over each house on our list and get back in the van and go home. 

We finished our tour of four places and we had two good possibilities and I told Kevin to drive up to the neighborhood where we had looked on one previous trip where we lost out on a house because we weren’t quick enough to make an offer. I loved that area and as we drove I opened realtor.com on my iPad and checked my saved listings and that cottage popped up and had dropped 17k!  I did a double take then told Kevin -we were looking at the cottage at least from the outside. 

We pulled up in front of the gray blue cottage and called our agent right away. She came right over and let us in and the rest is history.  

It wasn’t until we made the next trip over (again me in the back of the van on pain meds) for the inspection that I noticed what the neighborhood was like.  And how close it was to the bay. Kevin and I walked over to the little walkway that led to the bay beach and we just grinned at eachother. It’s a dream come true. We are excited and humbled at the same time.  

I’m determined to enjoy it despite pain issues. In spite of pain issues 🙂 We hope to make some good memories there. 

My dad and  I had talked about maybe buying something together at the Delaware shore not long before he died. He loved that area. We spent many summer vacation weeks there. My love for the area continued and we began to go with our kids when they were pretty young. 

My dad will be missed but somehow I think he’ll be around. And I think he’d be proud. And I’m pretty sure he put that name in my head. 

Cool Breeze . A name I hated, then laughed about and now love. 

Miss ya dad. 

Cool Breeze Cottage

Recovery and getting help. 

My wonderful husband Kevin has been worried about my surgical recovery in the aftermath of my fathers death.  It takes a long time to recover from nerve surgery and I haven’t been sure how I’m supposed to be feeling. I notice small improvements but then I’ll have a bad day. Physically and emotionally. 

I’ve been a wreck about my dads passing and we are planning his funeral and when you are trying to get family in from out of state and kids in from colleges and high school teens schedules it gets a bit crazy.  So Kevin has taken over some of the calling to funeral homes and to the reception place. I’m sure passing some of this off is a good thing.  Giving up control to others is not easy for me. I’m a good planner but I’m just not up to doing all that I’ve been assigned. My brother and I have been splitting tasks and he already planned the memorial for dad in Florida. I feel I need to really help plan the funeral up here in DC. But I’m going to have to give up some control. I need to heal. 

Since Kevin was worried about my recovery so was I. I encouraged him to write my surgeon. Which he did. And yesterday on a Saturday he wrote kevin -twice-back asking some questions and concerned about how this death and the grief I’m carrying is effecting my recovery. He is a great man. I’m lucky we found him. He asked if I was moving enough. He also wants to see me next week. He thinks I need to get into PT. In a pool. If it’s warm I’m cool with that! 

Kevin told me what my surgeon said so I thought about it. I’m not moving enough I’m stuck. I feel like when I get up I can’t do much and I often end up hurting. I’ve been walking but not enough. I’m not trying. I’m down. 

So I decided to get my butt up. I popped a little more percoset. (I take less than 1/2 a pill a day. I’m so weird about meds.) but the amount I take helps so that’s good. I got my shoes on and I went outside with my phone and just walked around. I took pictures and I took a walk. Then I came back in the house a couple hours later and I didn’t go back to bed until bedtime. I hurt some but I was ok. I felt kind of normal though. Like a person living in my home. Not a patient. 

It’s been easy to just stay in bed BC it hurts to get out but once I do I realize it’s what I need to do. I need to recover physically and mentally. 

I’ve had calls from caring friends. A couple encouraging me to seek therapy BC I have been through so much. My friend Jon told me that he knew I was strong but I had been through more stuff in a short period of time and I needed to seek professional help. I think he worried I might be upset but I so appreciate that he cared. It has been a horrible time and he reached out. I’ve been to lots of therapy so I fully agreed I needed to go. But getting my butt there might be hard. But I decide not to listen to all my buts..  I knew I wanted a person older than I am so I found Polly and she sounds nice and caring and I am hoping to meet her next week. I will be downloading on her (a new term I’ve seen streaming tv shows). She may be on the floor after I finish! 

I’m thankful to Jon for saying point blank “get some help”.  I was in a bad place for a long time even before my dad passed.  Jon ignited a spark in me to get myself together again. I need help to do it. Therapy will be a gift to me. 

So yesterday I took some photos on a gorgeous fall day. I wanted to share them with you. I love fall the the season changing and it reminds me that I am in a tough season of my life but my season will change. But I need to have my mindset right and push my body some to get there. 

Love Dad…..

Mornings are the hardest. It’s like when I awoke on Sept 12, 2001 and for just a minute I’d forgotten the world was changed forever and then the realization and horror hit me like a ton of bricks recalling the horrible terrorist events of the day before. It’s much like that now –  I wake in a haze -sometimes it’s 3am ,sometimes 4 am sometimes I even wake at those hours and somehow will myself not to let myself think or feel anything -and if I’m lucky it waits a little longer in the morning to pound me. That wonderful moment of haze and  then I feel the tug or shot of pain from my surgical scar but then the pounding realization that I lost my dad overwhelms me. I hurt all over. Grief emulates from the inside out.  

I know it will ebb someday but the loss of a parent  is so life changing – more painful than I could ever conceive.  

Sleep has been an elixir. But my body hasn’t wanted to do that much. Pain medication has been helpful and I have some because of the surgery -but I take it so sparingly for fear of addiction. I have hunger sometimes but no appetite. The wonderful meals people have brought over – smell so good-yet I try to eat but I’m not able to get much down. 

On days where I can’t eat much I go for the bad stuff-cake or ice cream – cookies (except my dogs ate most of those when they found them near my bed). Even then I can’t eat in much quantity. I know this is the grief diet -the lack of appetite and the white sugar carb only foods that keep me fueled. We’ve met before. It will subside in time. 

Losing a parent is -at least for me -so profound. I realized in the wake of all that the last weeks have brought that I’ve always been a child. And thankfully because I still have my dear mom I still am.  But as soon as I learned that my dads situation was dire I yelled in my room “daddy don’t leave me” over and over.  I hadn’t called my dad daddy in years. The grief that hit me was paralyzingly. A couple of my kids were home and i heard them shuffling outside my door and I tried to calm myself – I’m not sure I heard myself yelling. My daughter came in and asked if she could do anything and asked if she should stay home from work. I know for her that work was the best place for her to be.  I told her it was ok to go. As it turned out she was able to say goodbye to my dad over the phone when she got home later that night. We held a prayer circle around my dad with family on the phone and my brother and his friend by my dads side in Florida. 

We didn’t have time to get down to Florida to be there. I didn’t go down to help my brother navigate my dads medical issues that led to this last trip to the hospital bc I was recovering from surgery.  It’s that suddenness that’s is so hard. You wonder what your last words were that he was conscious to hear. You wonder what things you wish you said when the person was living. 

My last words to my dad when he was conscious in the Physical in-patient rehab facility were “I Love You”.  My last words to him as he left the world were the same. 

I’m still not sure I can bring myself to write about the last weeks of my dads life.  I’m still getting my mind wrapped around the fact he’s gone. But I would be remiss in not talking about my dad. I spent a lot of time not writing about him when he was living. And I did so because my dad had his flaws. I guess I didn’t want to hurt him if he read anything unflattering  about himself.  We all have flaws but I didn’t want to hurt anyone I loved. We had a roller coaster ride of a relationship. Not often understanding each other. My teen years with him were hard. My dad liked to drink and back then he could be an angry person when he had too much. I also am sure my teenage antics caused him a lot of reasons to get angry with me. There are so much that goes into the dynamics of a relationship. And through the years I sometimes felt like my dad didn’t like me and often I didn’t like him. But man did I love him. And I always will. And I know that though we could have so many differences from politics to how we chose to live our lives that my dad may not have always liked me but I know he loved me. 

His ways of showing love were different than obvious affection. He didn’t like goodbyes at all. So it was fitting that he never regained consciousness in his last hours. If he knew he was leaving us he’d have preferred to slip away. But he had a fierce sense of responsibility to my brother and I.  His desire was to leave us each some money. And he succeeded. Though I’d prefer to having my dad around still to drive me nuts than to have the money he left me. But I know he’s happy that he was able to leave us this final  gift.  

My dad had grown up less than wealthy and had been fortunate to receive a great education with the help of a wealthy and wonderful Uncle named Jim. And that education enabled him to become a successful businessman. He was always careful with his spending. I often thought he was a miser.  Sometimes it was so hard for him to spend a dime. He loved money too much sometimes but I think there was great fear in somehow losing it.

 In my youth I began seeing money as a means of control and I saw that money didn’t always buy happiness. So I went the opposite  direction and mismanaged my money and then my families and that infuriated my dad when I mistakenly told him about out issues a couple years ago. It was fear that drove that anger but it hurt me. One never gets over wanting to please their parents.  Eventually we filed bankruptcy and I don’t know if my dad ever knew this fact. But from that I learned so much we are back on our financial feet – doing better – making better choices on spending and saving – and I don’t plan on mismanaging the money I inherit.  In fact the last time I saw my dad he introduced me to his financial advisor- hoping that when he died I would use him.(and I will).  As it turns out the advisor is also the administrator of my dads trust. I had no idea six months ago when I met him we would be meeting again so soon.  Making sure he could leave us some money was a final gift of love that my dad left us. I want to be smart about it for my families benefit and out of respect to my dad. 

My dad and I had an argument about a year or two ago. He had a hard time listening to me and I suppose I became loud and frustrated as I had many times over the years but I had tried to quell in recent years preferring to just try listening to him bc I loved him and maybe it didn’t matter if he actually heard me. (I began writing when I was a kid solely so I could express myself because I felt my words went unheard so often – even with my peers – maybe all kids feel that way but it’s in this frustration of needing to be heard that my writing need and desire were born -so in many ways I’m grateful). Anyway that day I yelled back and the argument didn’t end well. We were on the phone which complicated things more I think. My dad used his speaker when he chatted and that made me nuts – though I use speaker now often- is it an age thing or a tech thing but it can be so annoying causing disjointed conversations. Maybe we were both on speaker that day booming voices being heard talking over each other. Nobody listening. So the call ended not well and now I can’t recall if someone hung up on the other but it was a bad ending. Which led me to promise myself I wasn’t going to call him ever again ( so teenager-esque –we are children always with our parents and our immaturity can really come out when dealing with them). 

About a week after that argument I got an envelope from him from his home on Marco Island, Fl. It was kind of bulging.   I opened it to find two pretty, white sand dollars wrapped in tissue. One had broken a bit but the other – the big one- remained intact. – and a small note was included that simply said “I thought you might like these . There are many here on the Island. – Love Dad.”  There was no I’m sorry -but he had raised the white flag with the gift of those beautiful white sand dollars. And I called him to thank him- we never mentioned the fight. But that act by a sometimes impossible man was how he best showed his love.  Those sand dollars will forever be in my shell collection vase. They aren’t just stuff from the sea – which he and I both loved- they are a gift of love. 

Dad and I were on a good run in the last year or more. We were in a good place. We talked often on the phone and had a nice visit in Florida last March. I’m so very grateful for that. I laugh as I recall some of those conversations. Ones which often ended with a speech about the candidate for President he very much disliked. I just listened and laughed bc he was very funny.  He wasn’t looking for a conversation or my opinion -he just wanted to be heard and an ear I gave.

 I suppose I held on to some sadness and anger over the differences we had over the years even when I thought I had let them go. But I know I’ve let much of it go now.  Everything he was became so clear to me in the moments he was dying. Not the flaws or disagreements, not just my daddy, but the whole man. All I felt was love for this big personality that was part of my life.  It was as if God gave me that gift of seeing him as a human -exactly like me. A soul trying to figure out how to get through this thing called life – and trying to love in the best way he could.  

 

Why I won’t vote this year -thank you Dad. 

Last Sunday I lost my dad suddenly and the pain is profound. I can’t even write much about it all yet. I still feel as if this is all just a horrible dream. 

I’m really worn out. I’ve had chronic pain issues over the last few years after breast cancer treatment. It hit high levels this summer and I had surgery on Oct 12 – on that day we hadn’t been able my to reach my dad and not the day before either- which was very unusual. Eventually he was found on the floor of his condo the next day Oct 13. He was rushed to ER which began a journey of ups and downs that ended in his unexpected death ten days later. 

It’s all been too much for me. The last there years – the cancer – the pain – financial trouble- the loss of my father in law – trying to find doctors to help me – moving my frail mother in law to assisted living – worrying about newly widowed mom living alone and in pain in PA. – finally having some complex nerve  surgery that seems to have helped some of my problems but maybe not all  (BC I’m still healing) -but then the icing on the cake is the loss of my father. Sometimes I just think I can’t face another second of this life. I’m so tired and beaten down. I’ve yet to figure out what I’m supposed to learn from all this. Maybe it’s resiliency but now it feels like shit. 

My Heart is cracked open. And if you’ve had that happen and most of us have – sometimes there are no words to really express what we feel. And sometimes we just don’t want to share those raw bits and pieces. But I’m a writer and I eventually will need to get out the things I feel. Now there are too many questions. Too much sadness and anger.  Just too much. 

I am as close to my breaking point as I’ve ever been. Sometimes I just want to follow my daddy to the other side. But my dad was not one to give up and neither am I. But lord I’m so tired in so many ways. 

In these last few days I’ve yet again been reminded that the very most imperically important thing is In this world is love. LOVE.  

And that’s why I’m not voting.  All I’ve seen in the last few months as I’ve layed in bed in pain -is anger and hate. And I’ll admit I’ve had a lot  of anger on my own I didnt need to feed off of more of it from other sources.  

 Anger and hate have lashed out over this crazy dance we call running for president -and it’s really not the election and really not politics. These forums just bring out the anger and hurt that’s in our world. It magnifies it. It’s shows the opposite of love.  Its just one of the focal Hate cancers that permeate our society. And I can’t bring myself to vote In a system that magnifies hate from it. It might just be too soul crushing for me. And I need things to enlighten my soul right now. Not things that poison it. 

When my dad lay dying in the hospital we formed a circle of love around him.  Most family unable to get there because it all happened so fast. My brother at his side in the ICU of a hospital in Florida along with his friend Jeff by his side – I was here in Maryland on the phone with Jeff which he held next to my fathers ear  -and Kevin and my kids were in the room with me and my brother had his family on his phone. We surrounded my dad with love as we said goodbye and prayed and told him how much he was loved. Later my brother sat with just me on the phone in that quiet ICU while we waited for my dad to take his last breath. I was holding my brother’s hand metaphorically as he held that phone -and in the opposite hand held my dads hand in his.  I spoke prayers and verses I found on the internet. The nurse removed his breathing tube -We prayed that God would lift him up – We cried – and my brother and I waited for our dads soul to rise into eternity – our hearts breaking.

 My friends this is love. 

And this is where I belong. In the realms of love  Not in the hatred of this world. My fragile soul was born into a world of such love but where there are cancers of hatred. I can no longer bring myself to be part of that sickness.

My soul seeks so much of a different path.  

My dad who loved politics and who loved to tell me often and in detail of his dislike of the candidate he planned on not voting for -would be appalled at me for not voting. I think I told him that one year many years ago  I wrote in my dog as my choice for president. Now thinking back I may never have told him that. He may have stopped speaking to me. Well dad- if you can read in heaven – I voted for Gator my greyhound and I chose Jay Jay Star his greyhound friend as be his Vice President. Sorry. But it’s what I had to do. 

And this year I won’t be voting and  I am not voting ever again if all that permeates from an election is hatred. I don’t expect profound love coming from any competitive race but what I expect is respect and decency.  Not venom from candidates which lathers people who watch with that venom and then It begins to spread. Friends hate friends for opposing views. Slinging barbs to someone they once would have never considered saying those things to. It’s a cancer. 

I know my dad would have given me many reasons why my vote matters and what a priveledge it is that we have such a system in our country.  But sadly his death made me drive my stake in the sand even more.  “Not gonna do it.” If I can paraphrase  Dana Carvey who used to parody former President Bush. 

I wish people would remember  that the nucleus of humanity is love. We see it come out sometimes when we least expect it.  We humans can really rally when shit hits the fan. And love really does win.  But it’s our human condition that seems to so easily allow us to gravitate to the cancers of hate. Why do we forget we are all worthy of compassion and respect? 

I don’t feel strong enough anymore to spend my time among hate. I’m not sure it’s from my wisdom where this comes – I think it’s just a worn spirit that knows from where it needs to get its water – the clean spring bringing waters of love. Not the dirty one bringing waters from sewage of hate. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m supposed to be here on this earth. Like maybe there is another planet I was supposed to be on. Like my soul got delivered to the wrong place. Maybe the only such place I dream of only exists in heaven -on the other side of this place called earth.    

 In my own humanness I’ve had anger issues of my own. I’ve lashed out at my kids when they’ve hurt me or frustrated me. I held some anger for my own dad for years. Most of my anger comes from hurt or fear. Once you can see where it comes from you can try to work on it. And I’ve found as I’ve aged that I just need to try to step away from my fear and move very far away from hatred machines as best I can. 

In that moment when I knew I was saying goodbye to my daddy for a final time until I will -God Willing- see him again – all that I felt was love for this man. And in that sterile ICU –that I could only see in my imagination – all that exuded was love. And then it’s so obvious to me – in that moment of pain and sorrow that it’s all that matters in this world is Love. Why is that so hard  for humans to live each day by?  The answer is because we are human. 

If I only get to go through this journey of life on earth once I’m going to stand away from things that permeate hate.  And this includes this thing we know as an election – -it can unfold all on its own.

 I’m out.  

And I don’t even care anymore. My heart is ripped open and all I want to put into it now is love and as best as I can I want the output to be love – for as long as I live. 

My vote is for LOVE. 

“Love one another” –Jesus Christ. 

“I hope you Dance “-Lee Ann Womack 

Little visits from beyond?

The first time it happened was in the grocery store about 3 weeks ago. Kevin walked over to me as I stood in one of the aisles. I had left him a couple minutes before perusing snacks one aisle over.  I forget now what I was even searching for but when Kevin caught up with me he asked me if I had been calling him. I shook my head no and asked him why. He had a puzzled look on his face and he said “I heard someone whispering my name..they said ‘Kevin, Kevin’. ”

“It wasn’t me.” I said. “And nobody was near you?”  He shook his head no.

“It was like someone was standing near me whispering.”

Then the thought popped in my head and came out of my mouth in a flash. “It was your dad!” I said. “It was dad!”

We went on to discuss this possibility as we perused the shelves of that grocery store. I think it gave Kevin some comfort in the wondering if his dad was somehow trying to reach out.

We know he is around or at least we believe him to be. Every night since he passed last December he has been sleeping with my mother-in-law. After 68 years of marriage I can certainly understand why he might not want to leave his bride. I believe he is there- if you knew my mother-in-law she is very lucid and she would not talk about it unless she felt something was happening. She says she knows it sounds crazy but she  “feels” him there at night and she feels his breathe. I also believe it because I believe there is thin veil between here and there(where we go after we die). We just cannot see past it- but sometimes little things happen that remind us that the here and there are closely connected.

This past weekend Kevin and I foolishly decided to build a chicken coop (more on that later) -we were doing work outside on the covered patio that leads into the gym section of our barn. I left Kevin with my son Zach who was helping him- as I had to pick up my other son from work. When I returned we got back to work and out of the blue Kevin said ” I saw my Dad today.”

“What? Where?!!!” I asked rather astonished.

“Out of the corner of my eye sitting on that chair. I saw him twice” He was pointing to our plastic adirondack chair that we pulled out for rest breaks.

“What did he look like? Did he say anything?” I was excited and stunned all at once. And kind of jealous because I wanted to see him too.

“He looked younger…like when he was our age.” (which is 50ish) ” He didn’t say anything. I just saw him there.”

I asked him if that upset him, or scared him. Kevin said it didn’t and he said it actually brought him comfort.

Kevin's dad made this some years ago. It hangs over the workbench in our garage.

Kevin’s dad made this some years ago. It hangs over the workbench in our garage.

I am not surprised Dad showed up when Kevin was building something. Kevin’s dad loved to build things. He finished their family homes entire basement and created a cool buffet area that houses the TV but had a built in sink. He made bookshelves for his home. For us he made a toy chest and a table that detached from it’s base so you could turn the leg structure around and that would change the height of the table as my kids grew. He had that sort of mind. He liked making things that served a purpose but they would have this twist of engineering. He was a master at acrostic puzzles and sudoku – at least up until the foe dementia took away his mind.

In time my kids outgrew these items so they now reside with great- grandkids and hopefully they will continue to be passed down through the family. Maybe they will make their way back to live at with my future grands we might have. I am sure each of Dad’s sons can list off items that dad lovingly made for his family. Mom joked he always cut himself every time he made something.

“He is probably here to help you along.” I told Kevin. “For moral support”.  Kevin laughed. Kevin is not a natural do-it-yourselfer.  He has had to become more self-reliant since we moved to this farm. There is always something that needs to be done and sometimes those things cost lots of money if you get others to do them. So Kevin has learned along the way to do a number of things.  This coop is our first major build. But thanks to good plans and maybe a little mojo from Kevin’s dad, we are chugging along.

Last evening Kevin wanted to build two more walls for the coop. It was a nice evening and I looked forward to getting outside and helping him. I mostly read the plans and tell him the measurements of the cuts and the stud placements. I also occasionally measure stuff.

When we got down to the barn I told Kevin that I hoped his Dad would show up. I told him he had to be around because he couldn’t stay away from a project. I had just reminisced the day before with my mother-in-law about the time he came over to our old home and helped us put up a play set for our then young kids. Kevin still says that it was only because his dad pitched in that that set was put up the right way!

Kevin making cuts to the wood for the coop wall.

Kevin making cuts to the wood for the coop wall.

At one point last evening Kevin’s drill bit was starting to strip. I asked him if he had more and he said yes. Except we didn’t have any down at the barn with us they were up at the house in the garage. I suggested to Kevin that maybe we could text our son, Luke, and ask him to grab one and bring it down.  Yes we were feeling that lazy!  I was about to do that except all of a sudden Kevin looked down where he was kneeling at the end of the wall he was building. “What’s this?” He said as he reached down for something.

“What..Oh my God..” I said as I registered what he was now holding in his hand.

“How did this get there?” he wondered as he held up a drill bit- just the one he needed for his screws.

We looked at each other. “Your Dad did that.” I said. I sat there thinking it through. Kevin had just loaded material onto the patio the night before and he was working at building a side wall which he had laying on top of the t1-11 boards that would eventually be the siding of the coop. Kevin had been kneeling there for like ten minutes and he had not seen that bit there. I had been standing nearby and we measured for square and Kevin would have had his face right where that drill bit was – but it wasn’t there then. A few minutes later it was just laying there near his knee.

“Wow – that is amazing.” Is all I could say.  I got up and walked into the gym to grab something and when inside I just stood there in amazement at what had just happened. “Thank you Dad” I said to the air.

And I swear I felt him near me.

At lunch today Kevin and I chatted about the drill bit “incident” again. He told me he finds all these little signs very comforting.  I am glad he finds peace in that. I know how much he misses his dad. I know how much I miss him.

My son Zach said after he heard that his dad saw his grandfather  “We see what we want to see”. Ever the skeptic I suppose.  Perhaps that is true. Maybe hurt hearts want to believe in signs from those that have gone through that thin veil before them. Or just maybe that when we are open enough to really “see”, that veil opens up just enough so someone we love on that side can let us know they aren’t far away.

Thats what I believe…

Thanks Dad – you are welcome anytime…and maybe keep helping us with this coop.. we need it  ….luv u….always…

 

Goodbyes and love  – Ball of sad

On Sunday, we took two of our three teens –my daughter and one of my sons- to Casey Hospice House in Rockville, MD to say goodbye to their grandfather -my father-in-law. We pulled up to a well-manicured building that looked pretty new. I could see in the summer the grounds would be quite beautiful.

I had given my three children – my boys, age 15, and my daughter, age 17, the choice of going to see him or to stay home. It’s a personal choice and I told them it was ok whatever they chose. Two of them felt like they wanted to say goodbye. One of my sons didn’t feel like he could handle seeing his grandfather. I could tell that he was anxious about it and I told him it was ok that whatever he decided was the right choice for him and there was no pressure for him to go.

It’s one of those things you don’t want your kids to have to face but I also know death is as much a part of life as living is. If they felt ready to see it then I was ok with that.

I don’t do well with death. I have lost a number of people in my life and it has never gotten easier but I have learned that the more I open myself to feeling the sadness and grief instead of running from it the more I am able to face it.

We had been losing Dad for a number of years to Alzheimer’s.  His condition has gotten much worse over the last 6 months. He is now in what is called late-stage Alzheimer’s. Last week he lost the ability to walk, eat on his own, and communicate clearly. He didn’t know his home anymore and became agitated and would try to ask if someone could take him home.

Dad and my mother-in-law have been being cared for at home by my brother-in -law who made their care his full time job 3 years ago. He gets relief from 2 other brothers regularly and the rest of us try to pitch in when we can. It has been a blessing that he has been able to be home for so long. Recently in home hospice care had also started at their primary doctors recommendation so they had a number of nurses, aides, and social workers coming in as well.

With six sons it has been possible for Dad to have home care until this past week when he took the big turn downward and the social worker that visited them a couple times a week recommended he go to a hospice house to be evaluated to see if he should be moved to a nursing facility or if he could go back home with 24 hour nursing care. Sadly, in hospice he began declining and it looks like he will be leaving us soon.

This was my first time in a hospice house and I was nervous wondering what it might be like.  Would my kids be freaked out? Would I? But I found the place comforting and warm. There was a big fireplace and sitting area. There were quite a few people sitting on comfortable looking couches by the fire. The staff was very nice and before we went into the room they updated Kevin on his fathers condition. She said he was declining but couldn’t give a timeframe of when he might pass.

We walked into a nice private room with a lounge chair and a window bench. My eyes went to the bed where the man I’ve know as Dad for 18 years lay sleeping soundly. He looked peaceful but that’s when reality hit me that he was really going to leave us soon and the tears began.

Though we had been saying goodbye to him for so long as his memory slipped away we still had his body- now we were really going to lose all of him. It is so final.  I wanted to hide my tears from my kids. But I couldn’t and I realized it was ok. Kevin and I could show our grief because that is part of life too.

I think in some ways I am relieved that he will be released from the clutches of Alzheimer’s that has taken away much of his quality of life. But the other part of me wants to keep him here because I love him so much and I am crushed by the reality that he will be physically gone. I also am so sad for my mother-in-law because she is losing the man she has been married to for 68 years.

My father-in-law was resting peacefully thanks to medication. Gone was the agitated and confused man from a few days before when he didn’t know his home was home anymore. I was glad my kids saw him like this – peaceful. I think seeing him upset would have been harder.

I leaned over and rubbed his warm shoulder and prayed for a bit and then I began talking out loud to him. I wanted my kids to feel free to speak to him if they felt like it- but they didn’t have to do anything. This was the first time they had ever been to a care facility such as this. I was worried they would be afraid. I wanted to somehow put them at ease but they were handling it ok.

We left my husband to be alone with his dad for a while. My kids and I sat together on old rocking chairs in the hallway- we cried and we talked.  I kept asking if they were ok. My son said he was shaken because he “hadn’t done anything like this before”- (saying goodbye to someone he knew that was going to die). He and my daughter both said they were glad they came to say their goodbyes but that it was very hard.

When Kevin came out of the room to get us I asked the kids if they wanted to go back in and they both said yes. I’m glad they wanted to – I think they’ll always know they got to say goodbye. I think it is closure for them.

I leaned over the man that has loved me like a daughter and whispered a few things in his ear – then I kissed his head.

I thanked him for loving me like his own child. I thanked him for raising the most wonderful son. I told him I would take care of Kevin, and I asked Dad to visit me in my dreams to let me know he is ok.

My son hugged him – tears flowing. He is my sensitive kid and I worried he would hold it all in. I’ll try to talk with him often over the next week. My heart hurts for my kid’s pain.

My daughter stood crying in the doorway – I can tell she was scared but didn’t want to be. She was faced looking into the hall and she would turn and look at Dad and then turn away and try not to cry but it wasn’t working. She’s pretty tough and I think this tug at her emotions threw her off a bit. She doesn’t like to cry but she let the tears come and I think this was good for her. It hurt me to see her so saddened but for her to let that out is a big deal.

We went to leave and my heart dropped. This may be the final goodbye. I could hardly step from the room. I kissed him again and I walked out – my heart breaking and my eyes zooming in on the exit door. I needed to get out before the dam broke.

I pushed out of the door and the sobs came. I turned around and looked at the rest of my family and realized we were all crying too. When we got back to the car we sat there for a little while trying to get it together. We were one ball of sad – but we were sad together.

I didn’t feel like going home right away and I felt like doing something happy. So we drove to see a big Christmas light display in a park not far away.

I think it lightened my kids’ mood and it did lighten mine. Kevin seemed glad for the distraction.

Sometimes the blend of sadness and happy and grief and joy that can exist in one day astounds me. They all exist at each second of the day. When we are sad and grieving we want life to stop and wait because we are so consumed with it but the world still throws some happiness and joy in there. Sometimes we experience them all in one day – it’s quite amazing.

I think Dad would have liked those lights. I remember when we all went to walk through a Christmas light display when we had just one small baby boy.  Dad picked our little son up and walked through the light displays reliving the wonder through a little boy’s eyes.

I’ll miss that man.

I told my kids that this is one of the hard parts of life – the part that we often want to avoid. But really this sadness is also a gift. This sadness comes because we loved someone so much. Love is a true blessing and when we feel grief it’s because we opened ourselves to connection and love.  The grief is hard  -but how great was that love. The pain is worth it.