Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year

I thought I'd be so happy to see this year end. It was an awful year of pain and suffering and loss. I thought I'd be the first to cheer. But as the day grew closer, I realized I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to move into a new year in which my Dad would never be. I'm not ready to let go of the last year he was in our lives. I'm not sure I'm ready to face a whole new year of milestones and events that will not include him. New house, my husband's possible promotions, my son's latest and greatest. A whole year full that he won't share.

I'm mere months away from the first anniversary of the whole saga. They found the tumor on St Patrick's Day. I can't believe we are so close to a year later. I'll be moving into my new house 6 months, almost to the day, of losing Dad. We were so excited to be moving closer to home. We were going to see so much more of my family, of Dad. My son was going to get to spend more time with Papa. When he got sick, they told us, a year, a year plus with treatment. We got three months. Mentally, I'm still in that year time frame. He should still be here. We were supposed to have more time.

So I'm not really ready for 2009. I don't feel much like celebrating. I'm hoping for a better 2009. This one didn't lack for love, but I'm hoping for more joy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Room is Spinning

I think I'm dealing with missing my Dad much the way I try to deal with having far too much to drink. I walk around trying to pretend that I'm fine, everything is okay. Nothing to see here. I don't like being vulnerable and I don't like making mistakes, so I move very carefully. But, eventually, I start to get overwhelmed. Like when you get to the point where you know, eventually, you're going to be sick. But you try to stave it off. You try to breathe through it. You try to distract yourself. Unfortunately, it is inevitable. You will be sick, you will start to cry. And in both cases, you are afraid to start because you know it is going to hurt, and you don't know if you are going to be able to stop. And you know that, if you don't feel better when you do, finally, stop, it is just going to happen again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Theoretical Money

My husband is in charge of our investments. He likes money, he'd like to have more money. He also understands and enjoys reading a prospectus. Whereas my eyes glaze over three sentences in-and forget the charts. So I let him investigate, then he gives me the possible plans, pros and cons, and we make a decision.

A year or so ago, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a former military colleague. This was someone we considered a friend and we'd kept in general touch with him after he left the service. We have lots of common friends from our former station together and we were all currently living in the same area. This guy was now working for a venture capitalist and he had an opportunity for us and our friends to get in on the ground floor as a group (the guys actually basically formed up a trifecta) on a large investment that would normally be out of reach. The guys, who are admittedly more well-versed in finance than I, felt it was a great opportunity and a good risk. When my husband presented it to me he was enthusiastic. It was a significant amount of money for us, but it would come out of what we considered "investment accounts" and not our daily household operating money. I asked him, "What if we loose it all?" He told me that we would remake the amount of money into those accounts during his deployment with his extra pays (ie. hazardous duty pay). He thought it was a fairly safe calculated risk. I was a little nervous about mixing friendships and money, but I agreed and kept largely out of it.

Money changed hands and our trifecta was having trouble getting the documentation they wanted about where the money was and what their stake was. Then my husband deployed and my Dad got sick and I forgot all about it.

Fast forward to this October. Hubby and I both return home with a housekeeping list. He had been trying, throughout deployment, to get in touch with our friend and the main investment guy to get answers, to no avail. Once he was back in town, he teamed up with the other trifecta members and they began to push in concert. Now, as a side note, none of these men in the trifecta are the type of guys you would immediately describe as "easy-going", you'd be more likely to say they are great guys, "but..." and there would be a qualifier about anger management or not wanting to be on their bad side. So there was a long meeting and some pointed phone calls and threats of the activation of lawyers. And then there were more promises of paperwork and clarification. But they got nowhere. Money was not where it was supposed to be. They were invested with people who didn't know the money was from them, in other cases. Licenses were questioned. There was much confusion and unpleasantness.

So a lawyer was retained. And she sent some scathing letters that resulted in more promises of restitution and paperwork by certain deadlines. The deadline came but only brought a rebuttal letter from yet another attorney for the other side. By now, my husband is not sleeping and is working up a good ulcer and snapping at the boy and I. He has no desire to enter into a protracted and expensive legal battle, throwing good money after bad. One member of the trifecta agrees but the other wants to go after the venture capitalist and choke him with his last nickel, if necessary. More long talks ensue and the husband grows ever more testy. I tell him, listen, the money is gone. If we get some back, great, but make peace with the fact that it is gone and make your decisions from there.

The next morning, amidst trying to get paperwork put together for a rental application across the country, he ran home to sign things and ended up shouting at our son and being very short with me. He went back to work and I went to the gym. I was not happy and basically worked up what I was going to say to him that night while I was running on the treadmill. Then he left me a message apologizing, which took some of the wind out of my sails, but didn't mean I didn't have something to say later. The boy and I got a full apology later that night and he explained that the perfect storm of investment stress, work stupidity and moving stress all converged moments before he left to run home that morning. It was not his finest hour. But later that day, he had a long talk with the more reasonable member of the trifecta and gained some perspective and peace.

And then I had my say. I told him:
-The money is gone. It sucks, but it's gone. But it was only theoretical money anyway. It was never in our hands. He still has his job, we have a home. We won't have to live on Top Ramen. Nothing really bad has happened to us.

-All he's been guilty of so far is a poor character judgement call. He thought he could trust our friend and trusted his judgement about the venture capitalist. I told him he did know what to do, despite his protests otherwise. He wasn't going to get into a protracted legal battle and waste more money and energy. I told him I thought this was as much about his pride as it was about the money. I told him not to let hubris cloud his judgement.

-I told him that when it comes right down to it, it's just money. It doesn't really matter in the end. When my Dad was so sick, I would have hocked all my jewelry and cashed out my IRA if that was what it took to get Dad to Vermont one last time. But whether I had $2000, $40,000 or $800,000, it didn't matter. Dad was too sick to go anywhere. No amount of money could make that wish come true and it certainly couldn't save his life. The money isn't important.

And he agreed. In fact, he'd been thinking of my Dad earlier that afternoon and realized the same thing after his calming chat. And so, we're going to see what the lawyer can settle for us, and we're walking away.

And the sky won't fall.

And we won't starve.

And we're still going to be better off than more than half the people in this country who are struggling so much this year.

And it isn't the end of the world.

It was only theoretical money anyway.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I have not really been looking forward to the holidays this year. I know they are going to be difficult. But, for once, I think the universe may be conspiring to help me in a most backhanded fashion. The universe has decided to keep me too busy and tired to think this holiday season. Which should make it simply fly by.

This week, my son developed a second round of ear infection. I've spent most of the last two days holding and consoling him. On Tuesday, while I was counting the minutes until our doctor's appointment, my husband received a call letting him know that he's got the new job he was shooting for. He has to report to the new station, on the other side of the country, by the end of January. Yes, this upcoming January. While this is good news, it also means we'll have Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, packers, and a drive across our great nation in the middle of winter. All in the next 8 weeks.

That therapist I was referred to has been playin phone tag with me for a week or so now. She caught me yesterday and I explained my situation. I told her I wondered if it was worth starting with her if I'm leaving momentarily. She agreed it was frustrating to start with someone and then start all over again a few weeks later. We agreed that I can call her back if I need an ear before I go. I don't even have time for therapy. Seriously.

Two things that have made me sad this week:
-I was walking up to some local shops to do some Christmas shopping and realized again that I don't need a gift for Dad this year. He used to be so hard to buy for. I had finally figured out some sure-fire winners last year. And now he's gone. My Christmas gift list has shrunk.
-Today my son was talking about doing something back at my Mom's house. As though we were headed there for an event (he likes to make up stories now). He said to me, "You and me and Grandma and Papa... (pause) Papa's at Heaven. Grandma and Joseph and Miss Kathy and Mr. Richie will all go."

We are spending Thanksgiving with wonderful friends tomorrow. I made potatoes and pie and muffins to bring along. Dad loved apple pie. But he liked it cold. With ice cream. So I'll think of him when I eat mine tomorrow.

I have so many things for which to be thankful. My sadness hasn't erased those things. It has made them more precious. I am thankful for that this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Unexpected

I went to get my blood labs done yesterday as part of my physical. My doctor sent me over to the local hospital; 8 blocks away, easy stuff. The husband was home in the AM as he was working late so he took command of the Boy. I ran over quickly before we had to head to the gym. I have never been in this particular hospital before so, I parked my car and wandered into the first building I came to. But that one was the medical building, not the hospital proper. I walked across the courtyard into the actual hospital and nearly stopped short.

I think it was the smell that did it. I was instantly shoved right back to visiting Dad in the hospital and I freaked out a little. I immediately teared up and had to control my breathing. I walked up the hall into the lab and managed to keep myself in check while having my blood drawn. The woman who poked me was lovely and I think took my agitation as a part of my need not to look at the needle in my arm. She chatted with me to keep me distracted and we were done in minutes. By the time I got back down the hall and out the door, I was practically crying. I had to sit in the car to regain my composure.

We were in the military hospital last Tuesday because the little guy had a double ear infection. I had no problem there, so this really caught me by surprise. Like I said, I think it was the smell. And the door I walked in was right by the chapel and serenity garden. The chapel at Dad's hospital was right in the main hallway, you had to walk past it every time you came to visit. I never expected to feel returned to that place so physically. I wonder when the unsexpected things will stop hurting so much.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Scattered Showers

I find myself crying or tearing up at random moments. Sometimes while I'm running at the YMCA, a song on my Ipod or a random thought will set me off. Laying in bed at night I'll find the tears raining down. The other night, reading to my son got me started. I was partway through a story and it made me think of Thanksgiving. We'll be spending it with friends and I started to think about what I have to be thankful for this year. And I started to cry. It isn't that I don't have anything to be thankful for; I am blessed. It's just that all of those things still feel overwhelmed by the loss of my Dad. I wonder when I will feel less sad. But I'm not really sure what will take the place of all my sadness. Last week was a tough one for me. I was feeling lonely and a bit lost. But this weekend was full of friends and I felt a little more like I belonged where I was. We'll move in the next few months and I wonder if I'm prepared to be uprooted again.

I was recently chatting online with my friend who lost her partner last month. We were talking about how we were doing and what we had been through. I was explaining about watching my folks loose one another as it happened and she said I must be very strong. And I responded that being strong is over-rated. I often feel like I am the rock around which all the unrest swirls. I'm sure some of this is self-imposed, but I also feel as though it is expected of me by others. This same friend told me that she often felt it was easier to discuss her loss with people who didn't know her partner. And I told her that the problem with people who are connected to the person you lost is that you must bear their pain as well as your own. At least, that is how I have felt. When I was home, I didn't feel like I could really let go and fully succumb to my sadness because others needed me to be strong. I was afraid that if I fell apart that they would either a) panic, or b) fall apart as well and I'd end up comforting them. So it just seemed easier to comfort others and assume I could fit my mourning into the evenings and slow times. Which is mostly what I did. Once I returned to my own home, I found that it wasn't any easier to talk about it.

I have spoken with some lovely friends here about those months and some of what I went through. But I try not to get too worked up. Partly because I'm not often in an appropriate setting for that kind of thing: a party where someone asks, "How are you doing?" is not a time for a weep fest. Some of these friends are wonderful but not the kind of close friends I feel comfortable dumping upon. And most everyone here has their own problems to worry about. No one really wants to hear any more about my poor Dad. Not that I think people don't care, but it is off their radar since they are not connected to the situation. And, honestly, I'm not always so sad. It comes and goes. And many times when I most want someone to talk to, no one is available. Plus, I don't want to turn into that woman who is such a downer- always talking about her problems and her depression and how hard her life is these days. Does anyone really like that woman? She's exhausting. She exhausts me.

So, today, when I saw my doctor for my physical, I asked about talking to a mental health professional. She asked me a few questions about how I'm feeling and agreed to refer me to someone. I assured her I don't feel tempted to drive into bridge abutments, I just think I might benefit from talking to someone impartial. It's been a tough year. I could use some help doing the heavy lifting to sort it all out. I don't really want to pack up all of this baggage in our next move.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Off the Beaten Track

We've been back almost a month now and while on the surface everything looks normal and like we are moving ahead. I feel like I'm swirling around most days. My schedule helps and I'm getting things done, but I feel disconnected or removed. It's worst at night. I am back to not sleeping. I spend many hours on the couch staring at the TV or ignoring it in a quest for rest.

I have a friend I recently got back in touch with who also, even more recently, lost her partner of 7 years to a brain aneurysm. She started a blog and her pain seems like the only thing that makes sense to me some days. Basically no one here knew my Dad and so life has not changed for them with his death. It's almost like the whole block of time doesn't exist here. I've been feeling right along that my 7 months home were out of regular time. Being back here at my own house has only reinforced that feeling.

Sometimes my son is the only thing that seems real in my daily life. And I feel liek a waver between holding on to him and being exhausted by him. He's only 3 and isn't responsible for me. But, bless him, he gives shape to my days.

I'm just so tired, I can't rest and nothing in my head will settle. It is a dust storm in there, a tornado. And I don't expect to land in Oz.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


As I get closer to my departure date, I get more excited and more apprehensive. I just spent some time getting my pictures uploaded to my external hard drive so I can transport them home. I also transferred Dad's pictures. The last he took with his camera of us. I can't believe all that has happened in 6 months. I can't believe he'll be gone 3 months as of this weekend. How did that happen? How is it possible? I miss him so much.

I think it's really going to hit me when I leave all over again. Leaving this house, leaving the state. Leaving things behind.

When my sister picked me up at the airport in March, it was weird. Dad always picked me up. Him and the dog. And sometimes Mom. The dog died last October so this summer would have been our first visit without him around. I suppose my Mom would have gotten to ride along. But it was always Dad waiting for me at the end of the hallway. And always him who dropped me off when I left. The one and only time he ever dropped me off without waiting was the one time my flight was delayed by hours. Back before the advent of cell phone. But this time my sister will drop me off too. A new era.

I'm not really sure what I believe about the afterlife. I don't really believe that nothing happens when we die. I want to believe there is something. I don't know that I buy into the whole choir of angels and pearly gates. But I think that if there is an afterlife, that Dad, and the dog, will be there waiting for me. When I finish that longest of journeys, he will be there at the end of the hallway, waiting for me. And when I see his face, I will know that I am home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


You know how some people seem to completely lack a filter between their brain and their mouth? I'm very fortunate that my filter seems to be working overtime when I need it most. In the last few months it has saved me from two potentially disastrous situations.

Situation one:
I am telling friends about these great Japanese rice crackers that the hubby and I came to love overseas. We had been unable to find them and then I spotted them in a specialty grocery store shortly before we both left home. They are addictive- teriyaki flavored crackers with a sweet dribble glaze on top. And just before I say, "They put the "crack" in cracker", my filter kicks in and I remember one of these friends is, in fact, fighting against drug addiction. I manage to stop myself just in time and shift gears.

Situation two:
I am talking with an old coworker who I have not seen in some time. He asks about my husband and I explain how he is deployed and how tedious it becomes and how anxious he is to get home. I start to compare his deployed situation to "being in prison" but before the words exit my mouth I remember that this particular friend has done time. Actual prison time that we have never discussed. And I manage to stop myself before I embarrass the both of us.

I am living in fear of the day my filter craps out on me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Closing Time

It is time to go home. The family drama level is beginning to swirl dangerously high to my shore. I do not with to be involved. At all. I am Switzerland. I am Switzerland with my fingers in my ears, humming a happy tune. This may seem juvenille but it's mostly self defense. I have learned over time that becoming embroiled in the drama of others is a futile and frustrating exercise. I've alwasy been pretty good at staying out of drama in my workplace nad my friendships. But it is far harder when it comes to family. I've improved slowly over time. When the drama was mine, I tried very hard not to draw others into it. I didn't want people to chose sides or damage relationships. Living here, I'm rather dropped right in the middle of things.

The Reader's Digest versions are: my sisters haven't spoken to each other since the funeral; my older sister's family was basically three hours late for her birthday cake at Mom's house and while they were here, her husband made an unfortunate comment that really upset my Mom. Now Mom doesn't want to speak to him and, although he hasn't called yet, she keeps making me answer the phone.

When I gave my husband the brief overview, his reaction was, "Sounds like it's time to go home." I'm morphing into him more each day. I'm really starting to look forward to my nice, quiet house on the far coast.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Things I've Lost

My Dad used to print out my blog for my Mom because (a) he was always hogging the computer and , (b) she would rather read on paper than the screen. So there is a huge binder in the living room with my blog in it. I picked it up today and started to flip through. This book began January 1, 2007. I only read a few entries but it made me realize something-I used to be funny and upbeat. It seems like, despite whatever trials I was shuffling through, I was optimistic and happy. I guess 2007 wasn't really a bad year. I told a girlfriend at the beginning of this year that 2008 was Her Year, and as it turns out I was right. And I can tell you, it sure as fuck hasn't been the Year of Me.

This year I have lost:
My Dad
Time with my husband (including all of our birthdays)
My sense of humor
My marbles
My patience
My cool
My perspective

I hadn't noticed just how much until today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two Months

Dad's been gone two months today. It is hard to believe. Even with all of the sorting and clearing out we've been doing around the house, I still half expect him to turn up. After the car almost caught fire the other night, all I could think was, "Wait til Dad hears about this!"

I went to the cemetery today for the first time since the funeral. I got lost looking for him and had to go to the directory. But even once I found him, I didn't really feel him there. I honestly think I'd feel closer to him at the fire house. I may just sneak in one day.

He's been gone two months. I wish it weren't true. I miss him.

Friday, August 15, 2008

On the Run

We went to Vermont and I didn't find it as upsetting as I expected. What surprised me was how hard Dad's loss hit me when we got back home. Like, "What, he's not back yet?" I had a pretty good time on vacation but I wonder if things weren't bothering my more than I acknowledged. I couldn't breathe. I have had, in the past, stress-induced asthma. (When I said this in front of my cousin's new boyfriend, he said"What do you have to be stressed about, you're on vacation?!" But he's young and new to the family so I let it pass) I found that, when I was running, I could breathe. I don't know if it was because I expected to have to work harder to get a full breath or that my body was working more efficiently or that my stress was lower. Or that I'm just completely nuts (I did say to the nurse at the medical center, "What I probably need is a shrink and some Zoloft but I'll take an antihistamine.") . Oddly, when we got to my best friend. Meme's, house in the Great North Woods, I was fine. The wine and martinis may have helped.

Do you remember the movie Real Genius? A classic Val Kilmer film from the 80's. Whenever I mention running to Meme, she states, "I only run when chased" in homage to Val. This used to always be my answer too. And, to be truthful ,it still is. But now I feel like I'm being pursued.
By weight.
By age.
By vanity.
By genetics.
By death.
But mostly, by Fear.

I don't think I can outrun the inevitable, but, damn it, I'm going to give it a shot. I'm not going without a fight. I'm afraid of getting sick, of slowly slipping away from myself, of not being around for my son, of the unknown. It is pursuing me. I am compelled. I remember how I felt 30 pounds ago, and I didn't like it. I didn't recognize myself. Now, when I look in the mirror, I know that woman in there. I don't want her to disappear.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Birthday Blues

Tomorrow is my birthday. I don't know that I've ever felt less like celebrating it. I normally love my birthday. But it doesn't feel like my birthday this year. Today I had a mini celebration with my younger sister, the wife, Mom and the Boy. (Dad always called the girls The Pigeon Sisters, from The Odd Couple. So I'll be referring to the them as Cecily and Gwendolyn, just to make my life easy.) My sister, Cecily, makes great French toast with powdered sugar and that was on our menu today. They wanted to do a little something so my day wouldn't pass unacknowledged. Which was very sweet of them. I think it was prompted by the following exchange:

Gwendolyn: (reading a sticky note stuck to Mom's cabinet) Annie birthday 7/21. Is this so she won't forget?
Me: yes.
Gwendolyn: Oh, I'm so sorry.

So we went to their beach place, ate, swam in the pool and had a very nice day. We've all been getting along. I'm all for calm seas.

Tomorrow, Mom and I and the Boy will have dinner with my aunt and uncle. Same thing-dinner, cake, little gifts. And I appreciate that everyone wants to make it a nice day for me. I just feel too blues for the whole thing.

We leave on Saturday for Vermont. My brother in law already came by to pick up Dad's boat to prep it for the trip. The driveway looks empty and forlorn without it. The distribution of possessions has begun and it freaks me out. It's just weird to see the empty spaces around the house. Mom cleaned off Dad's dresser and it just looks so strange. I didn't expect her to keep everything here as a shrine but I guess I didn't think things would change yet. I don't know why. Vermont is going to be really hard. I think part of the hard part is that, again, I won't have any time alone. I think living away from everyone with a husband who deploys has made me a bit of a loner. I feel like I need some privacy and alone time, especially when I'm stressed. I have a feeling the sum total of my alone time will be on my runs. Which I may just take every day. I know I'm supposed to be drawing support from my family, but I'm somehow finding it hard to do.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pushing Through

It's been almost two weeks since we lost Dad and I don't know that it has really hit me yet. The first week was absolutely consumed with preparations and ceremonies. Days spent in a funeral home for viewing are some of the longest you'll ever live. I haven't done it in almost 20 years. In the exact same place, as a matter of fact.

I cannot begin to explain what the fire department did for us. They stood honor guard, every minute of every viewing. The did a farewell ceremony the second evening. They did a final farewell the morning of the funeral and lined the halls in honor as we each left for the church. That almost did me in. Like every Junior fireman touching my Dad as they walked past his casket. The entire department stood honor guard at the church. Every fire truck was in his procession. He rode in the floodlight he restored. They had flags over all of the major intersections. We drove past the fire house and they had his turnout gear out front. Which broke my heart. They set up the whole luncheon for us at the fire house. Between viewing times, people came to our house and did food and drinks and tables for us. I can't tell you what they all mean to me. I know I need to write them a thank you but I can't even get started. I haven't started on any of my thank yous yet. I feel like it is going to be such a private thing, I don't knwo where I can do it. But I have to. To thank my friend who was with me every step of the way. To thank the friend who drove 8 straight hours to be with me without thinking twice. To thank the friend who sent his parents in his stead. To thank all of the people who supported me and helped me. It's just exhausting to think of starting. A little like when I was trying to pack to come home in March.

My son doesn't understand what has happened. He keeps asking about his Papa. Are we going to see him? Why can't we go to Heaven? Can he talk to him? Why? It breaks my heart over nad over. But part of me wants him to keep on asking so I know he remembers him. Not that he doesn't make me laugh too. He's learning the Mickey Mouse song. He had Mom and I peeing in our pants singing all together. He hits the high points.

Mom is trying to set the land speed record on writing her thank you notes. She writes until she's dizzy. She's written about 400. Seriously.

It's comforting to know we aren't the only ones who love him.

Now I'm trying to establish a routine again. Down time is my enemy at the moment. Last weekend dragged on forever. Like I said, I'm still waiting for it to really hit me. I'm running as fast as I can.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another Holding Pattern

Now that Dad has picked up another bacterial infection, he's stuck in the hospital. The good news is that the Hickman cath seems fine. And his kidneys are stable. But he isn't getting better. My cousins who came today were floored. My Mom said they had to leave Dad's room sobbing. They all looked a little pole-axed when they came back by the house. I don't know that any of them really understood just how sick he is. You always think you are prepared, but you can't be. And as Mom pointed out, none of them had ever really seen him sick before. I think tomorrow is going to be tough as well. My favorite cousin is in denial, I think. He's been to visit, and I've been keeping him posted, but it is different to see Dad in person.

This week has been a tough one for me. I find myself crying more often, mostly in the car and at night. It's this great, sucking, black hole. Sometimes my boy unwittingly triggers it with a statement or question, "When Papa comes home, we'll have to be quiet so he can rest.", "When Pap gets better, we can go see the fire trucks." I don't know how I'm going to explain this to him. I know he's going to keep asking questions that break my heart. He still asks where the dog is. The dog died in October. I'm starting to think Papa isn't ever going to get home from the hospital. How can it be that he and my baby will never see each other again?

Vermont is out of the question now. Dad is just too sick. If he's home, I won't be going either. I'll have someone else use my cabin. I don't know if Dad is even thinking about Vermont, but somewhere in there, I know he knows that he's not going to get there. I keep getting stuck on the "never agains." I know Dad wants the family to still go, even if he cannot. But part of me is wondering if even that will happen.

I am also missing my husband this week. He called his Dad to congratulate him on his retirement the other day. He'd been up almost 24 hours trying to troubleshoot a problem. Now, I did remind him in an email of the date, but he went to the trouble to call his father, despite all that was going on by him. And it reminded me again why I love him and what a good man he is. And it made me miss him.

I also relearned an important lesson about making assumptions. I was a bit put out that I had not heard anything from our XO's wife. She didn't even reply to an email I'd sent about her son being hospitalized with pnemonia. I thought I'd at least get a reply. So, this week I rsvp-ed to an invitation and told her I'd obviously not be making the event but hoped they'd all have a lovely time. She sent me back a lovely email saying she knew I couldn't come but wanted to include me. She also said she wanted to thank me for emailing about her son weeks ago, that since then he'd been diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disorder and has had a collapsed lung. So now I feel terrible that I thought she was just blowing me off. I'm also wondering why no one else mentioned it to me before now. Seems like news that would bear repeating. Moral of the story-never assume.

And this entry from Mimi Smartypants actually made me laugh out loud. I wish the Trader Joe's guy had a blog so we could see his take.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Looking Ahead

Mom started to gather information on hospice today. Apparently, they like to keep people home now with caretakers coming in as needed. Mom wanted to know if I was comfortable with this and I told her I am. I just want to make sure we have the people or the skills for all that needs to be done. I don't want a situation to go bad because I'm untrained.

They are going to install a new PICC line tomorrow for Dad. We'll continue with the IV nutrition as we have been doing. They discussed a port in his chest but his doctor feels like that is way too invasive and that he isn't really strong enough. Dad's kidneys are starting to struggle. They did a sonogram today and we're waiting for results. His legs are all swollen and the drugs have been building up in his system. We we went on Father's Day, he was really disoriented. We found him at the desk asking about his credit card, which he believed he had given to the nurse to pay for something. He wasn't all that able to focus on our gifts or what we were telling him. He be good for a few sentences and then fade out. Plus he was exhausted. I guess the pain meds clear through his kidneys and now nothing is really flushing. So he was very foggy and confused. Mom and I both said he hadn't somehow counted on his loosing his place like that. We expected pain and sickness, but we assumed he'd know what was going on. Mom said he was near comatose today when she got there and so they held off the next few rounds of meds. The nurse was concerned and keeping a close eye on him. Mom said later, when he woke up, he was much more like himself. They had the news on and he wanted to be sure I got everything here squared away before the big storm hit. I'm hoping they'll be able to make a decision about his kidneys tomorrow and move on it.

When Dad got his diagnosis, he said the only thing he really wanted to do was to get to Vermont one more time. We have the big family vacation/reunion planned again this summer at the end of July. The woman who owns the cabin they've been renting for years is heartbroken that Dad is sick. She lost her husband last year. She told us that the cabin was open and unrented all of June so if he could make it up then, we should just go. We've been talking it out the last week or so. We talked about maybe renting or borrowing an RV so he could lay down for the trip and be comfortable. Once of the nurses that Mom knows personally offered to come along and help. We know we could ask any fireman, friend, or family member for help or to come along. But as the days pass, it looks less likely. Dad's doctor has been his doctor for years- he was my Dad's mother's doctor. He is really upset about Dad. Throughout this ordeal, he's come to visit Dad in the hospital almost every day, even when he wasn't directly involved in any of his care, just to see him. He told my Mom he wants to stay positive but he wants to be honest too. He hates the thought of Dad not getting to Vermont again, but he really doesn't think it is going to be possible. There are just too many problems. And we don't want to pile into an RV and embark on an hours long trip and then have an emergency.

I've been thinking about the trip for weeks. Especially if we'd gone in June, because it would only have been my folks and I (and maybe the nurse). The thought of being there for Dad to say goodbye to the lake, knowing he was saying goodbye, absolutely breaks my heart. But the thought of him not getting that chance is even worse. It's so unfair. I wish he could be well enough to go with all of us. Then it might feel like one last party rather than a final farewell. But I really don't think he's going to get to go at all. And I think he probably knows it.

Father's Day was awful for so many reasons. I don't know if it was worse that he didn't seem to grasp what was going on. I don't supposed it would have been any easier sharing a last Father's Day if he was crystal clear. It's the first Father's Day I've spent with him in years. I wish it could have been better.

Last year, when I got the five-day migraine on my birthday I thought, "Next year's birthday has got to be better." I had no idea how wrong I was. When I was a high school senior, my boyfriend's brother committed suicide at college in February. His mother, who had been battling cancer for 9 years, gave up. By spring she was in hospice, by summer she was gone. She was buried on my birthday. I think I may be replaying that summer. In all the exact same locations. I know that someday I'll have a happy birthday again, but I don't think they'll ever be the same.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Like Ships in the Night

There is a very nice woman at the gym who met me shortly after I joined. She got the basic rundown of my life: deployed husband, sick Dad, temporary lodging, three year old. I see her periodically, either in the workout room or in the childcare room while we're picking up our kids. She usually asks how my husband is and if I've been able to talk with him. A week or so ago, she asked if he was home. I told her he was gone until October. She nearly fell off her chair- "Seven months! How do you do that?" And, as any military spouse knows, there is no good answer to that question. It helps to be independent. It helps to keep busy. You just do it.

So I saw her today and she asked how my husband was. Then she asked me, "Don't you miss him, gone so long?" And I told her yes, but that isn't the whole truth. I miss him and I don't. There is so much for me to deal with here right now. It distracts me. Sometimes I really wish he were here. Sometimes I'm a little annoyed I don't hear from him more often, considering. But then I remind myself (a) he hates that he's not here, (b) he's not good in a situation like this and, quite likely, wouldn't be all that comforting. I mean that in the best possible way. We've been together a long time. He just doesn't know what to say or do in this kind of situation- most people don't. He has learned just to hug me, so that's an improvement. Then there is (c)whatever I've got going on here, he's still stuck on a deployment with a small group of people who don't always play well together in 125 degree heat. His life is also continuing.

I just worry about how things will be when he gets home. I'm going to be glad to see him, but I'm also going to be unbearably sad, one way or the other, about my Dad. It's not going to be the happy reunions on the past. Plus we're now adding the child to the mix. Anyone who has gone through this realizes that the first hour of the reunion is great, but it doesn't last. Real life crashes back in. I'm afraid we may be in for a tsunami.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rearranging Deck Chairs

Being the cruise director on the Titanic here is no picnic. Some days I just shut my brain down. Some days, like today, I can't make it shut up.

I don't think Dad is going to make it through the summer. It is a distinct possibility that I am beginning to face. There is a chance he won't make it until my husband returns from deployment. Which opens up an additional can of worms- will they let my husband come home for a funeral. The death of my father would qualify him for consideration, but there is no guarantee. Now, while I completely understand that this is outside of his control, not everyone else in my family will be willing to see that. I emailed him today to tell him that I understand and know he will be here if they let him. But it has already got possible screaming fights running through my head.

To say that my relationship with my younger sister and her wife has been "difficult" for the last ten years would be an understatement. Early on, I was always one of their biggest supporters. I was one of the first people my sister came out to in the family. I have known her wife longer than she has-over 20 years. But there have been incidents where I have felt judged, disrespected, and taken advantage of by them. The most recent, and most relevant, was when our maternal Grandma died a few years ago while I was pregnant. I had seen Grandma while home for the holidays and knew that my good-bye was my final goodbye. It was awful, but I got through it. I went back home and kept in close touch with Mom. As Grandma got sicker, Mom told me she didn't want me flying home for the funeral if I was only doing it to support her. She told me, "If you feel like you need to come to say good-bye, then come. But I would rather you didn't fly any more than you have to. I'll just worry." So I felt like I'd stay put. I emailed my sister and began laying the groundwork for my non-appearance early. Because I knew if I wasn't there, there would be comments. I told her Mom didn't want me flying and that I'd really said my good-bye. I feel, personally, that funerals are for the living and I'd be coming to support Mom, but she would rather I stayed home. I got an email back telling me: "Don't kid yourself. If you don't come it's because you don't want to." (Did I mention that she's a therapist?) I let it go. I didn't send back a nasty-gram. I didn't tell anyone in the family and cause WWIII. I moved on. We didn't talk much for a while, but I've always tried to maintain a relationship because I would hate to not be speaking to my sister.

But now, with Dad sick, they are in full force judgement mode. They think it is wrong that my sister's husband didn't come in to see Dad for a few weeks. And my sister in law felt free to tell his Mother what they thought at his daughter's Communion. My Aunt called my older sister today and said my younger sister told my Aunt's daughter that she is annoyed that my Dad's sisters don't come to visit more often. My cousin, to her credit, told my younger sister that they were just respecting Dad's wishes not to have too many visitors. ( Did I mention that they all still work, one just had a knee replaced and they all live at least 1.5 to 2 hours away?) I am trying not to get drawn into all of this. I am a big believer in not sticking your nose into other peoples' business or arguments. Especially in times of stress. But I can hear this one knocking on my door. And it is making me sick. I don't want to get into a screaming fight in my Dad's last days. I don't want to get into a screaming fight during that most stressful time of wakes and funerals. But if I'm pushed on this one, I don't think I can help but push back.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tip of the Iceberg

I knew this year wasn't going to be easy. My military husband was scheduled to deploy and I'd be doing my first round of long-term, single parenting of our growing toddler. We've been at this for a long time and have done lots of deployments before. I was undaunted. I felt prepared. And, so, arrived the week of deployment.

On Monday, the doctors found a mass on my Dad's pancreas. On Tuesday, my husband left for seven months. On Friday, I was on a plane home to learn my Dad has stage four pancreatic cancer. So I have moved home for the duration of the deployment. I need to be here and my son needs to be here. I worry he won't remember his Papa who loves him so much, who is his buddy. I think that breaks my heart more than anything. We've been here about two months now. It's hard to sort out my feelings most days. I'm hoping that writing here will help me get them organized, or at least recognized.

There is the grief, which hit my with unimaginable force . Since I've been home, I'm more caught up in the day to day managing, and it seems more like background noise. Until the rare moment when I'm alone, like in the grocery store. Or late at night, which explains why I can't sleep. I don't know if keeping it at bay is good or bad. I suppose I'll find out.

There is the anger/frustration/off the chart stress level. My three year old and I are sharing my childhood bedroom. There is only one bathroom in this house. I have left behind my whole life for seven months. I basically don't know anyone in town anymore. I've been out twice since I arrived. Did I mention my son is three? Have you ever lived with a three year old? Frustrating. I'm out of my routine. I'm not getting the exercise I need. My husband is in touch when he is able, but it isn't anything like daily. We've spoken on the phone five times. We mostly email.

There is the medical care. I'm very involved with Dad's care. He's in and out of the hospital. While this is to be expected, it doesn't make it any easier. I've called three ambulances. Dad's been unable to eat and I'm handling his IV feeding and helping to manage his meds. I honestly don't know how anyone does this alone. It is overwhelming. I'm also really trying to help my Mom through all of this. She is nervous by nature and this is terrifying and overwhelming for her. She's been doing so well, but I know she's only just hanging on. I'm trying to find the balance, with both of them, between helping and pushing past my place. Additionally, as much as they are happy to have us here, Dad's exhausted most of the time and my son is very active. He has two speeds: full-bore and asleep. I try to keep him from disturbing them and try not to squash his natural exuberance.

It's all just exhausting. But I wouldn't be anywhere else right now. I'm so lucky that this happened at a time when I could literally pack up and leave home for seven months. If my husband were home, I'd feel guilty having my son away from him. If my son were older, he'd be in school. If I didn't have my son, I'd have a job.

Of course, when my husband comes home we'll go home too. And I have no idea what will happen then. Actually, just thinking about it makes my throat close up. Right now, I can't plan more than about 48 hours in advance. And those plans are never set in stone. For a control freak, this is torture. Part of me feels like I'm doing everything I can and part of me feels like what I'm doing is woefully inadequate. I imagine this will only get worse.