Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's been a while

It's been almost two years since I posted here.  I don't have an audience, so that's okay.

A few months after my last post, my Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  He passed away five months after the diagnosis, after chemo and radiation shrank the tumor, but didn't eliminate it. It spread to his lungs and took him rather quickly.  I hated how much weight he lost, I hated that he was sick, I hated that he was hurting.  Most of all, I hated how much he missed my Mom. It was painful to see it plainly in his face every time I saw him.

I still am Daddy's little girl, even though he's gone.

I always knew that I would miss my Mom when she passed.  We were close and she was wonderful.  But I knew that my Dad's passing would be worse for me.  It is and isn't.  With Mom, her passing was a bit of a surprise. I think I knew it was coming, but hadn't reconciled with it yet.  So the shock made it more difficult to process.  I cried a lot for no reason and every reason.  I had to write out personal notes in every thank you card, write a eulogy that was never read at her funeral, but was posted to my facebook.  I had to grieve to get past the loss.  I had dreams with her in it where I knew I was dreaming, I knew she was dead in real life, but no one else in the dream did.  I told her the things I didn't get to say in life. I hugged her every time and never wanted to let go.  I woke up in tears more times than I can count.  After a while, she stopped visiting me and I miss her still.

With my Dad, we knew his death was imminent. He went into the hospital with fluid in his lungs on Wednesday. That night, we learned that the cancer had spread to his lungs and it was stage 4.  We planned for hospice care, knowing that he might never get there (he didn't).  Every day I visited him, I talked to him. I told him I loved him, I thanked him for the wonderful life he'd given me. I thanked him for being my hero because he always was and always will be.  I told him that my fiance would take care of me and I would take care of my son and it was okay for him to go be with my Mom.  He had fought hard and he missed my Mom.  I didn't want him to hold on for me.  As much as I still need and miss him and as much as I didn't want him to go, I needed him to know it was okay.  I needed him to understand that I love him no matter what.  Here or not, I would be his girl and he would be my best guy.  I made sure he knew that.  On Friday before he passed, I visited him again (I went every day until he passed).  When I got there, he was in and out. As he was always hard of hearing, I called out to him, "Dad?  Daddy?!  Edziu!"  The last one (the Polish version of his name) brought him around.  He looked at me and smiled.  He hadn't smiled in SO long.  To this day, I don't know if he smiled because it was me or because he thought I was my Mom (who I resemble a lot).  I don't care.  He smiled at me.  That memory is still with me and always will be.

I saw him Saturday and again on Sunday.  Members of my parents' church choir came to see Dad that day.  (Mom and Dad had both been in the choir.)  I visited with my Dad and again told him all the things I needed him to know. I held his hand, rubbed his arms, and tried to make him comfortable.  They had planned to move him to hospice on Monday, so they took him out of the ICU.  Over the course of his time in the hospital, I'd slowly had them remove machines from him. Having medical power of attorney and knowing his wishes, I knew he didn't want the beeping machines counting breaths and heartbeats.  I knew he didn't want the oxygen he kept ripping off.  I knew he didn't want the morphine they kept pumping into him.

I had called my sister who lived far away and held the phone to Dad's ear as she talked to him and knew, by the look on his face, that he heard her and knew what she'd said.  I hung up with her, held Dad's hand some more, told him I loved him and kissed him.  I got up to put away my phone and noticed it was 4 PM and said aloud that I would have to leave soon to go home to feed my son.  Living 50 miles away made for an hour trip each way. My Dad didn't want me to bring my son to the hospital after Friday because he didn't want my son to see him so sick and my son didn't like seeing his very vital, very vibrant Grampy laid so low, knowing his time was short.

Dad had been breathing rather loudly in the hospital and, right after making my comment about needing to leave soon, I realized I didn't hear him breathing.  I stopped, turned around and looked at him and didn't see the tell tale rise and fall of his chest. I didn't hear the loud intake of breath.  I stood closer and leaned in.  Still nothing.  I put my hand on his chest - he'd lost so much weight that all I felt was his ribcage.  No heartbeat.  He was gone and I knew it.  And I missed it. I wanted to hold his hand as he passed.  I wanted there to be a moment where I saw that last breath, so I could know for certain he was at peace.  I missed it.  By seconds, maybe.  But I missed it.

How I managed to be so outwardly calm when I was screaming inside, I'll never know.  I stepped out of the room to find someone to pronounce Dad's time of death.  I looked to the left and saw a nurse going into another room. To my right, I saw a doctor coming toward me and asked him to come verify my Dad's passing.  He came in, checked, and told us he was gone.  As he left, the hospital priest came in and asked, "And how is the patient?"  I told him, "He just passed, Father."  He said, "Then let's pray."  And we did.  After the priest left, I called an attendant and asked him to straighten Dad's bed.  He'd been somewhat upright with his legs bent for days and some weird part of my mind didn't want rigor mortis to set in that way.

And then I sat, with my Dad.  But he wasn't my Dad anymore.  He was my Dad's body.  My Dad... my wonderful Dad... the man who taught  me to ride a bike and throw a football, to cook and fix things around my house and to be self sufficient... the man who had made sure that I grew up to be a stubborn pain in the butt who never settled for less than what she wanted... he was gone.  He was at peace and, I firmly believe, with my Mom and happy to be there.  And in that moment I felt grateful for the end to his suffering and angry at my own loss.  Thankful he was happy and with my Mom and simultaneously numb with the grief of missing him already.  I stayed longer than I probably should have. I couldn't bring myself to leave him there alone.  Silly as that sounds.

The next day, I arranged his wake and funeral with the help of my fiance.  I knew what Dad wanted and deserved.  It was the final gift I could give him, to take care of his arrangements the way I knew he wanted them.  As best as I could. I also was told that they couldn't find the doctor who pronounced Dad's passing.  No one knew who or where he was.  Dad's regular physician had to sign the death certificate.  Many tell me that the doctor was an angel.  That may very well be true.

It's been almost a year now and I miss his as much today as the day he passed.  If not more.  That wonderful, funny, stubborn, kind, sweetheart of a man.  Good God, I miss him.  Some days I feel like my missing him will never end.  I hear his voice in my head making his typical commentary often.  Watching a TV show, I hear him saying, "Watch this... watch this" at the good parts.  When I think of buying something that's a "luxury" I see him make a sour face in my mind's eye and say, "Eh... whaddya need that for?!"  He is with me.  He is part of me.  My Mom said, and I agreed, that of three of us girls, I am most like my Dad.  So he's never really quite gone from me.  But Lord, what I wouldn't do tto have him with me now.

I am blessed because I knew his time was coming. I knew we had days at best.  I was able to tell him the things I needed him to hear.  I was able to thank him and tell him I love him.  I was able to say goodbye.  That was a gift, I know.  And I'm grateful.  But it doesn't make me miss him any less.  It doesn't lessen the pain of his absence.  It certainly didn't make saying goodbye any easier.  I don't think there's a way for that to happen ever.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sometimes, you just need a good hug

Today.  Oh, how I suddenly hate you.

I woke up this morning, glad to have had the chance to sleep in for a change.  Laying in bed, listening to the sounds of my house, my dog whining because he's aware I'm up, my son's gentle snoring as he continues his trip to dreamland.  My world -- for the moment -- is peaceful.

I get up, make breakfast and later, lunch.  I spend some time on my computer and time with my son. We snuggle on the couch and watch Cinderella, commenting on how much we hate the bad guys in the movie and cheering when good triumphs yet again.

I take my son to visit with his dad.  I come home and pot some of my new plants for the season. A calming endeavor, to be sure.  Hands covered with dirt and life springing on my patio, I head inside to clean up.

And in the midst of that clean up, I realize and remember:  six months ago today is the last time I saw my Mom alive.  Almost to the exact minute, at the time I make the discovery.

Six months ago since I visited her and she told me, "Mar, I'm done," and I reassured her that we loved her and wanted her to stay, but if she needed to be done, I would make sure my Dad and son were okay.  Told her that I wished I could take her pain and illness from her and that if I could, I would.  Got tired of her not being able to eat the food the hospital brought to her, so I went and bought her a strawberry smoothie at the cafeteria.  And, while it wasn't great, she actually ate half of it, as I spoon fed it to her. Then got into an argument with my Dad because he didn't feel it was a healthy meal.  To which I said it was better than no meal at all.  And Mom was trying to play mediator and get us to stop fighting.  And I was selfish enough to let my feelings get hurt and cry in front of her. As she lay there, in pain. Dying.  God, I am a terrible child.  She told my Dad the smoothie was good and asked for more.  Dad, realizing it was the most she'd eaten in one sitting in about a week, succumbed and even continued feeding the smoothie to her after I had to leave.

Six months since I hugged my Mom, kissed her, told her I loved her and wished her, "Zostańcie z Bogiem."  Polish for "Stay with God."  I walked out of her hospital room that night and went out to buy some things that would make her hospital stay more comfortable.  The next day, at 9:24 AM, I got THE call to get to the hospital.  That was the longest drive ever and the most horrific.

But in remembering that it's been six months since I've been able to see my Mom, hold her hand, kiss her and tell her how much I love her has just made my day go down the drain.  I'm a mess, wishing to see her one more time. To tell her all the things I never did, but wished I had.  To hold on to her SO tightly and never let her go. 

And I know I'm not the only person to lose someone they love. I'm not the first child to lose a parent or the first person to lose a loved one of any sort.  I know that this grief, while mine and unique, is not the only grief ever felt by someone.  And I feel selfish.  And justified. And weak.  I feel like I'm four years old again and yelling, "I want my Mommy!" 

There are people who have it far worse of than I do and I know this.  But today, I can't help but feel sorry for myself.  Today, I wonder how I am ever going to move past this empty feeling in my soul.  Today I wonder if there will ever be a day that her loss does not hit me in the solar plexus and leave me short of breath.  I fear the answer to that last question is, "No."  And I wonder how to move on.  How do I act normal when my son comes home so that I don't bring him down with my grief?  How do I not see things all over my house and not feel hit with a wave of grief as I remember when she gave them to me or I bought them while on a shopping trip with her?  How do I let myself just BE without her around?  

The thing is, I seek solace in things like looking at old pictures and family movies.  They make me cry, but they help me remember her.  My Dad can't.. we recently had our old home movies converted to DVD and my Dad can't bring himself to watch them yet.  I understand that. He was married to her for 52 years.  I cannot imagine the grief and pain he feels.  He loved her SO very much. His eyes still lit up every time he looked at her.  I feel like my grief is so small compared to his. And I reassure him that he doesn't need to watch the movies now, but when he is ready, I would like to watch them with him.  

Some days go by and I don't cry at all.  But I don't consider those "good days."  Some days I cry off and on all day and I don't consider those "bad days."  My world has been rocked and I am not always able to stay afloat.  I wish I could, but I can't.  

How do I deal with this grief?  How do I move on?  I have no answers. I wish I did.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In which, I make my first post

(Boy, aren't you excited..)

So, I'm writing to no one right now because I just created this blog.  I'm not sure what I'll write about here, but I'll try to be entertaining.

Right now, I sit in my living room, typing while I watch my son beat the snot out of enemies while playing Force Unleashed.  My almost teenager is the light of my life and the reason I get up every morning and get through my days.

My Fiance sits across from me, unaware of what I'm doing, while he is either on Facebook or reading his online comics. This man... this Godsend... is my rock, my heart, and my best friend.  I can't imaging life without him.  Which is why I can endure the fact that we live 325 miles apart  most days of the year, have done so for over 8 years now and have another 6 to go before we can live together.  You see, he used to live near me, but when his post-doctoral appointment ended, the best job he could get took him quite far away. I couldn't follow because my ex didn't want me moving our son so far away.  I understand that.  I wouldn't let him move our son away either.  However, that  means that things are tough and I don't always  have my fiance with me.  But he is there when I need him and he has my back all the time. I know that.  And I'm lucky and blessed to have him.  Some people are still looking for their match.  Let's be honest, it took me two failed marriages and some dating to find mine.  But I know that what I have is real and lasting. I know that when I'm grey and wrinkled, I can look at this man and still crack jokes and smile because he loves me.  That, friends, is a blessing I am thankful for by the day, hour and minute.

That almost teenager of mine is one of the sweetest, most polite boys you'd ever hope to meet.  "Please" and "Thank you" pepper his vocabulary when he talks to almost anyone other than me.  But that's okay because I'm the one he comes home to and asks for snuggles on the couch.  How many kids, two months from hitting 13, do you know who want to come home and just sit with Mom?  He'd likely be embarrassed that I mentioned that -- if anyone was actually reading this.   My boy is autistic.  High functioning, such that most adults couldn't tell unless they worked in a field that made them more aware of the tics and cues that come with such a diagnosis.  At 12, he's learned to manage quite well.  Aside from forgetting to turn in homework or not completing it, he's a pretty impressive kid.  This past fall, he played football and really enjoyed it.  This worries me a bit because of the injuries that can come with it. However, he's more academically inclined.  He loves science and wants to be an inventor.  Whatever he wants to be, I want him to be too.  I want him to be happy.  I want him to be polite. I want him to be a productive member of society.  No back talking, low-slung pants wearing teens in my house, thankyouverymuch.

As for me, I'm... me.  In my early 40s, I'm a single mom (obviously) raising this boy mostly on my own with some help here and there.  His Dad is a constant presence in his life and we co-parent very well.  I'm thankful that we don't have an adversarial relationship because that would only hurt our son and I don't want that for him.

In the last few months, I've had a bit of a tough time.  At the end of October, my Mom passed away after a blessedly brief cancer battle.  I cannot tell you how very much I miss her because there are no words for how painful it is.  But at the same time, I was blessed with an excellent relationship with her that allows me to miss her daily.  Some people don't get along with their parents.  I do and I'm lucky. I still have my very feisty and adorable Dad. He's...  my Sweetheart. I'm Daddy's little girl. Always have been and always will be.

About a month after my Mom passed, I found out that they were closing my office. My boss, coworkers and I are all out of a job as of January 1.  It's only been a couple of weeks, but when you're the only breadwinner in the house, it's tough.  I need to find another job fast.  But I can't take just anything.  Because of my son's autism, I can't put him on a bus in the morning for school.  Not only because I can't guarantee he'd make it to the stop in time, but because the noise from all the kids would be sensory overload for him and his day would be ruined before it started. So I can't start work too early in the day, which prevents me from working in the "big city" where I could probably find a position somewhat more easily.  I'm looking and hoping right now.

Other things about me: I love to cook and bake and may, on occasion, post pictures and/or recipes that I've tried.  I also like making things... different kinds of things. I like to knit and want to learn how to make more than a scarf or blanket.  I am planning to remove the tile (yes, tile) and trim from around my fireplace and install an actual mantle.  I am waiting on a few items that will allow me to make a really neat pair of pumps with comic book characters on them to wear to a dance the fiance and I will be chaperoning.  I am looking for reclaimed wood to build a cabinet for my kitchen.  That sort of thing.

I like to read.  I like to write.  I like gaming.  I play tabletop games as well as role-playing games.  I love Star Wars and Harry Potter and Dr. Who and Star Trek and Lord of the Rings (Tolkien in general, really) and Raymond Feist books and all sorts of geeky pursuits.  I think Big Bang Theory is hysterical, Castle is one of the smarter shows on TV (and that Nathan Fillion would be my very best friend if he only met me) and that reality TV is ruining us.  I love watching home improvement shows (DIY is my friend) and cooking shows and I will watch anything Alton Brown is on except the Next Iron Chef.

My dream is to one day open a bakery.  I don't know that it will happen, but a girl needs a dream, right?

Other things about me... I'm 100% Polish (hence the blog name).  My entire family is one nationality.  It's not so common these days.  And, my family pretty much got on a boat in Poland, got off in America and settled in Chicago and that was about it.  One set of great-grandparents took a slight detour in New England to get married and have the first of their 13 kids and then moved to Chicago too.  I've been doing some genealogy research but my last name is so rare that it's tough to find records of my family at all.   You'd think an unusual name would make it easier, but it doesn't.

Wow... that's a lot of typing.  I think that's good for now.  I hope if anyone reads this, you enjoy it.

I'll leave you with the words I say when I part company with my family:  Idź z Bogiem.