Sunday, August 1, 2010

We've made it halfway through the first year . . . .

Well I haven’t written in a month . . . and, I could say it’s because I’ve been busy (which we have) but honestly, it’s more of an avoidance of wanting to sit down and put on paper the plethora of thoughts in my head. The reason? It’s not clear and I detest looking like I don’t have life figured out. My thoughts and feelings are all over the board lately, and it is infuriating me!

This week was tough. It was the six month mark of your being gone. It made me really sad….really sad….and I think the fact that my kids were gone and Nancy was gone made it feel even more hollow. I thought about of the events, birthdays, etc that you’ve already missed. It then dawned on me that those are only the beginning of the long list of dates you’re not going to participate in. You know when you’re HEAD knows something, but you’re HEART won’t sync up with it? Yea, it’s kinda like that. I know you’re gone. I know death is final. I know this is our new normal. Yet, there are times I tell myself, this is just a test --- he’s going to walk through that door any moment! I’m not a stupid human ---- I think it’s a mind activity I subconsciously use to handle the hurt in bite size chunks. . . .how’s that for strategy?

The kids are having a tough time. ….. especially Caleb. There’s tears multiple times a week. Last night he reminded me about when he and his brother would spend the night at your house. Noah would wake Grama up, and they would go make eggs and sausage. He said, “And I’d go lay in bed with grampa and we’d snuggle until breakfast was ready. I miss that.” It broke my heart --- but I’m so thankful he remembers those times with you. Having kids that are going through grief really adds an additional element that frankly I’m not sure how to handle/answer. I oscillate on letting them just talk through it and not make a big production of it, or should I make them really sit and talk and think through it. I don’t know. I know it will be a permanent marker in their life --- the year their grandpa died --- but I want them to emerge on the other side too!

I’ve felt really guilty too. Because I’m mad --- and I’m really mad at you! I keep thinking why didn’t you do what the doctors said? Exercise more; follow that diet you were supposed to; quit bitching at those of us who told to do those things. In a perfect world, doing all of those things would have saved you. They would have given your four grandkids years upon years of memories. They would have given you and your wife the chance to live out your dream at the lake house. They would’ve, should’ve, could’ve . . . . the truth is, maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything. Maybe your heart would have still been too tired. Maybe the stroke would’ve happened anyway. That answer will never be known.

I think when a heart hurts, it’s natural to look for the alternative path that would have avoided that hurt . . . . I think I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, but I keep coming back to the same ending ---- if everything happens for a reason, then there’s a reason we’re at where we are today. You told me that a long long long time ago when I was on a self destructive path in my 20’s. You were right. If I hadn’t gone through those circumstances, hurt, fear, rebuilding, then I wouldn’t be married to Dennis and have the three kids I have today! And there is NO WHERE else I’d rather be than with them! However, it took many years to look back and realize how the shitty times eventually put me on the path to THIS life! So, I know, this is just another leg in that path --- I just wish I knew where it was going to lead. Maybe if I could see the mountaintop --- the valley wouldn’t be so hard to walk through. I love you. I miss you so!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

June Part 1

I’m going to try this again tonight . . . .I’ve tried to write this about six times and I can’t get through the first paragraph. So, I’ve decided I’m just going to type and type and whatever comes out is what it is!! I think I’ve been so worried about making sure that the emotions I’m feeling or not feeling are right, or that my kids are so screwed up I’m not sure what to do with them, that I don’t just “be” --- or I’m scared what will happen if I do.

Dad, June’s been a crazy month. It’s been a eye opening month. It’s been a tough month. Ok, so I had NO desire to do anything for my birthday. It just hurt….. I didn’t want to pretend! I didn’t want to smile and hear all of the wonderful words of encouragement and pretend they helped. I just wanted to hear your voice and have you here for dinner and have you tell me some story for the 300th time about how colicky of a baby I was. Well, kids are amazing. My boys (all three of them actually) kept asking, and we ended up having a gathering here at home. It was nice… was REALLY nice…. And I smiled and laughed and had a great time. And here’s the kicker … I felt guilty. AND . . . my hubby is amazing. For my gift, he contacted key people in my life and had them write letters to me about our journey and he made me a book ---- I couldn’t stop crying. Do you know HOW MANY people love me? It floored me! For as much as I believe I’m insignificant in this world, this was amazing! It gave me hope! Hope I’ve not had!

Fast forward one week. We needed to get away as my family of five. Now, don’t laugh, but I agreed to go away and “rough it” for four days. Niobrara State Park and, Dad, I had NO idea that it was EXACTLY what I needed. I hate showers w/no pressure, no tv, no phone, bugs, bare minimum cooking, all the things we did so much of --- but I LOVED IT!!!!! (ok, except for the sucky showers)! I found and felt something I didn’t know I’d lost! I laughed, no, REALLY laughed! I loved almost every minute. There was no phone, no tv, no job, no “michelle telling herself to get this done”. I didn’t realize how long it’d been since I ENJOYED my kids! How long it’d been since their laughter was healing medicine……since family time was what filled my core again.

The truth is I didn’t realize how empty I’ve become. I go through the motions. I don’t feel happy, I don’t allow myself to feel sad; I just do what needs to be done to get through today! For someone like me who’s always been an over thinker, over emotional girl, this phase is one I don’t visit often. I can only think of two other times in my life I’ve pushed myself to shut down to the point of “I truly don’t care”. On the other hand, we both know it’s not me to be like that. I don’t WANT to be like that, but I am scared of the hurt, anger, pain, etc if I allow myself to feel.

I found purpose, hope and happiness again. I came home full! Full of life, laughter, love and so much more. Is that ok? There is a part of me that feels like I have to find that perfect time for things to be “ok again” before I smile. I can’t explain it --- it’s just the honest way I process this. I feel like I have to check in somewhere to make sure I’m not seen as being a bad daughter for being happy. I know to the common mind that sounds odd, I am just talking out loud on how things process through my mind. I wonder often if I’m just screwed up. I know you’d look at me and say tell me “I live a good life and loved and did so much, please don’t get stuck in January. Don’t give up, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine --- go, live and take care of those kids.” It’s so much easier said than done….but I’m trying.

I found HAPPY again!!! I didn’t know I was actually missing it…. But I found HAPPY! I felt deep tummy laughter! I found myself laying in bed to go to sleep with a genuine smile on my face! I needed that. My kids needed that. My marriage needed that! And I didn’t know that I did!!!! I came home with a new outlook and it sustained me for about 10 days …. And then it was Father’s Day! BUT …. I need to tuck a babe into bed, AND I’m not sure my heart can handle THAT talk tonight --- so let’s talk about that tomorrow.

I love you!!!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, I’ve been dreading this week --- but as much as one tries to make time stand still or flash forward, it doesn’t. You’re still required to live every single day. Tomorrow’s my birthday…. and you know what that means? Normally, it would mean that about three weeks ago you’d call me and say “Shell, sorry I’m not going to be home for your birthday, I’m going fishing with ______ in Canada, Arkansas, etc.” It was such a ritual that it became our family standing joke. . . . your dad’s not going to be here on your birthday. Well, that’s exactly what’s going to happen this year . . . . . only it’s not a joke . . . . and we won’t “get together when you get home.” And my phone won’t ring sometime tomorrow for me to answer and hear “Happy Birthday Pumpkin Head.”

I’m having a really hard time with that!  A real hard time. Partly because it’s another first event that will have a hole in it, and partly because it will kick off a whole month of REALLY tough days. In the next 30 days we get to experience our first my birthday, Mom’s birthday, father’s day, Curtis’ birthday, College World Series and your and Mom’s anniversary WITHOUT you. My heart literally aches just thinking about how empty one of the busiest months within our family will feel.

My husband is wonderful. . .. he’s put together a bbq with some family and close friends to hopefully create a night of fun, laughter, and memories. Tomorrow I’ll be surrounded by my three babes, maybe take a trip to my favorite winery for a bottle or two of my favorite wine, and just enjoy the moments I have with my family on this holiday weekend. Yes, I know life has to go on. Yes, I know the only productive thing to do is allow myself to feel what I am feeling, work through it and continue forward. But I don’t want to!!! Sometimes it’s harder KNOWING when you how the pain feels to allow yourself to feel it instead of suppressing it. I’ve gotten good at that too ---- but all it’s done is given me extra opportunities to use my migraine medication and invoked a very angry pit inside of me that has crappy effects on my actions, reactions and relationships.

Driving home from work today one of my favorite Diamond Rio songs came on - - - and it brought me to tears ---- because it couldn’t be more true in that even if we were given one more day with you, all it would do is make us wish for one MORE day.

Last night I had a crazy dream
A wish was granted just for me
It could be for anything
I didn't ask for money
Or a mansion in Malibu
I simply wished, for one more day with you

One more day
One more time
One more sunset, maybe I'd be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still, for one more day with you

First thing I'd do, is pray for time to crawl
Then I'd unplug the telephone
And keep the TV off
I'd hold you every second
Say a million I love you's
That's what I'd do, with one more day with you

One more day
One more time
One more sunset, maybe I'd be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still, for one more day with you

So I will put on my smile I will enjoy those that love me being around me and I will move forward ---- because that’s what you’d want me to do and that’s what I am supposed to do….but I will miss you --- and when I blow my candles out my wish will be that somehow, some way I’ll know you’re looking in on me tomorrow. I love you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I miss my Mom!

Well the first week of May has proven to be quite a roller coaster of emotion. My baby, your oldest grandchild, turned nine years old this week. Can you believe it? Remember the day he was born? I missed your retirement luncheon because I happen to be in the hospital giving birth that day. Gee, I’m glad you understood! I looked at the pictures we took of your first introduction to him. Your eyes just beamed with love and pride!

He had a great time with his friends, got the present from mom and dad he’d been requesting, and managed to make the celebration span multiple days. His gift from Grandma was a date. She and he dressed up and enjoyed a grown up meal and evening together. It proved to be a memorable experience for both of them. Through all of this I’ve become keenly aware of “not assuming we have tomorrow.” I know it’s a cliché, but it is VERY true! I don’t, ESPECIALLY when it comes to my children, ever want them to have a hole where a memory SHOULD be, simply because I didn’t slow down enough to make it with them! So . . . . I took his birthday off with him. He happened to be off school, and we spent the WHOLE day together. It was amazing. I even turned my Blackberry off – that’s a first – and honest to god, it was the MOST freeing experience. “Thanks, Mom, for spending today with us,” was a confirmation that I made the right choice.

Then it was snuggle before bed time. He started to cry ---- Dad, it broke my heart! I asked (though I knew the answer) him what was wrong….. the answer, “I miss my Grandpa…why can’t he be here for my birthday. We had the best times when we’d go out to dinner and shop for my present. I miss him, Mom.” Then there was anger. ….. “He wasn’t supposed to die. He just had a cough. He just had two coughs….that’s all.” Then tears and tears and tears … from both of us. How am I supposed to explain this to a nine year old when I don’t understand it myself? You’d had pneumonia before. You’d beaten all the odds dozens of times --- WHY!? Why didn’t it work this time? And that set off my week.

I was "off" all week --- I couldn’t figure it out. Work was crazy, but fine. Home was normal. I was doing what I needed, but I felt tense. Not sad, not lost, just tense. A friend (who can read me like a book) and I were emailing and she said “…..I can sense you’re very angry my friend . . . .” I responded in my reply --- “I’m not mad … just a tough week.” Driving home that night, I realized she was right! That was the tension I’m feeling --- I’m MAD! I’m mad at the reality of the situation! I’m mad that life is SO real to my kids at such a tender age, and I AM THE ONE who has to make some sense out of it to them. I’m mad at the unfairness of it all!! DAMN IT!!!! You worked so hard, fought so hard for that kidney and had FINALLY realized some “non medical time”! YOU and Nanc deserved time. You deserved some realize your dream time!!!! The sit on the boat, fish whenever you want, relax and enjoy the lake! Yea, I’m mad! I’m really mad at the mess of emotions, logistics, and new reality! That’s where I’ve been at all week. I’ll process it – but it’s the raw emotion that’s in me at this time.

And then there was TODAY!!!! You know what, Dad? I miss my mommy!!!!! I miss her so much on this Mother’s Day. I know it’s been 25 years; I know it’s a lifetime ago, but my heart ACHES today for her in a way I’ve not experienced in years.

Now, I’m not talking about my mom (Nancy), the woman you married in 1986, the woman who took an angry, confused, moody teenage girl and molded her into a grown woman, wife, and mother. And, she is still performing that job to this day. I’m talking about my MOMMY! The woman who gave birth to me, taught me the alphabet, shoe tying, bike riding, sewing, cooking, and fought for life like a true champion. The woman who knows ALL those stories about me that I was too young to remember. I’m sure that’s why today hurts so badly. The reality is I’ve lost the only OTHER person that was THERE for those memories and could tell me first hand! Now it’s all heresy, stories passed down, pictures and videos. It’s that link that’s gone. It’s that affirmation you’d tell me each year, “Your mom would be so proud of you and these kids. She really would.” I have an “orphan” feeling today --- and it’s hollow. It’s very very hollow. I keep telling myself you’re not supposed to “not have your parents” until you’re in your 50’s or 60’s ….. NOT 30’s!!!!!
I remember feeling a little like this when Grama Halliday died. I was so regretful.. . . . SHE could tell me about my mom in a way NO ONE else could!!! I should have written it down, recorded it, and asked more questions. But, I always had you. You were still there to fill in the gaps --- and remind me of whom she was. Now that’s gone --- and I feel a huge loss. Today’s a mixed day. I’m BURSTING with pride over the three amazing children I’m raising as their mother, yet, as a daughter, I’m feeling empty and sad.
Feeling like this today has educated that I need to prepare emotionally for next month . . . .Father’s Day. I’d be fine this year if the calendar skipped that day.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Even now you give me insight . . . . .Now I know!

So, mom was cleaning out your dresser and found some “cherished gems” that you had kept in your top drawer. Items included cards, pictures, etc from over the years that obviously meant a lot to you. She divided up what came from who and handed us our stack. Imagine my surprise when I saw what was in my stack! You had kept the letter I wrote to the family that donated your second kidney. In that moment, I had the answer to one of the most important questions that have been lingering in my mind the past three months. . . . . . .Did you know how much I really loved you? How much I respected you? How much “being your daughter” is a privilege and an honor for me? I know I irritated you, and heavens knows, you could be equally as infuriating, but it never affected my love and admiration of you.

I know now that if you BELIEVED that was my heart in the words of that letter --- then you truly did have a glimpse of how much I love you and how your life and leadership was the bonding glue of this family. I love you. I miss you so much this week. I think it’s the rain --- but I was getting ready for bed the other night and I told DJ, “I miss his VOICE. I just want to HEAR his VOICE.” It was a voice that commanded attention or compliance. It was a voice was easily decipherable between pleased and “not so pleased.” It was a voice that could be MORE than reassuring --- it was truly a calming element that everything really IS going to be ok. Man, it’d be a nice voice to hear today!! I love you and miss you so.


September 1, 2008

I’m not really sure how to start this except to say from the bottom of my heart Thank You. I am the daughter of the man that received a kidney from your family’s organ donation in May.

It was an amazing experience. I got a call at 4:00 a.m. on Mother’s Day morning from my parents saying that a perfect match had been found and the process was getting started. I was scared, elated, tired and had a whole realm of emotions. You see I had gotten that phone call a year ago. This is the second kidney my dad has received in a year. The first one was a perfect match, would get him off of dialysis, and be the “light at the end of this 3 year tunnel” we all wanted. Well, surgery went great, the kidney had kicked in and two weeks later --- bad news. There’s a 1 in 1,000 chance that a human body will have an adverse reaction to one of the anti-rejection drugs and actually attack the new organ….. well,welcome to the 1 in 1,000. It’s been a heartbreaking year. A perfect kidney, new technology, and we’re the one that doesn’t follow the mold. He was very sick, ended up back on dialysis, emotionally and mentally drained and ready to give up. Going back on the transplant list was a very depressing day. We never in a million years that lightening would hit twice in the same place. He honestly was doing his dialysis to maintain life, but he wasn’t “plugged in” to life anymore.

Then the call!! God is an amazing God and I don’t know why, but He found it in His grand plan to give my dad not a second but a THIRD chance at life. This organ is transplanted and FULLY assimilated to his body. His creatinines level with this new kidney is that of normal humans with two kidneys of their own. It is absolutely amazing and a miracle.

I’d like to take a minute to introduce you to the man that your family has given another 10-15 years of life. He’s an amazing man, my dad. He’s a blue-collar worker who has worked so hard all of his lives to support his family no matter what the hours were or how many were required. At the age of 27 his wife of five years was diagnosed with breast cancer. They fought with all their might the next 10 years to conquer it, but God had a different plan. He was a single dad to my brother and me and then met his next wife --- a wonderful woman who has never left his side through the last 20 years.

He is an outdoorsman. He loves to hunt and fish and loves having a dog by his side. He’s a handyman that can fix almost anything or teach himself how to. He’s spent his life as a mechanic making sure people have dependable, safe, and affordable transportation to equip them with the tools they need to support their family.

He is a man of wisdom, deep love, true compassion and heart and life dedicated to God and helping and serving others. He is an elder in our church and ensures (with his wife) that if someone is in need of something that that need is met. Now that he is retired, he volunteers with his small group from church to help families with sick children, help low income families ith necessities, and makes sure his wife, kids and our families are always taken care of.

He is my sounding board, and one of my chief irritants ;), my mentor, and one of the few people in my life who offers me unconditional, unfailing love no matter what I’ve said, done or not done. I love this man more than anything. I’m not stupid. I know in this life a child’s parents are supposed to pass before them, but I truly can not fathom what my life will be when that day comes. And now, thanks to you and the sacrifice of your family, I have quite a few more years before I have to face that.

He is a fantastic grandfather. I am the mother to three of his four grandchildren and because of this kidney, he took his seven year old grandson fishing for the first time this summer; he’s taken his five year old grandson to lunch so they can have chicken nuggets and French fries. He has traveled three hours to the home of his son and daughter in law to baby-sit his other grandson for the evening so they can go and enjoy an adult night. And his 22-month-old granddaughter thinks Poppa is the best thing since sliced bread. Thank you for giving us those memories.

We are now 90 days post surgery and he is doing FABULOUS!!!! His creatinines are at 1.0 (the number of a normal person with two functioning kidneys); he has joined a gym and is working out and getting stronger every day. He is taking his son and son in law (my husband) on fishing trip this month.

I’m also very aware that as we are 90 days post transplant and re-acquainting ourselves with life without dialysis or renal disease, your family is facing the first set of holidays without a loved one. We are completely sympathetic and broken hearted to that. As I said earlier, we lost my mom when she was 35 and we all know what it is like to be on the side of losing a dear, irreplaceable loved one. I think that’s what makes our gratitude and sincere empathy so genuine. We know the feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc that you are facing. We’ve been there. I don’t know if, for you, knowing that you’ve saved a family from those emotions for now, is any consolation or helps ease the pain. Please know our hearts, prayers, and thoughts are completely with your family as you deal with this time. We are keenly aware that for our family to rejoice, another family hurts. We do not belittle or ignore that. We care, pray and embrace you for all that you’ve done and all that you are going through.

I cannot say thank you enough. There are no words that will fully relay what my heart is feeling. Your decision, your loss, your selflessness has offered other families a chance at life and time and memories. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I will forever be grateful to you for every single additional moment I and my children have with my dad (their grandpa). I will never forget your sacrifice or forget the anonymous family that made our memories possible.

All our love,

A recipient’s daughter

Monday, April 19, 2010

Normal, not broken!


Oh what a week!!!! You know there’s hours, days, weeks, etc that life is normal. And it’s been that way since Easter. I go about doing the daily tasks needed to make this family run. Work, school, football practice, dinners, homework, laundry, cleaning, buying new cars, etc. I laugh, have fun, get mad, have PMS, sleep, and actually can FEEL again! I can’t say that a day goes by that I don’t think about you or have a moment of loneliness or reflection. However, I am past the point of wondering “how on earth do I wake up in a world that my daddy isn’t in and make life happen without feeling angry, hollow and sad.” And, there’s a part of me that feels guilty that I’m past that.
Oh, I know, time heals, and it’s all part of the grieving process. I recall you telling me in 1986, as we sat in the front seat of the white Oldsmobile, that you had developed feelings for Nancy. You were struggling because there was a large part of you that felt like you were cheating on Mom. I remember a time Nancy and I went out for the day, and we had a great time . . . .. and I kind of liked her. I laid in bed that night crying and asking Mom to forgive me for letting someone else “in” like that. The result was that special dream I had (that I’ve shared with you, but won’t with the world at this time)….. and it made it ok for you to marry her.
That’s how I’ve kind-of felt the last couple weeks. The logical segment of my brain KNOWS it’s HEALTHY and ok to be where I’m at. The heart that is connected to you fears that you’re sad and worrying I’ve “moved on” and “forgotten”. . . . . although we both KNOW that’s not true! And that it IS ok to feel “normal” again! You’d be preaching at me endlessly for the deep retrospect I’ve invested time into. “Michelle, you’ve got kids that need you. I had a good life. I’m at peace. I’m not in pain. Don’t live in the past. Make everyday count.”
I had a really bad day on Thursday. I was in a conversation at work, and a colleague asked me a question. Internally, I thought, “Oh crap, my dad knows that.” I picked up my phone and dialed 616-6408 only to hear “beep beep beep, the number you have dialed is no longer in service.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!? I REALLY just did that!!!! I felt like the biggest idiot in the room! I can NOT believe to this day that I made such dull-headed move. I had to leave my office early for lunch. I took a long drive and cried and talked to you and yelled! It drove me back to feeling like it’s February, ( and not April ) and everything is raw! I’m just glad there wasn’t an audience observing! Wow, quite the laugh that would have been!

So, it’s tax week. I’m the tax lady. I find it ironic the items you can prepare for mentally and emotionally and those you can’t. Oh, I knew Easter would be hard. I’m dreading my birthday, Nancy’s birthday and Father’s Day in the next couple of months --- but I’m mentally preparing for them to be tough! It’s the elements that you don’t know will “catch you” that you can’t prepare for. Might be a song, might be a smell . . . . .but who in heck would have thought it’d be your signature!!! I was finishing your taxes this week, and going through the papers you’d saved throughout the year. There was a copy of a check ---- in your handwriting and signature --- and it affected me in a way I could haven’t predicted. I don’t know why. It broke my heart for a period of time! Maybe it’s because you won’t sign anything again? Maybe because I was organizing the last year of your life? I don’t know --- even to this day ---- but I know that day it bothered me and made me sad.

Mom and I were talking --- we all have different triggers. For her, it’s Sundays, and I understand why! She says she’s sadder and lonelier on Sundays. That makes perfect sense. Your world revolved around your church and others, your love for God and your family. It was the day that you’d force yourself to feel good (on the tough weeks) because you WANTED to go!!! It was the day you talked to both of your kids and you and mom did something special --- church, breakfast, ride on the Harley, visit friends, etc. She misses you most on Sundays. Maybe you could reach down from wherever you are and give her an extra special hug so she can feel you!

Speaking of mom …. It’s also been a very educational week! I had an “ah-ha” moment this week, and it was confirmed on Friday. Mom and I had happy hour together and an amazing talk. You know what? I’m tired of feeling guilty for the way I feel; and, I’m tired of everyone trying to fix me. I’m NOT broken!!! I have spent so much of my life suppressing my feelings and dealing with business items!! How many times have you told me, “You have to deal with it. You can’t just push it away. It’ll show up anyway.” So…. I’m not! I’m a pro at suppression, being “fine”, and moving forward. This time … I’m letting my emotions out a little at a time --- and what do I get? “Oh, Michelle is struggling. Is she going to be ok?” Yes, I’m going to be ok!! I AM OK! I may cry more, be honest and raw, admit things openly! But, others are missing you too and think the same the things but choose to keep it in and that’s fine!!! However, that does NOT make me broken or crazy! It means I’m dealing with it in my way. There are self-help books, but there is not a one size fits all guideline to life without a loved one. And, no, I’ve never dealt with something like this without just pushing it down and dealing with it a decade later. This is all new to me …. but it doesn’t make me broken. …. Novice, maybe? Helpless – NO!

Just because I don’t want to go to church or don’t believe in God anymore --- just makes me a ‘question-er’, it doesn’t make me bad! Just because I’m “fine” one day and ready to talk another ---- just makes me normal! I have to believe many people think and feel this – there are just few that would say it out loud for fear of what others would think. So . .. … I’m trying …. trying to “not worry”, not fake it, not pretend. Lately in my life --- you encouraged me to talk – to REALLY talk – and I never would. You commented many times that that was one of the things that frustrated you most about me. I’m talking now. I hope you can hear me. I’d love for a small sign that would show me you’re proud of my miniscule progress. I love you!!!!! Thanks for loving me and working so hard the last few years to try and get me to “see” things now that eluded you til later in life. I’m trying. I swear I am! X0XOXOXO

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010 ... the first of many "first holidays without"


Well . . . we made it through a first. . . the first big holiday and family gathering without you here. It was odd. An oddness I can’t adequately describe. I kept talking myself through it at different points throughout the week. “It’ll be ok. Enjoy your kids. Enjoy your brother and his family. Cook a nice meal. Keep the conversation light. Have fun - - hunt eggs --- play games and avoid ‘memory lane’.” You know, no matter how hard we tried to do ALL of that --- it was so evident a portion of it was forced.

Nancy actually cried a bit after lunch and Curtis’ voice cracked while he was saying grace. As hard as it was to hear and see, it was also comforting. They are so strong. Minus the last day in the hospital, I haven’t seen Curtis not be “ok”. Nancy is always going and doing and moving - - - - she just has it all under control. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of us should be sitting around curled up in a ball, not going on with life. But, it’s been two months, and every once in a while, I still get those “everything is fine and then it’s not moments”. It might be a smell, a sound, a flashback, my sitting down to write in this journal, and then I cry. Sometimes for 30 seconds, sometimes it lingers throughout the day.

I just keep thinking “How come they are ok and I’m not. What is wrong with me?” If his own wife doesn’t have those moments, then why the heck should I? “ Yesterday showed me that maybe they have those too still. As I thought about it, possibly it’s circular support. We all tell ourselves we have to be strong for the other two (Curtis for Nancy and I, I for Nancy and Curtis and Nancy for the kids), that none of us allow each other to see the moments that we aren’t. OR, maybe it’s because we are each too proud for the others to think we’re not strong enough to handle it --- even though we each are. OR, maybe it’s just I’m the emotional one and I’m looking for a reason to not be alone in my thinking. I don’t know. I just know for a brief time yesterday, I felt connected to them in missing you and knowing you SHOULD HAVE BEEN there celebrating Easter with us.

So, not having you here this year spurned a memory I hadn’t recalled in years! It was one of the things you did each year while I was growing up. You weren’t (until later years) the grab your wife and kids and love and hug on them all the time type person. Oh, we knew you loved us --- it was just portrayed in how you provided for us and raised us to be strong disciplined individuals. However, every Easter, you couldn’t wait to show off your family at church…..and you always made sure the girls in your life had a special “extra.” The Easter Corsage. Whether you hid it in the back of refrigerator, or out in the garage, it showed up every year. I remember knowing Mom was going to get one and just anticipating you bringing it out and her smile. I’d snoop (much like I did and possibly still do at Christmas) to see if I could find it before you brought it out.

I remember vividly the year I found it AND THERE WERE TWO BOXES!!!! It was the first year I got one too!!! I still remember the dress it went with. Mom always sewed me a new dress for Easter each year --- this one was white eyelet sleeveless dress with blue flowers and a blue satin bow….. and it was the year I GOT TO WEAR A CORSAGE to church TOO!!!!! I felt so special and grown up! I’m not really sure when the tradition stopped --- I just know that recalling it this week brought a huge smile and some tears. You loved your family so very much and showed it in such unique and special ways. Thank you. And we love you!

So --- I know I said I wasn’t going to, but I went to church yesterday. I knew in my heart that it meant a lot to Mom to have her whole family there yesterday, and I knew you’d want me there. My kids also asked me to go, and I didn’t want to hurt their memory of Easter Sunday. I would have much rather stayed at home and cooked and gotten the house ready for everyone to come over and eat, talk and play. It took everything in me to not walk out during “Amazing Grace” screaming this is all a huge bunch of crap!! I know, I know that it would break your heart if you ever thought that one of your kids lost their faith over all of this, and I’m not saying I have – I just DON’T KNOW anymore. It was always such a paramount element in life for you. I know you prayed for us, led us, and ran the family in a Godly manner. I know you believed. Well….here’s the deal ….. I’m not so sure I do anymore!

It’s so much more than just being mad at God. I truly don’t know if I believe it anymore. I don’t know that I’m convinced it’s not all been a 36 year time waster I’ve been involved in. I’m not buying into the “it’s all part of the bigger plan” gig --- I’ve seen too many people lose too much after hours and months and years of prayer to believe that God hears them yet still loves them enough to say, “No, I’m going to answer it my way.” It’s going to take a “big benefit in the bigger plan” this time to convince me. It really is. I’m sorry if it’s selfish and rude, but it’s me.

This event has truly rocked me to the core of what I thought I knew my whole life - - - I’m not sure WHAT I believe about a higher being, afterlife, and spiritual intervention in the physical world anymore. I don’t even know where to start to find the answer. “Just believe” or “hold onto to your faith” isn’t cutting it for me!!! There’s a part of me that wants to believe we’ve not all been fooled -- for a multitude of reasons --- I just don’t have that “assurance” inside of me anymore…’s gone.

I can hear your voice and lecturing and all of your examples as to why I’m wrong --- it’s just where I’m at --- and it’s hard! At a time my kids are becoming MORE involved in church and asking for Bibles, communion, etc --- I’m wondering if I’ve led them down the wrong path. I’ll arrive at a direction at some point --- I’m just confused right now about what’s true and not.

We missed you yesterday. We miss you today. We love you! But damn it I could really use one of your hugs right now --- it’d go a long way to fixing my heart right now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where are YOU? We NEED you!!!


Well . . . . when it rains it pours! WHY AREN’T YOU HERE to tell us it’s going to be ok! You always seem to have your wits about you in uncertain times . I don’t know if it was a learned behavior, your degree from the “school of hard knocks” , or just your amazing fatherly way of not knowing the “right” answer but showing me cool and calm under fire.

I needed you this week albeit over something stupid, but it showed me once again the hole that exists right now . . . . WHY WEREN’T YOU HERE!!! ???? This sucks and I don’t know how long this will take to get used to this ---- all I know is I’m NOT there now! I know that you’ve been a part of each of my days, and that I always knew you were “there” when I needed to run through my pro/con list to make a decision…..I just didn’t realize how much of a subconscious security blanket you were when I needed a sounding board.

Oh, it’s not that I don’t trust my husband and our decisions. Isn’t it amazing that at our age, YOU had just lost your wife and were facing raising two kids all on your own. What gives me the right to worry about money, cars, and stability …. and feel like it’s traumatic, and you were truly making life after death choices and decisions. WOW!!

I don't feel very strong lately.  Oh, I know I'll make it and this is just a low day --- it's simply a real feeling right now.  Maybe you didn’t raise as strong of a woman as you thought you did. I’m humbled at what I miss you for -- things that happen to people every day -- . . . .. when, at my age, you were trying to decide how you were going to go on without the love of your life. It’s weeks like this that I wonder --- did you run to Grandpa Humphrey crying (although hiding it from us) and saying, “Dad, what do I do? I’m scared, I have two kids, I’m in debt up to my eyeballs, and if it wasn’t for them, I’d cash it all in.” Or did you sit in our home and think, “It’s tough, I’ve got it handled because THIS is what grown ups do!” I always saw you as the later! I never have pictured you as scared and NOT knowing the right answer.

I should be thankful and grateful that I’m not forced to face some of the events you are ---- instead I feel like a wimp. I don’t feel that I could ever have weathered the storms you and Mom did and emerged victorious. Oh no, not that I’m wishing for that --- I think I’m feeling completely unworthy of being called “strong” compared to what you endured . . . all over a flipping transmission.

I’m driving home on St. Patrick’s Day. At a stop light, I let off the brake and press on the gas, only to have the van rev as if it was in neutral. A second attempt and the van JUMPS into gear and barely misses rear ending the car in front of me. I KNEW from growing up with a mechanic exactly what was going on ---- the transmission was shot (at least in first gear). I limped it to Bill, the mechanic, told him the story and left it.

Damn it – WHERE ARE YOU!?!?!? I wanna call and tell you that my car’s broke cuz that’s what I do and you talk me through it!!!! I wanted that “Shell, it’s just a car, this is what you need to do……” talk. Next day, DJ talks to Bill, DJ then talks to me about our options, I take notes and keep thinking “Dad will know what’s the best avenue.” I’m done talking to DJ, I go to call you and BAM!!!! I realize I can’t. I know this sounds stupid --- but never in this process did it dawn on me that I can’t bounce this off of you!!! As I sat at my desk at work and reality hit --- I sunk! WHY CAN’T YOU BE HERE!?!?!?!? DAMN IT!!! I am secure in the fact that you’ll clarify and talk me through so much …. my questions and reassure me “it’s not earth shattering.” I’m a prisoner to habit and stability and you know that about me and talk me through it in a way no one else can. 

It's amazing how something as simple as a car problem can bring to light all of the times I automatically relied on you!!   How many times I KNEW you'd be on the other end of the phone.  How, even though my husband, my brother, my BFF, logic, etc can walk me through an event, YOU have ALWAYS had a special tone and way of making it "be ok"..... NO ONE can replace that ... NO ONE!!  Yea, I'm a daddy's girl ....a grown up woman, wife and mom --- but there's a bond no one can replace. 

And then tonight happened….. Nancy needs you!!! Dad, she needs you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much… Where the hell are you!?!?!?! She got a call tonight that her very best friend (the woman who’s been there every day since you died, the woman who she talks to every morning and shows her unfiltered thoughts and feelings to) was found dead today. She’s crushed! SHE DOESN”T NEED ANOTHER LOSS!!! In a matter of 55 days she’s lost BOTH of her best friends -- the other one being you. She needs YOU! She needs a hug and support and to be able to cry without feeling the need to be strong. I’m here, and I have her with us so she’s not alone – but it’s not the same. She needs you!!!! Why aren’t you here????? She’s hurting and I don’t know her in the same way you and her friend did --- all I can do is be there and hug her and hope to do and say the right thing. I’m so heartbroken for her tonight … I can’t stop crying and thinking what if it was me! What if I’d lost DJ and my BFF ----- how do you truly wake up the next day!!?? I promise you . . . . like I did before ---- we’ll be there for her. We love her so much…. but what she really wants is YOU!!!!!!! Come back, PLEASE!!! I’m begging you!!   I'm a horribly poor inadequate substitute.   You are her rock and know how to calm and reassure her . . . . . SHE NEEDS YOU TONIGHT!!!!!! 

Do you KNOW how much we all need you for so many things???  So much has happened for all of us the past two weeks --- and we are all missing you horribly!! Why did you have to go? You were our glue!!! You were our “if Dad says it, it’s gonna be ok.” You were our guy that could hold us in your arms and the world seemed ok again ----- or at least it was going to be.

I’m mad tonight at God for taking you and a little mad at you for leaving . . . .I know you didn’t choose too, but damn it we need you more than God does – if He even exists.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary to me??


Eleven years ago today you walked me down the aisle, stood with me in the front of the church while “Butterfly Kisses” played, kissed me and shook DJ’s hand and told him to take care of me. So, on my 11th anniversary, I spent the day packing up and cleaning out the house of your dreams that you never had the chance to enjoy. The house on the lake. The everyday fishing. The place that you couldn’t wait for all of us to see; for your grandkids to come spend weeks at a time; the small town; the “community”; the waking up, pouring a cup of coffee, stepping out to your second story deck and overlooking a large flowing lake that was calling for you to fish, boat, relax and enjoy it.

I’m sorry. I didn’t “get it.” When you and mom told me last September you were moving, my heart sank. I was so sad and so mad. I couldn’t understand why you’d leave your grandkids, your church you love, your good friends, your kids, your “I can be there in a few minutes” or “we’re just going to pop over” status. I hurt both for me and the fact that all these years I wouldn’t be minutes away if you needed something --- help, my husband’s tool, a visit to the hospital, lunch, dinner, etc. I was soooooooo very scared that my worst fear would happen, and I wouldn’t get there in time to say goodbye. I hurt so bad for my kids. It broke my heart trying to explain to them WHY grandma and grandpa wouldn’t be there to babysit, do Saturday morning breakfasts, come over for dinner with a quick phone call, stop by just because, go fishing at the dam site, and just be around for the day to day. I thought of all the things you and they and I’d miss out on.

And then we drove to Stockton, Missouri yesterday. As we got off the interstate and onto the two lane road that spanned 40 miles to our final destination….. I started to get it. It was wide open and the space between the houses became more and more distant. Then we went from nicely paved roads to twisty, turning road ….. and I thought (as I’m the one who has horrible car sickness) yep, that’s my dad, make sure it’s deep in the middle of nowhere and only those that can stomach the trip will find it. As we got further from “town”, I said to my husband, “How the hell did they find this place. I’m not sure it’s a mark on the map.” But in that same instant I thought …. I could see years upon years of coming here. The Nevada exit with the 180 degree curve would signal to the kids “we’re almost to grandma and grandpas.” The two lane highway would be an ok trip except if there’s ice or snow --- then DANG that last half hour is going SUCK! The right turn at the four way stop in Stockton’s town square would yell, “FIVE MORE MINUTES” and the final right turn and up and over the road with the view of the lake and the house on the left would celebrate “WE’RE HERE!!!” I can see you and mom, knowing we’re on our way, standing on the deck, looking up the road waiting to see our car turn down the street. I can picture the kids jumping out of the car, running around the huge yard and begging you to take them fishing even before the suitcases were carried inside.

Then I spent a day INSIDE your house and the life you saw, and I GET IT!! I GET IT!!! It was beautiful. I had a plethora of “what could have been” moments. I could actually SEE them! Your chair is in the living room ---- I could SEE you sitting there with the kids running around, mom and I fussing in the kitchen, and waiting for Curtis, Adrian, and Keaton to show up. I could SEE the kids running in the yard while the adults sat on the deck with a fire and cocktails watching the activity and listening to the squeals and laughter.
I had a hard time sleeping…..I laid in bed and cried, begging you for forgiveness for being so mad and cold to you and mom when you bought this place. I cried for what you didn’t get to realize. You worked SO hard while we were growing up --- working at work and in the garage to support us, missing sleep, and making sure your family was supported. You fought SO hard the last four years for your health. The new kidney seemed to give you a new lease on life. YOU DESERVED IT! Damn it! You deserved a BREAK! You deserved to just ENJOY and BE, not have to fight and worry!!!! How can life be so flipping cruel sometimes?!?!?!?

So, today, everything is packed up and ready to go! I’ve kept it together and even had laughter and GOOD memories while being here …… and mom asks “you, ok?” and suddenly, I’m NOT. You know in the movies when an individual before they pass out or die has their life flash before them --- I saw that ….. I saw years and years of trips, family moments, laughter, pictures, and more than I can write happen in front of me. And it was more than I could hold in. I GET IT!!!! The ONLY part that sucked about this is that it was 5 ½ hours away --- but all the sudden it seemed travel-able. I’m sorry!!! I completely get it. I see your face beaming. “Come see my lake. Go put your suit on, let’s jump on the boat. Noah, Caleb, Keaton, grab your poles and jump in the truck – we’re going to the dam for a bit before grandma finishes dinner.”

It was hard to say goodbye to something I just said hello to. And then I saw mom walk through the house and say goodbye and bury her head in Curtis and sob for a moment. It was HER dream too. I can only imagine she had all my visions plus thousands more. Somehow, though, she had made the decision that it was ok to say goodbye…..ok, maybe not ok, but what she decided this was the decision for her. For the amount I hurt ---- I can only imagine hers is, at minimum, 100 times greater.

The drive home was hollow…… the conversations with your grandsons as to why we won’t ever be going back there is beyond tough. They ADORED the place. They miss you so very very much, and, as a mommy, that breaks my heart. I’m trying my best --- but I’m not sure I’m doing it right.

I love you. I’m so very sorry for not “getting it” when I should have. I’d give ANYTHING for you to be able to live there --- I’d even help you pack, knowing it’d hurt to have you leave Omaha. ….. but that hurt could NOT compare to the hurt that exists in my heart having you NOT here at all.

Eleven years ago today you walked me down the aisle as I began the married, wife, mom phase of my life. I’d even bring my favorite bottle of wine to share if I was sitting on your deck in Stockton with my husband while saying “Cheers” with you and mom and remembering the last decade. Next year this won’t hurt so much, right?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WOW!! This is a scarey primary hope is it will at some point help someone else.

So . . . . . I've spent a good deal of time the last four years providing updates on the status of my dad as he went through a massive heart attack, surgery, dialysis, two kidney transplants, a stroke and ultimately dying plus the journey with my second mom and her battle and victory with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.   I never believed anyone read those updates for anything more than keeping up what was going on with their family member, friend, colleague, etc.     Humbly, I've received an enormous amount of compliments, thank-yous, and encouragement to "not quit writing".   I began the "CaringBridge" almost out of selfish reasons --- Curtis, Nancy and I were too tired to relay the message 50 times a day --- this was a great one stop shop for everyone to check in as it fit their schedule.  I never in all my writing envisioned that it had an effect and actually touched people.

I've fought this yearning for a couple of weeks now -- but circumstances are what they are.  Since my dad died --- THERE I SAID IT .... he DIED!.... try saying that to one of the "top 5's in your life"  .... you can say it, but until you have to live it, you can not understand the enormity of those words!     Since he died on January 28th, my mind, heart, pscyhe is overflowing and I need an outlet.   So . . . . . I journal.   I mentioned it to a few people and they said "SHARE IT.  We love how you make words a reality.... share it".     I pondered .... how can I share what is written on those pages?  It's raw, it's rude, it's sad, it's mad..... it's anything but the "victorious, uplifting message I've always believed in."  

Then I had a dream.  In my dream, I saw a young man reading a blog called "Life Without  A Loved One" and he read and he wept.   He then posted a comment (and this was not MY blog in the dream) that for the first time he didn't feel alone.   I'm not a huge believer in God right now, but I saw this as a vision.  I bounced it off a few people that I trust for honesty, criticism, etc and they all said the same thing .... DO IT AND DON'T HOLD BACK!    

There are so many things in life that we all think but allow peer, social, communal or political pressure to oblige us to hold it in.   That won't happen here.  There will be good days and bad.  There will be yelling, screaming, tears, laughter, confidential, controversial topics....... it's all about what goes on with all the firsts.   The first without a cornerstone member of your life . .. . .. . . this isn't (as before) Nancy, Curtis and my update to all of you --- this is MINE --- I'm not speaking for them as we EACH have our own journey through grief.   

If you want to walk with me, I invite you to check back often.  I will update as the mood, situation dictates.   This WILL be different from CaringBridge.  I won't always have the best attitude or say that we're strong and we'll make it.  If one or 100 individuals read this --- it will be what it is .... a journey through 2010 without my dad. 

If you're still reading, then bless you.    Check back often.  Don't preach at me or tell me "it'll be ok" or "just give it time"...... yea, I'm not up for that right now.    

First true installment wil be tomorrow.  Thank you and I love each of you for your trust and your ability to take what life throws at us without sugar coating it.