Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I am not my brother's keeper.

I have a brother - D. He is my big brother, by 2 1/2 years. We got along well as children - if my memory is correct - of course we bickered over the usual things (and I'm sure I did more than my fair share of initiating the bickering as that was my temperment back then.) But he was my big brother - I looked up to him - I wanted to be just like him, and do whatever it was he was doing.

Along about the time D hit puberty - he changed - and his life sort of became one of those 'afterschool special stories'. You know the kind, teenage boy thinks he's had enough of his horrible life, runs away with his girlfriend, gets said girlfriend pregnant (both at the age of 15), has child with girlfriend, drops out of school, makes his way through life.

Through all of the 'challenges' I tried to be close to him. I remember my brother being a kind and gentle soul as a kid. I know that kind and gentle person is in there .... somewhere ....

Fast forward a decade or two - I live my life as the 'good' child - graduate high school, college, go on to live in Europe for a while, move to S. Carolina, get married, get masters degree, have first child (after struggling with infertility) - and my brother is absent for most all of it. Sure, we could chalk it up to the distance - but that's just geography - and in today's technology-savvy world - a poor excuse.

I try to reach out to D - to include him in my life - but he's distant - wrapped up in his own world. I have to believe that it's not intentional - his distance - but it's hard when the big brother I grew up with seems to have more time for his business or his girlfriend, or his girlfriend's family than his own.

So then our dad gets sick with cancer - really sick. From the time of intial diagnosis of stage four colon cancer/optic melanoma to the time of his death was a mere nine months. I used that time to try to be closer to our dad. I called him - and he called me quite often - following doctor visits and treatments. I listened to him cry - I heard his fears - I shared his sorrow.

D checked out. I think it was his self-preservation method - he didn't know how to deal with our dad dying. No one ever talked about the possibilty that dad may die - not even dad. The big C was always discussed as something he'd beat, or something he was fighting hard against, with everything he had. We never entertained the notion that he might not make it. I don't begrudge my brother's behavior, I mean, we all deal with things in different ways, right? How I may choose to handle serious illness (by hearing all the facts, and participating fully) may not be how another handles it.

I get that, I really do. What I don't get is the complete abandonment. Up until my dad's death, he always asked me 'have you heard from your brother?' I tried in vain to 'cover' for D - came up with excuses - and hoped that our dad didn't know - but it was a terrible position to be in. I hated lying to dad - I hated D not calling him - I hated knowing the discrepancy between the two.

After dad died, D rushed into the scene like the prodigal son. He rushed to my dad's wife's side - full of compassion, trying to help with funeral arrangements, calling people - whatever. I was pushed aside. I was even told, that after my husband and 10 month old A had paid out the a$$ for airline tickets to travel from S. Carolina to be with dad as he died, we couldn't stay at dad's house - because having a baby in the house was too much for my dad's wife. Yeah - you read that right - so we holed up in a crappy hotel near to the hospital in Tacoma, while D stayed with dad's wife in their home.

My husband D told me that I needed to be the better person - to just let my brother try to make up for lost time in whatever way he needed to. And I did. I sat silently by as he portrayed himself to be this great son - while I was discounted as the daughter who moved far away and wasn't a part of my dad's life at all. It hurt. It hurt like hell. It was the farthest thing from the truth. But I kept my mouth shut. I knew then, and I know now what the truth was. It shouldn't matter what other people (like my dad's friends) thought. But that screaming little sister deep inside wanted desperately to show her sassy self - and loudly voice the truth.

I think I still have teeth marks on my tongue from that August in 2005.

So you might think that following the tragedy that was my father's death would be a wake-up call of sorts for my big brother - that he might want/try/need to be closer to his family, or me specifically as his little sister. I erroneously thought that we would walk the path of grief together, cling to one another as we moved forward in our lives without our father.

Nope. More deafening silence. Not just for me - but for our mom and step dad as well (all the while my brother keeps in close contact with my dad's widow.) Go figure.

So then tragedy strikes again for us two adult children, when my mom's brain hemorrhages. Again, we go through the same routine. D checks out. He can't handle it. I know it's horrific to see our mom like she is - but she's still our mom. She's still the woman who wanted us, who prayed for us, who carried us in her womb, who brought us to life. She is still the woman who loved us desperately. She's still there - just not the same as she was before April 10, 2007. She still loves us - I'm sure of it - and still needs us.

And, again, I'm asked from family and friends across the continent who call to check in on us, to see how mom is doing "have you heard from your brother?"

No. And I'm not my brother's keeper.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pizza, Princesses, and Posies... and a fever for added fun

The makings of a wonderful weekend - pizza in the park, Disney princesses, and lots and lots of flowers....

Friday was an unusually warm day here in the South - and so pretty outside that I hated the thought of picking up the kids and being cooped up at home. Both of our children attend daycare/preschool at the Children's Center at USC. We're very happy there - for the most part - and the teachers there are absolutely wonderful. They love our kids like their own - and that is the only way I can leave them every day. I admit - there are days (despite the enormous amount of love I have for them) that I'm ready to pull my hair out - but it doesn't lessen the fact that I always leave the Center in tears to head to work - and count down the minutes until 4:00 when I can pick them up.

After a long dark winter, when it was too cold and dark and nasty outside to spend any time outdoors in the evenings - it was a welcome treat to have a day where we could actually spend time together as a family after work. Of course we were pushing it with J - who is very scheduled and ready to eat AT 6:00 pm and ready to head to bed by 7:30 - but we pushed it anyway....and hoped the ticking time-bomb that is little J didn't go off.

D called in pizza and met us at the local park for a picnic - the kids had a ball. Both enjoyed their pizza immensely, and sliding the slides and swinging the swings was a treat! They did better than expected (usually A pitches an ever-loving fit when it's time to go home) but this day, she got into the car - no questions asked.

Unfortunately - around 12:30 am, J wakes us up with crying - not atypical as he's teething - but to our dismay - a fever of 103.2. Fevers always scare me - when they're limp and red faced and fussy - and the only thing we can do is administer fever-reducing medicines. A trip to the emergency hours at the pediatrician the following morning did nothing to enlighten the situation - "just a virus - it'll have to work itself out" says the doc. Great. He did okay though - he responded well to the meds - and is back to himself today. Just scary - and then the guilt sets in - he gets all these viruses from being in daycare - someday he'll have a super-star immune system... I hope!

But the other big event of the weekend was the Disney Princess on Ice show - that A and I, along with two of her buddies from school, EG and M and their mommies attended. Oh yes, we were 'those moms' - we let our girls dress up in full princess regalia - and we spoiled them rotten when we arrived - with huge boxes of popcorn, super-sized princess cups of horrid tasting lemonade - princess coloring books, programs, and an Ariel doll for an added treat. (Come on - we only go to things like this once in a blue moon...) We managed to get rink-side seats (for a ridiculous price) but allowed the girls to see the action up close and personal. A did her usual shrinking violet routine - where she sort of melted into my lap when the lights dimmed - and didn't perk up until it was over. She just sat there and took it all in - wide eyed and amazed - and take it in she surely did - she's been 'ice skating' around the house since we got home (read - doing some funky side-step maneuver and twirling around...and sometimes running into the walls...) * sigh * I fear she'll never be a graceful child...

We followed up the weekends activities with a trip to the annual flower show held at the local farmers market. We got a great deal (not really - but we have to tell ourselves that) on some potted geraniums and ferns to hang on our screened porch - and finally purchased flowers to fill our deck rail boxes. There ends my green thumb - as D will attest - I'm good at planting - not so good at watering and keeping up - many a plant has fallen to the wayside due to my lack of gardening abilities....

And thus ends another good weekend.... the only thing that would have perfected it would have been to share it with my mom - mom always took me to all sorts of artsy things - the ballet, plays, musicals, the symphony. I still get goosebumps every time an auditorium (or coliseum in Saturday's case) falls dark in anticipation of the show. I still want to reach for my mom's hand - we always held hands when the curtain rose - every show I remember going to - we always held hands.
But on Saturday morning, it was my turn to be the mom, and I reached over, took A's little hand in mine, and quietly shed a tear.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Exhausting the time to grieve???

Okay, so this may not be the appropriate sequence to write this post on the heels of the previous one, but this has been rattling around in my head for so long that I need to get it out.

For those of you who have had some major grief happen in your life - have you ever felt that your friends (who you believed whole heartedly were indeed your friend in every meaning of the word) finally got sick of you and wanted you to just be 'over it?' That somehow you'd exhausted your allotted time to grieve - and it was time to just pick up and move on?

I realize it is a natural process...grieving, that is... for all involved. At first there is that panic, that feeling of losing control, followed closely by 'oh $hit - now what am I supposed to do?' There is that surreal feeling of 'did I really just go through that?' (i.e. - did I really just watch my dad take his last breath and see his heart literally stop beating? or - am I really looking at my mom - this person lying before me in a hospital bed - hooked up to 14 different machines - and looking like something from a horror flick with the open and non-bandaged scar from having her head cut open and her brain fiddled around with? or - am I really witnessing a life - this precious baby we prayed for and loved - leaving my body? Surely these things aren't real....)

Friends seem to flock to your side in droves, bringing everything from casseroles to flowers, phone calls and emails... and then time goes on, life happens, and people move on.

Naturally that should happen - I mean, I wouldn't want to wallow forever - and I wouldn't want or expect my friends to let me do that. But just when you're starting to pick yourself off, shake off the dust, rattle yourself around - another blow happens, and you're right back where you started.

But your friends don't get that. They expect you to have that smile on your face, be 'good ole reliable Kristen' and go about your life as it was pre-disaster.

And the thing is - its always there. It never really goes away.

I recently (on the anniversary of my moms surgery) emailed out to a group of friends that on that day, I needed support. Now one thing you must know about me is that I'm not one to ever ask for help. Ever. I don't admit when I'm sad or scared or hurting - rather I do an awesome job of stuffing it deep inside for those times when I'm alone and can completely dissolve. I'd rather do that than admit I'm hurting. I'd rather have a fake smile on my face than try to explain why I'm sad. So to email out and ask for any help, was beyond unusual. I think in the email I said something along the lines of 'I don't admit when I'm troubled or weak - but today I need your prayers.' Wanna know how many replies I received - from people who are supposed to be my true 'friends?' Very few. Very.

In fact, the people I expected to be sympathetic and understanding and type a quick note of 'I'm thinking of you today' were silent. Deafeningly silent.

Not to say there weren't others who offered prayers, support, a simple and sincere 'I'm so very sorry," and those meant the world to me.

But there were still those people, the people I thought I could depend on - who apparently have no idea what it is like to walk any sort of path of grief. And you know what? I hope they never do.

There are some days that I feel like I'm in some sort of no-mans-land - because none of my friends have lost a parent. None of my friends have lost a baby. In their defense I think they just don't know what to say - and perhaps in their minds its better not to say anything at all - and just ignore it. But doing so makes it seem like the grief isn't true - that I'm crazy or insane or both for being sad about the fact that my dad is dead and my mom (while alive) is incapacitated.

So maybe I've exhausted my time for grieving - I just wish I could somehow explain that fact to my heart.

Does any of this make sense, or am I truly crazy?

Being Thankful

I've only recently started 'blogging' but have been reading blogs for years. I've followed people's lives, laughed with them, cried with them, mourned with them - all from backstage - never 'coming out' to share with them how happy I was for their joyous news nor how my heart ached for them for their sad and sometimes devastating news.

Recently, one of the blogs I read followed on the heels of another blog - if you can follow that chain - and the post was sort of a wake-up call for me. Msfitzita talks about how she is trying to focus on the good things in her life despite the enormous amount of crap she's had to endure. (and I do mean ENORMOUS)

It started me thinking about how I need to employ that philosophy in my own life.

Yes, I've had a lot of junk come down the pipeline - more than anyone could have ever anticipated - but I do have a lot to be thankful for.

My father did get to see his granddaughter, albeit one single solitary time.

My grandmother did get to see her great-granddaughter, (despite living on opposite ends of the country). I was fortunate enough to be able to tell her in person when we were first expecting that if we had a little girl, we were going to name her after her own daughter, my mom, and blessed to be able to introduce them to eachother when A was 5 months old.

My mother got to know her granddaughter (and namesake) for 2 1/2 years, and in that time, during all of the visits across the country to see each other, established a bond that little A knows is there.

My mother got to hold her newborn grandson moments after his birth.

I have love and support from my husband.

I have two beautiful loving children.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some pictures from the weekend...

Little Miss A....

Big Boy J

Caught mid-sentence (an easy thing to do as A is a non-stop chatterbox...)

A and J - NOT wanting to sit still and take pictures together - do ya think it had anything to do with the fact that the sun was right in their eyes? Note to self - try not to blind children when trying to capture 'the moment'....

Farmer J

Farmer J and Country A

We had a good weekend. For the first time in many weekends (so many I can't recall) we had nothing on the agenda other than A's regularly scheduled ballet/tap/gymnastics class on Saturday morning. We (or rather I) spent the entire morning cleaning our house from top to bottom. D did his part by keep the kiddies entertained while I scrubbed and scrubbed. It was very theraputic - maybe I'm just weird that way, but it felt so good to disinfect everything with clorox bleach (following the recent bout of stomach virus that made its way through our family.)

Saturday afternoon we got caught up on some much needed shopping, including dropping a big chunk of change on a new ditigal camera! Yay us! I'm so excited - the digital camera we've been using up until now was circa 2000 - meaning it was way out of date - took horrible pictures - and had a very long delay (meaning we got a lot of turned faces and funny expressions in the kids.) I have no idea how to use it - but will hopefully figure it out as time goes on. I downloaded some pictures from Sunday afternoon - and will try to post them tonight.

Sunday we decided to skip church in lieu of a relaxing morning at home before our busy afternoon. We planned to visit D's aunt and uncle in Batesburg to see their 'farm' and pick asparagus. Of course, the best laid plans never seem to pan out ... and instead of sleeping in as we so desperately hoped they would - both J and A were up before dawn. The hope then became that early naps would occur - in retrospect we should have bundled them up and taken them to Trinity - but you never just know with kids under three.

So, we finally made it out to Batesburg in the afternoon (following A's nap protest) - and the kids had a wonderful time. J walked up and down the rows in the garden - when he reached the end - we'd just pick him up - turn him around - and send him on his merry way. He tripped and fell and meandered around like a drunk sailor in the soft tilled soils - but did so with a grin from ear to ear. Farmer J.

A helped her uncle pick asparagus - and then ran around the entire property demanding to pick every flower she saw. Eventually she shed her favorite shoes (crocs, of course) to walk around in the dirt just like J. Country A.

It was lovely.

And for the first time in a long time, I was able to look at the blue sky, and the shining sun, and my beautiful children, and feel peace.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Too Much Too Soon???

So why the title of this blog? A brief history of me ...

2001 - husband (D) and I kick off the year with our wedding on January 6
2003 - January - husband and I decide its time to start a family - and begin trying to have a child
- struggle for thirteen unsuccessful cycles to get pregnant, including the wonderful HSG for me, SA for D, news that we're 'sub-fertile' and a referral to an RE, scheduled IUI ....
and then....
2004 - January - 12 pregnancy tests later (just to make sure I didn't buy every defective test in South Carolina) we find out the blessed news that we are finally expecting our 'miracle' baby (I take the test one day prior to our consultation with the RE for IUI scheduling)
- endure a pretty rough pregnancy - on limited bed-rest for half of it for fear of pulmonary embolism and pitting edema...
and then...
2004 - September 21 - our beautiful daughter A is born!
2004 - the week before Thanksgiving (while I'm still trying to figure out this whole mommy thing) - my daddy is diagnosed with stage four cancer - two kinds - colon cancer and optic melanoma
2005 - February - we travel to Seattle with baby A to meet her grandpa - the first, last, and only time he ever got to see her
2005 - August 12 - my daddy passes away. We were right by his side - I was fortunate to be with him to kiss him and tell him how much I loved him. Unfortunately, he was comatose and intubated at the time - but I have to believe he heard me before he slipped away forever. I can't even begin to describe what that was/is like. I miss my daddy so much - it feels like there is a hole in my heart that will never be able to heal.
2006 - March - we find out we are expecting again
- two weeks after the test turned pink - I start bleeding.
- one week later - I cried my heart out as I miscarried the precious life that was once within me.
2006 - May - we find out we are expecting again.
- endure another rough pregnancy - complete with pretty significant bleeding the entire pregnancy. I held my breath the entire time - waiting for the bottom to fall out.
2006 - August - my dear and beloved grandmother passes away. We travel to San Francisco to pay our respects - and the entire experience is surreal. I was VERY close to my grandmother - to lose her, even at the ripe old age of 90 was very difficult.
2007 - February - our sweet baby boy J is born!
2007 - March - almost to the day of our son's six-week birthday - my mom starts complaining of headaches. Horrible headaches. After a drawn out process including two hospitals - the diagnosis is finally made that the vertebral artery leading to her brain has dissected and bled. She is helicoptered to the trauma 4 hospital in Seattle. Our family packs up and drives to Atlanta on Easter Sunday for an emergency trip out the following morning. Tuesday, April 10 - mom goes into surgery.

She's in a coma for months.

She slowly recovers - and is home now - with very limited functions and requiring full time care. How I articulate just what it was like to see my mom post-surgery - to see her struggle to recover - and to see her now - a shadow of her former self - is beyond my capabilities.

As I wrote previously, my mom is my inspiration, my best friend, the one person who has been there for every aspect of my life. I suppose, in part, due to that mysterious bond between mother and daughter.

It's sad, because I feel like I've endured rather than enjoyed the last year of my life - which as luck would have it - was the first year of my son's. All of the 'firsts' of his life (first steps, first tooth, first words, first smiles) were all tainted with the horror that my mom was missing it all. It wasn't enough that my dad had to miss it - to never get the opportunity to meet his grandson - but now my mom is missing it too.


Suffice to say, too much has happened - too soon for me to process. Thus, the title - and inevitably the need for this blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Remembering mommy...

My mother is my best friend. She knows every story, every sorrow, every joy, every wound. She not only gave me the gift of life - but she taught me how to live.

I miss you so much mommy ... and am so thankful you were able to meet your first grandson J and spend two weeks with him and his big sister A (and D and I of course) before your brain injury occurred.

I can only hope I'll in some small way be as great of a mommy as you are to me.

I love you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tomorrow is the day....

Tomorrow is April 10. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the day my mom (best friend) went under massive surgery to replace the vertebral artery in her brain that bled. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the last time I heard my mother's voice. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the last time I held her hand and definatively knew she knew who I was.

Lord, please help me get through tomorrow.....

Smoked Oysters and Face Plants

This is a bit of an old story - but I have to record it here so that I don't forget it - not that I would, but you know... So about a month ago, on one of those warm early spring afternoons, D (husband) and I decide to take the kiddies to the local park. A (3 1/2) and J (almost 1 at the time) and I headed out - and generally speaking had a good time. A decided to show her ever independent self and how she is a superstar - sliding down the 'big' slide all by herself. Now, the smaller of the 'big' slides had a gentle slope - so when she decided to go face first - we laughed and encouraged her - and she completed her slide by slowing to the bottom with a grin from ear to ear. Fast forward to her scrambling up the bigger of the 'big' slides - and before we could stop her - down she comes - face first - at lightening speed - to a complete face plant right in the dirt. Oy!

My first inclination was to laugh (what kind of a mom am I, right?) because it was too hysterical to see her with dirt in her teeth - but then the second thought was to make sure she was okay - which we were fairly certain was the case because she had to pause to check our reaction before letting the waterworks loose.

Following the slide incident, we packed up and made a quick stop at the local Piggly Wiggly for a few items for dinner. Typically A rides in the buggy that I push, but today we had J with us as well - and he took the coveted seat up front. A started to protest, until we redirected her to the mini-buggies, the child sized shopping carts with the big flag proclaiming 'future piggly wiggly shopper.' She had a ball going up and down the aisles with daddy holding on to the flag so she didn't run into the big displays and knock over 113 boxes of cereal.

We finish up our shopping, return home, daddy takes the kids to the backyard while I put away groceries. As I'm unpacking - I come across a small container of Smoked Oysters. Yuck. When D came in I made some comment about weird cravings and eluded to said smoked shellfish. He looked at me like I was crazy (crazier than normal that is.) When I showed him the box, he said 'I didn't buy that.' We turn to look at A who is innocently looking around - and ask her ' did you put the smoked oysters in your buggy?' A fearful nod of her head yes told us all we needed to know.

We tried to convince her that the Easter Bunny was going to bring her nothing but a basket of smoked oysters.... oh the fun of three year olds....

9 April 2007 - Just beginning to blog...

So I've finally decided to join the age of technology and start an official 'blog.' Why? I don't know - as a place to purge my scattered thoughts, to record the goingsons of a thirtysomething mom with two kids, to remember the precious moments my children provide me, as well as the not-so-precious moments so that someday when 'that day' comes (the day my husband assures me is coming when I'll miss the trying days of two little ones) I'll have something to look back on and recall... Also, as a way to update family and friends on our lives - those of you who are far away, as well as those who are close...

So here we go .... enjoy the ride!