Sunday, January 26, 2014

Life After Death?

I think it will come as no surprise to anyone who used to read my blog that I was obviously devastated by the loss of my mother in March of last year. I spent the first 9 months on automatic pilot, getting done what had to be done and ignoring pretty much everything else that could wait or that I used to love doing. My mom would have hated that I did that, but I couldn't seem to get myself motivated.

Then things got really tough when the holidays hit. We were in our own house for the first time in 25 years for Christmas. Even though my dad came up, all of us were missing my mother. I fell into a black hole after Christmas. I know the first year is supposed to be the worst. I don't know how I got through the first months and the first anniversary is coming up on March 12th. The black hole was so deep that I started sleeping more and more until I was in bed at "night" for 12-14 hours and then napping three hours in the afternoon. I couldn't wait to go to bed and sleep, so I didn't have to think about my mom not being there.

I also lost my best friend to breast cancer five months before my mom died of sarcoma. Talk about bad karma. My phone just went silent.

I was mad at a God I wasn't sure existed. Really, really mad.

There is no sense to losing someone you love to cancer. No. Sense. I was with my mother until the end and that kind of suffering is something no one should ever have to go through or watch. It was the worst thing I had ever seen.

My black hole got so bad that Justin got worried and shuttled me off to the psychiatrist, who promptly assessed the situation and got my meds adjusted so I could function. And happily, it worked. It didn't take away the sadness, but it allowed me to get up and face the day, every day. It allowed me to go to stitching camp last weekend, something I never thought I was going to be able to handle. And I had fun.

This morning, I was trolling my facebook feed, because that's so much easier than actually doing anything and I realized something. That God that I've been so mad at? Maybe he has actually been there all along. Maybe he doesn't control who gets cancer. Maybe that's the result of our toxic environment that we've created. But, it hit me like a ton of bricks that some people have come into my life over the last couple of years that have made me realize that I still have things to look forward to. I still have people to rely on. Maybe God puts these people in your path to help cushion the blow of his taking away the people who are so important to you.

Everyone has a life span. We're all living on borrowed time. And we all choose not to think about that because death is scary. I saw somewhere that your life is really that little dash between the date of your birth and the date of your death. All of your growing, loving, living is represented by that tiny little dash. Is that sad?

While I was going through hell losing Malea and then my mom, maybe God was quietly working in the background to help me through it. I had met new women through my sewing group who cared about me. I don't even know how I found the courage with my agoraphobia to join that group, but I did and they were there.

My son met a wonderful girl on the internet. As a parent, of course I always worry about what my kids are doing on the internet, but in this case, he met the loveliest girlfriend I could ever ask to be in his life. He was withdrawn and depressed before he met her. Now, she makes him so happy, I feel that I no longer have to worry so much about him. And bonus. She actually likes me and wants to talk to me. It's almost like having a daughter. They're young and who knows how it will work out, but for right now, I am happy just to think that she might stay in my son's life and in mine, by extension.

While I was in South Carolina when my mom was so sick, another young woman came into my life in the form of my youngest son's assistant. Joey's DD waiver had finally come through and we were looking for someone to come and work with him now that we could pay for it. We found someone who has an autistic brother and knows a lot about how to deal with autism. Sometimes Joey has to fight me for her attention because I love her so much. Did God put her in my path? Another daughter type figure to help me get through the darkest time of my life?

Some of the women who I have met in the last year or two are older. I have become friends with the woman who started our EGA chapter and we went to camp together last year and again this year. She's about my mom's age and actually reminds me of her. Did God put her in my path to help ease the blow?

Before Malea and my mom passed away, I would have told you I didn't believe in God. We aren't church people, even though our neighbors have been trying to convert us for as long as we've lived here. But can it be coincidence that all of these wonderful people have come into my life at a time when I needed them so desperately?

I'm pretty sure my mom didn't believe in an afterlife. But I've still been desperately trying to contact the Long Island Medium, Teresa Caputo, to get a reading. Because I do believe there is something that comes next. (After going to Gettysburg enough times, you start to become a believer.) I don't think it's angels and harps and golden gates, but I do think people stick around to make sure their loved ones are okay.

One last thing. If you believe in coincidences, this is a pretty big one. Every time I go out and go into a store to buy something, my total always comes to an amount that ends in $.99. So I always get a penny back with my change. Pennies from heaven? I'd like to think so. It happens a lot.

I still don't know what I believe. And I'm still not going to go to church to try to find an answer, because I don't think the answer lies within the four walls of a building. But I feel as if there must be a Supreme Being, God or not, something that helps you deal with the tragedies that we all face.

Yes, parts of life are horrible. Maybe that's why we are supposed to live, love, laugh, and get as much out of our time here as possible to make the good at least even out the bad. I think of all of the joy my mother and I had and I know that her cancer was something that just happened. And I miss her every minute of every day.

But I am also thankful for the people that have been put in front of me that are helping me cope. We really do have so much to be thankful and grateful for.


   

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bookends

Me and "Boy"
When I was two or three, my mother used to buy me Eskimo Pies. For those of you who aren't heading into retirement, an Eskimo Pie was chocolate covered ice cream on a stick. If you saved up enough of the box tops, you could get an Eskimo Pie doll, which my grandmother bought for me. My mother had no idea how much that doll was going to mean to me or she probably wouldn't have let me have it.

Apparently, I carried the doll around in my left arm, right thumb firmly corked in my mouth. It's a wonder I didn't need braces. We went through multiple "Boy" dolls and my mother would cover the original with cloth as it wore out, hoping to extend Boy's life. When the thing was falling apart, Mom would save up more Eskimo Pie box tops and order me a new one, which I would break in.

After my dad came back from Vietnam and got a job, I would get up early with my mom while she made him breakfast (I'm informed my breakfast was Cap'n Crunch) and then she and I would crawl back into her bed, so that she could get a little more sleep. I'm sure Boy came with me, as my thumb didn't know what to do without that stuffed doll in the other hand. Although I don't remember this story, I'm sure that this was one of the times that I felt it was me and my mom against the world.

I felt safe. Loved. Protected.

I loved my dad, but I worshiped my mom.

She got me through the year he was in Vietnam. She helped me remember him because he left when I was a year old. My dad came and went during the years - working long hours and traveling - but Mom was always there.

45 years later, my mom lay in their king sized bed in South Carolina, riddled with cancer, but determined not to be an invalid or a burden on anyone. True to her personality, she would be independent as long as possible. But I know she could see that the end was coming.

"Get in," she offered.

"Really?"

She pulled the covers aside for me and I slid under the covers and as close to her as I dared, not wanting to hurt her. Cancer had taken so much from her and would continue to cause unimaginable pain. I didn't want to make it worse.

I was overwhelmed with joy that she wanted me to snuggle with her. To be her baby one last time.

Boy was a security blanket of the past, but the closeness of a mother and daughter at the other end of her life was the same as if I were two years old.

I was looking for as many of these moments that I could store away in my head for my "after." We were all making memories and I wanted more good memories than bad. I wanted memories of my mom as she truly was; not as she was after cancer had taken her leg and her ability to move or take care of herself.

Dad came in and said, "You're having a slumber party." We smiled.

Lying there in bed with my mom, we didn't really talk. Mostly she let me get close to her physically, which was something I needed, something that showed me how much she loved me.

At the end, like most people do, she had realized that family was the most important thing. That you can have something you love to do, but that is not the same as having a family who cares and supports you and is willing to take care of you in your last and most vulnerable days - when you are leaving this world.

"I wish it was me."

"No, honey, you have to take care of Justin and the boys."

"I don't want you to go."

"I'm not afraid of dying."

"I know, but I'm going to miss you so much. I don't know how to live without you."

And then someone rang the doorbell and came in and shattered that beautiful moment with my mom. She meant so much to others, but I was selfish and I didn't want to share her, except with my dad and my brother.

She gave so much to others.

But, In that short moment, she was focused only on me. And that bookend moment will be the one I treasure and take out to hold carefully from time to time, to remember how much she loved me and how much she meant to me.

There is no bond like that between a mother and child.

Boy had left me at some point and I learned how not to miss him. Now Mom was leaving and I was 48 years old. How many years would it take for me to learn how to live without my mother?

I will never learn how to live without my mother. I feel adrift...lost at sea. I'm told it gets better with time but you never really get over it. I know that's true. You just learn to keep breathing until it's not quite so painful.

It may get old for others to hear, but I miss my mom so much it's hard to breathe.


   

Friday, May 24, 2013

Grief Is Strange

There was one thing I did not expect to feel when my mom died. I figured I would be a sobbing puddle on the floor, that I wouldn't be able to stop crying, that I'd be a basket case.

Grief is so weird.

I've done a little research, as I was concerned that I seem to be blocking out all of the important grieving processes and what I found out is that one of the most common symptoms of intense grief is exhaustion.

I've never slept so much in my life. I'm getting pretty good sleep during the night, but as soon as Joey is off to school, I'm right back in bed. This morning, I couldn't get up until 11:15! I simply could not wake up. And even after all of that sleep (because I had a pretty good night last night), I needed another 5 hours.

This exhaustion thing is really eating into my days. By the time I'm up and moving around, it's already lunch time and I'm still going to bed around 10:00 every night, so that's just not much time to get a lot of things accomplished.

Which works out okay, since I don't seem to have the energy once I am up to do anything except sit in the recliner and sew. The agoraphobia is back in spades and now that Joey has an aide, I have been able to really limit the amount of time I am out of the house. I think I'm afraid that it's going to hit me while I'm out and I'm going to break down in public. The grief counselor told me that is called a "grief burst." And yeah, I've had them, usually in the car, usually triggered by a song or a stray thought. Like I need to call my mom to tell her something and then realize they don't have cell phone service in heaven.

I've been spending a lot of time wondering about the heaven thing, as I have never really been a believer. Of course, I pray in my head all the time, even though I don't know if anyone or anything is hearing my prayers. I might just be talking to myself. I also talk to my mom in my head, but that seems more normal to me.

My mom was not a religious person (hence my "meh" attitude towards it), so I wonder if she went to heaven because doesn't Christianity say if you haven't "accepted" Christ as your savior, you can't get into heaven? But there was never a more decent, loving, kind, accepting, wonderful person as my mom and if she can't get into heaven because she hadn't been "saved," then I'm going to be really mad at God when I get there. Assuming he's there.

I've gotten really interested in maybe going to a medium to see if I can connect with Mom (and maybe Malea). I know most people don't believe in that type of thing, but if I could find someone who was reputable. Any recommendations are welcome.

I've been thinking more and more about the new tattoo that I've been wanting for the last 3 years, since Juliana died. First it was just a butterfly, but now I want a butterfly with a cancer ribbon and I don't know what color to make the ribbon because there is no color for sarcoma and my mom didn't like the pink ribbon because they throw so much money at breast cancer research and so little to the rare type of cancer that she had. Only 10,000 people in the United States get myxofibrosarcoma in one year. Oncologists actually have bets as to whether or when they will get their first patient with the type of cancer that my mom had. So again, all suggestions are welcome.

If the exhaustion is a symptom and eventually goes away as the mind prepares to adjust to the loss of the person you were so close to, I'm scared about that because I don't know how to handle a pain that large. It was inconceivable to me two and a half years ago that my mother could die from cancer. It was inconceivable that Malea could die from breast cancer because of the progress that has been made in treating that disease.

I'm trying to get back into the writing/blogging thing, but there are days (lots of days) when I just can't think of anything to say. Losing my mom made me lose my words. And I suspect that if all I write about is grief, it will get pretty boring to read it.

So, I'm once again at a crossroads, wondering whether this blog should continue or if I should give it up as something I just can't handle. Still not sure on the answer to that.

I think it's time for a nap...


   

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's 3:00 a.m., I Must Be Lonely...


She says baby
It's 3 am I must be lonely
When she says baby
Well I can't help but be scared of it all sometimes
Says the rain's gonna wash away I believe it

Matchbox 20 - 3AM

Wow, it's been awhile since I did a middle of the night post. The lyrics to this song just popped into my head (and if I haven't written another post with these lyrics, I might be very surprised with my history of insomnia.
Everyone's asleep. Even the animals are all asleep. I can't even hear noise from Ben's room, although that might be because I threatened him when he woke me up the other morning at 4:30 laughing and shouting at someone on his interactive computer game. Are they still playing World of Warcraft, or is there a new and better game to be addicted to?

This is my new normal. I am so sleepy during the day that I do nothing but sleep. I sleep 7-8 hours until I have to get up to feed the cats and get Joey off to school. Then I go back to bed for 2-3 hours. I'm up just enough for lunch and then it's another nap. If I'm having a particularly bad day, I also fall asleep while Justin is making dinner. I mean literally sitting in my recliner, sewing in hand, television on, and the next thing I know, Justin is asking me if I'm ready to eat.

Then bedtime comes and it starts all over again. And it doesn't seem to matter whether or not I slept a lot or a little the day before. I'm going to be sleepy again all day, even though I will sleep (mostly) at night.

I think all of this loss is becoming more real. Because my mom lived in South Carolina, I've been somehow trying to convince myself that I could really just go visit anytime. And yet, in the back of my mind, I'm all Dude! You can go visit Dad, but Mom won't be there. And then it hits me in the back of the skull like a rock that Mom's gone somewhere that gets no cell phone service.

God, I miss her so much.

After she died, I took every VHS tape I had over to Costco and had them converted to three DVDs. They gave me an extra copy, which I sent to my brother. They were all videos of my kids as they were growing up and my parents took most of them. Actually, I think my dad took most of them while Justin and I were away on the weekends, meaning they were babysitting my kids. Meaning Mom was going to be on a lot of them? I don't know, because I watched only part of the first one and had to turn it off. Ben was about 7-8 months old and there was my mom with him on her lap playing patty cake. He used to beg for that game.

Costco, being really cool, had given me an extra set and I sent the other 3 to my brother out in California. I'm hoping he can watch them for me and tell me how much I need to prepare myself before I try again. There are little pictures on the front, where each new section begins, and I see Mom in a lot of the first video, but not so much in the other two. Meaning nothing, because it's only a slice of one spot on the video.

There have been a lot of days that I've reached for my phone to either text or call her and then had to either set it down or text or call someone else. Usually I call my dad, sometimes my brother. The only other people besides Justin who kind of understand what this is doing to me, although sometimes I think women grieve differently than men do. They seem to get back to their lives fairly quickly, even with a large loss, and the grief will hit them from time to time. Women (it seems to me) tend to think about it constantly, cry considerably, and try to find ways not to forget.

When Sprint lost the only voice mail message I had saved from my mom, I thought I was going to lose it on the customer service representative. Apparently, you can back up emails and texts, but you can't back up voice mails. Why not? Why? Why? Why? That was the last message I had from my mother, who I will never talk to on this earth again and you lost it??? And it was their fault - something in the network Justin says. I will so be getting another provider when my contract is up. Which won't give me back my voice mail, but will give me some satisfaction that they aren't getting my money anymore after they lost the most important message I could have had in the last year.

Mother's Day was the first holiday without her and it was agony. I had no one to send flowers to. I picked out a card, wrote a poem, and sent it down to Dad to tape up on Mom's columbarium crypt (where her ashes are kept at the cemetery).

Sometimes, I hear the voice of that teacher guy from South Park who keeps saying, "Drugs are bad" in that weird voice of his. Except mine says, "Cancer is bad."

Dude, you have no idea.

Miss you, Mom


   

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I'm Writing a Post About....Oh Look! A Chicken!

Hey blog readers. Long time no contact. As you all know, my life has been in upheaval for the last year. First my best friend died and then my mom passed away.

Of course, I'm still grieving a lot, but I wanted to dip my toes back into the blogging waters. So, without further ado, I give you this:


Growing up, it was kind of a family joke that my dad was forgetful. (Sorry, Dad!) He would walk out without things like his bank deposit, the list of items he was supposed to get at the store, his wallet. He found his lack of memory to be frustrating to say the least. My mom, ever the peacekeeper, would usually have whatever it was he forgot waiting for him if she found it before he came home. Remember, this was before cell phones, so it wasn't quite so easy to work around these little memory slippages.

As Dad has gotten older and my mom got sick, we became a little more concerned that it was possible that he might have symptoms of early Alzheimer's Disease. But, much to my surprise, when I talked to my mom about my concerns last year, she said they had been to the doctor and Dad actually has ADD, also known as Attention Deficit Disorder. Whew, not Alzheimer's Disease. Very relieved, to say the least.

When I found out about my dad's diagnosis, I realized that I have a lot of the same symptoms as he does. I go into a room for something and forget what I was looking for. I leave and realize I've left my phone at home. I have a grocery list, but come home without half the things on it.

One time, I left my car running in a parking lot for an hour while I was at the therapist's office. I didn't turn the car off! I just got out and went into the building. I only began to worry when I realized I couldn't find my keys. When I got out to the parking lot, there my car was, still running! Amazing that no one jumped in and took it.

It's kind of hard to tease out my ADD symptoms from my bipolar impulsivity, but safe to say, I will agree that I have it in spades. I will have a sudden thought and immediately drop whatever I am doing to go do whatever the other thought prompted. I will empty the clean clothes into the basket and then leave it in the middle of the floor because when I walked through the kitchen, I remember I was supposed to be unloading the dishwasher or there was something on the stove that needed attention. I drive Justin crazy when we go somewhere, because my attention is always on something that is not directly in front of me, causing me to either block his path or bump into other people or trip and injure myself.

Some of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), as listed on .addreferral.com are

Distractibility; Disorganization; Forgetfulness; Procrastination; Chronic lateness; Chronic boredom; Anxiety; Depression; Low self-esteem; Mood swing; Employment problems; Restlessness; Substance abuse or addictions; Relationship problems.

Of course, a lot of those are also symptoms of bipolar disorder, but it is very possible to have comorbid mental disorders.

The best thing to do if you think you might have ADD or ADHD is to get a workup by a professional in your area. If you do have it, it can be managed with medication and/or therapy. Even adults can benefit from the combination of medication and therapy, both to get your brain slowed down enough to focus and to learn ways to cope with the disorder.

The website, www.addreferral.com, is a good place to start if you think you want to investigate further. I went onto the site and put in my city and state and found five providers in my city. Having worked in the psychology field in this area, I recognized all five names as being respected providers.

For myself, I basically deal with my ADD by trying to focus and be more aware of doing one this at a time and being present in the moment. And slowing down as much as I can. And years and years of therapy.

Now where did I put my car keys?

(This post sponsored by www.addreferral.com. However, all opinions expressed are my own.)