Here goes Nothing

I have nine things on my To Do list for this weekend, and, certainly, an endless number of things that belong on that list, but somehow didn’t make it there.  And, yet.  And, yet I have accomplished exactly one of those things listed.  The day is young and all that, but I don’t actually see those statistics improving.  It used to be that if I made a list for myself I checked those tasks off with the efficiency of a seagull swooping in to steal potato chips at the beach.  I am a professional list-maker, and those printed lines energize me to finish all of the things.  But, lately, I’m completely unmotivated, and I carry lists over from day to day watching them get longer and longer.  This week in particular has been challenging–filled with doctor’s appointments, work, kid schedule juggling, sibling schedule juggling, husband schedule juggling, phone calls, lacrosse games, too much take-out eating, more doctor’s appointments, and worry.

The worry is pre-mature.  I know this to be true, but I can’t help it; I have become my mother.

I’m experiencing a couple of health issues.  Most accurately, to be quite honest, I’ve been experiencing a health issue for well over a year, but it has not been well defined, and that lack of definition coupled with fear have prevented me from talking to anyone besides my husband about it, and now, it appears, there is a second concern.

Depending on who you talk to, I have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes.  My A1C is apparently confusing (My keyboard is dripping with sarcasm as I type that since the AMA is very clear about this, and it’s a number on a scale of numbers, how confusing can it be?) and the many different interpretations of my number have slowed this diagnosis, but I am prepared to call a spade a spade.  I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this diagnosis even though I have “known” in my heart for a while that it is the only explanation for my symptoms.

It started with a tingling sensation in my feet well over a year ago, possible a year and a half since it took a while to address it medically.  You know how it can be sometimes, you feel something, but you don’t necessarily attribute it to anything until it grows.  My feet, actually just my left foot in the beginning, began to tingle at night.  Then both feet began to go numb, then burn, then, occasionally stab with pain.  When I first brought this to my doctor she sent me to a podiatrist who examined my feet and declared me perfectly fine. My A1C at that point was “a little high, but not in diabetic range.”

But, the foot pain continued to increase.  Diabetic Neuropathy was discussed, but, I was told, that doesn’t typically show up until you have had diabetes for a quite some time.  And, my A1C was not in line with the amount of pain I was experiencing.  I was sent to a neurologist who did some testing and put me on gabapentin for the pain and suggested that I go back to my PCP to be put on Metformin.  My PCP did prescribe the Metformin, but it made me horribly ill, so she took me off of it, but did not replace it with anything.

For the last year and a half, my fabulous husband has rubbed my feet every single night. The gabapentin helps, but it does not completely relieve the pain, so he rubs my feet, which also helps, but does not completely relieve the pain.  I take the pills, he rubs my feet, and I race to bed to try and get to sleep before the pain gets too bad.  I wake up around two and take more pills.  Sometimes I cry.  Sometime we to to the ER, but they don’t offer anything except Percocet which doesn’t help the actual pain, but does put me to sleep.

My appointment with the neurologist on Monday turned into three appointments this week.

  • Monday was an appointment for a gabapentin refill.  I knew as we were talking and he kept doing more testing: reflexes (strange reflexes I didn’t even know were reflexes), walking in a straight line, etc, that the appointment had turned and was no longer routine.  He said my reflexes were brisk, and he noticed my big toe was behaving in an “alarming” manner.  He asked if I had any injuries to my neck.  As the discussion continued we realized I also have weakness in my legs, and occasional difficulty pulling words out of my brain.
  • Wednesday I had an MRI of my neck.  I have not heard results yet, but the neurologist had stated that if that turned out okay he wants to do another MRI of my brain.  I’m no fool; I know what he is thinking,
  • Friday I saw my PCP, who still believes my A1C indicates control, but, since the neurologist wants my sugar to be addressed immediately and aggressively, and since I am unable to tolerate metformin, she put me on victoza.

It’s all a little overwhelming.  And, I know I have to talk to my siblings about it, but I need all of the information first.  I just want to document it from here on out because the history is so long that I don’t want to forget any more.

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Grief is weird

I’m learning how to navigate the world parentless.  It’s not something I would choose, or that anyone would choose, obviously, but here I am in a position that only a little over a year ago seemed impossible to imagine.

And, I’m stuck in a bizarro world of loss.

When my mother passed away there was immeasurable grief, and I miss her daily, often times moment by moment, or second by second.  They claim time heals, but that’s crap; time is simply time, and this missing her very second remains true today, a little more than a year after her death.  I’m grieving her as best I can, the only way I know how, and though it is not picture perfect, and possibly not the way someone else may approach it, it is working for me.  Or, it was.  Grief is painful and it sucks, but I was allowing it to come, and I felt okay about that.

Conversely, since my father has passed away, I feel as though I haven’t properly grieved him individually.  I haven’t been able to grieve the loss of my father the way I truly need to, the way he deserves, because, in that second that he passed, that split second in which time shattered and the entire world was rocked to it’s preverbal core, I went from grieving my mother to grieving my parents, and the personal grief for my father was skipped over.

I can’t grieve my father properly because then, at least it feels like to me, I am forgetting to grieve my mother.  And, if I am grieving my mother it feels like I am not being fair to my father.  It’s weird.  I know this.  But, it’s also the current quick sand of emotion I am sinking in, and, mostly, I just miss my parents.

Time (edited because I was interrupted the first go around)

I haven’t been here since September which is difficult to believe.   Things have happened:

  • My father passed away on January 22, 2018.  Almost a year to the day after my mother passed away on January 29, 2017.  I have a lot to say about this; thoughts to organize, but I am not prepared to do that tonight.  I will though, and soon, because I owe it to him.
  • Hayden is now eighteen, and almost finished with her first year of college.  That needs to be repeated.  Hayden is almost FINISHED with her first year of college.  How?  How this has happened I can’t comprehend.  But, it is true.  And, she makes us proud every single day.
  • This, of course, means that Anna, at fifteen, is almost finished with her first year of high school.  This, too, is mind-boggling.  And, also of course, she, too, makes us so proud to be her parents.
  • Anna’s braces came off.
  • Boys entered the picture.
  • We had a lovely Thanksgiving at the lake.
  • We had a bittersweet Christmas in Dannemora.
  • Steve and I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert again.
  • There have been snow storms, both big and small, where we have been home from work and school, and we have attempted to enjoy every minute together.
  • Through it all, these two have kept me sane.

 

 

 

 

 

Home Sweet Dorm

The week leading up to dropping Hayden off at school was emotional at best and chaotic every moment.  We were frantically attempting to finish all of the necessary shopping while all the while gearing up for the fact that our baby girl was moving away to school.  I won’t lie; I spent chunks of time alone, in tears dreading the passing days.

It wasn’t so much that she was going away to college that was emotional for me.  I was, and still am, totally excited for this new chapter in her life.  I know she is ready to move on from high school and towards her chosen career path.  We are all ready for her to do this, to become her own person, to reach out for her own dreams, and to work hard toward her own goals.  In all honesty, I can’t wait to watch her unfold.  It’s just that she won’t be sleeping under our same roof every night.  Texting her goodnight will never be the same as hugging her goodnight.

And, it got here so quickly.

Move in day is a bit of a blur.

Side note: we decided the night before that we had to take two cars.  Not because we couldn’t fit everything into the van because we could.  We simply couldn’t fit everything and the people into the van.  There is a distinction.  We may have brought a wee bit too much stuff—except that we didn’t because she needs everything we brought.

We arrived early and began to unload her things from the van into a pile on the grass in front of her dorm.  Her pile was a little larger than other piles, but I think that was, at least in part, due to the way we had packed.  For example, much of her bedding was still in the shopping bags whereas, I noticed, others had crammed pillows and such into bins.  Also, others had not brought twenty five decorative pillows.

Hayden and Anna went and retrieved her room key and we began to move some of the lighter things up to her third floor (no elevator) room.  Before long, a group of move-in volunteers arrived at our pile and quickly got everything to her room.  We were alone in her room with the total chaos of her stuff for about fifteen minutes before her adorable roommate arrived with her family and her total chaos of stuff.

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Unpacking ensued.

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Decorating happened.

 

And, before we knew it, she was all set up.

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And, happy.

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Hayden had a mandatory freshman welcome gathering to attend, and we didn’t want to prolong the goodbyes, so we hugged and took a few more photos and then headed downstairs together.

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Anna and I both, for different reasons, wanted to stay forever.

I was determined not to cry, not to have Hayden see me crying as we were leaving and have her feel badly about it, so I did not cry.  In front of her.

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Now it is Labor Day weekend and Hayden is home and everything is right in the world again.

But, seriously, she is doing great.  And, the fact that she is doing so well makes it just a little tiny bit easier for us to have her away.  We miss her terribly, but we talk to her everyday, and she is advocating for herself and adulating like a boss, and we are so proud.

Our baby girl is on her way.

Impossible to write

My mother, I think, would have loved her memorial weekend.  Everyone gathered at the lake on Friday: my dad, all my siblings and their families, my aunt and uncle and cousins, and my mother’s cousins.  We visited and hugged one another and ate spaghetti and told stories of remembrance and got caught under the tent in the front yard during a pouring rain thunder and lightening storm…and we missed her terribly as we prepped for her funeral the following morning.

The kids, even the littlest ones, helped to make the photo memory board, and arranged the fresh flowers and tied the twine bows for the centerpieces.  They loved her so much and they worked so diligently to make it special for her.

On Saturday morning there was a HUGE thunderstorm and we had a difficult time setting up the tent, but we managed.

Because, at my mother’s request, we had not had a wake, we had a reception line at the church prior to the funeral, and we were astounded at the number of people who came.  My sister is knows the deacon personally and he told her that that number of people never come to funerals.  He was so impressed by the attendance.  After the funeral, we had large gathering at the lake.  I kept looking around at all the people thinking how much my mom would have loved it; she was always happy to have people come and visit at the lake.  IMG_4935

We sent everyone away with Forget-Me-Not seeds that the littles wrote the message on.

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After everyone had gone, and it was dark, my siblings and my family gathered on the dock and sent a couple of lanterns up to our Mom.

And, I know she loved them.

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Mom’s Eulogy  July 8, 2017

My husband reminded me last night that my mother was a pretty open book, so some of what I am about to share with you you may already know.  Also, I think Father stole some of my notes.

My mother was born in Syracuse.  She was raised in Baldwinsville, on State Fair Boulevard, until the fifth grade when she and her family moved to South Otselic to live with aging grandparents.  She loved that first house though, so much so that she spoke of it regularly throughout her life, and although she moved at a relatively young age even her grandchildren know she lived on State Fair Boulevard once upon a time.  

It was in that house she began to develop her feisty personality: once she hit a neighbor boy over the head with her golf club because he sat on her ball and wouldn’t move off of it.  Another time she chased away some older, bigger boys who were picking on her and her sister as they walked home from the store.  She may have been little, my mother, but she was mighty even as a child.

In high school she was a cheerleader and a member of the color guard.  

Like most teens, she enjoyed spending time with her friends, and she told us stories about swimming at the gorge and hanging out, or doing chores at her friend’s family farms.  Because her family lived in town, those farms were particularly appealing to her, and, at one, she was even given her very own calf who she named SqueeDunk and fed with a baby bottle.  

She was very close to her cousins and loved having them come to spend time with her family or going to their homes, in their cities, to spend time with them.  Those times with cousins were some of her most fond childhood memories.

After high school, my mother left her little town for the big city of Plattsburgh, to attend college at Plattsburgh State, where she intended to study elementary education.  She quickly made a friend from Chateaugay, and went home with her one weekend.  That weekend she met my father.  

As the story goes, when they were ready to become engaged, it was agreed that my father would come to South Ot to take my mother engagement ring shopping in Syracuse.  Unbeknownst to my dad, however, my mother and grandmother went shopping the weekend prior to him coming “just to scope out styles” and my mother, of course, picked out a ring.  The jeweler put the ring she choose aside, and then totally forgot to act nonchalant when my mother, who had told my father she had no idea what she wanted, and father arrived in his store the following Saturday.  

My father purchased the ring anyway.

51 and a half years later, my parents continued to share the crossword puzzle every single morning.  She would do the “down” clues, and he would do “across”.   Or vice versa.  I’m not sure, and it didn’t really matter.  They were both in it together for the ups and downs and sidewaysness of it all.

My mother loved reading, and she read voraciously, but as much as she read, she was also horrible with book titles and never remembered until she was partway through a new book whether or not she’d already read it. This difficulty with titles also made it challenging for her to recommend books to friends or family, but it never stopped her from trying.  

She was funny.  My Anna says she was the funniest person on earth.  She told wonderful stories, had a tremendous sense of humor, and she was able to laugh at herself as she shared her experiences.

She enjoyed traveling to the homes of her children for visits.  When she came to CT it was understood three things were required:  chocolate ice cream, Pepsi, and a willingness to drive her to Target every day she was there.  Sometimes more than once a day.  There were bonus points if the ice-cream truck showed up while she was visiting; she couldn’t get her money out fast enough when she heard that music coming down the street.

She loved Elvis Presley, JFK, lilacs, and the color blue.  She put butter on practically everything she ate, and she favored shrimp scampi and lobster tails.  She loved photos of her family and she took a million of them; always telling us to “wait for the green” when her camera was slower than she prefered as she attempted to take the photo.  

She attended as many of her grandchildren’s sporting events as she possibly could even though she couldn’t begin to explain the rules of lacrosse or soccer or baseball or softball.  But, she was there.  And she always had candy in her pocket at the end.

My mother made the best chocolate chip cookies.

She couldn’t parallel park, but she could drive a stick, and she was proud of that.  

She was always the first one to “like” our facebook posts.

My mother was a terrific card player.  And, by terrific card player, I mean to say she cheated at cards.  And, she taught all of us how to play, so you might not want to play cards with us.

She was a night owl, and often bought helpful gadgets off QVC at two o’clock in the morning.  Most of the time, by the time they arrived in the mail, she’d forget just what they were helpful for, but this didn’t stop her from gifting them to us.  All of the men in the family looked forward to the “tool of the year” for Christmas, and more often than not, these tools actually did come in handy at some point throughout the year.

My mother’s favorite place on this earth was the camp on Chateaugay Lake, and she loved every minute she spent there.  One of her favorite days of the year was Dock Day–the day the docks went into the water symbolizing the beginning of the season, and the promise of another great year of fun and family.  

She enjoyed watching the birds at her feeders (although she wasn’t a huge fan of the red squirrels), and she loved listening to the loons on the lake, stalking them in the boat, and watching their little loon families grow.

She was happiest on boat rides, or sitting on the deck, drinking Aunt Lindy’s slush, watching and listening to her grandchildren swim and play in the water.  She loved sitting around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories–she was a champion s’mores assembler–and she would sit for hours staring at the flames and listening to the laughter, never wanting to go inside until the first bat of the night was seen flying above our heads–then she was the first one inside.  

She looked forward to the camp t-shirts the kids made every year with that year’s particular theme whether it be Camp Monsoon Rainforest or Got Camp?

But mostly, she loved US.  Her family.  She loved her siblings.  She loved her cousins.  She loved her nieces and nephews and her brothers and sisters in law.  

She was a loving and devoted wife, a doting and supportive mother, and an engaged and adoring grandmother.  

She went by many names.  We called her Mom, Nanny Pitbull, Nancy Lee, and PeeWee, but Grammy was her favorite title.  She truly adored those seven young people sitting right over there:  Nicholas, Hayden Elizabeth, Anna, Ainsley, Drew, Colton and Avery Kate.  To say she felt the moon and stars rose and fell on them would be a gross understatement.  They were her world.

My mother was the most passionate person I know; she felt everything intensely, she cried with great sadness and she laughed with great joy, and she held steadfastly to her beliefs.  She did nothing halfway, but, rather, poured her entire heart into everything she did, and everyone she loved.

In the days and weeks immediately following my mother’s passing, our family received many condolences; they came in several forms: as cards, emails, facebook messages, visits, and phone calls.  And, in reading and re-reading the messages I received personally, I quickly noticed a pattern begin to emerge.  In nearly every single message: you all told me that you had lost your best friend.  

At first, I was puzzled by these repetitive messages.  They were heartwarming for certain, but how, I wondered, could all of you, each and almost every one of you, refer to my mother as your best friend?  It was a bit surprising to realize that you all saw her the way her family saw her.  

My mother was always there for the people who were important to her.  She was always ready to swoop in and catch you when you were falling, she was always the first one to congratulate your accomplishments, she was always there with a hug in sad times or a smile in brighter times.  

She always had a cup of coffee or a coke float or a glass of slush for anyone who needed one, and she always knew which of those things was needed.

If you needed to talk; she was there to listen.  If there was something she felt you needed to hear; she would tell you. If you needed to sit on her front steps in Dannemora or on her front deck at the lake and enjoy the evening air, or if you needed to sit at her kitchen table and visit for a little while; she was there.

My mother was loyal.  If she loved you, you were hers for always.  No matter what.

Because, my mother, I’ve come to understand, though she had many friends, was simply not friend material. That’s just not who she was.  No, my mother was BEST friend material.

She was your best friend, you told me she was.  She was certainly MY best friend.  And, though we will never, ever, fill the void she has left, I know she would want us to move forward loving one another.

On behalf of my dad and our family, I would like to invite you all to join us in remembering my mother today at her favorite place on Chateaugay Lake.  We have a big tent, so let it rain.

The post that is not the post, but is about the post that is supposed to be posted.

I’ve been attempting for a couple of days to post about our experiences with prom dress shopping this year; how shopping for a senior prom dress differs from shopping for a junior prom dress, how we were disappointed to discover the boutique we loved so much last year has undergone some managerial changes, how strange it was to be shopping without my mom…

I’m struggling with that post.

For one thing, I can’t get my photos to load.  There actually are not a lot of photos to load; I didn’t take as many this year as last, in part because she didn’t try on as many dresses, and in part because I wasn’t sending them to my mother for opinions, and, therefore, only took pics of the best dresses, only took the pictures Hayden requested.  The post needs the pics, but the damn computer won’t load the pics, so the post won’t flow.

My mother, though only physically here twice, has always been a part of our dress shopping: homecomings, winter balls, graduations, proms: all of them, all of the dresses, all of the shopping, we have included her either through texted photos or FaceTime.

And, she always bought the shoes.

It was bittersweet to be there without her.  I worked overtime to stay in the moment, and to enjoy the time with Hayden, but I missed my Mom–both in real time and in future losses.  She won’t be there when we shop for Anna’s dresses, and she won’t be there when we shop for wedding dresses.

Yet, she was there.  I know she was there.  We are all adjusting to a new manner of her being there, but she was, she is.  And, I know she loves this year’s dress.

And then there’s this

There has been a lot of stress and sadness in our home since I was last able to write anything here.

At the end of October we had to have our beloved Jules, our eleven year old Golden Retriever, put down.  It was heartbreaking, as those things always are, but it was even more than heartbreaking, if that is possible, because both girls insisted on coming with me to say our final goodbyes to her and to hold and pet her as she took her last breath.  We remained in that little veterinary office for over forty five minutes holding the remains of that sweet dog, crying, and attempting to get ourselves together enough to emerge from the room with some dignity.

Immediately following the election…waaaaaay back in November…in fact, as I was watching the election returns at ungodly hours of the night, I started having panic attacks.  Mini panic attacks.  Itty bitty heart racing panic attacks.  So small that on that great big scale of panic attacks hidden away in therapist offices everywhere they may not have even registered, but I was very aware of them, and even though I could control them fairly easily by excusing myself from a conversation or turning off the computer or grabbing one of my kids for an unsolicited hug, they scared me.

This fall, Hayden applied to several colleges (yay!  The possibilities are endless!  Her future is so bright!) and, as the acceptances began rolling in from every school she applied to, so did the panic. (Oh, my God!  She’s leaving me!  How are we going to pay for this?  She’s leaving me!)  This is an ongoing stress as she tries to decide where she wants to attend college, how far away she will be from us, etc.  It’s the proverbial parenting dilemma: I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to see who she becomes, what she does with her one magnificent life–while, all the while, feeling a tremendous sense of loss for the little girl she was; she used to hold my hand for everything, and now she runs ahead of me.

My mom passed away on January 29th of this year.  Four and a half weeks ago.  On my sister’s fortieth birthday.  She had undergone a major surgery on the twentieth, and although there were small ups and downs in the time between the surgery and her passing, she had done remarkably well.  She was ready to be discharged from the hospital on the twenty-ninth, literally dressed and ready to go, when she suffered a pulmonary embolism.  Despite a large contingency of doctors and nurses and the such, they were unable to save her.

That Sunday morning I was just getting in the shower to go to the hospital in Albany, NY when I received the first text that something was wrong, that something was happening.  I was on the road, almost to Hartford, CT when my Dad called to tell me she had not survived what he thought at the time was a heart attack.  I continued to drive towards Albany making a couple of phone calls–the first to Steve and the second to my friend Suzanne.  Twice I had to pull over on the Mass Pike/NY throughway to vomit.  It was the worst morning of the worst day of my life.

I have much I want to say about my mother, but I’m not ready today, so I will just leave this here.  For now.