Life After Major Surgery…and it Still Continues….

I haven’t written here in over 6 months.  6 months.  It doesn’t sound like a long time; sometimes it feels like a long time.  Sometimes it feels like where did the time go?

In April this year I had back surgery.  Huge back surgery. 10 hours of back surgery.  Somehow they managed to overdose me after the surgery; but more on that later.  Back to now.

My doctor told me it would take a full year to recover and know if what he did will help.  Well, I know somethings are better, and some are worse.  My recovery speed is a bit like watching the grass grow.  Or the paint dry.

When I get up in the morning now, by the time I get out of bed, shower and get dressed, I’m ready to sit down and say, oh well, another day shot.  But I do what I need to do.  It just gets to a point where if I don’t sit down right this minute than I shall surely cave in upon myself. Because it feels like I can’t stand up straight after a certain amount of activity.  I don’t like that.  I’m a doer.  I’m a person who “self-assembles” the stuff I buy that says “some assembly required…” which usually mean, ALL assembly required.  But I do it.  And I pay for it now, in pain.  And I tell myself, see what happens when you overdo?  Yeah, yeah… I see.

So I went to a psychologist who does hypnosis for pain control.  She  made me a CD.  I started to listen to it in bed and it made me very anxious.  I have no idea why or what it was about that recording, but I didn’t like it.  So I haven’t tried it again.

Then the therapist got very sick and was out for several weeks.  She’s going to retire soon, so I found another psychologist who specializes in “health psychology.”  He doesn’t do hypnosis, and he does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

As a retired Marriage and Family Therapist who did hypnosis on others for about 15 years, I know a lot about it. And I’m not a fan of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT we call it).  But what have I got to lose?  I have no copay for now, so why not give it a try.

So anyway, I traveled to Austin, TX a week ago, to see my daughter and son in law and grandson (who is so adorable I could just eat him up….wonder where that saying came from?  Well, another blog, I guess…).  I spent a week there, then went to San Francisco to see my mom, where I slept on a pull out sofa bed, which was probably not the greatest thing for my back.  And all the travel was a bit too much.  I’m getting very tired of the flying back and forth, but it’s the only way I’m going to see my family I guess.  My daughter did come up here to visit in July with her baby.  That was nice.

I came home totally exhausted (from my recent trip).  I managed to get to physical therapy and the supermarket (as usual, there was no food in my house…) the day after I got back.  But I had to cancel an appointment I had this morning at 10:00 because I knew I’d never make it out of bed in time to get there.

I’m now pretty much a disabled person.  I can’t do a lot of time on my feet; I can’t walk much more than ½ a mile at a time.  Any kind of job I might be suited for, I don’t think I could do unless it meant sitting all day and not having to get up and down a lot.  I could go back to doing hypnosis; but I can’t do therapy because I’m not licensed in the state I now live in.  And getting a new license?  Oy vey.  Such a production!  They want information going back to my master’s degree, and I don’t have all of that anymore.  Or if I do, it’s in a box somewhere that I can’t find.  I’ve been through every box, file – everything where it may be, but I must have decided, “Oh, I won’t need this again…”

Isn’t that always the way?  You find old papers, clothes, whatever and as soon as you decide you don’t need this anymore, you need it.  I’ve looked for things over the years and I was sure where I had left them, couldn’t find them, only to come across them three months later when I didn’t need them, but thought, “I needed this; couldn’t find it; better put it in the file…”  Then I clean out my flies because, well, there’s so much there that I don’t need… for now anyway.

And there I’ve gone off on another tangent.

So I have this chronic pain, mostly from my back, but my joints hurts all over and then my brain will kick in and remind me, oh yeah – I have fibromyalgia…. forgot about that.  And some kind of undiagnosed inflammatory arthritis…All of which contributes to my fatigue, my pain, my cognitive skills – or maybe my lack of cognitive skills- and my sleep problems.  Drugs help.  Problem is:  I don’t want to take the drugs.

But here’s the thing about surgery for me, at least:  I’m alone.  I was terrified of having major surgery without a “loved one” to be here for me.  My husband died in 2010 for those of you who maybe haven’t read previous posts of mine, or didn’t know; my daughter had a new baby at that time and never expected she could come up here; my other daughter simply wouldn’t come up because he husband won’t “let” her and she won’t stand up to him (and another blog there…).

So I woke up after the surgery to hear nurses talking around me about my vitals dropping.  My temperature dropping, my blood pressure dropping, my respirations were 5 times a minute (is that even possible? I wondered).  I was laying (or is it, ‘lying?’) there, unable to speak, and thinking, can I get excited about this?  No, not really.  I could not get upset or frightened or anything. All I could think was “leave me alone; let me go. This is where Don is supposed to come, give me his hand, and say, ‘come on; it’s time to go…’ “, and my spirit or soul or whatever you want to call it would leave my body and that would be my out.  I’m still looking for a way out of this life, and into the next one – if there is, indeed, a next one.  Because I don’t know if there is or isn’t.  How do any of us know?  Even those of us who’ve had near death experiences and said they saw the light; even that little boy in that book, “Heaven is for real.”  Or was that the one by the neurologist who was so near death that he was sure he saw heaven but came back to write another book about it… Oh, Proof of Heaven.  That was the name.  I’ve read those books, but so what?

There are a lot of people where I live who go to church.  A lot less who go to temple, since we have a lot of churches but only two synagogues here.  Oh well.   A lot of people believe in life after death, and I want to because i want to believe I’ll be with Don again – someday.  I can’t kill myself, because if there is a god, and life after death, he may get mad at me and not let me go to the place where Don is.  IF there is such a place.  I have this yearning need to know, and I know I can’t know, not really, not while I’m alive.

So no out for now, I guess.  People tell me I’m still here for a reason; that I have a purpose.  I sure wish I knew what that purpose is.  My daughter and her little family live so far; I can’t be much help from here.  My other daughter, like I’ve said, won’t contact me or visit me or ask me for help (but she will ask for money….).  My mom has Alzheimer’s, she declining, but she’s in San Francisco which is about 10 – 11 hours by car (I think), so I see her ever 3 -4 months and just bite the bullet regarding airfare and other misc items, like renting a car.  But she’s my mom, and you only get one of those.

So why did I write all this?  Am I trying to send a message, or tell you something about living with pain?  I have no idea, unless maybe I really wrote it for myself – to get it out.

I will say this:  Some people have what we call “invisible diseases.”  We park in handicapped spots (with a placard or special license plate, of course) but when we get out of the car, we look normal and you wonder why we’re using a handicapped parking spot if nothing is really wrong with us. Well, I can’t walk very far.  And if I’m carrying shopping bags or something else, I really can’t walk that far.

I bought a little red wagon so I don’t have to carry my groceries from the car to the house.  It helps, but I still have to carry them inside to the kitchen and it’s not always so easy.  Then I have to put them away.  And usually by that point, I’m too wiped out to do much else except sit down and wait until I feel like I can make dinner (making dinner means reheating a frozen meal…not always the best way to eat, but at least I can eat!).

I suppose I should feel fortunate.  Fortunate I have a place to live; that I was able to afford my health insurance (barely); that I have health insurance; that I have friends who care about me (or at least are good at pretending they do); fortunate that I had a husband who believed in saving and was a genius at investing; not much life insurance, but enough to help me get by for a few years; the rest will come from my meager State Teacher’s Retirement System, and at some point, I’ll start collecting my husband’s Social Security – what he would have collected if he had lived.  But I will be penalized for my own pension income, which is not a lot. I’m luckier than a lot of other widows – if a widow can be at all lucky.  So at least I have my investments, and hopefully, I won’t out live them….

I’d give up everything I have, give it all away, if I could only have my Don back for even just a day – healthy and free of illness and disease and not in pain or suffering at all.  But that isn’t going to happen.  I used to joke with him, when he said “Well, at least I have life insurance for you if I die…” and I’d respond that “money won’t keep me warm at night…I’d rather have you any day than you life insurance.  Don’ die.”  But, well, he did.  My worst nightmare come true.

And now I’ve gone from talking about chronic pain to being a widow – something I seem to keep coming back to.  So I guess I need to write more about being alone.  Get it off my chest so to speak.  So I’ll see if I can manage to do that.  In the meantime, I’m still here, I’m still breathing and still wondering why I’m here.  I need a purpose.  I need a reason to go on beside “You have a purpose…”  yeah, right.  So what the hell is it?

 

ImageI am a dog person.  I have always been a dog person.  By that I mean I have always preferred dogs over cats.  Plus I’m allergic to cats.

I have a friend whose husband is an allergist; he once told me if you live with something you’re allergic to, it’s the same as getting allergy shots because your body will build up antihistamines against the thing that produce the histamines – in my case, cats.  But I don’t know… pollen and mold still get me…

My brother said “people have dogs; cats have people…”  He probably read it somewhere, so if you’re reading this and think I stole it, I didn’t.  My brother did and I take no responsibility for his actions – or misactions, as the case may be.  (Is that even a word?  “Misactions?” My spell check is telling me it’s not… The Oxford English Dictionary just added 5 or 6 “new words;” maybe they’ll add this one… but as usual, I digress.)

So dogs.  I am fortunate enough to live in a place that overlooks two lakes and open green space (when it isn’t white from snow, it’s green….) and people walk their dogs – even in the snow.  Dogs love snow!  They bounce and run and jump… they’re like little kids playing, and it looks like they are having so much fun!  Then there are the dogs that will run into the lake – if they’re not leashed, and ever though they are supposed to be on a leash about half of the dog-walkers ignore the rules – to chase the ducks.  Personally, I wouldn’t want my dog in that that water – do you have any idea how filthy water birds are?  And geese on top of the ducks.  Yuck.

Anyway, I’m a renter.  I moved to this area just last August, and decided to rent for a year (or more) to make sure I liked it here.  And I do like it here.  I love it here.  And I finally was able to get my landlord to give me permission to get not just one small dog, but two.  I have issues leaving a dog at home alone…do if there are two of them, they aren’t alone… and it’s good for dogs to have another dog.  They actually learn from each other.  And it socializes them.

But life keeps on happening.  I have to have surgery and get my back fixed.  A whole different blog.  But, when I recover from that, I seriously want to find a dog (or two) who can have a forever home with me. But, I can’t and won’t get a dog until I’m recovered from that, and that may be a while.

Why not get a dog?  Dogs are an expense.  There is food and toys and supplies and vet bills, and dogs get sick and they throw up on the carpet and hopefully don’t pee on it when you’re out because they get mad at you for leaving them alone…

But (there’s always a “but”), when you come home they are so happy to see you and they jump in your lap and lick your face all over (not always my favorite thing…).  They are companions who love you unconditionally – you are after all, their pack leader.   They cuddle with you and make you feel loved and happy and they’re funny when they play, and dogs generally bring a person company and joy.

So I need to really weigh the pros against the cons.  See, my last three – well, actually four – dogs didn’t work out.  Just before my husband died – before we knew he was going to suddenly become terminal from cancer – we adopted a very sweet little terrier mix.  His name was Calvin (that’s his picture – how can you not fall in love with that face?).  He bonded with me first because Don wasn’t home when the rescue lady brought him to the house.  But it didn’t take him long to trust Don.  He didn’t like men generally, and we figured he was most likely abused.  But after Don died, Calvin got sick, and maybe this makes me a terrible person, but I couldn’t deal with a sick dog after losing my husband.  But my vet found him a good home.  I’ll never forget his face when I handed him over to the vet.  He broke my heart.

Then in a about year, I adopted another dog from the shelter, but she growled at my baby grandson, and snapped at his brother, so she had to go back.  Grandchild v.s. dog?  Grandchildren will win every time.

So I waited awhile, and found two dogs who had to be adopted as a pair.  A beautiful husky mix, Bella, and her little side-kick yorkie mix, Ally.  Now, Bella was beautiful.  She was smart, she was so obedient, she was protective, and she had more fur than any dog I’ve ever met.  I brushed her daily, and she liked it.  Ally was kind of annoying, and if she got away from me, she took off.  But I’d tell Bella to “get Ally!” and she did.  She thought Ally was her puppy.  They were a wonderful pair together.  But then I moved in with my mom to take care of her because she couldn’t be alone, but she wanted to stay in her own home after my dad died.  The dogs didn’t work with my mom.  She couldn’t be around them because we were afraid she’d trip on one; they didn’t like her (and I blame my brother for that but that’s a long story, too…). And there was all that fur and the dogs were indoor dogs (I won’t have a dog that can’t come in the house).

So there’s a part of me that wonders if I can even risk getting another dog because what if it doesn’t work out?  And that leads to heartbreak not only for me, but for the dog.  They attach so readily.  So I’ve been thinking of fostering a dog.  And the only problem with fostering is that what if it’s a dog who has no manners at all and isn’t house trained? Since I rent this place, I’ll have to pay for any stains on the carpet, which isn’t such a big deal – if you get to them right away before it gets into the carpet padding.  But once it soaks through, it’s almost impossible to get the smell out (please correct me if I’m wrong).

After I had to let Bella and Ally go (they found homes but not together), a lot of people told me, please don’t get another dog.  And maybe they’re right.  Maybe I need to work at the shelter for a while before I take one on to care for at home.  Maybe I need to foster a few dogs and see if it’s the right thing; if I’m really up to the task.  But I so miss having a dog; I miss the company, the companionship and the love. And I like to take my dogs with me when I go places; in the car (but I hate to leave them alone in the car… they get so upset…); even in a store. Some stores don’t make a fuss if it’s a small dog in the cart.  I’ve even seen people with dogs in baby-like carriers on their chest!

So I think about the cons – what if I’m too sick to take the dog out for a walk?  Someone still has to do that; feed him/her, play with him/her… maybe i need an older dog who is on their last chance at adoption?  Senior dogs need homes, too.

So, dear readers, I want to ask your advice.  What do you think?

And yes, I actually have thought about a cat, but aside from my allergies, my landlords will allow a dog, but no cats!  And there are good reasons to have a cat, but that, too, is another story.

Aside

To Dog or Not to Dog…

ImageI am a dog person.  I have always been a dog person.  By that I mean I have always preferred dogs over cats.  Plus I’m allergic to cats.

I have a friend whose husband is an allergist; he once told me if you live with something you’re allergic to, it’s the same as getting allergy shots because your body will build up antihistamines against the thing that produce the histamines – in my case, cats.  But I don’t know… pollen and mold still get me…

My brother said “people have dogs; cats have people…”  He probably read it somewhere, so if you’re reading this and think I stole it, I didn’t.  My brother did and I take no responsibility for his actions – or misactions, as the case may be.  (Is that even a word?  “Misactions?” My spell check is telling me it’s not… The Oxford English Dictionary just added 5 or 6 “new words;” maybe they’ll add this one… but as usual, I digress.)

So dogs.  I am fortunate enough to live in a place that overlooks two lakes and open green space (when it isn’t white from snow, it’s green….) and people walk their dogs – even in the snow.  Dogs love snow!  They bounce and run and jump… they’re like little kids playing, and it looks like they are having so much fun!  Then there are the dogs that will run into the lake – if they’re not leashed, and ever though they are supposed to be on a leash about half of the dog-walkers ignore the rules – to chase the ducks.  Personally, I wouldn’t want my dog in that that water – do you have any idea how filthy water birds are?  And geese on top of the ducks.  Yuck.

Anyway, I’m a renter.  I moved to this area just last August, and decided to rent for a year (or more) to make sure I liked it here.  And I do like it here.  I love it here.  And I finally was able to get my landlord to give me permission to get not just one small dog, but two.  I have issues leaving a dog at home alone…do if there are two of them, they aren’t alone… and it’s good for dogs to have another dog.  They actually learn from each other.  And it socializes them.

But life keeps on happening.  I have to have surgery and get my back fixed.  A whole different blog.  But, when I recover from that, I seriously want to find a dog (or two) who can have a forever home with me. But, I can’t and won’t get a dog until I’m recovered from that, and that may be a while.

Why not get a dog?  Dogs are an expense.  There is food and toys and supplies and vet bills, and dogs get sick and they throw up on the carpet and hopefully don’t pee on it when you’re out because they get mad at you for leaving them alone…

But (there’s always a “but”), when you come home they are so happy to see you and they jump in your lap and lick your face all over (not always my favorite thing…).  They are companions who love you unconditionally – you are after all, their pack leader.   They cuddle with you and make you feel loved and happy and they’re funny when they play, and dogs generally bring a person company and joy.

So I need to really weigh the pros against the cons.  See, my last three – well, actually four – dogs didn’t work out.  Just before my husband died – before we knew he was going to suddenly become terminal from cancer – we adopted a very sweet little terrier mix.  His name was Calvin (that’s his picture – how can you not fall in love with that face?).  He bonded with me first because Don wasn’t home when the rescue lady brought him to the house.  But it didn’t take him long to trust Don.  He didn’t like men generally, and we figured he was most likely abused.  But after Don died, Calvin got sick, and maybe this makes me a terrible person, but I couldn’t deal with a sick dog after losing my husband.  But my vet found him a good home.  I’ll never forget his face when I handed him over to the vet.  He broke my heart.

Then in a about year, I adopted another dog from the shelter, but she growled at my baby grandson, and snapped at his brother, so she had to go back.  Grandchild v.s. dog?  Grandchildren will win every time.

So I waited awhile, and found two dogs who had to be adopted as a pair.  A beautiful husky mix, Bella, and her little side-kick yorkie mix, Ally.  Now, Bella was beautiful.  She was smart, she was so obedient, she was protective, and she had more fur than any dog I’ve ever met.  I brushed her daily, and she liked it.  Ally was kind of annoying, and if she got away from me, she took off.  But I’d tell Bella to “get Ally!” and she did.  She thought Ally was her puppy.  They were a wonderful pair together.  But then I moved in with my mom to take care of her because she couldn’t be alone, but she wanted to stay in her own home after my dad died.  The dogs didn’t work with my mom.  She couldn’t be around them because we were afraid she’d trip on one; they didn’t like her (and I blame my brother for that but that’s a long story, too…). And there was all that fur and the dogs were indoor dogs (I won’t have a dog that can’t come in the house).

So there’s a part of me that wonders if I can even risk getting another dog because what if it doesn’t work out?  And that leads to heartbreak not only for me, but for the dog.  They attach so readily.  So I’ve been thinking of fostering a dog.  And the only problem with fostering is that what if it’s a dog who has no manners at all and isn’t house trained? Since I rent this place, I’ll have to pay for any stains on the carpet, which isn’t such a big deal – if you get to them right away before it gets into the carpet padding.  But once it soaks through, it’s almost impossible to get the smell out (please correct me if I’m wrong).

After I had to let Bella and Ally go (they found homes but not together), a lot of people told me, please don’t get another dog.  And maybe they’re right.  Maybe I need to work at the shelter for a while before I take one on to care for at home.  Maybe I need to foster a few dogs and see if it’s the right thing; if I’m really up to the task.  But I so miss having a dog; I miss the company, the companionship and the love. And I like to take my dogs with me when I go places; in the car (but I hate to leave them alone in the car… they get so upset…); even in a store. Some stores don’t make a fuss if it’s a small dog in the cart.  I’ve even seen people with dogs in baby-like carriers on their chest!

So I think about the cons – what if I’m too sick to take the dog out for a walk?  Someone still has to do that; feed him/her, play with him/her… maybe i need an older dog who is on their last chance at adoption?  Senior dogs need homes, too.

So, dear readers, I want to ask your advice.  What do you think?

And yes, I actually have thought about a cat, but aside from my allergies, my landlords will allow a dog, but no cats!  And there are good reasons to have a cat, but that, too, is another story.

Missing Me

It’s the day after Thanksgiving.  I didn’t have turkey and stuffing and candied yams and all the trimmings; I didn’t even have pumpkin pie.  I’m traveling this weekend.  Wednesday I flew from Flagstaff Arizona to San Mateo in Northern California to visit with my mom, who is in assisted living and has moderate Alzheimer’s.  That means she knows who we all are, but she loses words, she forgets recent occurrences and asks the same question over and over, because she doesn’t remember she asked.  One of my three brothers lives nearby, so she isn’t totally abandoned.  But since she was moved (because the decisions as to where she moved were not always made by her) twice, and I’ve moved to another state, I don’t get to see her as often as I like and after spending all day with her, I had forgotten how much fun we have together, how much we laugh and how much I really miss her. And not just her proximity to me, but our relationship.

So I’m at a hotel nearby, and I was downstairs having breakfast, and all of a sudden I felt like I was really missing someone, and felt the urge to pick up my phone and make a call and say “I miss you” and then I realized, who could I call?  Who was it I was missing so much.  My husband died 3 years ago and it’s just a given that I always miss him; my oldest brother isn’t talking to me at all because as he put it, if I can’t have a relationship with his wife, he can’t have one with me…but that’s a whole other post. But I miss him; I miss being able to just pick up the phone and call him.

My oldest daughter isn’t “allowed” to talk to me because her idiot husband got mad at me and told her if she contacts me he’ll leave her… which would be the best thing that could happen to her in my opinion… but that, too, is another blog.

My second daughter just had a baby and I’ll be going to see them on Monday.  At least I still have her.

So I started to think, who am I really missing, and why isn’t there anyone I can call to just say “Hi, I was thinking about you…” and yes, there are friends I could call, but it’s the day after Thanksgiving and they’re with their families.  I miss my husband; I miss my father who died 2 years ago; I miss my brother who won’t talk to me, I miss my daughter and I miss my two grandsons terribly – because their dad won’t let me see them, either.  And yes, somehow, as I’ve said before, I keep on going on.

Then I realized the person I’m really missing is me.  I’m missing feeling like I have roots somewhere; like I have a life that has meaning; that I have friends I can drop by to see.  I’m renting a lovely little condo in the forest on a lake, and I call it home for now, but it’s a rental; it’s temporary.  It’s really not “home.”  They say “Home is where the Heart is.”  And I wonder, what if after my year in Flagstaff, I don’t like it?  Where will I go there?  I have no where to go “back” to.  My heart has been fractured into so many pieces I often wonder if I still have one.

So I think what I’m missing is me.  Somewhere, I got lost.  It probably happened when I lost my husband, my Don.  Losing Don was like losing a very big part of myself.  When we enter into a relationship – a serious, committed, long-term forever relationship – it changes who we are to some degree.  It’s kind of like doing a dance.  We try not to step on each others toes.  We try not to get in each others way, but we want to be part of this new life, we want our partner to want us as much as we want them.  Or sometimes, we don’t want to be wanted too much – some of us feel fearful that someone will want too much of “us”; will take over our life, will make demands on us, will cause us to lose our self. When I married Don, I never had a shred of doubt; I never had those “pre-wedding jitters” that some people get.  I knew in my heart, in my core, in my very soul that this was right.  And for all of the problems that couples have, for all of the crises we shared, we always came out stronger.  I would do it all over in a second if I had that chance.  But then he died, and I wasn’t so strong anymore.

But the fact remains that I won’t have that chance, to do it all again.  Never.  Don is dead.  Gone.  No more Don.  Ever.  My better half, my voice of reason, my steady, sane partner who could calm me with a hug, talk me out of something that really wasn’t reasonable, the person who was always there – no matter what – to help me make decisions (even he when he would drive me batty with his questions like, ‘well, what do you like about it?’ when I saw a piece of furniture I wanted or some such thing; and I’d answer only  that I just liked it); the person I cuddled with, held, who held me; who I cried to and with, made love to and who made love to me, The person who reassured me and whom I reassured. The person I depended on more than anyone, is gone.

So here I am, a little over 3 years later, without him, wondering where I have gone and where I am, and still wondering, what do I do now?  No one really needs me.  Oh, my daughter wouldn’t want me to be dead and gone; but she doesn’t need me on a daily basis, or a weekly basis or even a monthly basis.  If I can manage to see her and her little family – with their new baby – every 3 or 4 months it will be fine with her.  We have always been close; she always talked to me, shared her deepest thoughts and feelings with me; but she’s married now; she has someone to take that role over, and that’s how it should be.  I was so glad I had two daughters.  Yes, if I’d had sons, I’m sure I’d be just as glad, and I’d love them just as much and be just as happy.  But the relationship with a daughter is just different than it is with a son.  My mom tells a story of why she had 4 children – she says she had to have a girl; she tells me how glad she is she had me; how “hard” she “worked” to get me.  This is her story:

My father was a radiologist; my mom was an X-ray technician (and of course, that’s how they met…).  When my dad’s tech was not at the office for whatever reason, my mom filled in.  By the age of 24, my mother had 3 sons. (They married she she was 18; my dad was then 28; she had her first child when she was 20 years old – that’s what they did in the 1940’s).  She wanted a girl; the doctor had told her she shouldn’t have anymore after 3 for physical reasons,  and my father was satisfied to have his three boys.  But one day, Mom was working and was getting a patient ready for her x-rays.  She was a “little old Jewish lady” according to my mother (we’re Jewish; it’s okay for me to say that she was a “little old Jewish lady…”!).  She asked my mom if she had children.  It went something like this:

“So tell me, dear, do you have children?”

“Yes, I have three boys.”

“Oh, that’s nice.  I have three boys.  Now all I have are daughters-in-law….”

Mom went home that afternoon, walked in, called to my father:  “Dave! We’re having another baby!”  She had to get her girl, and she did.  I don’t know what she would have done with a 4th boy (I don’t know what I would have done with that many kids, let alone trying to get a specific gender out of it!)

So I always felt lucky to have girls.  Some people think boys are easier to raise, but I don’t think so.  I think mothers and daughters, for all of the conflicts we may have, also have a special bond.

There is something to be said for – and against – sons-in-law, too.  They don’t necessarily like their mother in law; there are too many stereotypes against us.  We are presumed to interfere, to be “crazy” if we disagree; well, I could go on.  But then, it wouldn’t really be fair, because there are exceptions to every rule.  I’m happy if my girls are happy.  I’m not happy if I think they are being mistreated or if I see something I disagree with.  But I try to keep my mouth shut, and my nose out of it.  I try to be a good mother in law; one who doesn’t interfere, who won’t be seen as “crazy;” who can admit when I’m wrong or I made a mistake.  But I have really digressed, haven’t I?

I started out talking about what happened to me?  I digressed because I started talking about daughters and kids and being a mother in law… maybe it’s a symptom of how lost I really feel – I can’t even stick to a topic today.  Or maybe it’s because I’m just all over the place.  We when are part of a couple – part of something bigger than ourselves – our partner is our anchor.  They keep us grounded, they keep us focused and centered.  We have someone – and something – else to think about, care about, get us out of ourselves.  When I lost Don, I lost my anchor.  I have been adrift ever since, trying to find my way in a storm, trying to get to shore just when another big wave washes over me and sweeps me back out to that cold, dark sea of loss, grief, angst and pain.  Trying to find myself again, trying to swim to shore when the tide keeps pulling me back out, is almost a losing battle.  I say almost  because I haven’t lost yet.  I don’t know how I’ll know when the battle has been lost or won; maybe if and when I find myself, I’ll know I’ve won.  But if I lose – how will I know it’s lost and I’m ready to give it up?  That’s part of my predicament, I suppose.  Just knowing when to give up the fight.  I’m so tired of fighting.  What am I fighting with anyway?  Maybe it’s just with me.  Maybe that’s where I’ve gotten to – an internal, existentialist fight.  Me against me.

Aside

Another Day, No More Dollars…

I’m sitting in my favorite chair watching the snow fall.  I like cold weather; I like to bundle up and bake cookies – or maybe just eat them – and feel all cozy.  But since Don died, that feeling has been hard to find again.  People tell me that there is life after death; what I mean is, that – so they say – there is a life for me, without my Don.  It’s been three years, and I’m still trying to find my way alone in the world.

The snow falling is beautiful.  Don wouldn’t have liked it; he hated being cold.  Sometimes I think, “Now I can…” whatever it is that I always wanted to do that Don didn’t.  Get a dog.  Live where it snows.  Keep the t.v. on all day – mostly  just for the sound of another voice, but still… Don didn’t like much t.v.; not that there weren’t things he enjoyed; he’d warn me before watching a sporting event:  “I’m going to want to watch the game tomorrow…” as if he somehow wanted or needed my permission, which of course, he didn’t need.  I often watched those games with him, and learned about football and basketball… I’m still not crazy about baseball – all those guys standing around, pawing at the dirt with their shoes and spitting a lot.  The spitting bothered me.  And frankly, I find baseball boring.  I like basketball, and I like football. Do I watch those games now, alone?  No.  And the truth is, there’s not much on t.v. that holds my interest anymore.  I like about 3 or 4 regular programs, but that’s about it.  So yeah, I have it on a lot, but like I said, it’s mostly for the noise.  And then, the noise can get annoying, too.  But I’m rambling.  Which is why I don’t write… I tend to ramble.  But hey, here I am writing, and rambling…

So another day, no more dollars.  It seems like since I made this move, I’ve done nothing but spend money, and there’s not much coming in to be truthful.  The move was expensive.  Getting items for my new “home” that I had completely forgotten about – like a ladder, bookcases, food… you know, minor stuff that costs a lot – was expensive.  Somehow, it seems like each month my credit card bills are bigger and bigger while I think I’m trying to keep it down.  But then there’s winter clothing.  There’s snow boots and long underwear and thicker socks and well, stuff.  And art supplies and yarn to knit, and just too much. And travel.  Travel to visit my family, to see my new grandson, travel to not be alone so much. And it adds up.

And decisions about how to spend money – should I invest in a snow blower, or should I invest in a service to clear my driveway when it snows?  I went out yesterday and managed to shovel half the driveway.  I only need half of it cleared; I only have one car.  But it was harder than I expected – I mean it’s just snow, right?  Light, fluffy white stuff, but I got out of breath easily (the altitude I think… or maybe I’m just getting fat and lazy and out of shape) and while I felt I accomplished something without falling down while doing it, it’s not something I look forward to doing again.  This storm is supposed to be over by Monday, but people who’ve lived here for years and years tell me we’ll have a harder winter than usual because they had a longer rainy season (they call it the Monsoon Season, because that’s what it is – a monsoon), so that means more snow to shovel if I plan to go anywhere.  I could hole up in the house and hibernate, but then I’d have my original problem – being isolated and alone.

I don’t want to  be isolated.  I want to get involved in the community.  I want to make friends; I want to get out there, and I want some meaning in my life.  I need meaning in my life; otherwise, why am I here?

My daughter has suggested that I consider moving near her and her family in Austin.  In Texas. Texas?  It’s not the fact that it’s Texas – a “red” state and I’m so “blue” politically –  so much as it’s the fact of the weather.  Hot and humid.  Ugh.  Or cold and rainy.  Maybe rain is better than snow – you don’t have to shovel it.  And I can only shovel so much shit… (that’s a little joke in case you missed it…as my father in law used to say, you can’t put 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag…)

But, humid means I wouldn’t have to use nearly so much lotion for my dry skin… It may be snow country here, but it’s still pretty arid – the mountains of Arizona.  But hey, I live in a forest!  With two lakes in what I call my “backyard;” that means that I have a patio that opens onto the open green (currently white) space behind my condo that I’m renting.  And theres goes someone now, walking his dog… Dogs seem to love the snow.  Dog owners are kind of like the postal service – “neither rain, nor sleet nor snow, nor dark of night…” and all that. They get those dogs out there, no matter what!

But sitting here, looking out the window at the snow falling, and the occasional brave soul walking their dog is beautiful.  Everything is white; the snow is quiet; the flakes are actually very big right now.  So for today, I’ll spend another day inside, watching the flakes swirl and blow and fall and enjoy the silence of the white stuff we call snow.  And maybe I’ll find a good movie on t.v. and sit here and knit.  At least I can’t eat my knitting… and I’m out of cookies, so for today, I won’t have to worry about the fat and lazy thing… but tomorrow is another day, and probably another story.  And there’s still no more money coming in and I’m not quite sure, at this stage of my life, what I want to do about that.  I’ll have to think on it… as my father in law used to say.

Waiting…

Waiting.  It seems like I spend more than 1/2 of my life waiting for something. Waiting for the train to pass so I can cross the tracks when I’m already late.  Waiting for a doctor’s appointment when the doctor insists his/her patients be there 5 – 15 minutes prior to their appointment time and then waiting until one-half of an hour after the designated time to actually get taken “back” to see the doc.  Waiting in lines – at the market, the post office, the DMV… waiting.  Waiting to feel better, waiting to go to sleep, waiting for the internet – which lately is slower and slower.  Waiting for a call to be returned, waiting for lab results, waiting for the cable guy to show up.  Waiting for the Obamacare website to actually work; waiting to see if I’ll have insurance for the month of December; waiting for my current COBRA insurance to run out at the end of November; waiting to get through this terrible pain from losing my husband, the love of my life, my soul mate (really – my soul mate); waiting for a waitress/waiter to come and take my order because I wasn’t ready the first time they asked, and then they seem to forget I’m actually sitting at the table.  Waiting for a bus, waiting to board a flight that is late, waiting to get off the plane once it lands and pulls up to the gait.  Waiting for the ducks in my “backyard lake” to figure out I don’t have food for them and for them to get off my patio that they keep messing up.  Waiting for paint to dry and grass to grow.  Waiting to see if the plant I brought home will actually live, because I don’t have green thumbs… more like black.  Waiting for time to simply pass because sometimes, without my husband here with me, it seems like it just goes on and on.

At the moment I’m waiting for my daughter to deliver her first baby.  She’s been in labor since about 4:00 p.m. yesterday and now it’s 1:15 p.m. today – Sunday.  This baby was already 5 days late, and today is 6 days.  So I’m waiting to find out when I’ll be a Nana for the third time. 

This is my second daughter’s 1st baby.  They opted for a birthing center birth, which is maybe a good thing.  If she’d gone to a hospital, they probably would have done a c-section by now, or started pitocin or something to stimulate her contractions; she and her husband did not want that.  As long as the baby isn’t stressed, this is birth.  This is how women have been giving birth for hundred’s of years – waiting.  Waiting to get pregnant in some cases, waiting for labor to start, waiting for each contraction to be over, waiting for labor to end.  Waiting for that new little life to come on out and say “hi!” to the world.  With this daughter, I was in labor for 22 hours, and she still wouldn’t engage her head (she never dropped into my pelvis, therefore my cervix would not dilate), and I did end up having a c-section birth.  But when I held her in my arms for the first time, and she just looked at me, it was all so worth it. And when she finally gets to hold her new son in her arms, it will be worth it.

But for now, we’re all just waiting…

 

Life Goes On… Just like I seem to do…

What does that mean, exactly?  The title of this post, I mean.  (Sorry, I’m not always as clear as I’d like to be…)  We’re born, we live, we die.  Does that sound too fatalistic?  But isn’t it true?  Hopefully, somewhere along the way, we leave a footprint – the good kind of footprint. The kind where we make a difference in someone’s life, or maybe in many people’s lives.  We’re remembered after were “gone.” Where we go to, I don’t know.  I do know what different belief systems say:  “Oh, he’s going to hell for sure…”; “She’s with the angels now…”; “G-d wanted him home…”; “there’s nothing; just death and then nothing…”  It all depends on who you talk to, your own personal belief system… and maybe things that happen that change that belief system.

When my husband was dying of cancer, I sat by his bed and kept telling him it was okay to go.  I didn’t know where he was going, just that he was going; he was leaving this earth, this life and me.  Most of all, me.  I wanted to scream at him, “Don’t go! Don’t you dare leave me!  I still need you!”  but how can you blame someone for dying?  Grief does strange things to us; and yes, there is anger in with the pain; the hole in my heart that three years later is still there; that will always be there.

But I digress.  We are born, we live, we die.  When Don died, my entire belief system about life after death, about the possibility of a G-d, a higher power, a supreme being – call it what you will – changed.  As I sat with him his last morning on earth, giving him morphine to control his pain, he kept reaching upwards, and looking at the top of the wall in front of him.  I knew he was seeing something or someone.  I also felt in my very core that he was not hallucinating.  What I saw Don experience was too similar to too many hundreds of stories I’d read and heard over the years of other people dying.  And even if he wasn’t able to speak at that point, he was able to reach out to me, to hold my hand, to look deep into my eyes as if he were trying to memorize my face.  And then he suddenly said, very clearly, “well I guess so” when I said, again, it’s okay to go.  I was a psychotherapist, and in my training years, worked for hospice, leading bereavement groups.  I learned a lot from my clients, my grief-stricken clients who had just lost the loves of their lives.

I learned that in grief, community is important.  Telling your story – no matter how many times – is important.  Getting that understanding from others who don’t try to “fix it”; who don’t say they understand when there is no way in hell they can possibly understand because they have not been there is important.  And hope is important; hope that you will get though this – because there is no getting over it or around it or under it – you just have to get through it, and the reality is you have to do it alone (with a little help from your friends…to quote one of my favorite songs) and the other reality is that you WILL get through it.  I will get through it.  There may be times that yes, I want to be dead because the pain, at times, is so deep and so paralyzing all I can do is ask “why am I still here?” while I sit on the floor – yes, three years later, I still sit on the floor crying and yelling at Don for leaving me, and then acknowledging that I am grateful he is not suffering; that he no longer knows agonizing pain and illness.  But here I am, lonely as hell. 

So watching Don die, having our two daughters there, my daughter’s fiancee, her best friend  (who simply got up and called the mortuary without even being asked – just being thoughtful and doing what she could for us), my belief system was challenged, and I knew, I just felt it, that there is something after death. Don saw something – I’ll never know what it was, but whatever it was, I hope I see it, too, when I lay dying.

I mentioned hope.  What does one hope for when the love of their love is gone? When it feels like their life is certainly, must be, has to be, over? When the future one expected and planned for and waited for is gone?  I can only speak for myself, but my hope – well, I have several hopes:  I hope that my “footprint” is one that made an impact on people’s lives:  my middle school students when I taught school (even if it’s only one or two kids out of the hundreds who passed through my classroom); my graduate students when I taught in a graduate psychology program (even if only one or two are better therapists because of something I taught them); that the clients I saw over the course of 12 years are living better, happier lives.  And I hope for myself, that I find a new purpose; that I find a reason why I keep waking up each morning – alone.  But my biggest hope?  That someday, when my soul leaves my body, I am reunited with the one true love of my life – my Don.

. Image

And as I learned from a wonderful organization called Soaring Spirits and the amazing woman who started it:  “Hope Matters; Love Never Dies” (Soaring Spirits – http://www.sslf.org).