Monday, October 17, 2011
These days I cannot imagine being without the Internet. I use it for my job -- in fact, it is my only connection to my job. I literally cannot perform my job without have an Internet connection. I use it to search out information regularly. Whether it is the weather, a phone number, or event information, I would desperately miss such easy access to information if I had no Internet. I use it to shop. I have never really been a big shopper, so being able to buy things I need from the comfort of home is awesome.
Beyond all of that, over the past few years I have found the internet to be an amazing tool for developing friendships that has gone beyond anything I would have ever imagined. It all began when I was first pregnant. The newness of such a thrilling experience prompted me to thirst for knowledge, seeking out anything I could find on pregnancy. I stumbled upon a website called Pregnancy Weekly. It was full of information. I also found that they had message boards that were sectioned by your birth month -- the month you were due.
On the birth club message board you could post a message or question, and anyone else there could post a reply. In the early days there was a great deal of posting of symptoms, to receive confirmation from many others that they were feeling the same things. A lot of , “Am I allowed to…,” with lots of, “My doctor said…” in reply. It was great.
Now, more than six years later, I have bonds with many of those girls that I know will carry through our lives. What started as sharing of information on our pregnancies turned into sharing information about all aspects of our lives.
The group of girls on that site eventually moved off to a privately hosted message board site that was password protected. It was invite only, so we could ensure that it was just our group of about 150 people. We knew who was having more children, who was going through a marriage crisis, who was suffering from the loss of a family member. We knew who had a new job, who was thrilled to have bought a new home, and who was graduating from school. We also knew what we were making for dinner, what our weekend plans were, and posted pictures of our haircuts. Nothing was too big or too small to post about.
Now, my connection with this great group of girls is on Facebook. Just in the past week or so we created a secret group on Facebook which allows us to post just to our group. Beyond the computer, though, I have met with many of the group in person. I’ve had people come and visit me in my home, and I have visited others. This past summer I vacationed in Niagara Falls with women from the group and their kids. The connections have been incredible.
I actually wrote this blog post a long time ago, meaning to add onto it and post it. I forgot about it. I thought to write a blog post about the group today, though, and it jogged my memory of this one.
Our group today received a shock. One “of us” passed away yesterday, very unexpectedly, at the age of 30. She leaves behind her husband, son who is almost six, and her parents that she cares for. It is nothing short of tragic.
I am thankful that our secret page on Facebook was already up and running as it provided us with an outlet for grief and a way to process. I was fortunate to have met Larissa a couple of times because she lived outside of Chicago. I spent time today going through pictures of our times together.
One of the girls in my group posted the following tonight: “I thought about this earlier, and I think it's just amazing that we are this close. Of course, some are closer to others (which is completely normal), but we have all been there to support each other for six years. Pregnancy, birth of November babies and babies after them, funny times, divorces and marriages, arguments and family problems. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your support ♥.”
It sums it up so well. We are close. We have shared so, so much. And for the first time ever, we have lost one of our own. And it makes the love that much stronger.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
September 1. This is an anniversary of sorts. It is the date of my mom’s fall and her first subdural hematoma last year. While I didn’t realize it at the time, the date – 9/1 – would become my own personal 9/11, just without one of the 1s. I look back, and I wonder how in the world we got to the point we were on that date, and how we managed the events of the past year.
A friend of my sister’s said many months back, “Wow. You just can’t make this shit up.” It’s become somewhat of a mantra for Beth and I. As life became more and more unstable, and the bizarre continued to get more bizarre, we would think to ourselves that it was beyond making up. People have told us we need to write a book.
The thing is, I’ve also come to learn that nearly every family has some level of drama and heartache in it. Even the “normal” families have some member who skews the curve. I used to think that I grew up in a normal family. We were upper middle class, my parents were conservative and forced us to follow rules that would allow us to grow into responsible adults. My parents worked hard and were well educated. They passed along a good moral compass and strong ethics.
In 1996 my brother rocked “normal” in our family by having his life of illegal lies outed publicly – something that was enormously embarrassing for my family as our name was dragged through the headlines day after day. In the years since he has yet to hold a steady job in between his stays in jail. Yet still, with the exception of my brother, I considered the rest of my family normal. My sister and I both graduated from college and went on to obtain Master’s degrees. We both married and had children. We both held good jobs that provided us with a living and satisfaction. My parents had “done well” with us, anyway.
Fast forward to 2010. My mom spent more and more of her days in bed and the year went on. By summer she’d lost 40 pounds, took none of her medication, and never left her bed. My basement-dwelling brother was the root of most of her depression. No matter how much we begged her, she wouldn’t get out of bed. Two sessions with a therapist in July gave us all some hope, but then she deemed herself fine and quit going.
The fall occurred while my brother was “helping” my mom into the car to go to a doctor appointment. She lost her balance because of the weakened state she was in, and cracked the back of her head on the pavement so hard that her brain pressed forward into the front of her skull and bled. Between September 1 and December 1 she was in and out of the hospital. She fell more at home, her brain bled more. The blood on her brain caused seizures, and she went into a coma-like state with stroke-like symptoms.
December 1 she went into skilled nursing care. She never opened her eyes, she was in a wheelchair, she couldn’t feed herself. We were beside ourselves with grief over the way she had become, and fearful if she would ever be back.
December 1 to April 20 for my mom proved to be months of dramatic improvement. She progressed through therapy, ate more, was alert more, and earned herself the right to move to assisted care rather than skilled care.
The part that warrants a “you can’t make this shit up” has more to do with my dad. After a Christmas Day blow up he announced he was taking my mom home. Wheelchair, catheter and all. To a house full of stairs and alcoholics. My sister and I were horrified. There was no way he could care for my mom in the state she was in; he’d proven through 2010 that he wasn’t capable in the caregiver role period. With the support of all of my parents’ friends and our family, we were forced to seek legal guardianship of my mom.
The judge deemed our case an emergency, and an immediate order was placed that my mom would not be moved. Over the course of the next several months, my sister and I spent thousands of dollars and countless hours with our attorney to ensure that my mom could receive the care she needed to get better. Not only that, but to ensure her survival.
In the end, it proved too much for us. While we had no doubt we would win in court, we could no longer live through the pain and stress it was causing – not just stress on us, but on our own families. We backed out, and signed my mom’s guardianship over to West Michigan Guardianship.
Through the winter and spring my dad’s reliance on alcohol proved heavy, resulting in significant legal issues for him as well as hospital stays. We thought our mom had been our main concern, but my dad quickly took over as having the biggest issues. This I had never seen coming.
And now, a year later, my “growing up” family has been through hell, but I certainly can’t say hell and back. My mom is mostly better, but her 30-year home is not safe for her and she won’t consider anything else. My dad is through with court dates, but won’t give up the booze.
Through all my sister and I did last year – cleaning their house, bringing over food, living at the hospital and nursing home for days on end, spending thousands of dollars we certainly couldn’t afford, our schedule to make sure one of us was with my mom each and every day – my parents have at this point shoved us out of their lives. My letters to them go unanswered.
So of all the events of the past year which earn the comment of not being able to make it up, having my parents close the door on me – and their grandchildren – is the one I never would have seen coming. And the one I’ll never be able to get over.
Part 2. The past year has been ROUGH. But, more than ever, I am working my way past this. My perspective is that out of all bad there is some good, and from all bad you can work back to good.
The good from the past year. My sister and I have become unbelievably close, and we both know there is an unbreakable bond between us. While we sat in a meeting with our attorney this past winter we answered three questions in a row in unison. He said, “Wow, you really are sisters.” I replied, “Sometimes lately I think we are the same person.” Throughout all the events of the past year we have been a united front. We have been on the same page at all times. While occasionally we may have taken a different approach to something, we always were willing to go with the other person – knowing we both agreed with either approach. There are no words strong enough to convey that I could not had handled the issues of the past year without her, the one person who could exactly understand the shoes I was in.
I have realized what a rock my husband can be. He has put up with a lot in the past year. He has put up with the enormous amount of time I was spending in St. Joe, at the expense of our family. For a while my parents’ house was cleaner than my own because I managed to do theirs more than ours. He has never said a word about the financial strain I put on our family, both through attorney costs and through all the times I had to hire a sitter. He has stuck with me through my impatience and temper, two things that have been ever-present during the depression and stress of the past year.
My kids are still amazing. They have been yelled at more than they deserved to be, they have heard me sigh with impatience as I tell them to hurry up, they have dealt with my crabby existence. And they still shine. They still smile and tell me they love me. As often as I have worried that I’m going to “break” them, they continue to be great kids. I hope they don’t remember the dark days of this past year.
I have become closer than ever to family members that, while they’ve been there since I was born, I didn’t have the bond I certainly do now. Family friends who have been in my life through my parents, have provided support and love in immeasurable ways. Mike’s family has provided love and support to me. My church family has prayed. And my group of mom friends have provided hugs, prayers, and, well, a night out when needed!
So much good surrounds me.
Where I have the most work to do is making me good again. I need to get out of the funk which had come to define me and move on. It is what it is – get over it!
Being a self-help book kind of girl, I’m reading two right now. Get Out of That Pit, and The Happiness Project. I joined Weight Watchers to get rid of this stress and depression weight I have packed on in the past year (well, and still baby weight in there, too!) We are eating healthier, and being healthier.
I WILL get there! Know it, my friends, I WILL!