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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

At lot has happened recently, and it hasn’t even been quite a month since my last post. I guess it’s just that time of year.

December 11th was Duke Homecare and Hospice‘s annual “Lights of Remembrance” luminary service to remember our loved ones who have passed. Dad and I went last year. I remembered it being very sad, mostly because I realized that all of those lights also represented all of those caregivers who were experiencing the same acute grief that I was. It was comforting to be in the company of those who could understand me, but the sense I got of their combined feelings was overwhelming.

This year, my experience was very different. For one, the boy accompanied me. It was really nice to have his support and someone to talk through things with on the way home. For two, ever since the day after the anniversary of mom’s passing, I haven’t felt the same level of grief. I can think about her now with happy thoughts that, even though tinged with sadness, are not accompanied by the sharp poiLuminary CardLuminariesnt of grief. I was able to be happy that I had such a special a way to honor mom’s memory.

I think dad took it a lot harder than I did. He hasn’t been doing very well, still. I know it must be hard. I’d be having more trouble if I were still living in their house, surrounded by so many memories, both good and bad. He said he liked the message I put on this year’s placard. I thought it was appropriate.

I’ll be heading down to Florida to spend the week of Christmas with him. I’m looking forward to it for several reasons. One, I just realized that my dad is turning 70 next year. I would like to spend some more quality time with him while I have him here and healthy. Two, I feel like I haven’t gotten to see much of him lately. It will be nice for us to catch up.

While in Florida, I will get to meet a friend I’ve never met before (in person, anyway). We met a few years ago on a forum about diet and exercise. She’s a cool cat. I’m looking forward to hanging out with her. Even if my diet and exercise is nothing like it was back then. I’m afraid I haven’t exercised much at all this past month, and my diet has not been the best. One more thing to fix back up in the new year.

I’m afraid I have not gotten into the Christmas spirit this year. It hasn’t felt like Christmas at all. I hope it will once I help dad pick out a tree and put that up. The closest I’ve gotten to any kind of celebrating, besides an awesome company holiday party, is to paint my toes.

toes

Not that it makes much difference…you never show your toes in winter anyway!

And one year ago yesterday, I met the boy in a chance encounter at speed dating. He almost didn’t go, but he decided to check it out at the last minute. I almost didn’t go because I was exhausted from driving to and from WV the day before to defend my thesis. But we went. And we somehow found each other. And over the past year, even though we’ve had a lot of ups and downs and a pretty hard break, I think we’ve only gone two full days without talking to each other.

We went on a fun road trip on Saturday to Greensboro to meet my best friend so the boy could buy a snare drum off him. (It’s a gorgeous drum!) We took our time and stopped at a lot of different places. We travel well together, which is a huge thing, really. It was one of the best days I’ve had in as long as I can remember.

Last night, we went out to acknowledge the date and had some drinks and sushi and curry. The restaurant had some glass jewelery on display that we were looking at for a bit, and he snuck off at some point to buy a bracelet to surprise me with when we got home.

bracelet

Our relationship this time around is different, and it makes me wonder if we had to go through all the bullshit at the beginning so we could get it all out of the way and come back together as two friends who know each other completely. It’s hard for me to say things like “forever” after being divorced (ALMOST divorced–come on, Jan 4th!), but this just feels right. I’m happy in it, I’m comfortable in it, I’m looking forward to having this person in my life for as long as he wants to stay. How long that will be, who knows. I’m happy just for now to be here right now with what is.

This might be the most times I’ve used the word “happy” in a blog post. I think that means something. 😉

 

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Thanksgiving

We went to Williamsburg last week for Thanksgiving, as we do every year. It was strange because we were staying in a different hotel for the first time in over 30 years. (No one’s exactly sure when our family started staying at the Lord Paget, but it was well before I was born.) I think that made it a little easier, being somewhere different. It made mom’s absence seem less acute…for me, anyway.

Last year at Thanksgiving, I took a lot of videos. I knew it was going to be the last year we would stay in that hotel. I didn’t know it was the last time mom would be with us. But she opened the night with a toast, and I got it on camera. I tried to post it here, but the format isn’t accepted. She’s very teary and says something like, “May we have many more years together…if not here, then somewhere.” Quite apt, I think.

I ran my fastest 5k ever at the Turkey Trot, clocking in at 26:07. I’m quite proud of that.

It’s interesting, but I felt mom most strongly when I went shopping at the outlets on Black Friday. We’ve done that together every year for the past…gosh, I don’t even know how long. I missed her being with me. I missed us struggling to find a place to eat lunch, and I missed being dragged through the Christmas Mouse store to look for antique Analee dolls. I did go by the Williamsburg Cheese Shop to get all the stuff mom usually got for our Friday pizza party (cheese, pate, hummus, bread, etc.).

Dad had a rough time.

He had surgery yesterday to remove the basal cell carcinoma on his lower right eyelid. It seems to have gone well. Besides some soreness, a headache, and looking like he got hit in the face with a mallet, he’s doing just fine. I’m hanging out at the house today to make sure he’s fed. I was just going to come over this morning, but I stayed last night because they wanted an adult in the house in case he had a delayed reaction to the anaesthesia.

I’m tired and looking forward to getting my own life back on track. I feel like I’ve spent so much time taking care of and worrying about other people, I’ve been neglecting myself. I’m looking forward to a long Christmas vacation.

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Back to the Beach

Dad and I went to the beach this weekend. It was hard. There were a lot of “the last time I was here” moments.

Like the last time I drove down this particular stretch of road, I had to stop to try to get mom more comfortable because her back was hurting so badly and the catheter was uncomfortable.

And the last time I stopped at this gas station, I had to figure out how to help mom get to the public restroom. Not so easy in a wheelchair, let me tell you.

And the last time I walked down these stairs, it was following the volunteer firemen who came to carry mom so she could make it out safely.

And the last time I used this tub, it was to give mom a bath on the little bench that my aunt brought for us.

And the last time I was at this table, it was to feed mom the blueberry pancakes that she loved so much.

And the last time I was out on this deck, it was to roll mom out in the wheelchair so she could sit in the sun for a few minutes and listen to the ocean.

And the last person I know who slept in my bed on the first floor was my mom (she couldn’t make it up to the master suite).

And the last time I was on my computer at the dining room table, I could see mom through the bedroom doorway.

Needless to say, it was difficult.

But it was also nice. Dad needed the time away from all the paperwork and the stress of being at home. I needed a short respite from my thesis and the stress of being at work. I rented a bike again (a road bike this time!), and I rode down to the aquarium and met dad for a quick spin around the new facilities there. We also went to see the Blackbeard exhibit in Beaufort, then did a little shopping (more looking than buying) and had a very good dinner at the Blue Moon Bistro.

I brought the little heart that has a bit of mom’s ashes in it. Part of me thought it would be nice to bring it to the beach. Part of me couldn’t bear to leave it behind at home. So those two parts combined and I brought it along. I hope it doesn’t become my safety blanket. I know she’s not in there, but it’s a helpful touchstone.

I’d been doing okay with things on the grief front for a while…until a few minutes ago. My company’s having a pot-luck lunch on Thursday, and I thought I’d bring mom’s shrimp dip, which everyone always loves. I was searching through old emails to find where mom sent it to me. It’s so, so difficult to see her little avatar picture and to read emails from her. It’s like a tease, like maybe if I just send an email, she’ll write me back. I don’t think it works that way, though. I’m not sure heaven has an Internet connection just yet.

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Homesick

I went to yoga tonight because my favorite trainer, Yvonne, was having a “Freaky Flow” class for Halloween. I thought it was going to be an hour and a half, but it was just an hour (glad I checked before I got there 30 minutes too early!).

Yvonne warned me that some things might come up in the class that touched a little too close to home, but that it would be okay. I told her that’s why I was there.

I already knew that Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) is the day that spirits are supposed to be closest to the living. How do some people put it…that the veil between life and death becomes more thin than usual? Yvonne talked a little about this during the class and about how it was the Celtic new year, so there was a sense of looking back to honor what came before while also looking forward to look to what’s to come. She also had a fire bowl where we burned a piece of paper that represented something we wanted to ask the universe to enhance. I don’t know if it’s like birthday wishes, which you aren’t supposed to share lest they not come true, but I’ll tell you anyway: I asked the universe to enhance my sense of loving-kindness-compassion for myself. Yvonne mentioned that since we were asking the universe to enhance something, that meant we all had these things within us already. That was nice to hear.

I don’t know how many of you do yoga, but at the end of every practice, there’s a period of time where you lie in savasana, or “corpse pose” (flat on your back, legs extended, arms usually to the side). Since it’s at the end of the practice, the body is usually humming with blood flow and energy, and, just like at the end of every workout for me, it’s the time when I’m most emotionally open and vulnerable. These days, I usually cry when I stretch (no thanks to Mighty Mike, who keeps insisting on playing sappy break-up songs during the cool-down).

Something very strange hit me, though. I was fully open to the pain that I’m feeling surrounding my mother’s loss, and I just let it sit there instead of trying to get rid of it or let it out or let it overcome me. And I realized I’d felt that exact pain before. I felt that exact pain on many occasions during training for the Peace Corps. It’s homesickness. It’s knowing that you’re too far away from the people who love you the most. It’s understanding that they’re still out there, somewhere, but you have no way to get in contact with them to speak to them.

It made me remember the day I left for staging. My dad said goodbye at the curb. We couldn’t really say anything to each other because we were both crying, and I can’t stand to see my dad cry. Mom helped me carry my bags in. She helped me check in, and then she helped me sit on top of one of my bags as we tried to re-close it after stuffing in my body pillow (allowed on international flights, but not domestic, the bastards). I remember I had to take something out for her to take home; she said she’d send it in her first care package. Then she walked with me to the escalators that led to the security checkpoint. It’s so crazy how extremely emotional moments imprint themselves on you: I can see this happening like I’m watching a movie. She gave me a hug and told me goodbye, probably said that she’d be counting the hours until she could see me again a year from that Christmas. And then that was it. I was going down the escalators and leaving my mom behind with a certainty that we would see each other again, someday, but it was going to be a long, long time.

And now it’s the same, only she’s the one with the overstuffed bags heading down the escalator, and I’m the one who has to go home to wait until I can see her again.

To be honest, I thought I’d be able to feel her. I thought I’d know she was out there, that she was still a part of me. But I don’t. I don’t feel anything but tremendous loss and overwhelming homesickness. The only comfort I can find in that is that her spirit was ready to go home and isn’t wasting any time hovering around us silly people anymore.

Today, I read “A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs,” a eulogy written by novelist Mona Simpson. It was touching to me because the last third of it could have almost been written about my mother. I’d written before about how I thought she was somehow gone before her labored breathing began, and it sounds like that’s what happened to Steve, though he was more expressive about it. It was also nice to hear that not everyone in these kinds of situations just goes to sleep: I still feel awkward about the “passed away peacefully” note in mom’s obituary.

Dad went to get the urns from the funeral home yesterday, so he has them back at home. I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to get my little heart…probably not until the weekend. I still don’t know how I feel about it. We’re going to scatter the ashes from the large urn, but the ashes in the small heart are mine. I used to think that spirits didn’t dissipate until the body had fully returned to the earth. This made me feel bad about hanging onto ashes, like I was somehow holding someone back. But I don’t know if I feel that way anymore. I don’t feel mom hanging around. I really doubt she’s waiting for us to scatter her ashes. I suppose it’s true, that whatever happens now is not for her, but for us, and what makes us feel better. Maybe I’ll keep the ashes in the heart. I guess we’ll see.

 

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Smile!

I know there are a lot of people who are reading this blog now, so I apologize that I didn’t make my regular update last night. A lot of things have been going on in my life, and I’m trying to get everything all sorted out. Hopefully things will settle soon. Fingers are crossed. And even some toes.

I appreciate all the comments and support. Dad asked me the other day, “What are you putting in your blog?” Apparently people who haven’t talked with him in ages are calling to tell him they’re touched by what I’m writing. I’m glad I’m able to be of service in some capacity.

Anyway, I got over to my parents’ house around 4:30 or so Friday night. (Is that last night? I can’t even tell anymore.) Dad ran out pretty quickly to the post office and to grab a beer. I tried to get mom to talk with me, but she was in that state where she vaguely responded and didn’t open her eyes. It’s rather frustrating.

I finally got her to open her eyes when I told her I dyed my hair purple. This is true! I had a streak of dark purple put in my hair when I got my hair cut this week. It’s in my bangs, if I had bangs, and it’s done in such a way where you can’t really tell unless you look, or unless I pull it out. It looks almost like my bangs are tipped in purple. So when I told her that, she opened her eyes and looked at me. Then I told her that I’d been getting a lot of compliments on my toenails this week (true!) because I’d painted them her color, Revlon’s “Wine with Everything.” (And I put my sparkles on as a topcoat.) I held up a foot for her to see. And she smiled!

“You’re smiling!” I said. “What are you smiling for? Because I dyed my hair purple?”

“Because you have purple hair and purple toes,” she said.

So I’m glad I was able to serve a great purpose by dying my hair a crazy color. She always used to hate when I dyed my hair (first time was at a church camp…I said that’s what she got for sending me to church camp). I guess the times have changed.

She tried to go back to sleep for the news (dad put a big TV in their room), but she opened up her eyes again when I found a cake show on TLC. She loves the cake shows. She discovered them while we were at the beach. Then she stayed up for Charmed. She always loved that show.

I also brought over a video of me dancing. I was part of a show at work, and since she’d said she wanted to see me dance, I thought she’d enjoy it. But when I was in a group shot, she didn’t even recognize me…she pointed to a heavyset woman instead. Guess she hasn’t noticed I’ve lost weight!

Mom hadn’t gotten out of bed since I’d been there on Tuesday. She said she wanted to get up for dinner, so we gave that a shot. It was difficult. She seemed to stand better than she did on Tuesday, so that’s good, but she got worn out really quick. She only ate about three bites of dinner, then wanted to go back to bed. I made her drink some Boost before I wheeled her back. I don’t think she likes it when I force her, but when I helped her to get up, I felt every rib in her chest from behind, where I held her back. It’s no good.

I also feel HORRIBLE because I hurt her back. I was trying to get her settled back into bed, and the only way I know how to move her is her legs, then her back, then her legs, then her back, inch by inch. When I moved her legs, I hurt her back. She told me she was tired of telling me not to do things, so she just let me do it. I told her that I didn’t know how she was feeling, so she had to tell me what was going on. I felt so guilty and sorry. I hate that I hurt her.

I’m going to be away next weekend, so I won’t be around to help out. I told that to dad today. He sounded kinda let down. I know he didn’t mean to, but I know he looks forward to my visits, so I feel bad. But it’s the Peace Corps 50th anniversary in DC, and I’ll get to see folks I haven’t seen in several years (including folks who work in Lesotho!). I need to go.

Sorry my thoughts are all over the place tonight. It’s been a very long couple of days. I’m looking forward to a bit of rest tomorrow, and a chance to work on my thesis (I hope!).

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Exhausted.

We made it back from the beach with (most of) our sanity. I made Elana’s pancakes (plus blueberries!) again for breakfast since mom likes them so much. Dad and I decided to go ahead and give mom two of her pain pills so that her back wouldn’t bother her so much during the ride…and also so (we desperately hoped) she would just sleep the whole way back.

It worked! But the bad side effect is that the pills really throw mom for a loop. She was out of it all day and had trouble staying awake. I guess that if it got her home without pain and discomfort, it was worth it.

I am exhausted. I had hoped that I would have gotten some time to work on my thesis while we were away, but it didn’t happen. I had to work two half days because I didn’t have enough PTO to cover the whole week. I felt like I cooked/baked every meal we ate (dad helped with dinner one night; dad’s sister made breakfast once). I had to help with mom every time she needed something. Even if I’d sat down to start working, I would have been interrupted every 15 minutes. I’d rather be interrupted from watching the Tudors (I’ve only just discovered this show!) than from my thesis. Mom was disoriented for most of the trip. And she was extremely weak and had trouble walking. Not so much fun.

I hope dad got a chance to relax a bit. I don’t know if he did or not. We did go out to dinner last night, just the two of us, and even though the restaurant was really loud, we had some good conversations. Caregiving is taxing. I’m not sure people realize.

So I’m very happy to be home. I got mom to her house, forced her to eat a little (she wasn’t hungry at all, probably due to the pills), and got her settled in bed (“You made it!” says I; “We made it,” says she), then ran right out the door once dad got there (and I helped him unload his car). I feel kinda bad that I didn’t even ask mom if she had to use the bathroom. Since she didn’t ask, I didn’t offer. It was just too much for me.

I still get frustrated sometimes. For instance, the other night, she was trying to wash her face. I’ve been helping her wash her face for what seems like months, and she always uses the same thing: this Shaklee cleansing lotion stuff, then this tiny bar of face soap. But instead, that night, she grabbed the bar of hand soap and tried to wash her face. I kept trying to tell her it was the wrong thing and would dry out her skin, but she kept on with it and put it all over her face. I got a little irritated, and then she tried to tell me that she’d been using it for 10 years and knew exactly what she was doing. I tried to explain the difference between the two bars of soap on the counter, but it just didn’t work. She didn’t believe me at all, but she did use the cleansing lotion once I cleaned the bar soap off her face, probably just to humor me. I apologized later and told her that I wasn’t frustrated with her, but with her situation, and she said she felt the same way. Not that it justifies raising my voice.

It’s going to be a busy weekend. I HAVE to get to work on my thesis, and we have a wedding to go to on Sunday, then the cats have a vet appointment on Monday (our poor guy might need teeth extracted: now accepting donations to cover vet bills!). And I need to sweat off the 10 lbs I gained from eating so much this past week. Ugh.

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At the Beach

Well, here we are! We made it, after an extremely long day yesterday, to Emerald Isle. There’s not much visible damage from Irene, which is great.

I got up yesterday and went to my parents’ house, then ran to the grocery store, made mom a PB&J sandwich (she ate a good bit), helped dad finish packing, and loaded up.

The ride down here was awful. I volunteered to take mom, thinking that she would just sleep the whole way. Instead, there was a new complaint every five minutes. We must have stopped at least a dozen times. Her catheter was making her uncomfortable, and there was no way for me to get the bag low enough in the car for it to drain properly. Then her back was hurting, so we tried every possible configuration of seat and pillows. Then she needed to stop to go to the bathroom, so I had to put the wheelchair together and take my first stab at helping her in a public restroom. Tons of fun, let me tell you.

It really tried my patience. I was probably snippier than I should have been. I wasn’t frustrated with mom, but with everything that’s going on in her body. And the fact that I can’t make it better.

But we made it. And I think it will be good for her. She stayed awake yesterday for longer than she has in a month or so. Once we got to the house, she was content to sit in the wheelchair until dinner (she’s been craving lasagna, so I made some). There was a lot of blood in her catheter, so I’m sure the ride wasn’t the most comfortable thing ever. I hate that catheter. I know she does too. It would just be so much easier if we could get the thing out.

I’ve got a lot of work to do while I’m down here, both work work and school work. I hope I can find the time.

She was staring at me a lot last night after I put her in bed. I asked why, and she said, “because you’re taking so much of your time to try to make this work. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

The blurry picture below is of a gift a friend gave me for my birthday a couple years ago. It’s a small thing, probably something she picked up at a Hallmark or a store like that, but it strangely means a lot to me. The quote says, “Promise me you’ll always remember…you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I kept it on my dresser in WV, then on my desk while I was staying with my parents, so I can see it every day. A few days before I moved out of my parents’ house, I left it on their kitchen table so they can see it every day. I like to think it’s true about all of us as we go through this together as a family.

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