Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Current life issues

I just "googled" depression. Not sure why, I know what it is. I'm pretty sure I'm in a chronic state right now. Lack of motivation, aching muscles, sleep issues and a feeling of impending dread.

Or perhaps it because of my current life issues:

  • My beloved old beagle blind, deaf and peeing everywhere. She's seems to be the last remaining part of a life before special needs. a life that was easier. where choosing my outfit was a major decision and the make and model of my car defined me. I'm aware that her time here is limited. and I mourn her and the life that she represents every time I clean up a puddle or wipe the crust off her chin.

  • Dermot's nurses have been a godsend and a cause for worry. We have someone in our house each morning at 7 am to wake Dermot up, dress and prepare him for school while I sleep in and drink my first cup of coffee, away in the dining room. A physical relief, but emotionally a step back from his day to day care. We have nurses in our house every day. Every day....the enormity of that statement sets in, every time I allow them to enter the house, every time they brush his teeth and I don't. Every time I place the oximeter on his finger each night.

  • My mother just left for the season to Arizona. After her stroke I had to change my expectations of our relationship. No longer is she a source of support and stability, no longer is she the matriarch of the family. I have had to continually remind her of how to use her phone, listen to her complaints of isolation and dependence on others. I watch parts of my mother fade away and morph into a new version of herself. Confidence gone, fear flourishing in her thoughts and loneliness following her every move. I am in charge now.

  • Politics (no need to say anything about this topic, right?)

  • This may sound petty, but I also miss my hair terribly. Last spring I found it necessary to rid myself of my mane. I thought it would be liberating, a symbol of rebirth. But instead, I feel naked and exposed. I am not this person, I know I am not my hair, but I am not this hair. I wait, patiently, excruciately, as it grows again. My hope is, as it grows, I will grow back into myself.

  • Last year I volunteered for everything, this year not so much. I'm looking for purpose and connection without overextending my time. I actually entertained the idea of going back to work, until the first week of school when Dermot was admitted to the hospital for a respiratory infection. Then I realized its not yet feasible.

  • We have an amazing up north getaway place that we just can't seem to get away to. The stress of leaving town with Dermot and all of his equipment seems too much right now. So it stays empty, waiting for family and friends to fill it with joy and activity.

  • My oldest is flourishing. An A student, a devout christian, a Sunday school teacher, cross country runner, hockey player and the kindest kid you'll ever meet. He's growing into a person I couldn't have dreamed he'd be. 

  • My youngest is still a challenge for me. His personality and issues are so incredibly typical that I find it difficult to take seriously. My perspective is so skewed towards the worst, that a call from the principal doesn't phase me, or a barky cough doesn't worry me.  

So I know these life issues are only temporary. Hair grows back, old dogs die, most children grow up leave the nest. I'll survive this period. it's okay to be sad, to feel the feels. I think that's why I love the seasons so much. they symbolize life, death, growth and rebirth. It feels better when I write about them. Perhaps next I'll write about gratitude, probably not though, me and gratitude aren't speaking right now...

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Loss

Here's grief again.

It started with a phone call from my brother. I wished him a happy birthday and he returned my greeting with a sullen voice. "I guess you haven't heard yet", "What?" I answered.
He returned my question with the news that my favorite aunt, and come to think of it, my only surviving aunt was dead.
"What? WHAT?! What?!!" I stammered.

Only weeks earlier I had received news that my mother had suffered a stroke, so I was expecting him to say something about her. But this time it was her twin. Her alter ego. Her best friend. 

Judy was everything my mom wasn't, and my mom possessed the qualities that eluded Judy.

They were yin and yang. Opposites in many ways, but when they were together they were a site to behold. My mom was the driver, Judy picked the restaurant, unless Joni objected to the cuisine. They could talk for hours about the past, their kids, their grandkids. They’d giggle about each other. Mom would drag her out shopping and Judy would dutifully go along, just wanting some time with her beloved sister.

These women didn’t grow up easy. They were born in 1945, premature, each weighing close to two pounds. There were no PICU units back then, they were stuck under the warm lights together and expected to grow.

Grow they did. I only know the gory details that they’ve share with me. It involves a kind and boisterous father full of red hair who worked for the railroad and a hardworking, fast talking mother who worked as the voice of Roto-Rooter most of life.

Third in line after an older sister from their mother’s first marriage and an older brother who was driven to succeed, these young girls added what I imagine would be trauma, love and joy to an already complicated house.

These girls would grow, not resembling each other in the least, they were dressed alike for years as twins. They had separate jobs. I only know my mom was the one sent to collect my grandfather from the bar when he’d reached this absolute limit according to my grandmother. I imagine Judy was home helping with dinner or smoothing over the tension of the alcoholic household. Their identities were cast at a very young age, their roles in life defined by alcoholism.

They grew up, they both acquired jobs at Prudential as typists, but as Judy once told me later, she never cared for it.

I don’t know who was married first, but within a year of each other, they were on their way to starting families of their own. Living 30 minutes apart didn’t seem to difficult.

They also became mothers within a year of each other, both having sons. The sisters had another child within a year of each other (that’s where I come into the story). That’s where their lives start to diverge.

Both had married into alcoholism. I’m cannot tell you if the signs were there for them to exercise caution, but I can tell you they gravitated to what they thought was normal, and comfortable. It took my mom eleven years to decide to leave. There is much more to the story that maybe I’ll share someday, but not today.

But Judy stayed with her husband. She had a daughter, six years younger than me, whom I adored as a child. A girl cousin to play with and dress up! There were always rumblings about Judy’s husband and his drinking. He was the uncle at holidays that always took it a little too far. At seven years old I remember my mom wondering about their future. Then, there was four! Aunt Judy was pregnant again. I remember the surprise from my mom, another baby!

Her third boy seemed different, or maybe its because I was older. He was light, funny, a blessed distraction whom the family celebrated.

I remember going to their house frequently as a child. I remember so many things fondly.

I remember fondue parties, Judy always in the kitchen, standing behind the red countertops preparing cheesy meals and reveling in her hosting abilities at the annual family reunions. I remember her feather light blond hair always being brushed. I remember sitting in the way back of her Country Squire wood-paneled station wagon going to McDonald’s in the Valley West shopping center for lunch. I remember playing in the backyard of their house in prestigious West Bloomington till after dark, and hearing her yell all her kids’ names in succession, to make things easier. I remember her crazy Old English Sheepdog, Tigger. Matted fur and no manners. The best was when she’d yell for Tigger to come in the house, and the cousins would always think the neighbors heard another word that started with N. I remember feeling something at her house that I missed sometimes at my house. I felt special. No matter what was going on in her life, no matter what the source to chaos filled her brain at any given moment, she had the ability to make me feel special, loved and safe.

I remember when she finally got the guts to stand out on her own. I was older, I watched her. She took her kiddos and left. I barely know any of the details, only that it was time for her to leave and bring her kids with her. Bristol Village seemed to give her a new life, a sense of possibility. Here the twins were in tune again. Trying to make it and start over. Free from the bullshit.

Judy thrived and struggled all at the same time. She ended up getting her house back. It needed to be gutted. Cleansed of the past to start with a clean slate. My brother came to the rescue. He brought his giant hammer and got to work. Dumpsters were filled, kids were working, the house was coming back to life, and so were the inhabitants. Little did Judy know, as much as my brother helped her, she helped him right back. She gave him purpose, unconditional love, and a sense of belonging that was missing in our household.

As the years went by, Judy found a new career as a nursing assistant at a care facility for seniors. I couldn’t think of a more perfect job for someone with so much love to give, that is until she became a grandmother.

Her daughter gave birth to twin boys. Premature, just like her, and just like her, they survived and thrived on all the love given to them from their grandma Judy. She took over caring for the twins, so her daughter could go back to work. Those boys kept the light in Judy’s eyes and the unconditional love flowing. Field trips and playdates, she was there. Illnesses and accidents, she was there. Mundane days of routines, she was there. And when their little brother came along, there she was, best friend to number three. No questions asked. I always felt like part of Judy never really grew up and that’s why she was so great with kids. She understood them, and they understood her.

As I got older I didn’t see her as much, my second son was discovered to have many disabilities, and I was caught up in the life-changing whirlwind that is my life now. Of course, I regret now not seeing her more often and silently shoving $20 bucks in her purse whenever I had a chance and she wasn’t looking. But what comforts me is if I were to tell her this now, I know exactly what she would say. “Oh Honey, it’s okay, I understand. You have so much on your plate. You know me and my friends at church pray for Dermot every day, I love you Suzy”.

It sounds that in her last few years she devoted much of her life to her church and the rest of her life to her family. She never turned any of her children away when they needed her. I don’t think it was possible for her to say no. Her love was that strong. Her sense of forgiveness was remarkable. Honoring her husband’s memory after he past away too early and being the rock and the soft-landing spot for all her children to land.

If I had one wish for my aunt Judy, it would have been for her to be more loving and kind to herself. I wish she would have realized how loved she was, and how important she was to so many people. And, I wish I would have told her this when she was alive.

Rest in Peace Judy Mertz. Your spirit lives on through every life you’ve ever touched and every heart that feels broken by your passing.

(Disclaimer to my family: This is my memory of Judy, the facts may or may not be accurate, but it’s my truth)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A letter to my former self.

Dear 35 year-old self:

Don’t worry, I’m coming for you. You are always in the back of my mind. I’ve kept you there for safe keeping. Until I was ready to see you again. I revisit that day in my head, but not on purpose. Mostly when I drive by Hennepin Ave. or walk down the hospital hallway. I’m relieved that they remodeled the scene of the trauma. Too much happened to you in that room for you to go back there, ever.

The doctors moved to a different building too, so that horrid day will be easier. When it pops up in my mind it usually brings me to a silent panic, then I stuff it down into the darkness again. Not ready to tell you what I know now. You were free back then, oblivious to what was yet to come. Still living in a world of fancy cars, lavish trips and casual friends all around. Sure, there was that one operation, but it was a common procedure, almost as common as appendicitis. You weren’t unique, you weren’t alone.

You were still coping well enough. Worn down a little by his constant crying and your commitment to comfort him, but still, not unique. You wore the $170 jeans you purchased when you got to prebaby weight. You pal’ d around with the other moms, attended baby yoga classes and still sanitized all the baby bottles. The milestones weren’t so poignant, the differences weren’t clear yet. They’re all babies in strollers, right?

I want to tell you what I know now. I want to tell you what happened. But mostly, I want to tell you that you are going to be okay, and you will never be alone. Even when you feel like you have nothing left to give and no one left to cry to, you are not alone. Hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot. And it still does. But what you discover and what you become is so remarkable and reassuring that I had to come back to you and tell you.

That day in November, ten years ago will stay with you forever. It will change the path of your life and your purpose for living. It will cause you immeasurable amounts of pain and trauma. It will make you do things you never imagined you could do, achieve things you wouldn’t dream of trying. Hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.

You will slowly transform your values and your perception of a good life. Your perspective will broaden and you heart will break. Over and Over.

The people in your life will be there and then they won’t. Then they’ll be back, and then they’ll leave again. You will expect too much from them. You will lash out at everyone that doesn’t say the right thing. You will withdraw from people who care about you, because it hurts too much to see their lives unchanged. You will sit in your sunroom one evening, months after his first seizure and you will breakdown. You will feel defeated. But, you will finally ask for help. Help with your family and your kids and most importantly, help with your soul.

You will finally call that woman you’ve been watching. The one that seems at ease with herself and others. The one whose eyes are filled with pain and knowledge, but whose heart is full of kindness. She will say “yes” and you will start to heal. Hold on, hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.

You will meet with her weekly. While your third baby grows inside you, you will meet, and you will heal. She will teach you to be better, to be who you are meant to be. The person who you will become. You will show up and you will roll your eyes at all the work she makes you do. The inventory, the prayers, the routines and the amends. It will all hurt. It will hurt, a lot. But every hour and every day, you are healing. Keep showing up. Hold on.

Your friends will change. Some will depart. Some will prove to you that they are there for you and you will learn to be there for them too. Some you will be angry with and some you think you can never forgive, but you will. You will forgive them, because they were doing the best they could. They were showing you how to exist in this new reality you are facing. Hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.

Your family will disappoint you. They will say the wrong thing. They will do the wrong thing. They will be selfish and unaware, but they’ve always been who they are, you will just expect more from them than they are able to give. Some will leave you. Some will stay and surprise you by their grace. Some you are still to this day, unable to face. Please let that be okay. You have tried the best you can for now and that needs to be okay. You will reinvent what family means to you and you will invite friends to be your family too. Blood isn’t a requirement to be family. Love is. Remember to hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.

You will grow. You will find your voice. You will be forced out of your comfort zone constantly. You will become brave out of necessity. Please don’t forget to tell people how scared you are. They will help you. They will comfort you. You will become an advocate for your son. You will educate yourself on all things “special needs” and become a resource for others. You will ensure that no mother will endure what you are enduring, alone. You will connect others to your new-found tribe of special needs mothers. You will build a community from the ground up of mothers that know your pain, that have walked in their own version of your shoes. You will not be alone. Hold on, it’s still going to hurt. It will hurt a lot.

There is no running away from the hurt or washing the pain away. You will try to run it out of your body. You will injure yourself. You will try weekly therapy, that will work sometimes, until it doesn’t, and you will take a break. You will try acupuncture, chiropractic solutions and yoga. These solutions will help you. You will jump off a 35 foot platform with only a metal wire connecting you to the earth. You will speak publicly about your experiences to a room full of hundreds. Keep trying new things. Keep searching for joy. There will be moments of joy everywhere, you will learn to notice them and appreciate them more than before.  But it’s still going to hurt. A lot.

There will be many hospital visits and ambulance rides. Too many to count. You will show up for every one of them. You will hold his hand and advocate for him every time. You won’t let anyone silence your voice. You will second guess the nurses and fire some doctors. You will say yes to some new therapies, and no to more medications. You will learn medical procedures only fit for trained professionals and you will shine as Dermot’s mom. You will find your place in all this new life. Hold on, hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.

You will trust people with him and allow others to love him and know him as you do. People will love him and find value in the gifts he brings to their lives. Some of these people will make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love him. They will keep trying. Because you keep trying. They will love him because they love you too.
You will learn to care about yourself more than you do now. You will learn to be compassionate with yourself. You will still find self-care to be a bit impossible, but most days you will be able to carve out a bit of time to do something just for yourself. Not because you want to, but because you must. Hold on. Hold on tight. It still hurts. It hurts a lot.

You will find yourself almost caught up to today. You will suffer frightening anxiety attacks. Don’t be afraid. Your body has been holding on to too much trauma. Ten years of reoccurring trauma. The anxiety attacks are your body’s way of telling you, it’s time to let go. It’s time to release your grip. You don’t have to hold on anymore. It will always hurt. A lot. But it’s okay to let go. You are not alone. You never were. The universe has been watching, the future you is telling you to let go and you will survive. Let go and ask for help, again. You will start a medication for your anxiety. Never mind that you said you’d never do that. You will start an alternative therapy to heal your trauma. Never mind that you thought it would never work. Let go and keep going. I’m here for you. I always will be.

Your 46 year-old self.