A place to put my energy

Since the tornado began, I’ve been grasping for some way to stay firmly on the ground.

Everything has felt so unbelievably out of control and all I’ve had to hold on to is my anxiety, my fear, and my grief.

I’ve had anger and it’s been a great comfort when that comes flying out sideways towards people around me – especially to those who I’ve decided have made me a victim.

Because feeling like a victim has really helped me feel even worse and more out of control.

This process of letting go, detaching, and trusting is too ephemeral, intangible.  It’s all about feelings and mindset, which, when I wallow there, makes me more anxious and freaked out.

And with the accident, we are looking at a long road of letting go, detaching, and trusting. We are stepping into one of the greatest unknowns I’ve ever had to enter.

And today, I have found my anchor…

Office supplies.

There is so much paperwork flying at us right now: medical bills, insurance claims reports, and soon there will also be legal paperwork out the wazoo.

And here’s where my security blanket, my new turquoise binder, sparkle dividers, and pre-hole-punched recycled paper, comes into play in a way that calms me and keeps me focused;

I can do court. I can do organization.

Give me a couple of bright post-its, and some new pens, and maybe even some of those pretty, striped paper clips, and I am all set.

A new three-ring binder is an inspiration to clean my desk. Printing out 100 pages of forms motivates me to finally mop the spill on the kitchen floor that has been there since the breakup.

I got one of those briefcase sized file folders with 13 pockets. It’s purple. Calms me right down.

In my desk this morning, I found a whole drawer full of exactly what I just bought – minus the sparkle dividers. It’s good to have backup, but if I really want to feel better, I need to spend money that should be going towards bills, at Office Depot.

Then, add to all of this, my experience with both the medical world and the legal world.

I’ve had at least 6 surgeries since my kids were born and add on one surgery for each of two of my boys. I’ve been to spine doctors, hand specialists, pain management physicians, countless orthopedic surgeons, and neurologists…plus the OBGYN – just to name a few.

Plus, all of the time and energy I’ve put into my parents and their medical ailments and hospital time puts me in the upper echelon of experienced patients.

And court? I’ve been there 7 times in the last 8 years, just for my divorce, not to mention jury duty.

I’ve worked with multiple attorneys and 2 different judges.

I’ve had some serious wins.

I can organize for court like nobody’s business.

So it appears that the years of agony and questioning, “Why is this shit happening to me?” are going to serve me well.

When I begin to feel completely bombarded by the Universe, I have my shield.

It’s the prettiest shade of blue and has a clear pocket on the front to insert a hopeful and calming photo and an inspirational quote from some random buddhist website .

Things I am learning in my convalescence

Okay, “convalescence” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I am prone to exaggeration, so, what do you expect?

Anyway, last week was the leg, this week, the tooth.

I was so excited to get the thing removed from my leg and even more excited to get the oh-so-painful tooth out of my mouth that it never crossed my mind that there might be anything challenging to it all.

So I’ve got pain and scarring and a mouth gap and a swollen face and weird spreading bruises all over the place that gravity seems to play with and I am on a liquid diet and so I’m starving; but those aren’t that big of a deal.

Here are the Big Deals:

Learned fact number one…As much as I fantasize about being an invalid so I have a valid excuse to lie around and watch tv and stare at the walls and eat soup and pudding and feel sorry for myself, it’s boring. I’m bored. Out of my fucking mind.

Learned fact number two…Even I can OD on Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding.

Learned fact number three…Undercooked soft boiled eggs smell like the henhouse when cracked open.

LF#4…Head hair can get tangled up in leg stitches as it travels from one’s head to the shower drain.

LF#5…I am vain about my legs.

LF#6…I was actually quite attached to the gold tooth, or at least attached to actually having a tooth.

LF#7…I’m not really liking “scars” that come from aging rather than adventures.

LF#8…For fuck’s sake, FLOSS.

and wear SUNSCREEN (#9).

Fact #10…When they offer you stronger pain medication, take it because they can’t call in controlled substances to the pharmacy later when you realize that you need them.

Learned Fact #11…If the oral surgeon has to leverage his feet against the arm of your chair to better yard on your tooth with his pliers, there’s going to be some swelling later.

Learned Fact #12…I already kind of knew this but am just now acknowledging it…the voices that tell me that I am being lazy, not contributing enough, being a puss, and am selfishly expecting my partner to take care of me when he clearly has more important things to do are just that…voices…old ones…ones from which I can divorce myself…voices not worth listening to.

And Learned Fact #13…There is a fantastic television series from Masterpiece Theater called Downton Abbey available at the Mancos Public Library. I highly recommend it. It has saved my sanity.

 

 

Today my heart…

…is heavy.

Every year, come hell or highwater (which is exactly what it was this year – thank you Hurricane Matthew) my mother goes to Paris. Paris is her heart place; a piece of her soul lives there. We who love her, know this, embrace this, and send her on her merry way every October.

She’s almost 80 and legally blind and a badass adventurer.

But my 85-year-old father’s health hasn’t been so good lately. Actually, we’ve had some pretty big scares recently.

So Mom was going to cancel her trip but instead, I flew to Florida to hang out with Dad.

Perfect solution for all of us.

And then came the hurricane. Mom was gone, Dad was evacuated, I didn’t know if I was going to even be able to arrive here.

Turns out I was. Dad had just returned to his home which was damage-free, yet still a mess. When I got here, there was a massive amount of debris and the steel “shutters” still covered every window and door except the garage.

It was mighty dark and fortressed in here – like a bunker.

Dad was in pretty good shape and very good spirits. I was super psyched that I was here.

We’ve had a week of cleanup, chores, and lovely talks. We completed some projects that he would never have been able to do on his own.

And I have seen things; I’ve gained insights into my father and into being elderly in general.

I’ve witnessed that a sense of order is important. I’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to do simple things by oneself. I’ve opened the doors to the near empty refrigerator of people who no longer cook for themselves. I’ve met the comrades who take care of each other because none of them can do it completely on their own. I’ve been here for the death of a close friend’s child.

This morning my father is visiting a friend who can no longer leave the house and has become isolated and depressed.

I sat in the cardiologist’s office while he explained that they can’t explain what is happening to my dad’s heart and lungs.

I’ve watched my father wince in pain. I’ve seen that he needs to sit down and catch his breath after taking the dog into the yard to pee.

I made the decision to stay with my dad rather than take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see my best friend from high school – a choice I certainly would never have made when I was 17.

And, I’ve borne witness to his strength and resiliency. He’s still the same guy; kind, witty, intelligent, loving, and totally unwilling to give into old age and sit on his ass.

Vital.

We’ve had gallons of coffee, bowl after bowl of ice cream; we casually ate our meals at the bar in the kitchen rather than the dining room table. We’ve lingered, we’ve shot the shit, I shared some incredibly personal and painful bits of my life

For the first time EVER, we have watched the news and agreed on politics.

I have been told, repeatedly, by many of the folks in this town, “You are your mother.” I am honored.

My father is amazing, a gem. He is the most decent man I know. After close to 60 years of marriage, he and my mother are still in love.

So today, I depart. He will drop me off at the airport at noon so I can return to the rest of my family who I miss terribly.

But I am sad. I could stay here forever. I would love to be here when my mother arrives (tomorrow) and have more time with both of them.

This trip has brought to my awareness the fragility of life and the desire to share these last years with my mom and dad; they won’t be around forever.

I get that in a way that I’ve never really gotten it before.

I adore my parents. I am so fortunate to have been born into this family.

I am so thankful that I outgrew my stupid teenage rebellion.

Her Turn

She tires of running people to the ER, Urgent Care, doctors.

Just this week, child number three’s boss called and began with, “Hi, it’s Karen. First, Bobby is okay.”

Which means that obviously he’s not okay, but he is still breathing.

Second eye mishap in as many weeks. Second time she’s put work on hold in as many weeks.

Before that, there were several appointments at the spine specialist plus two MRI’s for Peter. Then tack on physical therapy. Oh, and there was Mono.

Greg has managed to stay out of the medical world, but let’s not forget the year of the hamstring which really just isn’t far enough in the past to let go of yet and the annual spring influenza.

So she’s a caretaker. It’s what she does. And she gets damn tired of it sometimes.

So today, she decided to look out for herself, to take care of herself, to worry about just her.

And off she went to Urgent Care with something huge and unidentifiable imbedded underneath her right thumbnail, infected, causing agonizing throbbing up her entire arm.

Yay, she thought, today she doesn’t have to sit on the uncomfortable chair in the corner talking to the back of the doctor’s head while he examines whatever child she happens to be with.

No more falling asleep out of sheer boredom.

She got to get stabbed and prodded and scraped at and made miserable. She was fascinated with her wound and was able to watch the entire procedure from a front row seat. She got a hot pink, hot shit, bandage.

The very cute doctor who, unlike most physicians these days, was actually of her generation and not some Doogie Howser looking dude fresh out of med school, asked, do you know what it is?

No.

Do you know how long it’s been in there?

Nope.

You really don’t know?

Okay, hot doctor, I raise pigs and chickens, garden, plant, prune, climb fences, and cook for a living. I am rough on my hands. For all I know it’s a carrot under there.

Then the good doctor said, If you had waited any longer, it would have become a boil that blew off the end of your thumb.

Well shit, she wishes she’d waited for that.

He assured her that the pain would have been unbearable.

But it would have been so cool.

Then, to cap off a great afternoon, a little retail therapy and lunch with her lovely, uninjured children.

images

 

 

My poor (almost adult) baby

He has to have major surgery day after tomorrow: hamstring repair.

He tore it off his pelvic bone.

Crutches, brace, PT, no driving for 2-3 months, 1 year rehab before he can do any type of athletic activity.

Pain.

They told me yesterday that Lortab isn’t going to cut it.

Blood thinners, pain meds, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories.

They also said, “Plan on being in the hospital ALL day.”

That’s when I got off the phone and cried.

Watching the physical pain is bad.

Watching the emotional pain: unbearable.

Everything he has dreamed of for his future in on the line right now – and honestly, one foot over the line. He may never play football or wrestle again.

So much for D-1.

He was contacted by a college football recruiter the other day. First question after name and position: “Any athletic injuries?”

He is trying to hard to remain hopeful and undefeated. He is determined that this will not stop him from fulfilling his ambitions and dreams.

He is also very aware that no matter how determined he is, it might not do him any good. He just may never play again.

He did something stupid and reckless the other night. When I called him out on it, he fell apart, “Mom, my life is ruined.”

You and I know that it’s not, but when you are the star of the football team and the most physical kid in town, it feels that way.

My heart broke for this sweeter-than-sugar young man.

I’m trying to just hold space for all of his pain – to be able to hear him and help him remember that he is loved and will, no matter what he thinks, be okay.

“We will get through this. It’s going to be hard, and, we will do it. Together.”

I’m calling in the forces: friends, teammates, coaches, grandparents, cousins.

He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met – plays football with multiple broken ribs.

And he is the most sensitive kid I know.

Watching this huge, muscle-bound, tough-guy cry is simply and horribly sad.

So, as I prepare and he prepares, I find myself praying – something I am not prone to doing.

But we are going to need all the help we can get to make this boy continue to smile that glorious, infectious smile of his.

 

 

TBI

Stands for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Translation: Concussion.

Cause: Helmet to Helmet hit on the football field.

Necessary Action: Go to the Doctor.

Treatment: Time off the Line.

Reaction: “It’s all your fault, Mom.”

Yep. I’m the one who insisted on him playing football, even though he begged to sing in the choir instead.  I am also the one who told him he was a puss and needed to hit a whole lot harder. I refused to listen to his complaints about having a headache for over a week. Oh wait, he didn’t complain because I told him to lie about the headache and deny that he had one. I also stubbornly didn’t agree with him that he knows more than the ER Doc and doesn’t have a concussion. And I am definitely the driving force behind the national movement to save athletes from long-term brain damage by implementing more rigid protocols for allowing those athletes back on the field after a hard knock.

Obviously, All. My. Fault.

After yesterday’s second doctor appointment for the head, the appointment wherein the doctor said, “Yes, it is a concussion. No, you shouldn’t have been playing last week. Yes, you should have told your mother and coach about the headaches. No, you’re not going back in this week. And, yes, TBIs are very serious,” we walked out to the car in a torrential rainstorm, the silence between us thickening with each falling drop.

I unlocked my door and got in the car.  He pressed his face against the window saying “Are you serious?” as I decided if I would let him in or not.

I begrudgingly did.

As we drove home I said, “Now is the time to say, thank you, Mom, for caring so much about my well-being. I am sorry, Mom, that I yelled at you and accused you of ruining everything for me…”

Then, “…repeat after me, ‘I. Was. Wrong.'”

“I can’t say those words, Mom. Not in my lexicon.”

‘Wrong’ isn’t, but ‘lexicon’ is?

I rolled down the window on his side (Love power windows.  Also love the child-lock.) I figured a good dousing would at least make me feel better.

It did.

He laughed.

He still can’t utter the word ‘wrong’, but I think he gets the message.