Cinnamon Brooms and Comas

Cinnamon brooms in the grocery store are how I know it’s time. The smell hits me like a wall every year. It’s so strong and it’s supposed to be pleasant, but it’s not, not any more. It used to be, I used to be excited when the cinnamon brooms were in the grocery store because that meant all the good things. Cooler weather, pumpkins, scary movies, candy pumpkins, Thanksgiving, cranberry sauce. It still means those things, but I have to fight for those things to be at the forefront. Because cinnamon brooms also mean choking, vomit, early morning calls, hospitals, comas, hospice and unplugging. Cinnamon brooms mean holding your baby as his first father dies. It means crying in the shower but holding it together for everyone else. Writing a eulogy for a 33 year old man. Picking out flowers and pictures. Asking for memories so you can share stories with his son who won’t know him. Cinnamon brooms mean all of those things. If I’m lucky, it means more of the good, and not so much of the sad. This year will be nine years of the cinnamon brooms causing anxiety instead of anticipation. Every year the anticipation gets a little stronger and the anxiety a little less. But the smell is always as strong.

*****************************************

This post was written as a Just Write post because sometimes it’s better to just let the words come without editing, rewriting, or checking yourself. Go read some of the other Just Write entries over on Heather’s blog.

Coming Back From The Sad

I’m coming back. I’m working my way back from a wicked case of sad. It was the worst since just after Mark died. You can always tell when I’m feeling bad because I don’t write here. I have fun stuff to share, fun little projects I’ve done, a baby shower post, a book review, fun stuff. But I haven’t because it felt completely out of place with where my mind was and how my heart felt. And I couldn’t bring myself to write anything that took more than two seconds to get out. Depression is exhausting.

I thought I was handling the loss of the pregnancy…my pregnancy…well. There was so much logic – I knew what happened, why the pregnancy was never viable. I knew that there was nothing we could have done to save the pregnancy, the baby.  It would seem that all the logic in the world amounts to bullshit after all. Since I can’t think of any other trigger that might have caused a fall back into depression this time, I am assuming it was the emotional part of losing the pregnancy baby and the hormones that went with it. And what a trigger it was. I let the depression grow and thrive for a couple of months. I let it live inside me without telling anyone it was there.  I was exhausted but didn’t want to sleep because of the horrific nightmares I was having. I couldn’t concentrate on anything that wasn’t completely necessary to sustain life. I didn’t want to do anything that required any effort unless the boys needed something. There was a lot of crying in the shower and behind closed doors so nobody would see.

I don’t think anyone besides William even noticed. But William noticed and thank heaven for him. He made me talk. He made me call my doctor to talk about how I was feeling and what was happening.

I’m coming back though. And I’m so very glad for it. I’ve missed you.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Thankful

For many years, November has been hard for me. This year, though, I made a huge effort to stay ahead of the sad and concentrate on being really thankful for what I have and who I am. For the most part, I succeeded. There were definitely hard parts to the month, and I’m still coming away from some of those feelings now; but, it was so much better than it’s been before. With that being said, I’m sharing some of the things my family was grateful for this year, and pictures of how we spent our month and Thanksgiving Day.

What are you grateful for today?

  • Sherry/Mommy,
  • Sunday lunches at Grandma’s,
  • Thanksgiving Day,
  • God,
  • Christmas,
  • Lemmon,
  • Craft time and a family that gets it,
  • William/Daddy,
  • Pizza,
  • Nicholas,
  • Tobin,
  • Mimi & PawPaw
  • Candy & ‘Jamas,
  • Technology letting us talk to Nana on her birthday,
  • Grandpa,
  • Nana and Grandpa,
  • Video games,
  • Teachers who love our kids,
  • Medicine,
  • To live in the time we live. Science and technology FTW!,
  • Being able to pay our bills,
  • Work colleagues who have become family,
  • Truth, and
  • Democratic elections

Needless to say, I am Beyond Thankful. How was your month and Thanksgiving Day?

 

When I Am Rich

When I am rich, I will…

  • have a housekeeper,
  • buy hardcover books,
  • volunteer at the kids’ schools,
  • get manicures and pedicures every two weeks,
  • go back to school,
  • own a house with a small yard,
  • go on vacation,
  • have a craft room,
  • have a swimming pool,
  • become a librarian,
  • have another baby,
  • get a big dog,
  • exercise every day,
  • sponsor an artist,
  • give money to PBS and NPR,
  • learn to paint,
  • take writing classes,
  • buy my Grandma whatever she wants,
  • take cooking classes,
  • put the boys in whatever lessons they want to try,
  • pay for the purchase of the people in line in front of me one day a week every week,
  • send flowers to patients in the hospital once a week,
  • buy books for hospice facilities,
  • go to whatever conferences I want,
  • build William a lab in which he can be a mad scientist,
  • have awesome giveaways on my blog of stuff I just love and want other people to have (I may or may not do the Oprah, “and you get an prize, and you get a prize” thing),
  • pay for the medical treatment of a friend without insurance,
  • give money to the hospital that cared for Mark and the hospice where he died,
  • buy a minivan, a really fancy one,
  • meet, in real life, the friends who live in my computer.

In no particular order…

 

 

Widow Wednesday: Complicated Questions

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ~ Theodore Seuss Geisel

I found that quote months ago; it hit me hard and I haven’t been able to shake it. I’ve been thinking of it constantly for 6 months.

There has been a hard question hanging over me for a long time. Almost seven years, in fact. It’s not a question that anyone else has asked, and I don’t think it’s one anyone would even *think* to ask. I was scared to ask this question because I didn’t know if I could handle the answer if it was “Yes.”

Because a yes might change the way I thought of myself. The way I felt about the last 20 years of my life – maybe my entire life.

My question was…

Was I so angry with Mark because of the difficult life we had together, that, when the time came to decide whether to keep him on life support or remove him, I let the anger make the choice? Did I let my husband die…or even worse, did I kill him?

Now, I know this was a purely emotional question. I followed the results of the tests, I know…I *know*…there was no brain activity except for the most basic functions, I saw the scans, I saw his body fighting infection after infection. I listened to all the doctors, and I listened to Mark. We’d had talks about what would happen if either of us was ever in a vegetative state (thanks to the Terry Schiavo case from the summer before). I knew that he didn’t want to be in that state once everything had been done to bring him back. I know that there was no coming back…and yet.

So, after I admitted to myself that this was a real question, one that I was really and truly scared of hearing the answer to, I decided to ask. Because I needed to hear what others thought and then deal with it, whether it was yes or no.

I asked William first, and he answered, “Are you asking me this because I should be worried? No. I don’t think I married a black widow or a murderer. You don’t have that in you.”

I asked my friend, Christie. Christie was my friend and boss for 8 years and had some idea of both how hard my married life had been and everything that lead up to this decision. And she said, “Absolutely not. You don’t have that in you.”

I asked a friend who is a medical professional and she said, “No way you would ever do that. Ever.”

I can not begin to tell you how relieved I was. How huge a weight was lifted from my shoulders with those answers. Because I don’t know what I would have done if these people had thought I might have let Mark die, if they thought I didn’t fight hard enough for his life. I was and am so very glad that the question was more complicated than the answers.

Great Expectations

I am cross-posting this entry from my new friend, Greta’s, blog. Greta has created a wonderful blog series of guest posts called Great Expectations. You should go read them, the women who have posted are fascinating and so very diverse. I was honored when Greta asked me to contribute, and the following post was published on her blog last week.

My Great Expectations…

I had it all planned out. I expected to finish college at 21, become a successful journalist by 22, get married at 23, and have a daughter at 27. I made this plan when I was 15. I’m not really sure what spurred me to choose the ages I did in my Big Plan, but they sounded completely realistic at the time.

The first change to the Big Plan came when I met my future husband at 16, and I assumed we would get married one day. So, I left for college (he came too) and got married at 20. While I was in my Sophomore year, I changed my expectation of becoming a Great Journalist to going in to public relations (a much better fit, as it turned out). I graduated college just before my 23rd birthday (it turned out that I couldn’t take as many classes as I expected while working almost full time).

Then the really big changes to both my Big Plan and Big Expectations happened. Because, after being married for a year or so, I figured out that my husband was an alcoholic. So, there wouldn’t be any babies for us until he got sober. He was a wonderful man, and I loved him and was committed to him and our marriage; but, I wouldn’t commit another person to that.

I went off birth control at 27 because I expected that he would stay sober. I mean, he went through rehab, so you *have* to stay sober after that, right? At least that’s what I expected. Not so much. But he did stay sober long enough for me to get pregnant. And I expected great things for that baby. But then the baby stopped growing. And Mark started drinking again.

It took another year and a half for Mark to get sober for good and for me to get pregnant. In that time, I never expected to make a group of friends on the Internet who would keep me sane in the years to come.

So, a few years after I expected in my Big Plan to have a daughter, I had my first baby at 30 years old. A baby boy. He wasn’t what I was expecting, but he was perfection.

It’s probably good that my original Big Plan ended at 27 years old, because there is no way I would have expected or planned for the years from 30 on. Because I didn’t expect Mark to get sick in August 2005 and die in November 2005. You don’t expect your husband to die at 33. You don’t expect to become a first-time Mom and a Widow in the same year. It isn’t in the Big Plan.

I didn’t expect those Internet friends and the friends in my offline world to become as important to me as my blood family. I didn’t expect it, but I wouldn’t have survived without it.

When I stopped by my friend Angela’s house about a year later, I didn’t expect her to be home. But I am so very glad she was. Because Angela hatched her own Big Plan that afternoon. She expected me to love her brother and for her brother to love me. She expected that he and I would match each other’s humor and interests and values. She expected that he would love my son like a biological father.

I didn’t expect any of those things. I expected to go on a few dates with him to make Angela happy and to get out of the house. I didn’t expect to fall in love with him so quickly…or to be so scared of that feeling.

My Big Plan didn’t include getting married at both 20 and almost-34. My Big Plan didn’t include having another boy just before my 35th birthday.

I didn’t expect to live in the dual world of widows where you can be deliriously happy and guilty about that happiness because you feel like you are cheating on the dead husband. After Mark died, I expected to be a single mother for the rest of my life. It would be easier, right?

I’m so glad that life didn’t follow my Big Plan and didn’t try to take the easy way. My Big Plan didn’t make allowances for messiness. And it didn’t allow for other people’s influence. Thank goodness.

My life didn’t go as I expected, but despite the sadness and challenges, I can’t say I would change any of it.

Widow Wednesday: What Did You Say?

My amazing friend Robin recently ran with the Widow version of “S%*t People Say” meme. She put a call out to her widow friends to gather the (mostly) well-meaning things that people say to widows and came up with this hysterical (maybe just to widows?) video:

I heard most, if not all, of these and one point or another. Most of the time, people were really trying to be thoughtful. Or at least not insulting. Y’all, these phrases are never thoughtful and are almost always insulting.

So, here’s the secret to what to say to a widow: “I’m sorry.” If you have the need to say something else, ask, “What can I do for you?” Those may be the two most important phrases a widow/widower can hear.

Widow Wednesday: Giving Up Hope

Several months ago, when I was dropping the kids off at my Grandmother’s house, my attention was caught by a story on the TODAY show. The story was about a person who had woken from a coma.  I tend to notice all of those stories, but then this had the phrase I hate. The patient woke up when, “the family was just about to give up hope”. This isn’t just a pet peeve. This phrase cuts me to the core every single time I hear it. There are so many things about the phrase that get me. And I’m not going to claim that any of them are rational. I know those stories aren’t about *me*. Regardless, they get me. So, if you can’t put up with some crazy, you should stop reading here.

When a person wakes from a coma, just in the nick of time, and the family never gave up hope? It implies that I did, and if I hadn’t, Mark would have woken up. Because, you know, just a little more hope would have turned those black brain scans back to ones full of light and activity. A little more hope would have cleared his lungs. A little more hope would have made it possible for him to swallow without choking to death. If only I’d had more hope.

Mark’s dad, Larry, literally never gave up hope that Mark would wake. We were at the hospice unit where Mark would die in 8 days and Larry was still urging Mark to wake. It got so painful that I asked him to stop when I was in the room. I just couldn’t hear it. So, if just having hope wakes someone from a coma? Larry would have been enough hope for all of us.

I hear “hope” and “faith” the same way. If only I’d had more hope/faith. Which means what? I didn’t pray right? The hundreds of strangers lifting Mark up in whatever prayer/thoughts/pleading to their own personal God or high power didn’t count? That’s what I hear when someone says they had faith.

I know. I know that, logically, nothing would have changed if I’d had more hope. I think it hurts me to hear that phrase, too, because if Mark had woken up…he wouldn’t have been Mark any longer. He would have been a shell. Probably. At some point, I knew it was better to let him go. His body could have lived on life support and in a coma for a long time. He had already fought of lung infections that would have quickly killed older, sicker patients. But we had talked about it and I knew he wouldn’t want to live like that. But, if I’d had more hope, and he had woken up, I would have sentenced him to a life trapped in a broken body and mind. Probably. But, I’ll never know for sure.

You can’t imagine how hopeless that still makes me feel.

Autumn & Donating Organs

I really love the Fall. It was always one of my favorite times of the year growing up. The temperatures were cooling down, basketball season was gearing up, and you had Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas packed close together. But, every Autumn since Mark died has been really hard. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t rehash it now.

This year, Fall started out differently though. I didn’t have the anxiety going in to October that I’ve had the past six years. I was making a conscious decision to not think too much. To avoid counting down the days. I did pretty good until Columbus Day, and then okay again after that day passed. I had a lot of hope for this year’s Autumn.

And then Abby got sick. Abby is N’s Aunt and one of his favorite people in the entire world. I’m not exaggerating, he loves her so much. But she’s in the hospital and not doing well. Her illness throws me back to Mark in the hospital because of the details that her daughter tells me. Levels and organ functions…things I believed I had forgotten. Turns out I haven’t. I still know what your Creatine levels should be when you’re healthy. So, here’s the deal. Nicholas’ beloved Aunt needs a new liver. She’s waiting and we’re waiting. And we can’t visit her because the kiddos have way too many germs to share. She’s not answering her mobile any more, it’s too emotionally difficult for her to talk. I don’t have much more to say except to tell her we love her and lots of people are praying (or sending good vibes or thoughts or healing), so I leave messages on her phone.

Right now I’m pretty pissed off at Fall again. I know it’s not Autumn’s fault, but crap this season is hard on my family. I’m trying not to dwell. And, as my wise friend, SueBob reminded me yesterday, there is something you can do to help Abby and others like her. Sign up to be an organ donor. I am. If you’re in Texas, go to www.donatelifeTexas.org to sign up to become an organ donor. It will take three minutes and could mean the world to a family in the future.

Chances are your liver won’t save Abby, but you might save someone else one day. I would love to hear that you’ve become an organ donor (or already are). And, of course, I’d love to hear that you’re praying or thinking of Abby.

I Hate Columbus Day

I either love Columbus Day or I hate it. I hate it because it was the last day that Mark was home. The Tuesday after Columbus Day he went into the second hospital and never came back. I was off of work for Columbus Day and together with Mark’s parents we decided that it would be the test day for Mark to see if he could take care of Nicholas by himself. Until then, Mark’s parents stayed at our apartment with Nicholas while I went to the office. They were exhausted and wanted to be home as much as we were exhausted and wanted to be back to normal.

So we spent the weekend together. Mark figured out how to get around the apartment without running into anything or dropping the baby. We moved the furniture around, we got the playpen and crib set up so Mark could manuever. And Mark snuggled with Nicholas. That’s why I love the memory of that weekend, that Columbus Day. Mark got a full day of snuggle time with Nicholas. No pressure on him because I was home too. Except for one moment when he really wanted to go for a drive (and drive himself) where he got out at a store and fell, it was a very good weekend.

He felt confident that he would be able to take care of Nicholas starting on the Tuesday after Columbus Day. He said it would be slow going, but Nicholas wasn’t really rambunctious or anything, so he thought he could handle it. He was excited to be getting back to normal. We were searching for doctors, figuring out his new diet, learning what “normal” was going to be for our little family.

It only lasted that weekend. On Tuesday he would be back in a hospital and would never sleep in our bed again. Just over a week after that happy weekend he would be in a coma. One month after that he would be in hospice taking his last breath. His parents and sister were on one side, my mother, Nicholas and I on the other. His mother held his right hand while Nicholas and I held his left. When it was clear that he was at the end, I turned off the last loud machine associated with his death. The room got quiet, you could only hear breathing. Labored breathing, gasping breaths, N’s faster baby breath, and our breathing…trying to stay calm for Mark. Letting him know it was okay. Nobody really talking except to tell Mark we loved him and were with him. And then he was gone.

It didn’t all really start on Columbus Day, of course; but, I’ve always associated today with Mark’s final fight. It wasn’t until just now, as I was writing this, that I thought that maybe I should be happy when Columbus Day rolls around as it was the last weekend we had together. Just me, Mark and his precious boy.