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For the better part of my life I’ve jumped into a nice hot shower, gone to bed and fallen fast asleep.  Who doesn’t, right?  For approximately 5 years now, the level of the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue that I live with has made these 2 things incredibly difficult, painful and troublesome. I’ve come up with several survival plans to manage these necessities of life. However – during my father’s illness and passing and the domino effect that still continues to follow – it’s been quite, shall we say, challenging.

For tonight, I will execute one of my little feeling better tricks: The Gratitude List. More often than not, writing it works a heck of a lot better than thinking it… And I am so grateful, that, somehow, I am still sober…

I am grateful for the Tucson clouds.

I am grateful for the Tucson clouds.

 

I am grateful for my favorite flowers.

I am grateful for my favorite flowers.

 

I am grateful for, Peaches, my father's cat.

I am grateful for, Peaches, my father’s cat.

 

I am grateful I live on a quiet cul-de-sac.

I am grateful I live on my father’s quiet cul-de-sac.

 

I am grateful for the times I remain hopeful that some day I will live pain free.

I am grateful for the times I remain hopeful that some day I will live pain free.

HAPPY DAY OF BIRTH, SON!

It is June 11th once more – today is my son’s 29th birthday. The following is a re-post of the day of his (fast) birth… And today, during this time of grieving for his grandfather, it is a joy for me to celebrate the man who my son has become.  After putting himself through night school for 2 years, my son received his MBA shortly after my father passed.  Not only do I celebrate my father’s life – I also celebrate my son’s huge achievement and my excitement for him and his brilliant future.  My son is my family. And what a blessed family I have…

Here’s the post I wrote 4 years ago, HAPPY DAY OF BIRTH, SON:

For many years on his birthday, I’ve called my son at 10:08AM – the time he was born.   I get a kick out of being that kind of mom.   25 years ago I was only in labor for 3 hours.   (Yes, I said three hours.)  When we arrived at  the hospital and got on the elevator, the contractions were so intense that I had to awkwardly squat down on my knees for fear I might fall from the pain.  Some how I spoke through my agony as the elevator started to move, “Oh my God, this baby is ready to be born”, I gasped to my then husband.  The people riding on the elevator with me did not say a word as the doors opened when we arrived on the maternity floor.   A couple of people helped me up and off I waddled – on my way to give birth!  My son was over due, ready, and starting to be born while I was still in the labor room (I’ll spare you the details) and by the time they finally wheeled me into the delivery room, Tyler was on his way!  I noticed my doctor had not even arrived yet.   “Where’s my doctor?!!”  Needless to say, things were getting a little exciting during my speedy “FedEx” type of delivery and apparently I thought that was as good of a time as any to start screaming my head off.   No, not like a woman in labor, but, perhaps like a woman who was witnessing a murder or something.   At that exact moment, my doctor literally burst through the doors of the delivery room.  He held his cloth face mask over his nose and mouth with his hand as the untied strings hung freely and  touched his plaid shirt.  As he was holding the face mask in place, I noticed he had on a beautiful, big artistic silver turquoise ring with a matching watch and band.  Incredibly masculine.   I felt relieved at the sight of my cool and hip doctor and stopped screaming as I got back to business and continued to push.  To my dismay, my cool doctor started to scold me for screaming at the top of my lungs – he had heard me from down the hall.  “Geeze.  Well, where have you been?”  I said to him.   And then he started to explain how first babies usually don’t arrive so quickly while one of the nurses started tieing his face  mask on for him while another helped him with his scrubs while I was pushing and pushing and . . .  then  . . . . silence  . . .  “It’s a boy!”   More of that silence.   (But he is lavender?  Are they all like that? Lavender?)  More silence followed by my son’s father crying and barely getting the words out, “I knew it was going to be a boy!”  He looked at me and said, “Can I hold him first?”  I nodded my head, “yes”.

The silence that was getting my attention was that my son was not crying, he didn’t even peep.  Not a sound.  It made me feel uneasy, I mean, after all, he was lavender too.  I did not remember receiving a memo on lavender babies.  “Is he ok?”

“Yes!”

“Why isn’t he crying?  Isn’t he supposed to cry?”

“You know what?  I don’t think your son feels like crying.  He is just fine.  A fine, healthy baby boy.”  I’ll never forget my doctor’s words.

Quiet new son Tyler was being held by his grateful sobbing new daddy.

And that is pretty much how my baby boy has been for most of  his 25 years, incredibly mellow, cool, calm and collected.  Totally together during any kind of confusion, chaos or stress that life can bring.   He just has that kind of demeanor, along with an occasional  joyous loud laugh that makes anyone want to laugh along with him.

Yep, amazing to think he was born 25 years ago.   My son was born in 1985.  I got divorced – as well as sober – in 1987.  The odds were completely against me to make it on my own, let alone be a good sober mom.   No child deserves a drunk parent.  A drunk parent can change even the most mellow of kids.   There is no reason or excuse to be drunk, especially when there is a solution and a joyful way of life to be found.   It is always possible to find a solution, eventually.

My last drink was on August 1st, 1987.  My 30th birthday.  I was ready.

My blessings are abundant.

 20131115 airplane clouds

 

20140217I am eternally grateful that I was still in Tucson, and not in LA, when my father took his last breath. Gently, yet tightly, I held him as I looked at his perfect haircut from the day before.  I carefully worked my hand underneath the back of his neck and shoulders so I could hold him for as long as I needed to – and no one would dare ask me to let go of him – and I was hoping that he could still feel my love and admiration. My tears, endless, as I softly spoke into his ear that he did good. “I am so proud of you Dad. I’m so sorry that you were sick.  I understand that you were sick. You did good – please know that.  Please know that I understand.  Know that I think that you are incredibly brave, strong and sensitive to my feelings all in the same moment… I love you Dad… You did good. You did a good job raising me and my brother.  You were the original single dad – and you did good”…. As I slowly lifted my head off of the crook of my father’s neck, one of my gigantic tears had dropped to the inside of my glasses.  Ironically, my vision blurred. So hard to focus.  To take it all in. The moment important. The pain unbearable.  My dad so handsome.  His features resembling my grandmother so much that, momentarily, it startled me.

me Tucson trails

My heart has been so broken since that morning on February 20th, 2014, that I am worried that I will never be my self again. It has been 3 and a half months and it seems I have lost my true voice. The voice I hear is not the old Julie I once knew. I don’t like to talk on the phone. I don’t like to talk to people when I go out side.  I don’t like that immediately, only 9 days after my father passed, I was told I must give up my familiar surroundings and say good bye to my neighbors who had become my friends.  I especially don’t like that I had to say goodbye to my little neighbor Emma who helped me with chores every Tuesday. I don’t like that the majority of my comforting pictures, books, knickknacks and clothes are in storage in California while I am living in Tucson…

Now is the time.  Now is the time that I get to find out just what I am made of.  How deep does my courage run?  How strong is my faith?  Will my love and belief carry me though this time?  Am I steadfast and true as I allow God to continue to lead the way?  My vision is still as blurry as the morning my tear drop landed on the inside of my glasses as I leaned to hug & kiss my father goodbye…

I become mindful of my father’s words to me when I was a young teenager.  We were back packing  the switch backs up a particularly steep mountain in the High Sierras. I was looking up and feeling defeated as I was taken in by the gigantic mountain that was still in front of me.  It was looking down on me, daring me to come closer.  I did not like not knowing how much further I had to push myself before my father set up camp for the night. Exhausted I stopped and reached for my canteen that my father had hooked on my belt for me hours earlier.  Being acutely aware, my father gently held my shoulders and said, “Turn around Julie, and see how far you’ve come.” As I turned, with my father’s hand guiding me, I looked down behind me at the path we had just climbed.  I was overwhelmed by the dense beauty of the vast Sierra. The view before me was breathtaking and magnificent.  And it felt good.  I had done good and my father was able to prove it to me… Today I can turn around again, and see just how far I’ve come from LA.  The rest of this journey is in God’s hands.  And He will once again, do good. I look forward to that day…

My father passed away

me, my big brother and my dad. michigan 1959

me, my big brother and my dad. michigan 1959

My father peacefully passed away 12 days ago.  I have vivid dreams of him almost every night.  While my grieving has been quite unbearable and I do not seem to have the energy to answer my phone – I am comforted to know that perhaps my father has finally found my brother. My dad would be so happy to see him again. . . I love you Dad.  I know  you promised that I will be happy again – but I just don’t think that it will be today. . .  but maybe tomorrow. . . 

IMG04047-20131228 Tucson fireplaceAnother late night as it reluctantly creeps towards a dark early morning. I can not sleep. I can not seem to breathe. My loss of appetite is bothersome. My entire body thumps with each beat of my weary heart.

I am well aware that I am not the first to walk in the wake of a loved one fighting to live. Cancer has only one destination in its horrific plan. However, my father has a much different plan. A clever plan. A plan so clever that all of us who are around him seem to be baffled as they watch him walk with out the aid of a wheelchair or a walker. And they watch him gain weight while he can only have nutrition through a tube that protrudes from his belly.  This feeding tube is due to the damage of the radiation – not the damage from the throat cancer. Even with the confusion my father lives with now – my phone rings in the middle of the night and he tells me with his painful sounding voice – before any of the caregivers bother to tell me when I call during the day – that “something is wrong“.  (By the way, I have found even better medical care for Dad!)

If these remarkable things have occurred, then why my bottomless sadness?  Why the isolation? Why the sleep deprivation? Why the private meltdowns…?

Because my father’s soul is changing. His larger than life personality is changing.

Once again it is all about the choices we have to make in life and then learning to live with and accept our choices.  And today – today was the day I saw the true reality that he is indeed beating the throat cancer, but the radiation and chemo treatments seemed to have relentlessly beaten him into becoming another person that resides inside his skinny body.  Quietly I hope this is temporary. It must be temporary.

While I was sitting with my father and holding his hand today, without warning, another piece of my heart broke away and crashed on the floor as if it was an ice glacier slipping into the Antarctic Ocean.

I have never admired my father so much – nor has he ever taught me such an important lesson in life.

As much as I long to sit and spend sweet time with the love of my life who lives in California – I will remain in Tucson to fight for my father so he can be as comfortable as possible for as long as he chooses – because this is the right thing to do.  And because of all of this, I am full of gratitude and I see and feel that God is with us at all times.

I’ve been staying in Tucson longer than I originally anticipated. 9 weeks ago I arrived with endless hope and energy.  As today comes to a close I feel the weight of endless sadness – reckless sleeping has pushed down my weary shoulders and clouded my eyesight. I am amazed at the amount of tears that continue to fall many times a day.  I duck into an empty bathroom or I sit in my car, or suddenly I can not hold myself up as I am standing alone washing the dishes in my father’s empty home.

Is this the way life is now?  I am unable to see out.  Suffering from serious sleep deprivation as I make endless decisions for my father’s care.   I find myself with the suprising and distracting task of convincing caregivers that my father is in their facility to recover from throat cancer and chemo – not die – recover!  I have learned the hard way that because my father is quite thin and is on a feeding tube many false assumptions have been made.  My hope and faith is tested as I take someone aside to explain that my father is already a miracle!  can’t you see that he is walking unassisted?!  He was in a wheelchair only 2 months ago. PLUS he has gained 7 pounds since he went on that feeding tube.  I am quite clear on my hope.  I am quite clear I am spreading a positive force of healing thoughts. I am quite clear as I share my admiration for my father’s unwavering determination.  Yes, his confusion is heart breaking – however – he is tenacious and healing!

Caregivers giggle when he makes a face like a frog with a wide turned down mouth. Then he makes a face like a fish and puckers up.  “Ga. Ga. Ga!” he says with his broken raspy voice. “Ka – ka – ka!” He says with a sly smile and wink.  “Wow! Good ones Dad! You’re really improving!  Keep up the good work!” I tell him with a gentle hug. “Your throat exercises are making a big difference Dad!  I can tell.  I just know it to be true.  I catch a couple caregivers tilt their head with sudden understanding.  They ask questions. So my father teaches them what he is doing to rebuild his throat muscles.  The tumors that were at the top of his throat and airway are gone now.  He speaks highly of both his oncologist as well as his Speech Pathologist who visits him on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Yes, it is another day in the life with surviving throat cancer.  But the good news is, my father’s hard work, combined with hope and my private tears and prayer is paying off in baby steps. The Speech Pathologist gave him 3 sips of water yesterday and then 3 sips of apple juice. He did not cough. He did not choke.  He swallowed – he drank them. It was magnificent.

And the best news of all is that my father’s alma mater, Michigan State, won the Rose Bowl.  All we can do is the very best we can do.  Half measures avail us nothing.  It’s another blessed day in Tucson.  It is the recovery that comes from hope. Tears are allowed with hope. Confusion is allowed with hope.  Sleepless lonely nights in an empty house can still have hope and blessings in every corner.Tucson Sunset

…enjoying sweet memories of simpler times makes todays complications more do-able…

my brother & me in Michigan 1961

my brother & me in Michigan 1961

…I have no regrets, Dad, no regrets…

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