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2190 days

Six years.

It’s been six years since Hub and I had to let our Sweet Pea go to the Rainbow Bridge. I post about her every year, usually before the anniversary of our loss, but this year I didn’t. I’m writing this today, ON the day, 6 hours after we let her go. Today, as it happened on the first year anniversary, I am alone at home. Hub has been out since early this morning and will not be home until late tonight. I have not and will not bring up the anniversary to him…he deals in his own way and I deal in mine.

I was re-reading what I’ve written in the past on this day, and I cried. I cried for the pain of losing her, I cried for the pain of loss, I cried because it hurt me how much she was hurting in the last weeks. We never had a final, concrete prognosis of what would have happened if we had made her try to hold on…would it have been days, weeks, months? It didn’t matter in the end, because there was too much pain in her for us to even consider prolonging her life. There was no way…

In all I’ve written, this is what I would want to say again and again. I just don’t want to find new words this year.

In 2011, she started slowing down. Not surprising to us, because based on what we knew we adopted her, she would have been going on 12 years old. That’s old-age for a large dog. Then, in late July of that year, she developed a cough. It scared me. We took her to our vet, but he found no reason for the cough…but found an auto-immune disease that would explain her increased and pretty marked lethargy. And as the tests continued–along with medications–the news got worse. And so did Sweet Pea. She became unable to walk the stairs to our bedroom, so Hub began sleeping on the couch in the family room to be near her. She started having trouble walking down the three deck stairs to the yard, so Hub began helping her out to the front yard down only two concrete steps (one step out the door, then the concrete porch and one step off the porch) to do her business. Then she began having trouble getting up…and the medications made her pant heavily…and they made her painful. And every day, I died a little inside. Not only because we knew this was serious–likely fatal–but because she was suffering. Even though it was only a little at that point, there was no uphill from there. I prayed she would give up. I prayed G-d would take her in her sleep–though she only dozed during the day, she was restless at night. I prayed that we would get some kind of report saying there was no hope and that it was time. I got none of it. The tests were inconclusive, but experience from our vet said there was likely nothing we could do except extend her life a few weeks or a few months…maybe. But in the end, she was not going to last long…and it was not going to be an easy time for her. And letting her hang on and die “naturally”…our vet said it would be painful for her. Like drowning, or being unable to breathe…struggling, gasping. It was three weeks from the first vet visit for a cough to the day we took her in for her last visit. In between was medication, tests, an emergency drive two hours away to an ER vet for a transfusion (where she had to stay locked in a cage overnight without us) during a bad hurricane, there was a bad reaction to the infusion, more tests…and pain. My sweet, loving, gentle girl snapped at a vet tech who barely touched her, snapped at our vet when he tried to help her, and cried. She’d never done any of those things in the nine years we’d known and loved her. She’d never snapped at anyone, ever, over anything. Man or beast. And then there were the eyes. She watched us every day, with these big, sad eyes. Pain seemed to radiate from her gaze. We hesitated to touch her because we thought it caused her pain. I laid on the floor with her in our dining room…the softest carpet in the house, and I stroke her paw. I stroked the spot from between her eyes down to her nose, so lightly I barely felt her fur. I wanted to hold her and hug her close, but I couldn’t. I wanted her to make the decision for us, but she refused. She refused to stop caring for us. She refused to let go, because she knew it was her job to see to us first. We had no choice. We had no fucking choice.

We took her in to the vet. I talked to her from the moment they put her on the table until long after she was gone. I told her that we were letting her go, and that her job was over. That it was our turn to take care of her the way she had taken care of us for the last 9 years. I told her it was all right, that she could go, she could be free of her body that was betraying her. And I cried like I’d never cried before. I told her how much we loved her. I told her how thankful we were to have her in our lives. I told her how much we would miss her. I sobbed and I petted her and I held on to her. I smelled her fur and her feet and touched her ears. And I cried. And inside, a part of me curled up and died with her.

We took her to our property and laid her to rest in a pretty spot near my parents’ dog, who had died one year prior. It was incredibly hot and humid, but my family–my brothers and my parents and Hub–dug a hole. Deep and wide, so there would be no concerns about the animals in the area. And it was so hot out, but they did it. And they put her in the grave, wrapped in her two favorite bed covers, with a couple of her favorite toys and an unwashed shirt of mine that smelled like me.

I can’t tell you the tears I’ve cried for my girl. I can’t tell you the hole in my heart from the loss of her. I can’t tell you how much I’ve changed because of her. I can’t explain how much I’ve changed with the loss of her.

I’ve written about her a lot. A lot in the first year she was gone. Not as much during the second year, though I’ve talked about her often in a professional and personal setting. I think about her every day. I’ve gone back and read the things I’ve written about her…and cried like it was the day that we let her go. I did it today in preparation for this post. It was incredibly painful. It IS incredibly painful.

I posted this on her six month anniversary, elsewhere. I re-read it earlier and every word is still the truth for me today.

I woke this morning early, looking directly at the clock by my bedside. The clock shows not only the time, but the date…and I almost felt my heart stop. I had been crying most of the night after I turned off all the lights. Images of the day we let SP go were running through my head, making me sob like it was the day it happened. I am crying now as I type. So when I woke this morning, I was fuzzy-headed, and I could swear the clock was telling me today’s date was 3-3-12. How could that be? I knew today was the six month anniversary, and that SP had left us on 9-2-11. I couldn’t believe I had missed the day, although I have been feeling the pain of this date for weeks.

I stayed in bed for hours, long past my husband let Le Moo out and went on his way to work. I stared at the clock, tears clogging my throat as I berated myself for missing the 2nd. It wasn’t until I was standing outside with Le Moo, staring at the trees in our back yard, when I realized that my clock must not have allowed for leap year. I KNEW today was the 2nd…I knew today was the day. I had spent hours thinking about it, not knowing how I could have been mistaken.

I feel whipped and beaten. I spent most of the hours crying last night and early this morning thinking that I desperately wanted to go to the basement and bury myself in the dog bed SP slept on in our old house in our bedroom. It’s an atrocious 70s orange color, something I found at overstock and bought merely because at the time it was the only memory-foam dog bed I could find big enough for her that we could afford. She loved the bed and we put up with it because of that. I mean that color would burn your retinas and I have no idea why it was ever made, but she loved laying on that thing. I suspect before the afternoon is over, I will be sitting with that bed, trying to find her smell and looking at the dog hair I hope it still clinging to it.

I cannot tell you how often I ache over the fact that I do not have a pawprint from her. I know there is one embedded in my heart, but I wish I had one to look at and touch. I have finally put one picture of her on my wall in addition to the polaroid picture I keep next to my bed. I want to put up so many that I fear it would cover the entire wall…but then I think it would kill me to see them.

I feel like I cannot get past this loss. I feel like I will never get past it. I still think of her every day. I still wish that she was here with us. I still look to step over her next to the bed. I cannot believe I have woken up without her every day for the last 180 days…how is it possible? How have I made it?

SP, I carry this pain of your loss every day. It is a part of me and will always be. I miss you so much that sometimes it hurts to breathe. And he misses you, too. I see it in his eyes and I feel it in his heart, even though he doesn’t show it the same way I do. You know how much he adored you, how he lived for those early morning and late night conversations with you. How he looked forward to coming home from work every day to see you waiting for him at the window, or at the top of the stairs, wagging that gorgeous tail of yours. How we both loved your big brown eyes and the “eyeliner” that Mom swore you woke up early every morning to put on. I miss touching your soft fur, feeling you snuffle my face and my eyes and my hair. I miss hugging you and calling you Sweet Pea. I miss singing to you when we went downstairs every day for lunch. I miss you, dammit. There isn’t a thing about you I don’t miss. The way you would eat your food, then come find one of us and burp right in our face like it was a “thank you”. The way it felt when you leaned against us, sharing your love with us. The way you used to run out into the yard to see neighbors walking by the fence…the way you used to run back to the house looking happy and “lighter” after you poo’d.

And as I sit here, I remember your last days, and I sob for the pain. I remember sitting on the floor in the dining room, on that atrocious pink carpet you loved to use as a scratching post for your toenails…I was already in pain as I considered what lay ahead of us. That we would have no other option but to let you go, to take away the pain of your disease. I remember posting here, asking for guidance and support, knowing that we had to do the right thing. I remember laying there with the laptop nearby, wishing I could hold you close and never let you go, but knowing even the smallest of caresses could cause you physical pain. I remember touching your paws, hoping it would not be too much for you. I remember using one finger to stroke the spot between your eyes and down your snout, praying it would not bring you pain but give you comfort and show you my love for you. I remember sitting in the family room, begging him to take a picture of the two of us because we had NONE….but only hovering over you because I was afraid to touch you. I hate those pictures. I remember taking you to the vet hospital, and sitting in the car with him, both of us dreading the moments because they were our last with you. Your beautiful gorgeous face, watching us, looking so tired and old and sad…the pain from the meds and the disease having beaten the life from you. And when we arrived, how you tried so hard to get out of the car on your own, but we wouldn’t let you. We were so afraid you would hurt more. The moments when we stood with you in the exam room, as the vet gave you treats to say his goodbye to you. The way you laid there on the table, so trusting and loving, but so tired. I hated every second of it. I hated that we had to do it. I hated that it had to happen. I hated that we had to let you go. It was so bittersweet to see the pain lift from your body as your life ended.

I am literally doubled over in pain, sobbing with the pain of this all. Of the memories. Of the loss. Of the regrets.

I love you, Sweet Pea. I love you, Sweet Pea. I love you my precious beautiful Sweet Pea.

It’s been so many years without my Sweet Pea. 2,190 days…the Polaroid picture of her is still in the exact same place next to my bed, on the corner of my dresser. Every now and then I go look at pictures (other than the one that is the background on my laptop) and a few videos we have of her. On the landing going upstairs, there’s a picture of her front and center on a console table…I never want to forget her smile, or what she brought to my life.

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I miss her so much.

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Posted by on September 2, 2017 in anxiety, crying, death, dogs, grief, loss, love, Sweet Pea

 

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Finding connections

I wasn’t sure what to do this year about mother’s day. Last year I sent Hub off to his mother’s house without me, and I spent part of the day with my brother and his then wife (now ex-wife). I talked with T about this on Friday, because I feel some guilt about not going to my mother-in-law’s to be with her, but I just am not ready yet this year. I know she understands–as does Hub–but I am at heart a people-pleaser, and so the guilt sat heavy with me. In the end, though, I couldn’t make myself go.

My father had mentioned to me Friday evening that he was going to go to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave and he asked if I wanted to go. I didn’t answer him at that point, but Sunday morning when I saw him, he brought it up again. He said he knew it made me feel “uncomfortable”, but he wanted to make the offer for me to join him. I tried to be gentle in responding when I said to him, “I don’t feel uncomfortable about going, but the truth is, I don’t feel a connection to Mom there. I don’t feel it to Nana and Papa, either…it doesn’t work that way for me.” (my grandparents are buried in the plots next to my mother). For real, I feel more of a connection to my mother in her “den” closet, where she had a bunch of books stashed on a bookshelf…gardening, trees, cookbooks…I stumbled on them at one point and ended up crying. Because that’s my mother. The cemetery is just a marker for her physical body’s last resting place, but it has no history for me with her. My father only said OK and that he was okay to go alone, which I had to trust was true.

Somewhere around ten a.m., I texted my brother (the one with the ex-wife) to see what he was doing that afternoon. He said “nothing”, so I asked if he wanted to do something. What I really wanted to do was go back to the nursery where Mom and I used to go all the time, and where he and I went after she died. I also offered up the opportunity for him to come to my house to help me bake peanut butter cookies, which he (and my other brother) scarf up as fast as I can make them. His response was a preference to go to the garden center, so in some corner of my mind I knew it was the right thing to do. Even Hub said as much when I told him my plans for the afternoon while he was with his mother…he said my mom would be happy to know I was spending time there with my brother.

So after lunch, my brother and I set out for the nursery, which is about 20 minutes away. We talked a lot in the car about how he’s been doing with his depression and his medication, as well as some other health issues he’s dealing with. But once at the nursery, we talked about plants. We walked around the big place for about two hours–which leaves me exhausted and in pain today unfortunately–just chattering and touching plants and gagging over the high prices. We bought absolutely nothing, but it was worth the time and energy and pain, because it felt right. This brother and I, we have always been the closest of the siblings–with the exception of his married life where he withdrew from the whole family…and even then I tried to stay in touch with him as much as it was possible–so this connection felt good to renew. I know he’s struggling with his depression and his newly single life and his desire for a partner and…well, lots of stuff. And part of today was to remind him that he’s not alone. Doing that for my mom and for him made the day work for me.

I miss my mother so terribly. Every day. I feel like my identity without her has been lost. I don’t know how to get it back…yet. I’m still searching, and maybe someday I’ll find my purpose again.

I described (to T and a friend) the run-up to mother’s day as “being poked with a cattle prod when you’re already on fire”…and it’s true. That’s so much how I felt with all the television commercials and the holiday displays in all the stores and the radio commercials and facebook and instagram and on and on. I worry that it will always feel this way, this painful, this sad, this lost. Living without my mom has changed my life and changed me at my core. I don’t know how to adjust to that, or that adjustment is even possible. Somehow, I have to find a way forward. Last night I watched Bad Moms on television while Hub was still at his mother’s. There’s a point in the movie where Mila Kunis is talking to her movie daughter and she basically says, “I know you can make it through this because I’m your mother and I know what you’re made of.” It was such a dumb, funny, stupid, crazy movie, but that scene and those words (which I can’t remember exactly) really hit me hard. I know my mother believed in me and believed in my strength and my ability to persist. I hope I can find a way to continue to make her proud in that aspect as I try to find my way.


 

As a minor update, I finished all my bactrim pills successfully. I don’t know how much I feel better, but so far it seems the smell is gone, so I take that as success. I wasn’t too much more itchy the last day and half, so that was good. My stomach isn’t entirely back to normal yet, but I know the bactrim stays in your system for several days following the last pill. So hopefully another couple of days and my stomach will be better.

 

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One year.

I love you, Mom.

Every moment, even the difficult ones, were a blessing for me because they were spent with you.

I mark this day in honor of a woman whose life mattered.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who loved her family beyond what words can express. It was immeasurable.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who is loved beyond her time on this earth.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who was generous, intelligent, compassionate, and downright amazing.

I mark this day in my heart and soul, like a tattoo that can never be removed.

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Sleep? Why bother…

Apparently this is what my body and brain has decided. Sleep unnecessary.

I know that for real it has to do with my mental, emotional, and physical pain. All of those wrapped into one, split into pieces, kneaded into each other, and then rolled into a throbbing ball of oneness. I’m so on edge that one small scrape and I’m raw and bleeding profusely, figuratively.

I cried on the way to the grocery store this morning. Not because I had to go to the grocery store, not because I was worried about being able to afford the trip to the grocery store, not because I was afraid I was going to have an anxiety attack in the grocery store… I cried because I couldn’t not cry. I’m tired, I’m not sleeping, I’m worried about Hub and I’m worried about Butthead. I’m worried about myself, too. My grief is overwhelming every part of my life and I can’t seem to dig my way out of it.

Hub is agonizing over a job offer–in part because it might mean less flexibility and he worries that he won’t be able to come home if I need him–that he received on Friday. I’m worried for him because I don’t feel that the company was being up front with him…they kind of bait and switched the job position (which they apparently did to the guy before him, someone Hub knows). I am concerned he won’t have any backup on his work, and I’m worried because if this is how they treat potential employees, how do they treat current employees. But Hub is unhappy in his current job and looking for a way out. Our health insurance changed due to the buy-out, so he’s both unhappy with the new corporate owners and unhappy with their shitty health insurance. Unfortunately, the potentially new company has equally shitty health insurance…so that kind of cancels out the pro/con in that category. Now they’re not budging on a concession he asked about (a minor concession on their part!), so that might be the end of that. I only hope that his current corporate overlords don’t decide that he’s no longer needed before he finds something else.

Butthead is randomly puking again. I mean, it’s good news that she’s not persistently puking like the last episode where we ended up rushing her to the vet hospital and coming home with anti-vomit pills… But this randomly throwing up (twice in the last four days…one of which was this morning which was another reason why I was so upset) is so frustrating. We don’t know if she’s sneaking and eating bad things outside or has gastritis and so her stomach hurts her or what… We’re at the point where we’re acclimating her to a basket muzzle that she’ll have to wear anytime she’s outside so she doesn’t eat crap off the ground and make herself sick. It’s hard and sad to make her wear a muzzle because she’s a good dog, not aggressive, shouldn’t have to wear it. I know it’s uncomfortable and bulky and just plain weird for her, but we don’t know what else to do with her. We can’t figure out what is wrong with her. And if it’s that she’s eating stuff outside that’s making her sick, there’s nothing else we can do other than the muzzle. For the past month or so we’ve been out there with her every minute, following her and standing over her and making sure she’s not eating things. But with the snow and ice, and my physical capabilities being limited at this point…I couldn’t keep up with her and I think she might have eaten something that made her vomit last Thursday when I wasn’t standing over her. We just don’t know what to do with her… So I’m worried that she’s going to vomit again like the last episode. Ugh. So far it’s been these two random episodes and today I spent time on and off modifying the basket muzzle to try to use a quick-snap collar to hold it on her head versus the old-fashioned buckle which is a pain in the ass to get on and off of her, especially with her floppy ears and long hair.

Even though I’ve been feeling ultra shitty and exhausted, we had to do a bunch of things this weekend. Most of which we accomplished. Unfortunately, one of the things was cleaning up the caulk in our master shower which seemed to be growing mold behind the caulk at the joints of the floor and wall. Hub is not flexible, so he had trouble sitting on the floor and scraping at the caulk, so I did 90% of it. Which, of course, hurt my arms, shoulders, and hands more than they were already hurting. The end result, though, is that we need to call in a professional to look at our shower because this is the second time in a year that we’ve ended up with this problem. Last time my brother helped me strip and re-caulk the shower, but now we’re in the same place again… There’s something wrong if there’s mold and mildew growing behind the caulk, especially since we bought mold-resistant caulk. This all means that we don’t have a shower in our bathroom and we have to haul ass to the shower on the opposite end of the house…past all the windows in the front of the house and over the foyer area of the house. It also means we have to haul all our paraphernalia into the other shower, which is smaller than our master shower. It’s not a huge deal, it’s just more stress. And more stress in having to find someone who knows what they are doing to come into the house to fix whatever is happening. The stupid sub-contractor that our builder hired to do our bathrooms did not know what they were doing. They screwed several things up in our master bathroom and ruined a lot of our shower floor tiles by having to go back and chip out all the wrong grout they put in. So we were left with grout over top of grout, and chipped tiles. And the slope of the floor is really bad, which causes water to pool in different spots in the shower and leaves our grout with water stains where the water sits. It’s shitty and depressing and frustrating. That’s all in addition to whatever this caulk situation is.

I have my mammogram on Wednesday. We finally got our health insurance cards from Hub’s new corporate overlords. I opened the mail, found the card, and called for my appointment all within about ten minutes. The first they had was a week away (now this Wednesday) and I took the appointment. I am pretty paranoid about keeping up with my mammos, so I’m glad that it’s only about ten days overdue from the day I had it last year.

I was supposed to have a relaxing massage last week. I had it scheduled in between two trigger point appointments…I normally go to TP massage therapy once a month (ish). So I scheduled the relaxing massage exactly two weeks after one TP appointment and two weeks before the next TP appoint. And then it snowed, and my relaxing massage appointment got canceled. And I really really wanted it. I mean, not enough to endanger my therapist or myself, but I’m so disappointed. I knew this was going to be a difficult month (technically, it’s been a difficult year so far), so I had planned for the relaxing massage–which I never get–and then plans went pfffft. Since my massage therapist only works two days a week, there were no openings for me to do a make-up massage. I don’t know when I’ll be able to fit it in again.

I told T on Friday that I want this grief to have some kind of end date. But with every day, every month, it stays. It’s a solid burden that I carry with me every. This month is especially difficult as it’s the (one year) anniversary of Mom’s death. And with every calendar day I think of what I was doing on “this” day last year. How we had no idea what was coming. How we took her to an arboretum in the city trying to perk up her spirits…not knowing how soon it would get so bad. How it happened so fast. How I was late to Hub’s birthday dinner last year because I was with Mom and Dad helping them with something. How it was only days after his birthday that she was in the hospital and then hours later that she was gone. Grief has no end date. It plays by no rules. It doesn’t give a shit who you are or what you want. It lives and breathes and grows and growls and harps and hammers and changes and does whatever the hell it wants. And it sucks.

 

 

 

 

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On dogs and doctors and days (long)

It’s been a busy month. Today is the 18th, just FYI.

I got my eyes checked–for the first time in at least six years–only to find that my prescription has barely changed. In fact, the doctor wanted to roll back my prescription a smidge but I declined. I just picked up my new glasses about an hour ago and when I put them on, I felt weird. I think we ended up a tiny bit stronger, but the technician said it could also be the upgraded coating on the lenses that made me feel funky. I’ll have to ease into the new glasses, which is fine because I still have an old pair to use in the meantime. The new glasses have half-frames, so they should be lighter on my face. The second pair of “new” glasses I got are actually one of my old frames with new lenses. I would say it was cheaper to do it that way, but honestly by the time I picked the first set of new frames, I was so freaking tired of looking at frames that I just told her to put new lenses in my old frames. They were in fine condition and they were going to be my back-up pair anyway. Everyone I worked with at the optometrist kept repeating that I had single vision lenses (instead of bi-focals) and they all sounded surprised. Kind of annoying, but honestly the major reason I didn’t go back to get my eyes checked in the last six years is because at 39 years old, the optometrist told me at 40 I’d be needing bi-focals (because that’s “the age”) and I didn’t want bi-focals so I didn’t go back. And here I am, six years later, still no bi-focals. So poo on all of you. Meanwhile, I also hate getting my eyes dilated, but this optometrist had some new-fangled technology that let them take pictures of my eyes and I was able to put off dilation again.

Monday we took Le Moo for her annual “senior” check-up at the vet. We took Butthead, too, because we’d noticed her front two bottom teeth were disappearing. The vet assured me that it wasn’t likely to be the case when we talked in email, but we brought her anyway to make sure. Le Moo is healthy and has lost about 10% of her weight. She went from 94 pounds to 86 pounds, which we are doing on purpose because as she ages she seems to be more prone to limping after running or playing. She’s a big girl and we’ve always had trouble getting her to lose weight, so we gave up and she pretty much maintained a steady weight for all the years we had her. Then we saw the limping issue and we started getting really strict and we’ve noticed it paying off. We’ll keep up with it and try to keep her from injury. The vet looked at Butthead’s teeth and said they aren’t disappearing, the gum is growing up over them. Nothing to do unless it bothers her and so far she hasn’t complained. Unfortunately, the vet is 90 minutes away, so it kind of takes up several hours just going, doing the appointment, and coming home. So Hub’s MLK day off was pretty well used it by that. I’m glad Le Moo is doing well…she’s somewhere around eight years old, which is getting up there in big dog years. And ya’ll know I worry. We’re going to have to get her back to the vet to get her teeth cleaned (she’s got bad teeth, yo), so we’ll be making that trip again in the next month or so. Yay.

So Tuesday was my six month check-up with the gyn onc surgeon. Because of Hub’s status with his company (they got bought out and are in transition), I didn’t want him to have to take a day off to accompany me to an appointment that would likely last less than 15 minutes. So I sent him on his way to work and girded myself for the hour ride to the onc’s office. Under normal circumstances, I would have been nervous but okay to make the trip on my own. I made the appointment for after rush hour and I plotted my route to go on the mostly un-used toll road to avoid further traffic. But…it rained. I knew it was predicted to be “light showers” so I told Hub I’d be fine on my own. When I got on the road it was lightly showering. Ten minutes in, before I even reached the toll road, it was pouring. And I was sweating bullets, hands clutched on the steering wheel, talking myself into being OK. I don’t like driving in the rain and I hate driving on wet roads. I have been in a full 360 degree skid behind the wheel before and it’s not fun, so I try to avoid driving in weather. In addition, the toll road is 60mph, and the highway that I was supposed to be getting on at the other end is 60mph, with lots of traffic. So when I rolled onto the toll road, I basically planted myself three or four car lengths behind a dump truck and kept speed as comfortably as I could. Halfway along the toll road, the dump truck changed lanes and sped off. WTF. But I stayed steady and with the few cars on the road flying around me, I made it along the toll road. At the other end, I decided to exit early onto a main road that cuts through the city that I knew would have lots of traffic lights and lots of cars, but also slower moving. And I splashed my way along for half an hour until I got to my destination. It was a good thing I left early, and I made it with ten minutes to spare at the doctor’s office. The doctor was “only” 45 minutes late (we’ve actually waited for 2 hours for prior appointments!), he spent less than 10 minutes with me…several of those minutes were taken up when I told him my mother had passed and we talked about that. He said everything looked good for me and without any concerning symptoms he had no reason to run any tests. In July I’ll repeat a CT scan as part of my follow-up at my two year mark.

Luckily for the trip home it had stopped raining but the roads were all wet. Even so, I made my way along the major highway back to the toll road, and then meandered along the toll road toward my exit. Unfortunately again, the exit ramp I have to take from the toll road to the highway home is a HUGE flyover, which I don’t even like to drive on DRY pavement. Instead I took the exit for the opposite direction which is a normal exit and I turned around at the first traffic light. And I headed home on more regularly traveled roads, which meant I was more comfortable even though the streets were still wet.

In March I will go for my mammogram. It’s still hard for me to go to these appointments and to know when I get home that I don’t have my mother to talk to about what happened. I thought it would get easier, but so far it hasn’t.

Tomorrow I go for a “consultation” to get my hair did. The salon I selected (different from the one I used last year…partly because the stylist never answered my queries and now because I find out this new salon has more “organic” hair dye) wants me to come in to meet the stylist and to let the stylist see my hair and confirm what I want done. If all is well, I go in early on Saturday to get all the colors. ALL THE COLORS. When I was younger I used to box dye my hair all the time, mostly variations on reds because I didn’t like my plain brown hair. At some point I became too ill physically to dye my hair so I stopped. Then I did it a few more times when I was feeling better, but it was a pain in the ass and everything got all stained (including ME) and I didn’t really love the results, so I stopped again. One year I went and got my hair all chopped off and then I had the salon dye my hair but… well, I wasn’t really keen on how it looked and it seemed like the color washed out pretty quickly and I didn’t want to waste my money.

Only last year did I decide to get something done again and I wanted it to be a little funky to make my mother smile. I got a combo of auburn and violet done, but Mom never noticed and the final look wasn’t as pronounced as I had hoped. Over the past year I haven’t bothered to do anything except let my hair grow out. But after my breast MRI and my colonoscopy and my eye exam, and now my onc follow-up, I knew I wanted to do something fun to celebrate the positive news I’ve been getting. I’ve been stalking Instagram (which I don’t use) for different pictures of what I wanted and I am vacillating between something oil-slick color looking and something more jewel-toned, but there’s definitely gonna be blues and purples and maybe some teal and pink. We’ll see what the stylist says tomorrow. If I can get a picture of before and after, I’ll come back and post them.

I’ve also gone past my birthday. My father asked me three or four times if I wanted to go out to dinner for my birthday (he called around lunchtime) but I kept saying no. I felt bad because I know he likes to go out to dinner and I am sure he felt it was what he could do for me, but I didn’t want to go out. I stood my ground and I thanked him, but said I wanted to chill at home. Hub acquiesced and didn’t do anything special for dinner, but we were together so that was fine. The weather outside was crappy and icy so I was just as happy to stay inside and just BE. My aunt–who doesn’t do so good with the whole grief support thing–called and kept me on the phone for 45 minutes talking about stuff. Two of my three brothers emailed me to wish me happy birthday, and my very old dear friend did the same. But no call from my mom, which was the hardest part. Just knowing the whole day that she wouldn’t be calling and we wouldn’t be talking. It sucked. And now it’s over for another year.

Friday I will literally be in therapy while the inauguration is going on. Like I had planned it that way. The rest of the day I will be avoiding all manner of television and radio and social media. Bleh.

I am still in a pretty good amount of physical pain. The nausea is still around but it feels like less often, so that’s good. Sleep is still sucky. The imbalance is so-so. My jaw pain is still bad, though. Headaches are not quite as bad. I broke down and saw my massage therapist last week so she could work on the TMJ pain, which worked pretty well for about a day. Next week I go back to her for my regular body-work session. One day I’m going to schedule a woo-woo relaxing massage with her because she’s damn good at it (I had one shortly after my mother died as a gift to myself) and I really want it. I wish my insurance covered that shit because it is physically helpfully to me just like physical therapy was, but it’s not covered. And it’s pretty expensive for an appointment…not that I think it’s overpriced. My massage therapist is a boss and hella good at her job…and she works fucking hard to help me. I can’t even imagine how hard it is on HER body to do the work she does! I have no idea if she’s in line with other massage therapists, but I know she earns every damn dollar during our appointments.

I just realized how long this was. I’m gonna end it now. I should have broken this up into separate posts, but in my head it all felt related. Thanks for sticking with me.

 

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Birthdays and grief

My mother’s birthday was a few days before the holidays. As one of my brothers said to me, “I’m sure it’s not creeping up on you, either…” And it wasn’t. T thinks that a lot of my pain and anxiety were around the colonoscopy without my mother being there, and because of my mother’s birthday, and because of the holidays without her.

Yeah, I knew her birthday was coming. I knew it was going to be bad. I also knew I had somewhat of a plan for the day. Before Mom got sick, when she was still crocheting, she hooked up a bunch of preemie hats for our local hospital’s NICU. At the time, it wasn’t a lot of hats, so we kept saying we were holding off before taking them in. After Mom passed, I took all of the small amounts of yarn I had and crocheted more tiny hats. Then I put them all into a bag and left them in my library. Because I knew what I wanted to do.

On Mom’s birthday, I woke up and got dressed. And I called my father to see how he was. He said he was just going to call me because he was going to the cemetery and he wanted to know if I wanted to go. I didn’t really, but I didn’t want him to go alone. So instead of answering him directly, I said if he would take me up to the hospital to drop off the preemie hats, I would go with him to the cemetery. He said okay, so we left about ten minutes later.

At the hospital–where my father’s sister (my aunt) was admitted and stayed for several days, and where my mother went for her lymphedema wraps–I left Dad in the parking lot and I went inside. At the main desk, they checked me in and directed me to the NICU. As I made my way down the hall, I saw someone walk into the elevator, so I hurried to join her so I could save some time waiting for another elevator. Inside, the woman standing across from me smiled, then looked at the bag in my arms and her smile got wider. She asked me if I was bringing hats to the NICU. I said yes, and her eyes seemed to sparkle. She was heading for the NICU herself…she had twin girls who had been born before Thanksgiving–when they were due after Christmas. I said congratulations and I hoped they were doing well, which she said they were. And she told me, “They brought me to see the girls for the first time, and there they were in hand-knitted hats, and it just made my heart skip a beat. That someone out there did that for me and for them, complete strangers!” Her smile was so big.

When the elevator doors opened, I walked with her down the hall and into the NICU waiting area. I wished her luck and she disappeared behind a door that the nurse unlocked for her. I approached the nurse, who was behind a glass windowed reception area, and I put my bag of 40 hats on the counter in between us. And I announced that I was there to drop off crocheted hats for the babies. In all sizes, all colors, all different types of yarns. The nurse smiled and took the bag, then started going through the hats. She oohed and ahhed over some of them, and even rubbed a few on her cheek and said how soft they were. She told me how wonderful if it was to have them, and wanted to know “how many women are there in your group that made these?” I laughed and said it was just my mom and me. The sweet woman said, “oh my goodness, please give your mom a hug for me!”

I basically nodded and smiled, gave a wave, and left the unit for the safety of the hallway. It was hard. I tried not to cry as I made my way back through the hospital and out to the car where my father was waiting. Fortunately, he was busy navigating the parking lot and trying to figure out the best way to get to the cemetery, so our conversation was pretty sparse.

When we were done and I was home, I cried. I cried because those were the last hats I had from her. I cried because I missed her. I cried because I hated where I was in my life without her.

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When my mom was going through chemo, I made her a bunch of hats for her to wear after she lost her hair. Years ago, probably six or seven years, before I was crocheting, she was supposed to crochet me an open-weave sweater to wear over a tank top. She never got to it, for various reasons. I don’t even know what happened to the yarn we picked out. She crocheted me a shawl for my brother’s wedding, and added crocheted sleeves to an evening gown for my cousin’s black-tie wedding. So I really have nothing I can wear that she made for me. I wish I did. The last thing she crocheted was a lap blanket that she was expecting to donate, but a few days after she died, I took it. I wrapped it up in tissue paper and put it into a plastic bag that a set of sheets came in, and I put it away in my guest room. It’s in a drawer in my grandparents’ dresser. It’s ugly as sin color-wise, but I can’t bear to part with it. I also have a ruffled ball that was supposed to be for a baby that was a test-project. It’s on a shelf in my bookcase hidden behind some doors with the perfume that I took from her bathroom drawers a few months after she died.

I honored my  mom as best I could on her birthday. My birthday is coming up soon. Hub usually cooks me a special dinner and he’s been asking me what I want to eat. I kept putting him off, because I honestly do not want to celebrate my birthday. I finally told him I didn’t want anything special on my birthday because I didn’t want to have my birthday. I don’t even want it to be acknowledged, because it’s just another reminder to me that she isn’t here with me. Last year she was in brain radiation on my birthday…she was just getting over the symptoms of the brain mets. We were dealing with the lawyer trying to get my parents’ trusts all finalized and stuff.

Last year, five days before my birthday, I had to call an ambulance at 11pm for Hub because he had an episode of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) where his heart rate was sustained up around 225 or 250bpm. They had to stop his heart twice with medication to get it reset. We went to his follow-up appointment with his cardiologist on my birthday.

Right now, I’m in pain. My arms and back and neck and shoulders hurt. I have headaches on an almost daily basis for multiple hours at a time. My hips hurt when I try to sleep. I still have nausea. I still have jaw pain. I still have anxiety over the jaw pain, though it’s not as persistent as it was in the past few weeks. I’m not sleeping much and I’m not crocheting because I hurt too much.

I don’t want to celebrate. Right now I just want the days to be days, so I don’t have to be so sad.

 

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The new year

I have been watching and listening to everyone say how bad 2016 was and how they couldn’t wait for it to be over. I woke up this morning and read all the posts on FB and here and twitter saying happy new year and 2017 is going to be so much better.

Guys…I’m sad a fuck to see 2016 go. It was a hard year, but you know what? For me, 2016 is hard to let go of because it was the last time I got to be with my mom. It was the last time I was able to hold her hand, hear her laugh, hug her, ask her a question and get an answer… It was the last time I got to celebrate my birthday with her. It was the last time she was here on earth with us.

Yes, I lost her in 2016. Yes, I had to watch her die, and I had to help with the funeral and the headstone and all that horrendous stuff. And yes I’ve had to watch my father and brothers and my husband suffer through the loss. And yes, I’ve had to live through my own pain of loss, and I’m still grieving horribly. But for three months in 2016, I had her here physically on this earth. I got to see her eyes, I got to see her smile, I got to tease her about something stupid. I got to do stuff with her. I got to be with her. I got to have her here.

Leaving 2016 behind… I stayed up until after the calendar ticked over. And all I felt was sad. My life will never be as good as it was when she was alive.

 
 

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