Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting the hell out of dodge

This Saturday Devon, Cass and I are getting on a plane and heading out to Salt Lake City and then on to Provo for the week. Loren can't go with us because he is filming an up and comer at the Winter X Games all weekend and then has to have his wisdom teeth out late next week. We are going out to bid good-bye to Matt's dad who is dying of cancer and to see the kids' most favorite Auntie of all, Jen. Matt and I are also going to sort through all his medical bills and attempt to get a handle on them. The one I opened yesterday from the hospital where he spent 10 days had a number so enormous on it that I just had to giggle. Really? A person could buy a fancy Porsche for that amount. Or a spacious home in deep Arakansas. Or me and 15 of my closest girlfriends could get boob lifts. The list could be endless. So, yes, tackle his insane stroke bills we will do.

Despite the fact that parts of our trip will be sad, I am really looking forward to getting out of town for a week. My first choice for a respite might not be Provo, I would opt for someplace warm and sandy, close to a bar where drinks served in coconuts could be easily had. Provo is cold, filled with fresh faced Mormons with good intentions and getting a drink is not the easiest of tasks in that town. But to get away will be good for the soul. One of the aspects I'm most looking forward to is seeing Matt. When he came home from the hospital in early December I saw him every day until he left for Provo over to weeks ago. I made sure he got out of the house, went to the store, visited Starbuck's with me. We haven't spent so much time together in nearly five years and it was truly lovely. I had forgotten that he can make me laugh like no other and how when we are getting along it is so easy to just be. So, yes, I can't wait to go see my ex-husband. Go figure.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Humilitation should always be served in a public arena

There are moments when I wish the Universe would toss me a bone of mercy or just swallow me whole to put me out any further self-inflicted foolishness. Yesterday afternoon was such a day. I had visited the doctor in the morning to discuss with him my ongoing sleep issues, meaning my inability to perform the task of sleeping. Since the Texan exited the picture I have been able to dispense with most of my need for Ativan but I still can't sleep. And I haven't been able to sleep for a little over six years. Oh, right, since Devon was diagnosed with his heart defect and I had to get up hourly to check on him just to satisfy an obsessive need to make sure he made it through to the next hour. Yes, that bit formed a pattern that to this day screams in my sleep deprived ears, "NO SLEEPING, BITCH. YOU SLEEP AND EVERY PERSON YOU LOVE WILL DIE!". We all have our issues, one of a handful of mine is the above mentioned issue of everybody I know and love perishing in a blink of an eye. Whatever.

So anyway, yesterday. Long line at the pharmacy. I was getting some Lunesta so I can fall asleep at night and not wake up in a cold panic and quietly sneak into the children's' rooms with a mirror to check their breathing. It's a small town pharmacy where I am always sure to encounter at least 12 people from my childhood. Sure enough there was my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Fisher. We shared the regular exchange of how cute my kids are, my how they've grown, etc. When it came time for me to get my new subscription I answered all the questions: no, I don't want drug counseling, yes, I really want this prescription, etc. And then I slid my card though the machine. It was denied. I can't remember the last time this happened because I am so careful. If I don't have it, I don't spend it. Also, I know if I don't have it and try to spend it the cashier will say in an obnoxiously loud voice, "Ma'am, your card was denied. Do you have another form of payment?" No. I don't use other cards, was out of checks and never have cash. Duh. I slunk away, waved good-bye to my old teacher while Cass and Devon kept asking what was wrong, and just wanting to be absorbed into the earth the entire time.

Once home I opened up my account only to see that the biggest of all my auto payments, the one I had rescheduled to run in a couple of weeks because I have so many other bills right now, yes that one had been run early. It's for the children's tuition and the school has been fairly flexible since the whole my-ex-husband-had-a-stroke-can't-work-and-can't-take-the-kids thing. I couldn't bring myself to call them and bare more of my nakedness idiocy to them. So. I called Matt and did something I haven't done in a super long time, I asked for money. Yup. My ex-husband who is helping to take care of his dying father, get his mom in a nursing home and has to take enough blood pressure medication everyday just to stay alive. I'm classy like that. He said he would transfer me some funds because he's cool like that.

This morning I checked my account again. No bounced checks or drafts. Only one check out. Of course that was the one to somebody I know. Another childhood teacher. She's in by book club, friends with other friends, I see her driving on our shared road on a near daily basis...and I could totally see the tellers at the bank having to inform her that, no there was no money in my account because I'm an irresponsible buffoon. Fortunately, the bank paid it, the transferred funds got there in time and I accrued no fees. This afternoon I was again waiting in the absurdly long line at the pharmacy and hoping when it was my turn they wouldn't all point at me, laugh and say, "Ooooooh, go away, no money girl!" And that is when it dawned on me, I have a shiny new, fully loaded flexible spending card in my wallet. The one for things like co-pays and prescriptions. Duh. The one that had been there all along. Because me? I'm clever like that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It might be just slightly about me

I love my kids. How could I not? It is my firmest of beliefs that they are the most brilliant, funniest, gorgeous creatures to roam the face of the earth. But that said, I have to admit how much I treasured the shared parenting schedule Matt and I worked out a couple of years ago. It was slightly choppy, but hello? There were weekends when I had more than 48 hours. To myself. And now, in this post-stroke life where Matt is healing and is now in Utah where he and Jen are putting their mom in an assisted living facility and their father is dying? Ain't no 48 minutes without at least one of our spawn demanding something. And? I'm so damn tired. Not that I'm counting, but I've been with Devon for 64 days and nights in a row. That's a lot of 48 hours all strung together.

I totally get that Matt's stroke is not about me, nor is his father's cancer or his mother's dementia. But it's hard on my side of the fence too. Today by 6:57 a.m. Cassidy had already decided I fully sucked as a human being and totally sucked ass at being her mom. I can't exactly recall where I went wrong but I suspect she heard the dreaded word NO from my lips, it pertained to her and her rights to exist peaceably as an individual and she decided I had to go down for the count. Then Devon had to argue that is was simply impossible to keep his uniform pants cuffed to avoid ruining yet ANOTHER pair of khakis, and really it was my shortcomings that lead to him ruining his school pants. Whatever. All I know is that the relief of getting to work where my children were not was nothing short of bliss.

There have been a gazillion wonderful moments during this time with the kids, I'm not claiming otherwise. It has also been a time of healing and, before Matt went to Utah, an amazing time of reconnecting. Having the kids, Matt and me together in the same room at the same time and feeling the small tendrils of hope that we can somehow be a family under some definition is nothing less than a beautiful cosmic gift. So I am grateful. And, I'll admit, other than the hormonal roller coaster of another child entering puberty, it isn't always an invite only pity party for one. I'll definitely accept guests.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dead dad guilt

Sometimes when people talk to me about their dads I have noticed a hesitancy, as if they are somewhat uncomfortable discussing their living paternal figure while mine is dead. I can roll with it, after all it totally sucks that my seemingly healthy father dropped, rather fell over, dead while riding his bike. This doesn't arise too often but when it does there is always a small awkward moment until I reassure that person that, no, I won't go all psycho on them out of some sort of demented dad jealousy.

Yesterday while chatting on the phone with Matt I encountered such an odd pause. Matt has been back in Utah for the past week tending to his father who is dying of Stage 4 melanoma. He was relating to me how Tom, his dad, seemed so much happier now that he is out of the hospital and home on hospice care. I could hear the elation in his voice when he paused and started to change the subject. When pressed as to why, he replied, "Well, I feel a bad talking about my dad and how great it is that we have this chance to say good-bye. I know you never got that with Pete." No, I didn't. And it sucks. Everyday. He was ripped from our lives. There for breakfast and never again home for dinner. But I don't begrudge Matt and Jen this time to say their good-byes, I am thrilled they will get some sort of closure. So I said, "Dude, no dead dad guilt. There's enough guilt in this world and to have it over this simply doesn't work. Save it for something flashier and be at peace with where you are."

There isn't a day that goes by when I don't miss my father. I hate it that we never got to hug him good-bye, that laying my head on his cold chest when he was on a gurney was the only way. But the truth is that for him to be here one moment and gone on to wherever the next was a beautiful gift for him in terms of dying. Sucks for us, no doubt about it, but for him I am grateful he never suffered.

The incredible lightness of breathing

As a general rule I'm fairly uptight. By the end of most days I am so tightly wound that the children know better than to suddenly bump or touch me, because if they do? It's quite likely I'll start quivering and scratching at my face in a not so reassuring way. This sucks for them, I'm sure, to know their mother is such a freak that simple day to day life wigs me out. It's not uncommon for Cass to ask me, "What gives, Mom? It's just a normal day: work, school for us, homework and dinner. Nothing bad happened. Nobody died today. We all still have our complete set of toes and fingers. That's a good mom thing, huh?"

To which I reply, "Um, yes, but do you know the incredible amount of work needed for me to simply breathe in and out from hour to hour? Toss in the fact that you and Devon need lunches made, Loren needs food money, you all have to get out of the house and to school before 8 am, then I have to go to work where I have to interact with other adults without either stuttering, spitting my food on them or appearing to be a dundering fool. Then. Then there is the afternoon of pick ups, homework, bitching kids, errands with more bitching kids, then I have to entertain you all. And then? THEN? You all want dinner. Like with meat and veggies and fiber and crap. Yes, at the end of the day I have to pull a nutritionally balanced meal out of my ass. Then it's homework, reading and tender tuck ins for you guys."

This sort of reply always takes Cass back a step or two while she mulls it over. Inevitably she ends up shaking her head and walking away from what is obviously a train wreck. Can't say I blame her. Sister is a survivor and she knows that just standing next to me marks her as vulnerable in the herd. But after a spell she will often return, give me a hug and say something along the lines of, "It's okay, mom. I love you even if you are a weirdo. But can I have that dinner, like now?" And then, then I quietly itch at my arms while the task of cooking sustenance looms.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The low down skinny

....If I don't start write this down I'll forget about it and then someday wonder if any of it really happened or if I'm just making shit up because the children have grown and flown and I'm all alone making collages of kittens from old calendars....

The Sunday before Thanksgiving of this year was a normal one, it was to have been Matt's weekend with the children but he had planned to work extra so he could take the kids to see his parents in Provo so I took the kids. It was a hectic couple of days but as Sunday approached all was evening out, laundry was being done, grocery lists compiled. The usual, except for the fact that Matt wasn't bothering to return my calls, a fact I found mildly irritating at first but I chalked it up to him blowing me off and I thought I could get pissed about it later over a glass of red wine and a bubble bath. At about 3:30 in the afternoon he finally did call, as I answered I was prepared to be slightly aloof to him until I heard that it wasn't his voice on the other line but that of his best friend, Craig. "Heather. Matt's in the ER. He's had a stroke. It's bad. You need to come." As with another time when speaking with somebody from the ER my breath caught, my stomach dropped and silence plugged my ears with a screaming WHAT THE FUCK???

From the ER Matt was transported to a hospital about 90 miles away where he could be in a neural ICU to discover just why exactly a perfectly healthy 39 year-old male randomly has a stroke. The first couple of days Loren and I spent our waking hours in ICU before he had to return to school. Then Devon and Cassidy came to spend two days with their dad after he had been sent from ICU to neuro-acute care for further tests upon test. After a week the doctors were still flummoxed but zeroing on Matt's kidneys as the culprits. I had to leave at the end of the week to return to work and a few days later a friend brought Matt home. The diagnosis: fibromuscular displasia. Turns out Matt's left kidney only gets about 40% of the blood it needs because his arteries leading to the kidney are a train wreck -either thickened, strung out or dead ending. This pisses off his blood thirsty kidney, it then releases a hormone that spikes his blood pressure, not usually too much of an issue unless you have the same condition in your carotid arteries and the increased BP rips through the vertebral artery, causes a bleed and then invites a stroke over for dinner. Yup. All in all a good answer to how a healthy young male starts flopping around on the floor with a stroke.

And so now? Now life is is different than before in ways I haven't the energy to write about quite yet. I will, so at least I'll be able to remember it all one day when perhaps this is sorted out and understood. But right now there appointments, CT scans, MRI's, a soon to be transfer to a teaching hospital in Denver where maybe the other four patients in Colorado's population who have the same disease will be. Hopefully the doctors there won't just scratch their heads, shrug their shoulders and say: "Sorry, nothing more we can do for you here. Good luck keeping that blood pressure down because that vertebral artery of yours doesn't have much left in her!"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

One small breath at a time

There are spans of time when the weight of everyday life seems to be so much that I wonder if my vertebrae have what it takes to remain upright and functional. When I envision myself somewhat like a sardine in a can, my spine twisted and scattered hither and yon simply because I didn't have the get up and go to keep my shit together. Considering how out of whack life has been for the past six weeks I'm pleasantly surprised to find myself not a total basket case. Yes, at the end of the days the above mentioned backbone wants nothing to do with gravity and everything to do with a stiff shot of tequila and some horizontal memory foam. But compared to the trainwreack I can potentially be? I'm fierce stable.

There have been just a small handfull of crying-jag breakdowns. I have only lost my lost my cool with the children once, and though it was huge, it passed and we all got over our bad selves. My Ativan intake hasn't increased to Lindsay Lohan levels of scariness. Red wine intake is down, as is other alcohol related beverages. Really, I find myself rather cool with the entire situation. So much so that I am slightly suspicious of an anxiety attack, the likes of which could break California into the ocean, to creep up on me and say boo while I fall into a pile of spineless, blubbering cells.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bring on the New Year!

Some new years I make, and break, resolutions. Other years I think about making resolutions, but knowing I will fall off the wagon of whatever it is I have pledged to stay on, I think better of the idea and go watch a movie while eating extra butter on my popcorn. This year is different though. I believe 2010 was one of discovering that I can accomplish things if I put my mind to it, so what the hell, in 2011 I'll say up front that I'm gonna write down some goals and stick to them.

The last 6 weeks have been out of control crazy. Right before Thanksgiving I got the call that my ex-husband had a stroke, yep 39 and in perfect health with a brain bleed. Who knew? Turns out after 10 days in the hospital he has a rare degenerative vascular disease, the extent to which we still don't know. So since his future is somewhat uncertain and I have (Very willingly) stepped into the role of caretaker I have hopes that my goals for this year can bring some structure to what has been a very free form environment as of late. So here goes:
  • BUDGET. Might be time to make one, write it down, be realistic and honest about it (no, I can't take my oil change allowance and switch it over to the wine category).
  • ORGANIZATION. I so suck at this. It's not uncommon for all the really valuable things, my cell phone, the one clean pair of panties I own, a fork or a spoon to be found amongst my bed covers. I know I'll end up there at some point during the day so why not keep all the good stuff there? No longer. I've got bins with dividers and the like, and by golly I'm-a gonna use 'em. Also under this category follows chores lists for the kids where if they don't do the work they get no allowance, this cleverly follows back to my first goal. I'm a thinker that way.
  • CREATIVITY. One of the things sadly lacking in my life for the past couple of years has been color. When I took up with the Texan, who ended up being a tacky, cheap ass bastard, I stopped painting, gluing, cutting and making pretties. All my extra time was spent on the phone listening to him. So now I'm going to earnestly open an ETSY shop and do it right. I've got the vision for the packaging and photos. Now all I need is some budgeting and organization to pull it all together.
  • BEING PRESENT. One of the side effects of being riddled with panic is that I tend to crawl up inside my head and curl up in the furrows of my brain, where everything is warm and dark and the only noise is that of heart beat, rather than be in the here and now. This sucks for the kids and makes me end up feeling guilty. Gotta stop this one. It's a crutch and although I really like that snuggly place of oblivion where no one can touch me, I'm going to brave the world.

That's about it. Those four are sort of broad but they are honest and leave little wiggle room for my usual bullshit of of avoiding reality. Here's to it....