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Lost Little Girl, Part 1

It started the weekend of Thanksgiving.  We had a great meal at our favorite buffet at the Four Seasons.  Of course the day started out as many holidays had with Dad saying he didn’t feel good.  I told him he would be ok and we would go and have a nice time.  And truly we did.

Over the next couple of days we started to get ready for a frost that was coming and I wanted to get the hoses put away and the pipes outside covered.  I was putting the plastic over the hose and asked Dad, who was watching over me I’m sure to make sure I did it right, if I just needed to put bricks along the bucket so the wind wouldn’t blow it.  He starts taking off to get the bricks and I tell him to wait I will do it.  But there he goes…..Mr. Stubborn.  The next thing I know my husband said there were bricks flying over the fence.  I walked back to the side of the house to look in the window and see Dad running towards his room.  I instantly dropped everything.  I knew something was wrong and I believe those were the only words to come out of my as I stood in the driveway, dropping everything to run inside as fast as  I could. I found Dad sitting in the chair unable to catch his breath.  I asked if I needed to call 911 and of course he said no.  I sat in distress, frozen….I’m just a kid what the hell am I suppose to do.  Mom had left me with the task of taking care of him…and I’m trying.  I’M 45 YEARS OLD AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL TO DO!  Then he says it….words I never hoped to hear from him…. “I’m in so much pain I just want to die.”  There it was……out there.   My heart shattered.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not again……..  I had already heard this three other times in life where it hurt so bad I couldn’t catch my breath…… first was my Mom, then my great aunt (a week before my daughter was born), and then my aunt.

I made sure to talk to my uncle that next day when he called and told him everything.  I called him again the next morning and promptly hung up to call the cardiologist.  He went in on Wednesday for a stress test.  Thursday, he had a stent placed.  Everyone said it was no big deal.  I guess I really thought that too and that he would be as good as new, just like when he had the pacemaker put in, and he would be fine.  Friday came and I went to pick him up at the hospital. He was having difficulty breathing again and I asked the nurses. They were quite conservative with wanting to check him out completely before discharging him, asking me if I was in a hurry.  I was not and reminded Dad that we needed to be patient until we were told it was ok to leave.  The cardiologist even came to check on him and then let us go.

It was early December, the 9th to be exact the first time he died.  We were sitting in the living room.  He didn’t even want to sit with us at the dinner table to eat.  I checked on him and all seemed well.  Then Alice and I started to watch a movie, Elf.  I noticed that he was starting to have a little bit of difficulty with breathing.  I sent her to bed and went in to check on him.  I even moved his furniture like he asked.  He told me it was too hard to breathe when he laid down and he wanted to sit up.  I started to panic again.  But, I did whatever he wanted.  I was trying to do my best.  Then the difficulty breathing began.  I already told him we had to go to the ER.  He said in short breaths, “I’ll be ok”….yeah right! (in the words of my fat Aunt Mary).  I called the cardiologist on call.  He said get him to the emergency room now.  I jokingly said, “if I can.”  He was having difficulty getting up and then once in the bathroom became violently ill.  Cary helped dad get dressed, as I called 911.  Cary got the medications.  The ambulance showed up, of course to the wrong house because no numbers on this street are in order….so Cary ran in his pajamas to get the ambulance.  By the time, they got in the house, he was in the bathroom again and they gave him a moment.  Once he came out, he asked to sit and they were in a hurry.  Cary gave the medication and I did as I was told to grab the rolling walker chair.  I did not grab the DNR papers off the fridge….this was never intentional.  The chaos of the moment, the EMTs were in my face telling me to calm down and not to follow the ambulance over and over and telling Cary the same.  I got to the end of the street and they turned left….why in the hell would they do that.  The hospital was to the right and they were stopped.  I called Cary panicked.  I didn’t know what was happening.  Somewhere in the mess I called Jen.  She was coming.  She was going to help me……….somehow

I beat the ambulance to the hospital…how could this be? They had passed me on the street.  I ran in 30 degree weather through two parking lots and the ambulance bay.  No ambulance.  I ran inside and they couldn’t help because obviously Dad wasn’t there.  I called Cary panicked.  Did they take him somewhere else? What were they doing?  He told me no they wouldn’t take him somewhere else.  He told me to wait inside.  I told him no I needed to wait for my Dad.  I finally saw them pull up and raced back in.  They made me stand there for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally…..the little orange sticker that gave me a pass.

I ran…….I ran down that hallway.  I got there and I dropped to the floor.  There were nurses on him performing CPR.  All I could say was “no” over and over.  This wasn’t how it was suppose to be.  Security….not helpful.  They left me there…on the floor.  I looked at them pleading hoping they would pick me up.  No, it was an x-ray tech.  He picked me up, got me a chair, and called Cary.  I just needed to hold on to someone.  They were waiting too…..obviously the x-ray could wait.  Dad needed to come back.  I heard a nurse in the room say something about his daughter.  YES!  YES I AM RIGHT FUCKING HERE!!!! PLEASE HELP ME.  I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY DAD.  A nurse came by (don’t know her name but I could pick her out of a group of people if I had to) and hugged me.  I didn’t want to let her go.

The doctor finally came out.  I was devastated as I told him that my dad would not want to live like this.  He told me that my dad had been down for 15 minutes with no pulse.  I think by now Jen was by my side but I can’t be sure.  She confirmed there were tubes everywhere.  I didn’t know what to do.  And, then the doctor asked, “Do you want me to stop everything.”  Again, just like the paperwork it was never intentional but my reply was “I don’t know.”  If he did then that was it over….the end…..I would be without any parents.

I think somewhere in there I called my boss.  I know I called my uncle.  I kept calling him even though it was late.  The doctor walked away for a moment to check on something.    He came back to me and another nurse walked by and whispered, “He has a pulse.”  The next thing I know another nurse walks in the room to say, “He’s sitting up.” That’s my Dad!! The fighter, the most stubborn individual I know……..

The cardiologist I spoke with earlier showed up.  Him and the CCU doctor were amazing. They held my hand.  They answered my questions.  They reassured me that it was ok that I had not “pulled the plug” on him.  They said they wanted to try and do everything for him. I agreed.

I stood there frozen as they pulled his bed out of the room to take him back to the cath lab to check on the stent placed the day before……. I couldn’t even look at him and for that I was ashamed that I had let him endure this.  This wasn’t the plan.  I had hounded him to have the paperwork signed so I could make decisions like this.  I really thought I could do it with a clear head.  HELL NO.  THERE’S NO FUCKING BOOK IN LIFE THAT SAYS YOU WILL BE ABLE TO STAY STRONG WHEN YOU ARE FACE TO FACE WITH THE DEATH OF YOUR PARENTS.

Damn it’s been awhile

Where does one even start after over a year?  Well, I can say that 2016 was a good year when it started.  In fact it wasn’t until Halloween that it really began to suck…..and I had no idea what was in store.

That night when ghosts and ghouls come out to play, I received a phone call on my way home from work.  My best friend from high school was on the phone in a panic. She had left her mother earlier that day sitting on the couch after taking her to a doctor’s appointment.  She was not able to get up.  She called Jen for help.  I told her to call the doctor that she had the cell phone number to and see what he said.  She called back saying she was calling 911 and going to the ER.  I told her after I fed the people showing to my house and spent a few minutes with Alice, I would be right there.  It was then that I would learn so much in the next few days.  I realized in that moment in the ER that Rosemary was not coming home.  It felt like a slap….that nurse so easily giving her the IV with the morphine had just given up.  Who the hell was she that she was giving up on Jen’s mom.  This lady was more than that…..she put up with me as a teenager on those long Saturday nights.  She gave me the name Spaz.  She would make us the best snickerdoodle cookies ever!  She treated me like another daughter.  So, who the hell was this nurse to give up on her?  My head was spinning.  I took care of Jen the rest of the evening and into the early morning.  I went back the next day and the next.  It was that Wednesday when we were telling Rosemary goodbye, I heard her tell Jen, “I love you.”  That made my heart feel better and I hoped Jen heard it.  In the midst of all of this my dad had just come home from being gone for a month or more to see his family. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t around but by Thursday we got the news that Jen’s mom wasn’t going to make it through the weekend, as her organs were shutting down.  It was Friday night.  I told Jen I had to go to dinner with my family.  I cried all the way home.  I knew it wouldn’t be long.  I knew the posture of that nurse as she stood over her.  I was watching Rosemary’s sats and knew what was coming……..  I tried not to cry at dinner.  We went to Red Lobster and I ordered the crab legs, a place I celebrated Easter with Jen and her mom in 1988 and where they taught me about crab legs and hot butter (still one of my favorites!).   Afterwards, I went back to the hospital to be with Jen.  I finally told her it was time to go and take care of mom’s dog, Petey.  She did and of course as soon as Jen left, Rosemary’s sats started to drop quickly.   I called Jen to hurry back.  I had helped make the decision to increase the oxygen to include a face mask.  I tried to warn Jen of how her mom looked and it was too much for her.  She asked me to make phone calls and I did.  I stood with her and her mom’s friend of 67 years, dear sweet Iris while she took her last breath. That nasty word, Cancer, took her.   I don’t know what I expected in that moment.  But, there was a strange sense of peace……there was no sound, no pain, no screaming,…..nothing.  I knew what God’s plan was exactly in that moment.  God was preparing me for losing my dad.  I knew that if I could handle this and she was like a mom, I could handle my dad’s passing someday.  I just would never have imagined that day……would be so soon.

My Story…….

So, Tuesday I am to sit with my Tribe and tell my story….. Oh and relate this to Winnie the Pooh, along with the Tao of Pooh

I have no idea where to start.  I have gone over in my head constructing a million ideas of how this will play out.  Is it to talk about those who influence me, my family, my friends, my parents, my husband, my child?  Is it about relationships that have failed or sent me on a journey of learning?  Is it to talk about a name….my name, who I am and where I come from?  Is it to talk about now, and who I am now and then go backwards? My answer is….I’m finding out right now! I also realize I am the only one judging this…my story.  It’s about me for God sakes.  I need to just let it be….. like the book my parents had made for me, “It’s All about Me.”  But, I won’t lie, I was feeling a little like Rabbit…anxious but wanting to fix the problem and get things done…right away!

There seems to be a lot of awakenings going on right now.  Thank you Louis Hay for all of your inspiration and those that follow in your footsteps.  I have had so many insights into who I am lately. So, maybe starting with the now and going backwards is the only way I see fit……in a Pooh sort of fashion.  Of course there is a lot of round-aboutness in this story too, like when Pooh and Piglet were looking for the Woozle.

Recently, one of the biggest growths I have had is after having a horrible fight with my husband, telling him I will work until I can get him first and last months rent so he can move on is only the start.  I realize in some of this that my frustration with him has to do with me….unfortunately, I’m coming to that age where changes are inevitable.  Unfortunately, for him, some of these changes include anger.  However, I am willing to work on my anger. I have come to realize that I judge those that had attachment issues when I should have been looking at my own attachment rather than judging theirs.  Even now married, I get irritated beyond belief when my husband says he can’t live without me.  WTH is that about? Oh yeah, I have my own abandonment issues.  I realized young that my mother shouldn’t have had kids at all due to her physical health and then there I was.  I was a kid of the 70s.  Mom worked and smoked throughout the entire pregnancy and well into my adulthood.  I think she quit twice but then went back to it, which ultimately aided in her death.  As a child, I inquisitively asked her about my birth.  She would tell me I came 5 weeks early, feet first, ready to go and learned to eat in the first 24 hours.  She said that I was tiny.  She would then say the words that left a scar on my heart, “I was tired. ” Almost too tired to give me what I needed and it’s visible in the pictures.  She would tell me she didn’t stay at the hospital the first week with me but came home so she could sleep.  She told me was ready to go back to work after 2 months.  I realize I catch myself when saying these words to Alice on occasion, “I’m tired.”   I swear I think this is why I have tried my hardest to do everything in my power to be the complete opposite of my mother.  I loved my pregnancy.  I was healthy and pretty happy.  I was working like mad so I wouldn’t have to work so hard when Alice came along.  I was able to spend so much time with her.  It was funny that I had been on a wait list for 6 months for a home daycare.  After the first week, Georgia asked me if I wasn’t happy with her or if something was wrong.  I told her it was me and that it was hard for me to let Alice go because my own mother did not have the ability to keep me at home and take care of me like I could with Alice.  Little did I realize then, it wasn’t the inability to stay home with me, it was that desire was lacking.  And so, maybe it wasn’t the physical ability I was afraid of not having….it was the emotional connection I so longed to have.  I wanted to be with my child, unlike I felt with my own mother.   And now, I’m starting to see the pain there…when I look in the mirror.  But, I’m feeling more equipped everyday to deal with it.

I think about the people in my life that influence me and the stories about our interactions that make up who I am.  I like to work and get my hands dirty just like my dad.  At four years old I remember climbing under the car with him.  Of course, his addictions were present then, asking me to make sure I brought him a beer.  I only recall a handful of times when he had way too much and probably should not have driven my mother and I home.  I remember the feeling of being scared in the backseat and feeling helpless that I couldn’t make the situation any better.  Maybe that is how I found strength with Cary’s sister and was able to walk away when I saw her wasting her life to the alcohol.  I think back now and wonder if the alcohol was the only way my father could cope.  I see it’s how he copes with his pain.  I know he knows that I am trying my best but do not always have the ability to care for all of his needs, including his dental at the moment.  I have a little struggle at times when I feel like I can’t get him to the doctor he needs and have to send him alone.  Then of course there is that guilt.  The guilt that my mother asked me before she died to make sure that I helped take care of him.  I am trying AND doing the best I can.  I do ask my dad if he realizes how hard I work at this.  He tells me does and I believe him.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents were older in a slightly post-hippie generation but I know they loved me (although I look back now and can see the dysfunction).  They made sure I was clothed and fed.  I was taken care of while they worked.  They made sure I was well educated.  They gave me a special gift of a vacation every year traveling the country in whatever car my father fixed (my favorite was the 1969 Buick station wagon).  I learned during these adventures of so many wonderful places in the United States.  It was 1981, I was given the gift of going to California. My mother waited until the year I turned 10 and off we went.  It was the excitement of Disneyland and the peacefulness of Muir Woods that captured part of my DNA.   I’m thankful for all of these memories and more importantly of the new memories I make there now.  Who knew how important California would really be in my future and how strong that connection was to get me back there?  The irony is that I never wanted to live there.  I thought I would end up on the East Coast, like North Carolina.  I thought California was a wild and crazy place and don’t forget the earthquakes!!  but somehow but in 1996, life threw a curveball and I caught it.  I packed up my belongings, quit my job and went out there to live.  I didn’t last long, a few months, as that relationship followed me needed to end, and I called my dad begging to come pick me up.  He refused and told me that if I got out there, I could find a way home.  I did…..but, California called again.  3 weeks later, I was back in Los Angeles.  It’s funny how history has a way of repeating itself.  I realized then my parents were full of “stories” I didn’t know.  I learned during this time that my dad had lived in Pasadena (and not the Texas one with Gilley’s famous bar!).  Apparently, my mother showed up in his truck one day and he followed her back to Texas.  But somehow I was determined to make it…whatever that means.  I did it.  I said goodbye once and for all to that boy and began to live.  I fell into some “rough crowds” along the way but kept finding my way out of that craziness and into a small group of friends that are like my family.  I started my own business and I spent every moment I could at the beach.  I was called to the water to dig my feet in the sand and never took for granted any moment I had there.  I was thankful for having a husband that knew some days I just needed to take that drive over Topanga Canyon and see the water.  It didn’t matter the weather, as I would roll the window down and breathe in the salty air and let the wind brush hard against my face.  When it was time to leave, it was devastating to say goodbye.  I visited old pains upon arriving back in Texas.  My past slapped me in the face and I knew that if I didn’t swim fast, I was going to sink and there would be no return this time.  It was hard to see old patterns and feelings of complete helplessness come back.  I had not seen that much sadness in a long time.  But, this time I was stronger because I knew it was the situation.  It was during this time I found Rachael.  I know she knows how great I think she is but really she saved me.  She is my Christopher Robin.  She gave me some amazing tools to help me help myself, when for so long I was letting others fix me.

Then there are the countless aunts and uncles.  Of course life would not be the same without Aunt Dixie and Aunt Mary.  They were sisters that didn’t even speak.  It was an adult before I realized that Aunt Mary would come to Texas for some functions and special occasions but then Aunt Dixie wouldn’t be around.  However, Aunt Dixie was there for so many other things that had just as much meaning and she could create a frenzy in my life, like Piglet running to get away from the Heffalumps.  I was 16 years old before I even knew of some of my mother’s sisters and aunts.  By the time I was 19, I was feeling like I had missed out on so many amazing people.  They were funny, loving and they were MY family.  I loved almost every moment I have had with them.  I only hope that I’ve written enough for Alice to know how many wonderful memories I carry.  I want Alice to know them, even though they are not here anymore.  My family not being here has been a lesson all on it’s own.  I look at the ones that were so important and understand most of their purposes in my life.  It’s funny how many people have asked me how I cope with such sadness over losing so many people.  First of all, yes, it is sad in that moment I can not touch them or feel them.  But, sometimes if I listen close or just ask, I can see and hear.  I’m sad sometimes that they’re gone and I can not physically talk with them but I know one day I will see them all again.  As I tell people, I’m not afraid to die because when I do, it will be one big family reunion.

I think back on the other influences of my life, My Mamaw and Papaw, families I have stayed with after school while my parents were at work, two bosses that took me in and believed in me.   There were the relationships that although they didn’t last were fueled with passion and love and some arguing along the way.  Yes, my heart has been broken a few times but for the experiences that came with the broken hearts I would not change it for the world.  I can’t really say I want to go through that again but as it has helped me grow, then it was worth it.  I think back fondly on my time working with the Vets at the VA.  Those old guys taught me a lot during that time.  I was taught never be afraid to ask.  Listen to other people’s story and find out who they are, where they come from and sometimes I would ask just how did they survive their journeys and battles.  This took me on a journey of my own to a place called Acoma.  It is a beautiful Indian reservation 60 miles outside of Albuquerque.  I feel so at peace and with Spirit while standing atop the mesa.  I imagine this is how Christopher Robin feels when he is having a quiet moment with his favorite bear.  Or maybe that is how Pooh feels as the Uncarved Block.

I’m sure there are a million more things that could be added or said….but I like this version.