For Danny at “The Real Full House”

Geez. How do you deal with your angry kid? You can’t make them talk to you, and you have to be their punching bag despite how bruised you are.

On another note… .

I adore the postings on WordPress by “The Real Full House.” Danny, if you’re reading, pay attention! Today he was wondering about heaven and he posited that when he gets there he’ll set up a facebook page. I like that idea.

Yesterday we were having lunch at my favorite island spot, Shagger Jack’s. The family of Caroline’s friend who spent last week with us had come to fetch her home, and they kindly took all of us to lunch.

Sirius was playing oldies, and probably no one noticed but me.

“Time in a Bottle” came on. Adam loved this song. I loved it in the 70s when it came out, but then I got over it and just indulged his love of Jim Croce and moved on, never giving it much attention.

But there it was. At our lunch. At Shagger Jack’s. Adam was there too. He knew I’d pay attention to that song. He does this to me frequently and I love it, because he still has a sense of humor and likes to poke me and give me a laugh. But this wasn’t a laugh. This was “I’m here too and I want you to know that.” I was in a crowd. I couldn’t react. I sucked it up and made a comment but that was as far as I could go.

Today I downloaded that song to my “Sad” playlist, the one I listen to when I need to indulge my suffering. I listened and cried and cried. Why did he love this song? How could he know? He loved it way before there was any inkling he’d get sick and leave us too early. Why?

So to Danny at The Real Full House, I say, here’s another 2% to add to your 97.whatever it was today. It’s real, and our loved ones are speaking to us.

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I hate being a widow

I hate being a widow.

I typed this on my personal Facebook page today. It’s taken me a long time to get up the courage to just spout it out. I hate it.

Never having been one of those flirty girls, I never really dated anyone and spent a good deal of time being variously jealous of girls who had dates on the weekend. I didn’t want to out with their dates, but i did wish there was someone I’d like to go out with.

For me this was the way of things through both high school and college. I simply wouldn’t go out with someone just for the sake of companionship. The stakes were too high, and although I may have enjoyed our “date,” the implied obligations at the evening’s end were more than I was interested in.

Therefore, I spent my young-adulthood without much companionship.

It was obvious to most of those around me that Adam was, in my mind, a keeper. I won’t elaborate; let your imagination run wild.

That was one side of the many wonderful things that Adam brought to my life. He kept me company, he took care of stuff I knew nothing about, he commiserated with me silently, it goes on and on. There’s no way I can enumerate the ways he ameliorated my life.

The Beginning of the End

Almost two weeks ago I wrote that I would, the next day, finish my post of June 5 and tell you all what happened to Adam after Tom’s death. A good friend reminded me that I had neglected to do so. Probably because I don’t want to face it. But you can’t hold things in. When you do, bad things happen. Your gut churns, you sleep, you don’t sleep, you drink. You find a way to suppress the pain but it comes out some other way. So if you’re trying to block your pain remember this. It’s not like I’m really good at addressing my issues; hey–it’s been almost two weeks since I said I’d write a follow-up to that post! But I’m learning from a dear friend who is facing her own grief now, and she’s helping me a lot.

So. To recap. We thought Adam was doing really well. He’d had enough surgeries of one kind or another on his brain to enable him to reduce the amount of steriod he was taking for the cerebral swelling and begin chemo. He’d had (I first typed “we’d had”; yes, we endured together) a couple of rounds of chemo–I can’t remember if it was two or three, when Tom died.

(Oh dear. I had to pause to eat my frozen dinner entree: Amy’s black bean tamale verde. It is unsurpassed if you have to eat frozen. Bliss-ish.)

So while I was eating I remembered this. Right after Tom died, I guess it was the day before his church service, which would have been July 2, Adam had a chemo treatment. It’s memorable because Duke ICU had made casts of Tom’s hands to be given to his children, and I went over while Adam was in the treatment room to pick up the casts to take to Tom’s wife at the service.

We drove to Winston-Salem for the service and Adam was doing well. He was walking well, he was cogent, it was good. He never had bad side-effects from the chemo.

After the service there was a reception. Again, Adam was doing well. He talked to Tom’s colleagues, Tom’s mother, and other relatives.

Then we were standing in a hall outside of the reception room and he collapsed. I got a chair under him so that he didn’t hit the floor. He had done this before and usually recovered himself quickly. But not so much this time. We were in a room full of neurosurgeons and their interns. People were freaked. Because they were upset, I was too, and we went home.

That was approximately July 3, and the middle of the week. We were supposed to leave the following weekend for a 2-week beach trip, leaving on the Sunday, our anniversary.

By then it was evident that we weren’t going anywhere, but Adam was insistent. Although we were to leave on Sunday, he spent Saturday trying to load things into the car and haranguing the kids about packing their stuff. He came into the kitchen wearing a pair of shorts with both of his legs stuffed into one leg of the shorts. Once he tried to put on the shorts as if they were a shirt.

Time out. What do you do when your *husband* starts doing these things??? God only knows what my kids were thinking, because asking them was out of the question; I was hanging by a string. I took him into the bedroom to deal with the shorts and told him to *stop already.* Stop trying to do things because he couldn’t do them and that frightened me and made me yell at him which I did not want to do!!!

Well guess what. The next day, Sunday the 7th, we loaded up the car anyway. I didn’t want to go. I had visions of us trailing the Dosher (Southport) hospital helicopter all the way to Duke, cursing ourselves for having given in to Adam and come to the beach.

If you find yourself in this position ever, be reassured that God will deal you a hand. After loading the car to the gills, it wouldn’t start. It. Would. Not. Start.

We unloaded the car. Well, the kids did. I don’t remember a thing, and in fact wouldn’t be able to relate the story here had not Caroline, in her unparalleled eloquence, written about the incident for her creative writing class this year. I was broadsided when I realized my complete amnesia about the event. But reading her account made me remember.

The kids unloaded the car.

The next day, Monday, July 9, the day after our 23rd anniversary, Will asked me for a mop.

Adam had had his customary Boost in the morning and had vomited it up all over our bathroom. Will cleaned it up. He didn’t say “may I,” he didn’t hesitate, he took care of his dad. And you know what? He’d been taking care of him all along.

When Adam had his first grand-mal siezures, Will was the one who rescued Adam. At the time we didn’t know what was going on. But Will was the one, he was the one who rescued his dad with strength and silence. He was a rock.

So on Monday, July 9, Will rescued his dad again. Put him in bed, cleaned him up, and cleaned up after him.

After a period of assessment I told Adam I could no longer care for him and that I had to take him to the hospital. I put him in a wheelchair and wheeled him out of the house, into his black car (hearse?), and ferried him to Duke North as he continued to retch into the bottom half of a plastic milk jug. Valet parking was full. Really? No problem. I had a handicapped sticker.

The admittance process was grueling because I had to answer stupid questions while my vomiting husband was sitting alone in the foyer of Duke North. That’s just how it is. Stupid paperwork.

He finally got into a bed, was comfortable. I stayed. When I left he said, “thank you for bringing me here.” It was the last coherent thing he would say to me.

I’m wiped out and I bet you are too. ‘Night for now.

Fathers’ Day

Isn’t it amazing how you can totally ignore something painful if you staunchly refuse to acknowledge its existence? We did this today, our first Father’s Day without Adam. Amazing how none of us mentioned it. Were the kids thinking about it? How would I know? I didn’t ask. Why? Because we were heading to the beach for two weeks and I just didn’t want to go there.

However, my gut had different ideas. It’s been in a tizzy for at least a week. First I was laid low on Tuesday with a nausea I was sure had something to do with e. coli. Just a churning; nothing else. I couldn’t do anyting but curl up in my chair for the entire day. What would I do if I had an actual job? They’d be sick of my sick days by now.

Well Tuesday was my Mom’s birthday so wallowing in self-pity was a time-limited thing; we had celebrating to do. An hour before said festivities I was curled in the cocoon of my recliner.

I hoisted myself up, in a physical defiance of gravity that should qualify for some kind of world record, and showered. That’s where it hit me. My malaise was due to the upcoming beach trip.

You see, the last time we left for the beach during the hot summer, well, it didn’t turn out so well. We’d loaded up the car for a 2-week vacation, and the car wouldn’t start.

I didn’t want to take the trip. Adam was severly ill, and I had an image of him being life-flighted from Southport’s hospital to Duke, with us trailing him in our ailing van, the Whale.

God intervened and kept us at home. We unloaded the car, and the next day I drove Adam to the hospital. He didn’t return home.

Thus begins a month of memories that no one wants to relive. I don’t relive them alone. Not only is my wonderful family thinking of this all the time, but also is the family of our dear friends the Ellises. And now there is a new, ridiculous and unfathomable death to consider, the life lost just yesterday of a promising young man struck down before his 20th year, a young man whose family I’d know peripherally, but whose existence will live on in my heart as part of this totally nonsensical world in which the pure and promising are struck down.

Kiss your fathers. Kiss your young men who will be fathers. They are apparently rare; and cherished.

Just sayin’

Just wanted to let you know that this blog originated on Facebook, and it is very dynamic there. It seems that here no one posts comments and there is, therefore, no exchange. Tonight I’ve had so much conversation with others experiencing the issues I face today, or, they are anticipating these issues. I just wanted to invite you to the blog there, under the same name should you search: A Widow at Midlife: Seriously? Otherwise, feel free to stay here, but understand you will get a more dynamic experience there. I’m hoping that at some point readers will begin to comment here and we can have the same dynamic experience.

Peace to you all.

Sheryl

Anniversaries Loom

This time last year we were feeling kinda positive. We seemed to have had good results from Adam’s gamma knife surgery which was on May 19, and therefore we had been able to reduce his dose of Decadron to the point that he could begin chemo. (Decadron will inhibit the action of chemo.) Adam was tolerating the chemo well, and he seemed fairly stable. His MRIs were looking good.

I’d managed to put behind me the distressing conversation I’d had with Tom, his surgeon, after everyone else had gone to bed the night of Adam’s surgery. (If you remember, Tom had been Adam’s college roomate and they’d remained friends over the years. We stayed with Tom’s family both during/after Adam’s craniotomy and gamma knife surgery; both surgeries were performed by Tom, who was battling pancreatic cancer.) Tom was depressed and hopeless, it seemed to me. He told me he didn’t think he had much time left. He asked me not to repeat our conversation to anyone. I kept his confidence. I wept as I fell asleep that night.

My memories aren’t as distinct as I’d like them to be, probably because I couldn’t endure them otherwise, but I think that it was after this that Tom spent some time in the hospital. Turns out he had a gastric blockage, and it was repaired. I was so relieved, thinking this was what Tom was feeling when he’d told me he didn’t have much time left. He was sick when he talked to me, I told myself, and now he’s better and he won’t be feeling despondent anymore.

So all-in-all, things were looking up! At least that’s what I told my Pollyanna self. I think you have to be something of a Pollyanna to endure watching two men you love, two men who have so much to offer the world, two men with loving families and children they adore, two men who are smart as whips, be taken out of this world one agonizing day at a time.

I write about this today because last night I dreamed about Tom. He was alive! In an Elvis-conspiracy sort of way, he visited me and revealed that he’d never passed away, but instead was being treated in Germany and that they had actually isolated the genetic mutation that caused his cancer and he had been treated and was cured!

What the hell?

Where in God’s name did this come from? Well I’ve been thinking about Tom almost every day for the past several weeks. Because as I was feeling confident about Adam’s treatment, I didn’t know that we were preparing, unwittingly, for Tom’s passing away. I’ve been dreading July and its preamble to the first anniversary of Adam’s death. But I have also been dreading the anniversary of Tom’s passing because it was the beginning of the end for Adam.

I have to sign off now, but will write another post shortly to explain that last sentence. I have    to get it out. Thanks for reading.

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