Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It is a potty for cripe's sake!

It is that time. One of those milestones in your child’s life. Alec is potty training and doing phenomenal. He is a bit behind on the curve, but that is ok. Many children have regressions with the loss of a parent. Be it social, behavioral or cognitive. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they are earth shattering. But it affects them all, just as it does us.

Alec’s regression was the potty. He wanted to be little forever. To be taken care of. To feel safe. Can you blame him? His whole world was turned topsy turvy when David died. When Alec lost his dad, he learned way too young how incredibly fragile and precarious life can be. The rug was pulled out from him and he felt scared and fragile. Hell, we all did. And he just wanted to be taken care of…I can relate.

But as things have begun to settle, Alec is now embracing potty training. Seemingly ready to grow up a little. He now is excited about growing older. He is getting more confident every day and my heart fills with sunshine to see him doing so well.

Potty training is a momentous occasion but one that has stirred up some dark memories for myself. Cleaning Alec’s potty is way too reminiscent of that damn commode we used for David. It takes me back to those last five months and the dark roads we traveled together. How I had to assist him in so many of his daily tasks and how as the tumor progressed so his need for more and more assistance did as well. David often needed help dressing, as he would become confused with the arm and neck holes. And as things progressed, I had to dress him completely. He also needed help with eating, daily hygiene, bathing, and the bathroom as well. God how those were dark times. And god how I hated that fucking commode. Dave hated it to. I remember once how he just cried. He loathed that I had to help him. That he could not do the things that most people do every day without a second thought and how at the blink of an eye everything can change forever.

I loved him and would have done anything for him. It brings me peace that I was able to care for him; it is what you do when you love someone. You take care of them no matter how messy or painful it is. But it still sucked. It was still heartbreaking to see and it tore at my heart every day. During those dark days, I cried myself to sleep nightly. Every night. Week after week. Month after month. Time did not seem to exist. I slept little and my entire world, my entire focus was caring for both of the boys. It seemed like I was living one long hellish day that never ended. Although it may have been only five months, it felt like a lifetime. And now some of those damnable memories persist, roiling to the surface.

When I cleaned Alec’s potty for the first time, it hit me. The memories flooded over me with all the subtlety of a Mack truck, and I sat there and cried. All the crap from those final months swirled to the surface.

It is almost laughable how sad and fucked up things can be. How most parents doing the potty experience will doubtfully not have so much emotional crap tied up with what should be an ordinary event. It is a potty for cripes sake! He is peeing on the potty and I am crying in the bathroom! Seriously?! And as I sat there laughing and crying, I thought to myself, get your shit together girl! And I did. I came out and we laughed, clapped and did the potty dance. He got his sticker and the moment passed. Not to say that it still does not bring a little sadness every time I clean it, but I am finding each day is a bit easier than the last. We will be sitting on the big potty soon and this too will just become a memory. And maybe someday I will not have quite so many dark memories lurking near the edge of the surface. And maybe one day those memories will not carry with them the sharp pain of loss and heartbreak that they do now. One day they will just be that. Bittersweet memories of the life I once had and a man I once loved and shared my life with.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And maybe that is what true strength is?

What I would not give to be living a quiet life with David and Alec. Romping in the sunshine. Going on road trips with the tunes playing loud. Living the life I had imagined. But life is not always what you plan. I say that frequently, almost ad nauseum probably, but its true. I am learning that does not mean your life is over. It just means the life you originally envisioned is gone. But with each end there are new beginnings…

The dream of our life together is gone. Like grains of sand in my palm, one big gust came and scattered them into the wind. The life of us growing old together is a path that will forever go untraveled. We came to a crossroads and David got off. He got off way too damn early. And I am here.

I stopped ever so briefly at that crossroads, lying on the ground...curled in the fetal position. Wishing the pain would just end. I cried and cried until I felt there was no more tears left it me. And yet somehow there always were more and the tears would come again. My soul felt empty and I was spent and tired from the years of worry, caregiving and grief. I contemplated not moving forward. Not moving on. Just stopping. Everything. But that was a transient thought. That damn resilient nature of mine forced me up, picking my ass off the ground and shaking away the utter blackness that threatened to consume me. I stood and with no clue what the hell I should do or where I should go I began to blindly put one foot in front of the other. I picked a random direction, put my head down and barreled forward.

I find I am no longer running blindly anymore. It is more of an amble now. I am meandering along, no longer slumped with my head bowed against the winds that threatened to take me down. I am looking forward. Looking around. Checking out the scenery as I go. Finding new music. New friends. New adventures. New Dreams. Moving on…

Some days I feel like the energizer bunny. I just keep moving. People say I am strong, but often I think it is more that I am too damn stubborn to give up. It keeps me moving like it kept Dave moving. Dave could be one stubborn man. Mind you, that gave him immeasurable strength. And that coupled with his intense will to live made him a supreme fighter. And yet, as he began to decline, it was a bit to our detriment. It made caregiving quite a difficult task for me some days.

And I have come to realize that honestly I am just as stubborn as he was. Some people say I am tenacious. I think that is just a nice way of saying I am an obstinate pain in the ass, but that too has helped me I think. It has kept me moving forward despite the circumstances because there was no way I was going to let this take me down. That fucking tumor took Dave down, so I will be damned if I will let it take down the rest of my family as well. I know. It is a tumor, not a person…not a living entity. But sometimes it did not feel quite that way. The tumor seemed to take on a life of its own as it began to send those tendrils deeper into David’s brain, slowly taking his life. It would move around obstacles we placed in its path, almost laughing as it got a deeper hold into him. It was not just a mass of mutating cells. It became this beast we were all unsuccessfully trying to contain and tame. I know some brain tumor patients who went so far as to name them. We never did that, but we felt its presence in our life for the remainder of David’s days.

And now here I am. Writing about this journey…the journey I began with David and that I now continue alone. I am constantly astounded that people read this blog. Seriously. I never considered myself a writer. Albeit, after going back and reading the beginnings of this hellish nightmare in June 2006, I can clearly see my writing style has developed and progressed since those days. But often I do not know what I will say when I begin these posts. And invariably the post I originally intended to write does not get written once my fingers hit the keyboard. Everything rattling around in my head just seems to flow out when I sit down at my computer. This is my heart and soul that I pour out onto these pages. I open myself completely here for everyone to read; because ironically it is so much easier for me to do this here that when I am standing before you.

And yet some days I feel it is utter insanity that I can journal like this. Putting all my pain, hopes, fears, and insecurities out here for the world to see. I am touched that people have found hope and comfort in reading my words. This blog has helped sooth not only my aching heart, but has helped refocus my jumbled thoughts into some sort of cohesive structure.

In those first few months where time was meaningless and many sleepless nights were spent at this monitor, it was a place where I could channel all of my pain, fear and loneliness. And along the way I found people out there who were listening as well as others walking a similar path.

Many of you have helped me feel less alone on this dimly lit path I travel. So I thank those who have continued to stop by for a read, despite the dark roads my mind took me some nights. The listening without judgment and the unconditional support and love that has and continues to surround me is precious. The kind and gentle reminders that I will survive this and that although even to this day I do not always believe it…I am strong. Stronger than I will ever probably give myself credit for.

Some days I still feel fragile. Like my heart is made of glass and that at any moment it could burst into a thousand shards. And some days I feel as if acknowledging that vulnerability will somehow weaken me. I fear that if that were to happen, I might stumble and fall. I know there will be people to lift me up if I do, but I do hate to fall. It is messy, painful and I get all bruised and banged up.

I also think I fear people seeing that vulnerability. I have this crazy notion that somehow I have been keeping up this great farce and someday everyone is going to stop and say…”Hey, wait a minute. She’s not that strong. She is just as scared and fragile as the rest of us!” And I am, you know. I may have an inner strength inside me that burns brightly, but I too am fragile. Sometimes just needing strong arms to wrap around me, sheltering me from the storm once in awhile.

I keep my head held high. I keep moving. But that is not to say I still do not hurt or mourn. It is just my damnable nature to keep moving. Keep dreaming. Keep fighting. Some days I used to think it would have been so much easier to give up, but that goes against everything I am. So I trudged on.

But I find I am more at peace these days. I am embracing more quiet moments of just being. Life is full of more smiles. More laughter. More hope. A future. I am finding my way and learning more about myself everyday…and that is something. And maybe that is what true strength is?