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Just The Two Of Us

Is Mommy coming back?”

He was not quite six years old when he asked me that question about our mother. I didn’t know the answer then. I was only nine. I knew he needed me. I knew he was sad and worried and really, really scared. I told him the first thing that came to mind.

Yes. She’ll be back.”

It took a few years, and in that time, he and I grew very close. I helped him with his homework, did his laundry, and beat up his bullies. I tucked him in at night, made his grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, and wiped away his tears.

Now, he’s thirty and I’m thirty-four. We’re both parents. Both have been divorced. Both wounded. But I will always be the big sister.

His fatigues are packed for the war zone, again: for the fourth time. Fuck.

I left him a message. And then he left me one. And then finally today, we talked.

“Am I coming home, Sis?”

“Yes. Yes, you are coming home.”

“With my tags on my toes?”

“NO. Not with your tags on your toes. You’re coming home to kiss your son.”

“Take care of my wife & son, Sis.”

“I promise.”

“You’re the best sister and mom I’ve ever had. I love you.”

(I catch my breath.) “Watch your ass, baby boy. I love you too.”

Oh dear God, please watch over my baby brother. Keep this 6’4″ soldier safe and bring him home where he is loved most: where he has a son who needs his father; a wife who needs her husband and a sister who wants to keep a promise that he is coming home safely.

Amen.

Dose of Happy: I Will Find My Balance

This year, it’s time to take action. It’s time to pull our heads out of our asses and make some plans for world domination.

How? By telling the world, not what we want to do this year, but what we will.

So what will YOU do this year?

2019 is the year I will find my personal equilibrium, the balance between what I must do, what I should do, and what I want to do. It’s not going to be easy, as I have a horrific time saying no and even more horrific sense of guilt when I do.

Unless it’s before my first cup of coffee in the morning; then saying no is easy and guilt-free because I’m too tired to care.

When the balance between the must, should, and want is out of whack, I’m a mess. I’m impatient, resentful, irritable, downright cranky, and miserable to be around. Everything becomes a chore, even the things I like to do.

That’s not fair to me, to my kids, to my husband, to any poor soul who has the misfortune of being near me when I’m struggling to keep up with everything.

That’s why I’m making 2019 the year when I will stop that crazy self-imposed struggle and focus my energy on the musts and the wants. The should-get-dones will just have to wait.

I will focus my presence and talents where they can do the greatest good – my family, my volunteer work (that means YOU, Band!), my creative projects, my home, my friends.

I will say yes to projects that are a challenge and will help me to grow personally and professionally.

I will cut the clutter in all areas of my life: physically, mentally, virtually.

I will re-examine my limits, and respect those limits, for when I don’t, it’s not good for anyone.

I will say no to school activities and fundraisers that are nothing but money and time-suckers that prevent me from doing other, better things with my kids.

I will say no to family functions that cause my stress level to sky-rocket, even when I’m told over and over again, “it’s for the kids”. It won’t be for the kids when mommy is stroking out on the floor because the in-laws are being asshats again.

I will ask for help when I need it and not wait for someone to see that I’m struggling.

I will find my balance, dammit. I will.

 

You Don’t Get More Than You Can Handle

Losing a child of any age is one of the worst, hardest things for a parent to bear.

Please, share the stories of the children you’ve lost with us. There is strength in numbers.

Throughout the past two years I have often heard, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

Well, I have a bone to pick with God: I am NOT as strong as He thinks I am.

Somehow, I managed to get through my husband’s year long tour in Iraq. I had to. Late in the evening in September 2007, I hugged and kissed my husband, as he rubbed and kissed my h u g e pregnant belly and got on a bus. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. I can still see his big, goofy grin as he smiled and waved good-bye. I stood there, watched the buses pull out into the darkness and I prayed to God that he would come home safely. I prayed that our son would get to meet his Daddy; the same prayer I prayed every day for the next year. I got into the truck, hugely pregnant, and I lost it.

I cried the whole way home.

27 days later, my son Robert was born.

I’m not so strong.

Now, seven months after Robert’s death from SIDS I can’t seem to “get it together.”

I’m pretty smart. I know that I am grieving. I know that everyone grieves differently. But I’ve had enough. I don’t want the panic attacks that happen for no reason. Panic attacks that I shouldn’t even be getting anymore because I take medication to prevent them.

Tired of being tired because I can’t sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes I see Robert in his crib when I found him, dead from SIDS, or in the hospital on the gurney.

coping with child loss

I’m starting to get mad, really mad. Mad at my husband because I had to go through another major event alone. Mad at the Army for not letting Joe be at home for Robert’s birth. I’m mad at God.

This is how my conversations with God have been lately:

Me: “Why did Robert have to die of SIDS?”

God: no response

Me: “Hrmph”

Me: “Guess I should have been more specific when I asked you to bring Joe home safe so Robert could meet him.”

God: no response

Me: “grrrrrr”

Me: “I’m a good Mommy, why do I not to get to have my baby?”

God: no response

Me: sobbing

Me: “I think you and I need a break!”

God: no response

wall of baby loss

 

 

My Heart of Secrets

I watched my father have several affairs when I was growing up. By “watched,” I mean he took me to his girlfriend’s house(s), where I sat in the front room reading a book while they disappeared into the back room for an extended period of time.

The conversation in the car when we left was always the same: “Don’t tell your mom we were at XXX’s house – she wouldn’t understand.”

“Okay, Daddy.” The day I said my first “okay” was the day I became keeper of my father’s secrets.

There were times I heard my parents fighting. My mom, yelling out accusations that he had been spending time with this woman or that woman, while my father denied it.

I stayed quiet.

I didn’t fully understand at six or even ten-years old what exactly was going on, or why my mom didn’t want us to be friends with all those nice women. But in my teen years, it started to make more sense.

When I was seventeen, I cheated on my boyfriend. I pushed down thoughts that what I was doing was the same thing my father had done years before.

It became easier a few months later, when I cheated with a second person. And even easier when I went back to the first guy I had cheated with and did it again. I kept it a secret.

My boyfriend started talking about marriage after I turned 18 – we went ring shopping. That night, I left his house and spent the night with someone else, where I also talked about marriage (we had been seeing each other for six months, and he had no idea about my boyfriend-turned-fiancée).

I poured out my heart in my journal.

Was I just like my dad? Would I ever be able to have a relationship that I wouldn’t screw up? I had to make a choice…right?

Instead of a choice, I added a fourth guy to the mix.

It continued this way for a while, but by the next year I had broken up with all of them. I wanted a fresh start. I got it when I met the man who is now my husband. We were married after a few months of dating, and this year will be our 10th anniversary.

In our ten years, I have been faithful. (The fact that my husband is a very jealous guy helps – he would figure out something was going on quickly.) I don’t often think of my cheating past or worry that I will turn out like my father anymore, but today I read a book that brought it all crashing back – a book about a cheating mom and her daughter who grew up to cheat, just like Mom.

I felt the tightening in my chest. And unbidden thoughts of a guy who works at Starbucks that flirted with me two weeks ago come to mind. I have avoided that Starbucks like the plague since he gave me a free scone and told me I have beautiful eyes.

I don’t want to cheat on my husband.

But I realized today, I am still terrified that, one day, I will be unfaithful.

Ask The Band: Worn Out

Sometimes we all need a little bit of advice now and then. Do you have a burning question you’d like to ask us?

Do it! Ask the band.

The Band, I’m in a terrible funk right now.

I’m having some kind of weird mid-life crisis, though I don’t know if being just shy of thirty counts as “mid.” Either way, my main problem is that I just want to be left the hell alone. Of course, wanting to be left alone and actually being left alone are two completely different things, and the sad truth is that I will never be left alone.

It’s not due to the bipolar depression, although I know damn well it’s a contributing factor on my worse days; it’s simply because I’m tired. I’m tired of going through the motions of my daily life, getting up early to tend to all manner of things. I’m tired of everyone in my household demanding something from me at all times, whether it’s my daughters, who want/need all of my attention since they are both so young, or my husband wanting to constantly have sex, or even the damn cat for bitching about not having food even though his food bowl is completely full. (The cat is an idiot.)

I have no friends – all of them live in a different state because we moved away 2 years ago in order for my husband to pursue a new job opportunity. We have family not too far from us, but we barely see them as it is, so they wouldn’t dare step in and watch the kids in order for me to get the hell away for a little while.

A few days ago, one of my friends told me to come visit her so we could go on a bender, and to be honest, I would fucking LOVE to! It would be an opportunity to get away and have some fun for once, since all of my hobbies have gone to shit since becoming a stay-at home-mum five years ago. However, even if we still lived close by, that bender would never happen because my husband, while a great guy, is insecure as fuck, and at times errs on the possessive side of things. He would be paranoid about me cheating on him even though I’ve been a million percent faithful.

Pretty much all of my time I try to reach some semblance of reprieve by burying myself in my laptop: reading the news, blogs, messaging friends or (my secret shame) reading and writing fan fiction. (Now The Band knows my horrible secret!) Sometimes I listen to music. Music is a major way for me to unwind, and the advent of Spotify has been very useful since I can listen to stuff that I’m too cheap to purchase via iTunes. My husband thinks that I have some kind of bizarre internet addiction, but that’s so far from the truth.

I know this is a form of escapism.

I’m grumpy, I’m exhausted, and I’m just flat-out sick of everything.

This is my dilemma. I just want my family to back the shit off, but at the same time, it makes me feel like a terrible person. I don’t want to play with the kids. I don’t want to engage in “sexy time.” I don’t want to do the goddamn laundry or feed the goddamn cat.

What should I do?

The Christmas After Grandma Died

Three weeks ago my grandma fell and broke her neck.

Three weeks ago she was rushed to Peoria to see if they could fix her.

At 82 with severe Parkinson’s Disease, degenerative bone disease, (from which she’d lost a whole 12 inches off her height) dementia, and multiple other health problems, we didn’t know what the options were.

The surgeon suggested surgery to repair the fracture. He was hopeful that it would work. Do nothing and she could become a paraplegic if she so much as coughed too hard. Or she could live with the neck brace, which she hated, her lungs could fill up with fluid and she could develop pneumonia.

In such poor health, that’s not good.

We opted for surgery; really the only option. Grandma was scared but we all told her we loved her. I told her we would go dancing after she was done as she hasn’t walked in over two years.

She smiled and held our hands, said she loved us, and off she went.

Surgery went well and they were able to fix the break. That was not the major hurdle though. Even in good health, Grandma has never done well with anesthesia. Two days before her fall, the dentist didn’t even want to give her a local to fix a couple teeth as she’s allergic to Novocaine.

After surgery, she was put into a regular room and about an hour later, her vitals crashed.

She was gasping for breath. She looked so very scared. She gripped my hand as a wonderful nurse held the oxygen mask on her for close to an hour until they were able to get a bed ready in the Surgical ICU. Once she was settled in the ICU, we each took turns going to see Grandma.  She was on a ventilator to help her breathe and give the swelling a chance to go down after surgery.

This was against her wishes and she was miserable.

She had the vent in for 3 days until it was removed. She did so well.

They observed her for a day in the Surgical ICU (SICU), then transferred her down to another room for a few days.

When she was ready, she was discharged. They didn’t send her back to her assisted living apartment, but to a skilled nursing facility with hospice. Everyone came to visit. Friends, grandchildren, family, everyone. Someone was by her side 24/7. She would talk a little, barely a whisper. Grandma looked at pictures and had us to sing to her while we sat by her side. She told us that she saw my grandpa who’d passed away in 1978.

She told us all of the beautiful things she was seeing and hearing. It was amazing to listen to her.  She told us so many stories. She told us there would be no more pain there and no more wheelchairs. We all laughed and cried and held her hand.

On Tuesday November 16, Grandma took her last breath while my mom sang to her. My mom said it was very peaceful. Grandma wasn’t afraid like she had been in the hospital. I am so very thankful for that.  I miss her, maybe more than I can ever express.  My kids miss her too.  They are hurting.  I have given them songs that help them feel better, or so they say.  I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know how to fix their hurt, or mine.

This holiday is especially going to be hard for me.

Last year I was upset because I wouldn’t get to spend it at Grandma’s house. At least I got to spend it with her.

Now I don’t even have that.