Monday, October 20, 2014

Patience

On any given day my patience is seriously put to the test.  Usually it's our button pushing D who propels me firmly over the I'm losing my patience line.  M is definitely a close second.

As I reported in my last post, M broke a bone in her hand and she had to have a few pins put in to secure the bone so it will heal properly.  It's her right hand and I've had to do everything for her...bra, hair, etc.  It's been annoying, but frankly part of the mom gig.  We've had our share of broken bones in this house and I go pretty quickly into nurse mommy/aunt.

The hard thing with M has been her anxiety and overall attitude with this injury.  She has been insufferable.  Moaning and complaining.  Panic attacks (which aren't her fault given her mental illness) but OMG!!! trying to rationalize with the crazy has been exhausting.  The constant comparison with other people is out of control. She keeps pointing out how her injury is soooo much worse than anyone else.  At a low point on Friday night on the floor of the bathroom with her screaming and crying she declared that her hand was worse than childbirth and I've never had any injuries as bad.  I burst out laughing which caused more crying.

She complains that her current splint/cast is too big and looks silly and nobody will know anything is wrong with her like somehow a regular cast equals "really bad injury."

She's panicking about school, but refuses to do the homework she can do.

She gets mad at me for making her get up and do the things that she can do and when I point out that she broke a bone in her hand not her legs, I get the eye roll, nasty looks and more moans of "my hand, my hand, my hand!!"

The "it's not fair" complaining is getting really old.  I don't mean to sound unfeeling, but it's really hard to sympathize with somebody complaining about her cast not looking serious enough or refusing to take the medicine to take the pain away, but then moaning dramatically on the couch that her hand is killing her.  She has cried wolf so many times with her fake illnesses and injuries that her over drama comes off as insincere and just annoying.  The boys, especially A, are actually avoiding her.  After her really back panic attack Friday night, L slept in our room.

Part of my problem is that I'm used to A (our primary injury boy).  He broke his ankle, cried and thirty minutes later was planning the things he "could" do during our upcoming beach vacation.

Not to sound like an uncaring evil aunt, I am obviously taking care of her.  I'm doing all that she can't do on her own with a smile, encouragement and joke to lighten the mood.  I got her prizes to help with the surgery day.  I'm giving lots of hugs and have sat with her through the panic attacks and crying fits.  It's been very tiring.

K and I have said multiple times that last few days that the girls are just hard to understand and difficult to parent.  The trauma of losing their parents has impacted their ability to see anyone or anything outside of themselves.  Nobody has suffered a loss worse in their eyes and, therefore, nobody can ever have anything as bad as them--whether it's simply a bad day or broken bone.  If anyone around them has something good, they are jealous and then act in ways to demand more attention (complaining, fake injuries, or in E's case grandiose exaggerations of her achievements or intelligence). 

Somehow we have to teach them that that cannot be defined by the accident.  Somehow we have to teach them empathy and help them recognize how their actions affect all of those around them.

Somehow all five of us have to find an unlimited supply of patience to get there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Seesaw

This past weekend was a perfect example of the seesaw like nature of life. We had some really bad lows, but also some pretty great highs.

The downside:

--Just the logistics of this weekend were mind boggling.  Two soccer tournaments.  A swim meet located an hour and forty minutes away.  Homecoming dance.  A baseball game.  Two birthday parties.  Family dinner at our house for my side of the family.  Whew.  I had many a sleepless night leading up to it, waking up in a panic about how we were going to get everything done.

--E had her first college swim meet.  It did not go well.  She swam awful---like, really really bad.  This resulted in tons of tears on the way home (she got to come home for a few days since it was fall break).  I have also discovered that college swim parents are about tens times worse than normal swim parents in terms of intensity and involvement.  It was mind boggling.  I had to hand over $150 to the head of the swim team parent committee for procuring "spirit bags" for the swimmers including new yoga pants, water bottles, etc.  Huh?  This is a varsity college sport not the romper room.  I was also instructed in what to wear (school colors but "oh no!!" the parent spirit wear order forms aren't ready yet) and was told to pick up my "parents lanyard" during the meet.  I cracked jokes all week about said lanyard, and at some point during the meet I found myself approaching the lady with the box of lanyards for our parent identification.  In case you don't know (I certainly didn't), a parent identification lanyard has a giant laminated card with your swimmer's picture, name and then your name.  I went to pick mine up and much to my dismay, there were two lanyards for us with Jeanne and Mike's names.  Tears came to my eyes as I tried to explain to the woman that there was some mistake.  Rather than an "I'm so sorry" she actually got defensive and went off on me about "how she could have possibly known, etc, etc."  Actually on the team website (and media guide) it says that Jeanne and Mike are E's parents, but that she lives with her aunt and uncle.  Even if you don't know the whole story any reasonable person would either ask the coach or send a quick email to us.  She was so awful, I found myself apologizing and escaping as soon as possible.  It took me a bit to calm down, hold back the tears, text my sister and get rid of the nauseous feeling.  It was horrible.  Seeing their names.  The woman's insensitive reaction.  Ugh.

--Sunday morning during the last 5 minutes of her soccer game, M had a really hard fall and broke a bone in her hand.  She ended up breaking a metacarpal bone causing displacement which requires surgery.  I just got off the phone with the scheduler and she's having it fixed Friday morning.  She is out of sports for 3-5 months.  Ugh.  It's also her dominant hand which means no writing, dressing herself, etc.  Poor thing  Being normal M, it's like having a toddler again complete with the temper tantrums.  Good thing is that after a week in the splint, she'll get a cast that will free up her thumb and fingers so she can write and have more independence.  My patience is on overdrive.

--The girls had a really hard time this weekend together.  Mostly, they ignored each other.  M's injury totally set E off, because I think she thought the world was supposed to stop having her home and focus had to shift to M.  Somewhere along the way, both girls have lost the empathy card (another post being constructed in my head).  Not sure what was up with E, but her behavior was pretty crappy.

The upside:
--It was homecoming weekend for M and A.  A decided homecoming wasn't his scene, but M was on cloud nine.  We got the dress, the shoes, the accessories, Aunts C and S were coming over to do the prep work.  Unfortunately I couldn't be there due to the swim meet, but K and the aunts did a great job getting her ready and taking pics.

 
 
--Now E and M had a struggle this weekend, but the boys (especially A and L) had a nice visit with their eldest sibling.  L was so excited she was coming home and ran into the garage and jumped in her arms when we got home Saturday night.  Sunday night A and E went to the store and bought ingredients for homemade milkshakes for the crew.  E said they had a really nice talk.  Despite the tension E brings to the house, it was nice having all my minions under the same roof (and also good when she went back to school yesterday :) )
 
--As I mentioned above, we hosted family dinner on Monday night.  As part of the dinner, we decided a month ago (inspired by Jimmy Fallon) to have our first lip sync battle.  It. Was. Awesome.  All the adults and kids participated with my parents and M as the judges (M felt she couldn't fully do her song without the ability to do air guitar).
 


M, Grandpa and Grandma were the judges with a rubric for accuracy, choreography, song choice and overall passion brought to the performance. 


L owned Usher like a champion.

The littlest cousins brought it with Taylor Swift.

A was hands down the overall winner doing a hilarious version of Flash Gordon by Queen--his hip action was impressive.

CA and the little girls did some B-52s.

I definitely channelled my inner Flo Rida...lip syncing the rap was really hard :)

Twins W and I did Barbie Girl and proved I can convince her brother to do anything.

J was just happy to be part of it.

K set the bar with an impressive Aretha Franklin Natural Woman--everyone was crying with laughter.

D brought down the house with his moves and lip sync accuracy for Foreigner Jukebox Hero.
 
 
My dad texted me yesterday that he thought it was the most fun our family has had in months and the timing couldn't be better with the anniversary looming next week.  I topped off the night with a lovely dinner (my pesto chicken and penne, Italian chicken stew in the croc pot, bread, and salad.  It really was a nice night and all of us can't stop laughing and humming Natural Woman under our breaths.
 
Our family rocks.
 
 
 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Settling In

October
The trees are stripped bare

From all they wear
What do I care

October
Kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall

But you go on
And on
And on
You go on
You go on
--October, U2

This song fits my attitude towards this month.

The pain from my grief and stress hurt.  The pain  is not your normal physical pain, but a weight sitting on my chest growing heavier as the day goes on.  Different, but pain nonetheless and the only way to describe how it feels.

Some people can tackle these feelings with a counterstrike strategy of positive actions.  Go for a run!  Save a puppy!  Make a fall craft!  Get more "me" time!

For whatever reason that is not me.  I do focus on trying to hold up the other people on this grief journey with me.  Give them the love they need to ease the insecurity and fear they feel at this time. Trying to take that weight off of their chests.  A futile effort at times. I have to try, though, and when I know I can't take it away, I can be the shoulder to cry on, a text message of love, and the arms to hold them and tell them I know how they feel.

Bottom line is that I can't fake it.

Jeanne and Mike are dead.  They aren't coming back.  This five year anniversary seems much more permanent. That sounds so silly, but it's as true of a feeling as the pressure on my chest.  I hate October and the fact that the anniversary is at the end of the month sucks.  The only thing that could make it go away is something that can never ever happen.  Ever.

It hurts.

So I settle in to my grief.  Accept it and feel it and wrap it around me like a blanket.  Not feeling it seems like a betrayal of them and my love.  I cry when I need to (which happens a lot and not always at the most convenient times).  I talk about them and how much we miss them.  When people ask me how I'm doing (depending on who they are) I tell them that I'm sad, this sucks, and it hurts.

I go on.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Conversation in the Car

"Mom is balloon day coming up? It feels like it is," says L from the back seat on the way to soccer practice.

"Yup buddy, pretty soon," I reply.

"I love that day.  We get to play and have donuts and send balloons all the way to heaven."

"Yeah, it's a nice morning."

"Do you think the balloons are really getting there?"

"I don't really know L, but I hope they do and it makes me feel better doing it."

"Yeah, me too.  Do you think Great Grandpa sees them too?  I think we should send him some too."

"He probably does, but that day is really all about remembering Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Mike and how much we love them."

"Was that the day of the car crash and when they died?"

"Yeah, buddy it was," I reply with the lump starting to form in my throat.

"Well I think all three of them are up there drinking beer and singing and waiting for the balloons to come."

I chuckle to myself and reply, "Maybe buddy, maybe."

"Did you know there is a berry in Australia that makes everything takes sweet?  I'd add it to toothpaste. Wouldn't that be a good idea?"

Life with a seven year old is such a blessing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Plan

Last week I was walking L to his soccer practice when I was rundown by a mom on D's soccer team.  At the time I was carrying my chair, my diet coke (a must) and rushing L along because we were running a few minutes late (as usual) and I know he hates being the last person there.  It had already been a crazy day with ortho appointments, crap at work, toilet fixing jobs, and arguments with D to get his homework done before I rushed out the door.  I was feeling a bit flustered to say the least.

"Peggy!  I was thinking about D the other day and how "jerk coach" yells at him all the time and you may not want to hear this but I had a great thought."

I paused, after urging my 7 year old to move faster than a snail's pace over to his field, and said, "Huh? D's fine, he played well over the weekend and at this point we just encourage him to do his best when he's on the field and not let "jerk coach" define his ability as a player. We're good."

"Well..." said annoying mom, "I was just thinking that maybe God put "jerk coach" in D and these boys' lives to teach them a lesson."  She then proceeded to talk about her husband who is a negative person and how hard of a summer she's had and a few condescending comments about "how well D has been playing."

I snapped.  Well, let's be  honest, I snapped as much as I could snap on a soccer field surrounded by tons of kids and parents.

I told her, "First of all, D is perfectly fine.  He is a great player, always has been a great player and is a valuable member of his team, regardless of what "jerk coach" says and how much playing time he gets or at this point how the other boys treat him (which isn't always great since he is "jerk coach's" butt boy).  He is also 12.  Soccer is just a game that D plays and by no means defines him.  Second, I don't believe God has a plan and put "jerk coach" in D's life to teach him a lesson.  GOD HAS NO PLAN!"

"But, even if he doesn't have a plan," she sputtered, "he allows things to happen. We just don't understand why"

Here's the thing...I don't think God has a plan for all of us.  "Allowing" bad things to happen is the same as making things happen.  If God has a plan and makes or allows bad things to happen to innocent people then I don't want anything to do with that God.  Nothing good has come from Jeanne and Mike dying in a car accident.  God doesn't cause cancer.  God doesn't let innocent kids die of starvation or random accidents.  What makes me any more special than a mom in the slums of Rio? Yet God let's me live in relative luxury and she lives in poverty and struggles to care for her children?  I don't think God causes human suffering to teach us lessons or give us a test.

I don't believe that God is the master puppeteer manipulating us humans as He pleases.  In that scenario, I don't have free will or choice in the matter.  What I decide or anyone decides doesn't matter.  How can I truly choose to follow His will if He's already decided what's going to happen?

This is what I do think.  Bad things happen.  We all have different life experience for whatever reason.  And God is with us in the good and the bad.  He is there for us in the way we each need and it's our job to choose to recognize it and act upon it in the way we should as decent human beings.  Be kind.  Don't hurt others.  Love others.  Treat people with respect.  Be happy and be true to ourselves.

For some people, He is there in the beauty of the sunshine or a child's smile.  For some people, it means they don't believe in Him at all. For others it's the call to prayer multiple times a day.  Some need to feel like he's there to depend on and provide us the things we think we need whether it is a job, the latest gadget, healing from an illness, or just clarity of heart.

And for some of us, He needs to sit back on the sidelines until we are ready to realize He's still there. 

A gentle nudge every once in awhile to remind me that there is something bigger than me out there, and not to be so mired in my grief and pain.  A soft whisper reminding me of the good in my life.  The very, very good in my life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Perspective

Well, you only need the light when it's burning low,
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow,
Only know you love her when you let her go.
Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go...
And you let her go.
 
Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you'll make a dream last
But dreams come slow, and they go so fast
You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day you'll understand why
Everything you touch surely dies
-Let Her Go, Passenger
 
I've been thinking a lot lately about how Jeanne and Mike's death has affected me.  There are the practical things like two more children and more responsibility within our family.  This all comes with added stress and fatigue. I find myself surrounded by cliches of loss/tragedy.  "God has a plan for everything." "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." "In the long run, this will be so good for the boys." "Love conquers all." It goes on and on and on.  I recognize them for what they really are...things other people say to try to make someone in crisis feel better. Sayings that people click "like" on facebook. I find them hollow and meaningless. 
 
I think those of us that have experienced loss and trauma do have a different perspective on life.  Knowing what I know about the frailty of life and the sometimes tenuous nature of family bonds, I think I do appreciate moments of joy in our family more.  I don't think I sweat the small things as much (sorry there's one of those cliches). I think I have more empathy for others and recognize that we all have crap going on in our lives and there is no such things as the grief Olympics.  I have a new definition of what "normal" is and try not to be as judgemental of other people's choices.  My priorities have shifted. These are things that I hope I was already on the road to discovering in my growth as a person, but I think the accident sped that process up considerably. 
 
As with most things, though, there is the flip side.
 
I notice the way the sunlight during the fall is crisper and the cooler air smells different.  My mind goes straight to crushed cars, the pediatric emergency room, sitting in their front yard crying, clinging to K, the coffins, the empty feelings.  Fall used to represent new starts, the gateway to the holidays, family, and soccer games. Not anymore.
 
Holidays are highlights of who is missing.  Navigating the tricky path of figuring out our new family normal without losing our traditions.  It's hard.
 
I always think something bad is going to happen.  I worry more.  I don't live under the false perception that bad things happen to other people.  I don't expect good things to happen and when they do, I find myself waiting for the other shoe to fall.
 
My faith.  I now question everything.  God?  Are you there?  Why can't I depend on you  to help me through this?  Why?  Why?  Why? How is this good for anyone?
 
I am a different person due to the accident.  Some good.   Some hard to handle.  I long for those days of simply appreciating good things like a seven year old's smile, or two cousins cracking each other up over dinner, without the tinge of sadness.  I'm starting to accept that that day may never come.
 
I miss our old life.
 
I miss the old Peg.
 
I miss my sister.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Pause

I've had to take a pause in this space for a number of reasons.  Some kinda heavy.  Some simply logistics.  There is some stuff going on that I can't write about here, but not writing about it when it is coloring my daily life seems disingenuous. Frankly, I'm not sure when or if I'll find my way back. 

****************

We brought E to college last week.  My little sisters came with me because K had to stay home and man the back to school open house for the little guys and an afternoon soccer game for D.  It went really well.  She is happy and busy and has texted me non-stop which warms my heart knowing she misses us and still needs me.

L cried the night before she left and the morning she left.  M seems a bit lost.  D declared yesterday on the way home from school that everything seems different.

It does.

****************

Last week M made the varsity girls soccer team and A got cut from JV.  Tough few days.  He was pretty upset not really about not making it, but because he knew he was good enough and the worst boy (by far) on his club team made it who went to the school camp the last few years.  We thought he actually would make it after watching the tryouts, but who knows what the coach sees. 

M had her first game last night.  Went in during the first half.  Didn't play very well, gave up a goal, burst into tears and subbed herself out.  Yikes.  She got herself together to go back in the second half and did a little better.  Anxiety disorder sucks.  Having too much change in your life as a 14 year old girl sucks.

It's going to be a long season.

****************

Freshman orientation was yesterday.  They got their laptops, learned about classes and got their lockers.  They are in the same homeroom and their lockers are next to each other.  Other than that, they have no classes together as A is in all honors classes, but it will be good for both I think to have moments to check in with each other.

I'm excited for them and nervous all at once.

*****************

At 5pm today all four of the kids have somewhere to be.  Tomorrow the exact same thing is happening, but add in therapy for M and the stress of the first full day of classes for the A and M.

I still have  no idea how all of this is going to happen.

*****************

I crave my bed all day.  I lay in bed all night restless and unable to settle my mind.

I'm hopeful that we'll all settle into our new normal easily.  I'm hoping that this will happen sooner rather than later as the fall weather creeps in and our collective anxiety rises as we inch closer to the accident anniversary.

It will be five years.