Spinning, spun, spent, stroke, death, surviving

Oh man, how I’ve missed this space and at the same time…it’s been the most difficult space in my life for me to be in. That’s me up there…the spinning top.  It’s been exactly 8 months since I’ve published anything here…and forever and a day since I actually sat down to write this the first time.  As a refresher, I went back and reread my last post to see where my head was back before things started spinning, and it’s funny…the last words I wrote were “41 will be fun! I can only hope…”

Since March, it really has been a “I can only hope” the next situation that pops up will be more fun than the last…because that last one SUCKED kind of year.

I don’t want to dwell, but I do want to record and process and remind myself when I look back that not only did I survive, but I thrived. So here in sum is how the last 8 months have gone…

A week after my last post published, in the first days of March my husband was laid off. The same day he was rehired – at 2/3 of the pay with a promise to move him back to his old department when budgets allowed. We retained our health insurance so all was not lost. We had faith that we would be alright. And clearly since I’m here writing this, I was correct.

We floated along, doing what we could to tighten our belts, while I finished my yoga teacher training and my Integrative Wellness and Life Coach Certification Course. My part-time job was going along fine…for the moment. Our additional streams of income saved us so we were only slightly screwed…not monumentally so.

Then came April. Harbinger of doom. Well, not the whole month.

The Good

The beginning was rather delightful. On our 4th anniversary of dating, Richard and I renewed the vows we took in our small civil ceremony last year.  We had our kids, most of our closest family there, and most of our closest friends. We had a delicious cake made by my sister, and a beautiful bouquet gifted to me by beautiful friend Kiana. A quick and windy ceremony followed an early dinner. An Old Navy white dress adorned my mothering body, and a $7 pair of sandals from Zulily adorned my feet. I did my minimal makeup…but my friend Shadan did my hair earlier in the week. No permit, tons of wind, laughter and imperfection. My (now our) friend Eric married us…it was lovely.

I finished my Integrative Wellness and Life Coach Certification.

The Bad

During the dinner, my Dad told me he had been in the hospital that past Friday.  I asked him what for, and he told me he had not been feeling well and was getting a biopsy done on his kidneys to check for renal failure. What? First, if you’re normal (he’s not) you don’t wait to tell this to your child, and you don’t usually do this at her wedding dinner. I digress. I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t. He was scheduled to see a specialist on May 20 after we had the results. Alright. Moving on…nothing to see here. Spinning.

Then mid-month, my 42-year-old friend discovered she had a very rare form of cancer. Stage 4. A single mom of an amazing young man. A week later…another 42-year old I knew from my post-college days, had a massive heart attack. A husband and a father this time. A week after that my dear friend’s brother, who had been valiantly fighting glioblastoma for 5 years, finally succumbed to that wretched disease. He was 34. I’d known him since he was a teenager. His memorial was May 5. All too young. Far too young. Another young mother with a daughter and infant diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Too much.

On Mother’s Day,  my Dad left me a message. He wished me a Happy Mother’s Day and hoped I was celebrating. Kidney failure was a reality. He sounded awful, and worse, like he was saying goodbye. I called him back and spoke with him for about 15 minutes, not knowing it was probably going to be our last real conversation. Was there a treatment plan? Yes. Antivirals (his condition was probably related to an auto-immune disease), then dialysis, then a transplant. He seemed like he was having a little bit of trouble with his words. Not quite slurring, but not quite right. I should have known what was coming. But I had no idea.

The next day I went to work and got a message to call my friend Dianne. We don’t talk on the phone that often, but given how the month was going I figured she just needed an ear.  Wrong again. She had more bad news. Our friend Katie’s mom Cherie had passed away the day before. On Mother’s Day. I was so numb I couldn’t even cry anymore…until I got home. And sobbed hysterically on my Mom’s shoulder. I called Katie’s mom “mom” as well.

Tuesday was uneventful, but Wednesday I woke up to a message from my step-mother.

The Ugly

“Daddy is sick. Call me.” So I did. I thought (hoped?) she wanted to talk to me about his kidneys…. Instead she told me she woke up to him vomiting blood and nearly unconscious. There was bleeding in his brain. I had no idea what that meant and no clue what to do. I knew it wasn’t good. So I texted my sister, took my daughter to school and went to work. I let everyone there know I would probably have to leave. They wondered why I was there in the first place. I don’t think I knew how to do anything else but go through what I needed to do…so I did.

My mom, sister and I drove the hour to the hospital to see my Dad in the ICU near his home…about an hour’s drive from my house.

We arrived to find a terrible picture. Tubes coming out of his head, mouth and who knows where else. Cold. Not good. The nurse said she had never seen a blood pressure recorded as high as his. 277/150. Massive stroke on the left side of his brain, though we didn’t really understand that until nine days later. He knew it was coming. Spun.

I’ve never had a very good relationship with my father. He was physically abused as a child and while that cycle was broken… The emotional and verbal abuse cycle was not. There were periods where for my own emotional well-being I cut him out of my life. As he got older, he mellowed, as did I and we were in a good place, all things being relative, before the  stroke. It was the first thing I thought of when it happened… And the first thing I had immense gratitude for. I didn’t feel I had unfinished business… I felt extremely sad, but peaceful.

When we spoke to the neurologist and the stroke specialist nine days after it happened , they said it was unlikely he would ever do more than open his eyes. And if he did that, he might just stare at the ceiling… I began to mourn.

And then… he opened his eyes. He seemed to respond to my questions via blinking. But it was inconsistent. Over the course of 5 months he has gained enough strength to no longer need very much support at all from the ventilator.  He still has a feeding tube. Several infections found their way in, as they do in hospitals. He has on occasion squeezed my hand or lifted his arm to reach towards me but that is also inconsistent. He’s been transferred to 4 different facilities and has dialysis three times weekly. It’s hard to see…and for someone like me with very strong empathic tendencies…literally draining. And I imagine…because he can’t communicate really, agonizing for him to experience. But then again, I don’t really know that…that’s the thing about strokes.

I feel so sorry for him-he was a boisterous person who enjoyed eating, travel, music and playing with his guns and now he’s stuck in a bed…with a feeding tube, paralyzed on one side.

It was pretty foggy living after that. I kept on..with my job, the family, yoga training, and my life coach certification course. I felt like a spinning octopus with all my limbs being stretched to their limit. Too much expansion. I wanted nothing more than to cut one of them off so I could retreat into a tiny, sticky ball, but felt stuck. I had zero time to decompress from anything that had happened or to breathe from my schedule as it was.

Spent.

The Universe Provides…

The universe had my back though. That part-time job that floated along fine was no longer at the beginning of July. Massive layoffs necessitated cutting a huge portion of the work force. After nearly ten years, I was included with many others in the cuts. There went one limb. After finishing my yoga training, I had a “difference of opinion” with the yoga studio I had been partnering with and had to walk away to preserve my sanity and my integrity. Another limb gone. Hubby started a new job at the end of July…and finally we could breathe a bit again.

It’s funny how things work, isn’t it? I’m back to work now. Things are….leveling off, shall we say?

It’s been a bit of a year…and I didn’t even get into world events, but I try not to go there because it doesn’t help my psyche any.

And I’m still here. Surviving…and sometimes, even thriving. It’s good to be back.