...for a different kind of girl

silent surburban girl releasing her voice, not yet knowing what all she wants to say about her life and the things that make it spin. do you have to be 18 to be here? you'll know when i know.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

...and in the end

My dad passed away last week.

I typed that sentence 10 minutes ago, but have sat here since, watching the cursor blink and wondering what to say about something I still can't believe.

One week later, despite his cancer and his pain and his valiant effort to fight as long as he could, I still can't believe my dad is gone, and I'm sitting here once again, trying to not allow my face to melt into something akin to a dried apple doll, all scrunched up and ugly from the crying I do.

Two days after his death, several members of my family gathered at dad's home and discussed a memorial service with my church pastor. My pastor had spent time with dad in the last few weeks of his life, but in what I imagine is the first question that must be asked during these types of gatherings, he asked each of us in attendance to describe dad in one word. 






A lot of words you'd expect to hear were mentioned, and I don't think I'm being too prejudice when I say they are all true of dad. When the time came for me to answer, though, I asked if it wold be OK if I used two words. Those words were 'get it.'

My dad just wanted me to get it. Whether that meant math, figuring out who to back in park, or simply being happy, his greatest wish for me was to get it. To understand anything I was determined to work for was completely achievable. I think everything he did for me would have been a victory in his eyes if I got it. That may have involved tears, 3 a.m. telephone calls, or even constructing guides out of scraps of plywood that he'd dutifully place in my high school parking lot every Saturday so I could practice my parking skills, but everything he did showed his willingness to do whatever he could for me to just get it.

And when I did get it, when I finally (sort of!) understood algebra, made peace with a decision, passed the driving portion of my license test (after three attempts!)...whatever it was, dad's greatest reward in that was to tell me "Good job!"

I've spent the last three months on a seemingly constant care rotation with other members of my family. I hope dad thought I did a good job holding things together while there for him. Since his passing, I've been a bit lost. I pace circles in my kitchen - a place I've so rarely been since January - because I don't know which direction to turn first. I stay up far too late because my body's clock is off thanks to the 3 a.m. risings dad and I would surrender to when the pain he was constantly in officially kicked off his day.

I don't know what to do now. I'm suddenly lost following the end of a truly horrible routine. I imagine it will take awhile, but I'll get it figured out one of these days. 

I have to. 

My dad would expect that much. In fact, he wouldn't want anything else.

Monday, February 11, 2013

'it's the house telling you to close your eyes'

As I write this, it's the soundtrack of an oxygen machine and my Dad's breathing that's setting an erratic, static beat. They're both loud ("It's sort of like all those years you had to listen to me blasting Duran Duran albums from my bedroom," I joke), and you can imagine which of their songs I fear ending first.

A lot has happened since my last post about Dad's cancer diagnosis. Less than 48 hours after that post went up, Dad was hospitalized, and remained that way for three weeks. During that time, there were three near-death med calls, two ultimately undiagnosed infections, countless doses of morphine and other pain relieving medicines administered, even more lost hours of sleep, and, finally, one tearful day spent making life changing decisions.

Last week, Dad was released to his home under home health hospice care. Any treatment options left the building along with my, admittedly futile, hope that I'd get to keep Dad in my life longer than it seems I will. No chemo. No radiation. No more trying.

Strike that. We really never even got the chance to try.

I'm writing this from my makeshift bed on Dad's living room couch. It's my night to stay with him. Checking on him periodically as he sleeps to ensure the oxygen tube is still in his nose. Tending to his pain should it flair. It appears quite a bit when you consider body scans taken at the hospital showed the cancer has spread to new areas in just the few weeks since initial scans sealed his fate.

I've spent a great deal of time with Dad this past month, a precursor, I suppose, to the time when full-time hospice is the only option left. We've said our apologies, been more free with declarations of love that should have been more prevalent over the years, and made a tentative peace with his decision. As hard as it's been, it's also been a blessing. Through ugliness comes beauty and all that fortune cookie talk. Stroke-related aphasia has given Dad's speech various easy to say verbal ticks ("Goddamn," "Jesus Christ!" and "I KNOW that!" are some of my favorites). On his way to bed tonight, Dad stopped and turned back toward me. "I like you," he said. He means to say he loves me. He knows I know that, but I reminded him just the same. "I KNOW that!" I responded in a voice similar to his own. Then I smiled. "I like you, too." 

I know he knows that.

If I was to confess just how rare my time at Dad's house has been over the years prior to this past week, I'd be ashamed. But Dad, a far heavier smoker than we ever really knew, sort of shut the door to his place on me by continuing this habit of his we'd long begged him to stop. The place was thick with the smell of stale nicotine, the walls dark with tar stains. I couldn't take it. Before my youngest son was born just over a decade ago, I told Dad I couldn't in good faith subject my kids or myself to the health risks I thought his sanctuary posed. "I personally don't want to die from lung cancer caused by being in this environment," I'd told him often.  

Now Dad is dying of lung cancer.

The weekend prior to his hospitalization, my sister, Mom and I spent hours scrubbing walls, washing clothes and drapery, and discarding items beyond repair. He returned home, the sickest he's ever been, to an environment the healthiest it's ever been. Good one, irony.

Sunday morning, before the sun had even thought to rise to the occasion, Dad and I sat quietly over empty breakfast dishes and Fox News. The menu was my choice, the channel his. After several minutes of silence, during which I'd dozed off a few times from lack of sleep, I glanced over at Dad and found him staring at me. "Just looking at you," he said. Doing the very same thing to me that I'd done to him every hour on the hour through the night prior, it proves we're just looking out for one another the best way we can during this time.

Before leaving work today to head to Dad's, I asked a customer how he was doing. "To answer that would take two hours and leave you in tears," the man responded. "Trust me," I responded. "I totally get it."

Sadly, I really do.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

i can't even think of a title for this one...

I took my dad to get his first tattoo today. 

It was nothing fancy, nor does it serve as a way to preserve a special life memory. To be honest, Dad really didn't want a tattoo at all.

But, well, we've all heard it said. Sometimes you don't always get what you wanted. And my Dad? He did not want cancer.

On Monday, I will take Dad back to the hospital, where someone will blast a devastating amount of radiation into the spot on his back that was marked. Ten rounds of radiation that will kick off tomorrow with the first of several rounds of chemotherapy.
My Dad is incredibly sick.

Five days before Christmas, what we thought was a severe cold put him in the hospital. Five days after Christmas, doctors told us it was cancer. Five days after that, we saw CT scans and PET scans filled with dark ominous shadows, and if we've learned one thing from any medical procedural program or even horror movie, dark ominous shadows never are good.

Lung cancer. Stage IV. That's the biggest enemy come to fight.

But it didn't come alone. It brought friends. Vile, ugly friends that have taken up residency on his spleen, adrenal gland, lymph nodes near his lung, and on a rib.

We're attacking this monster. 

Strike that. DAD'S attacking it.

For now.

I'm not sure for how long, though. I've shared before my Dad's unfortunate bit of medical luck. Though we are just learning of this newest issue, the reality is, it's probably been festering away inside of him for a year or two, breaking him down, staking its claim. It wants him.

I don't want it to get him...but I see him and I see someone who brought a pistol to a knife fight, and that pistol is, sadly, minus ammunition. This may be too much. I don't even like typing the following words - I think it IS too much - but that is the reality of things right now. It probably IS too much.

I have spent the entirety of 2013 so far bawling like a baby. I dread the idea that I'm already in mourning, but I am, in a way. I fight off tears all day at work, and go to bed each night exhausted with emotion. Waking in the middle of the night brings a fresh batch of tears to the surface, and I wake a few hours later with lids nearly caked shut. My eyes haven't been this swollen from crying since my college boyfriend broke up with me 20 years ago. I called my dad when that happened and he consoled me through my waterworks. Today? Today we cry together.

I've spent a lot of time asking a heavenly father why, and telling my earthly father I don't know.

I really don't know.

I just know I'm incredibly, painfully sad.

Monday, December 31, 2012

hey! bet you haven't read enough posts about new year's resolutions yet, have you?

Pictured above are my 2012 resolutions. Eight less-than-lofty plans I had 365 days to knock out. Not pictured are the additional 11 goals I planned to conquer over the course of this nearly complete year. There's just over six hours left of the years, so I suppose I should get moving on these, huh?

You'll note I put 'complete the Harry Potter series' at the top of the list (psst - I work at a bookstore and have never finished this series because oh, Book 4, yawn...)(NO spoilers!)(as if I don't already know). This list, thankfully, was by no means written in order of importance, but might indicate why I perhaps also failed at resolution 9, which was 'forge/strengthen friendships.' Maybe I should have resolved to form a Harry Potter book club and killed two birds with one stone.

(But wait! Read a minimum of 40 books. I read 41!! What's that? Harry Potter included? Oh...)

Other things I failed to achieve in 2012 include baking my own bread (so it's weird I didn't lose ::cough cough:: pounds...), getting a trainer (or perhaps it's not so weird after all), stressing less over my oldest son's homework, working on the boys' baby books, and starting yoga.

I also failed to get more and better s...leep (almost tricked ya, didn't I?) and tracking both my eating and my spending. I am so sucky at goals!

But wait! Resolution #6 says 'spend less time negative talking about myself' so I shan't! Shan't, I say! Mostly because I don't say 'shan't' enough, but mostly because at this particular moment, with the year ticking away, I'm proclaiming a small victory.


Victory, you amazing bread buying, high strung, poor sleeping, Harry Potter Books 4-7 needing to read, broke ass mess of me!

Quick sidebar, though. This year sucked. I would like to leave it all behind, but some of the sucky things just came up last week and will carry over into 2013, so I am resolving to deal with them.

AND those damn Harry Potter books.

I hope you don't have sucky things marching into the new year with you, but if so, trust I will learn to bake bread and when I do, we can break it together and talk about things. Because we're friends.

Now, let's call it a year, shall we?


Thursday, December 13, 2012

some days you just have to...

  • Give in to the ugly cry.
  • Accept the fact that today, no, you won't be the bigger person.
  • Marvel at the length of the chin hair that seems to appear from nowhere
  • Marvel again at how that mofo resisted the hot wax meant to destroy it and instead destroyed your epidermis.
  • Eat the ice cream straight out of the carton. Damn right. With chocolate syrup squirted on each bite.
  • Use the word 'squirted.'
  • Squirted. Squirted, squirted, squirted, squirted. SQUIRTED!
  • Punch in the nads the second  person who says, "Oh, is somebody on their period?" because they were foolish enough not to see the example laid out by the first person who said that to you.
  • No, btw. That is not this day.
  • Roll the car windows down and go full rock opera when you flip through stations and find yourself in the middle of Bohemian Rhapsody. Oh mamma mia, mamma mia!
  • Wonder what Adam Levine might be like in bed. 
  • My guess? Squirrely. Squirrely, yet gentle. Also scrappy.
  • Acquire a gay boyfriend.
  • Just admit the chocolate chip cookies you've been baking under the guise of afternoon snacks for your kids will end up buried in the freezer as your little secret.
  • Be gleeful when Bohemian Rhapsody is followed by You're The One That I Want.
  • Proclaim 'smooches gracias' your new catchphrase and run it into the ground.
  • (Thanks, gay boyfriend)
  •  Stay up too late (extra shot!) reading your old posts and sighing over how, even when you called it in, it was better then this.
  • Wonder why you're still doing this.
  • Wonder why you're still doing a lot of things.
  • Guzzle three Starbucks white chocolate mochas in one day. Three! One day! Oomp em grande style!

...and that, pals, is pretty much what my days have been since last I posted. I have no good reason not to have blown the dust off here other than I simply don't know what to say. The days have been either boring, routine or bad, so I haven't written about them. Hope you've been well. I do. Thanks for thinking of me.

Or should I say smooches gracias...


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

since he has no idea I have a blog, i can still get away with writing about him

My oldest son had just turned 9 years old and entered fourth grade when I started this blog in 2006 (aka - Back When I'd Write Three - Count 'Em THREE - Blog Posts A Week)(Hahahahahahahaa. Three times a week! I mean, who the hell did I think I was? Shakespeare?!). Last week, this same little boy celebrated his 15th birthday and started his sophomore year in high school. 

While I don't profess to understanding the amazing nuances of time and space, one day I woke up the mother of a small child and ended the day with a stranger skulking about the place. The reality of my new role hit me, really, last month when, while working in my kitchen, prepping a dinner 3 out of 4 household members wouldn't approve of, I heard a strange man's voice coming from my children's rooms. I wondered who had sneaked into my sacred home, and what might he be invoking upon my babies. 

That's when I realized the sound was coming from my oldest baby. His voice is deep and cavernous and so unlike that of a child any longer, and each time he speaks, THAT'S when I'm hit my the astounding reality of time. Space slams into me as I try to catch myself after tripping over his Goliath-sized 12 Air Jordans, desired footwear so cherished I often find them discarded in the middle of every room I walk through, as if my son has vanished in mid-stride. Gone are the days of Legos and wooden blocks littering my floors. Now, in addition to giant shoes, it's prized electronic equipment and odd smelling clothes.

This is the first year he's not responded with a guttural death rattle when, at the start of the school year, I ask if this will be the one in which he obtains a girlfriend. "Maybe," he responded last week.


Well, maybe, if he does, I hope he finds one who's nice to others, kind to him, and not afraid to meet me. That she'll be someone he'll talk with. Really talk with. Mostly, I hope she'll be one who makes him remember all the talks he and I've had about strong, healthy, timely relationships, and who can respect those topics, too. I want him to remember that his voice and his body may be those of a man on the brink, but that he's not yet that man.

I'm lucky to have such a good kid. I really am. I could be a fantastic mother and sugarcoat his personality completely, but that would be a lie, for there are days scattered here and there that make me want to rush upstairs, throw open his closet door, and unchain the real him that this tyrant teenager has stuffed away in the dark corner, cowering among the artifacts of his childhood neither of us is completely ready to get rid of just yet.

I've already sort of forgotten the sound of his little boy voice. It's definitely not there when I overhear him laughing with his friends, talking about something that happened at school or the 'guy stuff' he won't elaborate about when I ask him just what exactly that might be. "Just guy stuff," he says with his guy voice. Mysterious, laden with testosterone, possibly enhanced by belches guy stuff. The kind of stuff I'll never be able to figure out, despite all my years of trying.

Perhaps I'll get that strange man who lives upstairs in our house, the one with the crackly voice and giant feet, to let me in on it one of these days. And maybe, if I ask nicely, he'll slow down and not hit me with his 16th birthday so damn fast.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

remember the last time i wrote something here and i was in the car with my son? i'm still there, it's just the car and the kid that's different..

Earlier this week, my oldest son and I jumped into my car to run a quick errand. I love these rare moments when I've trapped just one of my children in a moving vehicle because it means they're at my mercy as I drop some sweet life lessons upon them. 

As soon as I fired up the beast, we were enrobed by the sound of Don Felder's gearhead love song, "Heavy Metal (Taken' A Ride)," as it exploded loudly from the radio speakers. Reaching for the knob to turn this classic cut down, I turned to my boy, nearly 15 and all long legs, ideas he thinks are wiser than mine, and equipped with a voice riddled with as many cracks as the dry Iowa farmland surrounding us and said, "I want to tell you something about me and this song."
I proceeded to tell him about a day when I was 14 and I stole the 45 single of "Heavy Metal" from a now-defunct record store at a nearby mall. "I shoved that 45 down the front of my pants, casually smoothed my shirt over it, cased the place, then walked out of the store." I said as my son sat staring at me from the passenger seat. "I still have it," I continued, then ticked off an embarrassingly long list of other singles that were hot in my hands while also hot on the charts that are still in my possession, tucked away in a large cardboard box stored in our basement.  

"If I even think about what I did to get those songs, I feel guilty," I added, enhancing my tale of juvenile stupidity by letting him know how idiotic it is to do something you know is wrong just because a friend might be encouraging him, and how the thrill you think you feel swiping that bottle of Cover Girl foundation in ivory from the neighborhood Walgreen's might feel good at first, but you'll get home and realize you took a stupid risk for something that costs so little AND ended up with the wrong color for your teenage, pimple-plagued complexion (or that's probably just me...)
On and on I went as Mr. Felder provided the soundtrack to my lesson. My kid was tuned in, both to me and the son, and I really believed I was getting to him in the moment. Confession is good for the soul, and honestly, that song is just good to listen to.

"Can I ask you something," my son said when I finally took a breath. Anticipating a query about what drove me to a life of teenage crime, what his grandmother must have thought when I would arrive home with my new bounty, or whether I would be mad at him if he foolishly made such a mistake now, I formulated my various answers while giving him the go ahead to pepper me with his queries.

"What's a 45?" he asked.
Lesson learned, buddy.