Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 In Review

The days are flying away from me. I have had every intension to post about Christmas & now here we are December 31. I didn’t want to miss my tradition of this post, my fifth one!

I would characterize 2014 as a year of loss & growth. It feels surreal to be here, at New Year’s Eve again. As time passed this year, it didn’t feel as though it was passing quickly. At many moments it felt like it was passing incredibly, unbearably slowly. This was the type of year that would have broken a past version of me. There were many moments I thought I might crumble, that I wanted to crawl under the covers & never come out. That wasn’t an option though; I wouldn’t do that to Elena. Somehow I found the strength & resolve to pick myself up, dust myself off, put one foot in front of another, on auto pilot a lot of the time. Being here now, coming out the other side of it all, the crushing grief has been replaced with satisfaction & self assurance. My first thought in difficult situations will no longer be, “I’ll never get through this” but instead, “I will get through this…somehow”. I have grown into the woman I had hoped I could be.

I wasn’t the only one growing this year. Elena has come very far herself, having started the year with a vocabulary of less than 30 words to now speaking in full sentences & having a countless vocabulary. Gaining this ability has allowed Elena to let her personality shine through. Just today, while shopping, I was looking at discounted wrapping paper & Elena said, “We don’t need wrapping paper. Christmas is over!” A simple, logical response but for me, it was hearing the words & knowing what she was thinking because she TOLD me that was so meaningful! A phrase I am constantly saying these days is, “Did you hear what she just said?!!?” I never tire of hearing what she has to say, her endless questions about dinosaurs & why the sun rises everyday & how the birds fly & most of all to hear her say, “I love you, Mommy”. It’s…magical to me. I can’t think of a better word to describe it!

Lately I’ve just found myself marveling about how, after such a hard year full grief, I can come out the other side loving life so deeply & fully. I love my life, even the hard bits. I’d rather have the hard parts amidst joys than the alternative my life could have been.  If 2014 can come off seeming not half bad, I have high hopes for 2015.


Happy New Year, Everyone!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Stuff It!

Well, it had to happen sometime...I think we did pretty well making it 3 years & nine months before a visit to Urgent Care...& leave it to my kid to make it for a ridiculous reason! 

I got home from work the other day & my mom let me know Elena was complaining her nose hurt & it was bleeding just a bit. I was thinking she was stuffy from a cold & the blood may be from dryness...but Elena tells me there's something in there. I'm still thinking boogers or something until she says, "No Mommy, a flower!" Wait, what?!?

She explains that it is a flower from a hair elastic. I'm not exactly sure what she means but I'm thinking it's a flower bead. After trying to get Elena to snort it out to no avail, I called the doctor on call but she advised we'd have to go to urgent care. So off we went!

After two hours of waiting (which isn't bad, I guess. They said it was a slow night. I'd hate to see a busy night!) we finally saw the doctor & he attempted to pull it out with tweezers. Elena jumped though & he lost grip & then Elena wouldn't let him try again. 

At this point he advised we could transfer to the hospital & they would be able to sedate Elena so they could get it out. Wait, what?!? Sedate her just to get a bead out of her nose? I felt the risks far outweighed the necessity of that! He said the only other option would be to restrain her & pull it out but that would be very scary for her. 

It made my heart hurt to see Elena so genuinely scared & begging me not to let them do anything to her...but I also knew this would only cause minimal discomfort, not hurt her. I'm not sure how they sedate a kids but I'm guessing it involves needles. So I told Elena I knew she was scared, so so scared, but she'd have to be brave so we could get the flower out of her nose. 

The doctor called over two other nurses & they did what they called a bunny wrap which basically was them wrapping Elena up like a burrito in a blanket. I was able to hold Elena's hand & one nurse immobilized her head & the other restrained her body. Elena was fighting quite hard at this point. Then one nurse asked if she wanted a Popsicle after it was done, Elena relaxed immediately & the doctor pull the flower right out. It turned out to be a foam flower petal from a hair elastic we'd got in the Dominican last year.  Elena was given her Popsicle & no worse the wear except for a bloody nose. 

The doctor then says, "I sure am glad we didn't transfer you to hospital for that." Ya think?!!?!

On the way home I told Elena I hoped she wouldn't ever put anything in her nose again. She said she wouldn't...but then said, just her finger! What a kid!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Another Goodbye

My mother’s sister passed away in November just shy of her 60th birthday. I wasn’t nearly as close with her as I was with my Aunt Lee. She was born in January 1955 when my Grandmother was 36, five years after her previous child. There’s no way to know this for sure but I suspect the pregnancy wasn’t planned. She was born in an era where she was labeled “slow” or worse “retarded”. She was developmentally delayed. I wonder if she had been evaluated by today’s standards, if she would have fallen on the autism spectrum. Regardless, she grew up with many challenges.

Karen was the youngest of 6 children. She grew up being spoiled & having family do things for her & speak for her. In spite of this, she became determined to do things on her own. She was eventually able to attend a vocational school & learn skills that enabled her to secure a job in a factory. This also enabled her to move out on her own & live independently in her own apartment.

I don’t have many memories of her when I was young. She was 19 when I was born & not long after getting out on her own, she became involved with a man. Not a good man, an abusive man. She became estranged from our family during this time. As happens in abusive relationships, he isolated her. I can only imagine what life was like for her during that time.

Another Aunt, her sister, was married in 1982 (I think). I was a flower girl in that wedding. Karen attended & I remember going to her apartment. I didn’t know it at the time but her boyfriend was in jail then. I remember her being very proud of me & I remember her telling me about her boyfriend, who painted, & saying she wanted him to meet me. Another memory was a few years later, we “kidnapped” Karen so she could visit with my Grandma & Great-Grandma who were visiting. I wonder how she managed after going home to this man that day, if she’d told him where she’d been, if he’d found out on her own…

Her boyfriend died a few years later & she became a more constant presence. My dad would pick her up in Toronto & she would come stay weekends with us. I remember her being fun, always up to play games or put puzzles together. She loved her soap operas & it was with her I first watched Dallas & she filled me in on all the details.

In 1994, she was introduced to a man & they fell in love. You can imagine, with her past, my family was skeptical. But he was (is) a good man. Yes, he has issues of his own, schizophrenia, but he is kind & loving & the knight in shining she deserved! They were married. I got to be her Maid of Honour! They celebrated their 20th anniversary a few weeks before she died.

With all the challenges Karen faced in her life, she certainly was determined & proud. I admire her not passively letting life pass by. All she ever wanted was to be “normal” & she certainly succeeded in getting everything she ever wanted…except one thing. She had always desperately wanted to be a mother. She loved children so much & was so good with all of us nieces & nephews. To the day she died, it was her biggest regret. I remember having a conversation with her while I was pregnant & me saying she’d done so well in her life & she’d done one better than me, at least she’d gotten married & her reply, “Yeah, but I didn’t get to be a mother.”

In late 2012 she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with a tumour on her brain & mets in her liver & lungs. The doctors weren’t optimistic. She had radiation on the brain tumour in November that year & endured round after round of chemo for the next 2 years. There was no other option in her mind. She believed it would cure her. She didn’t understand or accept that she was palliative. I wonder if that contributed to her surviving for so long, that won’t quit attitude. Almost exactly 2 years later the doctors broke the news that they just couldn’t continue giving her chemo. To her that translated to them giving up on her, she just didn’t understand.

She remained at home for as long as she could but due to a fall she ended up in hospital & then transferred to hospice. Her life ended much like it began, with people doing everything for her.

Even though we weren’t close, I am feeling this loss heavily. It brought up dormant feelings of what I went through this past winter. Also her death has continued a disturbing emerging family tradition of passing just prior to a milestone birthday. My Uncle, my Dad & now Karen all passed within months prior to their 60th birthday. My Auntie Margaret & Aunt Lee both passed just prior to their 70th birthday. It’s been a tough year.