Tuesday, January 15

“Friends” - Catching Up on the Past Half Year - Part I

I am going to go a little outside my usual post “flavor” to address some things that have really been bothering me the past few months. I’ll preface all the entries with this disclaimer & that way it will be easy to differentiate for those who would rather not read negative things. Seriously, this post/entry has nothing to do with unschooling: it is part of a hashing-out on my part, a venting of my feelings on recent happenings, a “getting it out in full view” to avoid secret whisperings and wonderings about recent events. I've gone back-and-forth over whether to actually post these words or not, and usually when I do that, I get a definite feel for it (after sleeping on it) if it is certainly a bad idea. I haven't gotten that feel in over a month of pondering, so if it turns out to be a bad idea I figure I've a lesson to learn from it. 

Part I

First off, let me begin by going back… :~) Things have been less-than-stellar since Dave got laid off a few years back. The job market around here isn't the best and to top that off, employers are actively avoiding unemployed people – very weird, IMO, but that’s how things are. We made do, looking for work, fully expecting Dave to get another on-the-road job where he’d be away 5 days a week at the least, scrambling to make ends meet when the unemployment income made us ineligible for most programs & help… We figured it was a great time to try to work for ourselves, so we started Dave’s handyman business. Unfortunately, the economy made it tough for folks to hire a handyman, so we kept working at it, hoping things would pick up and continuing to look for work.

In January 2011, we attended our first anime convention, as guests of friends, and discovered Steampunk, which excited us and started our creative processes going. Dave dabbled around with creating necklaces & odds n’ ends, giving what he made to friends. Folks exclaimed over how “great” they were.

The third week in December, two years ago, Dave’s unemployment ran out. Fortunately, that meant we qualified for help and programs. *Un*fortunately, that meant no income to pay for utilities, toilet paper, soap, fuel for the van, clothes, etc. “Where are all the jobs?” we wondered, “Why are we getting so few interviews & no replies from the few we’re getting?” and we marched on. 
 Thankfully, all the jobs we'd worked 2 & 3 at a time over the years had us paying a whole lot into the system of benefits & help programs and we'd donated loads of time & "stuff" to charities over the years. Not really with this result in mind, but we're thankful, nonetheless.

Snow was scarce that winter, making the snow-removal aspect of the handyman business a flop. We started thinking more and more about Steampunk jewelry and how Etsy had been a jumping-off point for my mother & her jean purses. I researched. So, at the end of February 2012, we took the plunge and added to the job-hunt, handyman-business grind with our Steampunk jewelry (and other mish-mash) store, Smithfits Bazaare Emporium . Friends raved about how incredible Dave’s work was. Sales started happening. Then, as our customer/fan base grew, new people raved. Folks seem to think this was really going to go somewhere and so did we. It hasn't  yet, but we’re thinking it just hasn't been our time to take off, yet. And still, the handyman & job hunting continues. :~D

In April, Dave had some sort of injury to his neck that caused him great pain, numbness and tingling in his neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. He started marching his parade of doctors and specialists after a couple visits to the ER couldn't resolve the problem.

In the last few days of September, Dave got a diagnosis for his injury - a devastating diagnosis: along with carpal tunnel syndrome, he has degenerative disc disease in his neck and osteoarthritis in vertebrae 5 - 7. This will worsen over time and eventually completely paralyze him.

We were trying to cope with this horrifying diagnosis, October 4th a huge family crisis hit us. I’m still not ready to talk about details in public, but it involved city government and issues with housing code violations (stirred up by our persnickety neighbor) along with other things. Over the last few years, things have piled up inside our house with 2 – 3 packrats and I’ve always been forthright with people about how piled with clutter our house was. I’ve been honest with people that it was out of control. I asked for help a few times, early on, and got some kid-occupying help while cleaning got done without interference. As time went on, I asked for help from a few select, trusted folks and asked and it didn’t come. I got offers of help from a few more people that I didn’t know as well and considered, but had yet to bring myself to accept help from those people who *hadn’t* seen the inside of my house. I was getting close, though…

This situation in October had officials in our house and things came to a head. I explained the situation to a huge chunk of my extended friends and help was forthcoming. Dave looked over the list of folks who’d offered to help and said, “I don’t really want” and he named several names, “in here… “ with firmness threaded with dread in his voice. “*Why*?!?” I asked him. He said that he didn’t want those listed/named people to see our house because they would judge us and probably not have anything to do with us after. I knew that was a likely possibility, but told him that the kids were paramount in this situation and if they were going to react like that, then they weren’t really the best kind of friends to have, anyway. After a bit of thought, he agreed.

It was a very stressful time. There was a *lot* to be done, a lot to decide and where it was overwhelming me before, having people “invade” my private embarrassment and be fully aware of it added all that more stress. Dave and I both got very little sleep, ate very little and marshaled on, coping as well as we could – many people said we dealt with everything with dignity and strength and surprisingly well – that they wouldn’t have done as well if they were in our shoes. I disagree, as I think any one of our friends would power through just as well, but I hope they never have to find out.

At any rate, throughout the 2 weeks of in-depth, deep-clean, hard work, we kept having to deal with officials, spurred on to verify and check tiny details daily by the neighbor who kept calling repeatedly. It was quite clear that something was getting taken care of here and whatever his problem was with it, he was calling the city building department, city council, the mayor and on the weekends when they weren’t in, he’d repeatedly call the police until they got the head of the building department to come out here. The constant harassment made coping even more difficult. Our amazing crew of willing friends (Thank You again!! <3 font="" nbsp="">got an incredible amount of stuff done within those two weeks. We took another couple weeks regrouping and taking care of detail work & dealing with the final points the officials asked us to take care of. Somewhere in all this autumn stuff, we lost a very dear pet cat, Zack (http://and-the-kitchen-sink.blogspot.com/2012/09/our-zachary.html), we’d raised from birth. As we settled into November, things started to settle into place and by the end of November, we were starting to feel like maybe we could start to relax and get into a flow of “normal”, again – even if it was a new normal.

As November drew to a close, my dad started having troubles with his stomach. For a couple days, my parents thought it was probably the flu, but as it didn't improve and the pain got very bad, they started thinking it might be something else. Gallbladder was mentioned. On the 26th, it got really painful and late on the 27th, my mother got him to agree to go to the emergency room the next day if it wasn't better. Now, my dad has a very high tolerance for pain and isn't one to go to the doctor unless it is dire. The man even refuses Novocain for fillings! So, on the 28th, my mother ran an errand and then took my dad to a "stat care" place nearby. 

I’d been having issues sleeping (probably caused by all the upheaval & stress) and was trying to work my way around the clock by staying up to beyond tired, so I could get back to a semi-normal bedtime. On the 28th, I’d figured on about
5pm to head to bed. At about 4:45, my phone rang. It was my dad; the man known for his pranks & jokes. He told me that my mother was having a heart attack and headed to City Hospital and could I go meet her there, since they wouldn’t release him to go. I asked if he was serious, because with *my* dad, you just never know. He sounded serious and I doubted he would joke about something like that, but it was so unexpected & unreal, I *had* to ask. 

Apparently, my mother had pulled up to the doors to drop Dad off so that he could start his paperwork and went to park the car. She started having chest pains and called inside the stat care place and an emergency team came right out to the car. They did an EKG & some tests and found she was having a heart attack and sent her via ambulance to City. Dad had some tests run, but the results hadn’t come back, yet, so they wouldn’t release him. I headed to the hospital.

I explained to the staff at the waiting room desk what was going on and they were stunned and surprised: both parents at the same time?! Apparently, even in a big hospital like City, that is pretty rare. I made some cursory calls to family, the staff having told me that she’d had surgery & we were waiting for her to come out of recovery & the doctors to come talk with me. Dad called. He told me he was going to be at City in a bit. I was going to argue that he should go home and rest and I could keep him updated, but he said they were bringing him in an ambulance to have emergency surgery because his appendix had burst. I haven’t had a lot of stress in my life the last 6 or 7 years – apparently, my life wants to get it all over with in spaced-out, intense doses.

So, my brother is disabled and not able to step in while I take a break, my grandparents have all passed away years ago, all of my parents’ siblings are dead but my dad’s younger brother, who is in West Virginia and has a wife with dementia/Alzheimer’s  in a home that needs looked after.

I got to go into the cardio ICU when my mom came out of recovery. She seemed to be good color and tired, and worried, of course. I talked with her and gave her cards the boys made for her as I was getting dressed to come to the hospital and talked with her about dad & his situation. She was throwing up a lot and I helped her clean up, since she was required to lay perfectly flat. She gave me a list of things to get for her and bring to the hospital and we talked a bit about her "living will" wishes. She understood that the doctors wanted to wait 3 days to do further surgery (bypass), to allow the blood thinners to leave her system. Just around midnight, test results came back & the doctor decided it was too risky to hold off surgery & that she would go in at 6 am. She had a moment of stark fear & worry as they were pre-prepping her for surgery... I decided to go home and get a few hours of sleep after I checked on Dad, but he wasn't out of recovery, yet, and by the time I got home, it was almost 3 am. I had to get up at 5:30 to make it to the hospital by 6... I got to hold her hand and tell her I would take care of dad as they wheeled her out of the room...

At that point, I spent most of a week running back and forth between 2 hospital rooms on opposite ends of a massive hospital complex, trying to do all I could for everyone. (Which suited me just fine, keeping me very busy with no time for "what if"s.) Thankfully, the staff allowed me to doze in a chair beside my dad’s hospital bed (the appendix had apparently burst long before the operation, spreading bacteria all over the inside of his abdomen & internal organs and had compromised some of his small intestine, which had to have a section removed). It was a very, very uncomfortable chair and I don’t think I got 8 hours of sleep the whole week (and I hadn’t even gone in with any rest to begin with… !). I am stunned I didn’t get sick, myself.

It was a very emotionally stressful time, not only for all the responsibilities that I had, but to see my strong, independent dad so weak physically and feeling so weak & helpless to *do* anything to help the love of his life was devastating. Dozens of times a day, he’d look into my eyes with that helpless, hopeless look of fear… Dozens of times a day, he’d desperately reach or grope for my hand and hold on like it was a lifeline… It kind of scared me a little and it broke my heart. Each and every time it broke my heart. It still does – tears run down my face as I remember and write this…

My dad was very sick and very weak – even weaker than both times he had cancer treatments. The man who won’t even take an aspirin or pain meds for surgery asked not only for pain meds but for morphine – which he made me *promise* I would not allow them to give to him. Later in the week, he also asked for a medication to help him cope with anxiety… I think he had more medication in those 7 days than he’d had in his entire previous 75 years. 

After one surgery to find a blocked artery, another surgery scheduled to do a single by-pass, then during the surgery finding out her aorta burst, things were very much in the air for my mother – a long waiting period after her second surgery, waiting for the drugs to clear out of her system to see if there was brain activity. This heart attack came as such a surprise – no symptoms, nothing to indicate it was coming, and my mother being such a Strong person, we really felt it was only a matter of time before she started the long road to recovery. On December 4th, a huge amount of staff came in to talk to us and basically told us that she had likely never mentally survived the second surgery. We all went in to say our goodbyes. The most heart-wrenching thing I have ever experienced in my life was witnessing my dad say goodbye to his other half – the love of his life. *That* made me sob more and broke my heart more than any other thing I can ever remember.

After they gave us news that she had passed away, they released my dad from the hospital. He needed someone to help him physically, and I was sure he needed someone emotionally, too. So, I just moved the place I sleep from the hospital to his house. That was a rough time, because at first, he was too weak to do much of anything but sleep. Though they said he was on the road to recovery, in the face of all that happened, it was tough to believe. Especially since his partner of 50 years just died unexpectedly and who knows how anyone is going to react to that... ?

A few days after Dad settled in, my brother was due for what Mom had told us was hernia surgery. Two days after that, Dave's thrice-postponed shoulder surgery (rotator cuff) was scheduled. It turned out that my brother's appointment was a consult appointment to determine if surgery was necessary, so that was a bit of a relief, but it was very, very hard to have to leave my dad, who still needed lots of help (and who, frankly, I was scared to leave alone with his thoughts & funeral home plans & sympathy cards flooding in), to help Dave through his routine (3rd time) shoulder surgery. He'd *wanted* me to stay with Dad, but I couldn't do that, either. I hadn't been sure if I was going to stay at home that night or go back to Dad's, but Dave had a bad reaction with his asthma & the anesthetic and was having awful trouble breathing. He wouldn't go to the ER, and I didn't get much sleep again that night, but he was better in the morning, so I felt comfortable going back to my dad's house.

Being the person I am, I would not force my opinions on him and left so much of the decisions about the memorial service for my mother to him. I truly felt that it was mostly his choice, being her life partner, more than anyone else’s. I think he probably would have been more comfortable with me just taking charge, but I did not feel it was my place, nor is it who I am to tell someone else what they should think or how they should live. I’ve grown too accustomed to accepting people where they are and for who they are in the moment.

Things being what they were, I was quite prepared to stay there with dad for months, but a few days before December 25th, he firmly asked me to go home. He felt guilty “taking” me “away from the boys” and no amount of explanation on my part would make him understand that he wasn’t “taking” me, so reluctantly I went. I *wish* I had the money to drive over there every day – or even every other day!! But, we do not. So, I rely on the phone. That’s also another source of stress, because I really want to be there for him…

And so, life was starting to balance again (even though I was still feeling terribly out of balance, stressed, confused, sad, badly imperfect, lonely for emotional care for my own self, one of our 2 remaining cats having died a few days before, still not quite caught up on sleep… ), not quite a full month since my mother had died unexpectedly, under 2 weeks since I’d moved out of my dad’s house & back into my own, about a week since a very emotional Christmas for my entire family, on January 3rd, someone who’d I’d thought was a caring and supportive friend wrote me to unfriend me with a very negative, character-assassinating letter (privately on Facebook), leaving me feeling as if I’d been horribly verbally attacked. Even abused. Not only on behalf of herself, but on behalf of that list of folks Dave and I had talked about (in October, whom we’d likely never see again after coming to help us) plus one other person. All throughout this attack, claiming that I was very dear to them and that they cared about me so very much that it hurt. All I could think of, as I read through this handful of messages, was “kicking me while I’m down”… it truly felt as though I’d been punched – full force – in the gut. Why this person couldn’t just unfriend me, I don’t know… Why they felt the need to write something in such a way as to leave the recipient feeling attacked, I’m clueless… Why they chose such a horrible time to do so leaves me utterly baffled. Unless you (general you – not this person, specifically) purposely *trying* to hurt the recipient, what other reason would you have to say such hurtful things at such a critical time?

That final bit was that proverbial straw on the camel’s back that led to my avoiding Facebook for the past few weeks. I felt the need to curl up and heal for a while and getting “kicked while I’m down” would definitely not further my healing. With my Facebook friends, most of what I experience there are positive, uplifting, funny, fun, interesting, etc. – very little negativity. There *are* negative things to be found floating around Facebook in general without having to have mass amounts of negativity aimed at me directly, so I removed myself from that venue. And that wraps up the “getting the blog up to date.

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