Category Archives: My Chicago family

Exciting times we live in

So many important things are going on right now, good and not-so-good, that keep me busy and thinking all the time.

My brother Greg survived a significant heart attack and subsequent double bypass open heart surgery.  Getting the call from my Mom was the biggest shock of my life.  But he’s a few weeks out now, the cardiac surgeon has released him from his care, and the cardiologist has set him up with cardiac rehab in a week.  Greg’s physical and emotional worlds have been rocked and he’s struggling to reconcile his old activities with his new limitations.  He’s doing so well.  I’m so proud of him.

Mom’s been his rock all this time.  She’s been busting her hump, trying to give him the support he needs, encouraging him to do more each day.  She’s on the front lines in this war recovery effort.  She’s a saint and we have to get her a really big gift this year.

Bill’s company was bought out and he started with his new employer last week.  So much frustration and uncertainty over small and big things.  I worry that he’s too stressed out.  I do what I can to keep things calm and comfortable around here, giving him loving support and meals that he likes.  He works so hard.

I’ve started to give my grandboys some learning opportunities while I watch them.  We have a Letter of the Week, with activities and hands-on projects, and I’m working on coordinating a weekly field trip.  It’s really hard to go out with three little men, but even if it’s to the playground, that’s something.  Doing preschool stuff makes me feel like I’m not just sitting on my butt watching them do stuff.  I’m actually working to prepare them for school!  And it brings me great joy when the ‘light bulb’ goes on and I can see that they’ve actually learned something.  They’re so proud when they succeed!

The Cubs have had their best year in so so long.  It’s been so wonderful to watch this season.  They seem so relaxed and happy, like they’re having a great time.  The Wild Card game is Wednesday, and I can’t wait!  Maybe I’ll make a poster…

Ryan and Michela are finally married!  It was a wonderful wedding, thrown by her wonderful family, and we were all so happy.  We danced every dance.  New moves were invented, toasts were given, babies were exhausted.

Stefanie and Kevin and Elliott are moving into a rental house in less than two weeks.  It’s a big step, and they’re so ready.  I can’t wait to see Elliott playing in his own yard with the dogs, Stef cooking in her kitchen, Kevin mowing the lawn.  And they’ll be so close by, too.  Yay!

Caitie has been dealing with so much crap, but still has manage to mostly keep her shit together.  She is currently looking for a new job, since the first one was not right for her.  I have faith that she will find something that will fit her needs and allow her to grow, build a clientele, and earn lots of money to support her boys.

Declan is so tall now, and he’s still growing.  His voice is low, he shaves, he wears the same size clothes and shoes as his brother and dad.  And he’s becoming more mature in other ways, too.  I know he could take care of any baby or kid in the world, and keep him/her safe and happy.  It’s in him and it’s wonderful.

The grandboys are my joy.  Owen is in second grade and has long blonde hair.  He can catch any ball you throw to him and run like the wind.  He is a wonderful boy with a strong love for his mom.  And he has no teeth in front.

Ollie is our sensitive one.  He wears his emotions on the outside, so he is joyful and goofy one minute, sulking and quiet the next.  He’s bright as they come and loves to learn.  I also heard him mediating a babyfight between the younger two the other day.  He was so calm and patient.

Elliott is his own man.  He is slightly smaller in stature than Theo the giant baby, but he holds his own.  He is smart and sweet and is excellent at all sports.  He’s not afraid to catch any ball!  I can tell he thinks a lot, and he’s got a great sense of humor.

Theo is a tornado.  He runs through the room, hair all bushy and disheveled, destroys whatever he sees someone playing with, then turns to you with a brilliant smile and reaches up for a hug.  He pushes the other boys’ buttons and laughs to see their reactions.  He snuggles hard and is a joy to be with.

Sure, not-so-good things happen.  Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.  But life is good.  With this wonderful family of mine, it’s certainly never dull.

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Get up. Take a shower.

Pack Decky a lunch. Drop Decky off at school. Clean the bathrooms in the basement. Clean the woodwork, tape the trim and paint the upstairs walls. Make an appointment for the doctor. Take the shampooer back in to be repaired again. Get the car oil changed again, and have them check out that bad rim. Take the car into Best Buy to fix the stereo. Make chicken tortilla soup. Schedule the Salvation Army bell ringing date. Make appointment for Bill with the GI guy. Write thank you cards. Pick Decky up from school.

I made the mistake of making a good day my goal. I have since revised that goal: I hope for a good hour, then maybe two. Much more attainable, more successes. So far, it’s helping.

I’m staying busy. Doing the work. My eye is back to normal – no more drops. My shoulder and neck are less sore. I sleep through the night now.
I break down. I stare into space and forget what I’m doing. I alternately feel numb and acutely hypersensitive. I get lots of hugs from Bill. I stick around my house.

I noticed I felt better after putting up a few pictures of Dad. I have one of Dad, Bill, Decky and Owen at the Cubs/Royals game last year on my bed table. I have that nice one of Dad in the Ozarks on the kitchen wall. I don’t sit and stare at them, but I can glance up when I need to.

I still think this all can’t be happening. I shake my head to clear it. No. That can’t be right.
But it is. It’s happening. And all I can really do is keep busy.

Grief is physical

Today I learned that grief is physical.
I am simultaneously numb, but I feel everything so acutely.
I thought I’d try to resume some normal activity. I’d walk to school to pick up Decky.
It’s never been so hard.
It took repeated Herculean effort to lift my leaden feet and place them in front of each other. The gentle warm breeze pummeled my tender body. My neck and shoulders ached with tension. I flinched at distant noises and felt nausea from the exertion of walking at a slow pace.
I have been terribly ill with this grief. It will take a while to get better. But I’m not going to hide beneath blankets. Not all the time anyway.
I’ll do the work.

Control (or lack thereof)

If you know me, you know I like to control things. Like people, and my environment, and my schedule, and pretty much everything else.

So the past few weeks have kicked my ass.

I can’t control what happens to my Dad. I can’t even be there to help, interpret or advocate on his behalf.
I can’t control when and how Caitlyn goes into labor. That fetus has his own schedule and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.
I can’t control when Stef and Kevin move to their own place. They are adults who make their own decisions based on their own specifc criteria. My opinion doesn’t matter, but my support does.
I can’t control how Decky and Ryan experiment with their prototype homemade potato cannon. The official launch is set for tomorrow while I’m at work. I’m so worried someone will lose a digit or an eye. I can only hope and pray that they will be safe and smart.

I can go with the flow when I have to, when I know control is out of my hands and I am powerless to change anything. I can let go.
But these people are so important to me. They each account for a large piece of my heart. Their health and their happiness are the most important things in the world to me.

Aside from some giving unsolicited advice, helping out when I can, drilling safety precautions into some heads, and calling the cardiac rehab nurse for more information, I am paralyzed.

Thank god my brother is being a fierce advocate for my dad. He is smart and polite and persistent, and does all the things I would if I were there. Thank god we have a large supportive family to be there when Caitlyn finally goes into labor. Thank god the same support network will be around to help Stef and Kevin when they move out. And thank god for Ryan’s and Decky’s common sense and caution (OMGOMGOMGOMG).

My anxiety level is through the roof. I really can’t stand this feeling of powerlessness. I am actually looking forward to going to work tomorrow for a chance to actually exert some control over my environment and my patients’ care.

Watch. That’s when the baby will decide to make his appearance.

Thanks, Dad

My dad is not the president. He is not a rock star or a newscaster or a nuclear physicist.
He’s just a man. He’s my father.
And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to needed him to be.

And I love him more than I could ever love any president, rock star, newscaster or nuclear physicist. Or anybody else.

That’s why I’m driving 8.5 hours to Chicago tomorrow. So I can see him safely into the skilled hands of the cardiac surgeon and his staff Monday morning. So I can wait for word of the outcome of his bypass surgery with my family. So I can watch him wake up after the successful heart repair is completed. And so he can see me.

I will not be able to stay long. But I will be in frequent contact with Mom and Greg and Amy, with the nursing staff, and when he’s able, Dad. And I’ll be back next weekend, after he comes home from the hospital to check on him and do what I can to help Mom and Greg and Amy out.

I want to do more. I am divided by distance and family obligations, but I will do my best to help him with his recovery.

But he’s a strong man. He will work hard and he will be back to better-than-normal before Thanksgiving. I’m so glad he chose to have the surgery. His dad didn’t, and he died way before he should have. Dad’s already bought four years by getting nine coronary stents. He’ll be buying another twenty Monday.

Thanks, Dad, for choosing to be around for a good long time. Forever wouldn’t be long enough.