Today's surgery went well, though we waited seven hours for him to go into the OR, his anxiety ramping up as he tried to distract himself. More bone grafting, the removal of two front teeth for a total of three top front teeth that are now missing and will need to be replaced with implants, a couple hours stay in recovery, and we were finally back in our hotel room many hours past when we had anticipated. He rolled over and turned off the light long ago, and here I sit, alone with my thoughts, trying to sort through so many events and emotions.
I lost my mom a week ago tomorrow. It somehow feels like years ago...and yet like moments ago as well. This past year has been, as Dominick said to me over the phone, perhaps the hardest year of my life. He has been around a looooong time and seen me go through some doozies, long before we had kids as my family struggled mightily with so much, as each of our own children came home and we worked through monumental issues, and as he and I worked at a feverish pace when we first arrived in Colorado to build a business and a new life. Nothing really compares to this year. As I measure it all, it reads like a dramedy, that is if I weren't actually living it.
In the space of 13 months here is the "scorecard" of what has happened, just the big stuff:
1) Mom was moved from temporary rehab to permanent nursing home care
2) Rushed out to CA to pack mom's house up in 3 days, get her finances in order, and make many arrangements to sell her little mobile home.
3) Dominick and I have been to CA six times to visit moms and help as we could.
4) Kenny had three different surgeries, two of them fairly major, with five multi-day trips total Chicago
5) Spent months dealing with the State of CA to get mom approved for Medi-Cal
6) Had to travel to New Mexico to handle banking issues for mom for her Medi-Cal approval, because it was the nearest branch available.
7) Homeschooled four kids all year
8) Graduated two kids from high school
9) Drove back and forth to Colorado Springs (5 hours and an over night trip usually) five times for camps and retreats for the kids (Dominick handled a lot of that)
10) Spent the entire year developing, constructing, teaching, and building out Buckaroos Slices and Scoops which will open...well...as soon as we can manage
11) ANd this one I still can't quite believe...spent two weeks in New England with my best friend, Candi, as her mother was on hospice and passed away so she didn't go through that alone, returned home for two weeks, only to oddly find ourselves in the circumstance of...
12) Spending two weeks on the opposite coast to be with my mom as she was unexpectedly put on hospice and passed away from the very same issues that Candi's mom had. We literally don't have words to describe this unusual and painful coincidence, but we do know God provided the support we needed in each other.
13) Had a summer long visitor at home in our intern and adopted nephew, Billy, who was a God send in all kinds of unexpected ways
14) Multiple emotional/brain challenges that made life...well...challenging in ways that simply can not be explained unless you have young adults with FASD and "get it".
15) I had health problems with a thyroid completely gone haywire and off the charts with meds not working for 5 months or so
16) Blue Collar Homeschool Facebook Group grew by 2800 members to 6800, requiring hours and hours of time to be the admin and share content, send out over 75 certificates, and other behind the scenes work.
As I lay all of that out on the metaphorical table, it makes it easier for me to see just why I feel so overwhelmed...and that I am not a total wimp. My emotions are haywire, sort of on the fritz, so to speak, and I find I am walking around enveiled in a translucent, gauzy haze, trying hard each moment of every day to simply move forward. There is a flatness to my heart right now, an unfamiliar inability to be fully present in the way I usually move through the world. Right now, simply making it from one day to the next is about all I can manage. Summoning joy is growing harder by the month, despite the gratitude I still feel daily for all I have been given, and there have been multiple times when I have told Dominick that I want to run away from my life for a little while.
It's a season, and any mature adult has been through these tough ones, but somehow that knowledge doesn't make it any easier at all, does it? We can know the truth of the statement "this too shall pass" while still frantically screaming with fists upraised, "I KNOW that, but WHEN???" I have had many, many moments when it feels like everything is falling apart, and in some ways, it has indeed fallen apart.
And then, somehow, little pieces are put back together. No, not the entire puzzle, but right now, just getting the border connected and new "framing" for my life in place would be considered a huge "win". People offer beautiful, heartfelt words of encouragement, and that helps. People pray for us and our myriad struggles, and that helps. People literally show up and offer meals, rides, physical labor, and that helps. People REALLY show up and hold your hand, those special friends who sit beside the bed as you wait for a loved one's healing or departure, or they message you regularly saying, "I love you, my friend." and through your tears, you smile and hear the "click" of one of those corner pieces connecting to another border piece. You have a melt down in private, and someone grabs the kleenex for you, makes your next plane reservation, and listens to you by the hours as your voice trembles in grief...or fear...or a combination because your life isn't about one single hard thing, but too many hard things all at once and you don't know WHAT you are feeling and can't compartmentalize it no matter how hard you try.
One thing that being in your fifties does for you is give you a sense of certainty that at some point, it will turn around, nothing lasts forever and our lives are constantly in flux. You become more pragmatic in your more rational, unemotional moments, and can trust that in time you will be able to breathe more deeply, your shoulders will feel lighter, and laughter will return. Until then, you muddle through, you keep "adulting", and you do your best to find the simple pleasures in dribs and drabs.
Maybe reflecting on those dribs and drabs here for a moment will help calm my mind and allow me to finally sleep...
My Dribs and Drabs of Joy
1) Kenny is in little pain tonight, sleeping soundly, meds doing their job.
2) Continuing to receive emails and messages from the kids, and from Candi's daughter, sharing their hearts with me, letting me know I am loved through it all, and what they have learned from me. At a time like this, it is a great reminder that we adults model all the time, whether we know it or not.
3) Dominick is a rock star. Seriously. He covers the bases like no other husband I know, and with a smile every.single.day. At 9:00 pm one night last week he immediately offered to go fly on the 6:00am flight the next morning to Salt Lake City then make the six hour drive home, after I had left it there to fly to mom and couldn't figure out what to do about it in order to get to Chicago and then fly back into Montrose on our original ticket.
4) A conversation today with a young man Kenny's age at Shriner's who is undergoing his 30th surgery this week, and has had a setback or two but continues to reach out to those young kids around him who were scared and waiting for their own surgery to begin.
5) My mom's roommate at the nursing home...a light and someone who loved my mom daily during her last year.
6) Diet Coke. Need I say more?
7) A decent hotel mattress to sleep on tonight, unlike other nights while I have been gone...or not sleep on as the case may prove to be.
8) The best best friend ever who was scheduled for a vacation and instead came to be with me and mom, which was even harder considering she had literally just done it for her mom two weeks prior.
9) Monterey, where we went for two days the night my mom passed so I could feel it all as deeply as I needed to, could try to start breathing, try to get my head on straight so I could be in the right frame of mind for Kenny immediately afterward. The rocky seaside coast we walked alongside soothed me, drew me and my thoughts in, asked little of me but to sit with my grief for just 48 hours and the seagulls called to me, "It's OK, cry out to us!" and God hugged me there as the wind brushed my hair back.
10) My joy that this year hasn't been even harder, for though it has indeed been emotionally almost crippling, I am still standing, still present, still able to see beyond myself and offer a hug when needed, a smile of appreciation, and though I have lost the first person who ever loved me, I thankfully have more love available to me, proving once again what an infinite source it is, if nurtured and fed.
These are the less-than-noteworthy late night ramblings of a very confused, unsettled, middle-aged woman whose life has converged to create the perfect storm in a single year. May she find a little peace soon.