chasingwonderwoman

Archive for the tag “elderly parents”

I’m Sorry For Your Loss

About three months, I sent my only child to college for her freshmen year and I experienced a tremendous loss that took me completely by surprise. I figured I would be a little sad but for the most part happy about this new chapter in both of our lives. After all, this is what I had been working so hard for all this time. I wanted her to grow into a beautiful, secure, smart young woman with all the advantages that I missed out on. Attending a great college after high school was one of those advantages. I cried for two weeks after she left and even months later, at times I find myself still sad at losing the little girl that once needed me for everything. Changing the nature of your relationship with anyone you love can be very painful and I have learned, takes time to adjust to. In my mind, the day I sent my daughter off to school was the hardest loss I had ever faced and I was grateful for each day that got easier and easier.

Flying Home

Flying Home

About three days ago, my phone rang at 2:00 am. It was my father’s nursing home informing me that he had passed away a short time ago and that they were “sorry for my loss”. I was in Dallas, Texas with friends for a weekend of fun and football. Standing alone in my hotel room, I realized that at that moment, listening to the calm voice on other end of the phone line was the worst loss of my life. My dad was only 71 years old, fairly young by todays’ standards. Everyone asks, “what happened?” People want an explanation, was it cancer, a heart attack, stroke. We want to know that “something” came along and ripped that person from you, and helps it all makes sense. I don’t have a good answer. It doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t think there is ever an answer that is good enough.

About a year ago there was a decision made to put Dad into a nursing home because he was sick and the caregiver he was with at that time no longer felt she could take care of him in her home. Dad hated being in the nursing home, and I knew it. Early on when I would visit, I could see how he disliked his surroundings and he wanted to go “home”. Part of me feels, he died not just because of his physical ailments but because emotionally he was unable to come to terms with his new environment and eventually he stopped trying. Medically, I know all the problems he had and the doctors have told me what happened, but in my heart I believe he gave up. During this year, at one point, I even gave up. I took a break from visiting my father. To be honest, it was because it was so hard. I had my mother living with me who is experiencing some aging challenges and I was wiped out. Every visit at the nursing home, became harder and harder. I would drive away in tears feeling angry that I could do nothing to make him happy and overwhelmed at what both my parents were experiencing. I had to take a break, to keep my sanity.

About four months ago Dad stopped eating regularly and he was taken to the hospital. A month later he was re-admitted again – dehydration. This time he was referred to the Palliative Care Unit, and a wonderful nurse was able to get through to him and he asked her to call me. He wanted me to make any of his final health decisions in case he could not. We got his wishes in what they call an Advanced Directive as to whether or not he wanted to be resuscitated should he stop breathing. During that week in the hospital, I stayed by my fathers’ side every day. I held his hand when he went for tests and treatments and signed whatever I had to see if we could make him better. Some days he seemed better and other days he froze me out and wouldn’t speak or even look at me. I never knew what would happen each day when I walked in, but I knew I didn’t have a choice anymore whether or not I could be there. He wanted me and I was there. When he was released from the hospital and returned to the nursing home, I promised him, I would be there every day and that I wouldn’t let him ever be alone anymore. I told him how sorry I was that I had stopped coming. I told myself every night after coming home, that it wasn’t my fault and not to beat myself up, but to be honest, that’s not an argument I won most nights.

About two weeks ago, I walked into my dad’s room at the nursing home for my visit and he was having a good day. As we sat in the room, he motioned that he was cold. It was one of those unseasonably warm October days that we get in New England so the A/C had kicked on in his room.  Speaking was almost impossible for him at this point because of the problems he had with this esophagus. Communications between us took the form of him pointing, me guessing and him head nodding. I grabbed a lightweight jacket out of his closet and in the pocket I found two lottery tickets, a book of matches and a pack of Newport cigarettes. I immediately thought to myself, oh no, I should have taken this out before he noticed them. But notice them he did, and my dad got what I can only describe as a Herculean burst of energy. You have to understand that my Dad weighed less than 90 lbs at this time and moving at all was a challenge for him. He was motioning so fast and so much that I finally had to get one of the aides to come in and help me because I couldn’t tell what he wanted. We finally determined he wanted to be in his wheelchair and wanted his sneakers on. Once we got that accomplished he wanted to go to the lobby. As I started to push him out, he signaled me to take my purse and backpack. I thought he just wanted them to be safe. By the time we got to the lobby I started to understand that he wanted to leave the building, he wanted to go for a ride! Being uncertain if he could leave or not, I checked with the staff but all along, I was thinking, I have back to back teleconferences for work which start in 15 minutes. I had only planned to be there for a lunch hour visit. I stood at the front desk waiting for an answer and I turned back to see my dad patiently sitting with his jacket and shoes by the front door, I knew that I had to take him. I also knew secretly, that it was those damn Newport cigarettes that had gotten me into this situation. When we got the green light from the staff, they helped me get him in my car. I put our seat belts on and started to drive, not knowing where we were going or what we were going to do. Somehow in the next 4 hours I managed to take the conference calls, drive my dad around town, show him the house I had bought which he had never seen, and do things that I thought he wanted to do. Our first stop was him signaling for fried chicken. I pulled into Popeyes and after some guessing and head nodding, we got his order of chicken and sweet tea and we pulled over and he ate like I had not seen him eat in months. I took him by my house and snuck him a few sips of beer, which I could only imagine had been years since he had last tasted.

My dad's last pack.

My dad’s last pack.

Next, I knew he wanted that damn cigarette. He had been fumbling with the packet and rolling one of those cigarettes around in his hand as soon as we got into the car. While he ate, he had put it behind his ear, something I remember him doing in his younger, healthier days.  After driving around for awhile I asked him if for dessert he wanted his favorite – a milkshake. He said yes. I knew the perfect place. One of my best friends, Laura, owns an icecream shop downtown and besides making the creamiest Strawberry milkshake on the planet, she also happens to be a strikingly beautiful southern belle. My dad’s eyes lit up when Laura knelt by his side, smiled and talked with him at the car door. She told him how glad she was to meet him and helped him sip his favorite shake. With my okay, she helped him take a few puffs of that cigarette he had been holding onto all trip long. When our ride was over, “Thelma and Louise” headed back to the nursing home and I got dad ready for bed. He looked at me and patted his chest and pointed at me. I thought for a minute he was having a heart attack because of all the excitement we had been through – perhaps my gorgeous girlfriend had been too much! I asked, are you okay!? He shook his head yes. Again, he rapidly patted his chest, this time I could tell it was directly over his heart and he jabbed his finger at me. A lightbulb went off and I said, “Oh, are you telling me that you love me?” He shook his head vigorously, up and down – yes. I looked at him and very matter of factly said, “Oh Dad I know that. Of all the things I know in my life, I have always, always known that you love me. I have never doubted and never will doubt your love for me.” He smiled, I fought back tears and I thought maybe he is going to be better because he just needed to tell me that and get out of this room for awhile. Maybe I have a second chance to do it better this time.

About five days ago, (two weeks after our Thelma and Louise ride), I kneeled at my dad’s bed to tell him that I was going to Dallas for the weekend with my friends. It was Friday night, I told him I would be gone for just 2 days and that I would be right back on Monday night. I told him I wasn’t leaving him that I would be right back and I would bring him a cool gift back from the stadium. I had been reminding him for a while about my trip because I didn’t want him to wonder where I was at. I wanted to make sure he knew I was there for him and that I would never abandon him. I kept telling him, I will be right back, I promise.

Every day over the last three days, someone new says to me, “I’m so sorry for your loss”. I don’t know how to respond. Every time it gets quiet and I am alone, my heart aches and I go through every possible emotion you can imagine. I wish for so many different endings.

I guess the best one I can imagine is that one day, I will be able to post the next chapter which I hope will go something like this…. About a year ago, I lost my father and I’m here to tell you, it gets better.

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Branded

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A few weeks ago I squeezed in attending a workshop for a handful of people within my organization selected to be a part of an inaugural protégé/mentoring program.  The workshop was titled “How to Brand Yourself” – – well it probably wasn’t really called that because that conjures up images of a branding iron and either horses or slaves, so I’m going to guess that they called it something else, but you get my meaning.  I arrived about 30 minutes late to the virtual workshop but what I caught was really very good. I wrote down on one of the hundreds of post-it notes that are scattered all over my dorm/office a challenge from the presenter … Fill in the blanks: “I want to be known for being ____ so that I can deliver _____ to _____.”  He dared us to complete that sentence as we attempted to discover our personal brand.  Moreover, he said, we could use it in both our professional and personal lives.

It’s been over 4 weeks since I attended that workshop and I find myself at times, looking for that scrap of paper so that I make sure I don’t forget to fill in those blanks.  You see, I really want to fill in the blanks.  It feels like something that not only I should do, but that I really need to do.

For the past 15 months, I have spent so much time being an over achieving employee, a bewildered student, a so-so mom, an elderly care-giver and let us not forget a jilted ex-lover that branding myself in a good light has been non-existent.  Week after week, month after month has gone by and I think to myself that I am grateful because my life is better than most.  But in my heart I feel like very little to rejoice over and I wonder what happened to my joy?  I believe I had it at one time, at least I think I did.

Since the time of Aristotle (throwback to last semesters’ Ethics course – – yikes), man has been asking the question that I now ponder of myself, why are we here, what’s the meaning of life, what’s my brand statement. Well maybe the great thinkers of all time weren’t quite thinking about the latter, but I believe they are all loosely tied to one another.  One day soon (I anxiously await), I will finish this undergraduate degree and I will put it behind me.  One day even sooner (sadly), I will stop having to baby my 17 year old.  She will be making grown up decisions on her own.  Sure, she will always need her mother, but not in the same way as today.  And someday soon (please God, sooner rather than later) I will stop being a Sourcing Manager for this nightmare of a position and I will advance to other work.  When all these things, that are so much a part of me now, wrap up, what will I look back on and say? Will I have found joy throughout the journey, so that when they come to an end I will say it was all worth it and I’m a better person because of it?  About seven years ago I dated a man who I believe was the one true love of my life. I remember saying to him, in his cozy condo, over large glasses of wine and even larger plates of pasta, “No matter what happens, no matter if this ends terribly, I will never regret one moment I spent with you. This was the best feeling I have ever had, exactly what I had always dreamed of, and I’ll never ever be sad it happened”.  I have dated a lot of men before and after him, and I’ve never said or even thought it with any other.

Makes me wonder, what else I feel that way about.  Being a mom? Of course, no brainer, my daughter is the most amazing person and the sole reason I haven’t tossed in the towel years ago.  Returning to school?  Yes, despite how much I hate the homework, and the expense and the juvenile classmates, I will never regret the decision to come back to college and finish my degree.  My job? Yes, even that.  Despite how much I absolutely hate pest control, office politics, and multi-client RFP’s, I will never regret the path that I took to get this role because I wouldn’t have advanced to this level without it.

I think the joy is there, underneath the layers of self-doubt and sadness I often feel, it’s there I just have to dig for it a little deeper some days, some months.  I have to be careful not to let my joy get over shadowed by the perils of a life unbranded.  So in that respect, I took my first stab tonight at my branding statements.  I think they may need a little tweaking and massaging here or there, but it’s a start. Let me know how you do with yours….

Professionally, I want to be known for being highly competent and trustworthy so that I can deliver positive, common sense results to people who trust and depend on me.

Personally, I want to be known for being worthy so that I can deliver joy and happiness to special people (and one day a special man) who loves me.

Sometimes I’m Proud

More often than not, if I were to say how I feel on any given day, it would be Sometimes I’m Overwhelmed or Sometimes I’m Filled with Self Doubt or Sometimes I Think I’m Super Fat.

Fortunately for me, the key word is “sometimes” — I don’t feel that way all the time or even often.  But every once in a while those nagging feelings of what I think I can’t do come to the surface and take hold like hungry ticks on a fat lap-dogs’ belly.

lifelineA few weeks ago I hoped that someone or something would throw me a lifesaver because I couldn’t breathe.  I am happy to say I found it bobbing up and down in the waters of my mind and I made it to dry land.  I do believe that writing this blog provides me with much-needed therapy.  I started this journey, not because I wanted to become a famous blogger, but because I felt it would motivate me and keep me from quitting.  That’s what it does.  Every post I write and every reply from one of my dear friends; every email I receive that someone new is “following me”, or “liked” my post is like a virtual hug that I feel here in my little “dorm room/office“.  I crave those hugs, I need them.  Sometimes I think I’m In over My Head but I know there are people reading this who believe without a doubt that I’m not; that “I got this”.

The good news is that I signed up for class again this semester! This is a 100% on-line class which fits in perfectly with my hectic life.  I’ve also taken a mental “chill pill'” when it comes to my new job in the new year.  I had to because I was quite literally  making myself sick with worry.  I am learning to say no to some things and how to say, I’m the boss and this is the way I want it to be done. Words I would never have thought I could say, never mind would feel the confidence to believe in after I say them.  But I do.  It’s empowering and it helps me get through the day and start to feel these small glimmers of, dare I say, — success (okay let’s just say, ‘not failures’).

Although its 22 degrees outside and a winter storm is blanketing my home like a scene from a snowpocalypse movie; technically its Spring in the world of academia.  So today its Spring for me too! This semester begins with a renewed sense of hope and a deep sense of gratitude for all of you who, whether you knew it or not, tossed me the life lines I needed.  I have to admit, I didn’t think I would be writing this message this way.  I thought it would be an explanation of why I had to take a short break, and filled with promises that I would return and not let myself down. But that’s not today’s message.  Today I’m still here, I’m still on this journey, and as I look back on the last few weeks, I have to say Sometimes I’m Proud Of Me.

No Crying In Problem Solving

It never fails to amaze me how ironic life is.  The class I am taking this semester is called Problem Solving. A slimmed-up (or down, depending on your view) version of high school algebra focused primarily on return to college adults to meet basic math requirements while obtaining their degree.  There are several variations of this type of course and mine happens to include the added twist of word problems.  Not only do I have the pleasure of being re-taught the magic and mystery of the Pythagorean Theorem but I also get to apply it to “real life problems” by solving something like this:

It costs a business (0.1x2 +x + 50) dollars to serve x customers.  How many customers can be served if $250 is the cost?

Seriously!  There is no way I actually envisioned a scenario where I would now be paying 1,600 in tuition to remind me how much I hated quadratic equations, cubing integers, and solving for the dreaded x.  I go to sleep thinking of that stupid letter “x” and what it is doing to my social life these days.

Taking a problem solving course is ironic not because of my venting about “x” but because that’s what I do in my everyday life.  I’m actually very good at it.  My job for the past five years as an analyst involves analyzing data and coming up with solutions to a myriad of challenges my teams face daily. My email In-box is a repetitive chorus of “help me”. Personally, my friends call me with anything from “where’s a good place to eat dinner”, to, “how can I get rid of 10 extra pounds”.  And there isn’t a girlfriend out there worth her salt that hasn’t been a shoulder to a fellow fallen sister in the problems involved with the game of love.  It’s become part of who I am to solve other people’s problem or at the very least offer up viable solutions for positive results.

Anyone who is in that role at WORK or with FAMILY or with FRIENDS can likely relate to me when I say it can be draining being a problem solver.   If that’s your primary role in all three areas of your life, it can be exhausting.   Yet in many ways it validates me.  I feel needed and wanted and that my opinion is valued and necessary – – that I make a difference.

Recently, I have come across a problem that has thrown even me for a loop.  This one is scary and personal and has nothing to do with the value of pie or the square root of rational numbers.   It has to do with my mother.  In our 40’s, some of us, have to take on a double role – that of parent to our children as well as our aging adult parents.  It’s as overwhelming a task as it seems.  The issues now face you on both sides of the spectrum.  Solving dating and driving issues for your teenager on Saturday night and battling the bureaucracy of Medicare and Social Security for your 70 year old mother or father on Monday morning.

For me, a new problem has recently emerged with my mother, and I wish like hell there was a simple solution in my text book that would tell me how to solve for the sweetest woman who ever walked the planet seeming to unravel before my eyes.  When I read this line back, as I have done several times, it breaks my heart each time.

Tom Hanks said “there’s no crying in baseball” when admonishing the female players in the movie, A League of Their Own; and my friends there are “no tears in problem solving”.  As much as I may want to.  In Math and with my mom, my job is to solve the problem and succeed. That’s my plan…I’ll keep you updated.

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