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Archive for the tag “Old age”

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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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.

Summer or Bust

Summertime is here and I have officially decided to take an official school break. In May, I decided not to register for classes during the shortened summer break, even though it is a good time to take a class in half the time.

The last six months have been a whirlwind for me at work and in my personal life and frankly I needed a break. I haven’t shared it much but my mother has been struggling with some issues that center on being elderly and alone. It became apparent that I needed to take her into my home so that she would be cared for in a manner my entire family felt was necessary.  Moving her into my home and getting her world merged with mine was, to put it mildly, a challenge.  I don’t regret a moment of it and I feel an amazing sense of calm now when I glance over at her and know she is safe and happy.    Each time I hear her laugh at an episode of “The Golden Girls” my heart literally leaps because I am so incredibly grateful and at peace.

However, despite my unwavering love for my mother, I have to admit that I was in no way planning to have a 75-year-old “roommate” at this time of my life.  I am about to clear my house of my 16-year-old “roommate”/daughter who will ship off to college next year. Truthfully, I pictured the next few years with me finishing this college degree, getting promoted to a mind-blowing, internationally based position at work, and yes, finding my Mr. Right.  Ah, Mr. Right…a dashing, debonair, worldly, wonderful man who would sweep me off my feet and bounce me across the globe.  We would go on countless adventures, one more fabulous than the next.  All of them framed in a haze of one more fantastic bottle of wine than the next.  And all of it would be completely possible because I would be unencumbered – nothing holding me at home!  Yes, I know it sounds a bit like a cross between a sappy Lifetime movie, an AA meeting and Season 5 of Sex and The City but hey that’s what I had envisioned…don’t judge me!

Well, needless to say, my daydreams have gotten a slight cramp but it’s early in the summer yet and my hopes are not yet completely dashed.  After all in these first six weeks of summer, I have managed to keep myself busy with what I consider the highlights:

  1. Mowed the lawn 35 times
  2. Cut the hedges 1 time then passed out in the hallway from heat exhaustion
  3. Killed no less than 15 yellow jackets (nasty bees we have here in the Northeast) that somehow manage to get into the upstairs bathroom despite every attempt to keep them out
  4. After everyone goes to bed watching with wide-eyed adoration and horror all four seasons of the A&E series, Breaking Bad on Netflix in my new bedroom/office with the door closed, AC blasting and wine bottle in reaching distance
  5. Travelled to Venice, Florence and Rome ITALY with my gal pal partner in crime, Bonnie, for a 9 day European holiday

Clearly the most significant of those experiences is #5 but don’t think the rest of the list wasn’t without its special moments either. Yes, Italy was breathtaking and I plan on a special post with photos but less I skip over items 1 through 4.  If you’re not watching the show, Breaking Bad, I will just say, you NEED TO BE. Some of you may remember that I tried to watch this a few months back but didn’t like the first episode.  I blogged about it and promised myself to give it another try in an attempt to break some of my own bad habits. I am soooo glad I took my own advice this time around… I really do know what I’m talking about sometimes!

Bottom line….summer’s only half way over and there is still plenty of time to add what I hope are at least another 5 items to that list that don’t include sweat lodge style labor or screaming like a maniac while I flail around the bathroom with a rolled up newspaper trying to kill creepy flying insects. I feel compelled to perhaps do something just slightly more adventurous.  So I am officially welcoming any ideas, suggestions, or even offers from potential Mr. Rights.

No shortage of Mr. Rights in Italy! Viva La David!

No shortage of Mr. Rights in Italy! Viva La David!

The Agony of De’feet’

I’m calling it “Bootie-gate”

Pop quiz: What do Mark Sanchez, My Left Foot, and 3/4 of the students in my pre-algebra class have in common?

Answer: All have experienced the same things in the past two weeks : anxiety, pain, discomfort and embarrassment.

Listen, I’m no “sportsnista” but I do don my Dallas Cowboy sportswear faithfully on Sunday afternoons.  In the pre-season, I talk a good game about how we plan to rule the gridiron and restore ourselves to our rightful place of glory.  Round about Week 3 or Week 4 (even earlier this year), I hang my head a tad lower and defiantly state, “we’ll get ’em next year” and “fire that bum, Romo.  No one, not even I, believes either is going to happen anytime soon.  That being said, even with a dismal 5-6 record, I was prouder to be a loosing Cowboy then to be even remotely affiliated with Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets over Thanksgiving.  I missed the game, but the highlights (or low lights in their case) were mortifying. They were booed off the field at half time by their own fans in their own stadium! Sanchez, the quarterback of the Jets, actually ran with the ball, slipped and plowed head first into the backside of one of his own players!  I think they may be calling it “Bootie-Gate”.  If they aren’t, then I just coined it.  On Friday morning every media outlet from print, to radio, to web were rehashing every dirty Sanchez detail. The team and definitely Mr. Sanchez, know what “DEFEAT” feels like and all the agony associated with it. Just relaying the story makes me wince, and I’m grateful it wasn’t our Romo, no matter what I said about him earlier.

Further north in New England, and a week prior to Bootie-Gate…my Problem Solving Algebra classmates and I, were treated to Test #2 of our season.  It was expected to be a hard exam, much more so than Test #1 and ten times more difficult than our weekly quizzes. When I stepped into the room, however, I felt as “In Control” as Janet Jackson.  Not only had I prepared extensively but I was confidently touting a 98 average and the professor had tapped me as a tutor candidate for next semester.  I flipped the test over and my heart sank.  Gone were the easy, copied from the textbook questions, and in there place were algebraic monstrosities that dared to force us to use the core concepts learned and apply them to never before seen problems.  Hold it a second, this is not what I signed up for!  As I looked at the test, I knew I was in trouble and the happy humming of another easy A, quickly shifted to a sadly, soulful plea of “please, babee, babee, please don’t let me get a D!” I knew if I was sweating the outcome of this test and I had been riding high, then many other students, had to be freaked out.  There was a definite scent in the air…you might call it EAU“DEFITTE”.  Test results came in this past Saturday, I missed class, so I don’t know my grade yet, but I’ve talked to others and for them it was their own personal butt-fumble.

Finally, the oddball of the pop quiz trio, my left foot! What in the world does that have to do with this? Well, call it a silly play on words (or call it an unbelievably clever play on words, if you are so inclined) but two weeks ago my left foot and I underwent surgery.  Not for any cool reason like a sports injury or dramatic reason like foiling a robbery attempt but just your garden variety, somewhat embarrassing, run of the mill reason called a bunionectomy.  A symptom of wearing too high, too narrow, and too small shoes since I was old enough to slip into my first pair of wedge heeled Candies at the ripe old age of 8.  Those shoes were so cute that I ignored the pinching in my toes all Summer long.  I wore them bravely to church every week; no one could have told me not to.  Fast forward, thirty plus years and hundreds of too cute but too small shoes later and I found myself laying on a gurney with a plastic cap on my head, an IV inflaming my arm and an ice-cold, red antiseptic liquid being applied to my foot to prepare the surgical site.  The procedure lasted no more than an hour and when I awoke, there were two victims, I mean patients, on either side of me waiting for their turn under the scalpel.  It’s been a little over 10 days and I have to tell you this is not what I expected, not what I planned for and is a physical pain the likes I which I would not wish on another soul.  “DESE” FEET are what I and my friends refer to as “a hot mess”.

Feet, football players and flunking classmates.  This week they all have come up against something that knocked the wind out of them and set them back a few hundred paces.  None of them, however, have stayed down for the count.  They all have gotten back up, dusted off the pain and are figuring ways to regain their position.  It may not be the way it was before, it may be changed forever, but that’s not always a bad thing.  There comes a time for all of us when we feel defeated.  Something, someone causing pain, embarrassment or discomfort…maybe it’s a workload, your school work, or a loved one, or a boss. Take comfort in my stories of this past week and my poor ugly swollen feet that in 4 to 6 weeks will be healed and like new, and this time buying shoes that fit. And take comfort in my catch phrase: The Agony of Defeat is Always Quelled by the Victory of Resurgence.   I know it won’t garner the decades long status of the Wide World of Sports’ “thrill of victory…agony of defeat” but I’d like to think Mark Sanchez, aka the new Vinko Bogataj, might like it a little better.

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Kalia Kornegay

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