Friday’s New Character – Double Feature!

So in order to effectively tell my story and the family drama that goes with every family, I’ll need to introduce the various cast of characters.  Today I will start with the ones that are pivotal to my very existence – Mom & Dad.

Mom:  Was just shy of 21 when she had me.  She was the last of a very large brood of children – 12.   Lucky number 12 was born when her father was 57 years old, and her mother was 36.  I still can’t wrap around my head that my great grandfather was alive when Lincoln was president.  Mom grew up very poor and lost her mom at 16, and was especially close to her 2nd eldest sister – Child #7 (Whom we will introduce a later date).  Met Dad at work and married Dad when she was 5 months pregnant with me – the only child.  While I was growing up, mom had some mental issues and was heavily medicated and had a few stints in institutions due to several suicide attempts. Her father whom none of the children were close to, died at the age of 82 when I was 4 years old.  I have only a single memory of meeting this man that was my grandfather on his death bed.  I spent lots of time with her 2nd eldest sister during the weekends to give me a sense of normalcy, and when #7 moved away, 3rd eldest sister #10 took over.  Mom and I have always had a strained relationship needless to say.  Growing up she was the mom that was still going to AC/DC concerts while I was in high school.  She was the cool mom to my friends and they loved her and a lot of them called her mom – even to this day.  Moms ways took a sharp right turn when Sister/Child #10 suddenly passed away and she turned religious – something that was never in my house growing up.  To this day Mom continues to try to make up for all the bad things, and I’ve continued to try and be receptive.  Nobody’s perfect but Mom definitely comes with lots of drama and baggage.  My parents are still married after nearly 40 years and it are close to this day, although it took them about the first 20 to get to that point.  Interesting fact – moms family tree and all of the nuts are descended from patriots during the Revolutionary war against Great Britain for our independence of these United States – John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams our 2nd president, and John Quincy Adams, our 6th president of the US are our closest relations.

Dad:  Dad was the youngest of 2 sons born to 1st US born generation parents whose families immigranted from Poland in the 1910s.  Dad married Mom (his 2nd wife) at the age of 25, and I came along 4 months later.  My grandmother, like my maternal grandmother passed away when my father was 21.  Neither my Dad nor my Uncle had a close relationship with the only grandparent I ever knew.  My grandfather quietly passed away at the age of 88 in 2011, my family having no formal services for him – only my parents and I quietly witnessing the burial of his cremains (That where shipped directly to the cemetery) next to my grandmothers casket on a sunny fall day.  Growing up, Dad was my rock, my compass that kept me orintated North during my turbulent childhood with mom’s mental instabilities.  During my childhood, on the weekends when I wasn’t with Moms Sister #7, I would spend time with my father’s brother and his family which like mom’s sisters would play a pivotal role even later in life.  An interesting fact about my father is he did not speak until he was 4.  Prior to that, my father had a secret language with his older brother and his older brother acted as the translator, even more peculiar was that on the same day in 2013, during the exact same time, each unaware of the others condition, my father displayed signs of a mini stroke that his older brother was actually having 1700 miles away – talk about a very close connection!  I was always a Daddy’s girl and probably always will be.  My relationship with my father is far better than the one with my mother.  My father had a stroke of unbelievable luck when he had a near fatal heart attack 15 years ago and waited 3 days to go to the hospital. 2 out of 3 main arteries blocked 100% – leaving doctors perplexed on how he was still alive let alone walking into the hospital.  Today as he approaches retirement age, he continues to work and golf mostly every Sunday and has been recently diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis – which offers little if any treatments that actually work and no cure.  As he has forgone the option of a lung transplant, he currently has a life expectancy of 2-5 years.

The Darkness and The Light

Continued from Part 2.

Divorce brings out the worst in people. Ours took 4 months from start to finish. I wasn't looking for anything, I didn't want money or houses, what I wanted I couldn't have. My husband at times acted like someone I didn't even know – which terrified me. In hindsight, I get that behavior now. He mourned our marriage, he mourned our family, he mourned me. The sad thing is it took me 7 years to understand that, and all the chances I had to come back, but didn't, and it wasn't until I wanted to, that it became too late.

During the divorce I met up with old friends like most people do to help them cope with the stress of divorce. I did just that. It just happened that one of my friends happened to be in love with me for 8 years before my divorce – and I didn't see it. I think you don't see what you aren't looking for. I had my soulmate, the one I wanted to grow old with who I'm left knowing it was the way that maybe some positive would come from it. I wanted my husband to realize the true impact of some of his criticism had on my every day life day after day, and I had hope that he would change, even if it wasn't for me, then maybe for someone else. Either way I needed something positive to come out of the tragedy of breaking up my family when I didn't want to, but I needed a partner not a critic.

Like all relationships, we had our issues and at the time right before I became pregnant with our son, I briefly moved back home with my parents, it was a break – not a breakup. So naturally I didn't see my friends desire for me – he respected I was in a serious relationship – although he didn't like it.

So there I was having a coffee with my old coffee buddy, whom I hadn't seen since before I got pregnant with my son – not even looking for a relationship or a good time. I had just left my husband whom I spent 10
years with – 1/3 of my entire life only 2 months prior. And then something changed – but even today I'm not entirely sure how it happened.

Quite honestly I was interested in rekindling an old romance from my teenage years but he struck too late in the end but I know that I can count on
him for the rest of our lives, we've always been uniquely bounded on a spiritual level.

But I had fun with Mr Coffee, for the first time in a while I didn't have anyone fighting with me. It was peaceful. If my husband, the father of my child was earth, then Mr. Coffee was the sky. They were complete opposites in every single way.

Mr. Coffee was a blue collar stout man covered in tattoos who would tell anyone
to get bent, that combined with my tiny, classy librarian facade made us look like the odd couple. It was a breath of fresh air. No one giving me a stink eye for letting a choice word fly out of my mouth. He was fun, and I had fun with him. My family who is filled with loud obnoxious people he fit right in with.

In hindsight I would've told myself don't date anyone just stick to friends to allow myself the grieving my marriage deserved. But as my husband continued to fly off the handle, it made my new relationship with my old friend Mr. Coffee even stronger. Our divorce was finalized 2 months after I started dating Mr. Coffee in 2010 and my husband and I agreed to keep significant others away from parenting events and pick ups/drop offs out of mutual respect for each other since the one thing we've always agreed on was we couldn't see each other with another person – that even the mere thought of it was torture. If you can believe it 7 years later neither one has had to run into the others new significant other.

9 months into the relationship with Mr. Coffee he proposed and I accepted. Although I didn't even think about wedding planning. Part of me thought I would still go back with my husband. My husband and I even went to counseling which I was not about to tell my hot tempered fiancé while I was engaged as my husband was desperate for reconciliation but something in me didn't trust a change that took less than a year.

Then the unthinkable happened. I lost my job in the middle of the latest recession that November. By February my mother stirred the pot enough and my 1st grade son who has ADHD couldn't cope with all the changes in his life and I worried that all this change was making him much worse as I was getting phone calls from the school on a weekly basis. So I changed custody with my husband and moved out of my parents house and into my fiancée's.

I paid crazy amounts of money to keep my insurance coverage but after 6 months I could no longer pay for it. So it then became the logical idea to get married to get covered through Mr Coffees union which had excellent coverage. So we did just that… we eloped in Vegas. Looking back I should've listened to my inner self that refused to plan a wedding or elope for insurance benefits. Not that I didn't love Mr. Coffee, I just wasn't sure I wanted to remarry, let alone for insurance benefits. But overall things were good as long as we continued to have fun. Which wouldn't last long.

The neck pain I had been experiencing for 3 years was now able to be treated for the time being. Initial diagnosis was fibromyalgia since X-rays shows arthritis and bone spurs, blood work came back fine and MRI of my brain came back normal. It was about during this time in 2015, 3 years since I married Mr Coffee, that my physical therapist suggested I press my doctor for a neck MRI. The results of that MRI would change my life forever as I know it…..

Best Years Of My Life – Part 2

Click Here to Read Part 1

So after falling asleep that Monday night after a long weekend of moving, I felt the tell tale signs of labor – again at 11 pm. I tried calling my doctor who was by herself in her practice to no avail. By 1 am I woke up my partner and we took the 30 minute trip down to the hospital where I expected another showcase showdown between the doctors and my son who already was a trouble maker before he even took his first breath. The nurses didn't even told me my water broke until 4 am. And of course by the time I was 7 cm dilated about 6 am and screaming for the epidural … the doctor was busy with quads and my OB reminding me this is why they call it labor. 4 hours and 3 pushes later our son made his grand entrance at 10:12 am, exactly 32 weeks. The irony of it was I later found an appointment card with my doctor with that very date for 10am, and while I didn't make it to her office, she didn't disappoint and had been there watching over me since 6 am.

He was quickly whisked away to the NICU and would spend 3 weeks there – including his first Christmas and New Years. He finally came home on the 2nd of January and it was a balmy 60 degrees outside – not exactly Midwest winter temperatures. That night we learned that no amount of preparation can prepare you for the lack of sleep. The fact we had a preemie didn't help, he came home in preemie clothes that looked like they'd fit a doll. The drama was just getting started.

After he was born, I had only had him home for 3 weeks when I was forced to return to my job and send him to a daycare a mile away from my office. By this time my partner and I were still working for the same company, had the same boss in the same IT department but he was in a different location and I was still in the building that we first met. I was working Desktop Support and he was doing more infrastructure architectural work.

Our son was constantly in and out of the doctors office, and even had his first PICU visit when he was 8 weeks old for pneumonia. Chronic ear infections and respiratory issues plagued our son. He had tubes put into his ear at 15 months, but he still had issues with his lungs which required nebulizing twice a day and sometimes every 4-6 hours – thus lasted until he was 4 and finally grew out of it. There weren't enough Baby Einsteins to keep his still sometimes. I remember one occasion when he was about 8 months old, he flew his head back while I was holding him while I held "Mr Bubbles" mask over his nose and mouth for his treatment and his head slammed into my nose, if he didn't break it, he came awfully close.

It wasn't until he was 18 months that his health gave us the worst scare a parent could experience. Because he was constantly sick, he slept between his dad and I for comfort. One night my mom instinct woke me up, I felt my sons head and he was burning up. He then started to seize violently, stopped breathing and turned blue. His father called 911, and kept his composure and by knowing me better than he probably knew himself gave me directions that the 911 operator gave him. The seizure had just ended by the time the police officer arrived and I held him while the ambulance transported us to the hospital, his dad followed. Diagnosis: Febrile Seizure. Unfortunately it wouldn't be the last one. You know you have a sick baby when your pediatrician gives you their direct cell phone number – which is exactly what happened.

Going through those first years with our son were a jolt of reality – but no matter how exhausted we were, we took him everywhere. Every single weekend we'd be at a museum, or the zoo, or the park. Apple picking in the fall, pumpkin picking would follow soon after. It was in 2007 his father and I finally got married after 7 years of trials and tribulations, our son almost 4 at the time. Even the wedding sounded like something out of a reality show.

Because we had a toddler, and we were very family oriented, we decided our wedding reception would be in a forest preserve and it would be like a giant picnic with bounce houses, horseshoes, and picnic type food, our guests came in their casual attire as requested. Sounds great right? Well here's a summary of went wrong during the festivities:

  • Reception site flooded the night before with no backup site available. Park rangers were using pumps to try and pump the water out.
  • Because of the strong storms that came through 2 days before the wedding the hotel that my bridesmaids and I had initially booked for the rehearsal had no power and had to be rebooked elsewhere. We were late to the church for rehearsal because of it.
  • Maid of Honor had the stomach flu
  • Junior Bridesmaid vomited at the rehearsal dinner.
  • Cancun, our honeymoon site got hit with Hurricane Dean 2 days before we arrived. That just happened to be the ONLY trip my husband didn't take insurance out on.
  • Our photographer who was a professional, studio and all – was daft. Every picture that wasn't posed was blurry. I was so upset I didn't even bother putting my wedding album together.

Yeah… like I said, at these the drama was free.

Then like all relationships – they need work. Because we were so focused on own son and his myriad of health issues, it left little time to focus on us. I waited 7 years to marry the man of my dreams. We had walked from hell and back, we made it work. Even a lengthy stint in marriage counseling couldn't help my husband see what behaviors I needed him to adjust to make us work. But neither one of us did the homework and after almost 3 years of marriage, I walked away.

To be continued….

Best Years Of My Life – Part 1

Throughout my decades of life I've never done anything in the normal procession of things. IL fell in love and found my soulmate when I was 20…at work (which was always a no no in my dating book). We lived together almost immediately. There are no words to describe how immediately my very essence was drawn to him, it was completely surreal. Almost 20 years later I can still vividly remember looking out of the data center monitoring room where I worked the strangest of hours and see him working on a server in his red tee shirt, khaki cargo shorts, and his beloved Birkenstock sandals. I hadn't even had a date with him yet but somehow I just knew this was going to change my entire world.

At 23, I unexpectedly got pregnant in June with our only child, I found out while he was overseas in Italy celebrating his sisters college graduation with his family and thus he found out while he was on the other side of the world – and yet during those days of being overwhelmed he managed to make me feel like I wasn't alone by sending sweet text messages like it would be ok and I guess we need a bigger place. When he came home he gave me the most beautiful white gold bracelet that came from Florence. Unfortunately he also came home with a blown disc in his back from lifting his mother's suitcase onto the train and I tended to him during his recovery, came home every day during lunch to do whatever I could to help him recover which included a cortisone injection into his spine.

Then more drama hit home, had life threatening complications at 27 weeks during a visit at my parents some 50 miles away and was immediately taken by ambulance (I refused to go by helicopter) to the nearest level 3 NICU which just happened to be the hospital closest to our home and where we planned to deliver at by coincidence and he was right there waiting for me as I arrived at the hospital. He never left my side while I spent 3 days in ICU where the medications that they used made me feel like I was 200 degrees, and he would soak my washcloth with cold water and place it on my forehead – every 10 minutes. He never griped about it, work would wait, and he spent every restless moment next to me for 3 straight days on the standard issue uncomfortable hospital chair that I'm fairly certain he got zero sleep while I toed the line of death. If that wasn't enough, nurses would have to take blood every 30 minutes to an hour and for someone who passes out at the
sight of blood, he took it like a champ.

After that I was immediately put on strict bed rest, doctors just hoping they could get me to 32 weeks, which meant our timeline for our sons arrival was just accelerated by 2 months – while he was looking for our new home. During the 5 weeks between my ICU stint and when I delivered our premature son, we both had stints in hospitals. He suffers with ulcerative colitis and had a flare up that hospitalized him for 2 days and while I could not be there 24/7, bed rest or not, I was going to be there because he was my everything.

Not even a week later he closed on our new home which was 30 minutes north of our apartment. When I drove up that December night, I opened the door and he was there at the top of the stairs and smiled and said "Welcome Home". We ordered some pizza and ate sitting on the kitchen floor soaking in all the drama that had transpired in the last 6 weeks. If my luck wasn't bad enough, I caught some stomach bug that again landed me into the hospital, this time for only about 12 hours. While our family painted our new home in preparation for the move day.

While I struggled to keep to my bed rest regime, things were in full swing for our move, to start our life together as a family. We said goodbye to our little apartment #203 that held so many precious memories and followed the moving company to our new home.

I'm not even sure how he pulled it all off with the craziness of all the drama that transpired between our sons unexpected imminent arrival, a new home, and 3 hospital stints, and in true drama fashion – in the midst of the holiday season – and let's not forget about pregnancy hormones! It all sounded like a bad version of the 12 days of Christmas.

So on our third day of our new home while my better half was at work, Comcast came out to install the cable. This would have been no big deal except the installer spoke very little English and had a very heavy Eastern European accent – who stressed me out by scuffing our freshly painted vaulted ceilings while attempting to access the attic. After that debacle I was happy to see my partner home after a long day. Just his very presence gave me the calmness and serenity I desperately needed. Little did we know when we went to sleep that night, the drama wasn't over yet…..

1st Year – Survived

Today is first anniversary that I was forced into an unexpected retirement called disability.  I haven’t yet reached my 40th and already feel like I’m 85 with what my late grandfather said was “one foot into the grave and another on a banana peel”. But that’s life I suppose – no matter what we have planned for, it could be shaken upside down and inside out like a sadistic magic 8 ball or snow globe that’s nothing but a scenic and detailed horror scene.

I find irony in the stories people read about people overcome great obstacles and they find joy and peace at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe I’m not that lucky, or just more likely I’m stuck in a vicious cycle of denial and anger in the infamous “5 Stages of Grief”.  

Seeing that I have nothing but time on my hands, I’ve had taken a long hard look at my life before life as I know it was taken away and replaced with nothing but physical pain that is nothing like anything I’ve ever had to endure this beast day after day, and I can’t help but mourn and miss my previous life that I will never have again.

In the middle of all of this mayhem, I week after week filled my countless prescriptions, attended my weekly physical and counseling sessions, and still find myself lost in a world that once was and never will be again.  Well at least I can pretend to have a drink in honor of surviving the first year.