Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A nightmare...

There are moments from yesterday that I cannot believe weren't all dreams... actually, nightmares.

I'm not sure how it's possible that I am sitting here this morning. That I managed to take a shower and accept the cup of coffee from Patrick after screaming at him as I woke up from a fitful sleep. That sleep held another nightmare. One where he too dies of cancer. A cancer he got from smoking for so very many years, despite my logical conversations, and then anger, and finally desperate pleas. The anger I unleashed upon him this morning was not 100% fair, given that, although it is rooted in a fear I carry with me every day, it was triggered from the real pain I'm feeling after yesterday's ACTUAL nightmares.

Somehow, even though it's impossible, my dad finally passed away yesterday.

I am fatherless.

After I hung up with her, and after I threw up in the bathroom, I picked up my mom and we drove to the nursing home and we looked upon his body and he was no longer in it... Those moments, in that room, with my mother and my sisters... I don't want to remember those. But I fear they will be forever etched in my mind, clear as a bell...

I don't like the idea of"stages" of grief. That suggest to me stages that you actually GET through, instead of the waves of emotions that continually knock you over. I'm not dealing with one stage right now. The shock and the sadness are working right alongside the anger. Sometimes denial and bargaining show up for kicks. And I'm only on day 2.

Of course, having known he was dying since July, and having had him in the obvious end stages of his life this past month, we've already BEEN grieving for what seems like forever. I know all of my family was feeling the same as I was:

"It is insanely fucked up to want someone you love so much to just die."

Being a rational and moderately intelligent person, I knew that I didn't actually WANT my DAD to die. What I ACTUALLY wanted was selfish; I wanted my dad alive and well and making bad jokes at the Thanksgiving table. But instead of that, which was impossible, I had to hope for my dad to be free from the pain. I wanted US to be free from the pain of the limbo we were all living within. We were actively grieving for a man who was still alive. Every day began with the question of "Is today the day?" Every time I said goodbye, I kissed him, put his hand on my cheek and wondered, "Is this the last time? Is this the memory I have to hold onto because tonight, the phone will ring?"

Monday, the day of the actual last day I saw him, I managed to get there in the morning to avoid the stream of people that had filled his room every other time I was able to visit. Don't get me wrong, I am SO GRATEFUL that he had so many visitors, and I don't wish that they weren't there; but I was feeling anxious that the time I was having "with" him wasn't actually WITH him. I needed a quiet morning with him and my sister Vicky. And it was good. And she and I cried with each other, and held his hands, and wiped his face, and told him it was ok to go...

I had time alone with him, for the first time in a long time, and I held him and told him the same things I've said before. I love you. I know you love me. I am so proud you were my dad, and I know you're proud of me. My other sister, Jill, came and then we both had a quiet afternoon together. And we cried and we held his hands and we told him it was ok to go...

And then, it was time for me to go. And this time, as all of the other times before, I put his hand on my cheek and my head on his chest, and I hugged my daddy for the last time and told him it was ok to go now...

I had started making a photo album for him about a month ago, right around the time that we knew he wasn't likely to come back home again. I wanted him to have photos surrounding him, with faces he loved, and stories to share about all of the memories we'd made. Sadly, the cancer was too painful. The pain meds were never able to be on top of his pain AND not affect his cognition. And so the photo album became something else. It became the book I knew we'd bring to his funeral. I worked on it for an unbelievable amount of hours, and it still came down to the final hours of last night, where I realized that I didn't have a picture of So-and-so or that something wasn't straight and it didn't look "right." Feeling the tension and anxiety flooding over me, I rushed through it, knowing it would be FINE and that anyone who felt under-represented in the book would probably understand.

I'm so scared. I'm so scared of what life will look like without him in it. I'm so scared of knowing my mom is alone every night. I'm so scared that my kids and nieces and nephews will lose their memories of him. I'm so scared that I will lose memories of him...

Driving home last night, do you know what made me start crying and screaming again? I had been relatively calm for several hours, and maybe it was natural that it all came spewing out again, but the realization that he would never make potato salad for parties again nearly knocked me over. My mom makes the same damn potato salad, but my dad and I have very similar tastes on consistency and I always liked his ratios and blah blah blah and I started bawling like a baby. He won't make potato salad or Papa's noodles or barbecue on the grill again. He won't be at the head of the table at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, raising his glass and smiling at everyone. He will never cannon ball into the pool with the kids or hide flamingos in my mom's Christmas village. All of the little things that made him so special, are simply no more.

I always imagined this day would be impossibly hard. I had no idea it would be so much harder than I thought...

Friday, November 04, 2016

This Sucks

I've written every emotion I've felt over these past 4 months. I've written them in my head, and never managed to get them onto paper or screen because it's just too much. Too much pain, too much anger. Too many nights screaming in the van until I'm hoarse because no one should have to watch someone they love die like my dad is dying.

So many tears. I cry regularly, and at the drop of a hat. Every drive to visit him, and every drive home, I play the memories of him over and over in my mind, trying to retain them and mark them somehow. Sometimes I'm lucky, and he will be in that in-between state of consciousness where he can nod or smile when I talk about memories or what our family is currently doing. Sometimes, he'll look at me and actually SEE me and the hours of crying on the ways there and back are worth it for that moment of clarity where I can say "I love you" and he will smile and kiss me. 

I'm so tired of this present stage. I'm so tired of him being here, but not actually BEING here. I want nothing more than more time with my dad, and that is what makes this slow death so painful to witness. I don't WANT him to die, but I don't want him to live like THIS. 

I wish so much that I could have one more real moment with him. His last truly lucid moments were agonizing as the pain was so intense that nothing else mattered. Now that the pain is being "managed" with heavy medication, and the cancer is working its way through his brain, it feels like we get to watch him die in a thousand tiny moments...

This is excruciating.

I drove home last night, sobbed at a few stop lights, and screamed several obscenities. If I live long enough, I will have to go through this pain countless times. How many people do I love? Like, really, truly love. Twenty? Thirty? Is this how it will feel each time someone I love passes away? Is it more intense because it is so damn slow and painful? How many times can a person withstand this level of emotions before they crack?

I want my Daddy. I want him to hug me again and call me Ta-ta-wa-ta and make stupid, punny jokes, and tell me where the best sales are at. I want to go to his house with all of his grandkids and listen to them ask for popcorn and ice cream; I want to hear them yell and laugh with excitement over all of the cool ice cream bars he always has. I want to listen to him and Patrick rib each other over their golf scores and marvel that my dad and husband get along so well. I want to see him sitting in his chair on Christmas evening, as all of us are crammed into the living room at their house, presents piled in towers of gleaming colors. I want to take a picture of him taking a picture of me across the room, and know that he is hiding one of his presents under the chair so that he can be the last one to open a present on Christmas day. 

This stage really sucks, but I am not ready for the next one. Not really. But I don't have any control over it. It's coming, and I can feel how close it is every time I say goodbye. Soon, I will live in a world that he isn't in, and there isn't anything I can do about it.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Culinary Fight Club Chicago!

Still can't believe my "baby" is nearly an adult (4 more months till it's official; Hold me). That said, it's pretty awesome to do things with him one on one. We talk and talk without interruption and I am reminded, once again, just how cool he really is. 

His culinary arts program through the local college/high school collaboration is his favorite thing (after computer gaming). I am always thrilled to indulge this obsession and possible career choice (except when he's telling me how wrong I am doing things in the kitchen. Oy.).

Taking Justin to the September Culinary Fight Club in Chicago was right up his alley. 

It really was cool to see the different teams going their own directions, knowing that we were going to taste them ALL. :)
We each had our own favorites, and the food WAS delicious, but in the long run, the best part for me was this:
 Getting to listen to my child (4 more months left!! I'm gonna say it while I CAN) describe his passion for creative cooking was a gift. Though we cannot make it to the October Fight Club, we fully intend on going again!

The next Culinary Fight Club in Chicago is on October 17 and there are still tickets available. Register now and see what the hype is all about!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Culinary Fight Club!

I don't often get excited for blogging events anymore, but when an invite to the Culinary Fight Club at Navy Pier came my way, I could NOT resist. My eldest kid just so happens to be a foodie-wannabe-chef, so this Monday the two of us will be living it up at The Billy Goat Tavern, watching as 3 local chefs battle it out to see who can create the most amazing, perfect bite of food.


Honestly, I would have been happy enough with just the sampling of creative foods; but knowing that 20% of all Culinary Fight Club Chicago Event proceeds benefit feeding the hungry through the non-profit - Fight2Feed, well that just seals the deal on making this event a Must Not Miss for me. 

Interested? Tickets are still available

~ This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.~

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What do you do when your method of release (social media) isn't something you can release your emotions on anymore? What do you do when the bad stuff is just SO bad and SO MUCH and you are overwhelmed with sadness? I am at a loss here. There are too many things to worry about, and absolutely NOTHING I can do about any of them. I want to help my family but honestly, I can't.

I have no release right now and I need to find one again. Maybe make this blog totally private and write all of the things, all of the details, all of the specific shit that is falling from the sky all at once.

I wish certain people lived closer. I wish others hadn't left. I wish so many things.

Fuck. I don't want to handle this anymore.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Well Fuck.

I'm procrastinating like it is an Olympic sport today. I am a gold medalist in this event.

I don't want to see the fear in my dad's eyes and wonder if this chemo treatment today will actually make him feel as awful as the treatments he had 30 years ago. The medical staff insists it won't. They've repeated that his first chemo was one of the hardest and most brutal regimens, and that it isn't even CLOSE to what he will be receiving today...and he has zero belief that they are telling the truth. Honestly though, if I had a traumatic medical experience and then someone said "let's do a treatment with the same name, but it ISN'T the same, we promise"... I probably wouldn't believe them, either.

It's not natural to know that someone you love is going to die. I mean, we ALL KNOW that EVERYONE we love WILL DIE; it's the only guarantee in Life. But to know that a particular person will most likely pass before you do messes with your head.

I cannot describe exactly how this feels... it's a thousand moments of pain each day. Knowing I can do nothing substantial, aside from being there, being present, doing the daily things that need to be done... My sisters, Mom and I are all in the same boat. It is a sucky, holey boat, but it's the only one we have right now, and my dad needs us to keep paddling and bailing it until he says he's done...


I need to cry for a few minutes, wash my face, find something cheerful to wear, and pack a bag of books, snacks, and drinks for a long day at the hospital. I need someone to tell me it will be ok, even though that's impossible because the only way that would happen is if someone could save my daddy...


Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's Not Enough

I'm one of those "lucky" people who remember their dreams. I have vivid, in-depth, multi-chapter dreams which are sometimes so real, I wake up believing in whatever scene my mind concocted. It's not usually a great way to wake up; either I am petrified from the natural disaster that I obviously didn't go through or I am elated (and then destroyed) from holding a newborn baby that never actually existed. Both scenarios aren't super-awesome starts to a fantastic morning. Most of those dreams never actually "leave" me, either.

One particularly horrific nightmare takes place on the section of I-80 that crosses over an enormous quarry. It's so massively deep, you can't see the bottom, no matter how hard you stretch your neck as you're zooming over. In the dream, I spin out, and my van teeters on the edge, dangling but swaying in a way that I know means we are going over, and nothing I can do will save me or my children. The entire dream consists of me looking back into their eyes, reaching for their hands as we start to fall, and calming the panic that is trying to make me pass out. And I repeat, "I love you. I LOVE YOU. I love you..." I can feel the acceptance of the knowledge that this is how my children's last moments on Earth will be, and all I can do is try to make it peaceful...


Corinne has a tendency to ask me deep questions. Shit, all of my kids have that tendency. The main ones being "Why are we HERE?" and "What happens when we die?" These questions are usually asked at the most convenient times possible, i.e. in the van as we're pulling up to a sporting activity. 

My answer to the former is, as always, that we are here to love each other. End of story. We are not alive to build skyscrapers or create "masterpieces"; we do not exist to worship deities or "change the world." We exist simply to love. I know that when I die, I will hold this truth in my heart; I have loved many, I have loved fully, and I have been loved in return. What more can anyone ask? 

My answer to the latter is, as always, that nothing in the natural world ever ceases to exist. It just changes. Trees become logs that burn and become ash; it floats away with the wind, lands on the Earth, and becomes nutrients in the soil so that new trees may grow again. Boulders become sand, and glaciers melt into the oceans. Everything on Earth becomes something else, including energy. Why then would anyone think that the energy that fuels the human heart would ever cease to exist? Just because we cannot fully comprehend what it is exactly that happens when our hearts create their final beats, doesn't mean that the answer to the most existential question is "A Void of Nothingness."


Justin did some shopping for me at WalMart yesterday. He hopped back in the van and said that the one item he couldn't find were the molds for the popsicles I wanted to make at home. "I asked TWO workers, and no one could find them! They think they sold out because they were such a great price."

I told him it was ok. We could figure out a different way to craft the frozen yogurts I was going to make for my dad. Justin loves to cook, and was giving me ideas on different foods to test that are high in protein to help my father build back some of his weight. The idea of him trying to cope with the potential upcoming chemotherapy without even a bit of strength doesn't seem possible. I explained to Justin how important it was for me to do something, ANYthing, for my dad; "And I really just want him to be able to enjoy eating again. Everything tastes bad for him and he just can't palate it. He has to put on weight.... I just want to do something for him, and this is all I can do..." 

I am constantly amazed at how quickly I can go from "ok" to choked up and unable to breathe. Knowing that this tiny little thing I am able to "do" isn't going to make any real difference in my dad's terminal outcome feels like I am looking back at my children in my van dream again. All I can do is look at him and say "I love you. I LOVE YOU. I love you..." But it's not enough. 

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