Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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What is There to Say in a Pandemic?

I saw a really cute graphic that had two cartoons side by side. One said “introvert” and it had a stick person sitting comfortably in front of a TV/computer thing. The other had “extrovert” and the stick person was screaming and beating their head on a wall.

Even though I am a writer, I am an extrovert. Well, that is an understatement. I am an extrovert times a hundred. Even a beautiful sunset means little to me until I share it with another human. For years I thought there was something wrong with me, but now I understand it is just how I breathe.

That is my biggest struggle with the situation we are living in. I do what I can to refuel but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. Thank God I am still able to do Physical Therapy. I get my temp taken and wear a mask. I’ve grown very fond of my therapist. She works me hard and gives me a lot of her time. She also has a sense of humor. When she asks me to walk backward and then forgets to tell me to stop and I run into a chair, she laughs with me. I asked another patient to tell me when to stop and she agreed. She said Nancy is clearly out to get me.

I also started going down my database (starting with “A” as a true OCD) and checking out accuracy on businesses and then connecting with friends, family, and clients. I hadn’t talked to my college pals in years. We are doing a Zoom reunion tomorrow night. More than one person called me a bright spot in the gloom so that felt great. I’m only on the letter “F” so we’ll see how far I’ll get before we are “released.”

But I have to admit, combined with the five weeks of almost-quarantine after surgery that occurred before COVID19, it is starting to get to me. I wake up with the Groundhog Day feeling so many others have. I find myself blocking video on Zoom business meetings because I start to tear up without warning. It’s not usually full out crying, but I do shed a drop or two. Or three.

Even when dealing with crisis/emergency clients, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that all the outside agencies have also changed their protocols. My normal feeling of competence and the accompanying confidence I’ve developed because of that is wavering on both counts.

And what makes me want to hit my head on the wall harder, is that I’m no worse off than anyone else. Everyone is hit with this. There is no one I can call who isn’t coping themselves. It is almost embarrassing to call anyone, no matter how much they love me, to vent. I don’t want to add to anyone’s already over-burdened lives.

It just occurred to me that even though writing is an introverted activity, it is also a source of venting and purging. So whoever reader you are, thanks for entertaining my feelings. And I think for today I will imagine there are lots of readers, even if there is not even one. I will let myself feel like I’ve connected to many and hope that puts a bit of substance back in my gas tank.

Thinking of all of you as you journey through this.


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No Virus Talk

Instead of talking about the usual virus stuff, (haven’t you had enough of it too?) I thought I would just share some laughs. I didn’t want to write about the craziness in our world or the enormous amount of self-constraint I need not to harm any of the men in my household, so just some light-hearted humor.

In fact, that reminds me of a chuckle. My niece sent me a message on Facebook with a picture of the three munchkins from Oz who sing “The Lollipop Guild.” I thought it was odd but we both love the movie. Those three are funny just to look at. But the next message was the best. “Hoping all the boys there are still alive…” Doubly funny. One because she gets the angst of all the testosterone in the house, and two because of implying the three of them look like the guild boys.

Now let me explain the picture. We went in the hot tub the other day and found this thing on the seat. What the heck? It is the arm of some sort of plastic dude. We haven’t had any kids or toys in the hot tub since… cripes, maybe July. So where has it been all this time? We wondered briefly if someone was messing with us. Anyhow, we had a good laugh about the horror of finding a severed limb in your hot tub. Now, that’s a bad day.

Today, I royally smashed my pinkie and almost fell over from how bad it hurt. (Stop laughing, that’s not the funny part.) It actually bled for a bit which I was not expecting. Anyhow, I asked Tim if he could get me a bandaid. Just a little one I said. It’s my pinky.

He brought a little one but insisted on a good size gob of first aid gel, which I thought was a bit over the top. Then he moves me into the best lighting in the house. He said he needed the counter as well so he could work with someplace to put his things. I kept my mouth shut (I know, it’s a miracle) but I wanted to say, “For God’s sake, it’s a bandaid, not surgery!” I couldn’t believe how serious he was about his mission.

Here’s the funny part. He screwed it up. The bandaid got folded over and he cursed. I could no longer contain myself. I laughed and laughed. He said I was mean and went out to the garage. I went to the door and yelled out, “I love you, honey” to which he yelled back, “Shut up!” (which I also thought was funny).

He was kidding and he gave me permission to write this. I told him thanks for the writing material and he again said, “Shut up!”

Last but not least, we were talking to my friend Star on the phone. We had the speakerphone on because privacy is a thing of the past. We might as well put the speaker on. He is always a welcome call in our house because he is hilarious. Anyhow, he was brave enough to go to the bank to deposit his paycheck so we were having our daily chat. Next thing we know, he has pulled into our driveway. We hung up and went to the window. He yelled hello to us and chatted from his car. We were laughing so hard at our surprise, more-than-six-feet-away visitor.

I think these stories don’t translate on paper nearly as well as I was hoping they would. We certainly found humor in them. Maybe some of you are bored enough that you will laugh too.


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A Boy and His Dog

Taffy

This is the blog I have been thinking about the last six months. And I’ve been dreading it. Our beloved Taffy died on Sunday, March 15, 2020. After all the struggles to make a decision, she died naturally, on her own terms in our living room. We were all around her as she took her last breath.

Everyone agrees. She was a really sweet, special dog. She was my shadow. I was not her mommy. She was mine. It was clear that her purpose was to watch over me and she never let me forget it.

While my heart hurts every day as I deal with the enormous void that has been left, the worst pain comes from the one I am the mommy to. My 17-year-old son. His loss is the hardest for me to accept.

Dave, Taffy

I can’t really say they grew up together. David was seven when we got her. Taffy was between one and three but no one knows for sure. But I look at this picture which was taken right after we got her. He looks so very little. A young boy, thrilled to have a dog. He had lost his grandma, but he had not known the bitterness yet of losing his father. Or of the five cats in a row that he would lose.

David, Taffy

As he got older, the thrill of walking the dog lost its luster as it does for most kids who promise to help with all the extra responsibilities that come with a pet. But he loved her, and Taffy was always very protective of her. Anyone that wrestled with him got an earful from her.

Then came the tragedy that would alter our family forever. Tim designed his headstone. I would bring Taffy here often to walk. The paths were pretty and she liked to roam around. David didn’t accompany us very often. I couldn’t blame him. Frankly, I’m not much of a cemetery person myself.

Christmas- Darcy, Taffy, Dave, Louie

We stuck together though. Taffy was always part of our Christmas photo. The cat would sadly change often, but Taffy was our steady. She was part of our family, no matter what.

Darcy, Taffy, Dave- Christmas card shot

David was absorbed in hockey and was ten-years-old now. His life experiences had aged him far beyond his chronological years. To me, he still looks so young here. Too young to have weathered so much.

Dave, Taffy

Taffy would do things for David that she wouldn’t do for anyone else. The cats were always like that too. He is fun and charismatic with them and they respond to him.

Dave, Taffy

See what I mean?

Dave, Taffy

I never knew what they talked about at times like this, but I imagine you and I would chuckle at their conversations.

Herbie, Dave, Taffy

Clearly, that chair in front of our window holds a lot of memories.

Dave, Taffy

And then those smart aleck times. This was Mother’s Day when I told him the only thing I wanted was for him to take a walk with Taffy and me. He literally took Taffy for a walk. Taffy doesn’t look like she minded one bit. She was in her favorite place. And she was with her favorite peeps.

Christmas photo- Tim, Darcy, Taffy, Herbie, David

And the last Christmas photo we will have together. We will always be a hockey family, but we will no longer have our girl with us. Our steady protector for over ten years.

Watching him grieve over her on our living room was beyond what I could bear as his mother. We knew that it was about our beloved Taffy, but it was also so much more. Whether he knows it or not, I know it is true. Loss after loss. After loss.

I lost my dad when I was 51. He lost his when he was eight. I never saw anyone take their dying breath until I watched my mom pass when I was 40. He watched Taffy die in that manner at age 17. In between, he bravely held his cat while she was euthanized. I just don’t what it is in his head and heart. I don’t imagine he will ever tell me, at least not for a decade or two.

So goodbye my loving, faithful companion. The one who has never left my side, especially during some of the loneliest moments of my life. You will be missed beyond words. But mostly, thank you for loving my boy.

Taffy


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Two Steps Forward

And then one step back. Literally. That is the nature of foot surgery/injury and the healing process. Each time I hit a new landmark I get excited, then get reminded that a new place means new adjustments for my body again. Instead of feeling better, it usually feels worse first.

First week was total bed rest. The original bandage stayed in place. I wore the aircast boot 24 hours a day, even when sleeping. Of course, no driving.

One week later, I was able to get up. I could take the boot off at night. During the day I used two crutches and the scooter when I could. My body was quite sore from both of those aids but I eventually got used to them.

Another week and I was able to take the bandages off for good. Then I had an ace bandage for another week. Then that came off.

Today I had my one month after surgery appointment. I was released to drive, thank goodness. And for the first time in four weeks, I could wear a sneaker. I bought a new pair online and saved them for today. The doc loved them and said they were really good for what I needed.

I’m still supposed to use the scooter whenever I can. I realized that I can actually wear a pair of jeans now. I’ve been wearing sweats for a month. So much I should feel better about.

Now I get to start physical therapy twice a week. And he did mention something about a possible six months more before we know if the surgery was even successful. Ouch.

But the biggest ouch is that my foot has hurt more today than it has in a while. That boot really protected my foot and kept it immobile. I’m sure it will take a few days for it to start to feel better while wearing the sneaker. Instead of celebrating, I’m going to take some Tylenol and then grab a long nap because I’m wiped out.

I have to say, some good life lessons come out of it. Patience for one. I’m also learning a bit about our society and how they treat folks with handicaps. Some people are so thoughtful and kind, others make sure they validate that you are indeed an annoyance with all the help you need from others. I hope I stay sensitive to the people around me once I am not the gimp I am today.

And hey, I am still supposed to avoid stairs when I can. That means no laundry duty for me!


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Snow-vember revisited

We are in West Seneca and in the eye of the latest snowstorm. I have been reposting blogs from years ago on a different site and I was reminded about a much bigger storm we had a few years ago so let’s take a trip down memory lane. It was dubbed “Snow-vember” and we had seven feet of snow dumped on us in one shot.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.

That is my backyard. The fence is about five feet and the snow is almost at the top. Here is another one.

That little black dot is the mirror of our car. We are still not dug out from that. And if the outside perils aren’t enough to deal with, this is my favorite picture of all.

That, my friends, is my kitchen ceiling. The bathroom, basement and upstairs bedroom also have water damage.

My neighbor across the street has been laid up for five weeks after knee surgery. Two houses down, my neighbor is very sick with his third bout of cancer. And about 10 minutes away, my daughter-in-law is on bed rest with a high-risk pregnancy. She has been hospitalized several times. I am praying my heart out that nothing happens while she is unable to get to an emergency room if needed. I will take my problems any day.

But what is my point?

Tuesday, the Sabres decided not to cancel their game. I guess the show must go on. They put a sentence or two on their website telling fans to respect the driving bans in their neighborhood. I thought it was a poor decision, but didn’t dwell on it.

But then yesterday, I heard the Bills were offering to pay people to shovel their stadium for the game on Sunday. I went ballistic. What the hell is wrong with the priorities of our society? There is a damn driving ban in Orchard Park (where the stadium is). Are they kidding? How about they get people together to help dig out the people who are stranded? Especially those with medical issues! The football stadium? They are ticketing people out on the roads. I AM TOTALLY DISGUSTED.

Now I will really go out on a limb here and risk pissing people off. I’m pretty liberally minded, but how about some common sense? How about using prison inmates to do some shoveling? Or even some welfare and unemployed folks who are physically able to work? There are so many areas that have zero snow, or barely a dusting. So let’s gather them and help each other out. But not to shovel out the stadium. Let’s get our priorities straight people!

Ok, I am going back to my shovel now… lol. Really not trying to offend anyone, but some things just have to be said.”

Here I am several years later. There are a lot of great people out there. Unfortunately, I still think society at large has some messed up priorities. Sigh. Also, good to be reminded that I have been opinionated for a very, very long time…Lol.


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Footloose and Fancy-Free

Um, that is not me these days. After 16 months of foot pain, the surgery finally happened last Tuesday. It is called Topaz and they drill little holes in the tissue above the ankle which causes blood flow. Blood flow supports healing. This time, no ice or ibprofin. Inflammation is a good thing because it means the blood is flowing.

If you know me, you are aware I’m a bit of a workaholic which generally means I don’t follow medical orders well. This time, I have been the model, compliant patient. I’m not taking any chances on this.

Compared to other things, this foot thing isn’t so bad. I’ve worn an aircast 24 hours a day for the last week, along with a compression stocking on the other foot. The annoying part is sleeping with them because I get ridiculously hot.

Foot and Ankle Cast - Royalty-free Orthopedic Boot Stock Photo

This morning was the first day I was allowed out of bed. Yesterday was the longest day of my life. I wanted to jump out of my skin. I couldn’t wait for today to try and establish some kind of normalcy again, even though I know this will still take a lot of time. I was out of sorts until night time when I finally figured out what to send Tim for. Lucky Charms. A couple bowls of that made me very happy.

When I woke up, I took my shower with the plastic bag. This time I stood on my own instead of sitting while Tim used the handheld showerhead. I couldn’t believe those ten minutes on my own wore me out. I went back to bed immediately and slept for a solid two hours.

Two out of three meetings were canceled. One out of two sessions rescheduled. Thank God. It’s now 7 pm and I’m worn out, even with the napping. Tomorrow morning I see the doc for post-op and I’m hoping he will shed some light on what is next. The surgery went well, but there is no way of knowing if it worked until I start walking again. Not sure how long that is going to take but I know I won’t shortcut the process. I can’t afford to not have this be successful.

As usual, the thing I have been reminded of is not to take your health for granted. The smallest things are the biggest reminders. I know I can’t walk without crutches and I can’t walk far. But when I sit on the bed and see the dresser a few feet away but I can’t go pick up the comb, that’s when I realize just how helpless I can be. I realize how much I have to depend on other people.

And of course, I realize that so much of my day is filled with things I think are necessary, but they really aren’t. Even though I got cabin fever by the end of the week, there was something nice about the simplicity I was reduced to when I had to stay in bed. Lots of “noise” gets cut out.

Folks around me are going through more difficult things. A surgery with a large mass. The loss of a parent. I will take this small bump in the road. Besides, just about anything is bearable with Lucky Charms!


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Grace Guest House

I had the privilege of visiting Grace Guest House this week. My friend told me to check them out and now I know why. In a world filled with a bunch of nonsense, there are still inspirational things to counter them.

It is one of those beautiful, restored homes in South Buffalo, with embroidered signs and other pictures that warm your heart and calm your soul.

This sign pretty much sums up who they are and what their purpose is. Anyone that is in treatment in a medical facility is welcome here, including any supportive family or friends. Often, family comes in from out of town while a loved one is being treated somewhere, or living out the last days of their lives. Grace House gives those folks a place to stay.

Perhaps family doesn’t live out of state, but lives far enough away that it is a strain to visit regularly. Grace House gives those folks a place to stay.

Perhaps you are the one getting infusions, chemotherapy or some other treatment. You are exhausted and find the transportation back and forth cumbersome and additional, unneeded stress. Grace House gives you a place to stay.

If you have ever been in any of those circumstances, you will know how life-changing it would be to hear, “Rest awhile.”

There isn’t a way to capture the serenity in this place, but I can show you some of the rooms. It’s not a hotel, it’s a home. And they have tried to think of everything to provide convenience and comfort.

Keeping up with meals is a pretty taxing process when you are in a medical crisis. There is a homey dining area with a fireplace that is quite lovely. Cynthia Battista, president, tells me that folks get to know each other and often pull the tables together to enjoy a meal. Did I mention that Grace House can cook for you? No, you didn’t misread that.

For those who find comfort in doing their own cooking, there is a pantry stacked with food, and a lovely kitchen for use. When I was there, a mother was making homemade rice pudding. The room had an aroma of cinnamon. Rice pudding was one of my dad’s favorites. My eyes filled with tears of happy memories.

Then I noticed on top of all the kitchen cupboards, there is a display of sparking angels looking down. It certainly felt like they were overseeing the lives being lived there and sending their blessings down.

There is a chair lift to the upstairs rooms. Grace House is continuing to make adaptations for further handicap accessability. They also provide washing machines and dryers for the convenience of the families.

The cost for all of these things are unbelieveably affordable. For a shared room, it is $40/night. They have access to bathroom facilities nearby.

This is a shared room with a couple of the staff (who are mostly volunteers, by the way). They couldn’t be more pleasant to be around. There are suites available for $60/night that are private. The bathrooms are private. For exceptionally large groups who need to be together, there is a large parlor area off the suite where the doors can separate them for privacy.

Grace House lives by grants and donations. While I was there, several cases of toilet paper arrived from a local business. All of their supplies are given by gracious donors.

Obviously, I was incredibly impressed. The space is somewhere that feels like home away from home. When you are going through some of life’s toughest challenges, there is no way to describe the value of how that touches you.

But mostly it is about what this quote from Mother Teresa says. The love and generosity are felt everywhere. The picture reflected in the mirror is the family that inspired Ms. Battista to create Grace House. You can’t talk to her for more than a couple of minutes before her kind and loving heart send its energy to you.

There is a wish list for them if you, your church, school, or agency would like to contribute and be part of this service. Students and adults alike can volunteer their time.

I look forward to when I can help a client family by providing them this resource. Thank you Grace House, for this desperately needed service, and for providing it with such grace. You have done your name justice.