Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


1 Comment

Grief Brain…Again

Once again, I find myself blaming grief brain. I know I’m a bit klutzy and spacey regardless, but when it gets ramped up, I finally remember that grief brain is a real thing. Some things will make you chuckle. If you don’t learn to laugh at yourself, you’re in real trouble. Other things make me cry, though. Perhaps people in grief should just be locked up for six months or so. For everyone’s safety…

The dreaded yearly mammogram came and went without incident this year. Well, almost. The happy part was that I didn’t have to go back several times and try not to freak out while I was waiting. I got that carnation on the first go. I took the flower, my purse, my coloring book, my pencils, and my half-drank tea and said goodbye for another year. When I came back the woman smiled and said, “I wondered where you were going.” Now I like those cute pink robes they give you, but thank God I realized I hadn’t put my clothes back on before I fully went out into the waiting room.

Disaster averted, I go to the locker room and get proper. I am again out of hands so I put the half cup of tea in my mouth. I’ve got this. Except the damn curtain wouldn’t open up. I look up to see where it is caught and that does it. Tea right down my nose. And all over my shirt. And my coloring book. I swear, it’s amazing I stay alive sometimes.

I am particularly proud of balancing two months of Dad’s checkbook. I always do it to the penny, but this time I couldn’t believe I pulled it off. I was so distraught about all the memories as I was doing it, that I kept transposing numbers and putting things in the wrong column. A few sniffles later (or a lot) I balanced it. Phew.

Yesterday I walked Taffy as usual. She’s getting old and more anxious. Right before we got back to the car she took off. She doesn’t have the energy to do it much anymore so she surprised me. When she bothered to come back, she was covered in burrs. Her tail had two massive balls the sizes of grapefruits. No, I’m not exaggerating. She just looked at me with guilty but pathetic eyes. She knew she was in pain…and in trouble.

I brushed her the best I good and a great number came off while I was in the park. Then I got home with her and sat in the driveway with the scissors. All was going painfully slowly but well until I saw the blood on the concrete. I yelled for Colin. (Sometimes I wonder what that man thinks of me. Then I realize I REALLY don’t want to know.) Best we could tell, I nicked the tip of her tail.

Now there wasn’t a LOT of blood, but it was everywhere. On the walls, the kitchen floor, the bathroom shower, wherever her tail flung around. She wasn’t crying but we were freaking out. Any mom will tell you that she would rather cut off her own hand than one of her kids. Luckily, one of my walking friends is a nurse. Thank God she answered her phone and came right over. She thought it was hilarious but she had the benefit of knowing Taffy wouldn’t bleed to death. Colin and I were not so sure.

I finally ran to the neighbors and got some cornstarch. We dipped her tail in it and the bleeding stopped. Then we just had to clean up the blood, which had dried by then. Today I finished getting the last of the burrs out with the clippers. Tomorrow she goes to the grimmer who will fix her up. I thanked Colin for not telling our Florence Nightingale about the time I cut his hair and snipped his ear. That was the last time he ever let me touch him.

Nothing terrible came of it, but I was still sick all night. My head just isn’t in the game. It hurts to miss Dad so much. It might sound weird, but I am taken aback by how much I miss him. I felt closer to Mom over the years, but Dad has become part of my tapestry in a way that I can’t describe. I’m closing with one of my favorite pictures of us. What you have to see is the smirk in his face. That nails the dynamics between us right there.

2017 Nov 24 (3).jpg

Now I’m going to try to stay out of trouble for the rest of the day. Wish me luck.

Got any stories to share?


6 Comments

GAME OVER

I think I’m officially done. Except I don’t really know what that means. At first, I thought of just crying, “UNCLE!” but that doesn’t seem to cut it. So the phrase that comes to mind is simply, “GAME OVER.”

For the last decade, I have lived my life like I always have. I put people and their feelings first. I suffer discomfort for the sake of others or in order to accomplish some higher goal. I have invested a lot of myself into my neighborhood. I started the block party several years ago and make an effort to have phone numbers and invite people over regularly. Good to have a great relationship with your neighbors, right?

When Frankie was in infant, my neighbor had a St. Bernard. Huge breed, but also an extremely gentle breed. Usually. However, this one decided he didn’t like us. My neighbor asked me for sleepers that Frankie had slept in. She wanted her dog to get used to Frankie’s scent. That way the dog would be less likely to eat my baby for a snack. As a new mom, I can tell you I thought that was pretty screwed up, but I gave her the pajamas and prayed nothing would happen.

Eventually that dog died and then there more. You are only supposed to have two dogs per property, but my neighbor had four at one point. Did I turn them in? Of course not. I wanted a good relationship with them. One time, one of the dogs bit our handy man. Did I turn them in? No, of course not. Then we decided we had to put a fence up. We asked their opinion about the style because we wanted them to be happy with it too. We were sensitive to the fact that they would have to look at it too. The Home Depot people thought I was nuts. But hey, we want a good relationship with our neighbors, right?

The fence went up but I still couldn’t do my yard work without that dog sticking his vicious jaws through the slats as he was trying to attack me. I finally risked the relationship and asked the family to do something. They added chicken wire over the fence so the dog could no longer have access to my hands. It still scared the crap out of me because it clearly had only one mission and that was to hurt us, but hey, the relationship with my neighbors was more important, right?

Then my daughter got married. We had the rehearsal dinner in our backyard. The same dog bit the maid of honor because she was talking and had rested her hand on the top of the fence. Did I turn them in? Of course not. Who is really the idiot here? Me. I’m the one at the fault. Fascinating that when I called to let my neighbor know what happened, she started yelling at me. She said she had put the wire up and there was no way she was putting the dog down. I calmly (of course) told her she needed to take a deep breath. Her dog bit. I never asked her to put the dog down, nor was I yelling at her. I just thought she should know the dog had bitten again.

Then they got a German Shepherd. Didn’t take long for that dog to just eat right thru the fence. Then they had to put up another chain link fence. Then the dog started to attempt to jump over the fence and was in danger of doing so. They had to add yet another layer of fence. Now that dog is even muzzled. But hey, as long as I don’t hurt their feelings, I can put up with anything, right?

They have had five dogs since I’ve lived here. Three of them have been vicious. No one can believe what I put up with when they come over. It’s impossible to describe if you don’t see it yourself. It’s not just like an annoying dog barking. They lunge at the fence and growl and bark and make you shake. And I just look at people at say, “But we like our neighbors and I want to keep it that way.” When you leave your dogs outside 24 hours a day, when you don’t walk them or socialize them, they become like wild animals. Savage.

Monday was November 2 and it would have been Tim’s 54th birthday. I texted with a couple of the kids in the morning and I thought it seemed like it might be a bearable day. That is, until about 10 AM when Colin came bursting in the house screaming my name over and over.

Same dog that has bitten twice on my property, same dog that I found out has bitten the neighbor on the other side three times, brutally murdered our beloved cat Matilda.

Matilda

Matilda

She was barely a year old and she was beautiful. She was an extremely gentle kitty. And she made the hideous mistake of walking home near those dogs. Poor Colin. He heard the screams. He ran over to their yard, trying desperately to get his kitty from the mouth of the dog. When my neighbor finally heard it, he came out and got the dog to drop her. That was when Colin came in the house screaming. We rushed her to the hospital. They tried CPR, but it was too late. Did you know that when intestines are punctured there is a putrid smell? We couldn’t bear it.

All I can say is, our household has been suffering the last week. The closest way to describe it is like suffering from PTSD. The kids have decided the only way those people could possibly understand what we are feeling, is for them to be forced to watch their precious dog be eaten before their eyes. They need to hear the screams. They need to smell the aftermath. And then every day afterward, they need to hear and see the killer whenever they dare to walk outside their home.

Because that is what it is like for us here. There is no peace. There is no escaping it. Those three dogs are outside and they still bark and still lunge at us.

I don’t give one flying fuck that our cat was in their yard. I don’t care that our cat was an indoor/outdoor cat. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS. IT WAS NOT OUR FAULT. THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

Even the dog warden said that being territorial is what is normal. Killing is not. Dogs know the difference between a wild squirrel or rabbit. They DO NOT KILL DOMESTICATED ANIMALS.

I will tolerate nothing less than that dog being gone. Terminated or moved off the property. Even as I’m writing this, my dog Taffy is pacing around the house and barking because those dogs are outside going nuts at our fence.

Game over. I’m not the bigger person. There are no cheeks left to turn. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS, THIS IS NOT HOW DOGS ACT, and THESE ARE NOT DOG LOVERS. Bullshit.

No more neighborhood parties. No more bigger picture. My kids are going through hell. I am going through hell. This is MY fault for not turning them in dozens of times. I will never make the same mistake again. This is not just, “Oh that poor family, they’ve gone through so much.” We didn’t just lose yet another pet. She was brutally murdered. We are victims of a violent crime. And the stupid system protects them, not the victims.

We can’t use pepper spray because if it injures the dogs, we are liable. Yet their dogs can KILL our pet, and nothing is done. In what world does that make sense? Oh yeah, in America.

Game over. I am officially going reclusive. I can’t invest anymore. I can’t try anymore. I can’t risk anymore. I will just keep to myself and be like most people. They won’t get involved or stand up for us because no one wants to ruffle feathers. And hey, Matilda wandered in their yard so that makes it all ok.

BULLSHIT. Vicious dogs don’t belong in friendly neighborhoods. When a toddler or child gets their arm or head chewed off, then everyone on this street should be held responsible for allowing this dog to be here.

As my kids say- and I have to agree with them- anyone that makes these kinds of statements:
“Dogs will be dogs”
“Cats are too curious”
“I’m sure they feel bad”
“Just let it go”
“Cats shouldn’t be outdoors”
“Oh, this is a shame”

My kids say all of these people that don’t get it, need to watch something special to them die. This was not unfortunate circumstances. This was negligence, wrong priorities, insensitivity. Completely unnecessary. And my kids and I have had enough.

GAME OVER.


6 Comments

Icicles

I was talking to my graphic artist and asked him what I should blog about. He said icicles because he hates them. The snow and cold is kicking his butt like it is for everyone in this area. He knocks the icicles down and they just come back. But it made me think about things in our life that we have to do over and over again. Here is Frankie and one of the pictures from the Snow-vember storm:
Dave

You might remember the pictures on my blog from that storm. I had water leaks in four rooms. I had the contractor AND the roofer come out and check things out. I thought I was being smart. I knew not to spend the money fixing the interior of the house until the problem was fixed on the outside. BOTH guys told me it was a fluke. There was nothing wrong with the roof and unless there was seven feet of snow again, I was safe to fix the inside.
20150212_162031_resized

That is a photo of the new leaks across my kitchen ceiling. Talk about doing things over and over. Thirteen hundred bucks thrown away from fixing it the first time. I could have screamed. Or fainted. Or both.

I know you have seen pictures of the kittens we got for Christmas. I wanted to add joy and life to our dead house. Well, they have certainly added to our lives. Ringworm, that is. Long-haired Herbie had to go back to the shelter for treatment for three to four weeks. We are treating Matilda here at home and hoping Taffy, the dog doesn’t get it. Did I mention that Frankie, myself, and our dear friend, Karen got it? We are all in treatment too. I won’t send you pictures of that. I called in the reinforcements and several of my friends came and helped me sterilize the house. Vacuumed all three floors. Shampooed all three floors. Washed over 20 loads of laundry- literally. And cloroxed every surface, all three floors. Let’s just hope we don’t repeat that one again. And did I mention that I have the best friends ever?

Just a little side note to add to the Match stories. I was emailing a guy back and forth on Saturday for quite a while. Then he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was sterilizing my house because of ringworm. He never wrote back again. HA! Coward.

But you know what? I swear that acupuncture must be working. It was one hell of a stressful week with truckloads of drama to boot. But I didn’t crawl under my bed once. Not once. I didn’t get admitted to a hospital. I didn’t cry and fear I wouldn’t stop. I just dealt with all of it. All of it.

Poking yourself with needles over and over again seems like a pretty insane thing to do. But I tell you what. I plan to repeat that cycle as many as times as necessary ‘cuz the proof is in the pudding!


3 Comments

And Whiskers on Kittens…

For those of you that have followed my blogs for a while, you know that last year right before Christmas, we lost another cat. It was the fourth one, with three of them being just since Tim was diagnosed. We decided as much as we love kitties, our hearts couldn’t afford to be broken anymore.

This year I was having a more difficult time than usual knowing what to get Frankie for Christmas. All he wanted was gift cards. That’s fine, but I didn’t have any gifts for him to open under the tree. I started thinking about how a new kitten might make life a little brighter in our house. We have been a bit “dead” the last few months. Plus, I have been struggling with my distant relationship with Frankie and having a kitten downstairs would probably draw him out more. Maybe getting a kitten rather than a cat might make a difference as far as health and longevity. I would still rescue one from a shelter, but maybe get a young one…

Then I would talk myself out of it. I know Frankie would love it, but who am I kidding? I will be the one to clean the litter, feed her, take her to the vet, etc. I can barely keep up with laundry so why add more work?

But I went to the shelter anyway the day before Christmas Eve. Funny how things work out. There was no one in there with us but the volunteers. Turns out I had met her before when selling my first book. She remembered me. A gray kitten caught my eye. But then the one underneath kept batting at us. We got them both out to play.

I asked her how people ever decide. I wanted to take all of them home with me. Then she made the death statement. “I will give you two for one today.”

Damn.

I could barely talk myself into one. No way I can take two of them. People tell me that cats do better in pairs. They keep each other company and all that jazz. Then I even had the morbid thought that if one of them died, at least the other one would be there. Turns out, Frankie made that exact statement to me later. But the truth of the matter is, it didn’t really have anything to do with that. I just couldn’t bear to leave them in their cages. Besides, who am I to argue with a bargain?

While I was filling out the paperwork, about 15 people literally started filing in to look at cats and kittens. I guess it was meant to be. If they had been in there earlier, it probably would not have even crossed my mind to adopt two. But there wasn’t another family in sight while I was deciding.

Christmas Eve after church, we were driving home and I told Frankie he was getting a gift early and it was going to be a surprise. Not knowing was killing him. He pounded me with questions but I led him down the wrong path and let him guess in the wrong direction. I had Colin videotape his reaction when we walked into the living room with the babies.

Now, for you conservative and reasonable parents, you may think this next part was awful. But I got it and it cracked me up. Frankie was stunned. Then he slowly said, “H..O..L..Y S..H..I..T!” He was delighted. And thrilled.

IMG_1149

Meet Matilda (on left) and Herbie (on right). Not my choice of names, but Frankie is the boss on this one.

We had a big windstorm during the night. Taffy (our dog) freaked out all night. Between him and the kittens, no one but my dad got a wink of sleep so we were exhausted Christmas morning. If I wanted to change the dynamic of the house, I was most certainly successful. But they are precious!

As I’m blogging, I am in the hospital with Matthew and his wife. My daughter-in-law is in labor with their first baby. No action yet, but I will be sure to keep you posted. The winds of change are blowing…


2 Comments

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

TaffyYa think? My daughter Emily is in Georgia and its been six degrees even there. Crazy.

Don’t those of you that also live in the Buffalo area get tired of people saying things like, “But you live in Buffalo, what do you expect?” I’ve lived here for all of my life other than eleven years in the Windy City, which is also quite cold in the winter. I’m not surprised by it, but I don’t think you ever get used to it.

And those of you that know me, know I’m a great big baby. I hate being cold. And I hate shopping. And lately I’ve had a lot of shopping to do and errands to run. So I’ve been doubly whiney. Errands and zero degrees at the same time. Big whining for me.

My dog Taffy doesn’t get it. She loves the snow. And she wants her two-mile walk every day no matter how cold it is. She has one of those faces that is a sad puppy dog face, even when she’s happy. So now she is really laying it on thick. She has not gotten nearly as many walks as she usually does and she looks pitiful.

I bought some long underwear on one of those shopping excursions. Boy, am I glad I did. This January, I had another one of my “I must purge my house” months and got rid of a bunch of stuff. In my bedroom, I came across two pairs of thermal underwear. I hardly ever wear them, so who needs two, right? So I donated one pair to the give-away box. I went to put the other pair on the other day and it was about three sizes too small. Me and my organizing. I gave away a perfectly good pair of thermal underwear and now had to go out and buy another pair. In the freaking, freezing cold. Brilliant. That will teach ya.

Frankie and Colin still go outside and toss the football around. I watch from the window and think about how no matter how hard I try, I will never understand the male species. Are they nuts?

I love that Christmas duet. I sang it at Karoake a couple of weeks ago. You don’t have to convince me. I will just stay in and let my mother and sister and neighbors start to worry and talk because “Baby, it’s coooooold outside.”


4 Comments

Holiday Parties

Holiday parties. Mine is a different one. It’s a pity party. So if you want to skip this blog, feel free. If not, grab the kleenex.

I know that life isn’t fair. I know that suffering is not distributed evenly in life. But sometimes, that just plain pisses me off.

Everyone goes through loss. Everyone loses loved ones. Everyone loses pets. There are definitely people whose life is much, much worse than anything we could experience here in the United States. However, I think I could make a case for having a little more than our fair share of unfair.

In 2007, we lost my mom. She was my favorite person. Frankie was four years old. The year she died, I attended another 16 funerals that year. Most of my family went to almost as many. Sixteen! That’s just cra-cra. (Just learned recently that’s another term for especially crazy.)

Three years later, this is how our lives went. Tim was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died five months later. While he was sick, our cat Oreo was diagnosed with cancer as well. We treated him with steroids and lost him a month later. The scene was a tough one. No one escaped the irony. We knew what else was going to happen in our household. One of the last physical tasks Tim was able to accomplish was digging Oreo’s grave. Two months later, Tim was on steroids. During that time, Colin brought home another cat- Louie. He was great and brought us smiles when we needed them. Then Tim passed away.

The next summer, we had Frankie’s teachers over for a swim. While we were all there to watch, my niece’s husky suffered some kind of stroke, fell in the pool and drowned. I was so so so angry. Really? Who has something like that happen to them? Almost no one. And yet the family that just lost their husband and father were the lucky recipients of that experience.

A couple of weeks later, Louie was diagnosed with a kidney disease. That led to a very difficult conversation with Frankie. I had to explain that Louie would not live to be an old age. I was just writing about this in the new book. I had forgotten how gut-wrenching it was to watch Frankie grieve. He asked a boatload of tough questions about his dad dying and how much it hurt to know he would lose his cat too.

The next Christmas, we lost Louie. Colin had gone with me when we put Oreo down, and he accompanied me with Louie as well. We brought him home in a beautiful box. Frankie said his sad goodbyes and the two boys buried him in the backyard near Oreo.

Frankie started bugging me about getting a new cat a few months later. I told him we wouldn’t just go get a cat someplace, but that we would wait for the right one. I knew we would hear a story at some point about a cat that desperately needed us and we would be ready for her. As summer died down, things started to change. I started to blog about how it felt like spring and maybe we were finally turning the corner. The neighbor called and said her daughter is a vet and they had a cat that needed a home. Bingo.

We brought her home and it was clear she had had a rough go living on the streets for a while. Frankie wanted to name her Football, and I just couldn’t bring myself to letting him do that. I compromised on Jill, named in honor of the Buffalo Jills. Frankie adored her.

Things continued to change. I actually met a man that we both thought was the ticket. I guess all of my family and friends thought the same thing. He had kids too. We even took a vacation together with the boys and had a great time. I knew that Frankie and I were experiencing something new, that was really something old. We were a real family again. Even though we have lots of amazing friends and family, it’s not the same as being a family unit. We finally felt whole again.

The relationship ended up abruptly and without warning in the beginning of December, just in time for the Christmas holidays. We went from being truly excited again, to feeling the loss again. This time, the hole felt even bigger than it originally was.

The kicker? Jill started drooling which seemed odd. I looked it up on the Internet and made an appointment with the vet. Most likely reason is a tooth that needs to be extracted. I knew it might be costly, but maybe that was why she wasn’t eating so much. I think my jaw truly hit the floor as I set on the bench and listened to our very loved vet explain to me that Jill had a cancerous tumor that had literally eaten her jaw away. The only compassionate option was to put her down.

ARE YOU F*****G KIDDING ME?

I thought she needed a tooth out. I couldn’t believe it. I dreaded going home. How on earth was I going to tell Frankie?

I took him into my bedroom and gave him the news. He sank down to the floor, buried his head on the bed and just sobbed. He cried. Then I watched my little Colvin man. At age 11, he is already a Colvin pacer. He paced around the room, cried, and then asked questions. But she doesn’t look like she’s in pain! How can this be true? Yes, he wanted to come to the appointment in the morning. I had been right in what I suspected. He said he had one regret in his life and that was not being there for Louie when he died. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again. More pacing, more crying. Then I brought Jill in the room and in his usual grown-up way he told me he wanted a little privacy with her. He locked the door and spent another 30 minutes with her before he reappeared.

This morning at 9:00 AM, we took her to the vet. She came in today, even though it was her day off. She had been there for Oreo and Louie. She has a lovely bedside manner and gives a special blessing to them and sends them on their journey. You don’t find professionals often that care like that anymore. Frankie wanted to hold her while it happened. Jill purred right up until the second she died. Me and the boys cried throughout the process, then they came home and buried cat number three in the backyard.

Then the usual rituals. Carrying that stupid empty cat carrier back in the house. Putting away all the food and the litter box. Washing the bedding because she had a terrible sick smell due to her infections. Putting the empty envelope aside that was budgeted money for animal expenses. I had to put the balance on the credit card. I didn’t budget for two animal deaths in the same year.

Things like this happen to people all the time. But I can’t help but feel overwhelmed for my brave 11-year-old. My friends keeping telling me he will be a strong man, and a compassionate one. But what if he just stops attaching? He has already experienced the death of three pets. He lost his grandmother. He lost his father at age eight, for God’s sake. And then he lost what he would have loved to be his “new” family.

I’m been saying some vulgar holiday sayings that make me chuckle through the tears. Things like “Merry F******G Christmas.” Brigette came up with the best one yet today. Fa la F*****G la… sung merrily along. I actually laughed out loud at that one.

So this year, my holiday party is a pity one. I will bounce back. Frankie will before I do. We are a damn, strong family. But I think we deserve some time to be pissed off at the bad luck we seem to have. Feel free to comment, but comments that acknowledge what we are going through are more appreciated than any that tell me I should just focus on the positive. Even though it’s true, I’ve earned a couple of negative days.


2 Comments

Patterns and Such

I saw my spiritual director Ellen again today. She is a calm soul. No matter how chaotic I feel when I go there, I end up leaving feeling more sane. I told her today she is like a “deep breath.”

Today we were talking about various subjects and I realized that it was pretty obvious that I choose the same type of thinking in many areas of my life. For lack of a better word, we were talking about openness.

For those who know me, they would laugh at me saying I’m a bit anal. A bit OCDish. They would laugh at the “bit” part. But on the other hand, I am very open and flexible which is kind of an odd mixture.

It starts with my dog Taffy. Frankie gets frustrated with me because Taffy runs away regularly. Ultimately, it is my fault because I don’t leash her very often. It is a little embarrassing because when your dog runs away a couple of times a week, you leash her, right? If she ever got hit by a car or something, I would never forgive myself. Frankie would never forgive me. Keeping her on a leash is actually for her own good, right?

But I can’t stand to leash her. We go in the creek or the woods almost every day. Most of the time she doesn’t go far. She just likes to sniff around, hunt a little, and then trot to catch up and will go ahead of me for awhile. If she chases a duck, deer, or rabbit (or whatever!) she runs so fast and free. She loves her little life. She loves her independence. It’s not that she wants to run away from me, I don’t think. She is my shadow. I can’t even go to the bathroom without her being next to me. But she just loves to be free and go at her own pace.

The trade-off is, that if she runs, I really can’t be mad at her. I get mad at her anyway though and I have spent countless hours talking with her. I explain clearly that if she likes to be off the leash, then she can’t run away. I think she is listening intently but she obviously doesn’t understand.

So am I reckless? Irresponsible? I hope not. I choose to be “hands off” as much as possible and most of the time it’s not a problem. But the price is when she runs I have to worry and run around like a big goof looking for her. I have to deal with Frankie being disgusted with me. But when I see her run in all her glory, I have to admit, it’s worth it. My “parenting”style has its drawbacks, but it sure has its good moments too.