Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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.

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Last night, we had a friend over and Frankie allowed me to get out a dvd of his dance recital when he was three. He was the only boy in his group and he totally stole the show. He doesn’t usually let me watch it so I jumped at his agreement. We laughed and laughed and he kept having me rewind it.

Of course, it was also past his bedtime, but he kept getting me with his manipulative comment of “But Mom, we hardly ever get family time together.” Smartie pants.

We got another dvd. This one he was about 8-16 months old. We had a riot. I forgot that even back then he did an awful lot of performing. He squealed almost continually and Frankie finally asked “How did you guys ever get any sleep?” My dad was getting more quiet the crazier we got. I figured he was annoyed that it was getting so late.

But then it hit me.

I’m sure he was annoyed at the time, but it was also an evening that was BITTER SWEET to the nth degree. In living color, there was my mom, my husband, and our kitty Oreo, all still living and breathing. Wow, how fast life can drastically change.

We lost mom about six years ago. I can’t even believe it was that long ago. She was crazy, like me, and encouraged Frankie’s craziness. She would get such a kick out of him now.

A couple of particularly poignant moments that took my breath away. The first one was on Frankie’s first birthday. There sat Oreo on the chair with Tim standing next to him. It was a shot of the two of them. Who would have ever dreamed than in seven years, they would both pass away within a couple of months of each other? Both from cancer. Weird. Sad.

The second, was of Tim crawling around our living room floor on all fours. Frankie was sprawled on his back, flat as a pancake, giggling at the fun ride. Then he would slip off and scramble clumsily to get back on. Tim looked into the camera and said “This footage is for 15 years from now. When Frankie is a teenager, he can look back at this and remember how much his Dad loved him.” I looked at my friend. She looked at me. And I swallowed hard.

Overall, it was a great night of memories and laughter. Sweet. Very, very sweet. Laced with a background of bitter. Ah, such is life, right?


Not Again….

So those of you that have read Bitter and Sweet, will remember that while Tim was sick, our cat Oreo was diagnosed with cancer. Afer a great month or so on steroids, we had to put him down. Digging Oreo’s grave was one of the last physical jobs that Tim was able to do.

In September of that year (2010), Colin brought home Louie as a surprise. I was a bit overwhelmed with everything else going on the house, but Louie climbed out of the cat carrier and into my lap and started purring immediately. I knew he was just what we needed to brighten our lives.

Last summer, I thought that Louie had diabetes because of some symptoms he was exhibiting. After running tests, they discovered he had kidney disease. It was one of those things that would shorten his life but we had no idea what that meant. Could be years. So we had to start altering his food and eventually went solely to prescription food.

Mid-December, he had another check up and the doc was thrilled. He looked great and had even gained weight. Yeah!!! Last weekend, I noticed he spent an entire day on the bed- morning, noon and night. Never got up. By Monday morning, Colin came to me and said he thought Louie wasn’t doing well. I looked at him and thought “Geeze! How did this happen overnight? He looks thin and like he can’t even sit right.”

Unfortunately, I knew what this could mean. Immediately change all plans for the morning. Brigette happened to stop over and she immediately changed all of her plans as well. I felt sick driving to the vet’s. Was he dying? What would they say?

Our normal vet wasn’t available but everyone there is pretty excellent. He had lost two pounds, which is a 20% reduction in overall weight in just a couple of months. But the blood test results wouldn’t be in until 3 PM. We decided to give him an IV push and try the medicated canned food. I went home on pins and needles. I asked Colin if he thought he would be able to handle giving him IVs every day if that was needed. He wasn’t sure he could handle that.

So I sat by the phone and waited. I walked our dog Taffy and the vet called. She said Louie’s numbers had changed drastically. From 60 to 250, from .2 to 7 or something like that. Bad news, but she had seen worse. I started to ask questions but my stupid phone died. I had to wait another two hours before I could talk to her again.

She gave me information but I felt lost. Was it time to put Louie down? What did it mean? Our regular vet called about 7 PM and I finally felt some peace. She knows our family well and she said key phrases that I can understand all too well. Louie had weeks left, but we were talking about palliative care. I get that term. The fluids could help him tremendously. The key factor was that Louie scarfed down the canned food. Appetite and nutrition intake indicated he had a little time left. The plan was that I would go in the morning and purchase more of the food and the IV bags. I would have to be instructed regarding needles and such. I dreaded it but I knew I would just have to pull it together because it wasn’t about me. Louie was dying and he needed me to help him home.

That night I got up to go to bed and discovered that Louie had vomited all the food plus then some. He looked awful. So at 7 AM I started the calls again. Finally about 9:30 AM I talked to the vet. Was this new symptom a game changer? She said she thought from my conversation yesterday that I wasn’t ready to let Louie go. I told her that was not the case at all. We could face that. But I did not want to live with the guilt of having put him down too early because I was too traumatized to provide him with IVs. That just wasn’t an option for me. Once that clarification was made, the communication was clear. It was time for Louie, no guilt should be felt, and yes, if it were her cat, that was the decision she would make.

Waited for a call and found out we could go at noon on Tuesday. Colin agreed to go with me as he had with Oreo. I held Louie in my arms and our doc blessed him on his journey home after telling him what a special cat he was and how loved he was by his family. I felt him relax in my arms and I knew he was gone. Colin and I bawled like babies.

We brought him home in a box. Goofy to say, but he looked beautiful. Now we had to face Frankie. Frankie sobbed just like us but let me hold him for awhile while he grieved. Then the boys went to the backyard and dug a grave together. The work seemed to calm them and give them closure.

Sad days for us, but we truly are doing ok. Personally, I handled the death much better than I did the hours of not knowing. I can do full-on sad. I am familiar with that and while I obviously don’t enjoy it, I know what to do with it. Just feel it. But making life and death decisions, weeding through medical information… it felt like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hated every minute of it.

Colin and I talked about it on the way home. What’s the alternative? Never get a pet again? We both decided without a doubt that it is still worth it. The love and companionship and connection you feel is worth knowing some day you will have to part. Good life lesson for humans too.