Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Screwed Up Priorities

Frankie is an avid athlete. He gives 110% for any sport he plays. Currently, he is a cross-country runner and a hockey player. You can see his effort and passion just by looking at him.

DSC_5798.JPGI have been making sure lately that I am thanking his coaches. When I go to meets or games, I am often appalled by the behavior of other coaches and parents. We have truly been lucky to have had great role models 90% of the time.

At a recent hockey game, I was sitting near a kid who looked like he was in sixth or seventh grade. He yelled on and off during the entire 75 minutes of the game. His mother sat next to him not responding in the slightest. He was belittling the referees by calling them “zebras” and “blind zebras” over and over again. At some point, everyone gets frustrated with refs and yells out, but there is a difference when you are denigrating them. If for no other reason, this young kid should show respect to them simply because they are adults. What is this kid’s future going to look like?

Cross country showed some unsavory characters as well. One coach was screaming at the guys, “You are running against these guys. They are not your friends. Stop running with them.” I can’t give you the intonation in written word, but it was awful. Frankie’s team supports each other and have each other’s backs. They cheer each other on and want everyone to be successful.

The worst was when I was talking to the girls after their race. They were talking about the moms from one of the other teams. She said one mom yelled out to her daughter, “At least you can burn off those calories you ate last night at dinner.” I was proud of our girls for realizing that was inappropriate. Plus, they had seen how that girl reacted to her mom and it wasn’t good. All I could think about was how she was a shoe-in for developing an eating disorder.

Competition is good for us. It motivates us and challenges us. Not everyone can have a trophy. But what I adamantly believe, is that my son needs to be a great human being first, and a great athlete second. Winning is NOT everything. Character IS everything. I’m extremely grateful for the coaches and parents we are surrounded by that seem to agree with that.

By the way, I’m pretty damn proud of Frankie- his skills as well as his sportsmanship. Well done!


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Minor Frustrations

Last weekend, Frankie took a hit in his last hockey game of the season. I watched his teammates huddle around him, probably so he wouldn’t go after the kid and get suspended or something. It wasn’t necessary because I think it will be a long time before he finds himself in that situation again.

A few minutes later, he skated off the ice. He never does that voluntarily so I knew something was up. His coach told me later that he took that hit to his head and was feeling dizzy, so he removed himself from the ice.

Of course, Frankie said it was no big deal and he didn’t need any followup. The problem is, I’ve been following Dr. Daniel Amen online (see my spect imaging blog) and know just enough to make me dangerous. Head injuries are nothing to mess around with. At the same time, I don’t want to over react either.

I sought out a professional opinion and received the name of a pediatric neurologist. After spending a few days playing phone tag, I spoke to a nurse who wouldn’t say one word to me other than he needs to be a patient before they will talk to me. I get in the age of law suits that docs have to protect themselves. And I get that it’s generally bad practice to say too much without seeing a patient. What I was looking for was general information and protocol. I expected something like, “Well, you know of course it is best to come and be seen personally by the doctor. We think that any time there is a hit to the head, no matter how big or small, it should be followed up with an x-ray.” Or “You know of course it is best to come and be seen personally by the doctor. Generally though, if there are no symptoms such as throwing up or blurry vision, there is no need for an x-ray.” Docs and nurses give that kind of advice all the time. Every time my dad is released from the hospital they say, “Call us if he spikes a fever or vomits.” Is that any different?

I emailed back the first physician and got back a curt reply. I realize that I offended him which I certainly wasn’t trying to do. He said that a doc shouldn’t say anything without a personal evaluation (which I wasn’t asking for specifically, just for some direction about how to know what signs to look for if further followup is needed). He also said that is how law suits happen (which I know would be awful, but then it supports by original complaint, it comes down to money now most of the time).

He also said that I could find generic information online. I thought docs usually hate when patients do that. I wasn’t trying to be lazy. I actually asked the nurse if she could tell me any sources of information that are credible and reliable. She wouldn’t answer that either. His last comment was that this doctor was ethical. I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t talk to him, only his nursing staff.

I don’t want to be a cynic. I don’t want to be part of the problem. But how do you not end up feeling like in the end, it feels more like it’s about getting to bill us for a patient appointment?  And for a specialist like that, I’m sure it would require a referral and more extra steps. I just want to be a good mom. Not over reacting, not under reacting.

I will do my own research, but I stand by my reaction. I’m very disappointed in the response I got. There are ways to give out good information and still cover your ass, but I guess you would have to want to.


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Pit Bulls and Hockey Moms

I have a sign in my basement that says, “The only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom is lipstick.” It reminds me of that NHL commercial that used to be on. Two men get on an elevator wearing rival team jerseys. The next time the door opens they both come out looking beaten up. The line is something like, “hockey fans are a different breed” or some similar sentiment.

I get it, but I have to admit I haven’t fully acclimated and I probably never will. Frankie got into his first real hockey fight last weekend and ended up suspended for three games. People of all ages and genders congratulated him for a defense man’s job well done. Even my counselor said that it was good that he was such a tough player. It’s needed in a sport like that.

I repeat, I get it. But I had a stomach ache driving home from that game. While I can mentally wrap around it, every time he checks hard or looks like he might scrap, I stand on the bench, frozen with my hand over my mouth. I will never get used to watching my son in those situations. I figure everyone else can high-five him, but I just can’t. I wouldn’t scold him, but I just can’t bring myself to cheer him on. I worry to death about him.

At another game this week, I was hanging out with a bunch of parents. Frankie had told me they were playing a team that hadn’t won all season. I felt bad for them before I even got there. I remember the year Frankie was on a team like that. It was torture to go to the games. This night, the opposing team was short players too which meant the kids on the ice were utterly exhausted. I kept watching the goalie and seeing his head hang low every time our team scored against him.

Finally, I couldn’t help myself and just blurted out how sad the goalie looked. The parents started to chuckle and one of them turned and said, “Spoken like a true counselor.” That did it. Everyone cracked up, even me. I really am the social work type without even thinking about it. The jokes just piled on after that. They suggested I go over to the glass and try to talk to the poor kid. Maybe I could offer him my card and a free session. I could say things about his self-worth. You get the gist of it. It was all in good fun and I had to laugh with them and even played along with it.

Yep, I’m not a true hockey mom. I just don’t have enough pit bull instinct.

Actually, I have to admit, I’m more than okay with that. In fact, I hope that part of me never changes. (But let’s not tell Frankie!)


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Deja Vu

I had a visit from Tim the other night. It didn’t come in a dream or in the form of a hummingbird. He came embodied in his now 14-year-old son, Frankie. We have season Sabres tickets (NHL hockey). Tim had them for years and years. When I first met him, it drove me crazy. I thought the household passion for hockey was ridiculous. I remember Colin and Matthew playing mini-stick hockey in the living room and I would say in disgust to my mom, “Who the heck plays hockey in the living room?”

Of course, I have had to eat my words (and my attitude) about a thousand times since them. Frankie and his brothers and friends still play mini-stick hockey all the time and of course, the best place to play is in the living room. I get it now.

We often struggled financially for the first few years of our marriage. I finally saw a purpose for those damn tickets when the Sabres made the play-offs. People could sell their tickets for enough money to pay for the entire next season! Tim was mortified at the mere suggestion of  selling play-off seats and I couldn’t believe it. Then I went to a play-off game with him. Holy cow. I couldn’t believe it. The energy was out of this world. I never asked him to sell those tickets again. The Sabres in the play-offs? Priceless. No amount of money would be worth it. (Ok, maybe a million bucks or something.)

Usually Colin and Frankie get the tickets. They are super great seats. Here is our view of the ice:img_20170110_185749335

See what I mean?

Anyhow, I decided to take Frankie to the game this week. He is a teenager, so of course he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. In fact, he said no at first, but then he came to his senses. Now, he was only eight-years-old when his dad died, but sometimes it freaks me out by how much he can mimic him. Part of me was thinking that I’m the parent so I need to put my foot down. Then I thought better of it and decided not to rock the boat any more than was necessary. Getting him to spend the evening with me was miracle enough.

The first argument, I knew, was going to be parking. Tim knew where to park so you didn’t have to pay. I would only go to one game a year so I would tell him that I wanted to park close and pay. It is cold and miserable in Buffalo in the winter, but he was driving so I always ended up walking and freezing my ass off. Frankie is quite indignant about paying for parking. He thinks it’s ridiculous. It was raining and the winds were horrid, but we parked where he told me to (which was of course, where his dad used to) and walked to the arena. I was cursing under my breath…LOL.

I tried to engage him in conversation throughout the game, but unfortunately I am hopeless. I kept saying the things that absolutely drive him bonkers. Such a woman. I don’t get the intricacies of the game so I comment on things I know. “Hey, number 90 is Ryan O’Reilly? He is the fathead you got for Christmas right? I didn’t realize who he was. He is my favorite player.” Frankie looks at me in shock. Why is he my favorite player? Now I am silent. I can’t possibly explain to him that last year when Emily was in town, she and her friends and I went to a game. Number 90 always warms up the same way and he is different from the other players. He does these stretches that look incredibly sexy and naughty on the ice. I just tell Frankie, “No reason.”

More dumb comments from a mom. Hey, a lot of the players have beards now. What’s up with that? What will they do when it is play-off time when they are supposed to grow beards? Again, Frankie just says, “Grow their beards longer.” He hates that the only thing I seem to notice is the looks of the players. What can I say? I’m a single woman and some of the players that still have teeth are pretty hot.

A second miracle occurred. Frankie agreed to a selfie and even said I could post it. You can tell by his face that he wasn’t thrilled, but he let me.img_20170110_185509102

It was a great game. We actually won. There was a big fight in the first period. Other than embarrassing Frankie by dancing when we scored, we managed quite well together.

Then the drive home (after the long walk to the car) and more arguments about taking the side streets home rather than the thruway. I spent the night with my teenage son and my deceased husband. It was a great night!


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The Old Man is Snoring…

It’s raining, it’s pouring… Both literally and figuratively.

It’s been quite a week. Last Friday, I was talking to my dad who was experiencing some bleeding. I could tell by his voice and his willingness to go to an urgent care center that it was a significant amount and he was scared. Sister Renee took him. I had tickets to the theater. (Jekyll and Hyde the musical at the Lancaster Opera House. You should go if you can. Absolutely phenomenal show.) I got a call that the doc was concerned about the amount of blood loss and wanted to send him by ambulance to the hospital.

I didn’t get there until after 11 pm. He was still in the ER but was preparing to move to a room. A little after midnight, Renee and I left once he was settled. My brother, Renee, and I all took turns each day staying with him. I am the primary health advocate though so I usually ask all the questions. On Saturday, they did a scope procedure on his esophagus. The doc came out and gave me the beautiful color photographs. Of course, I had no idea what I was even looking at. What I did understand, was there was not even a drop of blood. That meant starting prep for a colonoscopy the next morning. If you have ever had one, you know that is a nightmare.

I had to leave in the evening because Frankie had his first hockey scrimmage of the year. Colin tells me he’s the best player on the team this year so he’s going to shine. It’s at a college downtown so I drive us all there. Frankie started the game, and not even 30 seconds in to the first period, he gets checked. I mean, he gets checked hard. I mean, like the parents all went “ooo” when it happened. I joked with my friend that I might have to find that kid who messed with my son and kick his butt. It wasn’t a dirty hit, but Frankie went down flat. He got off the ice.

A few minutes later I realized he didn’t return to the ice. Frankie is a total toughie. He doesn’t complain about pain and I never even know he is hurt usually until I find the ice pack somewhere in the house. I texted Colin and asked if he thought Frankie was ok. Colin was already walking over to me. He said something was wrong and I needed to go over to the bench. I did, and my toughie said that yes, he thought we should go to the hospital. It is not an easy task to walk across benches and the distance of an ice rink with only one leg so Colin ended up hoisting Frankie over his shoulders. I took a picture but they said they would curse me if I posted it. Anyhow, we spend the next four and a half hours at Children’s hospital. Several x-rays later, they determined no break, but a sprain above the ankle. Crutches for a week then re-evaluation. I probably told 20 medical people about how the first 30 seconds of the first game of the season, blah blah. Poor kid. Thankfully, Renee said she would sleep at the hospital with Dad so I didn’t have to return. Got home about 1 am.

By Monday, Dad had a transfusion and they were hopeful that the bleeding had stopped. Renee came in to take over for me, and a few minutes after getting there did the most bizarre side step I had ever seen. I managed to catch her before she hit the floor. I got her to the chair and she slumped to one side. The hospital staff was most impressive. Within two minutes there were about 8-10 people there to assess what was happening. It sure looked like a stroke. Her BP was 202. They took her down to emergency and tested her brain and heart. Until her family was able to get there, I just ran between the floors of ER and Dad’s room, depending on who seemed to need me more. Renee was released without an explanation of why she had such an episode. What’s up with this? Three of my family members in the hospital within four days.

Tuesday, sister Janet flew in from Tennessee. Phew. Renee was going to meet us at the hospital, but I got a call and then a text from her. She fell again, this time in her house. I encouraged her to go to another hospital by ambulance, but she decided to stay home. I think they should check her ears for crystal formations. I didn’t think of it at the time because it looked like a stroke. I haven’t checked in with her today, but I hope she is feeling ok. She really can’t drive or even walk. I’m afraid next time she will crack her head open!

Yesterday Janet stayed with Dad the whole day. She spent the night before there with him and I got to stay home the whole day. (Well, that’s not true. I had to give a 90 minute lecture, but I didn’t have to go back and forth to the hospital.) I was nervous about not going because Dad was supposed to be released to rehab. I wanted to be there for the transition but I also knew Janet could handle it. I also have a son on crutches who doesn’t think they are nearly as much fun as he thought they were going to be. I also woke up with a massive cold so my head felt like a balloon.

Unfortunately, Dad never made it to rehab. His blood levels dropped again. Has to stay for another procedure, and hopefully this time they will be able to stop the bleeding for good. Poor guy. So, I’m off to the hospital as soon as I post this blog. Any day where I only have one hospital to go to is a good one, lol. I heard “when it rains, it pours” so many times this week, I knew what the blog title was going to be.

To end on a positive note, if you follow my blog you know I am a tough customer when it comes to medical care. There have been some moments where I wanted to hit my head on the wall, but the vast majority of time, I have to say I was terribly impressed by both hospitals this weekend. I kept thinking about how exhausted I was, but if I had to be in fight mood because my peeps weren’t getting good care, well that would have just pushed me right over the edge of the cliff. I am grateful and also hopeful that there are some shifts happening in the medical field that are positive!


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Hockey Moms vs. Hockey Dads

I think I’ve written about this topic before. You know us psychology types. We can’t just participate in life, we have to observe and analyze it. And when it comes to hockey, it usually either aggravates or amuses me.

Frankie was in a hockey tournament this weekend. Games Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights, not at my favorite rink. They sell a variety of alcohol there, which even amazed Colin. He pointed out that all those drinkers are then driving kids home after. And my point is, hockey people are – well – kinda revved up already. Let’s give those folks some liquor. Seems like a bad idea to me.

One night before the game, the other team’s coach was standing near the doorway talking to a parent. He was asked who they were playing and the coach told him West Seneca. The father made an ugly face and said, “Filthy. Totally filthy.” The coach didn’t respond. You know from my blogs that I am getting a bit ugly myself lately, but I still can’t think fast on my feet. I was stunned. Later when I had gathered my thoughts I went to find that guy to give him a piece of my mind, but fortunately for both of us I couldn’t find him. Going after a male, probably liquored up, hockey father? Not one of my smarter ideas, but I was pissed.

Our team has been undefeated. We have three tall kids that I call giants. They are usually taller than most of the kids on our team as well as the opposing team. But they are not dirty players. And to my knowledge, we don’t have a reputation for being dirty players either.

Bantams are 13-15 year olds, and it is the first time in the league that players can check. The kids think this is great of course. (Although I must confess that Frankie complained after so many games in a row that his ass hurt as well as several other body parts!) And I am quite sure that most of the dads think checking is great too. But us moms? I doubt we will ever get used to it.

Two kids will collide and hit the wall or the ice with a thud and you can hear a female, collective voice saying, “Oooh” with horror. Right after that, you will hear a male voice saying something like, “Welcome to hockey, boys.”

These tourney games were some of the most tense games of the season. One of the games, the opposing team parents brought two cow bells. They are loud as hell. At first, they started ringing them when their teams scored. That’s ok. Our team’s parents are very loud. We could match them. Then they started ringing those bells every time their goalie saved a shot on them. It was downright obnoxious and annoying. Even I was muttering about taking their bells and sticking them where the sun don’t shine.

Well, our sharks won their division so we had to return Wednesday morning at 8 AM for the championship game. Actually, that means leaving the house at 7 AM to get there early enough. Several of the parents were a bit unhappy about that. The kids have off school, but parents don’t necessarily have off work. But hockey families know that hockey consumes you during the season.

During the tourney, I met one of the moms that I was sitting next to. She is our goalie’s mom. Once I realized that, I told her I thought he was doing an outstanding job. She explained to me that was brought up from a lower league. He is only 11 years old! I couldn’t believe it. He is one great hockey player. During the championship game, I was sitting next to her again. This time, I realized that whenever the opposing team came in our zone, she would close her eyes and turn her head. She just can’t watch. She doesn’t want him to get hurt, she doesn’t want to see if he gets scored against because you know his heart gets broken every time. So she waits for someone to say, “He stopped it” and then she can watch again. I totally cracked up because I get it. I let her know that the coaches said they were taping the game and giving us a DVD. She can watch it after the fact.

With two minutes left in the game, one of our kids got hurt. Really got hurt. Broke his leg in two places and spent the afternoon in surgery. It was so sad and so scary. We watched the parents from the stands. The kid and both parents were cool as cucumbers. You knew that boy was in agony. I said to the other parents that I would be a train wreck if it was Frankie and I was impressed by the family’s composure. They told me I would surprise myself if I was in that situation. I realized they were right. When faced with a crisis, I usually keep my head on straight. I spring into appropriate action and know the questions to ask. When it’s all over, I’m worse than a wet noodle. As I was watching the ice, all I could think was that if it were Frankie, I would be yelling at everyone, “He is all that I have!”

IMG_20151230_092931046_HDR

Anyhow, the boys won the championship. (The picture is the team lining up for their award. Frankie is the second from the left.) Their comrade is recovering. The men will always yell from the sidelines and not be phased by the checking. And us moms will never learn to love it and we will always gasp at the roughness of the sport. We might even turn our heads the other way :).


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Thanks, Lisa!

I have been thinking about how negative my thoughts (and therefore my blogs) have been lately, but honestly have had a hard time coming up with anything positive. Then I got this email today and cried my eyes out. Some of you may remember a blog quite a while ago that was written by David Breth. He wrote a very moving story about taking our Frankie to a hockey game while Tim was sick. I included it in the second book (which came out last week) with his permission. I joke with him all the time because his writing got more response from the editors than mine! Anyhow, I saw his wife yesterday and she bought the new book and sent me this incredible email and gave me permission to share it with you.

“I bought your book to give to David. I knew I wanted to read it too…but WOW! It is soooo good! You are AMAZING! I knew I would have a hard time reading it, but knew I would anyhow. I just didn’t think it would be so fast and I didn’t think it would be now, just seven days till Christmas! I started it last night during my daughter’s piano lesson and only planned to read the introduction…but I could not stop. I finished 38 pages during her 30 minute lesson! I should also tell you, I was looking forward to reading a book I had just renewed at the library, since I was just getting to a very exciting part of the book. So much for my plans. As soon as I started reading yours, I was transported back to those last few months with Tim, and the months after losing him. Not only do I remember reading the blogs when you first wrote them, I remember all those “moments” in your and Frankie’s life too.

I went to bed too late last night – almost ruined the surprise by telling David I wanted to go read more of your book, but managed to keep it hidden. Today I don’t go in to work till 1 pm and I got to stay in bed and read. Ok, so now I am starting at page 38 and you guessed it. I read David’s telling of the hockey game. Mind you I have read it before, talked to him and you about it, lived through it, and even laughed at how jealous you are of the way everyone calls attention to it. But I bawled my eyes out reading it! I can just hear him telling the story in his voice with all the crazy sayings and wincing yet again at his choice of the words about Frankie “chirping”… but it was so good. Thank you for including it and giving me the perfect gift for him for Christmas!

Keep in mind just yesterday I was trashing him (and all men) at work about how they do hardly anything at Christmas to get ALL THE THINGS done that everyone expects done during the holiday season. And how hard it is to get it all done while they sleep on the couch or chair each night! But in my heart, I know my husband is one of the GOOD GUYS and he will be responsible for all the special moments on Christmas day…and still continue to surprise and delight me and the kids. Thanks for reminding me of that.

I am so proud of him for “being there” for you and Frankie and so grateful you feel and know that! It is something that is so important to him and me that you all know that we as a family love and support you! Whether it is just listening when you call to just “vent” or taking you away on that tough weekend each year to be silly and crazy for a “MOM Break.” We are so grateful to be part of your family and support network. You have taught my kids more by just being you during the pain and loss, and moving on in grief than you will ever know. You CAN DO THIS! Because you are doing this! There may be stumbling blocks, and life is crazy, but you keep going with a smile on your face- and lots of warm hugs too! I am so amazed that you continue to find ways to speak about this to many others whether one on one or in your seminars… and do it so well. When I was a Youth Minister there was a saying- you may never see the garden made of the seeds you are planting, but it will be beautiful! It made working with moody and sometimes difficult teens a little easier. And since then I have been lucky enough to see some of the “seeds” I helped plant, make those same teens into wonderful adults and parents!

You are going to help so many more than just those of us lucky enough to be in your support network. Your beautiful and honest words of how loss and grief “SUCKS” will help so many. You are truly a “GIFT” to my family and me, and I look forward to hearing how much of a “GIFT” your honesty and bluntness will help so many others! The garden you are planting with the “seeds” of wisdom in this book is going to be the most beautiful garden ever…with a hummingbird watching over it!

SO SO Proud of you! This book is even better than the first! And sorry to tell you…I still think there will be more books in you. I know how you agonize over every word, the editing process, and Baby Coop Publishing, but it is worth it! It’s WONDERFUL!”

Lisa, looks like there are at least two writers in your family. I can’t thank you enough. This second book was a struggle and I second-guessed myself all the way through it, no pun intended. I am humbled, and grateful. And my blog readers are thankful for the boost in spirit :)!