Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Women

Admittedly, I am more of a glass half-empty person that I am a half-full. I think most people err on one side or the other. If you’ve ever been to one of my lectures, you know my philosophy is that the key to healthy living is to balance both truths.

I have a few half-full folks in my life. They enjoy my blogs and Facebook quotes that are more upbeat and positive. The thing is, I’m a professional writer whose specialty is the topic of death/dying and grief/loss. In my practice, my specialty is relationship counseling, but you can’t talk about any of that without a healthy amount of focus on grief/loss. So my half-full friends, you will just have to be patient with my emphasis on being in touch with the pain in people’s’ lives. It happens to be what I am good at.

Sometimes there is so much happening around me, it’s hard to decide what to write about. (As opposed to those weeks when my mind is blank.) Last week I wrote about some great men. This week I”m going to focus on a couple of women that I know that have amazing strength.

My readers are already familiar with Summer. She was a rock for me while Tim was dying. She is a pillar in her church family and the community she lives in. It makes it hard to be her BFF sometimes because often we only get brief moments to chat every so often. That’s the life of someone who so many people depend upon. The year 2016 has been fraught with challenges for Summer that I can’t even begin to enumerate. I mean it’s stuff that tops the stress chart scales. Day after day after day. The last week she has been working with the hospice team to help usher her 93-year-old father-in-law to his final home. It brings memories of Tim flooding back. Listening to her exhaustion from the roller coaster of that daunting task is about all I can offer her. Her “dad-in-law” is one lucky man to end his life with the dignity that Summer and her family are gifting him with.

The second woman who has recently touched me is Ray. She is only 33-years-old, but I think her soul is much older and wiser. She is one of my students. We still chuckle when we talk about how we first met. She was being a bit overly assertive and feisty along with some of her peers. Our first class together started with my own assertion of myself as the graduate college professor- i.e. I was the one who called the shots, not the students. We laugh because we all have grown to deeply respect each other (and very quickly!) that it’s hard to imagine we had a rocky start.

Ray is a cancer survivor. I don’t know what the details are, but I know that she walked into my classroom already having learned so much about life, that some will never accomplish at twice her age. Ray was just told the cancer is back. Yep, cancer is such a beast. An unfair, vicious monster. This time, it is in her spine. It requires surgery, affording her a whopping 50-50 shot at walking again. Oh, by the way, Ray, did we mention we also discovered that you have MS?

We decided that we couldn’t possibly have our last class as scheduled, because it is the same day as Ray’s surgery. It just wouldn’t feel right. And it isn’t exactly appropriate for us to have class in the hospital. We all adore her, but I’m sure her family would like to take up the space around her. We are having our last get together at my house tomorrow night around a campfire. They are all of age so I told them they could bring their beverage of choice. And we are all praying Ray is feeling up to attending.

My first cohort of students I had for one semester. I still keep in touch with one student on occasion, and another student I talk to regularly, even after her move to North Carolina. This group of students I’ve had for an entire year. I feel the weight of grief and loss already. I try to give them my heart and soul and they fill me up with their appreciation. I’m sure we will stay in touch, but let’s face it. Things are never quite the same.

But I’m never away from the thought that the weight I carry from knowing I will miss the amazing women I have grown to admire over the last year, is nothing compared to the weight Ray carries. She is a rock star in every sense of the word. She has acquired strength and experience that a woman her age should never have to have earned the right to own.

My hat is off to you, Ray. And to Summer. And to countless others of the women I know who are towers of strength. When my life feels overwhelming, part of what brings me back is knowing some of you carry much greater burdens than I, and with such grace and love and power and inspiration. Know you are loved!


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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!”

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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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Decisions

I’ve had trouble with plantar fasciitis over the years, but last September it got worse than its ever been. I did everything my podiatrist told me to do. I bought expensive hiking sneakers for walking in the woods with Taffy. I bought croc flip-flops to wear all the time so I can’t be the barefoot girl anymore. I went to physical therapy three times a week. I bought the night splint to wear during sleep. I have a frozen water bottle I use when needed, and I bought the heel inserts he recommended.

That worked for a few months, but I had another flare up about two months ago. It gets pretty bad- like I can’t walk at all bad. Like the pain takes my breath away bad. I went back to the doc and asked if I am going to have to live with this the rest of my life. He said no, I could have a minor surgery where they snip the tendon. It’s 90% effective and people love it. Okay.

Enter Summer. Summer is one of those people who is almost always right. She knows stuff about stuff, no matter what the stuff is that you are talking about. There have been many, many times that I have sought to prove her wrong, only to have to come back and sheepishly tell her that she was right again. Sometimes I make it my mission to be able to come back and tell her Ha! I got ya! But it never works.

Anyhow, Summer tells me that she knows dozens of people with this condition and no one has ever had surgery. If it’s that effective, why wouldn’t more people have had it? She suggested (and with Summer that means STRONGLY suggested) that I get a second opinion. She knows my doc Grace and loves her as much as I do.

This started a big pain in the butt journey. I adore Grace and trust her with my life- literally. She only refers me to the best of the best. Always. She had recommended my doc years ago, but gave me the name of a highly respected orthopedic surgeon to get a second opinion from. Just what I wanted. Another appointment.

She is great. But after a two and a half hour appointment, she explains to me that orthopedics and podiatrists are sometimes at odds, and this particular condition is one they polarize on. Great. She NEVER recommends the surgery. She gets the people who end up with permanent nerve damage in their feet for the rest of their lives. Never get the surgery. Instead, there is a treatment with shock waves that is highly recommended. And let’s get an MRI just to make sure there is nothing else going on with your foot.

Now I am stumped. Two excellent doctors. Both adamant in their positions. What the heck am I supposed to do?

I do my own research on-line and end up in the same predicament. Both protocols are highly successful. The problem with the shock treatment, is there is only one option in all of Buffalo. And my insurance won’t cover it. It’s $500 and three weeks of treatment and I can’t get in for another three weeks. That’s the brilliance of our current insurance mentality. They won’t pay $500 for a treatment, but will pay $7,000 for a surgery. Only in America.

MRI comes back without any surprises so yesterday I meet with Grace. I tell her I plan to wring her neck. She tells me she loves me because she knows I’m going to come in completely armed with information. I’ve done all my research, done all the tests, but am completely stumped with what to do. In the mean time, I have been going out of my mind with the foot pain.

Grace tells me there are two docs in our area that have hit nerves and caused damages, just like doc #2 said. However, my doc is NOT one of them. In fact, he has NEVER botched up the surgery. Ever. She reminds me that she would never send me to anyone that wasn’t top-notch, and says I can whole heartedly proceed with the surgery. She just wanted me to have all the facts.

I was actually relieved. I’m not a huge surgery fan, but I am sick of the pain, and don’t have a spare $500 bucks lying around. So tomorrow morning, I am going in for the surgery.

Grace and I laughed. We decided if I’m the one in a million exception and my doc wrecks my foot for life, that GRACE will be the one to answer to Summer. No way in hell I’m going to tell her. LOL! We agreed Summer is a force to be reckoned with and I’m lucky to have her in my corner.

Say some prayers tomorrow morning, and if you aren’t doing anything Friday afternoon or evening, come keep me company. I’m not laid up for long, but you know I don’t well with sitting still. It makes me even battier than I already am.