Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…

So Frankie got an A+ on a paper he wrote. The teacher said “What an insightful self-assessment.” He is the social studies teacher so I am curious what the assignment actually was. Anyhow, I felt sad when I read it. I’m not sure why after reading it a second time, but that was the reaction I had. He had to rate himself on a scale of 1-10 for different categories. Here are some examples:

“Movement/Your need to move- I give myself a 9. I’m constantly moving because I’m sometimes stressed and angry.” I do notice that. Not all the time, but once in a while he gets stressed out and mad. He almost shakes he gets so mad. And it’s usually over something that would seem insignificant to most, like being asked to brush his teeth or try a shirt on. He grits his teeth and makes a fist. Matthew got married last weekend so we’ve all been talking a lot this week about the family traits. A temper is definitely something all the kids have inherited from their dad.

“Identity- 10. I will really try to be noticed by behaving a little bad and stuff I can get made fun of for.” That part Frankie gets from me. I like to be noticed too. Tim and I would often almost compete in social situations because we both had a pretty good sense of humor. Frankie definitely has a knack for saying off the wall comments that crack you up.

“Acceptance/The need to fit in- 3. I try to be different and be myself.” I think Frankie picked a small number because he doesn’t really care if he fits in. We have this discussion almost every morning when we talk about him combing his hair or wearing clothes that actually fit him. He just doesn’t see the point. Again, he gets some of this from me. I was told in grad school that I am a peach in an apple orchard and like it that way. But then I put myself in a catch-22 because I want all the apples to be comfortable with me too. I hope Frankie doesn’t develop the second half of that characteristic!

“Companionship- 8. I’m usually a little scared at night alone. I’d rather be with my brother.” This is me to a tee. I HATE being alone. All the time, but I feel it the strongest at night. Hate it. Poor Frankie. Should I feel bad that he wants his brother and not his mother? I do. But I also think it is perfectly normal to prefer someone his same gender. Their bedrooms are both upstairs and mine is down. So mostly I’m just glad he has his Colin.

“Communication- 9. I always get in trouble because I love talking with other people.” My report cards are peppered from kindergarten on with comments about my talking too much. I’m now 46 years old and my dad still complains that I’m on the phone too much.

“Self-improvement- 8. I feel bad about myself sometimes.” That one broke my heart. I have consistently gotten feedback my entire life about how hard I am on myself. For years and years. No one needs to get on me, because I am always on my back, wanting to be better. Trying to improve, etc.

So Frankie doesn’t fall far from the tree. Hopefully, that isn’t such a bad thing…lol. I just wish he would stop growing up!

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I’m cheating this week on the blog. I just got done writing a letter to Frankie’s teacher at his request. In a million words or less, tell me about your son. I kind of liked it when I was done so I thought why not blog it?

September 2013

Thank you for your interest in my son, Frankie. Feel free to share this with any of his teachers. How do you sum up an entire person in a paragraph or two? So thanks for giving me a million words!

In kindergarten, Frankie wrote a story called “The Kite and the Snowflake” that his teacher caught in his writing journal. She entered it in the Reading Rainbow contest and he came in 2nd place with over 700 applicants. It was a beautiful and poignant story and it put him on the map at school. He was asked to read his book to the entire school and also to the Board of Education. He was told there that he would probably be the President someday. (I hope not. I have bigger dreams for him than politics.)

At the end of first grade, Frankie’s father was diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer. We started a blog on CaringBridge that his teachers, social worker, principal, etc. all followed in order to know what life was like for Frankie at home. The support was overwhelming.

At the beginning of second grade, Frankie’s father died in October. The principal actually was the one who brought Frankie to Hospice that day. She describes the ride there as one she will never forget. The school and staff continued to be amazing. In second and third grade, Frankie attended a grief group at school. In fourth grade he told me “it’s time to move on” and he stopped attending.

Frankie is amazing. He has my emotional drama so he is sensitive when you least expect it. He is also very silly (like me) and has taken great pride in being dubbed the class clown. He is confident and expressive which led him last year to dress up as Cinderella for Halloween, wear nail polish for a week, and color his hair pink for a day and wore a “breast cancer awareness” shirt.

He is smart as a whip. His passions are sports, especially hockey. He can truly hold a conversation with any adult regarding sports. He was even “hired” this year as a fantasy football coach for a draft pick by a very serious guy. He can recite a ridiculous amount of information about ANY NHL or NFL player, not just the Buffalo teams. His dream is to be a general manager someday. He plays hockey for our town team.

He also can sometimes be lazy. Because he is so smart, he doesn’t have to work very hard. Last year he was FAILING social studies. Why? Because they were all open book tests and he assumed he didn’t need to bother to open them.
This year he has been exceptionally independent. I haven’t been checking his planner and he just responds with “I’ve got it covered, Mom”. I will trust he knows what he is doing unless I am informed otherwise by any of his teachers. He has the capability of getting straight As, but in spite of what he might tell you, I do not expect that of him. I’m much more interested in him becoming a well rounded human being.

Just an FYI- Scott (the school Social Worker) has been our family therapist for over ten years. He has been through all of our blended family trials, through Tim’s sickness and death. Frankie prefers NOT to go to counseling, but you can always talk with Scott at any time about anything at all. He knows our family extremely well.

Overall, Frankie seems very adjusted. His half brother Colin is 29 and still lives with us. You will no doubt here about him quite often. He only works part time so is around a lot. They are inseparable. I am now the bread winner and work a lot. Colin cooks most of Frankie’s meals and usually does his homework with him. I suspect Frankie’s adjustment to his life without a dad would be much different if Colin were not here.

I love to be involved. If there is ever anything at all that I can get my foot in the door with, please allow me the chance to do so. If it’s reading, parties, making copies, doing computer work, whatever at all, I find having some sort of presence in the school is very helpful with Frankie and with knowing his friends.
Thanks for taking care of my boy. He’s a handful and a challenge and a delight.

Darcy Thiel

P.S. I will also shamelessly promote the book I wrote called “Bitter and Sweet, a Family’s Journey with Cancer” that came out last March. If you want to understand Frankie, myself, and our family, it’s a great book that has gotten excellent reviews. I have copies or it is available everywhere on line.