Step Up

We celebrated my Granddaddy’s 91st birthday today.  There were several people there, and several missing, but it was a great day.

But here’s the deal.

He’s not my real Granddaddy.  I do not like when people use the word “real” to describe relationships; “real dad”, “real mom”, “real grandparents”.

As an adoptee, I use the word “birth” parent, not real parent.  I use “adoptive” parent, not another description.

But back to my granddaddy.

There are a lot of “step” parents out there, so therefore there are a lot of “step” grandparents.

Do you “step” grandparents know what power you have?

You have the power of belonging. You have the power of love, of inclusion, of giving a child a family they didn’t have before.

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Step grandparents are “REAL” grandparents, trust me.  I know.

Mine became my grandparents when I was 9 years old, and they have never treated me any differently that before.

My “step” father was just about as good a dad to me as my dad was.  My “step” dad’s family treated me just like I belonged to them, and I have never felt unwanted or unloved.

So my Granddaddy, who is my “step”mother’s dad, has Alzheimer’s and it is a getting much worse. I remember when I first realized that it was happening, about 13 years ago, when I heard him use a curse word which would have never passed his lips before.

My “Step”granddaddy has Alzheimer’s but let me tell you one thing…He ALWAYS remembers my name.  He looked at me Sunday, on his birthday, and said, “Tina, are you leaving?”

“Yep, Granddaddy, I’ve got to go.”IMG_1099.PNG

He said, “Well, you know you can come back, I’ll be here.”

I hope so, Granddaddy.  I told my mom (“STEP” mom) yesterday that I believe I will miss my Granddaddy more than I miss my dad at this point…Grandddaddy still talks and laughs, and knows who I am.  What in the world will we do when he’s gone.

“I was the last of 16 children, Momma looked at Daddy after I was born and said, “Jim, I think I am done.”

See, all you “STEP” parents out there….you have the ability to STEP up or step down, but I challenge you to step up to make a difference in your child’s life.  My STEP’s did.

Just keep going

Have you ever wanted to just stay in bed, not do anything but watch Netflix or sleep or just lay there?

Yeah, me neither.

Seriously, though.  I was living life. Working. Churching. Momming. Wifing. Probably not doing a great job at any of them, but things got done and kept moving.

We get very caught up in the day to day, don’t we?

This year has been the year that I have wanted to just say, “Okay, I am done, I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch and not participate.” This year has been HARD.

In January I had a stroke, and in February my dad died.

I have started this post more times than I can count.  In 2013, I wrote about starting and not stopping.  I did okay for awhile.  I lost 97 pounds, exercised every day, took a diet pill for 8 months, and basically got myself under control.  I got cocky and braggy and thought, “Hey, I got this, I have lost weight and I will NEVER gain it back and I am going to lose even more and I will be in CHARGE of my life.”

Then a parent got sick.

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If you have followed my blog, you know that in 2013, my dad was diagnosed with a horrible form of dementia, and I went off the tracks.  For those who have never dealt with any sort of addiction, it’s hard to describe how insidious it begins.  “Oh, I will just have this and it will be okay.”

“Oh, I can have this, I will buy this, but I won’t eat it.”

And then I stopped the diet pill, and then it was like, BAMMM.

My dad was put into assisted living and my boys had lives and I had a life and we were busy, and the next stinking thing I know, I have gained back every stupid pound I had lost.

I can tell you this, reader, because I can’t flipping hide it, can I?  The Bible talks about secret sin, but us heavy people who are Christians, we can’t hide our stupid sin, like all the gossipers, the enviers and the mean people, oh, wait, mean people don’t hide their sin well either.

Romans 7:15 and beyond says:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

So why can’t I get a grip on my sin???

I am writing this because I know that there are those out there just like me.  I am struggling.  I have struggled all my life.  But once I accepted Christ, that struggle has been shared with Him.

Once again, my choices are about life and death. I had a stroke 4 months ago.  I can still brush my own teeth, walk, talk and perform personal hygiene.  Do you think that’s a wake up call?  So life and death.  I now have 5 different doctors. FIVE.  I now take 5 pills a day, I had to buy an old lady pill box because I got tired of opening pill bottles.

Choice.  Life or death.  Walking or limping. Speaking or slurring.  I got real serious about my health then, and started seeing all sorts of doctors and taking 5 pills a day, and started exercising again and talking a good fight…

Then my dad died. The man that helped make me who I am, and the man I loved and admired and got frustrated with…died.

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I lost myself for a few weeks.  I quit. I couldn’t function.  But one morning, God used 2 women to get me out of my funk, and I have been getting closer to the light ever since.

So  I am blogging again about my weight struggle.  Because it’s time.  And I try to be honest with people. And because I need to vent.  And because life is hard and I can’t eat every time I get stressed or I will lose so much of what I want.

Do you feel like you are out of control sometimes? Me too.  Do you want to give up? Me too.  Do you still get up every morning? Me too.  Is this life harder than we want it to be?  Yep.

I am going to take a step from AA.  Just for today, I can do this. Just for today, I will not eat  a French fry.  Just for today, I will walk a mile, even if it takes me an hour and if I were behind me in a car I would be cussing me out.  Just for today, I can do this.  I will fail, I am sure, but just for today, I will do what I can.

Life has come at me fast for a while.  I cannot excuse the position in which I find myself.  We are totally responsible for our choices. For today, I choose to live.  I have to. And I hope you will too.

 

 

learning curve

I know more than I did less than 60 days ago.

I know that if you ignore high blood pressure, it does not go away.

I learned that I am not a good candidate for MRIs.  Those machines are small.

I learned that I can pee on a bedside potty, without dying of embarrassment.

I learned that I can take 5 meds a day, even if I have to put them in a little old lady pill box that is labeled for S-M-T-W-Th-F-S.

I learned that Ativan will really calm you down; I could become addicted to that drug easy.

I learned that God allows second chances and wake up calls.

I learned that I can live without reading, as long as I have Netflix.

I learned that when your parent is sick for a long time, and then dies “suddenly”, you still grieve.

I learned what it’s like to watch someone take their last breath….on this earth.

I have learned about the love of a grandson for his Papaw, when he wouldn’t let go of his Papaw’s hand throughout his visit.

I have learned that the people who take care of your loved one, love them almost as much as you do, and treat them with dignity and respect, and cry with you as you lose them.

I learned that laughter is easily intermingled with tears, and both are good for the soul.

I say all that to say this….

It has been a rough 55 days.  But I have learned that life goes on, we still wake up, your kids still have to go to school and do the annoying dress up thing for whatever fundraiser thing of the week, you still have to work, your life doesn’t stop just because your dad’s life did.

I have blogged a lot about my dad.  I have blogged a little about my health journey with my weight.  Both of these have been huge players the last few weeks.

My dad couldn’t say my name since November. He would smile and say, “there you are!” when I came in his room, but he stopped being able to say much more.  The last 3 days of his life, he said nothing.  His breaths were hard won, and his eyes were closed most of the time.

I told my dad good bye Saturday night, February 11, at 6 pm.  He didn’t die until Monday night at 5:45.  I told my dad, through tears and sobs, that I loved him and wanted him to go, that it was time for him to go, that God had prepared a place for him, and it was ready and his life had been full and joyful and productive.

I told my dad of each individual grand child, from the oldest to the youngest, and how much they loved him and wanted him to be free from this world.  I thanked him for adopting me, for being the one constant in my life that kept me going, that was always in my corner, the person who loved me more than anyone else.  I told my dad that he was my world, so he could go to the world beyond.

The last 30 minutes of his life were hard to watch.  I stepped out to get a Diet Coke and ended up on the phone, and the Hubs came to get me because something had changed with Dad, and later my younger brother told me, “If you had missed his last breath because of a Diet Coke…” See?  Laughter and tears.

My Dad, opened his eyes and looked straight ahead the last 5 minutes of his life. I know that he did not see us; he was seeing what was next. We had sung to him, prayed with him, laughed around him. I had laughed so hard at one point (we pretty much had a small party in his room during this time, and the younger brother had tripped and fell on his wife, and it made me laugh hysterically)  I laughed so hard Dad opened his eyes and looked around.  But not for long.

I have often wondered which is worse…to lose a loved one suddenly or watch them be sick and die a long death.  I know that we have had it better this way, in a way.  I started grieving for my dad 3 years ago.  I cried all day the day my mom told me that he didn’t know whether he charged $2.50 or $250 for his first adjustment, and that was in October of 2012.  My tears have show up at inconvenient times the last few years, and my whole family has been mourning the loss of my dad, pretty much since he went into assisted living on May 23, 2014.

Still…I have learned that no matter how long you have to prepare, it’s still not enough.  I have a deep ache in my chest, and those 3 days we spent at my dad’s bedside, I sobbed and grieved until my jaws hurt.  I do not grieve like someone without hope, either.  I know where my dad is.  I just am sad he is not here.  My world has been shaken off its axis, and a quote I heard recently sums it up: “I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.”  But I’ve been learning for the last 3 years…

Since my stroke on January 8, life has seemed much more precious and the small stuff has seemed very small indeed.  Now…everything seems pretty inconsequential.  Except for the people I love, my family, church family and friends.

I have learned that relationships with your loved ones are the only things that really matter in this life.  And that’s been the most important lesson of all.

 

We celebrated my dad’s 82nd birthday today.  It was a good day.  He is still with us. He can still smile. He can squeeze my hand. He still follows the Grands with his eyes.  But he is not himself, still.

I speak of him often. One of the stories I tell at least once a week goes as such:

When I was five years old, my mother dressed me in frippery froppery, dresses with more lace than sense, and panties with ruffles.  Good thing, too, because she kept my hair cut so short that if I didn’t have on a dress, then most people mistook me for a boy, and I hated that.

I can remember the day well, the day My Dad taught me a Lesson that will never be forgotten.  I had on that lacy red dress with ruffledy panties, and Dad, for reasons known only to him, had given away some puppies or a dog and we (my brother and I) were upset about it.

Said brother was quite upset, and decided that he needed to know why Dad had done this, but he must have realized that he didn’t look as cute as I did in my red ruffledy outfit so he threw me under the bus and told me, “You go ask Dad WHY HE GAVE OUR PUPPIES AWAY!!”  I specifically remember him saying it just like that.

So away my flouncy self went.  Let me set the stage: My dad was at work, seeing patients and concentrating on their health.  Our house was connected to my Dad’s office by a door.  A single door. We lived on one side, and he worked on the other.  So I opened that door, marched my way into the office and then into the treatment room where my dad was working on a patient and I proceeded to ask him, in a probably not nice tone, “WHY DID YOU GIVE AWAY OUR PUPPIES???”  and then I turned around and SLAMMED the door of the treatment room.  In the patient’s face.

OH. MY. STARS.  If one of my boys did that to me now, I am not sure what would happen, but I can tell you what my dad did.

About 5 minutes after the shot that was heard around my family, when I was feeling pretty good about myself and had waltzed back into the house part of the building, my dad came through that door.

I remember looking up at him, and seeing the look on his face…

So I then got the only spanking my dad ever gave me, and he told me to “Sit on that couch and don’t you get up” and 2 hours later I was still in the same position; my mother says that I wouldn’t even get up to get a drink of water.

And I never talked back to him again. Oh, I disagreed with him and argued a little, but never, never did I show him disrespect. Ever.

And today, I think of those stories.  I am so glad my 2 older boys knew him before he was taken hostage by this disease.  I am grateful I can hug him still.  I am grateful for my 2 brothers, who help me remember my dad as he was, and who are my memory keepers.  I am grateful for my sisters in love that love my dad and my family.  I am especially grateful for my mom, who loves him still and grieves for him as I do.  I have friends that are the only caregivers for their parents, and my Mom takes that burden and does not share it with my brothers and I.  She is one extraordinary woman.

Today was a good day. Dad is still with us.  He now doesn’t know my name and doesn’t remember the lessons he taught me, but I will not be forlorn.  He is still here.  That’s more than some of you have.  He can’t make a complete sentence, but he is still speaking a little.  I am still able to say good bye.  It’s taking a long time, but hey…life’s too fast, and maybe this reminds me to slow down.  I love you, Dad.  You don’t remember my name, but you know I am yours.

 

Here Now

I have been asked 4 times this week how my dad is doing, so I guess it’s time for an update.

I visit him once a week.  I would love to go more often but even this summer, it was hard to get there more than once a week.  But  I don’t feel too guilty because number 1, he doesn’t remember that I have visited 2 minutes after I have left and number 2, well, refer to number 1.

He is only 25 minutes away now.  I like to get there around lunch time so I can feed him myself. About a month ago, he tried to tell/show me how he wanted his stuffed bunny’s ears “glued to his face”.  Well, that’s a sane request, right? Isn’t that normal, to have the stuffed bunny’s ears glued or taped over its eyes?

So I am absorbing that request, trying to figure out what it is he really wants, and as I am giving him his milk to drink, I see that he is dribbling his milk over the bunny’s face and trying to get the ears to stick to the milk so that they are “glued on”.

The brain is a funny organ, I think.  What in the world is happening in his mind that this seems like an idea that might work?  This man, who could see 50 patients a day and build a house on the side, and traveled to every continent but Antarctica and even flew over the Bermuda Triangle once in his private plane?

This man wants the bunny’s ears to be glued to his face, and he spits his milk on there to do that.

I visited him today.  He has had some setbacks, and some declining.  He can still remember my name, with some coaxing, but no longer really talks.  He asked me today, “Where do you live?” and I told him.  I tried to feed him today, and he said, “NO!” very strongly.  He hasn’t been eating well the last 2 weeks, and the nurse said that she has to trick him into taking his meds, which she only had to start doing the last 2 weeks.

We are probably nearing the beginning of the end.  This has been going on for 2 1/2 years now.  He has probably been sick with this crap disease for 5 years or more, but it was May of 2014 that he entered the first assisted living facility.  He was sick with pneumonia in July, and yall, seeing the “DNR” bracelet on his wrist was almost more than my heart could stand.

After someone is sick for so long, mentally sick, you forget that one day, he won’t be here physically either.  He’s so already “not here”, that I thought I would be okay with him leaving this world, or if not “okay”, maybe halfway relieved.

But I don’t think I am going to be.  I think that when my dad finally leaves this earth for his new home, my heart is going to break, and I am going to go into full fledged mourning.  I feel like we are in half mourning now.

I still don’t know which is worse, losing your mind or losing your health.  I would hate to see him in pain, but knowing that he could talk to us, and help my mom with their business, and that he could know that these kids that visit him are his grandchildren, I sometimes think that would be better.

I have a friend whose mom is in full blown Alzheimer’s and we had this discussion the other day; he said, without hesitation, that he would rather his mom have cancer than Alzheimer’s.  He said this was much worse. I don’t know that I don’t agree; unfortunately, I am going to probably find out, since my precious father in law was recently diagnosed with cancer.

My mom and I cried together today. Because we know what’s coming and because we aren’t certain how it will happen.  I am so busy with my own life, but she is busy with my dad and her parents, so her lonesomeness is much more acute.  We hate watching my dad be this way, but we aren’t necessarily ready to not see him at all.

In Psalms, the Word tells us that our flesh and our heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.  Everything happens because God allows it.  I am certainly not going to say “Everything happens for a reason” because I am not sure if that’s Scriptural.  I do know that everything that happens, God already knew about it and vetted it.

But I am still sad for my family.  Everyone has troubles, but these are ours, and my dad was the Anchor of our lives for a long time.  He is here now physically, and I guess that has to be enough.  Keep asking about him, keep praying for us, and be grateful for all you have.  I am.

 

 

Sunday Night

I once read that children of divorce that were grown sometimes had an unexplainable apprehensive type anxiety that occurred every Sunday evening; it was a feeling of dread and tension, and most never knew why.

I think I know.

My parents divorced when I was nine.  I remember several family meetings, and tears and promises and harsh words.  I remember figuring out that I would only get to see my dad every other weekend, and feeling totally overwhelmed by that.  I remember being angry mostly at my mother, because I felt like she was the reason I couldn’t be with my dad, and I didn’t get along with her well anyway.

I remember trying to hold my breath until I could pass out so I could get out of the situation I was in.  I remember being questioned about what the other parent was doing, and when and how.

I remember seeing my new house for the first time, and in the back, the previous owner had made a big flower bed in the shape of a heart, and I told my mother, “There is my dad’s heart, he is still with me.”

I was nine.  When my oldest turned nine, my mind turned to thoughts of what it would be like if he had to go through what I went through.

I wonder what it would be like for me to dislike his dad so much that I could no longer live with him.  I picture Weatherman’s face as he tells me or his dad goodbye for his time with the other parent, and I imagine how hard that would be.  I visualize the confusion and the sadness that I felt with my parent’s divorce, and I am overwhelmed with sheer gratitude to God and the Hubs that my boys are not going through that.  What if I had to do this already hard life without my life partner?  And how hard it must have been for my own parents.

I will never have the memories that my boys do (at least so far… I know Hubs and I aren’t perfect, but we do have the same goals and commitment level, for now, and hopefully forever).  I do not have memories of my mom and dad kissing and hugging and generally making me sick because they are being so affectionate in front of me.

I don’t have memories of both my parents there on Christmas mornings, and I don’t have memories of my parents working as a team to make decisions, balance ball and life and work and me and my brother.  My parents couldn’t even be in the same room with each other until about 20 years after the divorce, and even though my mother said “I will never speak a bad word about your dad” ….she did and then some. To be fair, my dad said his share, too, and it probably didn’t help that during the divorce process, he took me and my brother to Mexico for vacation, called my mother and said he wasn’t coming home or bringing us back.  Now, even then even I knew that wasn’t true but boy, the rise he got out of my mother was probably worth it to him.

Divorce definitely does not bring out the best in people.

I didn’t have just one home, or one room.  I had a room in my mother’s house and I had a room at my dad’s.   I had step parents, these unsuspecting people who loved my parents and married them and got way more than they bargained for in me.

I told my step dad that the “B” on the wine glasses meant Boshell and he better not be planning on staying, because that certainly wasn’t his name.  I would stand by my step mother while she was painting her nails and bump her over and over to mess up her nails until my dad got involved.

I was not very lovable.  Fortunately, I had better step parents than parents, in some ways, and my step dad loved me as his own until the day he died, and my step mom is my best friend and was the matron of honor in my wedding 15 years ago.

But back to those Sunday evenings…I spent every weekend I could with my dad.  And he would bring me back to my mother, and the closer we got to her house, the heavier my spirit became, until my stomach hurt and I was almost sick.  I didn’t want to leave my dad, and I didn’t want Sunday evening to come.

I watched Hubs play around with the 3 sons this past Sunday evening, and felt this really sharp prick in my spirit…that this was important.  That as much as is possible, I have to preserve this for my sons.  That I want for them what I didn’t have for myself.  I want Sunday evenings of church together and home together and love together.  I want their dad and I to not vie for their love but share it equally.

I want united holidays, vacations together, and one home.  I never want to know which parent they would pick to live with.  I don’t want to feel like a part of my heart has been ripped out if something happened between Hubs and I.  I never want my boys to go through what I went through.

I know that there are people out there who wanted that too, and for reasons beyond their control, lost it, but I want to try hard to provide for my sons what I didn’t have.  Two parents who love God, love each other, and love their children.  I want my boys to never dread Sunday evenings. And my heart grieves for my nine year old self, who still does.

 

 

“That’s my Daughter”

My dad has been diagnosed with Pick’s disease, or frontotemporal dementia, since May 2 of 2013.  The doctors told my family then to be making long term plans.

On May 23 of 2014, almost exactly a year later, Dad had a mental break and has never come back completely.  He went into an assisted living facility, and has been in one ever since.

We are now in another phase of this process that is my Dad’s illness; on Wednesday, my mom moved him into a nursing home.

This was something we knew was coming, but it seemed to sneak up on us.  We would discuss among ourselves, yep, in another year or so, he might be ready for a nursing home. But the last 2-3 months, he has gotten worse, and I realize now that my dissatisfaction with the facility he lived in was not necessarily warranted.  I was getting frustrated with them that they weren’t doing some things that I thought they should be, and he was getting more and more combative with medicines and baths.  He was even sent to Geri-Psych again, but his behavior didn’t change much.  It’s because he needs more.

He went back to the assisted living facility, and he just couldn’t do what they needed.  He needed more than they are licensed to give, and that was tough for me to realize.  He can still walk with a walker, and he can feed himself, but that is about it.  He is sleeping more, and not talking as much, and when he does, it doesn’t make much sense, sometimes. So he really needed more than they could give.

So they gave my mom 30 days to find a new place.

Let me tell you how God works.  My mom checked into several local nursing homes, and got the best response from the one that is closest to my grandparents (who, remember, have Alzheimer issues in a pretty big way).  This place helped my mom in ways that I can’t even praise God enough for, just in being nice and helpful, and she had a good feeling about it. And did I mention that it’s on the way to my Grands’ house, less than 5 minutes away?

My dad has been there for 3 days now.  I went the day after she checked him in, and at first, my eyes filled with tears.  My dad is in a nursing home.  My dad is in a nursing home.  In a place with old people and non responsive people and incontinent people and DYING people.

But when I walked in, I was greeted by smiles everywhere I went, from caregivers and residents alike.  I am a smiler, and they all returned my smiles, and said “Good morning” and asked if they could help me (the caregivers, not the residents).  The place was bustling, almost as many caregivers as residents, and there were people mopping and cleaning and one caregiver was blowing dry a resident’s hair in her hallway while her room was being mopped, and it reminded me of Jesus washing His disciples feet.

Because I have a whole new respect for these people who take care of those people, like my dad.  Not every one has a knack for it (trust me, I know) but I know it when I see it, these ladies who like their patients, and care about them.  And if they don’t like them, or their job, they are putting on a good act, and that’s okay with me too.

Because my dad is still a person.  He looked at me when I walked in, and smiled, and said, “There you are.”  I smiled and hugged him and told him where he was, and he said, “I am?”  Then he went back to sleep.  Then he woke up and asked me if I was working today, which has not come up in a long time, so I told him no, I wasn’t working, I was seeing him.  I asked him if he knew what I did for a living.

He said no.  I told him I was a chiropractor, and did he know what that was? “No.”

And I smiled and said, “You were one, too, and you were one of the best ones I have ever known.”  And he smiled and said, “Okay.”

I told him I was going to get to visit with him more often because he is closer to me, and he said okay, and then said something along the lines of “I haven’t been seeing you much.”  He surprises me sometimes.  He leaned over the last time I visited him at the assisted living facility and told the lady next to him, “That’s my daughter.”

Yes, I am.  He made me a Boshell, and has been the biggest constant of my life, and I am so grateful to still have him to smile at me, even when that smile is uncertain, and wavery, and I am so grateful that there are people who care enough to treat him well, and with the dignity he deserves.  If you know a nursing home caregiver, tell them thank you today; I am going to thank every one of them I see in my office, because they deserve it too.