Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go: Putting 2017 in the Rearview

12 Dec

IMG_1478

PHOTO (AND RUSSELL KID BOMB) CRED: ANI VATTANO

Even though the rapid succession of mergers and acquisitions in IT that started in 2016 resulted in bringing my business to a grinding halt, I have to admit that the universe probably had a hand in it looking back. And that may be the only reason I’m not completely bald. (The Rogaine helps too.)

I am going to dub this year THE SHOW ON THE ROAD YEAR. Mostly because the YEAR OF DEATH is just too macabre. Even for me.

Let’s get the sad part over with first, shall we?

The first one came mid-January. The death of democracy as we know it vanished before our eyes as the Grabber-in-Chief was sworn into office. Setting the tone

IMG_0365

The bean machine

for what would become a daily diatribe between the hubby and me as we agonized over some new bit of news. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. This election has set the tone for us this year as we entered a level of mourning and sadness that we didn’t think was possible. Leading us to march in Denver as a family for women, science, the EARTH, common sense, equal rights, immigrants, blacks, browns, LGBTQ…pretty much ANYTHING EXCEPT power-grabbing, rich, white guys. (Don’t worry. It’s all fake.) And here ends my political rant, as I know better than most that it falls on deaf ears anyway among those of you who still, in spite of everything blazing into our brains daily, LUV YOU SUM TRUMP.

Then, end of January was Uncle Dick. It was a very hard hit because even though we knew his diagnosis of ALS was really, really bad…we all thought we’d have a little more time. Uncle Dick was one of our most favorite people. Always good for a laugh, a little gossip, a fantastic manhattan. He introduced us to The Stinking Rose, our favorite city, San Fran, and was one of the inspirations (along with Val) behind our move west. As Kenny’s godfather and uncle, he was a constant source of inspiration for a life well lived, outside of the normal, expected boundaries. I don’t know that we ever thanked him enough for always being there and for the positive impact he had on our lives. I hope he knew.

It wasn’t until June that the next news came. Just a few short hours after we’d returned without the hubby (who flew straight to Greenville, SC) from Montana. My aunt Kathy. She’d been in the throes of dementia, but now there was more to the story. Stage IV metastatic bone cancer. She’d be gone in two months. I’ve written quite a bit about her and you can too here and here. It was an incredibly rough summer.

During this ordeal with Kathy, our dear friend, Martha (age 15), had a scan that showed her Ewings Sarcoma had relapsed. So shit news all around. In fact, I was driving Martha and her mom back from her first chemo when the news came that Kathy had died. Life is just really a shit show sometimes. For real.

So why THE SHOW ON THE ROAD YEAR? That sounds so exciting, right? Well, seeing as how the hubby was gone for most of the year for work and we’d have to meet up with him to do things like celebrate his 50th in NorCal, but then attend his dear uncle’s funeral later the same week…well, you get the picture.

We were, however, lucky enough to stage a full-fledged getaway to Riviera Maya at the Andaz Mayakoba for spring break. Even scoring a sweet day in the epicenter of the

CancunFam

In the belly of the Spring Break 2017 BEAST

spring break maelstrom also known as a catamaran in Cancun. (We are SO smart. The girls have now been officially indoctrinated! Rum punch and death-defying spinnaker flights for everyone!)

We made the best of the trip the following month to Marin and Sausalito, even through it was under such sad circumstances. The hubby was in San Jose that week for Monday and Tuesday. Flew back Tuesday afternoon (his birthday) just in time for some champagne on the porch and dinner at Blackbelly with the girls. And had just enough time to pack again and fly back to San Fran the very next day.

We got to hit Zuni Cafe (we live and die for that chicken!), saw a guy smoking crack on the way back to the car (“welcome to the city, girls!”), stayed at an awesome carriage house in Sausalito, tasted vino in

IMG_0739

A buncha hog legs

Healdsburg, shopped at the Heath outlet (yay for new dishes!), ate our collective body weights in oysters at Hog Island, and then spent the weekend celebrating the life of a man well-loved. It was beautiful, joyful, sad, bittersweet, and we were so thankful to be there.

The next month it was off to Montana to celebrate our sweet Ty-Ty and her amazing high school achievements.

IMG_0001

Congratulations, Ty!

Then, upon receipt of the Kathy news, Lucia and I were back on a plane to South Carolina to check in on her, get her settled in with Hospice, and help her friend, Bobbie, with anything else that was needed to sell the house and settle her affairs.

When it was time to leave, I was extremely upset and torn. I felt I needed to be in SC as much as possible and knew I’d need to go back as soon as I could. As luck would have it, Kenny was working in Greenville a ton, so it wasn’t very hard to arrange an extended stay for the end of July. Plus, there was a work event his boss asked us to attend in his place at the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee, so with a huge amount of logistics wrangling, and a schedule for 2 ½ weeks that took a spreadsheet to manage, we were set to return.

On July 4th, we were enjoying the respite at home before we hit the road again. Lucia had headed up to a friend’s family cabin in the mountains to spend the day BBQing, canoeing and hanging with friends. Sella was jumping on the tramp with some neighbor kids. And Kenny and I had just scooped ourselves some freshly made frosé for our planned Crown marathon on Netflix. So you can imagine how startled we were when three of Lucia’s friends — who were supposed to be with her at the gathering — show up asking if we know where Lucia is. It was one of those moments every parent of a teenager dreads.

After a short bout of questioning, Kenny whipped into action, getting both the car description and license plate and placing a call to the police. I grabbed my keys and loaded the boys into the car with me to retrace the drive up the canyon. It was a very solemn ride and I kept reminding them to look down the cliff on BOTH sides and keep their eyes peeled. I was fuming a bit assuming they had done something stupid or were pulling some antics.

Well. Turns out they weren’t. I arrived to a scene of cops, paramedics and another frantic mother who had beat me there. My legs turned to lead as I started to get out of the car. The frantic mom was on me immediately and I whipped my head around looking for Lucia and her boyfriend as I took in every fourth word or so from the stream being hurled at me. It went like this: ACCIDENT. ROLL OVER. AMBULANCE. As my level of hysteria grew, my knees started to give way and bile rose up in my throat, a police officer grabbed my arm and said the words I so desperately needed to hear, “Every. One. Is. Safe.” And that’s when I finally spotted Lucia. The relief flooded me as we hugged for dear life and cried our hearts out. She’d lost her phone. I told her I could care less about that. All I cared about was her. Patrick was okay too. He’d just burned his leg a little on the exhaust pipe as he helped everyone out of the car.

The car came by on the tow truck about then. It was totaled. And I think I aged about 15 years in 15 minutes.

Yes. Lucia has a boyfriend. They have been an item for almost 9 months now, are inseparable and Kenny is having the appropriate dad-of-a-baby-girl fit. Luckily he’s a

IMG_1203

Love birds

good kid and treats her like she’s made of spun gold.

Then, Lucia had her wisdom teeth out three days after the accident (wanna see the video?) and, a few days after that, it was time to hop back on a plane to head south again. The spreadsheet was officially enacted and we traipsed from one side of the state, then to Georgia, then back again with a little lake fun thrown in between visits to the nursing home to see Kathy. Then a few days at the HAUNTED rental in Greenville (blog on that coming soon) while Kenny worked and the girls and I goofed off. We got home to Colorado and had two whole days before Kenny left for Chicago and Lucia left for five days in Minnesota with Patrick’s family. (Are you keeping up still?)

Then it was wedding weekend for our dear friends, Julie and Tricia. (So incredibly happy for them! What a touching day.) And then school started back (Bean is a middle schooler!

IMG_1185

First day: 11th and 6th

Teen Queen is a JUNIOR and looking at colleges! Shitdamn.) A few days later we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary, then the very next day, Martha started chemo and Kathy died.

The month of September was a blur of funeral planning and crazy cat ladies and chemo (for Martha). And then we were back on planes to say another final goodbye.

Even though some may think I should call this THE MOST FREAKING DEPRESSING YEAR EVER, I’m gonna stick with SHOW ON THE ROAD and make that my silver lining playbook.

At this point, I am happy to report that the deal finally closed for Kenny’s original company, paving the way for the deal for his new company to close. So he is now officially an employee of Ruckus Networks, an Arris Company. He has no travel planned for the rest of the year and we are all happy, healthy and glad to be home for a bit.

As for me, I am actively plotting a March adventure and fervently hoping 2018 will be a little more kind.

Here’s hoping it is for ALL of us.

Some 2017 Highlights and Bragging Rights:

  • Bean was Simba in the Lion King and graduated from Mesa Elementary, thereby ending an 11-year run at the school for us. It was sad!

    fullsizeoutput_55dd

    Behold Simba-Bean

  • Teen Queen got her license (my heart still hasn’t recovered).
  • We fit in at least one camping trip and didn’t tip the camper over or anything.
  • We hiked our butts off every minute we could — our adopted home state is a truly glorious place.
  • Bean secured a spot in the middle school jazz band as one of only TWO female trombone players.
  • Bean braces went on 12.12.17. Jumping straight into the season with a sore mouth. Oy.
  • Teen Queen has thrown herself into photography, guitar lessons and hip-hop dance in between boyfriend and school. I don’t know how she does it. 😆 🤪
  • We got two toes in sand times for the year. Not too shabby considering.
  • Our dear friend, Amy’s, book was published and will be available for orders soon 22770521_922019764616703_4899359695158133580_othanks to the passionate efforts put in by her loving husband and family. Her memory lives on in her vibrant words. We love you always, Amy.

CORRECTION: Sella’s friend, Audrey, joined jazz band on trombone as well and I missed it! Girl power!

 

 

Advertisements

The cat ladies, the hoarders, the TSA, cremation and me.

17 Nov

The FamilyThis photo just popped up from god-knows-where as photos and memories are wont to do. They appear out of the vapor and slap you in your damn face like a poltergeist. It’s hard for me to look at because four of the six people pictured are dead (or dead-to-me). Let’s run it through. The stately lady with the hair and the pearls, my Mima, died 2010. The hippie-looking/could-be-homeless vet dude kneeling, my dad, died 2004. The sideways-turned, sassy lady with the bob, my aunt Kathy, died 2017. And the young, snarky-looking dude behind her, my half-brother, became dead-to-me two days after my dad died in an epic screaming match over how he’d been treating my Mima.

You’d think that maybe my heart was made of ice or carbonized, black diamond. But starting from the moment that I read this obituary (in which my husband of 11 years at the time is not listed and my name is spelled wrong…in my own father’s obituary) well, let’s just say things went downhill from there. But, that, my friends is all for the novel-in-progress.

For now, I’ll move on to the fact that this photo was in a frame at my aunt’s house and she emailed it to me about four years ago, “Cassy, I have a pic on my tv of the family taken a little after Daddy died & I’ve thought how perfect it would be if I could take Reed out & put Daddy in—do you have a picture of him (maybe from your wedding) that I could take in & see if they could take Reed out & put Daddy in. Reed’s on the end so placement wouldn’t be that hard if they could do something with the size–I know it sounds weird, but I talk to them off & on & I have to look at their wedding pic that you had done for their 50th–anyway, it’s a thought.”

So, yea. A little weird. But I understood the sentiment. Reed isn’t our favorite person. And we have so many dead people in our family, that she was just trying to keep up the connection. It must have been so unsettling for her in particular once every single person in her immediate family was gone. It’s really sad.

Which brings me to my point. Kathy had a lot of really great friends. She was a member of a social sorority and volunteered at two of the area Humane Societies. She was also eccentric, lived alone and could be anti-social, so you’d be correct in assuming that not all of said friends fell in the realm of the normal.

A lot of them were cat ladies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se. But. When you spend the majority of your time in the Burger King parking lot feeding stray kitties, you may rub up against some different types of folks.

So, when Kathy was moved to the nursing home under Hospice care, the calls started. The first one went to best friend/saint, Bobbie, “What is happening with the kitties?” “I know Kathy loved her kitties.” “She left money in her will for her kitties!” Well, since the kitties had been safely placed and a generous nursing home employee had taken in Ben, her dog, we told her everything was fine. Not to worry. But. She wouldn’t let it go. Was adamant that she had to know precisely where said kitties had been placed. She upset Bobbie to the point that my mom (the ex-sister-in-law if you’re keeping track) got involved.

My mom called this lady and told her to mind her own damned business and stop stirring up trouble where there was none. This lady then had the nerve to accuse my mom (the owner of no fewer than three rescued pups) and my family of not being animal lovers. Well. That. Did. Not. Go. Over. Well. In fact, I think my mother’s head may have exploded on the spot. The nerve of this woman going on and on about what Kathy may or may not have left in her will for ‘the kitties’ when Kathy was on her death bed requiring around the clock care. I have no words.

Then, Kathy died.

And, by this point, Bobbie had had enough. So she gave them all my number. (Love, you Bobbie. Really I do.)

And the calls started coming. First from the hoarder lady who had loved my aunt so much and was so very close to her that the last time she went to visit her three days before she died, my aunt had unceremoniously asked her to leave. She told me this story as if it was the funniest and most endearing thing she’d ever experienced. “So when I started to sit down, she said, ‘Oh no! You are NOT staying. This isn’t a good time and I have too much going on!’ Isn’t that just the funniest thing?” I had some other words pop to mind, but I didn’t share them. Because crazy was just keeping on. Telling me what an amazing writer she was and how she just had to speak at Kathy’s funeral to share her thoughts she had written down.

This conversation went on via text for four solid weeks while I planned the memorial. I was juggling work, children, life with daily calls with the minister, the sanctuary coordinator, the funeral home, the dear friends who were flying in to speak at the memorial. And. This lady starts texting me about what my grandmother would’ve wanted. How I had to put up a marker at the cemetery even though Kathy had asked to be cremated. At one point, during a live conversation, I made the mistake of musing out loud about how I thought my grandparents had bought a burial plot for Kathy. Well. Huge mistake. Next thing I know, crazy is sending me ads she found on Craigslist where people are selling their cemetery plots.

Uh, lady? There is NO WAY IN HELL I am selling a damned burial plot on CRAIGSLIST.

The week before the service, she starts in again about speaking at the service and, since we already had four speakers lined up, I told her that I’d be happy to print some of her words in the program instead. But that I had to turn everything in that day to make it happen. Well, as I was trying to wrap up work and life before jumping on a plane, crazy says, “Okay. I will try to get to that AFTER MY NAP.” And I’m like, by all means…take your time. I can wait. <Insert Jeopardy count down music.>

When her submission finally came through, it was via text. And consisted of SIX HANDWRITTEN PAGES PHOTOGRAPHED AND SENT AS SEPARATE FILES. Well, Jesus-Christ-on-a-Cracker. This was when MY head exploded. “Listen, I do not have time to re-type this,” I wrote back to her. “Well. I guess I could go to the church and type it there?” To which I replied, “That will have to be between you and the church.”

Can you guess what happened next? “I just called the church and they said that there weren’t any time limits on the service, so I should be able to speak for my five minutes.” <Head explode #2.>

The last text exchange (as I was actually boarding the plane) went like this: Me: “I am not having this conversation with you again. You are NOT speaking at the funeral.” Her: “Well, okay. But I hope you aren’t letting any of those crazy cat people speak!”

<Insert crickets.>

The next call I get is from an actual cat lady. Her demands are as follows:

  1. I have someone who has to speak at the memorial
  2. I heard there will be a slide show and I have photos to include

Since I was pretty buried in arrangements already, I punted this one to my brother. He was working on the slideshow, so it made sense for him to coordinate with her and get the number of the wanna-be speaker. Well. Cat lady had other plans. By the time the conversation was over, my brother was also the victim of an alleged head explosion. She adamantly refused to give us the person’s number. Like she was their agent or something. And was super pissed that I hadn’t personally called her back. I said to my brother, “I give you ONE CALL. ONE. You don’t get to have YOUR head explode.” (Sibling LUV 4-ever.)

Eventually, she gave in. Emailed my brother the phone number and the photos. I made the call. Never heard back. Got a scathing email from cat lady. Wrote a scathing email back to cat lady. The alleged wanna-be speaker came to the funeral and cat lady didn’t. My theory on her behavior, after looking her up on Facebook for this post, is maybe her perm is too tight. Bless her heart.

What I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. The TSA does allow cremated remains in your suitcase. I highly recommend having it sealed up tight before transport.
  2. SC’s Blue Laws require black, opaque liquor store bags that can be particularly helpful in transporting an ashes baggie to the beach for illegal spreading. (Amirite, TQ?)
  3. Cat ladies don’t give a shit if you spread ashes at the humane society.
  4. Cat ladies don’t give a shit if your aunt leaves them most of her money. In fact, they are in no hurry what-so-ever to collect, holding up everyone else’s shares in the process. (Maybe I shouldn’t have sent that last email…)
  5. Cemeteries most certainly DO care if you spread ashes at an existing grave. Be discreet.
  6. Funeral home people don’t think anything you ask is weird. Even when it includes having remains divvied up into four separate baggies and/or sealed containers and put in a borrowed urn for a funeral service. They just hand it all over in a shopping bag at the end with a smile.

 

TODAY’S THEME SONG: He drinks a whiskey drink, he drinks a vodka drink. He drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink. He sings the songs that remind him of the good times. He sings the songs that remind him of the best times. Tubthumbing. Chumbawamba.

 

 

 

My name is Kathy-Cassy. Hers was Cassy-Kathy.

9 Nov

IMG_1350

Every week, a reminder pops up on my phone and computer: Call Kathy. I set it a little over two years ago when I realized weeks were easily morphing into months while life took over and every time I’d actually get her to answer her phone, things had always progressed.

Kathy was my aunt. My dad’s sister. And the last living relative my brother and I had on that side of our family, give or take. The fact that our family is so microscopic is a huge factor in why we are so abnormally close. I spent so much time at my grandparents’ house growing up that Kathy was almost more like an older sister at times. She and I flew to Europe together to meet my grandparents, my first plane trip was to visit her in Baltimore when I was 7, and she’d spend countless hours accusing me of cheating in Go Fish.

She was diagnosed with epilepsy after a brain bleed in college and, though married for a brief time, never had children. She wholeheartedly preferred animals to people and, when I’d tell her stories about my girls, she’d laugh and say, “I guess God knew what He was doing not giving me kids.”

I adored her. Her eccentricity. Her laugh. Her sarcasm. Her wit. (Her failure to ever, ever clean her house…not so much. <Insert gagging sound here.>)

I first realized something wasn’t right on Thanksgiving a few years back. She was driving to Chapin, SC from Florence to have dinner with my brother and his family. I was glad she was going. I always worried about how little she was getting out. She could be so anti-social — especially since Mima died. Then, my phone rang. “Cassy. Where is Cory’s house?” My heart dropped into my stomach. “Uh. In Chapin? Where are you?” “Well, I’m near a church.” Shit. There were only like 50 GD churches within a mile radius of my brother’s house near Lake Murray. “Okay. Which one?” And this whole time I’m thinking to myself…why in the hell is she calling ME? All the way in Colorado. Instead of my brother, whose house she was apparently circling. I can’t remember if he went to get her or exactly how it played out from there, but I knew. Either her epilepsy meds were off or it was something worse.

So, that Christmas, I bought her an iPhone. Thinking the Googles would solve all of her woes. Just put in the address she wanted, and VOILA, instantly read aloud directions and all would be right in the world. Instead: “Cassy. I LOVE the phone. But that lady just starts talking and I don’t know how to make her stop, so I just threw it in the basket.” Siri? Yea? Uh. Great.

Then the calls started coming. She’d gotten lost on the way to the movies, to Starbucks, to [fill in the blank]. Her friends were worried. She was getting the days mixed up. Missing appointments. She told me she kept sticky notes. Was creating index cards with directions to the store and Starbucks and the animal shelter… on the good days when she knew right where she was. I got this note via email from her on June 11, 2016: “Just ran out to Magnolia on an errand—made it out and back!! Y’all have a great weekend!” The little things… like making it to the mall and back.

My mom said, “She really shouldn’t be driving.” And my heart skipped a beat again. I knew it was true. She’d swiped a car on the interstate and run into a fence. But. I was panicked thinking of how to put this all into motion from afar. How in the hell would she get groceries for god’s sake? How does this all work? And she would bite my head clean off any time I tried to bring it up.

Luckily, the friends knew what to do and I will be eternally grateful. Because what I’d get was, “Well now that I don’t have the walker any more…” And I’d say, “What are you talking about?” Then it would all come tumbling out that she’d had an ‘episode’ at church which I later learned was a freaking stroke. So the bits and pieces that would actually reach my ears were so deeply disturbing that if I hadn’t had those friends to fill me in, I would’ve been completely and utterly left in the dark.

Bobbie, Maggie and Nadene called regularly to check in — all with the strict promise that Kathy couldn’t know we’d talked. She was a feisty one. And it turns out that she’d made them promise NOT to call me when the stroke happened because she was afraid I’d come back there. And there is some jacked up thing in my family that started when I moved west about not letting me come back there. Like if I show up they all just know they must be dying. It’s total bullshit.

Back in the spring, I was getting out of the car at the grocery store and my phone rang. Kathy. By this point, it had become so rare for her to call ME, that I instantly answered. “Cassy. I need to tell you something. I went to the doctor today and I only want to say this word once and I don’t want you to ever say it again. He said I have dementia. Don’t tell anyone that word though.” I had to catch my breath. Breathe. Breathe. She knows. She’s talking about it. She was so lucid in so many ways. Ways I hadn’t heard in so long. “What is it about the word? Do you think it makes it sound like you’re demented?” “Yes,” she said. “It makes me sound like I am running around my house with no clothes on.” “Well ARE YOU?!?” My favorite moment of that whole conversation was right then. When we both burst into laughter. You see, we had a pact. If either of us was ever walking around in circles in the yard, mumbling to ourselves, drooling…we’d promised to shoot. It was a joke of course, but she knew this was where my mind was going.

That conversation lasted for the entire grocery shopping trip and all the way back to my driveway, where I parked and sat while she told me how scared she was. Asked me what was going to happen to her. About whether she should move to get more help. How she couldn’t bear to leave her animals – her dog, Ben, who also had dementia. Laughed at the irony of that too.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the saddest conversations I’ve ever had.

It wasn’t long after that when she stopped answering the phone entirely and our conversations came to an abrupt halt.

Once Bobbie got everything arranged with a helper, sold the car, and took over power of attorney, I could finally breathe again. She called me with all big decisions and to give me updates. And it seemed to be humming along minus a few hiccups with a crooked ‘tree’ guy (to which ‘payments’ totaling $8K to this ass wipe prompted the bank to send in Adult Protective Services). It takes a village.

In June, we’d just gotten home from Montana. The hubby had flown directly from Kalispell to Greenville, SC for work. Bobbie had called me while I was at the Kalispell airport to go over some of Kathy’s finances. So when she called again the next night at 10pm mountain time, the air went out of my body yet again. “It’s Kathy. She’s in the hospital and it isn’t good. You need to come.”

Bobbie and the helper had found Kathy slumped over on her couch in a pool of urine. She couldn’t stand, was barely coherent. The ambulance came and the paramedic couldn’t find words for what he was seeing. “How long has she been like this?” And it was hard to hear. Hard to answer. Because only those of us who know and love her could explain that this was exactly what she wanted. To be with her animals until the absolute last possible second. Even if she’d gotten down to a skeletal shell of her former self. The only way you’d get her out of that house, in fact, was on a stretcher. And there you have it.

I quickly arranged to fly back to SC and Teen Queen decided she wanted to come too. I tried talking to Kathy on the phone and I wasn’t sure if she knew who I was. We had no idea what to expect upon our arrival. But I had a gut feeling that it wouldn’t be good.

Turns out, I was right. The shock of her appearance was short-lived though. As soon as she saw us, she smiled. But then said, “I told them to tell you not to come.” I smiled and said, “And you can see how well I listened.” She laughed a little at that.

The news was dire. Her mental state had apparently been masking the symptoms of advanced, metastatic bone cancer. She was in the last few months of her life.

The whirlwind of that week. Her disoriented and combative state. Her inability to move much. Her desperation to leave when you did. Begging, pleading, “Take me too. I’m ready to go.” It was horrific to witness. I think I cried every time I walked out of her room.

We met with Hospice and got the arrangements made for her to be under their care at the nursing home. Transport was arranged and she was finally discharged from the hospital. I went to her house and to the Dollar General and bought anything I could think of that seemed like it would make her more comfortable and ‘at home.’ In that awful nursing home. (My grandmother died there when I was 15, so it isn’t a happy place for me. Plus, all of those poor souls in their body shells, moaning. <Shudder.>)

The day of her transport, she was pissed. Spitting nails. Angry at anyone and everyone. She even told this one orderly to “step back. Further. Into the hall. Behind that line!” She wasn’t playing. Even though he was only trying to help her back into bed.

Leaving her there that first day as she repeatedly tried to go too. Heart breaking. But then she asked me to turn the TV to “that channel I like” and I realized she meant Fox News. That may have been when I truly knew she’d lost it for sure. (Calm down, red staters. It’s a joke.)

We spent that week going through her house (it was bad, like, toxic bad in there) and just getting everything settled. And it was so hard to leave. I knew I had to come back as soon as possible. I just didn’t feel settled about her. Didn’t feel like she was getting the pain meds she needed and she was just so disoriented still.

There were days during that week that we’d walk in and she would act like it was the most natural thing in the world. For Lucia, my mom, me to be sitting there in camp chairs in her nursing home room watching Fox News while she pretended to eat a grilled cheese.

The fates conspired and we ended up back in South Carolina in July for two and a half weeks. Mostly driven by the hubby’s work. But it gave us another week or so to spend with Kathy and check in on her care.  She kept asking me when I was due and I kept telling her, “I’m not pregnant, I just eat more than you do.” (She was eating NOTHING by this point, mind you.) The weird part is she kept asking if I was expecting my first. While my first child sat right there beside me and she was looking straight at her and calling her by name. That disease is so fucked up.

The last day we saw her will be forever etched into my soul. For many reasons. But. It was one of her agitated days. And we were startled to find her sitting up in her wheelchair looking out of the window. I could tell she was wild-eyed at first glance and she started in the minute she saw me. “Cassy. I’m glad you’re here because I know you’ll be honest with me. I’m not leaving here am I?” My little family just behind me took this huge, collective OH SHIT type of sigh and sat down. I lowered myself onto the foot of the bed, as close to her as I could get, looked into her eyes, shook my head and answered simply, “No.” She took a breath and asked, “Why is this happening to me?” “I have no idea. I wish I did.” “So what is it?” “It’s cancer. It’s in your bones and the dementia was masking your symptoms.” “I have DEMENTIA TOO?!?” And she started to cry. And my head, heart and soul exploded as I sat there watching her tears fall.

One month and seven days later, she was gone.

NOTE: I’m adding the speech I gave at her funeral here. In case you aren’t sick and damned tired of me just yet. And here’s her obituary for a bit more insight into all this 73-years-young woman was about. (Try to ignore the typos and spacing issues. They don’t call it the Florence Morning Misprint for nothing.) AND, the photo video my brother created.

Thanks for reading. I needed to get this out.

TODAY’S THEME SONG: And although my eyes were open. They might have just as well’ve been closed. Procol Harum. In memory of Kathy and her all-time favorite movie and soundtrack…The Big Chill.

The Matthews 2016 Download

11 Dec

Brought to you by that family who brings you their sad sack stories. Every. Single. Year. Until. Now.

2016 has been…dare I utter the word?…normal. Blissfully, unbelievably, normal. But that’s only if you factor in the smack-you-in-the-face-because-damn-you’re-old moment of taking your oldest to get her driving permit and then having to actually ride shotgun with said newly-minted driver and be nearly killed. Each. And. Every. Time. (Okay. Kidding. She’s SUPER responsible and careful, just like her mom.)

img_8383

Miss-miss hits the DMV

So near death driving events aside, we found ourselves in our very own version of the upside-down in the slow, but sure lane. Dear friends with clean scans (talkin’ ’bout YOU La-La and Mar!), hubby with a still clean colon…we became those people who just go see friends play in their bands and launch their art exhibits. You know the ones. Dr. Everything-be-all-rights? (Oh right, THAT one hit one of us particularly hard this year…RIP Prince.)

img_8507

Bliss c/o Belize

Our favorite 2016 moment was when we happened upon our one true love, Belize. Checking a big something off of our bucket list, we arrived in March for spring break with no expectations and came away changed people. We fell in love with the turquoise, tranquil waters, the daily fresh coconut provided by our new, dear friend, Eric, and left a bit of our souls there when we left. Many tears were shed and we have vowed to go back as quickly as possible.

For the first half of 2016, we did all of the boring, mundane things we had been meaning to do, in fact. Finally got the 4-years-in-the-making landscaping done. Replaced the Vitamix. You know. The good stuff.

And we hummed right along with a tag-along trip with the hubby to Cali and San Fran as soon as school closed its doors for summer.

img_9054

Some famous bridge (and bikers)

Took in as many foodie stops in the city as we could fit in for a few days. Drank copious amounts of wine with Cheryl by her pool. Got in some QT with the Cali fam. All adding to that good stuff list.

It wasn’t until ALL THE WAY INTO THE END OF JUNE that the first hit of the year came. (I feel like I’m jinxing us with a walk-under-the-ladder-holding-a-black-cat-while-breaking-a-mirror-and-NOT-knocking-on-wood just by saying that.) But it’s true. And surreal.

And even though everything is fine now, having your baby diagnosed with epilepsy is a big sideways hit no matter how you slice it. So there was that.

We survived and made it to the appointments and figured out how to still get to

img_9397

Sharpthews hit Yellowstone
(Photo cred: Rhys Sharpton)

Yellowstone the next week with new meds and just-in-case emergency procedures to follow. And had a fantastic time in that breath-taking place with our dear friends. (Who were generous enough to pick a spot to meet us…er…halfway from Kalispell…with the joke squarely on US with our 11-hour drive to their 6.)

We’ve had school plays, concerts, field trips, volleyball tournaments, dance classes, softball games, camping trips, lots and lots of house guests, hikes,

img_8770

Bean at bat

cocktails, picnics, dinner parties, laughs, cries, and all of that good stuff too. And even with all of the uncertainty the IT world has wrought lately with all of the mergers and acquisitions that directly impact BOTH of our jobs…It’s truly been one of the first solidly great years we’ve had in a while. So we will TAKE IT. In fact, when we take into account all that the last few years have sent our way? I’d say we are counting our blessings in a BIG way as we close out 2016.

Image

Seize the Day

28 Jul

On June 25th, the children were nestled all snug on their pallets in the basement. Our temporary daughter for two weeks (love you, Rhys!), and the two permanent ones, had just started to dozIMG_9441e. It had been a long day (bean played a double header). It was a late bed time. The hubby and I had just dozed off too, when a scream from Teen Queen jerked us both awake. “Mom!!! Something’s wrong with Sella!”

When I say we may not have touched a stair when we flew down there, I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t know it was possible to move that fast at my age.

Teen Queen flew UP almost as fast, with temporary daughter right on her heels. She was crying hysterically, but I barely noticed. Focused entirely on bean, who was, at that moment, holding her arm in the air and saying over and over, “Is it my HAND?” I thought, “WTF is she talking about?” Hubby says, “She said she had the hiccups.” Then, she yells that her belly hurts and runs to the bathroom.

So picture all of this happening when you’ve just been woken by a scream. Yea. Chaos.

The next few minutes were us trying to calm down the big girls, trying to calm down bean who was freaked and shaking, trying to figure out exactly what in the ever-loving hell had just happened.

I said, “Just come sleep with us” to bean because TQ and TD were all — no way are we going to be able to sleep if she’s down here. They even moved to the bedroom, trying to erase the memory.

But we, in our infinite wisdom and utter exhaustion, just wanted to go back to bed.

The next morning, the big girls were still freaked. “Mom. Why didn’t you call the ambulance?” asks TQ almost the moment she’s up. And that’s when I started digging in. Questioning them both, in detail, separately. Then together. And the picture starts to come into focus finally at around 11am the next morning. And it was this:

She was making a weird sound that woke up the big girls. They thought it was the dog tapping on the floor. Then they realize it’s bean. TQ grabs her head and turns her over. Sees she is shaking violently and flips on the light to see her eyes rolled back in her head. Screams for us. Said she was choking and she thought she couldn’t breathe.

So I freak. I tell the hubby, “She had a seizure.” He’s all, “Nah. I don’t think that’s it.” So I ignore him and go call the pediatrician’s answering service. I go from the triage nurse’s voice changing completely once she hears what’s happened, to the on-call doctor saying she’s calling Children’s Hospital and will call me back immediately, to another call with her, to being told this is an emergency, to you may not be able to go on your planned trip to Yellowstone — we’ll let you know. My heart skipped 100 beats. We should’ve called 9-1-1. I felt like the worst mother ever known.

The next couple of days were multiple calls with bean’s regular pediatrician (love Dr. B) — who called THREE times to make sure we were okay. Who said, “The part that really sucks is she may never have another one, but you just never know.” And, “I’d keep a hand on her at all times when you’re near the thermals in Yellowstone.” And he may be the most mellow doctor I’ve ever met.

So this was serious. Serious enough that they prescribed a nasal emergency seizure-stopping med and told us we had to rent a satellite phone to go on the trip. Serious enough that we are to call 9-1-1 if she has another one. Serious enough that we were given an emergency appointment four short weeks later with the in-extremely-high-demand neurologist at Children’s.

I had to drive to the Anschutz campus of Children’s in south Denver just to get the Rx filled since no one else in maybe the entire Front Range will fill the prescription. And we had to rent a phone from a guy in California, who overnighted it to us — no problem. And off we went.

The horseback ride was my scariest moment of the whole trip. But once I heard the music of her incessant chatter with the head wrangler, my racing heart calmed and we settled into the pace of the trail

We made it home without incident. She may have even spent one night back in her own bed (after sleeping with me and sending the hubby to the couch for days and days).

The in-laws arrived just a few days later, so we were on an air mattress right outside of her bedroom for that whole week. Then the hubby and in-laws left on the same day, and we settled into a girls only week and it was almost like it had never happened.

The hubby came home for two short days. Weary and half-broken with a hurt back that landed us in Urgent Care on Sunday. And then he left. And then it was THE BIG DAY.

Teen Queen reluctantly came to support me. And bravely recounted the story over and over for the nurse, the neurologist. And the neuro exam with the gazillion questions, reflex tests, eye tracking. It was one of the longest days I’ve had in a long, long time.

We left at the end of the day with an EEG on the books and training for intranasal midazolam mastered.

There were theories floated and an indication of what this could be. How her history of migraines played into it all. How her restless sleeping ways that have us all playing roshambo to see who has to share a bed with her was something. How her late night sleep walk-and-talks were possibly a puzzle piece. The EEG was going to be the big reveal.

Said EEG was a 90-minute test that she had to be severely sleep-deprived for to get optimal results. And you can imagine how well that went over with newly arrived home from 2nd work trip broken boy/hubby. We quickly strategized. He had to work late (end of quarter) and TQ volunteered to stay up with him. So they took the up until midnight shift and I went to bed at 9:30 with an alarm set to wake up sleepy bean at 4am.

That was when she finally agreed to a post on social media. Up until that point she had said, “I really don’t want you talking about it. Please.” So I agreed. And only mentioned it to a very small few who happened to call when she wasn’t around. (Which is basically never since it’s summer and we are all up each others’ asses 24/7. Yay. Working from home.)
Bean was so nervous before the EEG that she was shaking. It went well though. They strobe-lighted her then hyperventilated her and then let her sleep at long last. It was like a mini-torture session starring my baby girl. And I somehow didn’t cry.

So then we waited. Until today. When the fabulous Dr. Yang called just as the hubby and I were ALONE in the car by some miracle. Her suspicions were confirmed by “some abnormalities” in my baby’s brain. Diagnosis (which I know you’ve all been waiting for): Benign Rolandic Epilepsy.

In spite of the fact that any time a pediatric neurologist calls you to tell you that your child has an official diagnosis based on abnormalities in the brain is cause for feeling like you may vomit, this isn’t all bad news.

She WILL grow out of it. Or at least is likely to. She may not ever have another one. And she doesn’t have to start meds yet.

The other part is they DO want to start her on migraine meds. So that is happening. And I asked for a MRI — which they willingly agreed to and, in fact, supported. So another test for bean. (And she ain’t happy.)

Otherwise, we are going to have to train the school on how to administer the seizure stopping drug (and any other camp or place she will spend any length of time). And she will not be able to swim or take a bath without eyes-on-her-at-all-times supervision.

It’s one of those mildly life-altering things that comes along and smacks you right in the face. Just when you thought it was summer and you could kick back a little.

Footnote: Hubby still isn’t better. But at least he’s home for a little while and we can pretend to be normal.

PS: HUGE thank you to Sean and Tina for jumping to my aid and answering my million+ questions when I felt like I was teetering on the edge of the abyss. Your insights calmed me more than you could know.

TODAY’S THEME SONG: I hear the drums echoing tonight. But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation. Africa. Toto.

Three Cheers for the New Year

26 Dec

IMG_7836

Photo Cred: Ani Vattano Photography

The 2015 Matthews New Year E-Letter

Brought to you by that family who brings you their sad sack stories. Every. Single. Year.

IMG_0599

Facebook image inspired by Charleston shootings.

The fact that these greetings are coming your way after Christmas is over should speak for itself. The tumult that was 2015 was a stealthy little bastard. Poking it’s nasty head up just as we thought we’d crossed into some well-earned peace. The overview through September is here for a refresher. I notice that I omitted the horrific tragedies that befell our home state this year. Those brought on many, many bouts of tears and hand-wringing from afar as we watched and waited and hoped all would be okay. (And I couldn’t help but think, “How many times can one change their Facebook profile pic in one year in homage to yet another tragedy?”)

11010542_10205767588721277_1454831489000827559_o

Percy home, safe and sound with Boone.

The other big event was in July — when some crack-headed idiot decides it’s time to up and steal a car. With my parents’ dog inside. Huge favors called in and multiple news stories later, Percy was found safe (albeit a little bit more whack-a-doodle ever since).

So you’d think that would be quite enough for the year. And it would. But then the hubby decided to take a nap on the conveyer belt at the Whole Foods check out and couldn’t get up. So we had that fun time visit to the ER, complete with MRI, to learn he had a compacted disk.

Then Teen Queen decided to break up with her cutie patootie boyfriend after homecoming and bean came home with THE LICE.

Then. I decided to post a photo of all of the kick ass peeps I know who’ve kicked cancer’s ass and, what do you know, that

We’ll miss you always, G-Man.

asshole fate decided to take another one of them just to mock me. So just as the lice prevention olive oil hair styles were at their peak, we flew to DC to bid an incredibly sad farewell to our dear, dear friend, Amy, who just didn’t get long enough to do what she was doing – which was inspire us and make us laugh and lift us up when another BFF gets cancer. It still makes me cry to think about it. The hubby was honored to be a pall bearer though he counts it as one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.

RIP dear, sweet Gigi.

RIP dear, sweet Gigi.

November brought another terrorist act and another profile pic change and more sadness for lives lost. And then Gigi decided 99.75 years was quite enough and took her leave as well on December 2nd. So off we went to SC to say good bye to yet another person we held so dear.

And so we don’t end there with you face down in a gutter with a brown bag and bottle just from reading our year end retrospective, I’ll end on a high note (in chronological order):

    1. Excellent trip to Santa Fe in February for Teen Queen’s birthday. We ate our way across the town and kept the
      IMG_6154

      Chile ristra, La Posada de Santa Fe

      ghost at La Posada company for the weekend. What an incredible time we had

    2. Another family adventure to California for spring break in March found us in a VRBO in the heart of Venice.
      Bikes rented, we headed out in search of the best eats and got to see one of our favorite peeps while we were there — plus the Warner Brothers lot where Lucia decided I was destined to write for any one of her favorite TV shows and set out to locate every possible link toevery job posting she could find.
IMG_6347

Welcome to…California!

  1. On my birthday in April, the hubby got the five-year-all-clear scan results we’ve been holding our breath for since his diagnosis in June 2010. Best birthday present ever!
  2. June found us in SC one row from the beach at Folly. It was a Simmonds reunion kind of weekend with my girl cousins (and memories of the third ever present), mom, aunt, brother, sis-in-law and all of their offspring. We even got a day visit from the wife of one boy cousin with all cousin kiddos. What a blast.
  3. The hubby landed himself a job in July and has been a working stiff ever since. He’s been traveling like crazy and it’s been quite the adjustment. You can read more about that here.
  4. We bought ourselves a sweet camper in May and got in more than one adventure before the
    IMG_0596

    Little surfer girl, Folly Beach, SC

    hubby was back tied to a desk and airplane. We even tipped the damn thing over on our maiden voyage…because that’s how we roll.

  5. We had visits from a boy cousin, a brother/brother-in-law and the parents/in-laws and got to celebrate the big 8-0 for Pop with all of his brothers and most of the ‘west coast contingent’ of the Matthews clan.
  6. I made a solo voyage to Ohio and got to party like it was 1999. Kentucky-border style.
  7. We got new windows.
  8. We watched the bean swim, run and kick a ball and the teen queen volley and do the bump-n-grind — I mean dance.

    IMG_0569

    You never know what will pop up.

  9. We survived one whole semester with a high schooler.

Now we have driver’s ed to weather and a shiny, new year that we are counting on being full of adventures far and wide and smack full of good health, mother nature 100%  in a good mood, and peace on earth without hearts full of darkness. Can I get an AMEN?

THIS YEAR’S THEME SONG: Because a pause is the only time it takes for them to get a jump on us so if you’re staying in, you best be braced, but if you’re coming out then let’s just go. ~Ages and Ages

 

 

 

 

 

The Nit Wits

13 Oct

Friday night I worked until 9 pm, but opened a really nice bottle of Pinot Noir to ease my pain. Texted the teenage queen’s now ex-boyfriend’s mom (who I will never ever break up with) to check in. And the bean went off to the neighbors’ for a mystery dinner birthday party. Work finally managed and in a holding pattern, I fully embraced my inner TGIF thoughts while watching some rando-show the TQ insisted upon.

In the garden. Before the lice hit the fan.

In the garden. Just moments before the lice hit the fan.

Saturday morning the birds were chirping/the butterflies were flitting by while I admired my dahlias and picked butterbeans and cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden. I was settling in to this weekend shaping into near perfection when—WHAM. Bean started itching her head. “Why are you scratching?’ I asked, ever-so-innocently as I shelled beans and thought about the cocktail I was going to have later with Chad in her kitchen.

“I have some mosquito bites.”  “Well, no. Not this time of year. Let me see.”

Bean pulled up her hair and I thought, well damn. Spider bite. Then she says, “I have a lot.” So then I pull up her hair some more and see what looks like a rash. All. Over. Her. Neck. And Upper. Back.

WTF.

I call the hubby in. He says, “We’ll have to keep an eye on that.”

Then, I’m all. Wait a damn minute. She looks like she has dandruff. Then I’m all, doesn’t lice look like dandruff? The hubby is all, no. And I’m like, I’m calling people. So I start dialing. And then the hubby panics and runs next door.

I’m still dialing for dollars when he comes back with Jane. Who walks in pinning up her hair. Smart woman. And proceeds to look. And dig. And damn. They see a live one. Right out of the gate.

And there it is. After years and years of dreading this day with pure, white-knuckled terror. Our number was up. We. Had. The Lice.

Her first suggestion was to call in the big guns. And all I could think of was Purse Girl, teetering on the brink of sanity, maniacal laughter ricocheting across her backyard, as she combed nits for like two solid years. And had to go into neck brace traction for the rest of her life after it was all over. So I say, “Gimme the number.” And I run straight to the Rockwells to pilfer trash bags.

Hubby has a plan

Hubby has a plan. (It didn’t work.)

The hubby goes ahead and calls the LiceDoctors while I spin in circles in the living room with the newly acquired pile of trash bags in my hand.

Then. It hits me. Birthday party. Night before. Lots of little girls with long hairs in dress up clothes. Humbling call #1: Oh god. I am SO SORRY, but…

Then #2: So. Yea. I know Teen Queen and your sweet boy (who I will love forever) just broke up. Yea. Still so sorry about that. But there’s this other thing too…

Then #3: Hi. I know you have already so much on your plate. What with teacher conferences and all. But. Remember that lice email from Labor Day weekend that the school sent? Yea. A whole month ago. So turns out…

Then #4: It’s me. I know your girl has chemo this week and is bald and can’t get it (hee-hee-hee). Well. We were over there a few times this week and…What’s that? Her twin is itchy? NO. No. No000. Okay. I’ll let you go….

And this is all before the beans were even shelled and the hubby had hung up the phone.

We were ifyouseekamy-ed.

IMG_7620

Little bitches

The lice patrol wasn’t due to arrive until 5 or 6 and I had to think of something. So I took bean outside, poured our nicest bottle of EVOO on her head, covered her with a shower cap and forbade her to set foot in the house. Ever. Again.

“Mom? Can I come in? I need to go to the bathroom?”  “Okay. But don’t touch anything! And then go: Right. Back. OUT!”

Then. We bagged up all of our shit. Separated throw pillows, bedding, stuffies, towels and washables from dryer-only-a-bles. Colors from whites. Upturned all of the hampers and pulled out every loose piece of fabric that could have skimmed a head hair, and put it all into the huge plastic bags that the Rockwells and Matthews had obviously been hoarding since the flood of 2013.

I said, we are going to need some alcohol. So while I packed laundry essentials, laptops so we could work while we waited, chargers and such, the hubby grabbed his growler. And we loaded up and headed to the neighborhood brewery to fill up before we sudsed up. (And, yes. In Boulder, everyone has beer being brewed on the nearest corner. And probably in their garage too.)

I started trying to do the math on quarters needed as we loaded all of our lice shit into the two, massive 6-load capacity washers and four of the huge dryers at the laundromat. Then pretended to ignore the stink-eye we were getting from the college dudes when they saw our pile.

Wide load

Wide load

Turns out laundromats in Boulder take Apple Pay. (Thanks, Obama!)

We settled in with our beers and free Wifi connections and some laundry-regular whose Saturday routine we’d rudely interrupted walks up. “Uh, excuse me? Are you the ones using BOTH of the 6-load washers?” “Uh, yea?” “Well, you will be handing them over in 15 minutes then.” (Not a question.)

The hubby then ferried me home in time to meet the lice lady. It was getting dark, so she set up shop in the kitchen.

About then, J-Mac shows up with her anti-lice kit which included two bottles of wine and two cartons of Ben & Jerry’s. This is someone who clearly has her lice therapy plan dialed in.

She sat there with us as the nit-picking began. I went first. And did a decent job of trying-not-to-panic as nice lice lady confirmed my worst possible fear (besides snakes. I really, really, really HATE those) — I had live ones. Two in fact. I tried not to vomit as she combed those and their hopes and dreams from my hair shafts.

IMG_7621-1

The TQ Mane

I kept hearing a distinct ‘ca-ching’ sound as the hours ticked by. Hubby had a live one. Teen Queen no – but the hope/promise of a future for a former tenant remained in the form of a nit or two who were being kept company by some glitter (!). Overall very minimal for her. Thank god with that mane.

IMG_7624

Bean braves the comb

When it was Bean’s turn, we all held our breath. Poor baby had been outside in her plastic cap all day. And then on the floor crying as one-by-one, we joined her ilk. She was in a ball saying, “I’m so sorry,” over and over — by the time it was her turn.

Turns out she has really, really clean hair (lice tip: keep your kids FILTHY). Or some kinda tasty cake scalp. Those bitches had built apartment complexes and a full-on recreation center in her baby head and appeared to be hosting a wicked rave. It was godawful.

All I could think was, how in the HELL had she not been itching up a blue streak? She had given NO SIGN. Nothing. And it didn’t even occur to us to check. Her grade wasn’t even affected in the Labor Day Call Out. (Or so we thought.) And we’d never had it. Any of us. Even as kids. So we had no effing clue.

As the hours and dollar signs ticked by, we had THE LICE excavated and said buh-bye. We had our nifty new $20  lice comb and a bulk can of olive oil and we were good to go. We dug out crappy old sheets and towels and pillows and let the coated oil hair drip away. Suffocating any new fresh faces looking to procreate on our pillow.

IMG_2223

Hubby oiling me up.

And bean got to live inside again. For now.

We even went out to dinner and pretended we were normal by Sunday. Then we got home, the power went out in a wind storm, and we were reduced to nitpicking with headlamps. Fershittinsakes.

Yesterday, the comb outs were all coming out clean. We were thinking we’re getting into the hang of it. Girls and I have a nice day together for the school holiday. Then. Purse Girl calls. She’s just landed and has an itchy head.

TODAY’S THEME SONG: Can you hear him scratchin’ at the screen door. Little bag a bones been out all night. Kitty. The Presidents of the United States of America.

%d bloggers like this: