This last couple of weeks have been overwhelming.
Last summer, I agreed to go back to work as a long term sub. In the library at an elementary in Kettering. At the time, it was a good decision. Dad was home, five minutes away, in a safe place.
I know what the fall and winter brings, and keeping busy is good.
I forgot how much I loved working in the library, and working with kids. Keeps you young. I have really enjoyed working again. Great kids, great staff.
But I also didn't anticipate how the little bit of time away from my dad would take a toll on him.
He has asked me more than once how much longer I'll be working (and I'm only working part time in the mornings!) What I learned here is even though Dad is home (Dayton) and in a safe place, he requires a lot of tlc. The only thing he wants now is to have someone to play cards with at 4:00 every day! Some days there is someone there to play, but more often, he sits in the pub and waits for someone to show up. So I need to be there. He's 87. I want to spend as much time as I can with him.
Plus I take him to doctor appointments, do his laundry and make sure he always has beer in his refrigerator! He is a full time job. And I love it.
Last week, I took him to his doctor appointment. We were going to go to lunch after his appointment. As we were leaving his place, the receptionist told us the Podiatrist was going to be in that day. Only there for an hour. Once a month. And dad needs to see him when he's in. So no lunch that day, straight back to his place.
When we got there, with five minutes to spare, as dad was walking in the door (shuffling his feet) he tripped on the rug at the front door. I tried to grab his coat, but just couldn't catch him. As he was falling, he hit his head on the chair and went down on his left (and worst) shoulder. He tried to catch himself with his left hand. All I heard him say was "SHIT!" I'm surprised that I didn't pass out after I looked down...his left ring finger was literally hanging off! It looked like a compound fracture. Blood everywhere. I quickly covered up his hand (but not before he looked) and told him NOT to look. He just looked at it and then looked away. No panic. No fear. Nothing. He was bleeding profusely. When the nurses got there, I got up with a handful of blood in my palm. She kept pressure on the finger until the squad got there (20 minutes later!) I'm usually very pleasant when I visit my dad...they saw a WHOLE other side to me that day!
He was transported to Soin , took almost 3 hours to stop the bleeding. The x-rays show it was dislocated - at the joint above the ring. It was like a pea pod snapping. Awful. They splinted his finger, then transported him to another hospital where there was a hand surgeon, who had to open it back up, flush it out, and pop it back together. Dad was a trooper. Never complained about anything. We were in ER from 3 pm - midnight. He went home that night. We were as exhausted as he was!
Two days later, I took him to Liberty Twp to see the orthopedist. Looked good. (well not really, looked disgusting. And as much as I want to post the pictures of his hand - which OF COURSE we took pictures. I do what FORT would do. Take pictures of disgusting things. Only she would post them. I'll think about it.)
One week later, he's fallen two more times! And (knock on wood) no broken bones. THAT is amazing. Someone posted something on FB not long ago about the 10 Good Things About Drinking Beer. One was it builds strong bones. My dad is living proof of that!!! He LOVES his beer.
So Life Lesson of the last week? I already HAD a full time job. I need to think things out a little better before making a decision. (However, I also taught my own kids, when you commit to something, you don't back out. I'm there as long as they need me. We're not quitters!)
Another Life Lesson I learned from my daughter. If you knew Melissa, you know the story of the day after she lost her son. It was a Monday, John had to go to work, Donny went to work, and I came back to Kettering to make funeral arrangements. She was alone that day. Decided to go to the closest Catholic Church for mass that morning. She sat in the back of church crying during the entire mass. When mass was over, not one person stopped to ask if she was ok. Even the Priest walked by her...and turned the lights out in the church. Not one person stopped to ask if she was ok. She wrote about it in an article for the Cincinnati Weekly. She said "I could have been in the local pub and gotten more compassion"....
What I (and a lot of other people who know the story) learned from that...if someone is hurting, take the time to AT LEAST say "Are you Ok?" That is the least I can do. And follow up if you can.
I had the opportunity to do that last winter. I didn't know this person personally, but I knew she was hurting. And we had something in common. So I got out of my comfort zone, sent her a note. I never heard anything. But that's not why I did it. I just feel like everyone needs to know that someone cares. I'm pretty sure she's has LOTS of support, but we had something in common. And I know how important it is for me to have someone who truly understands. So I reached out.
I recently heard from her, and my note DID help. We're friends now.
If you THINK someone needs a hug, hug them. If you think someone needs an ear, listen.
Another thing I learned. After my sister Sue passed away, friends of ours showed up at our front door with enough food for an army and two coolers full of drinks. They didn't call, they just showed up.
When you tell someone "Call me if you need anything", I guarantee they WILL NOT call. Just do it.
Trust your instincts. Be there. Listen.
I finally got out for a walk this morning (after a trip to the dentist...I have a terrible toothache. Never had a toothache in my life. Awful - but not as bad as shingles! Found out I have an abcessed tooth. Need a root canal. UGH. Something else I've never had) Beautiful day today, and I thought a lot about everything that's been going on in my life lately. I have learned so much in the last nine years alone. I think I wasn't paying attention to Life Lessons before Melissa. I pay attention now. I learned from friends who didn't say anything. They were just there. I learned from HER friends who weren't afraid to share stories. I know how much that helped me. I learned from THEM.
I thought about this too. So many good things have happened in the last nine years. And this is selfish to say, but I would give them ALL back to have my daughter back. But I know I can't. So I have to appreciate all the lessons, and all the kindnesses, and all of the stories. Melissa's legacy is helping kids with college expenses. I share her breast cancer story. If her story inspires someone, her death was not in vain. Her legacy lives on.
This time of year is a struggle for me. Fall was Melissa's favorite time of year. She loved everything pumpkin spice (candles especially - I was so afraid she was going to burn her house down she had so many candles burning!). She loved the fall for rugby.
She went into the hospital the Monday before Thanksgiving. All I can think is "it was the beginning of the end". It's PTSD. The memories come back every year. I kept spiral notebooks in my purse and wrote everything down at every doctors appointment. When she was in the hospital I wrote down things she said (she was pretty funny most of the time) I didn't want to forget anything. Sometimes I get them out this time of year and remember. There were some good times even when she was in the hospital and Hospice. She made us laugh all the time.
This year, we are remembering Johnny Mac too. His birthday is Saturday. His first birthday to be with his family, Melissa & JP. But his first without his family here. And Thanksgiving. And Christmas. We miss them terribly. And I hurt for his mom, dad and his sisters.
This journey is a roller coaster. One minute I am reclusive and can't think about celebrating anything (yesterday)...and today, I get a chance to get out and take a walk, and think about all the lessons I've learned and "have I really learned anything?" if I don't do anything with what I've learned? But I think I have.
I have a good friend who told me the other day that a neighbor lost her son a few years back. She took peanut butter cookies to them when it happened. And she's done it every year since on the anniversary. What a great idea. Those parents KNOW that she is remembering their son. Nothing more a parent wants, that their child is not forgotten. I learned something else this week!
I've learned that when you help someone else, you help yourself (sounds a little selfish, doesn't it?)
But it's true. It's healing.
This journey is not over. It won't be over until I see her again. I know that it won't always be easy. But we find joy wherever we can find it. Our grandsons kept us busy in the fall with their football games. Basketball mainly this time of year. I can concentrate on the game and not think about what time of year it is. We are not very social this time of year because it's just hard. So we go to as many games as possible. Girls, boys, ND, WSU, UD. The last thing Melissa wanted to do was go to a Fairmont girls game. But she never got the chance. A friend visited and she slept the rest of that day. So we go for her. I don't think we've missed a game in 9 years. In the beginning, it was the only thing we COULD do.
So, yes, I am struggling. Even after nine years. The pain is still there. But we find ways to carry on. And she reminds us often that she is still around.
In fact, when I got home from my walk today, a butterfly flew in front of me. I don't know about you, but I don't see too many butterflies in late November. Not in Ohio anyway! She was letting me know that she is still around....(and I was thinking about posting today, I think she was ok with that too.)
Love you pretty girl...and miss you EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Ok. I thought about it. I'm going to post the disgusting picture of my dad's finger. It will be the last picture, so don't scroll all the way down if you don't want to see it. I'll leave a little extra space before you get to it. I'm telling you, it might make you pass out. YES. It's THAT bad. But some people love that kind of stuff (Melissa). And this is HER blog. So I HAVE to.
I'm going to ease into the pictures with some fun ones first...
We took the boys to NC to see their cousin Chris's football game. Their FIRST college football game.
So while they were working on dad's finger, I didn't want to be in the room. So I went out and called Nick. While I was talking to him, I looked up, and there were lockers. Melissa, Courtney & Sam were all there. (Courtney & Sam are with Fort. Their parent's are friends of ours. The #10 is Sam. Long story, I'll explain in another post someday!)
Dad after they popped it back in place. He'd been in the hospital for 9 hours at this point! He looks pretty good in his dress!
Thanksgiving at his place. He's getting around much better with a walker instead of a cane!
Dad and his girls.
OK....here it is. Don't scroll down if you can't stand gory...It kind of looks like a Halloween hand...
SEE...I TOLD YOU!!!!!