Friday, August 26, 2016

The Big 6-0

Well, I made it.

The BIG 6-0.  The way this summer was going, I didn't think I would.  Wondering now if this birthday had something to do with my struggles this summer.  Oh, I know it definitely had to do with the fact that Melissa wasn't here to celebrate with us (our 40th anniversary AND my 60th birthday).  But maybe it was THIS birthday.  I mean...when you turn 50, maybe you are only half way home.  You could possibly live to be 100.  But 60?  You won't live to be 120.  So now I'm more than half-way there.  UGH.

So I decided to start the final lap in a positive way.   Now when I say final lap, it could be, say 10-15 more years?  Maybe?  I don't want to live to be 100, really.  Donny & I have already talked about this.  We bought a new mattress last year - should last us 15.  So maybe the last mattress we'll ever have to buy!  I bought him a sentimental card after he did so much for my 60th birthday - he really went all out.  One of the things the card says is "I'll love you forever".  He said "well, easy to say NOW.  Forever isn't that much longer."

Funny how you think about things the older you get.

We really have decided to do it up right, finally.  Starting with this 60th celebration for me.  Originally I told him I didn't want anything. That was when I was in the depths of depression and anxiety the middle of this summer.  Started back on antidepressants and things eventually started to get better.  I was back and forth on this party thing.  Then he made some phone calls (and so did I) and there was no turning back.

I'm glad we celebrated the way we did.

Lots of people who have been an important part of my life (and Donny's too) were there.  Really meant a lot to me.

Mary Kayser bought me this unique bracelet @ Webster Street Market (Mary Clifford's favorite place!)

Susan Westbeld and her dad joined us for the celebration.  He is grandpa to Andrew & Max.We went to one of Kathryn's games @ Notre Dame together.  They loved talking to "Grandpa" and he loved talking to them too!


Angie (Melissa's best friend) was there.  Kind of like having Melissa there...

of course my baby was there too.

Shelly, a long time friend from softball came too.  She was my rock at Melissa's funeral. Love her.

Lacy, Kent & Colbie came too!  Following Fairmont girls basketball (Lacy is the coach)gets us through the rough months in the winter.  Now she runs the 5K.  She's been an important part of my life in the last 7 years...

Denise, my good friend from Fairmont days (our KIDS Fairmont days.)  They have been good to us too in the last 7 years.

Peg.  My favorite Principal.  I told her I was a little nervous about working for a female principal,until Skip (previous principal) said she was Irish Catholic.I knew she'd be ok.  Not only a great Principal, but a good partier too. 

Jaye & Marianne - St. Helen's friends who are back in my life.  We have our own little support group (we are all taking care of elderly parents).  Bloody Mary's once a month at Trolly Stop.  Works for all three of us!(Jaye and I were in the same second grade class together - Mrs. Doocey.  Didn't realize it until Jaye brought yearbooks to one of our "sessions'!)

Bobby & Penny.  Bobby's dad and my dad were friends growing up. I guess I've known Bobby since I was born!  Now we are in the same club together (they lost a son also).Now Andrew & Max's best friends - we spent a weekend with them camping and boatingat Indian Lake.  A new adventure for the boys.  We'll be back!

Me and Mange.  

Randi & Carolyn... our new friends from Compassionate Friends.  We have so much in common (not just the fact that we all lost a child).We do a lot with them now - 5K's, traveling, just getting together. We have a lot of fun together!


The Franz family.  or some of them.  This is the family that Melissa said she wanted to be a part of...she called us "Franz wannabes."  HUGE family and they allget along (kind of - most of the time)...plus a LOT of fun.



Jan & Ron - Donny's youngest sister.  We are pretty close to them too!

Mike (Donny's brother) and Mere, my beautiful daughter in law :)


Bruce, Shelly's boyfriend.  He's from England.  I just LOVE to hear him talk.

My cousin Sharon and her husband Jim.  Jim tells everyone he used to change my diaper...well they DID babysit us.  I doubt if he ever changed a diaper though!

Me & Matthew (my sister Sue's son)...I'm now his Pammom.Happily.  Missed my sister at this party too.

Me & Greg - Denise's husband.  

Jennifer - best friend since planning our 15 year reunion.  25 years!  
She's been a blessing in the last 7 years too.

Mary Kayser, me, Mary Clifford.  Great friends.  Mary C helped with the party - she LOVES shopping - took care of the decorations.  Thanks Mary!


Got some flowers for my birthday!


Dinner at Ladder 11 with Donny's family for my actual Birthday.


Donny was SO good to me for this birthday.  He knew how much I struggled all summer, so he INSISTED that we have this celebration.  It was amazing.

But the best part was on my birthday...he found a card for me from Melissa. It was PERFECT.  SHE would have picked this card...




Made me cry.  Happy tears.  (plus a little $$ for casino...Melissa would NOT have done that. First of all, she wouldn't have the $$, second of all, she HATED gambling.  But the card was perfect.)Nick & Mere were extra generous too...a nice gift card to Flemings.  Not a restaurant that we would normally go to.  Looking forward to THAT too.

So here I am.  60 years old.  Where did the years go??????  I only have a a few left (compared to what I've HAD) so I'm going to try to enjoy what's left.  

Will start with following the boys and their games this fall.  We love that.

Andrew - 3rd grade now.  Plays offense and defense.  He is IN the entire game. Really proud of him!  And he loves school too!  

Max.  On his 7th birthday - at Andrew's football game. Hasn't celebrated HIS birthday yet because it was Andrew's day.This one has MORE energy than he knows what to do with! I was there yesterday to get him off the bus - he got off at the cornerfarthest away from their house.  I asked him why - he said "so I can get exercise on my way home!"  I like how he thinks.  


Fort would be proud of them.  And I think she would be happy with me too.  In fact, I know she was...with her dad too.  On my walk the other day, when I got to Delco (exact same spot it happens EVERY time )- the song Father's & Daughter's came on my radio.  It's the song she & Donny danced to at her reception.  She got my attention.  Then I heard her say (and I HEAR her voice) "Tell dad thanks!"  I'm guessing it was for getting me my birthday card.  She was always good about THAT too.  I have more cards from her than I can count.  And I am SO glad I kept them.  

So here I go...more adventures for ANOTHER decade.  

Cheers to 60 years!



Friday, July 22, 2016

SIGNS

Melissa is never far away.  She shows us in a lot of ways.

If you've read this blog for awhile, you know that we started getting signs not long after she passed away.  Songs, butterflies, and now hearts.

The first time she sent me a heart was the fall of 2014.

I try to take a 4 mile walk every day.  Whenever I walk, I talk to Melissa.  Seems that when I get to Delco Park, I can hear her.  We have discussions.  Sounds crazy, but it's true.  It's like there's some kind of portal there, or a vortex of energy.

The first time I realized it, I was talking to her.  She was sending me music - can't specifically remember the songs, but the words of the songs were talking to me.  Sometimes that's how she talks to me.

This summer has been rough.  It's like the first year.  Kind of laying low.  I go out occasionally, but just to meet a friend.  The only group thing I've done this summer is the Compassionate Friends Conference.

Last week on my walk, I was talking to her, telling her that I needed to hear from her.  Immediately there was a song on the radio that said what I needed to hear (unfortunately, I can't remember the song - I should have written it down as soon as I got home!).  Right after that, I heard her say, "Mom. Change the channel."  So I did.  The first station I came to was playing the song Lightning Striking Again by Lou Christy.  The song Sam sends to Randy.  It was kind of eerie.  Then she said "Mom, Sam is with me."  I looked up, and there was a cloud (no lie) that looked like an arrow.  Weird...and I thought "what is the arrow pointing to?"  and it was pointing to a heart shaped cloud!  Unfortunately I didn't have my phone with me ( I usually take my walkman), so I couldn't get a picture.

Two days ago I was on my walk.  Hot morning, the most beautiful blue sky...just like the sky in Scottsdale the entire week we were there.  Only thin, wispy cirrus clouds in the sky.  Another walk where I was talking to Melissa, crying, asking her to show me she was with me.  I was almost to Wilmington Pike and I looked up and there was the puffiest, most perfectly shaped HEART cloud!  The only cloud in the sky at the time!  Again, I didn't have my phone, so I couldn't take a picture.  The cloud came apart and was complete gone in about 20 seconds.  But it was there.  And so was she.  Makes me smile and cry at the same time.

I am missing her SO much this summer.    I am so thankful for Donny and my wonderful friends.  Not sure how'd I'd get through without them.

Love you and miss you Melissa.  Every single day.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Am I Crazy?

Trying to stay away from FB for awhile.  Too much negativity and politics.  FB was one of my last gifts from Melissa, so I won't leave permanently, but I need to stay away for awhile.

I have been struggling this summer....seven years out and that roller coaster is on it's way down.
Celebrating our 40th anniversary and my 60th birthday this summer was hard without her.  ANY holiday is hard because she would be here.

One good thing - we decided to attended our 4th Compassionate Friends Conference. This year it was in Scottsdale, AZ. at the Fairmont Princess Resort (how appropriate for Melissa, huh?).  It was amazing - not sure how many acres it covered, but it was at least as big as our neighborhood.  Four pools.  Several restaurants (that we could barely afford!) and a separate building that was the conference center.  It was huge.

First day we had an expensive lunch on the resort - decided to go off the resort for dinner - found a fun restaurant - Carlos Obriens Mexican Pub.  Food was good, the company was better.


first night out - Carlos O'Briens Mexican Pub


Mange & Mary and Randi  & Carolyn went to the conference too.  Great to have friends to share the week with!

Second day, we headed up to Sedona.  We'd heard a lot about it and it was worth the trip.  Took the Pink Jeep Tour.  We all have bad backs, so we took the mildest one.  Not too much bouncing, they said.  When we got to the outside of town we were off roading-basically.  VERY bumpy.  But a beautiful view of Sedona!




Took tons of pictures - but these pretty much show what Sedona is all about.  Really need at least a week to see everything.  Drove by Al Pacino's home - sat not too far off the road.  We were surprised!

Had an early dinner on a patio with a beautiful view, then stopped to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross - it closed 5 minutes before we got there.  Didn't get to see the inside, but great pictures of the outside.  Guess we'll have to go back!


Took a walk every morning around the resort with Randi & Carolyn.  Lots to see - including a guy whose job was to bring his Harris Hawk to keep the grackles away.  Grackles are very annoying birds. (Similar to crows.  Females are brown - the scouts.  Males are black.  They like to steal food - even  right from someones hand!)  Whenever Jeff is there with his hawk, the grackles stay away.  We learned a lot about hawks and grackles!  Very interesting!

Jeff with his Harris Hawk, Ragnar

Found a fake Western Town, had some fun there too...





When we were having lunch in a courtyard one day, a hummingbird landed in the tree above us and sat long enough for me to take a picture...


The sessions were wonderful again.  I went to "Am I crazy or is this grief?",  Daughterless Mothers - a friend I made at the last conference was back in this session - Karen from Pittsburgh. We exchanged information and I'm sure will connect.   She has a surviving son and two grandchildren as well.

me & Karen from Pittsburgh

In between sessions, we got some much needed pool time...

Randi & Carolyn

Curt (Mange) & Mary

me & Donny

After last session - heading out to eat

There were some other good sessions that I missed, one was presented by a Cardiologist who lost his son.  His session was about physiological effects of grief.  How grief affects our health.  Randi said there was so much information he wants to go again.  Next year.  I'll be there too.  Sessions for parents who lost children to Chronic Illness/Disease (I went to that one), Homicide, Suicide, Accidents.  Also sessions for men only.  TCF has been a lifesaver for us.

On Sunday morning, we did the Walk to Remember, the attended the closing ceremony.  Met a lot more bereaved parents and heard a lot more stories.  Met a Mom & daughter from Bellbrook.  Their son/brother died in a car accident.  David.  He's buried at David's Cemetery close to Melissa.  
His sister actually went to JFK(in Kettering) then they moved to Bellbrook, where she and her brother graduated.   Interesting story from them.  A few months after he died, his mom got a message on FB from a girl who said she just had a baby and thought it could be his.  Turns out it was, and he is 6 years old now.  They get him every weekend.  Every bereaved mother's (of son's) dream.  

Jenna & Karen (from Bellbrook) & me

Donny, me, Bettie-Jeanne & Jim.  They stayed with us on their way to the conference.  They drove from Connecticut to Arizona.  Great stop, great visit.  Their daughter April died in a tragic car accident.  Holly is Bettie's service dog.  Bettie was the presenter of the session - Am I Crazy?



A medal for Melissa.  Hanging in her tree already.  
We did it for you Fort ... and all the children of friends taken too soon.
And our grandson, JP, and my siblings...Steve & Sue.




On our last day, after the walk & closing ceremonies, we drove to Tempe, AZ to see Sun Devil Stadium.  Arizona State (I think).  Interesting stadium nestled in between two HUGE rocks.  We just drove by and unfortunately didn't get a picture.    Then we stopped at ZIPPS Sports Bar.  A couple of the items on the menu stated something referencing their "midwest backgrounds".  Hmmmm...Donny & I both thought maybe they were from or went to Akron (the Zips)?  We'll never know.  

When we left the restaurant, the temp went up about 5 degrees - 111 is HOT.  As beautiful as it was, we were ready to head home.  Flew into Columbus, OH.  Got home around 1:30 am....and Donny had to work the next morning!



HEARTS

Not sure if I ever mentioned it here, but besides butterflies and music, Melissa sends me hearts.  Started a couple of years ago when I was having a really bad day, and she told me she was going to send me a heart that day....a BIG heart.  (yes, I talk to her.  Strangely enough, she comes through loud and clear when I walk through Delco Park.  Maybe there's some kind of portal there?  Who knows.)

Anyway, I got several hearts last week...

Looked out the window on the way to AZ...and whadda ya know...a heart cloud!

We were getting ready to check out of our room at the resort.  I went to turn out the light, and right next to the light switch.  ANOTHER heart.  Can't believe I didn't notice it all week!

Checked the weather when we got home - see the heart in the radar?

Yesterday I took my morning 4 mile walk.  Again, I was having a conversation with Melissa.  Asked her to talk to me...having a hard time lately.  She talks to me through songs.  Right away, a song came on that spoke to me (can't remember what it was this time)...after that she said "mom.  change the station.  So I did.  Lightning Striking Again (by Lou Christie) came on.  That's a song that Randi gets from Sam.  Then Melissa said "Sam is with me mom."  I looked up and there was a cloud that looked like an arrow - and it was pointing to another cloud.  A heart.  Unfortunately I didn't have my phone with me - or I'd have taken a picture.  I would have stopped someone with a phone if someone else would have been out!  No luck.   

Am I Crazy?  Nope.  Grieving.

She isn't far away.  Ever.

***

Haven't posted pics of the boys in awhile...they are growing like weeds.  Took them to COSI
when I had them Wednesday.


my scientists.

Melissa would have so much fun with them...they miss Aunt Fort too.

***

Ending on a sad note....a classmate (from Carroll High School) and a friend, Barb Gruenzel, died of breast cancer last week.   She has been on this journey since before Melissa was diagnosed. She was a teacher in Kettering (Southdale) and was supportive of me when Melissa was on this journey.


RIP Barb.