Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's official....

I'm officially registered for ANOTHER 3 Day, 60 mile walk...this time in San Diego!

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a good friend of Fort's, and we decided to do the walk again. She said "I know you want to walk in Atlanta because that's where you walked with Melissa, but it's time to take her story to ANOTHER city." (Although SHE isn't registered yet...I'm hoping she is joining me and Ang!)

I couldn't agree more. So we chose San Diego.


Dear Melissa,

I'm doing the walk again, for YOU. Three times in Atlanta, and I want to share you story in MORE cities. We walked to end breast cancer...and I will CONTINUE your fight until there IS an end to breast cancer.

I love you and miss you EVERY SINGLE DAY.


(p.s. If anyone reading would like to join us, we are registered under
Team B POSITIVE, again. If I can do it, YOU can do it (that's what Melissa said to me. And we did! It is an experience of a lifetime.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Extended birthday...

A few years ago, Melissa posted on JP's birthday, along with a photo of HIS grave. She wrote "I never thought I'd be visiting my son at the cemetery on his birthday."
I never thought I'd be visiting MY daughter at the cemetery on HER birthday. But I do. I buy her a card, balloons, and sing happy birthday to her. Just too hard to stop.

We had another balloon release - about 20 people were there. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Warmest one yet. Will probably do this every year. Makes ME feel better...

Sending Melissa balloons (AND messages!) to help her celebration in heaven...

I asked Angie to write ANOTHER tribute (she does it every year)...she did a great job AGAIN. Thanks Ang. You say exactly what I feel...

I spent many years while Fort had cancer being terrified of a world without her. The idea of it always took my breath away...literally. It was a world impossible to imagine and it really wasn't one that I was excited about living in. Yet, here we all are three years after losing her. Everyday since January 3, 2009 the sun has still risen and set and the world has kept right on going. The thing is, that while she left this place and isn't physically with us---she really is still here in so many ways. She's here in each of us. If you close your eyes tight, I bet you can still see her pretty face, hear her contagious laugh, or remember a funny Fort story.

You channel her energy when you have a tough choice to make or when you need an attitude check. When you complain or feel sorry for yourself, you hear her voice saying, "Suck it up!" In our lives after Fort, you are able to see the bright side even in a tough situation. She's there in the rainbow in the sky, the butterfly that crosses your path, and in every blessing that comes your way. There are smells and sounds and songs and movies that keep her with me everyday. I hope that ten years from now every one of those memories is just as vivid in mind as they are right now...I think they will be. Fort was pretty much the MOST unforgetable person EVER invented! We miss you Fort, but as long as we all live we'll keep your memory alive and well down here on earth. Happy birthday, Fort. We love you and miss you.


On a lighter note...In 2008, Melissa and Stacy turned 30. Pauly turned 40. They decided to celebrate with "100 Years of Greatness". Had dinner with a few friends at Bangkok Bistro next to Haps (where all the parties are after the rugby matches).
Since then, they celebrate every year, include Melissa, AND include us. This year was "112 Years of Greatness" (Stacy 34, Melissa 34, Pauly 44). The first year without Melissa, Stacy made a CD "One Year Later". Melissa LOVED Stacy's CD mixes. So do I. Last year, it was "TWO", this year "THREE". Great music,each song chosen for a specific reason. I love it. They all shared great memories about Melissa. We are so happy that they include us every year, and so happy that they continue to share stories.

Fort LOVED when Drew did something cute... so I have to share this. She would love it.
On New Years Day, Drew woke up and said "Pop Pop. I think I have a beard."
Donny laughed and told him to tell Pamma. Then he said "Pamma. I think I have a mustache!" (as he was feeling his upper lip) WHY he would think that...WHO knows. Maybe he thinks since his DAD has one, HE is growing one. It was kind of funny...He keeps us smiling, that's for sure!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Birthday FORT!!!!

You did and you did. Happy Birthday Melissa Marie...we love you!

(just a soon as I started on the blog today, the puzzle went off. I hope that means she's OK with me posting...I know she just wants to let me know she's watching over me - and making sure I don't post anything she wouldn't like!)

But she knows that every year on her birthday, I tell the story of the day she was born. It was usually when we took her to China Cottage for her "traditional" birthday lunch. And by the way - we're going today to celebrate her birthday - and always have them put out a place setting for her. I know she will be there with us.

So. Today we have lunch and YOU get to hear the story AGAIN of the day she was born, because I have to tell SOMEBODY.

34 years ago today, Thursday, January 5, 1978 @ 5 a.m. I woke up in labor. My bag was packed, including a deck of cards (because we were expecting a long labor) and we were on our way to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Dayton. It was an unusually warm January morning. Arrived at the hospital around 5:30 - labor progressed pretty quickly. No time for card games! Melissa Marie arrived at 1:19 p.m.. She weighed
7 lbs. 5 oz. and was 20 inches long. Lots of dark hair. BEAUTIFUL. HEALTHY. And in those days, they gave moms a couple of days to get acquainted with their new babies before they sent us home. That was nice.

It had started snowing while we were in the hosptial and by the time we were ready to go home there were several inches of snow on the ground. The day we were to come home - our car wouldn't start. So "Uncle" Rick (George) Kayser came to the rescue, picked up Donny (daddy) and came to bring us home. I sat in the front seat HOLDING Melissa (no car seats required 34 years ago!)and daddy was in the back seat (since we had a chauffer!) Had to swing by the Fortener's on the way home (they lived just a few blocks away) so Grandma and Grandpa could see their FIRST grandchild and Donny's seven brothers and sisters could see their first niece! (which meant LOTS of babysitters!).

Two weeks later the "Blizzard of 78" hit - we were pretty much stranded in the house for about a week. It was a LONG winter. But it started the most wonderful journey of our lives.

We had ALMOST 31 years with Melissa. Not long enough, but so blessed to have the most beautiful, caring, funny daughter every day of her (short) life.
We love you and MISS YOU every single day Melissa. Happy Birthday.

And without further are the pictures (as Melissa would ALWAYS do!)
This was Melissa's first birthday. She had no idea what was going on, but she loved her birthdays from then was always a party because of her dad's big family, then add my family and a couple of WONDER she loved a good party!
(Oh - and those were the days when you made your birthday cakes on your own!)

...and some birthdays in between...

This was Melissa's last birthday. We had a 30th birthday party for surprise - it was REALLY hard to surprise her - she ALWAYS found out and really didn't want to be surprised. It was a GREAT party and I am SO glad we had it. I know she was too!

So another year goes by and we celebrate without her. But we will ALWAYS celebrate her birthday. And you will ALWAYS hear the story. Because if YOU don't listen, who can I tell? Thank you so much for joining us on OUR new journey. You help us get through each day.

Enjoy YOUR birthdays, and don't forget to take LOTS of pictures!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

3 Years.....

The past three years are pretty much a blur. STILL seems like yesterday that Melissa was here. No matter how busy I try to keep myself, every day my brain shows "clips" of that day...3 years ago today. Actually, from the Monday before Thanksgiving until her birthday, every day is ETCHED in my brain. (Funny how traumatic events in your life are etched in your brain, never to be lost...and how other memories are lost. That's why I appreciate stories of Melissa ANY time!)

Thanksgiving "clips" when she was in the hospital, "clips" of the night she went into ICU.
The day she was coming home from Hospice, she told me she wanted to go to the Fairmont girls basketball game, much to my dismay. I was so afraid that she would "get sick" with "ALL THOSE PEOPLE THERE"...(what was I thinking?-she wasn't going to get any sicker than she already was...) When the doctor came in to release her, Melissa said "Can I go to a basketball game this weekend?" The doctors response to me? "She can do anything she wants. She has 2 hours of oxygen, so just get her home before her oxygen runs out!" Of course I got the "look" from Melissa - you know, the look that says "I told you so".
A couple days before Christmas, she decided she wanted to go shopping. So we took her to Target. She wheeled herself around Target, (ON HER OWN) to buy gifts for all of us. (with an oxygen tank on the back of the wheelchair!)
"Clips" of our last Christmas together. In Melissa's words "this is the best Christmas EVER!"
WHen she said "next Christmas, we're taking all the toys out of the boxes" (because when Drew opened his gifts, everything is attached to boxes like they don't want you to get them OUT of the box!) I LOVED that she was talking about NEXT Christmas. She was talking about the future. She was not giving up.
That Christmas was my best ever too. It was the most peaceful Christmas we had ever had, that's for sure. No drama. No stress (other than the obvious). But even that didn't keep us from enjoying that Christmas. A friend of mine from school had her mom come over and take our family photos (THANK GOD for that - they are our last COMPLETE family pictures together). On Christmas Day, Dad and Sue came over. And of course Melissa HAD to go to the Fortener family Christmas. Normally Christmas Eve was at our house, but since that wasn't possible that Christmas (because of a Hospice Bed and oxygen in our family room), Mike had Christmas at his house. She was not feeling well, but she was determined to be there, oxygen and all. She got into the car herself, out of the car into Mike's house on her own, and when we got ready to leave, everyone wanted a picture of her and John. "OMG" she said. Then she started to count down "10-9-8..." showing her disgust that everyone wanted her picture, in a humerous sort of way. She never lost her sense of humor.
That night, John went back to Cincy (had to work the next day). Angie spent the night and we slept in the family room with Melissa. Her breathing was not good, and by the time the nurse arrived the next morning, it was decided that she had to go back to Hospice. She told me and Ang "let's keep this on the DL". She didn't want anyone to think she wasn't getting better. ( In fact, if you read her last post - go to the archives to Dec 2008)you would have been convinced that she was going to be going back to work in a couple of weeks.
So back to Hospice she went. That was Monday. The next day in Hospice, she pleaded with me to go home. (she was on 15 litres of oxygen, can't provide that at home). I hated that.
Although her birthday was January 5, I asked some of her friends and family to send cards early. I told her it was because her birthday was on Monday and everyone would be back to work, so were were celebrating early (good thing we did). I read EVERY card to her. That was New Years Day. I think she was surprised that so many people remembered her birthday.
January 2, she slept most of the day, but when Nick and Mere stopped in with Drew, she sat right up, took Drew on her lap and she was SO happy. When Nick and Mere left that night, he said "see you in the morning Fort". She said "I love you Nick".
I think that might have been the first time she ever said that to her brother. It was the last thing she said to HIM anyway.
At 5:18 a.m. Saturday, January 3, 2009, she left us. To be with J.P. I'm sure.

THAT is the video that continually plays in my brain from Thanksgiving until now.
You can't possibly stay busy 24 hours a day, and even a MINUTE of idle time brings the memories flooding back. So, I sit back, enjoy the show, and let the tears flow.

And after three years, what I can do and can't do (I wrote about this after ONE year-when I couldn't do much at all)...has changed a little. I do a lot more than I did that first, even second year. But I still don't make phone calls (thank goodness for texting), not big on socializing (unless it's a breast cancer fundraiser) and enjoy a simpler life. And, OH, one thing that gets me through every winter...FAIRMONT girls basketball games. It is the ONE thing she really wanted to do when she was home from Hospice that she didn't get a chance to do, so we literally go to every girls game, home and away. For Melissa. In fact, for her birthday, we're going to the girls game at Centerville. When Melissa played for Fairmont, when they played Centerville at home, she had the WINNING basket AT THE BUZZER. I KNOW she'll be at this game too - it should be a good one. That's about all I really want to do this week. It's her birthday present. (and it's good for ME too - if you knew Melissa, she liked to buy gifts for US that benefited HER too-like the monitor she bought us at Christmas because she didn't like OUR monitor!)

Fast forward 3 years. Our life is not the same. It never will be. But we enjoy the NEW memories (hopefully some of them will be etched in my brain!) with our grandsons. Christmas was good with them. And New Years? Looks like we'll be the babysitters for a few years to come, which is fine with us.

Had to include a couple of pictures because Melissa ALWAYS posted pictures...trying to follow in her footsteps the best I can....
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I came home from shopping a couple of days before Christmas to find
a package at my front door. The return address was Nick Fillo. Melissa's
boyfriend at OU her junior year. He found this frame that she had made for
him for his birthday and thought we would like to have it. (He had it packed
away). One of the many things she made for friends over the years...What a pleasant surprise this was for us. (ANOTHER pleasant Christmas "surprise"...John gave me the quilt that his mom made for Melissa with all of her t-shirts. It's pretty much her life on a quilt from preschool through college. Thanks John. She wore every tshirt on this quilt, so I love to wrap myself up in it...)

This was my Christmas gift from my sister Sue. Just like Melissa (or Melissa was just like her)she makes gifts for Christmas. This is one I'll cherish forever.

it reads:

I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles
when life is done.
I'd like to leave an echo whispering
softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times
and bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who grieve to dry before
the sun.
And think of happy memories that I leave
when life is done.
~Helen Lowrie Marshall

I'm pretty sure Melissa would feel this way. (I'm trying Melissa!)

I'll be back on Thursday, her 34th birthday.