Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Remembering Sue...

I was just telling Donny the other day that my earliest childhood memory was when I was just 4 years old...the day Sue was born.

Up until that day, October 30, 1960, there were three kids.  Donna, me,  and Steve.  Aunt Mae (my dad's sister) and Uncle Carl kept us while mom was in the hospital.  It must have been for 3 or 4 days, because back then, you didn't come home the day you delivered.  They actually let you stay in the hospital and get some rest before going home.  Maybe it was because people had more kids, and they NEEDED the rest before going home.

In any event, this must have been traumatic for it to be ingrained in my memory.  Two specific things I remember ~ going trick or treating and breakfast.  I remember my cousin Nancy took us trick or treating, and I remember having cereal for breakfast.  That's not anything unusual, but what makes me remember was putting sugar on my cereal, and when the cereal was gone, I was done.  I never ate that goopy mess at the bottom of the bowl.  Sugar and milk.  Goopy.  UGH.  (Although Donny says that was the best part!) Not for me.  Aunt Mae made me sit there until I ate it.  All of it.  In those days, you didn't waste ANYTHING.  I was SO ready to go home.

But this is about Sue.  The other thing I remember is going home when mom and dad brought Sue home from the hospital.  We lived in a small, four bedroom ranch.  The smallest bedroom would now be considered a walk in closet.  That was were baby Sue was in a bassinnette.  If we wanted to go in to see her, we had to wear a mask.  You know, the kind of masks people wear now if they have allergies?
Yep.  She was the Golden Child.  Right from the beginning.

But I didn't care.  She was SO cute.  When she smiled, she brightened a room.

Having four bedrooms, mom and dad had one, Steve had the "closet", Donna had a bedroom and I had a bedroom.  Sue got to decide where she was going to sleep.  Donna and I used to fight over her.  She would climb into bed with me and I would tell her monsters (or something equally scary) was under the bed.  She would yell to Donna "I'm sleeping with Pam tonight".

As we got older, of course Sue was excused from the "menial" tasks Donna, Steve and I were assigned when mom went back to work.  She was "too young".  And when mom found an empty ice cream carton at the bottom of the hamper, she lined us all up, immediately pulling Sue from the line.  "She didn't do it".  And in Sue's defense, I got pulled from the line too, because mom was really good at
reading faces.  In the end, of course it was Steve who did it.  It was ice cream.

After we were all grown, and living away from home, we occasionally would have conversations about  how tough our life was growing up...I mean, all the chores we had to do, and how we couldn't do anything on Saturdays until all the housework was done (and I continued that myself as an adult, although since I retired, I don't assign Saturday as a cleaning day - it can be ANY day now!), Sue would say "After you guys left, I had to do EVERYTHING."  What?  If there was anything to do, it was YOUR mess.  And then we would laugh.  About all of it.

And then, when I had MY daughter, I wanted Sue to be her Godmother.  They were a lot alike in many ways.  I wish I had the picture of the two of them together - I think it was when Melissa was in college-
they both had long blonde hair and Melissa looked more like SUE than me!  They were both very creative, artsy.  And they could have the most interesting conversations.

How I miss that.  How I miss my beautiful sister Susan Lynn.  She was my best friend after Melissa died.  She called me every single day.  Never missed a day.  Just to check on me.  Never questioning how I was feeling or why I was feeling sad.  She loved me unconditionally.  She loved me even though I was not the same as I used to be.

I miss talking to her.  I miss her laugh.  I miss our political discussions.  And I miss taking care of her too.  Oh, I definitely got frustrated  at times with choices she made, but underneath that hard exterior, was a softness only known to those who looked for it.  It was there, I saw it, experienced it.  She was very intelligent, she was a sharp dresser like my mom (although her verbage didn't always match her attire), and very creative.  Never a holiday or birthday went by that I didn't receive something she had made...a wreath, a piece of jewelry, a handmade card (still have the Christmas card she made for all of us last Christmas).  She was really talented.

And I hate saying was.
How I miss you Sue.  I love you so much.

Happy Birthday!


Just a side note here...I think I have recently recieved a wake up call.  Maybe from Melissa, maybe from Sue, my mom...God.  I don't know.

If you read between the lines in this blog, you probably know that there have been times when I have missed Melissa SO much, the thought of being with her seemed like a solution to all the pain....
well, the message came in the form of pain.

About a month ago, I was experiencing a lot of abdominal pain.  Haven't been to the doctor, in, oh, about five years (connection?), but this was bad enough to make me call.  Turns out, I have diverticulitis.  So did my mom, so did Sue.  Very common, I'm told.  Didn't help the pain any.  Ended up in ER last Friday, on the advice of my doctor who had already treated me two weeks before for the diverticulitis (antibiotics).  She wanted a CT scan to see what was going on before treating me with something else.    As expected, it was a flare up (although I was sure there was some kind of blockage - it was so bad) and once again, on antibiotics.  But there was also some calcification on the right side around (?) the ovaries.  The look on the doctors face didn't help matters, but there wasn't anything I could do until Monday morning.  Had the boys on Monday, so made an appointment for 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.  She is ordering an ultrasound (sometime next week) and a colonoscopy.

Feeling a little better, just sick to my stomach (probably from hunger - on a liquid diet) from the meds.

The wake up call?  As much as I want to be with Melissa, and actually look forward to wrapping my arms around her...I'm not ready to leave the rest of my family.   This is pretty scary, and I should have been taking care of myself for the last five years.  But I really wasn't.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a lot better than I did when I went to bed.  I had this "flash" of a scene from my favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  It was when Jimmy Stewart was standing on the bridge at the end of the movie crying saying "I want to live.  I want to live".....

Wow.  That's me.

I want to live.

(Thanks Melissa, mom, Sue, God.  I needed this wake up call - I love all of you.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

John Patrick

Ten years ago yesterday, it was a Saturday.  Melissa was in one of her best friends wedding in Cincinnati.  She was about 6 1/2 months pregnant.  They were so happy.  She looked great, BEAUTIFUL actually.  After the reception we all headed home.  It was about 11.

Around 12:30 a.m., Sunday morning, October 19, 2003, we got the dreaded phone call...all I could hear was the sirens in the background.  John was telling us the baby was coming, they were headed to the hospital.

By the time we got there, he was gone.

Our first grandchild.  John Patrick McLaughlin.  He was BEAUTIFUL.  Dark hair, almost 4 pounds. All his fingers. All his toes.  Perfect.

Hardest day of my life at that point.

I look at how Melissa and John handled was devastating.  They lost THEIR child.  He was the light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  And now he was gone....
Donny and I often talk about that day, and the months and five years after.  How in the world did she go on?  Donny says "she had another battle to fight...for HER life".

I know now about the "mask" that you wear when you lose a child.  Everyone wants you to be "better".   That don't WANT to see you suffering.  In pain.  I didn't want to see her suffering, and Melissa was good at hiding painful things from me.  Most of the time.  We did talk about how hard it was to see all of her friends having babies.  She never let on to anyone that she was anything but HAPPY for them.  But it was hard for her.

I really don't have many regrets when it comes to our relationship.  But I do have Christmas that year - only two months after they lost JP, I begged them to go to church with us on Christmas Eve.  "Please go.  It's all I want for Christmas.  For all of us to be together".  Of course Melissa (and Nick too) would do whatever I wanted if it would make me happy at Christmastime.

So we went to church.  Got there early enough to find a pew close to the front where we could all sit together.  Right about the time mass started, a young family with a brand new baby sat RIGHT in front of us.  It was too hard for Melissa...they left early on in the mass.

What I need to say is I DIDN'T KNOW.  I should have respected her wishes and let her decide whether she wanted to go or not.  I was selfish.  It was more about ME that it was about her.  I HATE that I did that to her.

Five years later, I was in the same boat.  A lot of people invited us out, and I couldn't do ANYTHING.
Didn't want to leave my bed.  For more than a year.  (although we did get out occasionally, I hated it)
But I had no idea what she was going through.  How could I?  I hadn't walked in her shoes.

...anyway, when John Patrick's first birthday was approaching, I told Melissa and John that we would always remember JP.  She didn't want to get together and "celebrate" that year.  And I didn't push it. But we remember JP, just like we remember Melissa on her birthday.  Usually, Nick and the boys come over and we have cake and ice cream and we sing happy birthday to JP.   We'll always remember him...and wonder what he would be like.

He would be ten years old today.  TEN.  Double figures.  I remember when Melissa turned 10 she was SO excited about being "double figures".  I know that he would be really smart (because his dad and mom were both really smart) and funny.  And he would probably be a pretty good athlete too.  And we would be celebrating his birthday this weekend...

Happy Birthday John Patrick.  JP.  We love you more than you will ever know, and we miss having you here.  Andrew and Max KNOW that you are their cousin, and you are with Aunt Fort.  <3 p="">

KELTS "TRYING FOR A CURE" Fundraiser - biggest one yet!

Last weekend was the 10th Annual Trying for a Cure Fundraiser.  The first one was held in 2003, the year Melissa was diagnosed.  It keeps growing ever year - she would LOVE it.

Again this year, Netti was the major organizer - with help from Pauly.  They should go into the fundraiser business...

Every year, right before the raffle tickets are drawn, Pauly gets up on the bar to explain why they do this fundraiser...and he usually has a funny Fort story to share.  This year, it wasn't a Fort story (well, kind of, indirectly) was a story about their son, Luke.  I think Luke is 2 now.  Pauly said whenever he sees a butterfly, he tells Luke to say "HI FORT!"  And then he said "I can't wait til he gets older so I can tell him about Fort!"

There were lots of her "old" rugby friends there - but a lot more ruggers that we had never met.  I love that her legacy is continuing and more people are getting to know her.  How sad for them that they never got to know her personally...

Donny and Crazy Legs (Kelly)...I think the story goes that she played on Fort's team, and she has really long legs and is pretty fast...and Fort said "Man Kelly, you had CRAZY LEGS"...and it stuck.

Donny & Royal.  He was a recipient of the Melissa "Fort" Mclaughin Kelts Spirit Award.

Hula and Molly - winners of one of the "mystery boxes"

Donny with Karen, Netti's mom.  (There were a few parents that went to a lot of the Kelts matches - Karen, Kyra's mom and dad - Dave and Edie and us.  No wonder their kids are amazing.
They are just like their parents....

Sam Bates - another raffle winner - and a former teammate of Fort's.

That's Kat in the background - and I had to get this guy's picture because he was wearing a FORT shirt.
I forget his "real" name. But his nickname is UGLY.  I have no idea why he would have that name...

Me and Kat...another good friend of Forts.  Her dad makes all the ribbons for the fundraiser.  She asked him before this fundraiser if he wanted to make the ribbons again.  He said "I don't WANT to make them.  But I will until they find a cure for Breast Cancer!"  THANKS Dad!!!!!

We won one of the "mystery boxes" too!

Netti posted yesterday on the Kelts website the final tally of last weeks fundraiser....
over $6200 was raised - half will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and half will go to Melissa's Scholarship fund.  

To date, through all ten fundraisers, the Kelts have raised a whopping $48,000.00!!!!!!!!!!!!
Over $10,000 has gone to Melissa's Scholarship.

We are so happy and honored to be part of such an amazing family.


And speaking of Fort's scholarship - I got a message from KJ, another of Melissa's former rugby teammates. She is now coaching rugby at Wright State University.  The other day, she wore a FORT shirt to practice.  One of her new players asked if she knew Fort.  I'm guessing that KJ told her about her friendship with Melissa.  Her new player just happens to be one of the recipients of Melissa's Scholarship!!!  

Melanie West received the scholarship in 2012.  She is attending WSU studying Mechanical Engineering.  I have to admit, and I told KJ this....I wouldn't have thought that Melanie would be a rugby player...but KJ said "she's learning the game and she's FAST".  

This made US happy, and I know Fort would be thrilled.  

Her legacy continues.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Songs & Butterflies....

Ran over to the Rec Center today to drop something off.  Ran into a former colleague who had retired several years ago.  Haven't seen her in awhile.  She is also a bereaved parent.  We got to talking about different things and she said, "How are you doing?"  And I responded "Ok."

Then she said "No, how are you REALLY doing?"
(That doesn't happen often. )

The next thing she said was "Today it is 23 years since my son died."  (he was killed in a car accident).

A serendipitous meeting, I think.  23 years later, and I'm sure that it has been on her mind today, but how (and WHO) do you talk to about this?  I'm guessing she wouldn't bring this up to just anybody.
We had a nice talk and agreed to be "friends" on facebook to keep in touch.

Driving home, thinking about her son, and thinking about and missing Melissa, I started crying. (I do that A LOT in the car).  The next song on the radio was "Reach out, I'll be there" by the Four Tops.
Interestingly enough, this is the third time in the last few weeks this has happened.  This is the "new" song she is sending me.  (I tend to listen to lyrics a lot more closely in the last 4 years...) I just know it's her telling me she's always here for me...

                 REACH OUT, I'LL BE THERE by  The Four Tops

Now if you feel that you can't go on (can't go on)
Because all of your hope is gone (all your hope is gone)
And your life is filled with much confusion (much confusion)
Until happiness is just an illusion (happiness is just an illusion)
And your world around is crumbling down, darlin
Reach out come on girl reach on out for me
Reach out reach out for me
I'll be there with a love that will shelter you
I'll be there with a love that will see you through
When you feel lost and about to give up (to give up)
Cause your life just ain't good enough (just ain't good enough)
And your feel the world has grown cold (has grown cold)
And your drifting out all on your own (drifting out on your own)
And you need a hand to hold, darlin
Reach out come on girl reach out for me
Reach out reach out for me
I'll be there to love and comfort you
And I'll be there to cherish and care for you
I'll be there to always see you through
I'll be there to love and comfort you
I can tell the way you hang your head (hang your head)
Your not in love now, now your afraid (you're afraid)
And through the tears you look around (look around)
But there's no piece of mind to be found (no piece of mind to be found)
I know what your thinking,
You're alone now, no love of your own, but darling
Reach out come on girl reach out for me
Reach out reach out.......... just look over your shoulder
I'll be there to give you all the love you need
And I'll be there you can always depend on me
I'll be there to always see you through
I'll be there to love and comfort you

Then I was sitting at a red light, and a butterfly flew right in front of my windshield.  I had to smile.  She is always with me...and I LOVE the reminders.