Every year on my kids birthdays I would share with them the day they were born....they loved hearing the story of the day they were born. Now I try to share that with my grandsons - My memories are not as vivid as their mom's, but I remember their births too.
Today is the day our first grandson was born. And it was his last day on earth....But I remember that day as much as I remember my own kids births.
When Melissa told me she was pregnant, my reaction wasn't what it should have been for a grandma who was finding out that her first grandchild was on the way. I was scared. Melissa found out she was pregnant when she went to have the port put in for her chemo. They did routine bloodwork/urinalysis and asked her right before she went into surgery if she knew she was pregnant. At that point, they had to change the protocol for the anesthetic since she was pregnant. She got really sick after the surgery (it was outpatient). She was going to spend the night with us, have her first chemo treatment the next morning and then go to work. John didn't come up because it was outpaitient surgery. After she came out of surgery, she wanted me to call him to come up and spend the night. She told him that night she was pregnant.
We took her to her first treatment, which was supposed to last for 3 hours. After 15 minutes, she came out and said something was wrong with the port and she had to go back to the hospital for an ultrasound. I wanted to go with her, but she insisted that it wouldn't take long and she was going to work right after. So I didn't go. She WAS going for an ultrasound, but it was to see how far along she was in her pregnancy. Right after the ultrasound, she drove to our church (Ascension) and talked to the priest there. She told him she was pregnant, AND recently diagnosed with breast cancer...and she had to make a decision. Terminate? Or not? The priest there told her that whatever decision she made, God would understand. Really, her life was at stake. She had to put off her chemotherapy (because they couldn't start chemotherapy until she was in her second trimester) for a couple of weeks. So they changed the protocol. They would do a mastectomy first (and remove lymph nodes) and when the drains came out, they could start the chemo. She really wanted to keep the baby, so did John. So everything changed. She had two drains that she had to empty every day. When the fluid was down to 2cc (or something like that) every day, the drains would come out and she could start chemo. Unfortunately, cancer did not stop growing while she was waiting for the drains to come out.
The cancer was in 9 of the 19 lymph nodes they took. Not good. But she wanted to keep the baby.
It took awhile, but as the weeks went by, we got more excited about this baby. He was the light at the end of a long tunnel. (On a side note, when Melissa was in the hospital a month before she passed away, she had a surprise visit from her rugby friend Lola. I was there that night. When Lola walked in the room, she said "I am SO glad you are here! I've been wanting to tell you something for a long time!" She told Lola that she was the ONLY person who was excited when she found out she was pregnant. Not even her MOM was excited with that news. I should have been...She was so happy that she was able to tell Lola that. I'm so glad that Lola came to visit - I would have never known that either.)
So as her pregnancy progressed, she monitored even more closely because it was a high risk pregnancy. They decided to have an ultrasound to find out what they were having - and in the meantime we had a baby book - trying to pick out girls names. They had a boys name - John Patrick.
And JP it WAS. We were so excited. He was scheduled to be delivered the week between Christmas and New Years. The light at the end of the tunnel.
Then, on October 18, Melissa was in her friend Karen's wedding. We were at the wedding and reception. I remember that at the reception she was having some back pain. She was in a chair leaning against John...NEVER did I imagine that she was in labor.
We got home from the wedding (it was in Cincinnati) around midnight. Right after we went to bed, turned out the light, the phone rang. I could hear the ambulance in the background...and John was screaming..."the baby's coming, the baby's coming!!!!" Somehow we found out what hospital they were going to - and I don't know how, but we found it. When we walked into their room, Melissa was holding the baby. Crying. She said "I'm sorry Mom...." Oh my God. My beautiful daughter holding her son....he was beautiful...dark hair, all his fingers, all his toes. Perfect. And he was gone.
It was all a blur, but I remember every detail. John & Diana drove in from NC, Nick was there, I think Angie, Stacy were there. It was awful. He was born just after midnight, early Sunday morning, October 19, 2003. She didn't want to leave the hospital, she kept telling me "I can't leave him here mom..."
So. The next day, we planned his funeral.
Today, he is buried with his mom and dad. And for the first time in 14 years, he gets to celebrate his birthday with both his mom and dad.
We love you JP! Someday we'll celebrate with you.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
October 2005, the Cincinnati Kelts held their first annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser to honor Melissa's (Fort's) fight with breast cancer. In the fall of 2007, Melissa decided to do the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in Atlanta. 3 Days/60 Miles with her good friend from OU, Shannon, and her sister Julie. She raised the money ($2300) to do the walk, but with all of her medical bills, couldn't afford a flight to Atlanta, so I told her I'd take her to Atlanta and cheer her on. The walk was the Saturday after the fundraiser. She called me the Monday after the fundraiser..."Mom!!! They raised enough money - you can do the walk WITH me!!!" "Melissa. I can't walk 60 miles next weekend!"
"I'm on chemo. If I can do it, you can do it." So I did. We did. All thanks to the Kelts.
Twelve years later, the Kelts are still organizing the fundraiser, and it's growing every year!
This year the weather was perfect - a little warm really. They had multiple baskets for the raffles, a 50/50 drawing and a Silent Auction.
The first and most important thing I want to say is THANK YOU to the Cincinnati Kelts, and
NETTI specifically. Paulie has always been the "Master of Ceremonies", but according to Paulie, NETTI was the organizer. Every year it gets better. THANK YOU so much Netti (and mom Karen!) for all the work you put into this.
And thank you too for introducing us to Tom Sweeney. This is the FIRST story. I'm pretty sure we've met Tom before. And I remember meeting his wife Mary Ann too. She always made sure to talk to us at the fundraisers. She loved Fort. When Melissa was first diagnosed, Mary Ann took the time to talk to her about HER battle with breast cancer. As we know now, it's good to talk to someone who truly understands. Someone who's walked the walk. Tom told us last night that there were many times when Melissa called Mary Ann when she was having a difficult day. Mary Ann would meet her and talk to her. I didn't know that. Melissa never wanted me to see her worry. It's comforting to know that she had someone to call that helped her. We were very close, but neither of us wanted to see the other cry. We had to be strong for each other. So she called Mary Ann.
Mary Ann's cancer came back a couple of years ago. She passed away July 23 of this year...just three months ago. And her husband Tom was there. I talked to him for awhile and he told me that before Mary Ann died, she had a list of things for him to do. She told him to go the fundraiser and "tell Fort's parents that I'm with her!" It wasn't easy for him to be there. But he came because it was on his list of things to do.
Paulie always gives a speech before the drawings. Last night it was about Mary Ann. And Tom.
Their connection to the Kelts was Haps Irish Pub. Haps is where the Kelts hold all of their socials after their matches. Tom & MaryAnn were always there. Paulie got to know them after a few of the socials when everyone left. He would sit at the bar and talk with them. They became part of the Kelts family too. Once a Kelt, Always a Kelt. They were at Melissa & John's reception too. Tom talked about that last night too.
The other thing Paulie said was Tom & Mary Ann were the most amazing people...their goal was to meet two new people every time they went to Haps...and he suggested that we all do that too. We met a LOT of new people last night. I really got to know Tom last night, and met a few of his friends too. Last night was in honor of Mary Ann. She would be honored I'm sure.
So Paulie's speech leads right to the second story of the night ... two of the new people we met.
Two girls walked into the bar (no, this is not the start of a joke)...saw our nephew Brandon - he was wearing his FORT'S YAYA'S FOR TATA'S shirt. They walked up to him and said "Do you know FORT??? How do you know Fort???" He told them he was (is) her cousin. Then he brought them over to me. They went to Ohio University with Melissa. Randomly walked into Haps for a beer, and into a fundraiser for FORT. SYNCHRONICITY. When they introduced themselves - Katie & Emily,
Katie said "I was roommates with Shannon Kerr. Do you know Shannon?" Shannon & her sister Julie were the ones Melissa & I did the 3 Day-60 Mile walk with in Atlanta! Katie is going to visit Shannon in Boston next week. Wow. Small world.
Without a doubt, the fundraiser is growing. Someone last night told me there were people there from all the rugby clubs in Cincinnati - the Kelts, Wolfhounds & Queen City. Plus a lot of other people! A lot of volunteers - I tried to talk to most of them (mostly to find out if they knew Fort), but also to introduce myself. I'm Fort's mom. She would LOVE this. I know she and John were there...I brought them...
FORT, J MAC & JP
The recipients of the Melissa Fortener McLaughlin Scholarship
(this is where 1/2 of the proceeds go from the Kelts fundraiser!)
Paulie & Nettie - THANK YOU NETTI for all of your hard work!!! We love you!!!
Nettie's hard work...getting donations for the raffles & Silent Auction and making some great signs!
Donny & Nettie with one of the items for the Silent Auction!
The People... (notice all the different FORT shirts...I love it!)
This is Nick (not MY Nick) I love his suit.
Randi, Mike, Brandon, Donny
Erin & Hooky
Brandon, Randi, Mike
Tom Sweeney is in the red shirt. This is where he and Mary Ann always sat. If you zoom in on the picture, you can see the orb to the right of him. Mary Ann? I think so.
Brandon, me, Katie & Emily, Melissa's friends from OU. My two NEW friends...
Donny, Crazy Legs, me
Mike and the outback crowd. Lots of orbs outside last night!!!
me, Carolyn, Donny & Randi (our Compassionate Friends from Piqua)
The food...walking taco, pigs in a blanket and lots of sweets!
Karen, Netti's mom. Her better half.
Carolyn, getting her tickets ready for the drawing...
The new FORT hoodies. They look great! (Oh...and the guy with all the tickets...I don't think he liked me....all those tickets and he didn't win anything. Sorry about that!
However HULA won two baskets...and the $500 and the $100. Donated $350 of that back to the fundraiser. LOVE these guys!
Not sure if you can tell, but it was a GREAT night. Thank you to Nettie, Paulie, Katie for ordering all the hoodies, and all the Kelts who volunteered...and to the Wolfhounds for your donation to the fundraiser! You are an amazing group of people & I know why my daughter loved you!
After getting home at 1 a.m. from the fundraiser, we got up at 8 a.m. to go to our grandsons football games in Springfield. Didn't look like it was going to be a very nice day - looking at the radar the rain and storms were on the way. No rain in Max's game - ended in a tie, 0-0. All defense.
Some of you know that Andrew has a fear of storms. A real phobia. He's been pretty good so far this year, but today was not good. He can look at the radar and even if the radar shows there's no storms close by, he looks at the sky. There were lots of ominous clouds today, and it WAS kind of a scary looking sky. He really wanted to be in the car, or under cover. Nick got permission to be on the sidelines with him (he just wanted his daddy close by) - Andrew played from the first play to the end of the game. In the fourth quarter, he played offense AND defense. He had one sack. But most importantly, he faced his fear. And for today, he conquered his fear.
They lost the game, but he won his "competition" with the weather. We were so proud of him.
Andrew with his other grandpa - Pops.
Andrew - #84
Busy weekend. Again. I'll be posting again this week. Thursday would be JP's 14th birthday.
It's been a tough couple of weeks. Thank goodness for the Kelts (who kept us busy this weekend), our grandsons (who keep us busy EVERY weekend) and antidepressants. I need them all the next few months.
Oh. And remember what Paulie said...(really what Tom & Mary Ann say) Meet two new people everywhere you go. You never know how they might change your life.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
In May, Jeri, a grade school friend and my roommate for a couple of months before I got married, went to visit Jackie Russell, another friend from grade school. She lives in Collinsville, IL - close to St. Louis. Great weekend.
Had a visit from Elizabeth & Oliver, my good friend Jackie's (and sister from another mother) daughter & grandson. Always great to have them visit!
Pamma & Oliver
Took Ollie for a walk, stopped to visit Bruce.
The Compassionate Friends summer picnic and Butterfly Release.
Animal Kingdom - the Tree of Life. This should have been on the last post, but , oh well.
This should have been on the last post too. Didn't want to leave Chris out!
John & Diana (John's mom & dad) invited us to North Carolina for the Total Eclipse. What a great visit. J & D's Bed, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner AND Drinks! They are wonderful. Plus we got to meet (again) Diana's sister, her daughter and son-in-law. It was a party.
This is "Johnny Mac's Corner" in their family room. A lot of John's things that they NEVER in their wildest dreams thought they would ever get back. Lots of photos of Melissa & John. The butterflies were given to us by Linda, the mother of a co-worker of mine from MM. Linda took our family picture our last Christmas. You know, the one of us with the Santa hats on? Last (complete) family photo. I will be forever grateful to Linda. Then, after John passed away, she had these butterflies made for us. Two of them. One says "Fort", one says "J Mac" and the one in the middle says "JP". We kept one and gave the other to John & Diana.
This photo is on the wall in their family room. (among hundreds of other photos!) Never saw this picture before. Makes my heart happy...
Diana has a journal where she writes a description of the quilts she makes. All of these quilts she made for Melissa. No wonder Melissa loved her Mother-in-Law!
This one Diana made for Melissa for her office.
This one she used the scarves Melissa wore.
This one was for their Dining Room. Was still hanging when John passed away...
Driving into town for the eclipse.
Our captain on the pontoon boat - Captain John!
Fort always sends me hearts (butterflies too!)
The point next to where we docked.
Beautiful day for a swim AND an eclipse!
Renee, Johnny Macs cousin
Can be in the lake without a beverage...
Can you see the eclipse in the shadow?
Renee's husband Bill
The people on the point.
Starting to get dark...
Took my glasses off for about 10 seconds. Long enough to take the picture!
You can see they have their glasses off - that's how dark it got. Not pitch black, but dark enough to see a star!
Yep. I was there too.
Captain John gets a look...
This was dad with Matthew on his birthday (dad's birthday!)
Two favorite grandsons.
A hike at Aulwood
Rob Walter's bench at Aulwood. The reason we went!
Some day I'll post on a regular basis. The end of the summer got a little crazy. Right before we left for Florida, I got a call from one of my former Principals. The school she is at now needed a long term sub in the library. Would I consider doing it this year?
I have been retired for (hard to believe) five years now. A little nervous about forgetting A LOT.
Talked to Donny about it, and after a lot of thoughtful consideration, decided I could do it part time.
A lifelong friend and high school classmate (Jody) agreed to share the job with me.
So here we are. I'm surprised I'm awake right now to be posting! Usually when I get home I'm so tired I fall asleep on the couch for a couple of hours.
This building reminds me a lot of Moraine Meadows. Staff is very friendly and kids are great. It's just three times the size of MM. I see as many students in half a day as I did full time at MM. So far it has been good. Hopefully the full time librarian will be back on her feet soon and she can breeze right back into it. Until then...
So far Jody and I are working well together (well, apart, really). We don't have any overlap time, so I stay an extra 15-30 min or more to update her.
Didn't realize how much I loved retirement. I was a lot busier than I thought! Still keeping a busy calendar - I know Melissa would approve. In fact, I had a reading, and the first thing she said was "whatever decision you are trying to make, Melissa says GO FOR IT." Right decision for now.
Just a note - it's been a crazy weather month too. August was a lot cooler than normal. Almost like fall weather. And Hurricane Harvey hit Texas a couple of days ago (Friday, August 25) - devastating damage/flooding in Houston, Corpus Christi , Rockport, all of Southeast Texas. 50+ inches of rain in just a couple of days. Thousands of people have lost their homes and businesses.
And still taking care of dad. Don't visit as much as I did when he first came back (that was every day for about a month!) Down to about 3 days a week, plus take care of his laundry and doctors appointments.
Andrew & Max are both playing football (4th and 2nd grade). Back to school.
And here we are, almost fall.
Melissa's favorite season...pumpkin spice candles, fall decorations, football and rugby. Bittersweet for me. I miss her so much every day. I wonder every day what she would be doing...and I know they would have at least 3 kids. That would be 3 more grandchildren and cousins for Andrew & Max. I miss her so much....
Holiday at Home this weekend for Labor Day. Another tradition with the boys - they spend the night Sunday, we go to the Pancake Breakfast and parade, then the craft show at Fraze. Melissa loved that too.
And last but not LEAST...
Fairmont FINALLY beat Alter in football. It's been 15 years....
Melissa was definitely cheering from Heaven.
Love you miss you pretty girl...