Unprepared

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IMG_1264Before walking became a “cool” exercise, my parents were all about going walking. I remember summer evenings marching around our huge back yard with Mom, Dad, and my brother for several laps multiple days every week. One evening my brother wanted to race from the very back of the yard to the back of the house. The four of us started to run, but Mom and I almost immediately fell behind. My chubby self has never been a runner, and Mom will quickly tell you that birthing two children dashed any hope of being able to run without piddling on herself.

My brother had a comfortable second place spot, but Dad totally schooled him on how far he had to go to catch up to his speed. His arms and legs blurred together as they dashed through the muggy summer air. The Six Million Dollar Man had nothing on him; the only thing missing was the bionic sound effect.

The memory played through my head as I sat by his bed in CCU and held his hand last Saturday night into Sunday morning, after the nurses told us he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. A breathing machine pumped oxygen into his lungs and multiple IV bags fed him a concoction of three antibiotics, fluids, sugar water and blood pressure medicine. What had started as a urinary tract infection Monday led to pneumonia by the end of the week, and his body, run down by months of chemo treatments and ten days of radiation for lymphoma, could no longer fight off what was going on. 

The running joke in the family. Dad could drift off to sleep just about anywhere.

The running joke in the family. Dad could drift off to sleep just about anywhere.

We were all struck dumb. How could he have gone from sitting up in a chair three days before to not being able to make it through the night? This man mowed an acre-and-a-half lawn a couple of days after his first chemo treatment. This man once rebuilt a VW bug engine and almost single-handedly lowered it back into the vehicle. This man once beat all the bigger high school football players with the most pull-ups.

All the tests had showed that the cancer was not making major advances in his body. How could he suddenly be not strong enough to fight? Why was his body giving up now? There was supposed to be more time. The treatments were maintaining the cancer. We knew a day would come when they would not be effective, and then we would talk about Hospice and pain management and DNRs and living wills.

We were unprepared for this.

We had to make the decision to disconnect the breathing machine and IVs. Once the tubes were removed, he was physically gone in a couple of minutes. I continued to sit and hold his hand while other family members came in to say good-bye. Part of me wanted to run — out of the CCU, out of the hospital, across the streets of downtown Greenville. I wanted to run and scream  and cry in anger, in confusion, in shock, but I stayed because running away meant letting go of his hand. The hands that repaired hundreds of printing presses and copiers over a 40-year career, fixed at least a couple dozen cars on weekends, put together a short-wave radio for my seventh-grade science project, built a two-car garage and a back porch sunroom, carried the heavy stuff into my dorm room in Columbia during the miserable days of August. He was a man who worked with his hands and was more interested in action than words.

IMG_0923When I came home from college on weekends, I liked to rent movies to watch on Friday night, and being the English major, I often picked the introspective ones. I remember him getting up from the den one night during a movie (don’t remember which one) and saying, “They talk too much in this movie, Carla.”

In his CCU room, discussions took place about how the mortuary would arrive in a half-hour to take him. Mom eventually asked if I was ready to go, but I shook my head. “I don’t want to leave him,” I said, and then I broke down, repeating the same sentence over and over.

Other family members left, but I was unaware of their absence. Four of us were left there with Dad — Mom, my brother, The Husband, and me. Somehow I found the will to stand and, after a few more minutes, let go of his hand. When I did, I knew I had to walk out of the room and not look back. Exiting the hospital and riding home still feels like a blur — perhaps from shock and perhaps also from fatigue since it was after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.

We got home around 3 a.m., and because I knew some friends on Facebook would ask, I typed the only words I could manage at that moment: “Dad’s gone.”

I’ve always heard the statement: “We pay our respects for those who are left behind.” I’ve probably said the same thing myself a few times, but I never really comprehended the importance until this past week. From my aunt, uncle, and cousins who came to the hospital Saturday night and stayed until after the unthinkable happened to all the family and friends who came to my parents’ house in the days that followed.

I remain blown away by the thoughtfulness and support. My mom’s office shut down Tuesday afternoon and every one of her coworkers came to the funeral. My college roommate drove two hours from Camden. Another former coworker and close friend drove down from Charlotte. One of my brother’s best friends drove up from Charleston, twice — for the weekend where Dad took his downward spiral and then the funeral. The Husband’s boss and two other coworkers came. I simply can’t express my appreciation enough for all who have done so much to bring us comfort. My gratefulness knows no bounds.

IMG_2690This next stage of our lives is one huge question mark. It is still unfathomable to think that when I come up my parents’ driveway, Dad won’t be stepping out of the garage, sitting on the porch, or rocking in his glider in the den when I open the door. He will not be there at Christmas to say his line: “Before we know it, it’ll be the Fourth on July.” And on the Fourth of July, he won’t be there to say, “Before we know it, it’ll be Christmas.”

However, I do know that we are a close family and a strong family. We have amazing friends and loved ones, and no matter what the next days, weeks, months, and years bring, we will get through with their help and with God’s grace.

It’s a Spin-Off!

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I went and started another blog. I’ve said I didn’t want to turn this blog into a weight loss blog, but I found I’ve been talking about this whole health change a lot. I still plan on posting other life stuff here; however, the new site will be where I chronicle the woes and wins of my weight loss with the same sarcasm you’ve come to know and (hopefully) love — and probably the occasional whining.

So if you follow this blog on WordPress, I hope you’ll come follow the new one as well.

Saturdays with Nanny

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Saturday’s discussions about where to dine for lunch inevitably turns to the lack of places to eat in Pickens and then to the restaurants that are coming soon, namely Zaxby’s — which, due to my grandmother’s trouble pronouncing her Xs, turns into Zappy’s.

Me: The article I saw in the paper says it’s going to look like a red barn on the outside.

Mom: I think the one in Myrtle Beach is like that.

Nanny: Well, from what I can tell about the picture, I don’t know if I’ll be able to find the front door.

Mom: I think we can help you with that, Momma. We’ll go with you the first time.

A Farewell to the First-Born Fur Baby

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So I got up here. Now how do I get down?

So I got up here. Now how do I get down?

She was born on Christmas Day 2000, one of six puppies from Momma Dog’s second litter. When the first litter was born six months earlier, The Husband and I lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, so we told his youngest brother (main caretaker of the dogs) that if she had another litter and we were somewhere where we could have a dog, we would take one. By that Christmas, we were renting a house from a friend who let us have pets, so we had to live up to our agreement.

Five weeks after she gave birth to the puppies, Momma Dog (a collie mix) had had enough of nursing. Appalling behavior for humans, but perfectly acceptable for dogs — go figure. It was time for me and The Husband to go pick out our puppy. We drove over on a Saturday afternoon and walked up to the outdoor pen where The Husband’s grandfather, Papa, had built for the pups. I knelt down in front of the little bundles of fur that clamored for my attention, but before I could get to any of them, a fawn-colored bounded over all of them and started licking my hand. Later I would learn that I had picked the alpha female.

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I’m in Your Head, Effing Up Your OCD

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I promise, 99% of the time I’m not a mean person. Even when a scenario presents itself where I would be perfectly justified to be mean, I’m not.

But yesterday, I saw an opportunity so tempting — more delicious than the loaves of freshly baked French bread I’ve denied myself — I couldn’t resist.

In our break room at work, someone created a lovely vertical line of of thumbtacks and arranged them so that all the colors were grouped together on the bulletin board. As I stood at the water cooler filling my glass, I wondered, “If I were to take that green thumbtack and randomly stick it somewhere else on the board, how long would it take for someone to put it back in line?”

The question got the best of me, so I moved the thumbtack. Later that afternoon when I returned to the water cooler, the thumbtack was back in its spot in vertical line.

So I moved it again.

I know. I’m horrible. But I’m not the only one. This morning, someone had moved the other two green thumbtacks and lined them up with the one I moved.

I’m examining all my coworkers for facial ticks that might indicate the new thumbtack arrangement has given them fits.

Five Things for Friday: Miscellaneous Observations from Alumnae Weekend 2014

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I did the sappy, reflective post on my Columbia College Alumnae Weekend 2014 experience, but I had these tidbits I wanted to share yet didn’t have a great place to put them.

1 — In college when I made the drive to the Upstate on Friday afternoons, I-26 East had barely any traffic, and there were times of the day when Malfunction Junction (intersection of I-26 and I-20) was desolate. Holy. Cow. Not anymore.

2 — How old is Joe Pinner? I mean, seriously. Friday afternoon I’m in the hotel room getting ready for Friday night’s dinner, with the news on the background, and I hear, “And WIS’s Joe Pinner is out at [Don't remember the name] Festival this weekend…” I was like, Really? Wasn’t he at retirement age twenty years ago? I posted on FB that I must be in Columbia because Joe Pinner was on TV, and someone commented, “He’s still alive?”

3 — Apparently, our class is the red-headed step children of alums because we got shuffled over to the side of the dining hall at one long, solitary table while the rest of the classes were neatly lined diagonally in a V shape in front of the stage. Whasup with that C2?

Part of our table when our class was recognized at the luncheon

Part of our table when our class was recognized at the luncheon, and yes, that’s me putting my hands in the air like I just don’t care. (Photo courtesy of my former roommate Tiffany)

4 — I wore the wrong shoes for the occasion. I could have walked around campus barefoot and come out better than I did Saturday. In my defense, all my pants hang on me now (pleasant side effect of the weight loss and haven’t had a chance to have anything altered yet), and I needed to wear heels to keep the hem from dragging along the grass and pavement. The mental note has been imprinted on my brain and the soles of my feet for the 25-year reunion.

5 — I discovered that the 20-year reunion is the sweet spot where Alumnae Weekend classes are concerned. We’re old enough to blink incredulously when we hear an alum from 2009 talk to a fellow classmate about a photo that was “taken for-EV-ER ago” (Seriously? You’ve been out of school FIVE YEARS!), yet we’re still young enough that when a member from the 1964 class passes us, she looks at our name tag and says, “1994? Lord, you’re just a baby!” Bless you, you dear, dear woman.