Friday, August 7, 2020

Happiness in the middle of the storm

Thursday: 4:15am: Up! Eye drops, medicine. Swimsuit, shorts, sweatshirt, sandals, bag, go!!

Wednesday: on edge. Will this ever end? Why can't people follow health advice? Why does everyone now think they are an analyst with healthcare expertise? This shouldn't be political. People should realize the severity of this. I am frustrated. I am sick of being at home. Other people going out means that I will have to stay at home longer because this disease spreads quickly. Even within my family, people go places and do things while I am at home more, frustrated. 

Thursday: 5am: Here I am, one of the very few places I go, the local swimming pool. I am purposefully alone (but for the lifeguard). I sit and put my legs in the water, then lower myself so up I am immersed, up to my shoulders. This next part is the worst. Head under water. COLD. Go. And I start, slowly at first. And then I have a section of intervals. Reach, stretch, pull, repeat.... (breathe...) Reach, stretch, pull, flip, push off the wall. Go!! I imagine my old swim coach yelling, "pull, pull, pull..." Rest. This feels so great. I attack the water. I give all of my frustrations to the water. I keep going. I push to go fast sometimes, really push. At other times I glide, taking my time with my strokes. I just keep going. I don't want to stop because here is where I can put all my frustrations and at the same time, find peace. I don't want to leave. But eventually my fingers are like prunes and I know I am tired, so I stop. I push up on the side of the pool, sitting on the edge again, my legs in their final dangle in the water. And then I get up, dry off, and do all I can to stay warm for the next few hours, which is difficult.

Find the small things. I do what I can. Swimming is my release. In these unexpected and very difficult times, we struggle for answers on what to do, how to relate to people through masks and physical distance, how to be nice, how to remain calm, how to be happy, how to be peaceful. We live in a chaotic world that keeps throwing things at us nonstop as if to see how much we can take, and how much we can use our "nice" voice of "I'm ok" when we may feel like bam!! We are about to explode in frustration. Or sigh. We are drowning in sadness and trying to hide it. 

Release the frustration. Release the sadness. Find the small things that bring happiness. Focus on those.

Swimming - my small release. 

Peace.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Where is peace?

                                                           1993 - 2010
                                                        During this time
                                       Early each morning I would wake
                                                        Paused Frozen
     A dream 
          A leg twitch
              Reality
                                                  I run
                                                        Spasm 
                                                             Uncertainty



                                                          2020
                                                       This year
                                                         I wake
                                                    Paused Frozen
                                                          

                                                                                A dream 
                                                                                     Dad. Death. 
                                                                                            Reality   

   
                                                                                                       The way things were
                                                                                                             Be still
                                                                                                                  Uncertainty

                                                                                                                       Repeat
                                                                                                                        Again
                                                                                                         Where is peace?


                                             

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

My Parents on this day

This day. 27 years ago today. I remember being able to call my parents when I was in my doctor's office after being told I had "probable MS."

My parents. They were/are my rock.  One of my coaches told me recently that what they remembered most about my parents was the support they gave me when I was diagnosed - that they did not give up on me.

I remember when I came home for spring break shortly after that diagnosis - looking into the living room from the kitchen. I remember seeing my dad in front of the TV, which was a normal occurrence, but there was something different about his expression. It was as if he wasn't watching the TV but was thinking of something else, with a great deal of concern. I imagine he was very worried about me. He was also a runner, and a stress fracture took him out of running. Now I would be taken out of competitive running which he knew that I loved.

This is the first "anniversary" of me being diagnosed with probable MS that my dad is not here. It is the first of so many occasions when that reality will hit me - that he is not here. I tend to grieve on my own - other people won't see the tears - they are there when I am alone. Since I never saw him cry, and the closest I saw him to crying was when I was diagnosed and then came home, I think he was like me and held his emotions for when he was alone, like that day when I looked into the living room and saw him with a different look, as he was effectively alone then.

He was so proud of all of his kids. Every time I called him he knew exactly who I was.
"Hi, Dad."
"Hi, Beth."                                 
Those words are going to stick with me.

And I'll never forget Christmas Eve this past year, when I looked out as I was the assisting minister for the service - and I saw him, in the pew, looking right at me. He smiled and waved and I smiled back. He was so proud of how far I had come. I think his goal was to make it to Christmas Eve and then to Christmas, to be with his family at a time when he knew he was not well, and to smile and do the best he could to be present with us those two days.

This year, on this day, I remember my dad, his support for all I have done in life, him looking up at me on Christmas Eve as the proud father he was - I'll never forget that moment.

27 years. He saw me get worse. And he saw me get better. And we'll run together in my dreams.

Miss you, Dad.

Peace.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Memories

Dear Dad,

I now know that losing a parent is not easy. Other people who have lost their parent(s) have told me that. They have told me that we each grieve in our own way, that it goes in waves, that I need to give myself time, and on and on.

This makes me wonder how you grieved when your parents died. You never talked a lot about them. It was as if there was something of a shield there. And then later in life, you found photos and put them on a bunch of disks and made sure that each of your kids got a copy of those pictures.

What keeps running through my brain is every time I called your house. You always wanted to be the one to answer the phone, even when we were kids, and the phone always had to ring twice before you answered it. We would sit there sometimes and watch as you waited for the second ring to end before picking up the receiver.

“Hi Dad.” “Hi Beth.” That was every time I called your house as an adult and generally was looking to say hi to you and talk to Mom. Always you answered after the second ring. If you didn't answer after the second ring, I could count on you not answering because you weren't home. Predictable.

Growing up, I was the most ticklish person, ever. So you and I had a game where we would surprise each other by poking the other person in the ribs. But you always got me - easily. And I would jump. And I got you - twice - that's it. And you didn't jump at all but you did laugh. I remember those two times - I got you right next to where the phone was located (before cordless phones), where the kitchen, the family room, and two short hallways met. That was the only place I could surprise you. I wonder if that is because you were always waiting for a phone call so my poking was not anticipated.

The mail - also something you wanted to get first. You would wait for it to arrive. And your kids - we wanted to beat you to the mail. And we would even try to beat you by waiting on the lawn, out of sight, because you were inside and we were closer outside. But you still found a way to get to the mail first. Fun fact: getting the mail is now not important to me at all. Maybe that’s because there’s no race to it.

Speaking of races, we both raced. You told me your best time in the 800, which was your favorite race and my favorite race. You got taken out of running in college by a stress fracture. I got taken out due to legs not cooperating. But when I ran, you were always there to cheer - you and Mom - always. I don’t think either of you missed any of my running through high school and you both even came to a college cross-country meet of mine. And you would always yell “stride,” and I would always think, “what do you think I am doing?” The last time I went to the track was the day you were transferred into hospice. I was timing myself and all the way around the lap, I just kept thinking "stride, stride, stride." And it finally meant something! I told you that when I went to visit you that same day - that I got my personal best time that day by imagining you were telling me to stride. I may try that again.

When you were in hospice, the chaplain visited and got my brother and me to tell stories of growing up with you. There are many. Near the top of my mind was when I learned to bike - I was working on riding without training wheels, and I mastered it. I wanted that - me riding my bike without training wheels - to be your birthday present (which was only days away). But then you had to be on the roof for something and you saw me - happy early birthday. You gave your kids a lot of early birthday presents, too. If we needed something big, well, happy early birthday present!!

St. Patrick’s Day. You were a good part Irish. And that day? You never wore green on it. You thought that was such a silly American thing. I was so afraid of being pinched if I didn’t wear green. Not you. St. Patrick's Day to you was an American holiday that was silly. But I will continue to wear green on March 17.

The symphony: going to the symphony with you was the best. We did that occasionally - just the two of us - when Mom let me have her ticket. Actually, going out to dinner and getting a steak, before the symphony, was the best part of the symphony. Going to sports events was fun, too. The best part of those was cotton candy. I wonder if you knew how important the food was to me.

Speaking of food - our kitchen table. Most of the time you and Mom talked about your day. Sometimes something would happen that would be hilarious and we would all be laughing. And when it was deemed too out of control for the table, we would have to go sit by the stairs until we could stop laughing. Those times when you laughed - there weren't a lot of them - but they were memorable.

And just so you know, Dad, all those times when a light was left on upstairs when we came down for dinner, and you made one of us kids go up to see who left their light on? Well, I am not sure we always told the truth when we returned, you know, about who left their light on, because whoever did leave their light on was supposed to be the next kid to have to go upstairs the next time a light was left on. So if we went up and discovered we had left our light on, why would we admit that?

Your service is coming. One night when you were in hospice I felt the need to stay up late to find all pictures of you, for the eventual service. I was so focused. I needed the photos that night, in my mind. That’s probably why I got sick. Four hours of sleep after photo-searching was not the best idea.

But your service - we picked the hymns and I informed people how much Kleenex I would need per hymn. We have a bunch of pictures to put on poster board. The pastor is going to wear the stole of your dad’s - the one worn at all of our weddings. Now it will be worn for your service. 

We had some great times - I got that by looking at the photos - memories have been very present recently. You are constantly weaving into my life now in memories. 

"Hi, Dad." "Hi, Beth." I can still hear your voice, clearly.

And it is never easy to lose a parent. Cherishing the memories.

Peace.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

What were you going to say, Dad?

Dad, I love you.

And I am no longer sitting next to you, wondering what you are thinking.

I know you wanted to tell me what you were thinking, because three times on that day, you mouthed my name and only a slight sound came out. The day before that day, I could still hear you talk but I couldn't understand you at all. The day before that, you were still speaking and hard to understand, and you told me you were sorry about the talking - that you couldn't help it. And I knew, Dad. I told you that I knew. And before that - well, you were combative and you couldn't help it, but in that state of mind you were not in the mood to talk.

If you could have talked, what would you have said? I thanked you for saving my life. I reminded you that you held my hand when I went into surgery, and when I woke up from surgery. I told you that I saw you on Christmas Eve, when I looked out at you and you waved and smiled at me, and I smiled back. I will never forget that. And I told you that Lori likes classical music like you did. And after all of this, and several times throughout that day, the expression on your face changed. It looked like you were content. But you wanted to tell me something, and I won't know what that is and whether it was you in a different world, or something I needed to hear. So while I suppose I got to be with you so much during the last few weeks, I will never know what you were going to tell me.

And about those few weeks. I know you didn't want those few weeks. I know you didn't want to be in the hospital, but there was no choice. In the hospital, when things changed and you went into hospice, I knew you wouldn't like that either. At the hospital we were there with you. In hospice, we were there with you. We worked remotely from hospice and tried to help as much as we could. And that was strange.

I left Thursday night and told you I would be back on Friday morning. On Friday morning I decided to go to physical therapy instead of coming to see you first. After physical therapy, I drove to see you and met Mom in the lobby. She was up early! But she was up early because your baptismal journey had ended. And so we went into your room and you were still in the bed. And you were still very warm and you stayed warm. I thought you might wake up. I really did. It was as if you were still just asleep. I told you I loved you and then I sat next to you for hours, while we all came to terms with all of this and waited on next steps. Those few hours were really rough. And the whole last few weeks were rough, but during those hours it was as if someone pulled all the tears out of me. They even gave me my own kleenex box.

Then they came to take you and we waved to the mini-van that took you away.

And then we packed up and left - almost like leaving a hotel.

The whole past couple of weeks have been surreal. Things I never thought I would do, or even knew existed - I did those things. Things went too fast and at the same time I am now at home trying to get caught up on the basics like doing laundry and thinking about taking down the Christmas decorations.

About the Christmas decorations... we all seem to have them up still. It is as if time froze there - on the first day of Christmas, which was your last good day. I don't want to let that go - when the Christmas decorations come down, it's like a final stamp on something, a stamp I don't want.

And you are loved by so many - that is very clear. So many students loved your classes. The professors who worked with you are very sad. And you're my dad

So Dad, what did you want to tell me? I love you, Dad.

Peace.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dear Dad

I love you, Dad.

Do you remember when you saved my life? I was eating candy upstairs, which wasn't allowed (no food out of the kitchen) and a piece got lodged going down, and you just happened to be there, gave me the heimlich maneuver, and I survived.

And now I am here, and you are there - so close to me in distance. I sit next to you. I stand next to you and say "Hi Dad. It's Beth. I love you, Dad." And then I ask if you want some water. Sometimes you raise your hand and that means yes. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you open your mouth. Sometimes your mouth is just open. Sometimes you suck on the little sponge, which holds either tea or water, and I hold it in your mouth with the stick that is attached. Most of the time you swallow the water and your face looks relieved.

Yesterday you said my name 3 times. Yesterday you said "Fine, thanks." That meant you had enough of what we offered you. I know you wanted to tell me something after I reminded you that you saved my life.

Two days ago I kissed you and said, "I love you, Dad," and you kissed me back. Yesterday you tried to kiss me back. Today you couldn't.

I am still here, Dad, and you are still there. And I wish I knew what you are thinking, what memories you are experiencing. I do notice that when we tell a story, your facial expression changes slightly, as if you heard the story. And what are you thinking?

This hurts, Dad. I want to know what you are thinking. I know this is not what you wanted. I know you probably wish we would carry on with our lives, but we can't seem to do that. We spend time in the room where you are, and we talk to you. I struggle. I really struggle. No one ever imagines that they will go from walking, to walker, to wheelchair, to walker, to walking sticks, and then watch their dad go from walking, to walker, to hospital, to hospice.

And while I struggle, and know you wouldn't want me to struggle, I hope. I hope I dream of running alongside you someday. I hope I dream that we run the 800 together, fast, that we high-five each other at the end, and that all the emotional pains I feel, and tears I cry, today, disappear and are replaced by beautiful memories of the wonderful things and times we shared.

I love you, Dad.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Disappointed

"I'm disappointed."

"So you're disappointed in me then."

"No. I'm just.......... disappointed."

"Then you have to be disappointed in me because you can't just be disappointed."

But you see, I am disappointed. I'm disappointed that church isn't to you what it is to me, and thus you refuse to go.

I understand that you say you will go when someone comes back. I don't know if that is really true, but I do believe that when the someone comes back, you feel that the someone understands how you feel about religion, including your doubts. That is the only part of all of this that does not disappoint me.

I'm disappointed because at some point, or maybe things built up over time, but at some point, it seems that you think that church=religion.

I'm disappointed that you won't go to church because you have large doubts about religion right now, which is totally normal, but it seems you have equated these doubts with attending church. So many have huge doubts. Basically everyone has doubts at some level.

Church does include religion, but you can listen to the sermon and always interpret it in your own way, and that interpretation actually doesn't have to be religious. You can apply sermons to your life, not at all in a religious way.

I'm disappointed that you don't realize that church is also community. Perhaps you do see it as community, but if you truly felt included in the community, you would want to come to church.

I'm disappointed that you don't see church as a way to serve the community, in a non-religious way. Perhaps you do see church as a way to serve the community, but it is not enough to get you to come to church anymore.

I'm disappointed that church doesn't feel like a really supportive place for you, because it is that way for me and I wish everyone would have that sense of church. Did you feel ignored? Did I ignore you? I do feel like there were times when everyone was talking to each other, and you were there, and you felt ignored. I am disappointed that you were ignored, because if you weren't ignored, church is still a place where you would want to be.

I'm disappointed that church isn't close to family for you, that you don't realize that our church family would do pretty much anything for you, that our church family loves you very much. Perhaps you do realize this, but it still isn't enough to get you to come to church. Perhaps we are that family but some people are so annoying to you that you can't stand to be around them. If this is true, then I am sad about it.

I hope you are able to find other ways that create the atmosphere that church creates for me. Perhaps even a different church could create the atmosphere that I have described here, but for you.

Community. Service. Support. Family. Love.

I am disappointed that you do not feel these things at church, or at least not strong enough to come to church anymore.

I am disappointed that all of these things are not as existent in society today as I feel they once were.

I am disappointed that as a member of the church, I feel like I, and the church, somehow failed.

And I hope that somehow there is learning in here, but I'm not seeing it now.

Peace