Saying Goodbye with I Love You

Tonight my mom and I sobbed.  We have sobbed very few moments since my dad’s diagnosis, but tonight was worth crying over.  My dad is rapidly reaching a point where he can no longer talk.  The simplest sentences are so much effort for him. 

He actually had a really go hour today.  He talked about wanting to make sure my car was fixed, and said he wanted to pay for it. (My car is in the shop right now.)  He talked about how the world needed a Dr. Bobby to be a doctor as well as a Rob Jones (my brother) to be a pilot and a Darin Aldridge (a dear friend and mandolin player) to be a musician.  He talked about golfers that he thought were going to make it to the PGA tour in the next few years, and he talked about some of the difficulties of being a doctor over the years.  He was able to see the final proofs of his second book, Acquisition Syndrome, which will likely be pressed a few days after he passes. 

He also talked about other things.  Things mom and I are barely prepared to deal with.  He looked at my mother and told her, “If I don’t make it, I want you to know you’ve been a wonderful wife.”  Then he asked for me and said, “I love you honey.”  Or perhaps, he said, “I love you Bonnie.”  I guess I’ll never exactly know.  But, he told me he wanted to remind me that he loves me.  I know that so deeply that he never would have to tell me again, but I want to hear it as many times as I can in the next few days.

What if tomorrow he can no longer talk?  I know that day is very near.  I know other harder days are near too.  What if today was the last time I get to hear my daddy tell me he loves me?  Oh dear God, I am not ready for this.  This is not fair.  I know I’ll survive.  I know I can go on.  But, God I hurt so badly.

A Bipolar Weekend: Joy and Sorrow

My brother was finally able to come home for the weekend. I am so glad he got here in time to say a few things to my dad, while my dad is still able to say a few things to him. I know it was hard on my brother. He basically had to come to terms with everything and say goodbye to my father in a little more than 48 hours. That’s a process that I’ve had over a year to come to grips with, and it’s still hard.

On this trip home, my brother also brought something else home with him, my nephew, Matthew. My 8 month old, giggling, teething, desperate-to-crawl, happy nephew. So the weekend was spent oscillating between extremes. Extreme joy. Extreme sorrow.
I could not have been happier when my sister-in-law told me she forgot to pack Matthew’s bathtub, and she would need to use mine for Matthew’s nightly bath. So, my sister-in-law and I settled in to give my nephew his first big boy bath, and it was EVERYTHING a first big boy bath should be. He learn how to splash, and he soaked both of us head to toe as he screamed in elated joy. Then, just as we were about ready to pull him out of the tub, he decided to poop and pee. I dropped his toys back in the water trying to find a towel to dry him off with before my sister-in-law dropped him back in the contaminated water. I had dropped in his toys though, so I spent the evening bleaching both the bathtub and his toys. Matthew found all this commotion laughable. It was perfect.

I couldn’t help but notice some of the contrasts between how I felt with Matthew and my father this weekend. I would change Matthew’s diaper and it would make me so deeply happy. I would change my dad’s, and though I am happy to do it for him, it also breaks my heart. I would feed Matthew. I would feed my dad. I would hug Matthew and tell him how much I love him. I would hug my dad and tell him how much I love him. There is obvious joy in starting a child off in the world surrounded by love and happiness. But, being with Matthew also reminded me that I should allow some joy in when doing these things with my father too. There is also joy in taking care of a man I love so deeply with dignity and respect in the final days or weeks of his life. Even though that joy can be so hard to let sink in during moments when I am so mad that I am loosing him so early. I guess my 8 month old nephew is already a genius. He’s already teaching me the most important lessons in life, and he’s giving me something to really, truly live for despite the heartbreak around me now. I love you Mattie Bug, and I love you Daddy.

Memories of My Father

Things I am afraid to forget about my father:

  1. That he smells like old spice and sunscreen
  2. The way he tilts his head back and to the side when he laughs, as if to say, ‘aw, shucks.’
  3. That he took me to breakfast every Wednesday morning in my childhood
  4. That he always wanted to share our food. He’d split it down the ‘middle’, and I would usually get the smaller ‘half’
  5. That he took me on the golf course to learn how to play, and I told him, “Now Dad, I’ve only been on this earth 6 short years.”
  6. That he bought me flowers after I got upset because he hit pop up balls to my brother (an outfielder) and hit grounders to me (short stop)
  7. That he would practice my spelling words in the car with me at red lights
  8. That he would play me to sleep with a guitar every night when I was a little girl
  9. The way he cried on my 16th birthday and that he gave me an opal because he wanted someone else to be able to afford to get me a bigger diamond one day
  10. All the bluegrass gigs and songs, every one of them
  11. That he taught me how to swim and ski at the Lake
  12. That when he was sick he would be asleep and pull out an imaginary pick from his pocket to play the mandolin
  13. That when he was sick he would ask me to check on his patients for him
  14. The way he would smile at my jokes, even when they weren’t very funny
  15. How proud he was the year I got the starring role as Mary in the Christmas play, and how proud he was the year I played the donkey (he cried over this one more times than I can count)
  16. The way he would enter a patients rooms and ask, “What’s troubling you today?”
  17. His medical laws: Dr Bobby’s Rule #1 Always think of what might kill your patient before you get to see them again, and rule that out. And, Temple’s Law #1 A women is pregnant until proven otherwise.
  18. Making rounds with him on the weekends and when school was out
  19. How much he loves coke, nip chee crackers and wintogreens
  20. How proud he was of his friend’s successes
  21. How much he loves his family
  22. How he won me the 8 foot alligator at Carowins
  23. How perfectly my little hand fit into his, even when my hand had grown up with me
  24. How he would wrap his little pinkie in tape before he played golf
  25. How one hand had more sun spots than the other because one hand was covered by a golf glove when he was outside
  26. How he would eat at Chen’s (chinese) every Friday at lunch, and when I came home for the weekend from college, I could always find him there.
  27. How Darin described their relationship a ‘pure’ filled with love and mutual support and caring
  28. That he would take me to get ice cream after we finished unloading the recycling at the dump

I am sure I will come back to this list frequently, and add a few more.  I’m terrified I will forget.  I will do anything to hold onto memories of my father.

Let Bonnie Share!

Every family has a set of stories that breathes life into it.  My brother has always provided the animation for our family.  One time he told my mother he was “That p word.  You know-pissed. P.I.S.T”  When my mother was trying to teach us about sharing, he screamed, “Let Rob SHARE!!!”  Such are the lessons and struggles of parenthood.

My brother hasn’t been around to take turns with my father’s care.  That’s been hard.  Although, I know his military training largely has kept him away, there were opportunities for him to be present with our family.  He chose not to.  I don’t think he wanted to be absent from the end of my dad’s life, but for whatever reason, he is hopelessly unable to cope with this.

I might only do one thing right in my entire life.  I’ve racked up more epic screw ups than anyone my age should accrue.  I hope I don’t screw up this too.  If I only get on thing right, I want it to be my dad.  It’s hard to stay patient all the time.  Sometimes I wish my brother were here to take his turn, and even my mom gets overwhelmed with it at moments.  But, I am determined, determined to do the right thing for the next few weeks.  Every time he wants to play his mandolin, I’m going to give it to him.  Nevermind that he hasn’t been able to play a note in weeks, and it breaks my heart every time he tries to play and asks me to press down note with his left hand.  If he asked for his 12th piece of candy, I’ll give it to him.  If it nearly kills me, for the next few weeks, I will do it regardless.

Sometimes I wonder when my turn is going to arrive.  I’ve spent so many years taking care of others.  I don’t even know what my life would look like if I did all the things I want to do.  Travel, finish my education, be single and free to live where ever and follow whatever dreams my come…  My mind is not even open enough to the idea to know what that life would look like.

And then at other times, I think that perhaps my turn has already arrived.  I wouldn’t trade a single moment I’ve had with my dad, not even the really horrible ones because I would like to believe that I’ve brought my dad some ease in those dark moments.  Every smile we’ve shared and every time I’ve held his hand has been worth a lifetime.  I’ve had nearly 30 years of lessons and love.  That’s so much more than most children get with their parents.  I just have to hope that it’s enough to last me the rest of my years.

Love you daddy.  I’m glad we’ve had our time to share.

Happy Birthday Daddy

Bitter sweet.  Today is bitter sweet.  June 13th. It’s my daddy’s 60th birthday, and barring a miracle, it will be his last.  I am sitting beside of him as many seconds today as I can.  We’ll have friends over to eat cake with him and sing happy birthday, and it’s mostly a happy day.  But, I’d be lying if I said today was all happy.

I think of the impact 60 years can have, and wonder if I’ll be able to have that much impact in 90.  About a dozen cards a day, 2000+ Facebook friends showering him with love and support, people all over town who attribute their lives being saved thanks to my daddy and their doctor, and hundreds of people that profess they are kinder, more thoughtful or better people just for having known my dad.  A dear friend, Kristin  once told me about what her husband, Wayne said about my father.  Kristin said, “your dad and Wayne’s grandfather were the two best men Wayne had ever known.  Your dad raised the bar for Wayne personally on what a man should be.”  Testaments to my father have poured in from every direction.  We have been absolutely showered with love, when many people feel very abandoned when they go through this process.  We have dozens of people stop by every day to visit with my dad or to help my mother in some way or another.  Laundry, mow the yard, do dishes, cook… you name it.  I am not completely sure of how you go about building so much rapport with so many people.  But I’d like to believe that my dad taught me something about it, and I hope that in 90 years I can begin to scratch the surface on having a similar impact.  But for today, I’m going to try to put aside the illness, and just celebrate my daddy.  He truly is a great man, and I am so bless that I hit the jackpot when it comes to family.  Happy Birthday Daddy!  You are my hero and my biggest fan, and I will love you for always.

Love at Second Glance

New jobs. Have mercy, they are stressful. Just like on my first day of school every year, I dressed up nicely and plastered on a confident smile held in place by cakes of makeup. But, the truth was… I was scared shitless. I had no fall back plan, no husband to pay the bills if I screwed everything up, and I had no idea what I was doing. To make my stomach churn just a little harder, I had just turned down 10,000 dollars more a year from my previous employer to follow a silly dream, and I sat in orientation thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into.”

Across the table sat a beautiful young woman, who I found out was assigned to be the epidemiologist on the same project as I. She was elegant with high cheekbones and great style. Within a few days, I would find out that she was brilliant too. She used words that I didn’t even understand, and asked questions that mattered, while I was still asking “where’s the light switch?” In short, I loathed her. And so the dance began.

Jealousy is so ugly. Deemed ‘the brilliant questions girl’, I whined and complained about her to my mother, my boyfriend, my shrink… I even whined about her to my dog. I was certain she was going to get me fired. I don’t remember the exact moment the tides began to turn, but we learned how to work together. And then, found ourselves talking together. And then, found ourselves laughing together. And then, found ourselves as friends.

We have now been colleagues for about half a year, and likely the best of friends for a lifetime. When most of my friends see me cry, they try to talk about other things or make jokes to try to make me laugh. Jenn has sat down in the mud beside me, wrapped her arm around me, and cried with me. What a beautiful friend. I have learned that beautiful people don’t happen by accident. Beautiful people have heart wrenching stories that have molded them to be both gentle and strong. Jenn and I have started to begin to share our stories together. And I am so looking forward to sharing more of our stories as well as laughs, successes, joys and progress.

This week she is moving across the country. I am going to miss her dearly. As we hugged goodbye, we both had tears in our eyes held back only by bravery and love for the other. I croaked out all I could think to tell her, “Love you.” It felt like the words just didn’t cover my appreciation for this woman, but I knew if I added “And I’ll miss you” my tears would break their dams. How do you begin to thank someone for being your strength as you lose the one person in your life that matters most? How do you begin to show someone the difference that makes? And the undeservingness of it all. I was jealous of her, a feeling that masked the truth- that I was intimidated by her at first. I’ve only known her a few months. Yet, she stepped up for me anyhow because she is a beautiful woman, one I hope to become more like. So, I guess sometimes, love unfolds, even if it is at second glance.

A Powerful Load of Laundry

I am never on top of my chores, ever.  In the last year, I have hired a cleaning service because I am just too slack.  What would my ‘bootstrapping’ grandparents think if they knew that I, a 27 year old single women, had hired a cleaning service?  Sheesh.

I was not always a slacker.  It’s just been hard to stay on top of things recently.  It’s even harder to keep up when weekends like this happen…

Last night my dad was terribly sick.  His chemo just kicks his butt sometimes, and low and behold, the washing machine decided to gurgle its lasts bubbles.  Are you kidding me?  So, this morning, I sat out to find a repair man.  Each repair man had the same phone-based diagnostic– the washing machine is old.  Given the thoroughness of the washer’s exam, I’m sure this diagnostic was based largely on the fact that today is Saturday.  Of course, they could fix it for a price, but the parts would take awhile to get here.  My dad is sick now.

Plan B became searching for a new washing machine.  I grabbed my car keys and told my mom that I would be back soon.  As I locked up the house, I saw a mini van slam on the breaks, back up about a foot and pull in our driveway.  Out of the mommy mobile popped Beth, a dear friend and long time neighbor of my parents.  She decided to say a prayer for my family as she drove by our house on her way home.  She said that if someone would walk out of the house, she would stop and offer to do our laundry.  Out I walked.  The only person to leave the house all morning.  What Beth didn’t know was that our washer was on the blink, and we were in a heap of trouble.

What makes this story even more beautiful is how the circle really is unbroken.  About a year ago, Beth’s husband was in the ICU a few miles from my own home (not my parent’s home.)  She was exhausted, and I offered for her to come stay with me a few nights.  In some weird way this was really thrilling for me.  Here was a dear friend, and I was finally far enough along in life to offer her a bed, a shower, a hug and some hospitality, instead of some crusty air mattress on the floor.  Believe me, when you’re in your mid twenties, in your first home, with your first mortgage, and someone dear to you needs some comfort that you are now able to provide…  Well, that’s a warming feeling.  That evening she said she was going to have to drive back to her home the next day, 3-4 hours away, because she had run out of clean clothes.  I insisted that I wash her clothes for her, and she was able to stay until her husband was discharged from the hospital.

So here Beth stood today in our laundry room telling me how hard it was to have let me wash her clothes for her that night.  She said that it felt like it was imposing on me; yet I was genuinely happy to be able to wash them.  She stopped today because she thought it might take a little work off my mom if she could just run a few loads of laundry for her now to return the favor, and this too made her genuinely happy.  This small act of kindness was given at moments in each of our lives when we were hanging on by a thread.  And it is moments like this in which I believe that maybe the world and God has not completely turn their backs on us.  Now, that is a powerful load of laundry.