Archive for the ‘family’ Category

The foot right after surgery

The foot right after surgery

And no, I’m not referencing that annoying BareNaked Ladies song. It’s been one week since Wayne went under the knife.

Now, Wayne has been a problem child since January’s 5K. He had the blister that would not heal. The blister wasn’t even totally healed in time for surgery, but once the pressure was taken off, he’s all but closed up… five days later.

What Dr. Barbacci did was to open an L-shaped incision over the front toe knuckle. He took the ends off the joint, removed the cartilage and used two staples/plates to fuse the joint together. He also added a little twist, given my gait that will hopefully combat any blistering.

Much smaller

Much smaller

The sad thing is that I’m in a different Boot of Shame for at least four weeks, perhaps as much as 6 weeks. This is necessary so the bone can knit properly. The effect of titanium on airport metal detectors is unknown to me… a question for the next appointment. Speaking of which, that’s next Tuesday and they take the stitches out. I had the bandage changed on Tuesday… after a few days, it was all bunched up and, as Dr. Barbacci noted, “It looks like a loaf of bread.” The current bandage is much smaller and sleeker looking.

The worst part has been that I feel the staples in my bones. Maybe that’s just my head talking, but the nice thing is feeling something in my toes.

The one thing that was missing was that I felt I should call my mom and let her know that the procedure went well. See, that was pretty much a standard. She always wanted the doctor’s report. Somehow, she knows, though.

I was pretty much awake for the surgery. They gave me a “twilight” cocktail (and no, I didn’t have to watch those shitty movies starring Shovelface and Mouth Breather) so I had a vague sense of awareness. I do recall Dr. Barbacci coming into the operating room and saying, “Do we have that vasectomy kit ready?” I thought he switched specialties.

At any rate, one more thing to share. You can tell it’s summer when the nastygrams start arriving from Wanda, evil bitch queen of the HOA. This time, Wanda got her panties in a bunch about a tree along the road (that we didn’t even plant) having branches hanging within eight feet of the ground. Now, I was under the impression that those trees were their responsibility, since I remember an “arborist” waking me up to move my car because they had to trim branches. Regardless, I’m in no shape to trim trees at this juncture, however, our totally awesome neighbor trimmed it for me. Huge shout out to Kirk for general awesomeness. I still loathe Wanda, though. I’m pretty sure she’s paying kickbacks to the HOA president. Otherwise she’d be out.

At any rate, I’ll try and keep you all posted as to the progress with Wayne. I was going to take a picture, maybe I will on Tuesday before the stitches come out.

Song of the Day: Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack – Various Artists

Currently reading: The 6th Extinction – James Rollins

Mixed feelings

Posted: July 15, 2014 in family, grief, regrets

We go on… To the joy and through the tears – We Go On – Kellie Coffey

In a little over four hours, we will lay mom’s remains to rest. She will be buried with my father, closing the final chapter of the life of an extraordinary woman.

Still sucks for those of us left behind.

I was able to wake up and be fully functional on Saturday morning. This morning, I woke up in tears, just feeling I had to write a little bit… maybe getting it on screen will help with my control later. Not like anyone is going to blame me if I am a blubbering mess.

Mom and I on the morning of my wedding

Mom and I on the morning of my wedding

So, Saturday was a huge turnout. I was so amazed to see so many of my mother’s friends, some of whom drove great distances to pay their respects. It was also amazed at some of my friends who came out… one friend I haven’t seen since my high school graduation 25 years ago. I even managed to make it all the way through Mom’s eulogy (with only minor breakdowns).

It was a fitting sendoff to a special lady.

Now, you might remember that a few months ago, I had posted about my personal crisis of faith. One of mom’s friends had asked her if I was angry at God. I tried to explain my feelings, best as I could, that I felt it to be unfair that so many good people are taken so soon, and so many bad people hang around for so long.

My mom had no such crisis, and if there is indeed an afterlife, she’s on the good side of things.

I wanted to say so much and now that I’m in front of a keyboard, I’m having a horrible time thinking of what I wanted to say. Ugh.

I’ll close by saying thank you to all the folks who came on Saturday to pay their respects. It was great to see everyone, even under the circumstances. It just reinforces that we need to take the time to get together under better circumstances, because life is too damn fragile.

I especially want to thank mom’s card club for all the years of friendship and love. Barbara, Janice, Aggie, Joanne and Carole, you were all like sisters to mom and I know she loved you to pieces. I also promise that Supportive Partner Woman and I will do our best to make mom’s cookie recipes at Christmas, and we will try (no promises) to get them decorated as well as she did. We will also stay in touch and will be there for you if you need anything, as you were always there for her.

For those of you who aren’t Disney fans, you might not understand the meaning of the opening quote. That song is at the end of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT and I just felt those words to be especially poignant. Didn’t hurt that mom was a fan of IllumiNations, either. But that’s what she would want… for us to go on, persevere and life each day. She wouldn’t want us to be sad when we thought of her. She would want us to remember her with a smile.

I’m going to do that.

Just not today.

A eulogy

Posted: July 12, 2014 in family, friends, grief, I has a sad, regrets

One of my biggest pet peeves is going to a funeral and the celebrant obviously knows nothing about the dearly departed.

I feel that’s disrespectful. As such, I stood up and volunteered to eulogize my mother. It’s not something I could leave to chance. I couldn’t let someone sum up this extraordinary life with a few trite sentences about how JoAnn loved her family. Yes, she loved her family, but there was much, much more.

Without further ado, I present the first eulogy I’ve ever written.

Good afternoon.

I volunteered to take a few minutes to talk about JoAnn. Whether you called her JoAnn, Mom, Sis, Niece, Aunt, Cousin, hey you… she was certainly a unique and wonderful individual. We are lucky to have had her in our lives.

As you know, mom passed very suddenly. I was on my way home when I got a call from the dentist’s office informing me of what had happened. As anyone who has ever ridden with me knows, I can be a bit… impatient with other drivers, especially when I need to get somewhere. Turns out that the driver I was impatient with was driving a large farm tractor. Hey, it IS Lancaster County.

To make a long story short, I got home, picked up Laura and we were on our way to Reading. I opted to ride shotgun, seeing that I was pretty freaked out. We fully expected that mom would be sitting up in the emergency room, wondering what we were all doing there.

The fact that we are all here today proves that to be wishful thinking. I honestly always thought mom was indestructible. We assumed that when the apocalypse came, the only living things left on earth would be the cockroaches, Keith Richards and my mom.

Enough about what has happened. It is done.

This is a celebration of the life of an extraordinary woman.

A woman we all loved dearly.

Again, those of you who know me well know that I have a certain way with words. If you are expecting a eulogy that is sorrowful, well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If there’s one thing my mother was not, it was sorrowful. As such, I wanted to share some remembrances of her.

Now, many of you know that while mom could be incredibly perceptive, she would also be completely oblivious from time to time. I remember one time I had her convinced that the stealth fighter was, in fact, invisible to the naked eye.

Yeah, I did that. She was a good sport about it, though. She usually was.

She taught me most of all the things I know about cooking. Everything else I know is due to the Food Network. Just don’t put the two of us in the same kitchen.

She taught me the value of working for something I wanted. Case in point. When we moved out to the spread on Rivervale Road, the soil was extremely rocky. Mom got the bright idea to pay Michelle and I a penny a rock. Me being me realized that there was no size parameters for the rocks being collected… we still got a penny if it was a piece of pea gravel or a boulder. You all can probably guess what I tried to pull. I threw a few large handfuls of gravel in the cart and said, “That’ll be $5.”

As you can imagine, that was not well received.

Mom was always very self-reliant. She hated asking people for help, no matter what it was. She usually didn’t mind asking me for help at inconvenient times, though. I seem to remember her asking me about an error message she had gotten got on her computer a few weeks before, as I was tiling a bar top. She would also ask me esoteric questions about her diagram less crossword puzzle while I was driving. Kind of hard to drive, chat and look something up on Google at the same time. Trust me. I’m certainly going to miss it.

That was mom.

Whenever I drove her anywhere, I’d have to tell her that I disconnected the brake pedal on her side of the car.

There was also the time at Michelle’s birthday party when she, well, kinda sorta, managed to start her shirt on fire.

We all have so many memories of times spent with her. For the family, the biggest might be her summer parties at the Rivervale house, where the pool was open, the food was yummy and plentiful, and mom was the driving force to put it all together. Dad and I would do a lot of work, but we had no part in the master plan. We were strictly manual labor.

Fact is, mymom was full of life and love, and had a good sense of humor. She was also known to leave us speechless. At our wedding, Mom had a few too many. (OK, one… not one too many… one) Turns out my father-in-law had assigned one of the young bartenders to keep an eye on mom and make sure she was taken care of. They were bantering back and forth and at one point, the bartender joked about taking Mom home. The next day, at brunch, mom said, “I should’ve taken him up on that. I could use a roll in the hay. After my jaw audibly hit the floor and my ears stopped bleeding, the best I could come up with was, “MOM!!!”

She just smiled her JoAnn smile and a legend was cemented.

Mom was also a great friend to many. Many of her friends she stayed in touch with since she was in grade school at Hyde Park Elementary. They liked to call themselves the Silver Belles and there were a few road trips of which the details are kind of sketchy. Something like, “What happens in Florida stays in Florida.” One detail about that trip that made it out was the time that mom, Joanne and Janice went to see a Phillies spring training game in Tampa. Mom called from the stands, and was commenting that former Phillie Pat Burrell was a good looking man. In the background I hear one of her companions say, “And he’s got a nice tushy!”

Yeah. That did happen.

She also learned how to text in recent months. And somehow she learned a lot of the text abbreviations that these kids today like to use. I’d send her a long text on my smartphone and she would send back, “love u2.” I asked her about that one time and she said that while she could text a little, she never quite figured out how to capitalize a word.

That was mom.

In addition to friends and family, Mom was always a particularly soft touch when it came to Michelle’s friends and my friends. They thought she was the coolest mom ever. She was, but try to get a teenager to admit that they had a cool mom. Later, when her and my dad moved to Exeter, she became a surrogate grandmother to some of the neighborhood children, not to mention keeping up her role as den mother to the neighborhood. She was someone you could talk to so easily that most of us did. Michelle and I certainly would yak her ear off. But she always had time for you.

My mother was also very spiritual. She was always quick to tell me of what she read in her daily devotions. She was also one who took those readings to heart and tried to live her life in accordance with her faith. There are a lot of people who trumpet how faithful they are. My mom just showed her faith by how she lived.

I know that mom has gone on to a better place. That she’s off in the afterlife with our dad, our grandparents, some of her favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. I know she’s getting licks from her dogs that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge before her.

I know she is going to be OK.

Somehow I just know.

I also know she is worried about all of us. Because that’s what she did. She constantly thought of others before herself. Without fail. She sacrificed a lot so that Michelle and I could get an education. We might not have had a lot of the frills, but we had everything we needed to succeed and, most of all, we had the best mom you could ask for.

I believe our task is a simple one going forward. To live our lives to the fullest. She wouldn’t want us to be sad. Mom would want us to think of those happy times. Take each day as it comes was pretty much her attitude. I’m also pretty sure that right now she’s looking down on all of us and wondering what the fuss is about.

So, with all that being said, kids, make sure you take any available moment to tell your parents you love them and how much you appreciate them. Because they can be gone with no warning and you don’t want to carry that guilt. It’s saying (and really meaning) three little words that mean so, so much.

Finally, I’d like to close with the following quote from some Italian dude whose name I have absolutely NO idea how to pronounce, but I’ll try anyway, E.A. Bucchianeri, “So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”

To have this much grief, you had to have a lot of love. That we did. And while it might not seem like it, someday it will balance out. We are hurting now. That’s natural. But the grief will fade and we will always have those wonderful memories of which my mom was a huge part.

Thank you all for coming this afternoon.

 

Mom and I at my 40th birthday party

Mom and I at my 40th birthday party

I write this with a heavy heart.

On Monday, my mother suffered a massive stroke. It was unexpected… she was in great shape and I fully expected her to outlive me. Her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar were better than mine and , not only that, she had much more willpower. When the drugstore blood pressure machine showed her BP was a little elevated, she managed to pretty much eliminate extra sodium from her diet. She kept up her own house, and while she might have been slowing down a little, she was still able to take care of things.

So, as I was driving home from the gym Monday, I called her, as I normally do. Ever since I had a heart scare a few years ago (turned out to be nothing), she would worry if I didn’t check in. It was 5-10 minutes out of my day, not a problem. If I couldn’t call, I would send a text (she recently learned to text). When she didn’t answer, I assumed that she went to the grocery store or had other errands to run. I tried her cell, but no answer, which again was nothing unusual. A few minutes later, my phone rang. I almost declined the call because I didn’t recognize the number. I answered, and it was my mom’s dentist’s office, letting me know that she had been in for an appointment and collapsed and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance.

That is not what I expected.

I raced home, collected Supportive Partner Woman, called my sister and my aunt and uncle and went heading to the hospital. Thankfully, SPW was in better possession of her faculties and drove, as I was a nervous wreck. I fully expected to show up in the emergency room and find her sitting up, wide awake, wondering what we were all doing fussing over her.

Instead, I found a bad scene… a scene out of my worst nightmares.

Mom had an aneurysm that burst and was showing no brain function. She was being kept alive with a machine doing her breathing for her. Today there was no signs of brain function, either, and she was taken off the ventilator, being declared brain dead. I was able to hold her hand as her heart finally stopped around 25 minutes after being taken off life support.

So many thoughts went crashing through my mind. Many tears were shed. In fact, I’m still not sure I’ve fully accepted this. It all seems so surreal.

I still have my memories, though.

Memories of mom teaching me how to read (Richard Scarry in the house).

Mom showing me around a kitchen.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

1989 band trip to Disney World that the folks went on at the last minute as chaperones. The funny part is that they were in the room next to where we were playing poker and being rowdy and they never mentioned that we were too loud. I was mortified when I found out where their room was. Whoops.

Mom being there with a shoulder to cry on when life went to complete shit.

Mom being a rock when my dad died, even though she was hurting worse than we were.

Going to the drive-in for the Disney movies and popping popcorn and making sure my sister and I had blankets and pillows, in case we fell asleep.

Laughing because she could be so perceptive and yet oblivious at the same time. Case in point, we had a surprise 50th birthday party for her. We instructed my dad to go to a certain entrance of the hall, and I made sure that cars she would recognize were parked on another side of the building. Dad got his signals crossed, parked right next to my car and she never even noticed.

She was the glue that kept our family together and now she’s gone.

It’s not fair.

As I was talking to my uncle last night, I said that the world was a better place for having her in it. We both had a good cry.

I know deep down this is how she would want to go… quickly and painlessly. That doesn’t make it easy on those of us left behind, however. I ask of you to say an extra prayer for Mama T tonight, or, if you’re not the praying kind, to keep her in your thoughts.

I miss her already.

RIP, Mom… 1942-2014

So, it’s nine days following the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes. Supportive Partner Woman and I were in attendance, along with 14 of our closest friends and family members, to see if California Chrome could add the second leg of the Triple Crown to his resume.

It would be so easy to jump to race #12 (the main event) and not talk about the entire weekend. Luckily for you, I don’t take the easy route. We make an entire weekend of it.

So, Friday, SPW and I loaded up Mario the Super Honda and headed to South Jersey for the annual pre-Preakness feasting at my sister-in-law’s home. The SIL made a perfectly delicious beef tenderloin roast and there was much mirth and merriment. Various folks stopped by to join in the festivities, but eventually we all hit the rack for some much-needed shuteye. See, it’s a looooong day.

We shoved off about 7:30 AM, headed for Pimlico. For those of you not familiar with Baltimore, Pimlico is not located in what you would call an attractive section of the city. Poverty abounds and the storefronts that are not vacant are occupied by check cashing joints, chicken & trout stands, and the occasional bail bonds establishments.  Preakness is the one time of year it’s pretty safe to go there, as it seems that the entirety of the Baltimore Police Department is deployed in and around the track. It’s also probably the best time to commit a crime on the other end of town (not that I am advocating illegality). Just sayin’.

That being said, it’s an amazing sight to see that decrepit old track filled to the rafters.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was that SPW came home with a pair of high end tickets that belonged to her boss who was not going to the race. These seats were choice… pretty much overlooking the finish line and away from the cigar smokers behind our regular seats  (I don’t have an issue with cigar smoking, but there were quite possibly the nastiest smelling cigars I’ve encountered. No lie… they smelled like burning dogshit). We still opted to spend most of the day on the rail, but we went upstairs for the main event.

California Chrome leads Ride On Curlin' down the stretch

California Chrome leads Ride On Curlin’ down the stretch

Not the best video, but not too bad in the grand scheme of things. I did manage to capture a pretty good still frame of the leaders down the stretch.

All in all, it was a fun day. Very tiring.

The feasting aspect went better this year, though, as my gut isn’t nearly as sensitive as it was last year. I also didn’t overdo it, so there was no issues of malabsorption. The arts and crafts were successful as well. It’s kind of funny when you have a group of 40-60 year olds smuggling booze into a venue like a bunch of teenagers at a Hoobastank concert. Speaking of concerts, though, the infield entertainment for 2014 included Nas and Lorde. In my humble opinion, the quality of infield concerts has generally declined since the first year they were done (ZZ Top), although this year’s crop was better than Pitbull. At the current rate, I expect next year’s acts to include Nickelback.

In other news, my foot is healing at a somewhat steady pace. It’s certainly looking better than it was, but it’s still not fast enough for me. I think I need to talk to the doc and see if there’s something they can do to splint the toe so it doesn’t continue to put pressure on the wound. I’m thinking duct tape or a big hose clamp. I somehow doubt that will meet medical approval.

At any rate, that’s all I have for right now. We have the dreaded yard sale coming up on Saturday, so hopefully I’ll have good stories to tell.

See you on the other side.

I’m pleased to report that the six day period of hell has come to a close.

This started last Saturday when we buried my cousin Bill, who had passed away a few weeks beforehand. I had written about the sense of loss I felt at that time, but we finally got his ashes to their final resting place. We followed up with a family brunch at the Exeter Family Restaurant , which was underwhelming to say the least, then Supportive Partner Woman and I made tracks back to cow country. The following day, my mom came up so I could do her taxes. We then took her for her first ever visit to Wegman’s.

She was a bit overwhelmed.

She called when she got home to let us know she was safe, then a few minutes later, the phone rang again to let us know that Aunt Marie had passed away on Saturday night.

(thump)

The other shoe had dropped.

That funeral was this past Friday… bookending a six day stretch that was crappy, to say the least. This week was also filled with too many work obligations, not enough sleep, and not enough fresh air.

All it proves is that life is too damn short.

In the good news department, though, I did manage to construct a solidly-built ramp for my in-law’s home so my mother-in-law can get out to the family room. It was a chance to use power tools (which I’m always in favor of), and a chance to bitch about cheap Chinese-made wood screws. I might have something there… there’s NO reason an 18v cordless drill should be able to torque the head right off the screw. This happened twice. Not happy, but what can you do? I also opted to build a computer stand for the iMac, freeing up space underneath for the external hard drive and the Time Machine.

I also got some good exercise in. My group meeting took place with the exercise physiologist and he had us doing circuits. I was doing OK, but the mountain climbers really hurt on Saturday. The part that made me feel pretty good was the running in place… I was able to go 45 seconds without too much effort. This leads me to believe that I can do some intervals during the Troegtoberfest race and not be dead last. Woot!

I’ve also come to a conclusion that I’m going to go see a wound care specialist about Stubby and Wayne. These things are healing, but it seems the podiatrist doesn’t have a clue on how to make it more permanent (and faster). If I have to go back in the boot for awhile, so be it… if it really helps, I’m all for it.

So, I’m calling it a night. Hope that you all have a very happy Easter (Passover, etc.) and I’ll catch you in a few days.

Sadness, loss, and frustration

Posted: April 3, 2014 in family, regrets

Author’s note: Just a warning… I’m writing this after too many days of not enough sleep, a ten-hour shift and it’s 3:40 AM. As a result, it’s a little on the rambling side. Sorry.

As you can probably tell from the title, this isn’t going to be a particularly uplifting post.

In LOLspeak, I haz a sad.

I can usually be counted on to put on a brave face, suck it up and wall whatever is bothering me off in some dark corner of my psyche. I’m pretty sure if you managed to chisel through the walls, you’d find a very depressing and gloomy path.

I know that internalizing isn’t usually the best course of action, but sometimes you gotta do what you do. This is my usual M.O. Is it healthy? Probably not.

The root cause of my sadness is based in grief. As those of you who read this know, I recently lost a favorite cousin. He’s being laid to rest on Saturday.

At my mom's 70th birthday party, just two years ago

At my mom’s 70th birthday party, just two years ago

The kicker came when my mom called last Sunday to let us know that my Aunt Marie was in hospice care and given days to live. We went to say our goodbyes on Tuesday and it really tore me up. This vibrant woman, unresponsive, struggling to breathe. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it really hit me hard.

Now, Aunt Marie is actually my great aunt. She is my late grandmother’s sister-in-law, but the fine distinctions never came to mind. It was a special treat when she came to visit. She was always so full of life and fun. As much as it hit me, this one hit my sister even harder. She would go to Aunt Marie’s for a few weeks every summer. As usual, I feel extremely guilty for letting life get in the way of seeing her as the years have marched on. I just hope she knows on some level that I came by to wish her well.

So, while I know that death is as much a part of life as anything, it sucks that it has to be so humbling.

The real clincher is that her sickness is my old nemesis.

Cancer.

I hate that fucking disease with every fiber of my being. While she’s not gone yet, that little bastard is what’s going to do it.

Here lies the frustration. So far, cancer has taken away so many of my loved ones and all I have to show for it are the tears. This is why I raise money and donate money to fight it. Maybe it’s a losing battle, but if we can do something to either stop or at least slow the advance, we might have a prayer of staying in the game.

The part that really depresses me is the simple unfairness of it all. Good people die in such a horrible way, shadows of their former selves, and bad people are still walking around. I want to believe that it is all part of some cosmic master plan by a supreme being, whether it be God, Allah, Yahweh, or whatever supreme deity you happen to believe in. I just have such a hard time believing that said deity, if He is indeed benevolent as we are taught, would let people suffer so much, rob them of their dignity and faculties, basically leaving behind an empty shell.

You could say I have a pretty bad crisis of faith.

Now I know a lot of people will read that and have issues with what I am saying. If these comments offend you, you have my apologies. I don’t mean to offend.

At any rate, there you have it. Grief, sadness, frustration, all in under 700 words.

Do me a favor, though. Treasure your loved ones. Tell your parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family, hell, complete strangers even, tell them you love them. Give them a hug. They are all that really matters in life. Enjoy and cherish the time you do have together, because that time will be over all too soon.

And regretting those times you didn’t have together is a shitty way to go through life.

Just sayin’