Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breakfast Conversation

During breakfast I said to Avee, "You get your cast off in a week!"
Danyo said, "To-mah-woh?"
Me: No, in a week.
Danyo: To-mah-woh?
Me: No, in a wee--. Oh, a week is 7 days. So, in 7 days.
Danyo: Oh. Then, not to-mah-woh?
Me: Nope. Oh yeah! It's also your birthday in a month Bo!
Danyo: To-mah-woh?
Me: No, in a month.
Danyo: To-mah-woh?

I laughed, so then all the kids laughed, probably not even sure why I was laughing. Danyo, chuckling like a jovial old man, and shaking his head, knew exactly why, "I don't know what a month means."

Last week we went to a new little frozen yogurt shop to check it out. Avee and Danyo sat in these chairs that were big round balls almost, with a small flat area on the bottom to hold it steady and a small flat area on top to sit. Halfway through our stay, Danyo toppled out of the chair. It was really loud and made quite a spectacle. Avee would have rushed over and hid her face in my side, cried, rejected her ice cream, and wanted to leave right away. Bo would have blushed bright red, scooped up ice cream off the floor to finish, and quietly walked away, leaving a toppled chair. I would have been mortified.

Danyo, flat on his back, legs stuck up in the air, held up by the toppled ball-chair, held his ice cream up to safety and with crooked glasses and a charming smile exclaimed, "It's a great day for falling!" He swung his legs around, propped up the chair and went back to eating like nothing had happened. I couldn't have felt more proud. That was my 4 year old boy!

Right now he's running his dirty little hands up and down my face, a race between the two hands. I guess I'm done.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On My Mind

In June of 2011 my mom had a terrible pain in her abdomen. She called my sister at 1:30 in the morning. My sister mentioned to me the next day, "I knew it was bad if she called me in the middle of the night, Thomas was sick and I know she'd never have called if it wasn't unbearable." This is a woman who birthed 5 children at home. 'Nuff said.

That next day there were several phone calls back and forth between my sister and I. "It's the gall bladder..." "Waiting for a CT scan..." "Doctor is coming in 10 minutes..."

Around noon I called my sister to check in. She was obviously upset when she answered and said she couldn't talk before she quickly hung up. I sat in a chair, staring at the phone, my heart waiting to resume it's normal pace. I hated that conversation. I knew something was wrong and it could be a zillion things. I hated not knowing. So I sent my sister a text, "if you can't say it on the phone, please text it". She wrote back, "Not good. Tumors everywhere. Abdomen, liver, lungs."

The tears fell uncontrollably. I cried for the next 3 hours straight. We talked a few times in the next couple of hours, but neither of us were really in good shape to talk. The doctor said it could be 10 months or 10 years---it was up to her. The pain was a tumor pressing on her liver. But it was only one tumor of several. She had probably been sick for quite some time. I sent several texts to my sister asking about my mom. How did she respond, how did she feel, how did she look, was she scared, was she crying, was she in pain....I was desperate for any news about my mom.

They had trouble controlling her pain and so she didn't leave for two more days. Around noon on Friday, I remember seeing her number show up on my caller id and I excitedly answered the phone. She immediately said with forced seriousness, "I have been at death's door!!" I burst out laughing. Hearing my mom act dramatic in a time when she had every right to be was a welcomed distraction. She immediately protested my laughter, "Why won't anyone let me have my moment!?!?", she whined with exaggeration. She began her usual fast-paced recounting of everything, jumping from the jello to the radiologist, to the darling doctor's ethnicity and where he'd been on vacation, to the cost of medications, to the art on the walls in her room. It was always hard to keep up with her pace. For me, always. If I complained, she'd put it right back on me, "If you can't keep up, it's not my problem, it's yours". I wonder now if anyone else had the nerve to complain at her pace---I know I wasn't the only one who had trouble keeping up!

8 days later her sister, and dearest friend in the world, passed away. We knew it was coming, but the blow was insurmountable for my mom. She was devastated and felt completely abandoned. It had only been 9 months since her younger brother had passed away from a similar diagnosis.

It was too much and she sank into a deep, deep depression. I suspect only people who know depression intimately can know what this did to her. The Mom who called to see if Bo had slept better last night, or if the torn sash on Avee's dress had been repaired, or if Danyo would like a little stuffed turtle she'd seen at the store---was gone. Getting out of bed, eating, basic, perfunctory conversation was more than she could do most days. It was heartbreaking to witness. It was bigger than any of us. I realized how selfish I had been in my relationship with her, when I struggled to be a good friend and daughter for her during a time when she couldn't give back. Her voice had no lilt. This sorrow had engulfed her.

My mom was no stranger to sorrow and pain. Even tragedy had played a role in her life. She was not weak, by any standard.

She had a couple of "good" days throughout those months, it was about 3 and a half months total, and it felt like a lifetime. One of those good days was when most of my family was in town to visit. A kind of gathering that hadn't happened in a long time. My sister had rented out a pool for the evening, and my mom made an appearance. She was talkative and funny. At one point in the evening I caught her almost dumping her bottle of water down my front. Somehow I prevented it by "catching" the mischievous look and the slight movement of her water bottle. She caught me unaware about 20 minutes later, pouring half the bottle down the front of my swimsuit. I stared at her incredulously and she said, "Your boobs are huge---they were just asking for it."

My mom has ALWAYS been the picture of propriety and pose my entire life. She has been classy and proper, and never forgot the ways of a lady; a way of being that you don't see much of any more. I could NOT believe my ears when she said that to me. It really made me laugh.

She was always funny---but the sassy seemed to be a relatively new development. When she came out of her depression in early October, I got to see even more of it, and I have to say---it was awesome.

She had moved in with my sister in August, who cared for her so perfectly, in so many ways.

My mom enjoyed about 4-5 weeks of feeling pretty good. Almost feeling perfect. Then her physical health started to decline pretty rapidly. My sister said she could gauge on how my mom was on whether or not she emptied the dishwasher. My mom was a work horse and it took a LOT for her to not try and do something. She started having more frequent "Non-dishwashing days". About a week before Christmas she moved back home.

New Years Day, she went to church. That was also the first thing to return when her spirits improved. She loved going to church. That afternoon, she called my sister to take her to the hospital, as her pain was more than she could bear.

At the hospital they found that her oxygen levels were really low. With oxygen and her pain controlled, she was in good shape. She was in the hospital nearly a week with several really "up" days and some really really "down" days. Sometimes both, in one day.

I was here, 350 miles away, desperate to go see her. I wanted her to see AJ, but I was struggling with my recovery from the delivery and waiting until it would be okay to travel. We left the day after AJ's two week check-up.

I remember sitting in the hospital room, watching my mom hold AJ. I saw her eyes checking her over, looking for signs of the generations before, a grandmother's nose, a great-aunt's chin. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that AJ got to be in her grandma's arms at least once in this life. I knew she wouldn't grow up having the gift of this remarkable woman as a part of her every day life, but I would always be able to say, your grandma held you, loved you, kissed you, and celebrated your birth with all of us.

Here's the thing about the process of dying that I didn't know. It's a completely maddening roller coaster; and the anxiety of not knowing if today's the day, or if there will be 100 more days, is emotionally exhausting.

My mom was a little slower and her coloring not exactly right. She had to take more frequent pauses to catch her breath and the oxygen tube across her face was a constant reminder that things would never be as they were again. Her ability to gab and love for it was alive and well. I sat and listened to her recount her week, pontificate on the meaning of love and the journey of marriage. She told me about her wonderful nurse, and visits from different people throughout the week. I joked with her that she got cancer every time I had a baby girl. She threw her head back and laughed.

She come home later that evening and was checked into hospice care within a couple of hours. My sister sat with the hospice nurse and learned of the process and helped with paper work and answering and asking questions. My parent's home was alive and full of grandchildren and I worked to keep the crowd from interrupting the hospice nurse's visit. I felt an awful pit in my stomach the entire night, realizing the finality and the time frame that was inevitably place on going into hospice care.

As I sit here recounting these events, I see my mom so clearly. Alive, full of life. Visibly, her health is compromised, but her spirit is healthy, and the struggle for breath or ever-present pain are just hindrances to her that she will work around. She shuffled around the front part of the house in her big fluffy hot pink robe, stepping over the oxygen tube, tugging it closer as she sneaked into the kitchen to wash a few dishes. She laughed at my younger brother's references to her oxygen tube as a "short leash." I love my mom's laugh. For as long as I can remember the sound of it has been one of the best sounds in the world. She'd tip her head back almost as if to gain momentum for her laugh. It was breathless even before she struggled with enough oxygen. I loved her laugh.

There was always sort of an awkwardness about the oxygen tube that trailed from my mom's body. Its presence was a reminder none of us wanted. It was also a welcomed assistance to her struggle for air. One night, sitting around the kitchen table my younger brother acknowledged the long tube that my mom had just stepped over, after doing some dishes, to sit at the table with us. "We finally have mom on a short leash," he mentioned sort of offhandedly. We all kind of chuckled, humor a welcomed diversion, but not entirely sure we could or wanted to joke about such things. Then he added, "She can do the dishes and she can get ready for church...but she can't go to church." We all burst out laughing. I loved watching my mom's head tip back as she laughed and laughed and laughed. It was a perfect moment in time for me. David, always pushing the envelope. My mom, always loving a good joke, and her children that made them.

More later....

Friday, April 6, 2012

La La La-la, Danyo's World

Danyo. Our resident four year old. There should be a recorder on him at all times. I remember feeling this way about every other thing that came out of Bo's mouth at this age. And Avee's.

Just in the last two days, these are some of my favorites:

* Friend: It's my toy frog, Pink.
Danyo: Well, my grandma gave me a cute little bunny and then she died.
Me: Oh yeah, where is that bunny?
Danyo: Oh, he's upstairs on my bed, laying on his tummy. It's okay, he can breathe. He's a stuffed animal anyway.

Danyo loves stuffed animals. LOVES them. Before my mom passed away, I was cleaning out an area of her room (she had treasures stashed everywhere) for her and asking her where she wanted stuff to go. I unearthed a darling little floppy-eared bunny. It is about 8 inches big. I held it up to her with a somewhat scolding expression--why on earth is she buying stuffed animals and stashing them? She shrugged unapologetically and said, "I just come across really cute ones and I can't pass them up, so I get them to give to someone later--you can take it." I told her Danyo would probably love it, but that I wanted her to give it to him. I handed her the bunny and went to get Danyo. When I came back with him, the bunny was nowhere to be found. My mom was sitting upright in her bed and motioned for Danyo to come closer. She started talking to him and as she spoke, she pulled back some blankets/sheets that were bunched up near her. She revealed one of the bunny's ears. As she continued to talk, she slowly peeled back more covers to reveal more of the bunny bit by bit, until finally the entire bunny. Danyo was delighted. I was just so impressed that even in a little act like giving him a bunny, she made it fun and unique and memorable. I want to be more like that. Danyo carried that bunny nonstop for about two weeks straight.

*Later, Bo brought up the time I'd told my mom that Bo had learned his multiplication facts and she said to him, "Quick, what's 9 times 3!?" Bo was laughing about that. I immediately felt sad, that is the very kind of thing I will miss so much. Danyo must have spotted the sadness on my face (he is very attuned to that kind of thing) because he kind of shrugged and said consolingly, "It's a good thing we have another grandma." I heard my mom laughing at that one. :)

*This morning as I was getting dressed, AJ was laying on my bed sucking madly on her hand (she's my only child to do this and she does it a LOT). I had just fed her, but Danyo was convinced he was the expert on the matter. He kept saying she was hungry. As I was about to leave the room I heard him say, "Just give her the boob already!"

Not gonna lie. It's a little unsettling to hear a four year old say something like that. It was mostly funny though.

*This morning we had a battle of wills. Danyo's mildly (read:insanely) addicted to electronic usage right now. Video games, computer, tv, ipod. He could fill an entire day with these things and never stop to eat. So, I've been trying to subtly limit it. No computer until he's dressed and eaten breakfast. Then I do more sneaky things like, "I can't set you up on the computer right now, you'll have to wait a bit, until Dad can..." Well this morning that didn't fly. He got ticked. And he has a bad temper. So he actually lost computer privileges for the morning. It got ugly before it got better. He threatened to never be my friend again and everything.

So later, he was trying to convince J to buy him Mario Party 9. "It only costs one hundred and seven dollars I sink..."

J wasn't falling for his cuteness and kept telling him we had plenty of games already.

"I'll be your best friend Da-a-a-ad"

We laughed and I asked Danyo who his best friend was anyway. He answered, without skipping a beat, "Everyone except Dad! Unless he buys me that game!"

I love the way he rolls.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Here and There

True story: Friday night as I was coming home with all kids (while J slept in preparation for his weekend 3rd shift job), the daunting task of the bedtime routine for three kids in addition to a possibly nursing/crying/clingy 3 month old, overwhelmed me. AJ is a really good baby. The other three really go to bed quite easily---all things considered. But I was tired and just wanted it to be magically done.

So, I said to them, "Tomorrow is Saturday. Saturday can be a fun and lazy day for you of playing, jumping on the trampoline, playing on the computer, watching movies OR it can be a day full of chores while we clean the house and get everything put back in the fun room. You get to decide. If you go straight inside, brush your teeth and go to bed, it will be a fun day. If you dilly-dally, whine, don't go to bed, come downstairs 5 times each, it will be a chore day."

I didn't see one single kid for the rest of the night within 6 minutes of being home. It was beautiful. I have a trick up my sleeve for future reference and I'm SO using it.

We have been having quite a bit of work done on our house. We're excited about what's being done, but the mess, and the shifting, and the pounding on the outside, and the work men coming and going and milling about---it gets old really fast. I can't imagine being very pleasant if this were more long term. We had to empty out our sunroom "fun room" completely, two book shelves, a queen bed, a toy shelf, a file cabinet and a couple of rubbermaids, so they could scrape all the paint (lead) and repaint it. Only, the painter didn't show for two days after it was emptied. Then it was the weekend, then he came and looked briefly and left again. Then he started working, worked a couple of hours and left. A one day job turned into over a week a for us, with all that stuff all over our house. It was annoying. But now it's done, and I had it painted a light turquoise (I didn't realize I'd get to pick a new color!) and it gets lots of mixed reactions. It's bright and fun, and kind of loud and doesn't match the rest of the house. Sort of like me! :)

Since we spent most of yesterday putting things back and reorganizing, and I decided to paint Avee's room for her birthday present, yesterday the kids snacked all day and I suddenly realized they needed food at about 7:15 pm. I ran to Little Caesar's and got them a pizza.

This morning I got this gem from Bo: "Mom, do you think Little Caesar's is closed on the Ides of March?"

I looked at him funny and said, "Uhh, no, it's not." I was about to add, "Nobody is closed on that day, it's not a holiday or even a day people really think about as different from other days...." when he said, "Well, it would be funny if they were closed---wouldn't it?"

I believe that's one of the first times his humor has been over my head, initially. I couldn't be more proud.

Well, AJ is sitting happily on my lap, drooling and trying to get her gums on my space bar, sitting in her own...well, she needs a diaper change. So I better get to it.

If you live nearby and need a baby fix, you should come visit. This girl is to die for. Plus, she laughed for me for the first time yesterday. Avee and I were like drug-crazed lunatics trying to get more out of her. She doesn't really know she can do it yet, it was kind of an accident and it was the BEST SOUND EVER.

Since I wasn't blogging much, I should document---she's been smiling since she was 7 weeks. Beautiful, enchanting, one little dimple smile....ahhhh. But the laugh. Oh the laugh!