Zinger

Well. Shizzle just got real up here where I work. The new specialist corporate had been courting decided not to accept so we have no one to take the place of our current surgeon if he retires.
Except he IS going to retire. While he hasn’t “officially” announced it, he told me personally that it would be at the end of the year. The kicker is that he must have mentioned it to someone else as now his referrals are onto the rumor and our schedules have been negatively affected. Productivity has dropped to half in the past couple of months of what we’ve done at this time of year.

On top of that, the Scheduler and Receptionist both announced that their last day in the office will be the end of the month. Their timing not only couldn’t have been worst, but it shows an utter lack of respect for the surgeon, especially since one had been with the office for 30+ years, and the other was a friend she arranged to get hired. This leaves me as the remaining clerical staff member until we can get someone trained.

I was asked if I was going to arrange for their going away party by one of the staff in a satellite office. My retort, “Hell no!” may have been just a tad brusque.

I’m also having a hard time not rolling my eyes at the person who has been selected as the “obvious” replacement for the Scheduler. She’s currently a surgical assistant and although she hasn’t even started training, she has announced that she never understood why there were two people doing what surely she alone will be able to do. I’m going to sit back and enjoy the hell out of that one in a couple of weeks.

In other disappointing news: Those UGGs I bought my daughter that I raved about? Exchanging due to defect, but had to pay the difference between the sale price and the current price at Zappos. And I had to exchange my Sven clogs, too! They had a chip in the toe that they tried to fix before sending to me that I didn’t immediately notice. That wasn’t such a big deal because they did it quickly, without any hassle and the weather last week was crap so I couldn’t have worn them anyway. And finally, my MIL said we are raising “heathens” because we don’t take them to church…or did I already tell you this?

Oh, and because this is one of the few places I can talk unabashedly about what my uterus and ovaries have been up to, there’s this anecdote Last week I was sure that my period was going to show up at a most unfortunate time since it’d had been almost a month from the last one on March 8 (remember? It was on the day of my mole check?). I made sure to be prepared at the Visitation and Funeral. However, it did not make any kind of appearance, and it didn’t several days later. And then I started to wonder if FINALLY I was hitting actual menopause after all these years of having defunct ovaries. AND THEN I remembered that March 8th was the day I had my LASIK, not my mole check. My mole check was on the 21st of March so I still had another week to go. Except it showed up YESTERDAY! A full flippin week early! I HATE MY OVARIES!!

This post is just to remind you that just when you think it’s safe to gloss over and skip to the end, it isn’t.

Day Is Done

I found out that my FIL passed away very early last Friday morning when I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and realized Sparring Partner wasn’t in bed. I checked my phone and saw a missed call. I knew then.

SP made it home about an hour later and napped fitfully until the alarm went off at 6:00. Despite the awkward conversations between Grandpa and Doodicus, Dood adored his grandpa. I think it was one of those things where Grandpa took full advantage of his larger than life persona. SP and I decided that it would be best to tell our son right away about his grandpa’s passing.

When his dad told him that grandpa had passed away, Doodicus burst into tears. I made sure to give SP a heads-up that Dood may end up additionally upset because he was suppose to go to a friend’s house that night for a birthday party and eleven-year-olds aren’t exactly known for their unselfishness. And while he did ask through his tears if grandpa’s death meant he couldn’t see his friend, he also was upset that he hadn’t been able to see grandpa the night before like he normally does as he hadn’t been able to finish his homework in time to go visit.

We gave Doodicus the option to stay home from school or to go ahead and go and let that and his friend’s party be a distraction. I was a bit surprised when he opted to go to his classes, but happily so. We asked him not to say anything to Aitch since we had decided to tell her at the end of the day. I called my employer to let them know I would be on leave until Wednesday.

Friday ended up in a whirlwind of planning and appointments for my husband. Even though my FIL had terminal cancer and hospice care offered, he and the family had made no plans whatsoever. No plot, no casket, no obituary, no memorial, … Nothing. That coupled with the fact that many relatives would be traveling across country, the funeral was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. The day after SP’s birthday.

My husband and his two sisters powered through the day, getting one appointment after another and making almost impossibly difficult decisions. With the kids in school, I went to the mall and tried to find appropriate attire for myself and both kids, something I literally had been thinking about doing a week earlier, knowing that the time would come soon. Dare I mention how difficult it is to find what I would deem as appropriate funeral attire for a four-year-old girl a week after Easter? Plus, there’s no place in town to buy children’s shoes except a small Payless store in the mall so I ordered several through Zappos knowing that I would have them by Monday.

By the end of the day on Friday, we were drained. We eventually told Aitch who at first seemed fine. However, as she thought it through, she asked, “Does that mean I won’t ever see Grandpa again?” and that of course brought new tears from all of us.

Over the weekend, my job was to simply keep the kids distracted and out of Sparring Partner’s hair. He spent it helping clean out the room at the nursing home and shopping for a suit. Again, small town living was detrimental. The only place in town was at a department store in the mall, which was akin to JCP. The only jacket they had in his size was a Long and it didn’t match the pants. When he tried it on for me, he looked at himself in the mirror, saw the jacket sleeves nearly covering his hands, and admitted that it simply was not going to do. Sunday, he drove to Sioux City to a menswear store and found himself a quality suit that fit. However, the tailor wouldn’t be able to alter the pants until Monday morning so SP had to make another trip, which thankfully he made to and back in record time with enough to spare for him to get ready for visitation Monday afternoon.

Neither of the kids brought up Grandpa over the weekend, and Monday they headed off to school like normal. It was an incredibly beautiful day, almost reaching 80F. It was SP’s birthday. I managed the the kids for school, made last minute preparations for the funeral the next day, and cleaned the house for visitors. I had intended to let Doodicus babysit Aitch while I went to the church for about an hour, but instead SP asked that I just come in with the kids and join him. Fortunately, I had already showered and dressed for the occasion; unfortunately, I had not prepared the children. Aitch ran around the church wearing a dirty sundress and no shoes. She looked like a hillbilly, complete with two ratty hair braids framing her face.

The most difficult part of the visitation was when Aitch spotted daddy in the front of the church surrounded by friends and family and she ran to him. He scooped her up and was holding her when she noticed the casket. “Who’s that man?” “That’s Grandpa.” “Why is he sleeping?” “Honey, he died.” Cue new tears.

Tuesday morning greeted us bleakly with cold and sleet. We were grateful that a friend was taking the little children and babysitting them together. Doodicus looked so grown up in a dress shirt and tie. Sparring Partner looked more handsome in his black suit than he did the day we got married. We arrived to be with family about 45 minutes early, but it seemed like hours. When I saw them prepare to close the casket, I asked Dood if he wanted to see Grandpa one last time, and as they closed the lid, he lost it and pretty much was weepy through the entire mass.

The ride to and from the cemetery was difficult. There were a couple stretch limos waiting for the family as well as one standard four-door Lincoln, which I chose as it allowed room only for just the three of us and the driver. Doodicus didn’t have to worry about being embarrassed as he cried on the short drive.

My FIL was given military rights, and the sight of the police officers and the Honor Guard at different intersections standing at full attention in that freezing rain was incredibly moving. They played Taps and a petty officer from the Navy presented the flag to my MIL.

Sparring Partner is holding up as well as can be expected, as is his mother. Out-of-state relatives trekked back to the airport early, no thanks to Winter Storm Waldo who delivered not just rain and sleet, but hail, thunder, lightning and snow (enough to leave us without electricity Wednesday morning). The support we’ve received from relatives and the community has made it a bit more bearable. The kids have a firm grasp of what has happened, but I think Aitch’s out-of-the-blue remarks like, “Grandpa’s in heaven and we won’t see him again,” over breakfast makes us all stop short for a moment. I’ve made sure to tell Doodicus that Grandpa was always very proud of him even though he had a hard time showing it. Each day will be a little easier as the unimportant and petty thoughts will drop away leaving behind the memories of how grand and formidable Grandpa was sitting at the head of the supper table.

DAY IS DONE (TAPS)

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

P.S. I decided to journal this for Doodicus and Aitch for Some Day.

Grief by Proxy

Around midnight last Thursday, my FIL died peacefully in his sleep with my husband and his sister by his bedside. He lived an incredibly full and rich life in the nine plus decades he had, but his loss has profoundly affected Sparring Partner who spent more nights than not in his room over the several months at the rest home watching either football, baseball, basketball and even the coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election.

My first official date with Sparring Partner started with us going to his parents’ house where they were having a major party to celebrate dad’s 70 birthday. It was a big deal because family flew in from the east coast to surprise him. When I walked down the stairs to the basement where the family had gathered, I was instantly immersed in the sounds of what I imagined would be similar to a noisy pub in Boston. The laughter (braying) and the *clunk* of full beer glasses which followed the din of "Cheers!" are still fresh in my head as if I had heard it last weekend, not 20-plus years ago. Maybe it’s because even when there were no extended family members around, my FIL still could summon that impression just by sitting at the head of any table.

However, even with as much personality as my FIL had, we just didn’t click. It’s not because he was ever standoffish or boring, as confirmed by the sheer number of sympathies we have been extended, which were always extended along with an amusing anecdote. I’ve had time to think about the relationship I had with my FIL and to wonder why it seemed like little more than strained politeness. Everyone around me adored him! Even from the first moment my own father was introduced to SP’s dad, they struck it off like peas in a pod.

I think much of my inability to simply LIKE him had to do with the fact he was such a boisterous and unabashed bigot. I was furious the first time he dropped the N-bomb in front of Doodicus when he was a toddler. His prejudice would come up when simply watching a football or basketball game since it would seem that most players are not Irish Catholics (who knew??). The slurs he wouldn’t even bother trying to whisper should have sent people away from him. But not here in conservative, Republican, Christian, Nebraska. My FIL would even refuse to eat Mexican dishes, because "it might affect my eyes!" Of course, then there was the time early on when he referred to Middle Easterners as "sand-n****s", and I angrily told him that I didn’t appreciate that, especially as my brother-in-law is Jordanian. He simply poo-poo’ed me with the excuse "that was different. Jordan is politically neutral."

He had a brilliant engineering and designing mind, for that no one could argue. He was considered a respected leader in our community, and a generous benefactor for the Catholic and Lutheran schools, not to mention the hospital actually dedicated a family room in their name (which was incredibly insulting personally to me as that had followed right on the heels of me being fired from the very same hospital) ("Oh, thank you Mr. and Mrs. Bigguy for the enormous financial contribution! Should we mention that we fired your daughter-in-law?"). For me, I just couldn’t get past these offenses and simply like him as everyone else seemed to do.

I will miss him, but I had to honestly admit that my emotional responses to his death have been largely triggered by Sparring Partner’s need for comfort and support, or by the children’s tears and difficult questions about why grandpa had to go to heaven. I am grieving by proxy.

Sometimes, Cancer Isn’t Cured with Stitches

Yesterday I found out that a young woman who I was introduced to via social networking shortly after I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma had passed away from her cancer. She was only 40 and left behind a husband and two young sons, and her name is Dawn.

While my mole was simply removed with a wide-margin surgery, her treatment was to take out a couple of her lymph nodes in her groin to biopsy them as well along with the mole removal. Dawn’s treatment was considered successful after her second lymph node surgery, CT and PET scans in the winter of 2009, a full year before my diagnosis and treatment. She was instructed to get a mole check every three months; I went in every six.

Last February when she told her doctor she’d been having pain, he proactively ordered a scan even though she’d been given the all clear by her dermatologist. That’s when they discovered her cancer had returned. Then after some chemo treatment, they performed surgery just three weeks ago and basically found the tumors were inoperable. Last week she came home and began “planning visitations and playlists“.

Her story is both frightening similar and altogether different from mine. I don’t compare my situation her hers to bring attention to myself, but as a simple reminder to that I don’t believe that fate has anything to do with how our lives turn out. It’s simply luck, whether good or bad. I didn’t “deserve” getting cancer, and Dawn certainly didn’t “deserve” to die. A roll of dice has left me cancer-free (as far as I know), but her death has shaken me to the quick. In another six months, my diagnosis could be as equally dire. Like her, I look back on past symptoms (the severe breast pain; the bone-melting fatigue) and wonder if the doctors really did weigh in my past diagnosis.

I don’t want to harp on you, my friends, the seriousness and dangers of tanning, whether by bed or sun, but if my story of survival doesn’t convince you that you need to be sun-conscious, I hope that Dawn’s life and her legacy does.