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Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it. – Danny Kaye

Yesterday I spent my entire day scraping the wallpaper off my kitchen walls. I loved doing it. Ripping the layers off and dropping them in a pile on the floor. It required my full attention so my mind was clear of all the things that normally live there and I was focused solely on the task at hand. After a full day the walls were bare. It was so satisfying knowing that in a few days they will be painted and my home will feel clean and beautiful. It has been long over due. I don’t know why I waited so long to take the plunge, but it’s finally been done. Today a painter came and by the time I got home from work he had painted the  kitchen ceiling, trim and had added one coat of golden haystack to the walls. It looks fantastic. Of course there is a layer of dust over everything from the sanding and things are out-of-place, but I am finally adding the personal touch to the home that I have lived in for the past eight years. I know eight years is a long time to live in a house and not do improvements, but as owning a home goes there were always bigger problems than redecorating. We needed a roof one year, a car another, appliances seemed to fail one at a time requiring our attention. It’s funny how something as simple as paint can make a house feel more like a home. Of course now that I have started the improvements its opening my eyes to other problems. I decided now that kitchen looks so pretty the light fixture above the table has to go. Valentine’s day seems like a perfect time to surprise my husband with a new light fixture;0) Off to Home depot I went and then to Lowe’s. It’s so much fun to do these things. I almost feel like I have a new home. I know it will be bittersweet at the end to not have my mom to share in my excitement, but I know that she’ll be smiling down

Ignorance

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. – Martin Luther King, Jr

Today marks ten months since my mother passed. I thought I was doing well until I went onto facebook and read a post a friend wrote about Whitney Houston’s death. I thought about posting it on here, but I wouldn’t be happy if someone did that to me, so I won’t, but in a nutshell it said that Whitney chose coke and therefore should face the consequences. It also said that addiction is not like cancer because cancer chooses you. I was so upset that I was shaking. My first reaction was to repost it on here and then vent about how mad I was. Instead after several people either liked or replied to the post in agreement I decided to reply, “Wow, I don’t even know what to say. I lost two people I love this year to addiction. Addicts leave behind people that loved them and  grieve for them despite their choices.” It took me about a half an hour to get that out. About an hour later I realized that the post was deleted and then an apology was sent to my inbox. I didn’t even know how to reply. People are entitled to their opinions. It’s just I don’t get it. Why do people have such little empathy for people that battle addiction? When someone dies it doesn’t matter if they are hit by a car, succumb to cancer or die from addiction, they are gone forever and they leave behind a family and friends that mourn for them. I know that when the post was written it wasn’t personal, it was made out of ignorance, but it hurt. I thought about it all day. It led me back to wondering why my family has no issue saying my grandmother died of emphysema after a lifetime of smoking, but no one breathes a word about my mom’s alcoholism. Alcohol isn’t illegal. In fact it’s more accepted in society than smoking is at the moment and yet we hide it when someone we love drinks too much. I just wish that people would be more tolerant of others and think before they post. Thanks for listening. I needed to vent and this is the one place that it feels ok to do that.

I’ve learned that good-byes will always hurt, pictures will never replace having been there, memories good and bad will bring tears, and words can never replace feelings. – Author Unknown

The phone rang at 6:30am. It was the rehabilitation facility my mom was at. I answered and they told me my mom had a bad headache. She had been vomiting since 3am and they were unable to  get her comfortable. They told me they were transporting her to the ER. They said I would get a call from the ER once the doctor’s knew what was wrong. I thanked them for calling.

This was the first time I had someone take my mom to the hospital. I always drove her and stayed with her. I thought that I should go to work so that I could go and sit with her once they admitted her. The nurse didn’t sound concerned and the ER would call me as soon as they knew something. I didn’t realize at the time that this was a decision that I would regret for eternity.

I talked with my husband and he agreed that it would more beneficial for me to go after she was admitted. He told me he would stop and see her on his way to work. He’d call me with an update. This was the first time he had ever offered to go in my place. It was a decision that he did not know would be a significant one.

I got to work and my husband sent me a text. He couldn’t find my mom. She had gotten lost between the center and the hospital. The center was directly across the street. It seemed impossible that she could be lost. It turned out that she just wasn’t in the system at the hospital yet. He told me he was going to stay with her instead of going to work. I should have known that something was really wrong. He never went to the hospital and he never missed work.

My students began to arrive and he was calling my cell. When I answered he said they needed my permission to do a test on my mom. I was confused, why couldn’t my mom give permission. No one had asked for my permission before. Of course I always signed papers for her, but that was just because I was there. I gave my permission for a head CT. I asked the woman what they were looking for and she said I’d have to speak to a doctor. Suddenly, I knew this was more than just a headache. I told my husband that I would call him in thirty minutes, I was taking the children to a class and my phone wouldn’t work in that part of the building. Five minutes later my cell rang. I knew it was bad, and I knew that God allowed my cell to ring, a wake up call. I told the other teachers it was an emergency and I left the room. It was my husband. He was crying, “You need to come, now.” He then said, “You mom is bleeding in three separate areas of her brain. You need to come now.”

I couldn’t breathe. I walked into my class and told the other teachers I was leaving. Luckily my dear friend Kelli teaches with me and she took the car seats out of my car so she could pick up my boys. SHe offered to drive me, but this was a journey I needed to take on my own. I asked her to notify the director and the pastor. I hugged her and left.

I didn’t even make it a mile up the road and my cell phone rang. It was the neurosurgeon. He asked me to pull my car over. I did and he apologized for doing this over the phone, but he said my answer could not wait until I got to the hospital. I was only 15 minutes away. He told me that my mom was hemorrhaging in three separate areas of her brain. He asked if she had a living will. I told him she did and that she did not want to be on life support. He told me that my mom was bleeding to death. The only hope in a healthy person would be brain surgery. My mother was not healthy. She would die as soon as he cut her open. My mom would bleed to death. He wanted to know if I wanted to call in hospice or if I wanted him to prep her for surgery.

I asked him to call in hospice, I told him the center that I wanted. He apologized again and told me I was doing the right thing.  I hung up and called my brother. I couldn’t even talk. I was gasping for air. He kept telling me to calm down. He couldn’t understand me. When I finally got myself together I asked him to book a flight. I told him, I needed him with me. I couldn’t do this on my own. I then called my father and I told him too. Then I got myself together and started driving to the hospital. On my way I called my Uncle. He is my mother’s sister’s husband. I told him that I needed him to tell my aunt and my grandmother that my mom was being moved to hospice. I made him promise that he would do it in person. I explained to him that no mother or sister should hear this news over the phone. It was to be done in person as soon as possible.

I arrived at the hospital and my husband was sitting at the end of the bed with his face buried in his hands. I put my hand on his shoulder and he looked up. I asked him to go and call a few people for me and I went to my mother’s side. My mom was already in a coma. She was breathing, but I knew this was the end. I took her hand and told her how sorry I was that I went to work. I told her I loved her and I promised she would not die alone.

This is all I can do for today. This is the beginning of my mother’s ending. Thank you for journeying with me.

Candle Lighter Award

I was pleasantly surprised with the candle lighter award the other day. I was nominated by Jen of http://steponacrack.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/candle-lighter-award/ Thank you Jen. You are a true inspiration to me.  After I did a little research this is the blog that the award originated from. In case you’d like to read about it.

http://believeanyway.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/creation-of-new-blog-award-the-candle-lighter-award/i

This award belongs to those who believe, who always Survive the day

and those who never stop Dreaming, for those who cannot quit,

for those who keep trying and if you’re in this category, you are entitled to this Award,

 I am so honored to be thought of this way and I will pass this award along soon.

Goodbye Tammy

The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, The Big Book

My cousin Tammy was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Upon arrival her liver and kidneys were failing. She was in congestive heart failure, bleeding internally and in a coma. They put her one life support to her to give my family time to say goodbye. My aunt and grandmother went to the hospital to be with her. Tammy’s mother, stepfather and daughter were there as well. Life support was removed this afternoon and she passed 20 minutes later.

Alcohol killed my cousin and eight months ago it killed my mother. Tammy was 46 and my mom was 65. They both died senseless deaths. My grandmother buried her daughter 8 months ago and now will bury her granddaughter, all because they loved alcohol too much. Tonight I am sad for Tammy’s daughter and her three grandbabies. I know all to well what they are going through. Tonight I am angry, I understand all to well the hold alcohol had over my mom and my cousin. I just pray that the cycle will end that no one else in my family will follow this path of destruction.

Tonight I pray that Tammy is in a better place and that she finds peace in death that eluded her in life. Tonight, I am hoping that my mom led Tammy to heaven where they are both happy and safe from demons that haunted them. Free from the chains that once bound them.

Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.

– David Searls

 

Bystander

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.  ~Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

I write about my mother‘s death from alcoholism in hopes that it might help someone to choose a different path. I write to heal. I have chosen to only share with a few close friends. For the most part I write to strangers. My extended family still covers my mom’s alcoholism. My grandmother‘s siblings have no idea why my mom died. They do not even know that she left my father 21 years ago. I had hoped that once my mother passed the lies and secrets would die with her. I write to end the cycle of silence.

I guess part of the reason I don’t share this blog with my family is that I wouldn’t be completely honest, I wouldn’t talk about things because I would want to protect them or maybe I want to protect myself from that backlash that comes when I speak openly and honestly about my mother. In my grandmother’s world we shut our eyes to and don’t speak of the past. To her there is no point. I wasn’t built like that. I cannot pretend that everything was or is ok.

One thing we do not talk about in my family is my cousin Tammy. She is an alcoholic, and not the functioning kind. She has lived in the projects of Philly since she was 18. The only person in my family she has contact with is my grandmother and it’s only so she can get money. My grandmother cannot say no. She gives her money all the time. Tammy is not a nice person, she is an alcoholic that cares only about where she’ll get her next fix. She is 45 years and her liver is failing.

Her body has swollen up. She can no longer walk and is horrible pain. The bottle, the only thing that ever mattered to her has betrayed her. Leaving her barely clinging to life.

I called my grandmother and did the unthinkable. I told her I was calling because I heard that Tammy was dying. She got very quiet. I told her I was sorry and I am. I cannot say that I am surprised, truth is I never thought she’d live this long. I am sad, I wouldn’t wish this type of death on anyone. I know what will come next for her and what’s really sad is there is no one that will take her in. I don’t know her mother, but I do know that she has never taken any interest in Tammy.

My mother’s brother is Tammy’s father, he has never shown any interest in her either. My grandmother, my mother’s sister and my mother tried to lead Tammy on the right path when she was younger, but it never worked. She would get sober for a few months and then she start drinking again. She would lie, cheat and steal until no one would trust her.

It was a path she chose for herself. A path of self-destruction. Now she will pay the ultimate price and there will be no one by her side. I am so sad for her. I wish it could be different.

She has a daughter. When my family found out Tammy was pregnant we tried to help. My parents, and several other families tried to adopt her. Tammy would have non of  it. She was hers. We had hoped that the love of that beautiful baby girl would be enough to turn Tammy around. It wasn’t enough. Tammy dropped the baby with a woman named Sue. Sue was a kind a loving woman a babysitter. Tammy didn’t pick the baby up for several years. Yes, I said years and yes eventually she went back for her. I think the going back part was the really cruelty. Sue was the only mother she had ever known. Tammy she took her back. My guess is, she did it for the money.

Tammy would eventually have the baby taken from her. By then it was too late. She was no longer a baby and she was angry at the world. At first my grandmother took her, but she was too old to be patient with a teenager. She ended up in foster homes and finally a school for troubled teens. Once she was 18 she was let out and went back to Tammy. Tammy was verbally and emotionally abusive. She would eventually leave Tammy and end up pregnant. She has since had three children by three different men. She too goes to my grandmother for money.

Tammy’s daughter is searching for the love she was never given. She loves her children. I am not condoning it, but I understand what it’s like to be denied love by your mother. I just had hoped for more for her. I am so sorry that her life has turned out this way and that her babies are growing up in such an awful place.

Self-Destruction is horrible to be a bystander to. Truth be told it takes out more than just the person, it often wipes out entire families in its wake