I can’t even believe I just typed out that subject line.

At 12:02 AM, on January 27, I received a text my mom telling me she was being admitted to the PCU for blood pressure issues. I called her later that morning after I received the text and she told me that her blood pressure was 220-something over 100-something when she got there. She said they were running tests including a spinal tap and she would probably be released sometime later that day. She sounded fine. This was about 8:30 AM.

My sister got to the hospital around 11 and found our mom screaming that her head hurt so bad that it “felt like her brain was coming out of her head”. She was having a stroke. In fact, she had several. The strokes left her blind and very confused, but she was alive and she was not paralyzed which gave us hope.

At this point, I was researching the shit out of strokes. I needed to know what questions needed to be asked. The questions were asked, but we were not being given any answers.

On January 28th, I received a call from my uncle saying that my mom had pulled out all of her iv’s and created a sort of blood bath all over her hospital room. She also took off her hospital gown and walked out of her room. So, they had to put her in an enclosed bed that was zipped from the outside.

This was about the time I decided it was time for me to take a road trip. I left as soon as I could get the logistics of caring for my 3 kids settled. I got there on January 30.

When I walked into her room, she was sleeping and looking so frail and small. And, she looked like a caged animal. I had a panic attack. Walking down the hospital hall with my heart in my throat and then walking into that room seeing her like that was more than I could take. My sister asked if I wanted to talk to a nurse to get an update, but I needed a few minutes to compose my self (i.e. let the Xanax kick in).

When my mom woke up, they told her I was there and she called out to me and was reaching for me (remember she was blind at this point) and she couldn’t get to me. I was doing everything I could to get that damn tent open so I could get to her, and after what seemed like an eternity it was finally open. We held hands, we cried. She was not all together with it, so she asked a lot of the same questions. She was very fidgety and kept pulling on her hospital gown, hair and I.V.s. Luckily, all I had to do was hold her hand and that stopped.

The next day, my sister, niece, and I went and bought her some nightgowns so she would be more comfortable than in the hospital gown. We also got her some fuzzy socks, a much more comfortable blanket, and some new toiletries.

When she was talking, she would confuse times and places. Sometimes when they asked her the year, she’d say 1910 or 1815, but sometimes she got it right. She kept asking why my dad wasn’t there (they’ve been divorced over 3o years). Then she’d come back to the present and remember her husband who passed four years ago and she would just cry. She was so worried that he wasn’t going to be waiting for her on the other side. I kept telling her that he would, but it wasn’t her time yet. She just cried and said, “how do you know? What if he gets sick of all of my shit and just doesn’t want to wait anymore?” She had such a fear of people leaving her or not really loving or caring about her right up until the very end.

I am forever grateful for the very early morning of February 1. She woke me up at about 1:30 yelling, “Jamie Michelle!” It was just like how she would normally call me and it was the last time I heard her say it.   We had some really good talks. My mom was not an easy person to get a long with. She had so many big, thick, heavy walls between her and so many people. She trusted very few people. I am sure this is a product of her childhood. Anyway, she cried about how many bridges she burned and how nobody cared about her. She kept asking for her brother John, who had already been in to see her. We talked for several hours that evening/morning and the one thing I can say is that she did love everybody, even the ones she always seemed mad at.

It’s just so sad. Her life was miserable. I can’t even imagine. She is the 2nd oldest of, I believe, 11 or 12. Her mom or her dad never really wanted much to do with parenting (even with all of those kids!). She lived from mom, to dad, to grandma, to aunt and uncle, and back and forth numerous times. She got pregnant with me when she was 16 and my sister when she was 18.  A few months after I was born, we moved to Florida.

My parents divorced after my sister was born. I don’t ever remember a time when they were together before I was 16 years old. My parents fought for custody, but ultimately we ended up with my grandmother because it was believed she could provide for us better and give us more stability than either of my parents. The judge was probably right, but I can’t imagine the heartache that must have caused. I was 4 , my sister was 2 (I think).

What confuses me at this point, and I intend to ask my aunt about it, is why she took off and went back to Indiana.  Not only that, but the next time I saw my mother I was 8 and she sent my sister and I up to Indiana to see her. Then that was it, no communication at all, until I was about 14 when she wrote my sister and me a letter. I think kids between 8-14 probably need their moms more than any other time besides infancy.  It took me a really long time to write her back. I loved her, and wanted to know her, but I guess I was afraid of being rejected by her. We wrote several letters back and forth. She was officially back in my life.

My sister got in trouble in Florida and ended up moving with her when she was 14. I finally got to visit my mom when I was 16.

We may have gotten off to a silent, shaky start but we found our way. We made our relationship work. I have no idea why she left when we were kids and I don’t know how she did it, but I forgive her and I am not mad about it. Knowing all of the players involved, I am almost certain that the manipulation of a young and impressionable girl played a huge role. My grandmother was older, more experienced, and had better access to lawyers. I feel more sorry for mom, than I do me or my sister. I can’t imagine going through life not knowing my kids.

That night and into the next day, she was doing ok. She wasn’t talking coherently all of the time, but a good part of the time she was. Her vitals were good, she wasn’t slurring. Everything looked like it was going to be fine, not the same, but definitely doable. My stepsister came Sunday afternoon. I was worried about how my mom would react seeing her because they haven’t been on the best terms since my stepdad passed. This was mainly my mom’s fault. I think just seeing a part of him was too hard. But, she came, and I am so glad she did. They sat, talked and held hands. They both cried. My mom missed my stepdad so much. I think it was so good for both of them. They mended their bridge.

After my stepsister left, my mom fell asleep and I decided to go back to my cousins house to try and get some good rest. Besides, my mom was doing great and rest was probably good for her too. Before I left, I went to the nurses station and made sure they had my phone number and instructed them to call me if anything changed – good or bad.

By Monday morning (3/2)  I had breakfast with a friend and dropped Harper off with her. I called the hospital, the nurse told me that my mom’s nurse just went downstairs for testing and she’d call me back ASAP. Never happened. I just figured things would be the same. However, when I arrived there, I realized I was very wrong. Her nurse told me that she had been unresponsive since about 10 or 11 the night before. She started becoming very aggressive and pulling at things again. They gave her some Ativan to relax her, and she never woke up. Apparently, sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning she had several more strokes. She had so many strokes that they couldn’t even give me a number as to how many there were. I still feel so guilty that I didn’t stay that night. I know I couldn’t have stopped the strokes, but maybe I could have helped calm her down. I always wonder if she called out “Jamie Michelle!” when she woke up that night. Then realizing I wasn’t there, freaked out. I have no idea though, and I never will.

She never woke up. That Thursday, February 5, 2015, my beautiful, kind, and wonderful mom left this earthly plane. My aunt, cousin, and myself were with her. It was so very peaceful. After days of labored breathing, it just stopped.

I miss her every second of every day. I miss our (mostly) daily phone calls. I miss her saying “Hey Jame”.  This just sucks.

It’s (somewhat) official. I have come out of my funk. I am actually getting out of my bed and trying to get things accomplished.

I became Co-Den Mom to Alex’s Cub Scout group which was not the plan when I went to the orientation night at his school. But, no other parent would volunteer and apparently I have a huge “SUCKER” sign on my forehead. So, I volunteered even though I don’t particularly agree with their politics. Alex really wanted to be a part of it, so I sucked it up and signed up. And, the funny thing is, I am actually enjoying it.

Also, I joined a Book Club (which is such a mom thing to do). But, I love it. I am reading so much and I have found my love of words again.

Another huge thing, is I started babysitting a little 4 month old girl. It’s about 20 hours a week, but it’s given me something to do and she is the sweetest little baby and I am thrilled this opportunity presented itself.

One last thing I’ve been working on in this transformation ‘o mine is I applied to go back to school this fall. I just started the registration process so I don’t have any details yet, but my plan is to work in psychology as either a school psychologist or do some sort of work with the childhood cancer community.

I am excited that these changes are taken place. It’s nice to see that there could actually be a purpose in my life’s journey besides sitting in bed being a big lazy sloth (even though that’s not how it truly was). It’s nice to be back.

 

Changes – David Bowie (Seems Fitting)

I’m not even sure how to begin this post. I’m not sure what I want to say or what direction it will end up going. All I know is right now, I’m sad.

My mom moved to be closer to me about six months ago and now she’s leaving. She lost her job and she’s hauling ass. I didn’t realize how much I needed her here until now. I can’t stop crying and I’m pissed. We have spent most of my life living in different parts of the country, so I am not sure why it is hitting me this hard now.

And, we don’t have the type of relationship where I can just cry to her and beg her to stay. I don’t think it would matter anyway. She has 3 dogs and no money so her options are pretty limited. I know this. But, part of me wants her to pick me over her dogs. I know that’s not fair. I know she loves them and they would not find another home since they’re old and diabetic. But, I still just want her to stay.

I think I see so much of what I don’t like about myself in her. When things get tough, I just want to check out.

I have no idea how I ended up growing up with my grandmother instead of my mom. There are conflicting stories and I am sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But, the fact is, my mom wasn’t around when I was growing up. Whether or not it was by choice or by force, I will probably never know for certain. I just remember how hard it was not having my “real” mom around. I imagined what she would be like and what she was doing. I wondered if I had brothers or sisters I didn’t know. I remember listening to talk radio with my grandmother and wondering if the woman caller was my mom. I wondered what her voice sounded like.

I called my grandmother “mom” growing up. It was always awkward when people realized that my dad was actually my “mom’s” son or that my “brother” was really my uncle. I hated that, by all appearances, I was unwanted by both of my parents.

My mom left when I was 5. I saw her once when I was 8. That was the last time I had any contact with her until I was 14. I didn’t see her again until I was 16. I am not blaming her for this, because again, I don’t know the whole story. One version is she was blocked from having any contact with me and my sister.

In any case, life goes on. We are very close now even though we are not overly affectionate. I think her leaving this time is just bringing up old shit that I apparently haven’t gotten past.

You guys! I finally finished a book! I haven’t been able to do that since Alex was diagnosed in October of 2012.

I’m not sure how telling it is that the book I chose to read was The Bell Jar which is about the mental breakdown of a woman. I think I identified with her a bit too much.

 

Dear Kaia,

Today is your last day of third grade. It has been such a wild, crazy, wonderful, and hard year. I see you growing and changing and I am amazed by you every single moment.

You are so strong. You have handled your brother’s sickness with such grace. I know that sometimes it gets to be more than you can handle. It does for all of us. But, you don’t let it get you down for too long. I am not sure whether you realize it or not, but you have been an essential part in his healing. I am not sure where he would be if he did not have you. You are his best friend. You are the one who has pulled him out of that shell that he tends to hide in. You always made him feel better in ways that all of the medicines in the world could not. You gave him his childhood back. And I will be eternally grateful to you for that.

I see the way you interact with Harper. I am in constant awe. The love that you have for her and that she has for you is such a beautiful thing. She will always look up to you and that gives me more elation than I can properly convey. I am overjoyed that she has you. You are the perfect big sister.

You have really blossomed this year. You played your first season of soccer. I know your team wasn’t the greatest, but I think it was a good learning lesson for you. You are not always going to win and that’s okay. What is important is that you try your best and have some fun doing it. With some hard work and dedication you will find success in soccer and in life.

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You overcame (or rather worked around) your fear and got your ears pierced this year. I was really impressed that you came up with the idea of numbing your ears with Alex’s lidocaine first. Genius I tell ‘ya!

You finished your fourth year in Girl Scouts this year. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing that you are taking a break from it. It was something you and I both started way back when you first started kindergarten. I loved being one of the leaders in your Daisy troop. It was something I could do with you and for you. I was sad when I could no longer do it. I didn’t stop because I wanted to, but because I had just had Harper and we had decided to move to Georgia. Things just got a bit too hectic and there was no way I could give the troop the dedication it deserved. It would have been a crappy year for everyone. I loved that troop though. And, I still miss the girls in it. I am sure you do too.

This was also the year where you showed an interest in theater and acting. I can not tell you how much I love seeing you up on stage. You are so beautiful inside and out and I love that you can get up there and do what you love even though I know you are fighting those nerves.

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We were also fortunate enough to spend Spring Break on a much needed family vacation this year. I loved every moment of our Disney cruise. I am so happy that you get to have that experience and those memories. You deserved that vacation as much as Alex did. I know that the past few years have been hell on you too. I will forever be thankful to the Make-A-Wish people for allowing our family that time together. It was a trip I will never forget.

You are also at that point in your life where friends are becoming more important than ever.  This year they have made you laugh and cry. You have this deep need to be friends with everybody. I admire the way you make friends wherever you go. You always have. That is something I could never do but wish I could. I am way too introverted to make friends the way you do. But, I worry about your need to keep friendships with people who maybe aren’t worth your tears. Please do not ever let anybody ever make you feel like you aren’t enough or that you need to change. You are exactly who you should be. You will learn as you get older that the people that really matter are the ones who love and appreciate you for who you are. I know this is something you will just have to learn on your own. But, the best advice I can give you is please don’t ever change who you are to please someone else. Those are the type of people that will never be happy and they will drain you of your happiness in the process. Stay true to the beautiful person that you are.

I am so excited to see what is in store for you as you enter your tenth year (holy cow!! – I know, there’s nothing holy about a cow). I am thrilled that you decided to join the Robotics team during the next school year. I know you will do great and learn so much. I think it will be a fantastic experience.

As for me, now that this whole cancer crap is starting to settle down, expect me to be more involved in both your life and education. You may not always like the way I will push you to do better, but please know it is only because I love you and I want to teach you how to succeed. I feel like I have dropped the ball and have not pushed and encouraged you the way I would have liked to, but that is going to change. I want to give you the tools and the discipline that you need to become the very best you. I promise I will never be one of those overly pushy moms who will make you participate in things that you hate. HOWEVER, once you commit to something, I will make you follow through and finish to the best of your abilities.

Congratulations on finishing this year and making it a complete success. You rocked it girlfriend! I am beyond proud of you. I have no idea what I did to deserve being your mama, but I am so thankful that I am. You are such a gift to me, this family, and this world.

I love you with every fiber of my being. Now, let the summer fun begin!!

With Love,

Mama

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