Sunday, March 29, 2009

A brief update

So I've been back home for a few weeks now, although I'm still spending every weekend with Thatmom. When I was in college, my best friend's father killed himself. In the past few weeks, this friend has been a great support for me and kind of a mental health advisor. He told me that things would be easier for me once I got back home and back to my life. Maybe in a way it is easier - but in a way it's much much harder to be back among society. I'm feeling very isolated and disconnected and while I have been really forcing myself to return phone calls and emails, I haven't been doing any initiating. During the first couple of weeks when the phone calls and visits were frequent I promised my friends that I'd be calling them for support once I was back home, but now that I am, the last thing I want to do is call anyone.

At least I have been very active in the kitchen. As some of you may remember, Thatmom was never the cook in the family and making food isn't high on her list of priorities lately. So I spend all week making soup, soup, and more soup. Thatboy jokes we're on an "all soup all the time" diet. On the weekends I make elaborate meals with loads of leftovers for her to eat during the week - shrimp with white wine sauce, lasagna with homemade noodles, ravioli, roast chicken, five spice chicken, steak pizziola. She doesn't cook for herself at all, waiting for us to drive up on Friday nights after work so she doesn't have to eat alone.

And from the moment we arrive on Friday night there's a neverending, never shortening laundry list of things to be done. We're up at the crack of dawn and up late - so it's no wonder I'm exhausted by the time we get home Sunday night.

With all that, I do have to say that as anti-social as I'm feeling, there are a few bright spots. I told H this on the phone earlier tonight, but it's always good to broadcast how wonderful someone is on a international level. Every Sunday,without fail, H calls to check and see how my week has gone, and how I'm doing. Even when starting a new job, even while on the way to see her own mother in the hospital, H never fails to check in. Every week I promise to call her some time during the week with an update, and every week I fail her. And yet each weekend she never fails me. She is a phenomenal friend and human being.

And then there's my friend JackieO. She lives a few blocks from Thatmom and keeps offering to stop by with food, or take me out for coffee on the weekend. This weekend Thatmom's best friend flew in from across the country, finally giving me the opportunity to take JackieO up on her offer. So this morning we met for coffee and dished over each other's lives. It's been a long time since I've gone anywhere with anyone and it was a good break. She entertained me with stories of her work, family, and fabulous guy and took me out of myself for a little bit.

So thank you all for continuing to send me your thoughts, prayers, wishes, and stories - I'll keep trying to check in and eventually to break through the darkness that I'm feeling right now, I'm just not really sure when that will be.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Battered and torn still I can see the light

I've mentioned before that I am not the photographer in my marriage. Thatboy has been king of the f-stop since long before he met me, spending a great deal of time in the darkroom before finally seeing the light and going digital. (Did you get all the great wordplay in that last sentence?) On one of our first anniversaries (we just celebrated 9 dating years last week) he gave me a framed print of my favorite of his photos. Jealous, my mom requested one of his prints for herself. And that began many frequent requests for his work. According to Thatboy's framer (I have a butcher, he has a framer...that's the way our life works), once you start getting requests for your work you might want to consider taking the next step and going public. Today Thatboy and I headed home for his first art show. It was a bittersweet day since Thatdad was so excited for this show and was originally planning on attending with us.

Based on the quality of his photographic work, Thatboy had been chosen to take part in a juried art show. The show itself was mixed media and Thatboy was nervous as he set up his selections. "I think I'm the youngest one here," he told me. "Everyone else has other outlets where they sell or show their work. Some of them are already established in one medium, and are using this as an opportunity to try out a new one."

As the hours went by, Thatboy got more and more anxious. Finally the time came to get his results. The artists filed into the room. I watched as many of them filed back out again. Some with tears in their eyes. More and more came, but not Thatboy. I sent up a silent prayer. After what felt like forever Thatboy appeared with the biggest smile on his face. Not only had he received great scores, but he had earned himself a place to permanently show and sell his work. Thatdad would have been so proud. We both were crying as we thought about that on the way back to our cars.

So next time you're headed to San Diego, you'll have to drop me a line so I can tell you where to swing by and pick up a Thatboy original. And those of you who are lucky enough to already have one, they may finally be worth more than the paper they were printed on!

Monday, March 02, 2009

February Made Me Shiver*

The phone rang at 6:30 a.m.. By the time I had realized it wasn't the alarm it had already gone to voicemail. As I listened to the message, Thatboy was already calling in and taking the day off work. What followed was the longest drive of my life.

We reached the hospital just as they were about to begin surgery and we sat huddled in the waiting room. Thatmom filled in some of the gaps that had kept us so silent on our drive up. Just as they had done every morning for as long as I can remember, Thatparents awoke at 4:30 am and headed to the gym. At some point, someone ran up and told Thatmom that her husband had collapsed. By the time she reached his machine, CPR was already being performed. The paramedics were called and were able to revive Thatdad before transporting him to the nearest hospital. Because of Thatdad's ties to the police department, his close friend and coworker Sgt. G arrived to the hospital shortly after the ambulance did, trailed closely by the wife of Thatdad's closest friend, who also worked for the police department. Thatbrother was not far behind.

Another transport was necessary. This hospital didn't have a cardiac cath lab and something was going to have to be done regarding Thatdad's heart. He was moved to another hospital where the surgeons immediately got to work. The five of us sat waiting until his doctor came out. He explained that a graft that had been previously placed in Thatdad's heart had become occluded, causing the cardiac event. He was optomistic that they had solved the problem, although there was a great deal of damage to the heart wall. He told us that as soon as Thatdad was moved over to the ICU we could all come in and see him, although he was still under heavy sedation.

The minutes turned to hours during which every "Code Blue" dropped our group into silence, and although we received frequent updates from the nursing staff, we were eventually moved into a more private room with a social worker who gained us access to Thatdad's bedside. The hours passed and eventually it became clear that we would need to say our goodbyes. By that time, Thatcousin had arrived at the hospital, as well as Thatdad's best friend and our family rabbi. We were all able to gather around the bed and be there for his last moments.

The rest of the day is a blur of phone calls. What do you say after you tell someone your father died? The conversation can't really continue at that point. Especially since it was so sudden and unexpected. During the next few days arrangements were made and people started pouring in. From across the country in all directions friends and family booked the first plane ticket they could and began making their way. One couple, who had known Thatdad since high school, flew in directly from their vacation without stopping at home first.

On Tuesday, March 24, 2009, over 400 people gathered to say goodbye. He was a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a coworker. His wonder at life and joy for all things touched everyone around him, and his humor was infectious. As we gathered to remember the man, stories were told of his love for his family and friends, his adoration of his wife, his obsession with Hawaiian shirts, and his ability to make anyone smile. As we left the service we noted that the road had been closed off and the police were called in because of the sheer number of vehicles exiting and entering the parking lot. As we watched the crowd following the pallbearers at the cemetery, the cantor noted "it's as though they were leaving Egypt" in reference to the number of people. Thatdad was larger than life. You couldn't meet him without instantly losing a bit of your heart to him. Whether it was the teller at the bank, or the person in front of him at the supermarket he had a way of making friends very quickly. And no one wanted to miss their chance to say goodbye.

I write this to explain my absence, both past and future, because I'm not really sure where this blog will go from here. Thatbrother and I have temporarily moved in with Thatmom to deal with this difficult time. There is an influx of food being delivered to the house, which means there's not much cooking going on right now, although Thatboy brought up my pasta machine so we've been doing homemade sauce and fettuchine. Italian is Thatmom's comfort food.

I apologize for my lack of comments - I've started catching up on the blogs I've missed, but am having trouble coming up with anything to say, or a desire to communicate in general. So know that I'm reading, even if I'm not the frequent commenter I once was.

I'd also like to thank many of you for the phone calls, the emails, the stopping in to check on us. I know I've thanked you each individually, but you deserve a big group hug in addition.

Thatdad (October 7, 1954-February 20, 2009)

*A long, long, time ago
I can still remember
how the music, used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
that I could make those people dance
and maybe, they'd be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
with every paper I'd deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn't take one more step.

I can't remember if I cried
when I read about his widowed bride,
but something touched me deep inside,
the day the music died.
-Don McLean, American Pie