Thankful

I know it seems like I’m all about grieving over here, and I guess I kind of am. But there are a number of things I’m thankful for this year which I feel need individual acknowledgment.

This year I’m most thankful for…

1. Every moment I had with my mother. No matter how difficult or emotionally heartbreaking, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything.

2. My aunt Karen who pretty much moved right into my house for nearly a week. Without her there is no way I would have been able to honor my mother’s wish to die at home. Without her teaching me how to care for someone in a bed, I would have had to hire strangers to take care of mom at the end, and I’m so grateful, so INCREDIBLY grateful that Karen’s help allowed me to keep mom at home and be cared for by family and not in a cold hospital bed surrounded by strangers. Karen was a rock and I will be forever grateful for all she did, without me even having to ask. She just called one night and said “why don’t I spend the night,” and then stayed. And for making sure I’m “doing things” and not just wallowing here at the house.

3. My uncle Jimmy and cousin Allison. Without their support of Karen, without their help with things like grocery shopping for popsicles and bringing whatever Karen needed from home, without them stepping up, again without being asked, things would have ended differently. Especially Allison who makes sure to drag me out to lunch on a regular basis. Even if she doesn’t listen for a YEAR when I tell her she’ll love the Kowalskis.

4. My cousin Chris for flying in for mom’s funeral. I wasn’t sure he’d get the time off, but he did, and it meant a lot to me that he was there. Congrats on your promotion!

5. My mom’s best friend of 40 some odd years. When Karen couldn’t stay any longer because she had to work, I called Susie and all I said was “I need help. Can you come?” She was camping in Mammoth that night, and without hesitation said “I’ll leave in the morning.” She drove from Mammoth down to Irvine to pack and then back to my house. She was with me when mom passed away, and I will forever be grateful she was. She was able to help me in ways I’m not even sure my family could have, because they were dealing with their own massive grief. I will always be grateful for Susie’s presence and support that night.

6. Janie and Robbie, my Godparents, for giving me a place to go when I want to run away from home. For treating me like another daughter and just doing normal things while I’m there and not making me feel like I’m a guest. Also, thanks for letting me cuddle the grandbaby Kalea. She’s adorable and will be the wooliest baby in town. LOL I know how hard it is for grandparents to hand over the grandkid, so thanks.

7. Heather for the Day of Kittens.

8. Barbra for the Day of Puppies. (Yes, the same day.)

9. My knitters Barbra, Heather, Amy, Maridee, Kara, Alyson, Robyn Robin (Sorry!), Elizabeth and Thom for being willing to listen no matter what. For not telling me to be quiet because they’re tired of hearing about my craziness. For taking time off from work to come to my mom’s funeral and when I said it wasn’t necessary, all looking at me like I was crazy and replying “Well, of COURSE we’re coming.” Thanks, too, for not vocalizing the implied “you idiot!” For being there through good, bad, and moths.

10. Alyson and Bob. OMG, dudes. You have done SO MUCH for me through the years I can’t even begin to repay you both.

11. Marilyn. For everything. For making me quilts, for taking me on vacation, for making sure I get out of the house once in a while, for volunteering to help me with anything I need help with and for not judging when “my” house isn’t as clean as “mom’s” house. Yes, I cleaned the kitty litter today. *grin*

12. Cynthia for…well…being Cynthia. For giving me space when I ask for it and realizing I’m not snubbing her. I just need space. For the tissues at the graveside and for the herding of people when I needed a few minutes. For listening when I call her crying because of an e-mail and being ready to rip people’s faces off because they made me cry.

13. Nat. My “sister”. She knows why.

14. The Magnolias. When I said I couldn’t review books for a while EVERY ONE OF THEM stepped up and asked what they could do to help. They listened when I wanted to talk, and didn’t even hate me when I made them cry. LOL. Love you, girls!

15. For all the friends I’ve made this year, both online or IRL. You have all made this year so much more bearable. You’ve made me feel like I’m not alone and have entertained me while my life seemed to be out of control. You’ve all kept me busy with new books and have made me laugh on days that truly sucked.

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Grateful Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

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Guppy Talks Grief at WLP

As some of you may know, before mom died I had started reviewing contemporary romance books over at WickedLilPixie for my friend Nat. Nat and I lost our moms within days of each other. It’s amazing how something that traumatic could bring about such a wonderful source of comfort.

I wrote about our mutual grief and things people can do or say to help, and you can read my post HEREYou might want to grab a tissue. It seems I’ve made everyone cry. Not my intention! I swear! 

In the meantime, my dad came over for dinner last night and we talked about everything, as we usually do. This morning he called me and we had this conversation:

Dad: How are you doing today?

Me: I’m doing okay, I guesss.

Dad: I’m going to keep calling you every day until you answer “I’m doing GREAT!”

Best. Dad. Ever. He’s been my rock through this entire ordeal. One day I’ll tell the story about getting my mom Last Rites. LOL. Believe it or not, that’s a funny story. ESPECIALLY if you know my dad. 

Love,
Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks
aka A Still-Grieving Guppy

Yesterday

Yesterday I buried my mother. She was 63.

Nearly 2 1/2 years ago, on February 12, 2010, the same evening as the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics my mother went to the emergency room.

And on July 27, 2012, the same evening as the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics, my mother took her last breath.

She went to the emergency room that long ago February for what she suspected was a hernia. “Oh, it’s nothing,” she told me. “I’ll be in and out in no time. Won’t even have to spend the night….Well, unless it’s cancer. Ha ha ha.”

It was cancer.

And it had metastasized.

By the time they caught it, her body was riddled with tumors and she had 8 POUNDS of tumors in her liver alone. And not one large tumor, but lots of little tiny inoperable tumors.

Did I mention my mother was a big muckety-muck at a major University and was Director of a world-renown cancer research network? And her boss was one of the top cancer researches in the WORLD. If you go to a cancer research lab and mention his name, they practically genuflect.  

And there was nothing they could do.

They tried everything. Her Oncologist was AMAZING. He was also my grandmother’s oncologist for many years, and he worked directly with mom professionally for nearly 13 years. He threw everything at this cancer. And I mean EVERYTHING. If he could get it for her, and if he thought it had even the tiniest chance of working, he gave it to her. And I know it wasn’t because of her connection to him. Cancer offends him, and I think he does that for all his patients. 

At her funeral yesterday, I told him that I thought he was incredible. I told him there was no way…NO WAY…she would have lasted as long as she did if it wasn’t for him. You know what he said to me?

“We didn’t do nearly enough. We should have been able to do more.”

Mom did everything she could. Her tentative diagnosis was 6 weeks. Her confirmed diagnosis said 6 months. She lived 2 1/2 years. And I do mean LIVED.

We went on a month-long trip to Vermont last summer, and drove home back to California after making it through Hurricane Irene.

She saw Niagara Falls for the first time.

We went on an Alaskan cruise with the entire family.

She went and visited with friends more frequently.

She made time for everything she thought was important.

And she fought for her life. Every moment of every day.

A few weeks before she died she asked me if I resented having to take her to the doctor every week and spend so much time taking her here and there all the time, having to do everything because she was too weak to help. Did I wish it had been fast like her original diagnosis had suggested? 

I had to think about it for a minute. Not because I didn’t know my answer, but because I wanted to be sure to say it correctly. For her sake, and the amount of constant pain she was in? Yeah, I wish she hadn’t had to live through that. For me? I would do every day of those 2 1/2 years over and over and over again without complaint if it meant I could spend more time with her. Resent it? Not a second of it. I wish I still had to take her every Monday for treatment. But I’m so grateful she’s no longer suffering.

Watching her fade away these last few months has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to witness, and I’m so glad I was able to be there. It meant she never had to go into a facility. She was able to live at home the entire time. She could die at home with me and one of her best friends by her side. I was able to tell her I loved her one last time. I could kiss her and stroke her hair and tell her it was okay to let go. She had fought so hard and it was time for her to stop fighting.

I was there to hold her when she took her last breath.

Yesterday was a day to share my grief with those who loved us both. Yesterday was a day to wear the outfit she loved me in best. Yesterday was a day to wear her pearls so I could feel closer to her during one of the hardest days of my life.

Today is the day after. And it was a lonely day. Those who love me have checked in to see if I’m okay. Really I’m not, but I pretend I am, and they pretend I’m not pretending. I know eventually I will be okay, but not today. Today was a day to recover. Today was a day to really feel her loss. Today was a day to wander around and poke into closets and open drawers and touch the pieces of her life.

Today was a day for me to remember her. Privately.

I know it sounds like I just moped around the house, but really I didn’t. I slept and read and watched some Olympics, too. I just felt like today was a day I needed to be alone and take a break from everything going on “outside” and really just let myself feel what I needed to feel when and how I needed to, without worrying about anyone or anything else.

Tomorrow…Tomorrow will be better, or so I’ve been told. Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t, but either way, eventually I’ll be okay.

After all, I’m my mother’s daughter.

I’m too strong not to be.

Love,
Lynda the Guppy
aka The Bear’s Daughter
aka A Grieving Guppy

My Mom Is…

…A good sister to her two siblings…

…A total BEAR at times…

…An amazing mom to her “real” kid (hint: Me)…

…and to her “Other” kids…

…An amazing quilter…

…A wonderful friend/dancer/instigator/troublemaker/abler and abetter to her “Nursing friends”…

A supportive aunt to her niece and nephews…

…A world traveller…

…the strongest, toughest person I know. And as of today, another year older. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you, and am so glad you’re here.

Love,
Lynda the Guppy
aka Fish With Sticks
aka A Very Grateful Daughter