Question: Where’ve you been, Lynne?
Answer: In short, I’ve been the star of my own shit-show!
Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but the summer of 2017 definitely ranks in the bottom five summers of my life.
In July I lost my Dad. He was 64 years old and died of a massive heart-attack. As soon as I heard my mom say through tears over the phone that she had bad news, I knew what she was about to tell me. And in that moment, my universe shifted. It’s a long story, but the short version is that I became peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter. Have you heard of the sandwich generation? Well I’m now the sticky glob of peanut butter in the middle, stuck on one side raising my own young children, and now stuck to caring for my mother too.
And quite frankly, it sucks.
Supposedly there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I’ve been stuck on anger for about three months. I’m pissed off. I’m mad at my dad for not taking better care of himself. I’m mad at him for assuming he would outlive my mom. And I’m really mad at him for leaving at a time when our relationship wasn’t as strong as it had been. And these three reasons are only the tip of the iceberg. Oh, and I’m not just mad at my dad… I’m kind of mad at everyone lately. So I’m super fun to be around! I won’t bore you with all of it, that’s what my therapist is for, but I’ve come to realize that I was holding on to a lot of resentment and anger long before he died, and his sudden death just brought all that to the surface.
I’m an only child, and my mom has a lot of medical issues of her own, so that has added to the ooey-gooey-ness of my new peanut butter life because there’s no jelly in this sandwich to help me. I know there are many reasons people only have one child, and my parents tried for more, but they were unsuccessful due to my mom’s medical problems. However, the past few months have reaffirmed my own decision to have three children because dealing with this stuff on your own sucks.
(Side note: I really need to find more synonyms for sucks.)
I had absolutely no idea how estates worked prior to this experience. While I’ve been to my fair share of funerals for family members, and friends’ family members, and even a few friends, my dad is the first person in my immediate circle to die. So this is the first time I have had to do the work. I became the executrix (a word that sounds a lot more fun than the actual job) of my dad’s estate, and started diving into the craziness of his finances, property, and other estate matters. The last time I had a crash-course like this was when my first son was born, and I had to suddenly become an expert in genetics, and all things medical and special needs, and this baptism by fire is almost as much fun as that one.
But what sucks most of all in the middle of all this overwhelming shit that I now have to deal with, is that I haven’t actually dealt with the most important thing. My dad is gone. Typing that makes me cry, but then I choke the tears back because I know I just don’t have time to be sad right now. And that fact itself makes me more sad and more mad.
About a month after we buried my dad, my oldest was scheduled for surgery – a lengthening procedure to extend the growing rods that correct his scoliosis. He has these every 6-9 months, and this was his 5th surgery for this condition, but 2 of the previous 4 resulted in post-op infections. So even though the procedure itself is pretty straightforward and only requires an overnight hospital stay for IV antibiotics, we always hold our breath a little until about two weeks after the surgery.
Two weeks and one day after surgery, he spiked a 104 degree fever, became lethargic, and developed a huge bulge of fluid under his incision. He was admitted that day, started IV antibiotics and was back in the OR the next day to clean out the infection. We spent a week at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, coming home the day before school started.
Thankfully this infection wasn’t like the last two — this was a different bacteria, just under the skin and not down in the hardware, so it was much easier to treat and didn’t require long-term IV antibiotics. In fact, he only need oral antibiotics for a month. So even though it was an unexpected setback, it could have been much worse.
In mid-September though, we took a break from everything, rented a house in North Carolina on the intercostal waterway, took the kids out of school for a few days, and got some much needed respite from reality. But unfortunately between the hospital stay and the vacation, I let things slide. The three weeks since returning home have been a blur, and while that blur included some awesomeness like a trip to attend the Type-A Parent blogger conference, things have continued to pile up, and I’m feeling even more overwhelmed by all the things on my figurative plate, and by the actual piles on my desk.
When I get overwhelmed, I shut down and can’t deal. I quit. I don’t go to bed when I should, and instead I scroll Facebook for hours exhausting myself by essentially doing nothing. Because I have no idea where to start. I look for easy fixes, and spend more time on those than the actual task would take. I also have no impulse control. (I’m looking at you, Amazon purchases, and you, entire batch of brownies I ate.) And when I’m overwhelmed, I don’t write.
So publishing this post is a big step for me. This post has been in my head and heart for a while now. I worried though… about talking about it. I worried what my mom would think when I talked about being angry with my dad, and how I’m feeling overwhelmed by caring for his estate and, by default, for her. We don’t talk about the hard things in our family. And maybe that is part of my problem. I don’t even know if she’ll read this, but in the end, I wrote this post for me, not her.
Grief is a funny thing. Even though people talk about stages, those stages don’t happen in sequence, and they never end. I’m trying to allow myself grace through this. To forgive myself for being angry, and show compassion for myself when I feel overwhelmed. It’s not easy, but I’m trying. And really, that’s all I can do.