Tag Archives: father

Ah, furlough (PG mentions cancer)

My wonderful missionary friend and her family of six are coming home to American three months earlier than they planned. Less than a year after losing her mother, her father has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Also known as, “The Kiss Of Death”.

I cried when I heard the news. My feels are still mixed about the whole thing. Of course I am so happy they are coming home and I will get to see her and meet her youngest baby. I am also joyful, and reminding myself I feel that way makes me cry harder. He was active and happy and served Jesus with all of his heart. He is finally going to meet God face to face and that gives me goosebumps. Can you imagine what he will see? Nope, you can’t. Revelation talks about it, but it’s just a hint about what we have to look forward to. It would be staggering to know someone I loved so much who loved God so much was going home to meet Him. I can only live vicariously through my friend – the joy must be insurmountable.

Still, the grief would overwhelm the joy. The joy would overwhelm the grief. I understand what it’s like to have all those feelings at once: It’s what I specialize in. Bipolar gives a special kind of intimacy and work because of the depth of emotion I live with. I’ve got this unless everything in my life is perfectly balanced, which it is not often. I don’t use heroin, but I can get what it is like to think you need it. There are so many instances like that. I can’t know what it is like to lose a father; I can’t even conceive it, but I know what it is like to have to deal with so many feelings at once.

Things are coming together for them and they will be perfectly orchestrated by the time they get here. It probably won’t go like we planned, but it will happen. I wish I could get them all they need – a car – a house closer to her father – more monthly support. All I’ve got now is prayer. It sounds so hokey, but what else do I have to give? I can make them a good cake. That’s about it.

If you’re a pray-er, please pray for this wonderful family. If you’re not, thank you for reading until the end of this. That means a lot to me.

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Not so much giving today (G)

Sure, it’s only one-ish, but so far I haven’t done anything more giving than letting the guy in the car to the left of me in a four-way stop the opportunity to go first. Generous, right?

I spent the morning at Weight Watchers, where I am down .8 pounds. “They” want you to lose between .5-2 pounds a week. So, I’m on track. Good because for the later half of the week I did not tracking and ate two pieces of Oreo Cheesecake. If that sounds disgusting, that’s because it is. After Weight Watchers T and I went to Barnes and Nobles and looked at books on color and paper. It was a pleasant three hours, and I love that T has the time to spend and wants to with me. I found a wonderful book on creating cards and that took me all that time to get through. It is one of those books that I could spend another three hours garnering ideas from. Maybe I will go back with T next week. Or maybe we will eat pizza and finish it off with Coldstone. (All within walking distance from Weight Watchers, of course.)

What can I give today? I’m just not good at it. I’m good at asking other people to give. T bought the coffee. A few seconds ago I texted LS to see if she could watch Small during the parent/teacher conference tomorrow. I am prepared to hear that Small is average in all her subjects and runs her mouth. But maybe there will be surprises.

Back to the giving. Is cleaning the house a form of giving? Making gifts? Talking to my mostly deaf father?

During the writing of this blog, my dad called. He he can’t hear very much at all, but he can think. Interestingly enough, a few times we’ve been in a group conversation, and I’ll say something. The next thing out of his mouth is a very close paraphrase. My dad is a very smart, wise, deaf man. To be on the wavelength where he’s thinking is almost an honor.

I have to look out for something to do for someone today. Grrr. I didn’t think this would be so hard. I am just discovering how self-centered I actually am.


I wouldn’t call it “heritage”

It’s a gorgeous day. 93 degrees, periwinkle sky, perfect for sitting outside Peet’s and drinking one of the new, 150 calorie Freddos. (They’re like a coffee slushy.) I did just that with my bff, T. She just got back from an Alaskan cruise where she managed to lose two pounds in eleven days of eating two deserts twice a day. I gained, of course, but it was cyclical weight and I’m not too worried about .5 pounds. Honestly, so what? If I keep gaining .5 a week I will have a stern conversation with myself. But that is not for today. Today is for cold coffee, walks with my seven(!) year old and screen doors. It’s also time to write about some family history.

The other night my father started talking and I started listening. He doesn’t talk too much about his past. It’s as if his life began after Vietnam when he married my mother. We hear tidbits, but not as much as we’d like. We’ve been back to his hometown, played piano for his mother at the rest home, and returned for our grandmother’s funeral, but that was about it. Whenever my dad speaks of his childhood and past, my brother and I savored it. The world my dad grew up in is like another country. It would never be written down, as much as we wanted him to write his memoirs, so we had to listen closely. Of course he exaggerated, so do I, but there is always enough truth to want to remember. His story is what is important.

My dad’s biological father was a creep. Let’s call him “Donald”. I’m sure the extended family breathed a huge sigh of relief when he left. My grandma was pregnant with my dad at the time Donald left, which made things a little difficult. After that she remarried a man significantly older than her, to the man who was my real grandpa.

My dad started talking about his step-father, Floyd Earl. Although he didn’t know it at the time, my dad said, he was one of the best men my father knew. My dad told the story I’ve heard a dozen times about their courtship. Grandpa asked Grandma to the movies. She told him she had three boys, so he took the four of them to the show. I can just imagine three tuffy haired boys on one side of grandma and old Grandpa on her other. He asked her again, wanting to be romantic. She told him, I don’t want to go to the movies. I want to get married.” So they did.

My father said that his father was crazy about his mother. My grandma, Marylou didn’t do anything to earn his affection. She couldn’t cook, never worked, and never drove. None of that mattered to him, he just loved her to death. She, on the other hand, still carried a torch for her first husband, and favored her oldest son because he looked the most like him.

I loved hearing these stories. I had heard a lot of bad things about them, but wanted to fill in the spaces with the good. I chat with my cousin on line a few times a week and told her I knew all sorts of great family stories. I told her and she listened politely. Then she told me all these awful stories, of how Grandpa always favored is only biological son, buying him a bicycle and hamburgers when the other kids got none. She told me about how they made her dad drop out of school so he could help support the family. She told me how Donald and gone around and written hot checks everywhere in their small town. Since her father was Donald Jr, it got so there was no place in town without a check with his name on it on the wall as submitted and unpaid. There were so many others things she had to say, and I was not really surprised. There are a lot of stories I’ve heard that I didn’t bring up. (I want to add, though, that I probably inherited my bipolar from this side of the family. My eldest favorite uncle had schizophrenia, there is some question whether or not my grandmother was also ill.) Still, I wanted to have a somewhat sunny view of our family of origin, I wanted there to be good things to tell my daughter, and as bad as things were, there were good things. For example, she and I are friends. My dad and his younger brother are good friends and visit each other frequently even though they are far away. I’ve talked to her about it since. I don’t want my perspective to negate the suffering her family went through. They stayed; my father left. He was able to move on, and their family hasn’t. Later I talked about it with her, and she said she was okay.

Forgiveness still needs to play a big part in the family. I think in my dad’s case it has and the guilt and after all these things unforgiveness has run its course. He hadn’t seen his biological dad for thirty plus years when Donald got in touch with one of his older brothers. I don’t know what he wanted but I doubt it was much more than money. At that time we were planning a trip to his home state and my father told me he was thinking about going over and visiting his dad. I told him what my brother and I talked about years ago. If we ever visited his house, we would not get out of the car. We probably could have garnered more sympathy for Donald, but even though we were very young we still understood how people like him work. My dad would have gone to the door with a great probability of rejection. My dad would want to introduce him to his children that he was so proud of so he might get some sort of validation as a father and a person. I’m sure he would not have been impressed. He would not praise him for having such terrific kids. There would be no good news. I didn’t tell him the reasons, just that we wouldn’t go. That was it, my father trusted us, and he never spoke of visiting him again.

I was the one who told my dad he was dead. I found out on a website dedicated to the deceased of his small hometown. Perhaps it was modern-day pauper’s grave, but my father was upset. He thought about it and said, “If I had known, I would have paid to give him a proper burial.” My heart feels like it is going to pop when I think of this. My daughter is sick of me pointing out grace, but I think that there is no other word to describe his plan. That man deserved nothing, but was going to be given something honorable for a man who, in so many ways, paid for it all.


The Parents

The other day my good friend, CH, asked me how my parents reacted to my manic-depression diagnosis. Excellent question, and I know some of you have already heard a part of this story. Nevertheless, here is the answer:

After the psychiatrist confirmed my psychologist’s diagnosis, I wanted to use his phone to call my dad. The doctor wouldn’t let me to privacy reasons, so I drove around until I found a pay phone. (I didn’t believe in cell phones.) I called my dad at work. “Daddy, I have bipolar.” He responded, “This is J. W.” I told him again. I started to cry. I asked him to call my mom. The whole time I was on the phone there was this guy in a dark red truck ogling me. When I got off the phone he asked if he could give me a ride. I almost spit on him, but all I did was give him a dirty look. I knew even then I wouldn’t ever forget him.

My parents rushed home from work, threw some clothing in the car and drove to my house three hours away. By that time I was in the hospital. My eighteen month old was with B. I had secured breastfeeding rights for her, so my parents brought her every morning and every night to nurse. My dad would cry the whole time we were together. I kissed him and tried to soothe him but I couldn’t really do it. I was the cause for his grief. So long as I stayed in the hospital, I could not assuage it.

I think a lot of my dad’s sorrow came from guilt about his family of origin. My uncle had schizophrenia. He died in a mental health facility for disabled veterans. Their mother probably had some sort of mental illness as well. My dad had escaped it, but I hadn’t. I learned later my father was also afraid because of the other patients. Many of them were fresh after a suicide attempt, so they were drugged even further out of their minds. Perhaps I was not as sparkly as I was when I came in, but I wasn’t suicidal any more. At least not that suicidal.

He talked to my therapist once and asked her how did it get so far without him knowing? That question is one I have asked myself many times. Why didn’t they figure it out? I knew I was different than everyone else at a very young age. (We’re talking early elementary school). I started asking for counseling in the seventh grade but my mom told me I didn’t need it. My parents must have thought that I was just quirky and slightly crazy. My severe mood swings were dismissed as part of my personality. I was great fun high, and was mean, spiteful and unthankful when I was low.

My mom is usually more emotionally reserved than my dad, and this instance was no different. She likes to take care of things, and she did. Not only was she caring for my toddler daughter, but she did things like scrub the carpet to get the sizeable stains out of it. She brought me my new clothes to wear in the hospital. (I had gone on a shopping spree the Friday before. I bought a vacuum and about about $1,000 of clothes. In retrospect she had the option of returning them, they still had their tags and I had a receipt. She didn’t, so I got to look cute while most everyone else looked like hell.)

I will always be thankful for them for coming to see me every morning and every night and bringing Small. My thankfulness extendes to their attitude: They were excited to see me and wanted to be there. There was no resentment that the visits were inconvenient or too long. They wanted to stay as long as they could to spend time with me and to let me spend time with their granddaughter.

I got out of the hospital and resumed living, only with doctors or therapist appointments three times a week and a handful of drugs morning and night. Life was difficult. Only B saw the grueling pace I was working at. No one else could fathom it. I wanted my parents to know, and to understand, though. For a while there, if they were around when it was time, I’d sort my pills in to pill boxes in front of them. I wanted to show them how serious this illness can be. I have a lot of bottles of pills. Most recently I’ve added an anti-nausea drug because my B-100 pill makes me throw up several times a month. That brings my prescription bottles up to a grand total of seven. This is not counting the vitamins. I asked the pharmacy tech if I had more prescriptions than any other customer and she said, “for a young person, yes.” They even know me by name.

But back to my parents. My mom lives with us four days a week. I know part of the reason is that she wants to keep her eye on me. She and my dad are getting a grip on all this means. Bipolar can be fatal and I feel like, even if I have long stretches of stability, The way I see it I am always going be on the brink of a episode. A mood swing can be triggered by just about anything, it’s just a matter of how the symptoms present themselves. Sometimes I’ll be elated and deflated, up and down, in a day’s time. Sometimes I’ll sleep until 10 (we’re normally awake at 6:30). Sometimes I’ll buy everything in the mall that is my size. Sometimes no symptoms will present themselves, and my new goal is to try to at least look like I’ve got it together the way I used to when I worked full time. If I work hard I won’t do most of those things most of the time, but, aside from death, I can guarantee that no episode will be my last.

I do want to be well. I rarely miss a dose of my medicine, no matter how unpleasant it to do so. I am on a diet that helps regulate my mood and I make an effort to exercise. (Not enough of an effort, if you ask B, and he is right.) I try to do little things, like go to bed at the same time every night and follow doctor’s orders. I’ve stopped overeating, for the most part, and started dieting and losing weight. All these little things contribute to a centered life and a healthy brain. I think my parents know that I usually am doing my best and working my hardest, and they do a lot to help us along.

So there is my answer. My parents were grieved, but strong and generous in their response to finding out about my illness. It is hard to ask for more.