Monday, September 20, 2010

28 Days

28 days. And counting. That will be October 18, the day Joseph turns eight. I really want that day to get here. I am not rational about it. I know it makes no sense. I know everything about him is different. It doesn't seem to matter. Hurry up so I can get rid of this stray thought in the back of my head. Just turn eight.

Two years ago my nephew did not turn eight. At the age of seven, Ben died of a seizure. I still can't believe he isn't here. Ben was my nephew by marriage, Joseph's cousin by blood. Since I have been divorced, I haven't seen any of the in-laws. This has been more than five years. It didn't make it any easier.

When it happened, I immediately researched SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). And then I re-read the book my neurologist have given me. It was not in the book. No one told me this was something to worry about. At Joseph's next appointment, I said, "This is not in the book."

It turns out that the chances of this happening are less than the chances of being struck by lightening. Ben had a more difficult time with seizures than Joseph. His medical care was different and his presentation was different. Joseph has had a relatively easy time getting controlled. This is all very comforting, on a conscious level.

On the subconscious level, I just want him to turn eight now.

His seizures are not something that limit him. He hasn't had one in 2 1/2 years. It is in the back of my mind on a regular basis. Every morning and night he takes a pill. I have to tell the parents of any new friends that he plays with or a new babysitter.

And sometimes there are things...things like the little tremors that go along with it. In kindergarten he had trouble tying his shoes. He knew how, but his hands shake more in the mornings and he was slow at it. His teacher told him that after Christmas, he couldn't get help anymore. He would have to do it himself. He panicked. A couple of weeks ago, he was taking pictures with a camera. He took forever to aim, and I said, "Hurry up! What is taking you so long!"

He said, "Well, it's hard to aim when your hands are shaking all of the time!"

Ugh. I suck.

He is a brave kid. He was brave at age two in the hospital. He is brave getting blood drawn. He is confident and funny and sweet.

Now just hurry up and turn eight.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

She Should Be Granite, Too

I went to have my hair done this morning. My friend, Lana, does my hair and she had booked a woman and me a few minutes apart to let our color sit. Lana was a bit behind, so the three of us began talking. First about nothing, really. But somehow before we knew it, we were talking about everything.

We talked about my divorce, and I don't usually get into that kind of detail with a stranger. We talked about loss and fear. We talked about worry and perspective after the struggle and we laughed about my dating life (who wouldn't?)

I think sometimes you meet people to give you perspective on your own life. If anyone should be granite, this woman should. She had four children. Her third child was killed in a car accident at 15. As a parent, no one can ever imagine how you could get through the death of a child. She began talking about how she didn't want to live. It was like she was trying to will herself to die. She couldn't get out of bed, took medication to get through the day. She didn't want to get through the next minute, much less the rest of her life.

She said her older two children were in college. They stayed home for a semester after the accident and returned to school. The youngest boy was 11. Finally, her husband came to her bed with their son. He asked her if she wanted to live and she said, no. He said that if she made that choice, she should move over, because this child could not lose his sister and his mother.

Beginning that day, she got out of bed and went through the motions. She faked it until she made it. And she survived and lived. She even went back to work. It took 4 years, but she went back to work.

I can not relate to losing a child. I can relate to the fear of losing a child. As she said you have learned fear. I have learned the reality of that fear.

The interesting thing that tied us together, I think was that we had both experienced extreme difficulties in different ways, and our perspectives had been forever changed. I asked her if she found it difficult not to say, "You need to get a bigger problem," to people who complained over trivia. She answered an emphatic, "Yes!" We have both learned to keep our mouths shut at these times. And I told her I try to think that not everyone has the same strength to get through adversity and that unhappiness is not a small thing no matter how people arrive at it.

You wouldn't think in the midst of this conversation that we would laugh, but most of the time were were laughing. The moments of silence felt profound, but in between was laughter. We laughed at a story she told of her husband's cancer (see what I mean, granite) and how he went to the ER and they got hysterical over something not funny at all, probably to keep from crying. We laughed about my date who cried in his beer over the loss of a pinky finger (get a bigger problem, right?).

We were two apparently different people. She is in her 60s. I am almost 40. Her children are grown. Mine are young. She is married. I am not. But we had worlds of experiences that brought us together and I am be glad for the 3-hour, running-behind hair appointment. I hope we do it again soon.

The Gift of the Struggle

I get the phrase. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I believe it. But I am to the point where if I get any stronger, I should be granite. Divorce, sick child, moving twice in 2 years with 3 small children, maintaining sanity post-divorce, maintaining sanity of children post-divorce... I mean, how strong does a person really need to be? Apparently I needed some work. And now, I am feeling like the lesson is learned and I'm good. So stop trying to kill me!

One thing I have learned in the last few years, is that there is a gift in the struggle. I have heard people talk about being able to appreciate the lows so that you recognize the highs and all of the other ways to say a variation of the same theme. I agree with that. At times I have felt like I have had my share of the lows, and I am ready for some highs.

But when I stop to think about it, my highs are the lessons and results that have come from the struggle. My boys are Jake, 12; Luke, 10 and Joseph, almost 8. My children and I have become closer because of our mutual struggle. No divorce is easy, but some are particularly revolting. I had a particularly revolting one. The thing I think I am good at is communicating with my boys and telling them what they need to know at each one's own level. I talk a lot. About how to look at life, personal responsibility, choices we make, etc. We are all very aware of each person's feelings and personalities. I don't know if we would have had the same need for closeness without the struggle.

My youngest has seizure disorder. We are lucky that he is well-controlled and healthy. But because of this diagnosis, my family has learned to live in fear. He can go years without an issue at all, but it is always there. You never have the same comfort level again. And it affects us all, not just me. My whole family watched him from the beginning. We are all afraid.

However, there is a lesson in this struggle. We are all able to feel empathy and stick together to keep him healthy. My older boys will come home from school if Joseph has been sick and the first thing they say is, "How's Joseph?" If they are sick, they tell him to stay away to keep him from getting it. We all get mad if someone exposes us to illness.

I used to write in a journal. Regularly. And then when my marriage fell apart, and my husband read every journal I had ever written in, I stopped. And I tore them up. Of all of the things that he had done to me, that was one of the most violating. I have tried to pick it up again in the last 6 years, but I just can't do it, so I am going to write here. Less personal, but I have things to write about that just don't fit into my dating one or my children's one. So here we go!

I will tell you next about the most interesting day today at the hair salon. You never know where you will meet someone who affects you with one conversation.