Friday, October 26, 2007

Things are going well, at least from my perspective. Jeff, Katie's boyfriend, is taking a nap and Katie is out back with her dad, so I am trying to give them some time to themselves and stay in the background for a while. I get fascinated watching them together. My father and I were not close. He was a distant dictator whom I feared, and so seeing her snuggle up with him even though she is in her early 20s, hearing her telling stories about when she was growing chokes up in my throat. I admit I feel envious. I feel like I ought to watch them and miss my own dad. Instead I watch them and imagine what it could have been. She is a very lucky girl. I also search her face a lot..she looks so much like him in so many ways. Her face is delicate and lovely, with an exotic slant to her eyes that is truly unique and an adorable way of using her mouth when she speaks that is completely unconscious and charmingly engaging. I am fascinated by her. We have had a couple of moments together, not many, but I think things are going well. I hope they are going well. I like her sense of humor and her matter of fact approach to life. I have no idea what she thinks of me.

We went to the 6th Floor Museum today, located in the book repository from which President Kennedy is alleged to have been shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. It was interesting, watching the movies from that time period. It was almost disturbing..the fashions from that time were close enough to some from now that I could relate as if it were happening now. One portion was a movie that showed his funeral and they played Taps. I thought of the boy scout bugler that played Taps at Joseph's funeral. A lady there was crying openly as she watched and everyone was pretty solemn and I felt tears tug at my own mother loved JFK and it makes me think of her as a young woman, made me realize that I can still be moved to tears by a man who died seven years before my birth, that life is so swiftly over. What am I doing to make this world a better place?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I am sitting here waiting for a phone call from Joe. He is driving back toward home from the airport, where he has picked up Katie and her boyfriend, Jeff and we are all going to meet at Luna de Noche for dinner once he gets close to our area of town again. I have been going insane cleaning and decorating, putting a fresh flower arrangement in Katie's room, clean crisp sheets on every bed, candles lit, a new welcome mat out front and a muscle in the back of my neck that is killing me from my nerves and tension. I have been a whirlwind of activity, effort and nerves, as if Katie will walk in here, look around and say "You know Sheri, I wasn't too sure about you, but dang, that peppermint hand wash in the bathroom is NICE! Welcome to the family!" I swear they could make a sitcom about my thought process.

As I have been cleaning and doing laundry that seems to reproduce faster than rabbits, I was musing on the volatile joy that it is being the mother of boys. I find it highly ironic that I can find fresh, clean, STILL FOLDED clothing in their laundry hamper....but one pair of underwear. Someone explain that to me....they are more than willing to wash things that are still clean, but get them to change their underwear.....??

Yeah. So.

There's the phone and my stomach has heaved and turned. I think its a margarita kind of night. I pray we all have a good weekend together. I pray she likes me. I pray Joe behaves around her new boyfriend. Y'all can pray for me too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Its been a little while since I updated and I apologize for that. Life is busy and finding time to sit down and write has been challenging. The party went well on Saturday night. Now we are in high gear getting ready for Katie and her significant other to arrive tomorrow evening. This will be the first time I have had any opportunity to spend any kind of time with her and I am both excited and nervous. I hope she has a good time while she is here and gets some good time with her daddy. I know he is excited to see her again.

While Joe and I had a halloween party over the weekend, Nick and Alex had Cuboree, a scouting camp. The pictures show what a good time they had. The camp was just across the highway from the DFW National Cemetery where Joseph is buried, so they stopped to see him while they were there. Nick got pretty emotional. Alex spent a lot of the time straightening up the flowers and decorations on other people's graves in the area where Joseph is buried. I sent a Halloween stake out there with Stewart a couple of weeks ago. The national cemeteries are actually pretty strict about the decorations they allow on the graves, so any time we leave something we are prepared that it probably won't be there when we return. But the groundskeepers have simply been moving Joseph's Halloween decorations out of the way to mow and then replacing them, which touches my heart. I miss him so much this time of year. I want so badly to get excited about the holidays and I hope some part of me finds a way to enjoy them this year, for Nick and Alexander's sake if nothing else. But every time I start to get excited about it I feel an immediate stab of pain. Though Joseph was on the respirator and was not home or even conscious for Christmas last year, we still had hope up to and slightly through that point. We had shopped for him and had presents for him and believed he would improve, get off the machine and have a great time opening all those gifts. This year there will be no Joseph to shop for and it struck me today that forevermore I will have just two kids at Christmas time instead of three. I cannot describe the wrongness and the pain of that realization. Yeah, its been there all along and I have known it all along, but suddenly as the time to start shopping is upon us, the reality of it feels very different. Knowing and experiencing are two different things. At the same time, it makes me only more determined to have a great holiday with Nick and Alex and fuels the hope that Joe's kids will some day be able to have Christmas with us too.

Thanksgiving will be a challenge as well. It is the last holiday we got with Joseph. I can see in hindsight that he was not feeling well that day, but he was so happy to have gotten to come home. He wanted to help cook and he wanted a turkey leg on his plate. He got both, ate little, smiled a lot. They are lovely, bittersweet memories that I will always cherish.

The weather has turned more chilly. Though it brings back the memories very powerfully, it startled me how much it also brought back the feeling of Joseph being with me. I hope that for the rest of my life the chill of fall, winter and early spring will be Joseph's spirit with me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Things are moving along at a rapid clip this week. I have an algebra exam tonight that I am feeling pretty trepidatious about. I do great on my homework and then have been choking on the quiz and pre-test. I know all my formulas and rules. I just get in too big of a hurry I think. I frankly find Algebra to be incredibly boring and cannot fathom when or why I would ever need it, which makes me impatient to get just it over with. I need to slow down and double check my work. It is stunning how many times I get an answer wrong from an error in basic math or forgetting to put in a negative sign. *sigh*

Yesterday was an awfully exciting day at work. I got up early so that I could get there right at 6:00 AM. That way I get off at 2:20, which rocks so hard. But when I got there yesterday, the alarm in the building was going off. Now, several people have set it off on accident, so unfortunately my tiny brain just didn't comprehend this could be trouble. When I get into the stairwell of the employee entrance, the door has been broken into and there is blood smeared all over the place. Like an idiot, I am thinking about pretty much everything under the planet but the fact that there has obviously been a break-in..there were two other vehicles in the parking garage near the door, so frankly I assumed that there was already other employees inside the building. So I went in. Stupid stupid! I get as far as the central waiting area, where it becomes apparent that the new flat screen television has been stolen rather hastily...the wall is torn up, the mounting aparatus shattered and the veneer on the wall pulled away along with lots of blood smears. I call the police, start sweating like mad because suddenly it dawns on me that they could still be in the building, and I hightail it out of there back the way I came. Obviously I am fine, but it shook me up. Later they found blood on the balcony door and mused that they probably were still in the building when I came in and then snuck out behind me when they could not get off the balcony. Gah. Stupid me. I just don't think like a criminal. It didn't occur to me until it would have been too late that I was in danger.

Joe and I are attending a halloween party at some friends' house on Saturday night. They have one every year and its always a lot of fun. I am going as a school girl (got my ruffled socks and everything) and Joe is going as his own version of Jimmy Buffet. Nick and Alex are going camping this coming weekend and the weekend following Joe's daughter is coming down to visit us for a few days. Life is full and that is a good thing. I suspect it won't slow down until after the holidays. We are going on a cruise in early spring for five days and I am thrilled to have that to look forward to beyond all the anniversaries and memories that have to be maneuvered between now and then.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The ups and downs continue. I feel so helpless to them and baffled by them. How I can now be having a perfectly beautiful day and yet in the time it takes to make a quick drive to the store and back I can think Joseph's name and tears start to fall...yet the feeling of it being a beautiful day not at all change inside me, and then I just put it away when I get home and go back to whatever I was doing. Its a lonely feeling, but appropriate. The intensity with which I am starting to miss him grows under my skin and heart and into my limbs, so much a part of me now that I cannot separate it out even from good and bad moods, happy and sad days. It is just always residing in me, something I can touch, palpate, breath in tandem with. I yearn and ache. And yet I am happier in a general sense than I have been in a long time. I have to wonder if it is merely a matter of what I pay attention to...the pain or the goodness. If I walk around constantly conscious of Joseph's absence and my loss of him I quickly get debilitated. But I am no longer at the point that I have to just pretend it has gone away for a while for me to do okay now. I can carry it with me and feel it and still be having a pretty good day. I do think it affects me somewhat still. I find myself frequently saying things all wrong or transposing words when I try to communicate sometimes, particularly when I am tired or stressed. It has its place and takes up space.

Work is going well. School has not been enough of a priority to me and I need to buckle down and make sure I am not neglecting that. It is nice not having it be so focal but striking the balance between not focal yet not forgotten can be a challenge for me. I don't think it would be good for me to be a full time student and yet trying to work at this time. Hopefully that will come together as I grow closer, in a year or two, to applying for nursing school.

Joe has booked us for a five day cruise to Mexico in early February and I am looking forward that, just after all these anniversaries to come. I hope that will give me something else to focus on and look forward toward.

Nick and Alex are doing great and are looking forward to Halloween in their new neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I have kept so busy today that I have hardly had time to think about anything to do with Joseph other than what I posted here this morning. Work was busy and the day passed quickly. I went to the gym after work (yay me) and then dropped off a movie we had rented over the weekend on the way home, then slipped into Fashion Bug just to see what they have in terms of work appropriate clothes. I came home, put some sausage on to fry and gathered up the ingredients for pumpkin sausage soup (which Joe would not touch because it has pumpkin in it), talked with Joe for a bit when he got home, went out with him and picked a few tomatoes, swept the front porch, cleaned up the living room a bit, made beef stroganoff for Joe for dinner from leftover roast. We ate together, watched some boring show about the planet Jupiter and now here I am...whirling into a sudden wall of memories that has quietly waited for me all day to come and stand before it and give it its due.

I went back and read my journal entry from last year. Was it really this day that the air mattress collapsed from beneath me while I slept? That incident is one of the pillars of our transplant experience for of those weird twists of humor that would show up now and then. For a while it seemed like all humor disappeared from my life. It is coming back now, a little at a time. But it seems both so long ago....I feel like a different person completely since then..and yet the idea that an entire year has gone by just fractures my heart in a way I have not felt yet to date. The march of time away from Joseph is devastating. I still remember so clearly how exhausted I was that sick Joseph worried we all determined. How can it be a year when it is still this vivid? It honest to God seems like I should be able to get into my car right this minute, drive down to the hospital and slip through those swinging doors, go into Joseph's room with the crime scene tape on the door and gather him into my arms and sob out my relief until he is annoyed with me.

They showed on the news today a woman whose son has been in Iraq. She was at church or something and not expecting him home for another month, but somehow he surprised her and arrived while she was at church...and the whole thing was, of course, filmed. I found myself so incredibly jealous. So bitter. I want that moment too. All the religious people will insert here that I will get it in heaven. That is too long of a wait. The woman in the story said "nothing tests your faith like waiting for your son to come home". My muttered replies were scathing and inappropriate, full of envy and anger and completely unwilling to acknowledge that there is any suffering on earth that surpasses or equals my own...after all...she at least had some hope he would come back. I suppose that is the way with all people. Joe is fond of saying "Every person's problem is their biggest problem". That is probably true. Things tend to grow to fill the space available. That is likely the case with emotional struggles as well. Everyone has their load to carry and some are so heavy it is impossible to appreciate the heaviness of someone else's. Of course, my problem now is being so resentful and scarred by the load we had to carry then. I am not carrying that particular load anymore...but I still remember well its weight on my shoulders. I have a different weight so permanent that in my better, healthier moments I realize I cannot even weigh it up against anyone else's burden. It is its own unique entity. In my even smarter moments it comes to me...who would want to win that contest be declared the one to have shouldered the greatest hardship? What idiot would want to win that particular war??

And so I remember him, my Joe-Gi...and I cry..and I miss him...and I mourn all we hoped would be that is not. His wacky sense of humor. The way he would laugh so hard that no sound would come out for a while, only to then suck inward with a great woosh of air and burst into the room, drawing anyone nearby in with it until all would be laughing whether they knew why they were or not. The Garfield comics did this to him a lot. America's Funniest Home Videos. Silly animals and the antics of babies. His Dad.

I wish I could apologize to him for putting him through the transplant. It brought him nothing but four months of misery. And he trusted us to heal him. And we failed. I wish I could hug him just one more time and say goodbye with some sense of understanding between us, with some air of knowing I have prepared him well for this journey and prepared myself to cope with his absence. How I wish I knew where he is right now, whether he is the same, whether he is grown up now, whether anything would be changed. Is he angry at me? Is he whole and well now? Does he forgive us? Does he miss us too much?

I want the satisfaction of having packed extra socks and underwear and admonitions to be careful and watch for cosmic debris and to stay close to his guide..and not to forget to visit sometimes, to brush his teeth and don't go flying too close around Grandpa when he is trying to work on the golden gates or he might just get Grandpa kicked out of heaven when the distraction makes him cuss. To give him a picture of us, one of the ones we took together in San Antonio, and to review my favorite memories with him and to assure him that I will always be his mommy and I will take good care of his brothers and to be right there waiting for me when I come down the path, because I will be afraid and anxious to see him. To tell him he is the best son a mother could ask for. That I am proud of him. That I love him. That I love him so much.

So much that I wish. So many regrets. So lonely without him.
Its been hard the last few days on so many levels for Stewart and I both. He went to the cemetery this weekend and put halloween decorations on his grave. Just typing that out makes me stop breathing with fury and sorrow. On his GRAVE. I cannot describe the depth of feeling that brings to me. The convoluted and conflicting emotions. The memories of his suffering through the ATG, the horror that day was and how I could not imagine anything worse...until he began to go downhill, until the day we had to decide to disconnect his oscillator and accept that Joseph was watch him leave. So much suffering. I wish so much things had turned out differently.

On this day last year Joseph recieved his bone marrow transplant, umbilical cord blood banked by a family whose child was born four years ago. I thank that family for the hope their donation gave to us and wish that hope had come to fruition.

People are starting to talk about the holidays already. I want to put my hands over my ears. I know we will purchase whatever we would have for Joseph and donate it to Child Life at Medical City. And it will hurt.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I have started dreaming of Joseph more and more lately. The night before last I dreamed I was in this vast, rolling green meadow/foothills kind of area. I was walking, searching..I kept coming upon children in groups of three...all very happy, playing together. I would ask them where Joseph was and they would continually point me onward with smiles, over the next hill and the next where I would meet yet another group of children, but never finding Joseph.... but ever the feeling that I had just missed him, that he was just over the next hill, that these children, who were happy and robust, were just with him, just playing with him.. It was a pleasant dream if a bit exhausting. Last night's though was truly disturbing. I dreamed that Joseph was still in the hospital..that we were mistaken, that he had not died, and that he had been waiting waiting waiting for us all this time. As morning broke and I came to greater consciousness I was soooo confused and full of angst and pain. Was he dead? Was there some horrible mistake? I didn't know what to hope for. I kept seeing his little face as it was in the dream, so ill, so sad, so lonely and so accepting that we just weren't coming back fora long time, so that when I finally realized it and showed up again he didn't even see me there at first. The haunted, hollow feeling of guilt and failure has clung to me throughout the day and then the deep, abiding sadness that I really did watch him die, that he isn't really down at the hospital, that my poor brain just cannot wrap around it sometimes, even now.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Most years right about this time I start to get really anxious for the cooler weather to kick in, but not this year. I am finding I dread it. It began snowing the day after Joseph went back into the hospital for what was to be overnight IV fluids and turned out to be the last time. And the week of his death it iced and snowed more than North Texas has seen in years. It all just draws me back to that time, even just imagining it. I am feeling so much stronger, so much calmer, so much more stable, but yet I am finding when Joe and I start to talk about Joseph and things pertaining to him, I tear up so easily. Frankly, even more easily than before. Can it really be just a few days short of nine months since he died? God, I miss him so much.

I lifted weights yesterday and today went to the new Craig Ranch fitness center and did 30 minutes on the elliptical. The facility is so gorgeous, its hard not to want to be there. And it really felt good at the time. I am hurting now though. The locker room is all cherry wood, has huge showers and rows of seated vanities, spa quality haircare products in the showers, hair dryers, fancy mirrors....whirlpool, sauna, steam room, luxurious, fluffy white towels, wireless Internet access throughout, each work out station with its own TV attached to the equipment and cable television....all overlooking this huge olympic sized heated outdoor pool for lap swimming. I am dying to go to the spa and get something done there...the scents coming from the area of their door make my toes curl with pleasure. Its a wonderful benefit. The new Craig Ranch clinic location goes "live" on Monday...the move has been like, well, trying to relocate a huge company. Lots of little things going wrong, lots of hurry up and wait. But I am hopeful all will be ready for the first patients to come through the doors Monday morning. I don't have my computer yet and actually got sent home with pay yesterday simply because there was nothing to do. I am anxious to be up and running. Getting paid to sit around isn't my forte.

Joe and I have errands to do this weekend such as getting a new printer for the house and a wireless mouse for his laptop. Nothing too exciting. I bought some bulbs today to plant for tulips and the like for next spring's flower beds. I am hoping to buy some shrubs and/or trees for the back yard. The tomato plants have new life and are producing like mad, especially the one with grape tomatoes. Amazingly enough, the green pepper plant that did absolutely nothing over the summer suddenly has baby peppers starting to grow. We had a little plumbing issue come up last weekend and got that taken care of. Unfortunately it did get on the new hardwood floors but we are told all will be well and go back to normal in the warped spots within 60 days, after it dries out good again. We have our fingers crossed.

Things are relatively calm and uneventful here otherwise. Nick has an orchestra concert on Wednesday that I am looking forward to. Both boys seem to be settling into the year nicely. Let's pray this nice, quiet period in our lives lasts a while longer. Its been good to not be in a panic over anything.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A conversation of intimate nature

Me: So have you written to Lauren yet?

Alex: Yeah, I wrote her as soon as I got home. I think she will get it tomorrow or something.

Me: When did you mail it?

A: Uh. The day I got back from camp. Uh. Monday. I mailed it on Monday.

Me: Its great to have a friend.

A: Well, we are more than just friends.

Me: Oh?

A: Yeah. And she's in eigth grade!! And the whole fourth grade pretty much knows it now too. Because I told them. And she is in Eigth Grade! They can't even make fun of me too much for it.

Me: The heart doesn't know how old it is, that is true. But be sure you are respecting her honey. I am sure you liked her for more reasons than just that she is in eigth grade.

A: Oh yeah. Definitely. We are "BF/GF"

Me: BF/GF?

A: Yeah.

Me: So are you in love?

A: Uh. I guess so. That is what BF/GF means.

Me: Ah. Did you kiss her?

A: No.

Me: Did you want to?

A: Uh. I think I am gonna wait on that for a little while.

Me: Maybe next year huh.

A: Yeah.

Me: Does SHE know she is your girlfriend?

A: I wrote her a note.

Me: You did?

A: Yeah. I gave it to her outside the nurse's office. Then I walked away and went to my cabin to pack to come home.

Me: Did she say anything?

A: About what?

Me: About the note.

A: No. She didn't freak out or act crazy or anything. She already told me she liked me. Before. Like, days before.

Me: I see! Well honey, that is really special and I am really happy for you.

A: Yeah. And she is in eigth grade!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's October. The official start of the memories of the end. A year ago today was day -07 and we were starting total body irradiation in preparation for the transplant on October 9th. I read back over my journal from that time period on Joseph's Caringbridge page, which I have left up and running for the time being, and my heart just aches, like watching a sad story that I already know the outcome to but the characters themselves do not. So much hope and agony. So much suffering only to end in tragedy....all this build up meant to draw us all into a new life, leaving not with a bang but rather a whimper. The ultimate failure. The ultimate proof that we are, underneath it all, just as helpless as ever against the forces of nature and our own human frailties. I am eternally grateful for his medical team. I am so glad that of all the things that can overwhelm me with grief, bitterness, remorse and guilt, that the care we chose for him continues to remain in my mind (and I believe in Stewart's as well) the highest quality we could have asked for.

Working at the Cooper Clinic is breathing new life into me. So far this seems to have been one of my better life altering decisions. We had training today called "Traditions", a program that lasts all day and in which the vision of Dr. Cooper and the history of his clinic is conveyed along with the complimentary feeling of having been deliberately chosen to be part of it. It is true, the interview process is quite rigorous and includes background and credit checks, history and education checks and for most people several layers of interviews. I feel good about myself because they wanted me. I feel proud to be a part of this vision and it has carried over a great deal into my every day life. Just a little more energy. Fewer moments of absolute blackness. Less time weeping in the car on the way home. More time thinking of Joseph with a horrible ache of pain inside that is there (and thus part of him and part of me and therefore not unwelcome) rather than the brutal and breathless waves of anguish. As I was in this meeting today, energized, content, eager, it came to me out of nowhere, and seemingly with nothing to do with the topic at hand, that Joseph really hated it when I was in a bad place emotionally. Kids hate to see their parents suffering from anything. If I was upset and crying, Joseph was upset too. But if I was happy in my world, it freed him to be happy in his own as well....and neither of us being happy took away from the depth of our relationship. And my happiness did not mean I was immune to his suffering or challenges...only that I was better equiped to deal with them. Obviously this is a valuable thing to think on, though it does bring tears to my eyes that are bittersweet. I don't want him to be gone. But if my mourning were to be somehow keeping him from some depth of peace he might have if I could but accept his spiritual state in tandem with my human one, then I would not want to mourn. I do and will and am....but it is as if he whispers in my being happy lets him be happy. It was so while he was here....why could it not be so now?

Its a hard time of year. Its a lot of work to even imagine that I could potentially be happy in any long term sense. Even when I am feeling happy I don't want to say that I am and I don't trust it to last. It feels like a betrayal, particularly when reading back on all he suffered in our attempts to heal him. But maybe the real betrayal is in not living as he would want me to live. He hated it when I was depressed or angry or bitter about something. It tore his little heart out, made him nervous, made him act less obtrusive, made him small and quieter. Could it be that is not so different now? Is that why it came to me in the middle of a meeting that inspired me to so much motivation and fed to me the seeds of accomplishment, waiting for me to cultivate and free them? Was Joseph whispering to me? Did he help land me here? I dreamed most all of my adult life of working for Cooper. How ironic this should happen now. Where are we headed Joe-Gi? This is the kind of company I would truly see myself working for the rest of my life. I would potentially be willing to change my major from nursing to another in the medical field if it were to allow me to continue on at Cooper more easily one day. Thart particular thought just occurred to me today. How strange. I do not know where the winds of change are steering me....but that is okay. I gave up trying to steer myself much a little over a year ago.

I love you Joseph and I miss you.

The meeting was amazing. We toured the campus, saw the lovely, well kept secret of the boutique hotel at Cooper Dallas location where the president and other high profile people and/or their wives often stay when in town or coming in for their yearly preventive physical. I feel different just when I put on my name tag....suddenly I am not Sheri who lost her child to AML. I am Sheri, the writer, the dreamer, the compassionate heart, the woman who made it through the rain, the mother of warriors, the face that could make the difference in someone's day, the person Cooper wanted to type their EBT and MDCT scans and digital mammograms, the strong heart who has so much to give and impart, a woman of knowledge and strength born of life experiences....somehow they tap into the best of me and I am willing to bring it forward...a faith born that Joseph is with me as I am there. Many of the smartest and most accomplished minds in the world come there and I was chosen to be part of their experience, branded with the Cooper name, part of that family. I am very proud of it and very grateful for the peace I have been feeling, the connection to my son. We were fed breakfast, lunch and snacks, all on the clock. We were shown again and again how Cooper values its folks who do well go from ordinary jobs like mine to extraordinary levels within the corporation as it grows. That it is cheaper and more effective to keep and promote good employees than to be careless with them and then try to replace them later. That Cooper is what it is largely because of the staff adopting the mission and really becoming part of it. I get marvelous discounts on everything and the perks are wonderful...but even more wonderful is the sense of still having something left to give.