Tag: life

” Fermata”


One moment you are in the midst of a beautifully lit late-winter day, doing what you usually do on your day off, running errands, getting groceries, enjoying a cafecito on the ride home on the back roads to the house, without a care or worry in the world. The next moment you are pushing your car to its mechanical limits getting your husband to the emergency ward of the VA, because he refuses to call 911 and have EMS come get him. Maybe because he was still conscious, could breathe and walk (but not deeply – the breathing part and for long periods of time – the walking part) or maybe because he is just a stubborn guy and to admit he needed an ambulance meant his life was threatened (which it was). To this day, I cannot tell you what logic (debatable) he used, all I know is I was able to get him to the VA without him losing consciousness. He wouldn’t let me drop him off at the entrance, while I parked, or get him one of the fifty wheelchairs that sat outside the mechanical doors, so he would not have to walk in what was becoming obviously an effort to do.

It wasn’t a heart attack, as he first thought. It was a blood clot in his lung. A pulmonary embolism. We knew first hand how serious this was. We had lost our friend two years before to a clot that traveled to her heart. When the young doctor told us what we were dealing with, we shared a look, thinking of Karen. We talked quietly as they made arrangements to transport him across the street to ICU at Duke Medical Center. I finally sat down after four hours of standing by his bedside and what he told me next really made me want to strangle him myself.

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We had parted ways that morning, me to get my nails done and run errands, he to the golf course. I remember him saying he was tired when he got up from bed and started to get ready. I remember thinking he had been up late, after a night at judo practice, so it was reasonable he was tired. I knew he had been up late the last couple of nights, dealing with the onset of insomnia that comes with this time of year. I was not overly concerned. He tells me he was fine the first five holes. He had a birdie putt on the sixth hole and was walking back to his cart when one of the guys he was playing with him asked him if he was alright. He replied he was, but when he tried to get into the cart, he knew he was not. He grabbed onto the railing so he would not fall and tried to sit down, but actually slid down into the cart. He prayed for help to get through what was happening, telling God he was prepared to go if it be His will, but if it was not yet his time, to help him get through it. His golf buddies are Veterans. They call my husband “Guny”. So when my husband heard one ask “Guny, you want us to call 911?” He told them no. They wouldn’t get there in time. They were ten minutes out-of-town in the country on a golf course, he figured, they would get their too late to save him from a heart attack. Remember I mentioned logic in the beginning of this post, because what happens next certainly stretches the definition.

He continues to ride in the cart, but does not play. He gets out of the cart once or twice and realizes he cannot breathe well, so he gets back in the cart. He continues to watch his partners finish their games. Now, this particular golf course passes by the clubhouse and his car on the 9th hole and he tells me, as he is laying in front of me in the emergency room with oxygen to help his breathing. He remembers thinking for a moment, he should just call it a day and come home so I can take him to the VA, but because he was still “fine”, he squelched that thought and continued on the next NINE HOLES. At the end of the game, does he then decide to get in his car and drive home, which in itself, was risky, given he might lose consciousness and hurt himself or others? My Marine decides to give a few lessons to the young golfer who had joined them to play. Granted, from the cart, but still…Three hours after his first incident on the course and five hours since he started playing, he drives himself home. He tells me he never panicked that morning or later that day, with all that had happened until he pulled up in the driveway and realized I was not home. He called me as I was driving out of Raleigh and was on the back roads, oblivious to what he had been through.

I couldn’t be mad at him. Anyone who knows us, knows I love my husband madly. Knows the sun rises and sets with this man. Besides, how would that look, wife going off on husband in emergency room while he lay incapacitated by a blood clot? Seriously, though, I was thinking if he ever does this to me again, I will kill him myself. Not that it would matter, my being frustrated with how he handled himself, how he may have done his body more harm than good. I looked at him with all the ambivalence of emotions and just said “I don’t know what to say”, which was a lie. I had plenty to say and plenty of emotion to go with it, but I was silent. He knew it too, because his next words put out all the fire inside my heart over what he had put himself through, what could have or might have happened, all the uncertainty of what would happen from this point on. He said simply “Just say “thank you””.

Humbled, I did. I thanked God for getting him through his day without harm to anyone and further harm to himself. I thanked God for the doctors of the VA and Duke Medical Center and their staff who took such good care of my Marine. I thanked God for our family and friends who checked in with us, supported us, offered to do whatever they could to help. I thanked God for the faith that sustains us in dark and uncertain times. I thanked God for the blessing of our marriage and our life together that we both knew could have ended that beautiful sun-filled winter day.

I walked across the street from Duke after I had seen him get settled in ICU. I remember thinking how we arrived seven to eight hours before, anxious, facing the unknown, but surprisingly never panicking, never losing composure. It seemed as if in another time in our life, not just hours before. I drove up to our home and took a picture because, for some reason in the process of the moments of getting him from the house to the car and to the VA, he had remembered, or out of habit, left the porch light on. As if he had known all along he would be coming home.

Evansridge - 16 Feb 13 0200
Evansridge – 16 Feb 13 0200

A New Year Begins

Life got in the way of blogging around the holidays.  I wanted to share with my readers about my adjustment in the work force again and trying to get ready for the holidays.  I wanted to write about how happy I have been at my new job, learning family law, working with a great attorney and fabulous co-workers.  Yes, I am writing this from the lens of “new to the job”, but it feels like a very good fit.  Time will tell, but understand that recent events in my life, make me appreciate the “here and now”, because as my father is fond of saying, “tomorrow is not guaranteed”.   With that in mind, I appreciate the opportunity for as long as I have it.

December came with a get -together with old friends, a couple of Christmas parties and a trip to Jacksonville to spend Christmas with my parents and my youngest daughter and her godson.  Even though, I was not going to be home for the holidays, I still wanted to dress the house up in holiday decorations  put the tree and lights up.  Getting my husband motivated enough to do this, is always a process, since he does not “do” holidays, but our agreement, is he just has to get out the totes, I do the rest.  The only thing is I forgot how much work it was to decorate the house, especially, now that I am back working.  It took two weeks, but I got the house finished, enjoyed it for two weeks and then was gone to Florida.

The payoff, after we survived the parking lot nightmare that was our trip on I-95 from home to Jacksonville, was seeing  how much improved my mom is doing, and how happy my dad is, now that she is doing better.  My parents weren’t even home when we got there in Jacksonville, which further added to my husband’s irritation after spending almost two extra hours on the total trip because of the holiday traffic.  So the payoff was not immediate, only getting there and being able to get out of the car after 10 hours on the road.  The payoff came the next day.  That  first night, we visited with Megan and tried to get the outside lights to work.  My dad had left detailed instructions, but we failed to find the reset switch to get the lights on after they had been kicked off.  Now, a month later, it has become one of the things we all reminisce about when we talk about this last Christmas… how Megan and I could not figure out how to get the back yard holiday lights on and how we didn’t call my dad, because neither one of us wanted to admit we couldn’t figure it out.  We just broke out a bottle of wine and toasted being together for the holidays, for the first time in years.

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The bonus, was Megan’s godson, Isaia.  I was trying to remember when we last had a child in the house for the holidays.   Too many years .  The price of being a long distance Grandmother.  Which may explain why we all were touched by his anticipation.  He would hang out with Chester, while he played on-line poker and watched River Monsters.  He got up from a nap on Christmas Eve and asked my mom if she wanted to dance, when he heard music playing on her CD player.  He invited my Dad to watch cartoons with him, moving over on the chaise lounge to give him space.  He asked to help set the table for meals.  Later that night, He and Megan made cookies.  He helped decorate the baked cookies, then tested one to make sure they were “good”.  Then helped Megan put out the plate of cookies and milk for Santa.  He also helped write the note to Santa so he wouldn’t miss the treat.  He also, had to make sure the fireplace was big enough for Santa to get through.  All our family rituals of the holiday coming full circle with Megan’s godson.   The next morning,  Isaia woke up to presents Santa left under the tree.  It was a treat for us, not just to see his excitement, but for me,photo (10)it reinforced, what I have always felt, that Christmas is for the kids.  We all watched as he opened presents, getting excited over everything, bit and small.  It made our holiday memorable, sharing it with this little guy.

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With the holiday  trip a success (not counting the beginning) and the holidays a wrap, the end of year arrived with an invitation to an end of year party with family and one with friends.  I can’t remember us being this social, but a combination of the new judo dojo Chester volunteers at, the golf tournament and my work in local politics, all raised our profile to the point, we now have a semblance of  a social life.  Not a bad thing, but something that required some management, since by the end of this particular year, Chester was feeling the effects of all the exposure.  I have started a new blog “My PTSD Vet” to have a continuing conversation about Chester’s struggles (past and current), my observations, and his insights as he works to find a balance to stay engaged in everyday life, without compromising the gains he has made.   He has worked harder than he gives himself credit for.  For us to go to two parties in one night, was significant.  We didn’t stay long at either party, but at the end of the second gathering, our hosts built a huge bonfire.

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Of particular significance to me, the bonfire represented an end of the year as we knew it, and the beginning of the new year.  The riff between the past and the future was permanent in a couple of relationships we both had.  We had lost a dear friend in the first half of the year that we have still not recovered from.  I drove my parents to Texas, and reunited with family I had not seen in years, renewing the ties that bind.  I made memories with my kids and grand kids that I cherish more than I will could ever say.  I worked behind the scenes on a local election and was amazed at the tenacity of pure will.   My status as unemployed ended, and was humbled by that process.  The Nation reelected the President, after a particular contentious election, reinforcing my belief in our better angels.  I know without a doubt, that I love my husband more today, because of this journey we have taken on together, this journey called Life.


Grandmas’ Row

I had lunch with an old friend yesterday who I have known now for thirteen years. She and I worked together at my first firm when I moved here from California. She and I became grandmothers the same year and the partner she worked for affectionately coined our side of the office, “Grandmothers Row”. After a couple of years, I moved on to a new job, she and I kept in touch, meeting for lunch a couple of times a year.

Our lives have not intersected in the way that it does on a daily basis when you work with someone who you are close to; that you becomes friends with. We don’t share the day-to-day events of our lives, or the “what happened this weekend” accounts on Monday mornings when you are getting your coffee or having your leftovers from Sunday dinner in the lunch room. In this world, where nothing stays the same, jobs change, families evolve, sickness looms, “life happens!”, you manage your friendships as you can.

This last year has been particular hard on my friend, and I hugged her when we said our goodbyes, promising we would have an early New Years’ celebration, tossing out 2012 for her and bringing in 2013, in the hopes the new year will be better for her. The reality of friendship, as in most relationships, is you are stoutly reminded of your limitations to affect the circumstances of life…your own and those you are close to. I felt that reality yesterday when I listened to the emotion in my friend’s voice. It made my voice catch as I told her “I don’t even know what to say”.

Thinking of that moment, now, I am grateful I was there to listen, to share some space, without giving in the knee-jerk reaction of comforting platitudes. I listened, I comforted, and knowing, I was powerless in the face of what my friend had been through and was still going through, I was quiet, for a change.


My mom is not doing well.  She has had a series of setbacks in her health, nothing life threatening, but strung together, it has overwhelmed her.  I realize part of her decline is possibly psychological and emotional, however having seen her recently, I found myself panicking.  My mom has never looked her age.  She always was mistaken as my sister for years.  She has always exercised and walked.  Now, at seventy-six, and after a fall that broke fingers in both hands, I realize that she has aged.  She seemed so vulnerable and fragile, that I wondered if she would beat this, like she did the artery blockage at forty-four and the angioplasty at seventy.

When she was in her forties and into her fifties she would leave me breathless on the wide walkway at Mission Bay Park, or the inclines of Scripps Ranch.  It was only in the last ten years, I could out-walk her…pathetic.  This last weekend, she clung to me as we made out way through Books a Million to the day spa where we had manis and pedis for the first time since I was a teenager.  Why, was I thinking, did we wait so long for this?  She never went to a manicurist and neither did I until I was in my thirties.  I went with my daughters, but not my mom.

 As we sat in the spa chairs and chatted, I allowed the twinge of guilt to surface, of allowing time to pass us by.  Then I reminded myself of all the other times, the other loves we shared…shopping (mostly window shopping), lunches and coffee dates, watching baseball games, traveling to Savannah for a day trip, St. Augustine to tour the historic areas, a recent road trip to visit my aunt in Mississippi…she was stronger then.

Coming home to Evans Ridge I realize I have entered a new phase as a daughter.  My mom is aging, as am I…but until last weekend, she drove her car, she could handle a knife, she could put in her hearing aid, she could saunter around the house teasing my dad and making us shake our heads…I know in my heart, she will get stronger, I realize this is a preview of what is around the corner.  It is a part of this magic we call our lifetime…