The Ache

These past two days I have been trying really hard to figure out how to describe to people how I have been feeling and the only way I have come up with is to say my heart aches.  It isn’t sadness or anger it is just an ache.

I feel lost.  My heart aches for him to be here.  Even for a second to give me a hug and kiss me on my forehead.  It is really hard to one minute have someone that will hug you just because you want a hug to not have it anymore.

I miss his presence.  I miss jumping on the back of his chair to give him a back rub.  He would always say “Lyss…you don’t have too”.  It’s when he would say that when I would know that he was really starting to get a migraine and he needed it.  When I was pregnant he would tell me I really didn’t have to.  I would still get up on the chair and laugh and say that with my belly into his back maybe the baby could help me out.  After we had Aaron it was “It’s OK…take care of Aaron.”  I would lay Aaron down, signal him to get up from the chair, hop on the back and signal him to sit back down.  I know he appreciated my back massages.  At one point he told me I should consider going to school for it.  I miss that appreciation, being able to be there for someone like that.  I miss it like crazy.

I miss holding his hand.  When we held hands it was a comfort.  He would hold my hand so tightly that I felt so safe.  I miss that feeling so much.  To be safe, to know someone is right there to help me, to keep me safe.  He always did that, from the first time I met him.  He had this bad ass type attitude at first glance but then to look a little closer you could see this teddy bear…this genuinely good guy with a great personality and a loving heart.  I miss that look.

Today has been a strange day because I have felt him here.  It is comforting and heart breaking all at the same time.  To make things even harder, I was changing Aaron’s diaper tonight and we were using the time to practice our words.  We say “Aaron” and “mommy” and then he out of the blue says “Daddy!!!”  I look at him and I could swear he was looking over my shoulder.  Then he looks straight up at the ceiling and says it again.  My heart ached.  Then I say to him…”Daddy is in heaven isn’t he?”  And in true Aaron form he calms down and says “yeah” and let’s me finish his diaper change.

My heart aches.

I’m responsible

I have said this before but I am going to repeat it because I forgot to add it to a recent blog. 

 

I am responsible for my own grief.  I am not responsible for anyone else’s grief.

 

In the same respect you are not responsible for my grief.  You are responsible for your own grief. 

 

This was amazing advice I got early on in this journey and I have to remind myself of this often. 

 

I may not always be free of my grief, but I can be responsible for it. 

 

That’s baloney! No wait…it’s bologna!

So yesterday I got another call from daycare that Aaron was starting to react to something.  It wasn’t to the point of having trouble breathing yet but they wanted to let me know.  I am so thankful for the teachers and directors at daycare.  Being a single mom is not easy so I am thankful for any advice or things they see that can help me.  I called a half hour later and he was better and getting ready for nap. 

The moment I saw daycare show up on my phone I was instantly thankful that the night before my mom and I had been to the pharmacy and got the prescription filled the ER doctor gave us the Friday before.  Luckily I didn’t have to use it yesterday. 

It is so frustrating to have a child that reacts to so many things.  But I am thankful for knowledgeable and patient people in our life that helped me out so much. 

So as I picked up Aaron from daycare last night one of the teachers stopped me and said “Alyssa…we think we figured it out.”  I was confused at first wondering what she was talking about and then she said…”We think he is allergic to bologna!”  I laugh now thinking aren’t we all right?  Don’t give me any baloney!  But she meant bologna the food.  We talked a bit and instead of going to the doctor today with nothing but “Figure out what is happening!” I can ask the doctor if he could be allergic to bologna.  I am relieved.  It’s no longer baloney how many times he is reacting to something it might actually be bologna.

Saying Yes

I thought Jay was crazy when he told me around 10 years ago that he wanted to be an organ donor when he died.   I thought he was crazy.  WHY would you want someone cutting you open and taking your organs and using them?  Whether it was the thought of the organ retrieval or the thought that when this would happen would most likely be when he died that scared me, I thought it was absurd.  After he told me that, he also explained that he wanted to be cremated.  My exact thoughts were…”OK…so you want someone to use your organs and then turn you into ashes…ARE YOU INSANE?!”  I knew this about Jay before we got married.  What I know now, is that it was his drive to always help others…be kind and be genuine that I fell in love with and being an organ donor was part of that. 

Recently I have mentally gone back to the day Jay died.  To the moment I found out he was gone and I have been trying to figure out how I got through it.  How I did what I did, what I had to do, and still stand in front of our family and friends and tell them thank you for showing Aaron and I how much Jay meant to them. 

When the medical examiner said to me…”Alyssa…you want them to do an autopsy…you need to know for his family and for Aaron what really happened” my first thought was…”we need to do this but if they do this…if they cut him open and figure out what went wrong that means he is really gone.  If they take his heart and take it piece by piece to figure out what happened it will no longer beat…ever.”  Then the question was asked…”Alyssa, his license says he is an organ donor…are you OK if I call the Iowa Donor Network to get the process started.”  My first thought was…”this is what Jay would want…but if we do this…if we give whatever he can give to whoever needs it, he will no longer be able to come back to us…ever” 

I can’t explain to you what happened…what or how it was said but something kicked me into being logical.  He wasn’t coming back.  He was gone.  It hurt like hell.  I was numb and yet my heart ached.  I was in disbelief but I knew he was gone.  I knew what I needed to do and although I didn’t want to do it I had no choice. 

Saying I had no choice brings 2 other situations to mind. 

When I broke my ankle in 2010 I had to have surgery to repair it.  Right before I went into surgery I looked at Jay and I said…”I don’t want to do this…let’s go home.”  He smiled and said, “Honey, you don’t have a choice anymore…this is what is best for you and your ankle.” 

Similarly in 2011 the day before our scheduled c-section to have Aaron I went into labor.  We got to the hospital and I looked at Jay and said, “I don’t want to do this…let’s go home.”  He smiled with a little fear and a lot of excitement in his eyes and said “Honey, you don’t have a choice anymore, you are giving birth to our beautiful baby boy.” 

So I think maybe on May 9th, 2012 I said to myself…”I don’t want to do this…I want to go home.”  Without me knowing it, here is what I believe Jay said to me…”Honey…I am so sorry but you have to do this for me.  This is what is best for me and for so many others in this world.  I need you to help me help others.  You can do it…because you have no other choice…I love you.”

This is the only thing I can come up with for what could have gotten me through those first days.  It is the only way I could have found the strength to say “Yes…do the autopsy”, “Yes…he wants to be cremated” and “Yes…call Iowa Donor Network.”  And ultimately because I said yes, there is peace in my heart.  I know what happened to him.  I did what he wanted.  I helped him help others…all because I said “yes.”

Be HAPPY

Recently I have had this feeling people find it difficult to share their happy news with me. 

It gets worse when I feel that people don’t want to be happy around me, almost like it is an injustice to Jay.  It feels like they don’t want to make me feel bad that they have things happening in their life. 

Guess what?…not sharing things with me makes me feel bad.  Not asking me questions about my experiences or my thoughts about happy life situations, THAT makes me sad.  It makes me feel that no matter how hard I try to stay afloat and find my happiness, no one wants to share theirs with me.  I feel like an outsider.  There are many parts of my life where I will always be an outsider…be different and will have to force myself to not be that.  That is my realty and I come to terms with that more and more each day. 

I ask the following.  Share your happiness with me.  I NEED it.  Show me your happiness.  I FEED off of it.  Be HAPPY because deep down…I am.

Don’t miss the exit

I was driving home from the mall the other day.  We were on the interstate on our way home.  Aaron was in the backseat.  I wanted a Starbucks iced tea which is right off the exit past the one that would take us back home.  I went past the exit and all of the sudden I hear hollering from the backseat.  I glance back and he is pointing his finger at me giving me the business.  I continued on as we went past the exit that has a Home Depot by it and he stopped hollering only to point back to the store and continue hollering at me in toddler babble. 

It was one of the funniest thing he has done lately.  I could almost hear him say…”Hey mom!…you missed your exit.  SEE!…there is the Home Depot!!”  He settled down as we got off on the next exit and while mommy got her iced tea.  I really wish I could have gotten a picture of his face.  His eyebrows were scrunched like he was really trying to tell me something.  If anything he should have been hollering at me for the shopping I did but no it was because I missed the exit.  The more I think back to the moment I looked back at him it is almost like I could hear and see Jay in his facial expression and voice. 

This proves that children are observant.  They are sponges.  They know routine and if you do something they notice.  It is so easy to forget that until they say a word they heard at home that is not daycare of school appropriate right?  I am thankful to not have had that happen yet.  Jay and I started practicing getting those words out of our vocabulary the minute Aaron was  born.  Instead of swearing Jay would say “PEAS and CARROTS!!” in a very expressive way.  Without fail it would make Aaron laugh.  Worse case daycare of school could think that he was just asking for some nutricous food. 🙂  I digress.

After we got home and got settled I was still laughing to myself about Aaron’s reaction.  I talked to my dad and he laughed and told me Aaron was probably saying…”Hey crazy lady…THAT was your exit!!”  This cute and funny reminder of how much is observed in my actions has made me very aware of all my actions.  People are always watching.  Not because they want to stalk my every move but everyone observes.  Contrary to what I think it isn’t always to be critical.  I think alot of people go to the critical part.  I choose to think that they are like Aaron.  Observing and making sure I don’t miss the exit.

Emergency Contact

The other day I took the day off to help a good friend of mine.  She was having a medical procedure and needed an adult driver.  There was no feeling of obligation to help her, I just wanted too.  It wasn’t until she was getting checked in that I figured out what was really going on. 

It is simple really…I was needed.  Now I know that Aaron needs me every day…all the time…and I love him for that but it is different to be needed by a child then to be needed by an adult.  And in that moment, it felt really good.  When she was checking in there was a question of who her emergency contact was.  She looked at me and said “Lyss…guess what?…you just became my Emergency contact…is that OK?”  Of course I said that was totally fine…I think I jokingly asked for a certificate and a name badge and deep down I was so excited.  I was someone’s (other than Aaron’s) emergency contact.  What an honor.  That may seem really silly to people but it is the little things that can make me feel normal.  It is the amount of trust you have in someone you make your emergency contact that really made me feel good.  After she was done with the procedure I picked her up.  We went and got her food…got her medicine and got her back to her place. 

It is interesting how I continue to find these little things that make me happy.  Who knew being an emergency contact could be so important.

Plans change

If there is one thing that I have learned to accept is that plans change.  My last blog explained how our weekend plans changed 4 times within 24 hours.  That didn’t even go into all of the changes in the driving route that Aaron and I took on our way home.  That changed about 10 times within an hour because of traffic being backed up and damage from the storm.

The driving route changes were quite easy to accept.  The weekend changes were a little bit more difficult but still pretty easy.  Our life plans changed and it took me almost a year to really comes to terms with the fact that they had changed.  They obviously proved much more difficult to move through.

The other day a friend of mine stated it simply. Forget the plan.  Simple concept..difficult in practice.  If I am completely honest her word was not “forget” but I choose that just to say it nicer.

So there you have it.  Forget the plan because plans change.

In the last 24 hours

As of 4:30PM today.

The last 24 hours have not gone in any way shape or form in the way that I envisioned, wanted or ever imagined they would go.

Last night I was going to get home, clean up the house a bit, do laundry and pack for our little get away to see my family this weekend.  Around 3:30, the weather in Iowa had a different idea as it decided to throw a nasty storm into the mix.  Usually I am on top of this stuff.  I am watching the radar and have an idea it is going to happen.  For some reason yesterday I was so focused on my original plan that anything that diverted me from it was not possible.  I was in a meeting with my financial guy and all the sudden we heard rain hitting the building.  At my work we can hear when it is raining too so this didn’t concern me at first but then it sounded like the roof was going to blow off.  We went to a room that had windows to the outside and his words were..”You are not going anywhere for awhile.”  I looked online and saw that on the radar there was ALOT of red.  To say that I do not like this kind of weather is a huge understatement.  We finished our meeting and by the time we were done the storm had made its way east of the metro area.

Thinking that was just a slight detour in the night was an understatement as well.  I went to pick up Aaron from daycare.  At this point I could see damage with trees and stop lights not working.  I knew Aaron was OK because we have a good daycare so I worked my way to daycare to pick him up calmly.  I walked in and all of the little ones were around the teachers reading books.  They had gone undercover in the bathrooms when apparently the sirens went off for wind.  And now they were reading books.  I love our daycare.  We waited in the building as the rain subsided a little bit then got into the car.  Again thinking that we could still be home at a descent time was a nice thought however it didn’t work out that way.  A drive that usually takes me 15-20 minutes took me an hour.  Thank goodness I am a momma that is prepared.  My vehicle is always stocked with Aaron treats.  And so we very carefully made our way back home with a few slight detours.  I had heard there was something going on at the school by our house but didn’t think it was anything major to the structure of the building, just maybe the storm hit a gas line to do a leak.  Although this is major as well, what actually happened was pretty scary.  Turns out part of the roof of the school was ripped off.  I am so thankful that all the children were OK.  As I drove down our street I saw that people had their cars parked in the driveways and not in their garages.  As much as I didn’t want what I thought to be true I knew it.  We had no power.  When we got to the house I had to laugh.  3 of our cushions for our deck furniture had made it to my neighbors across the streets driveway as well as into my front yard.

Keys to the front door and the Brightest flashlight app on my cell phone I got to the garage and got it opened manually.  Thank goodness for my construction contractor for reminding me how it works to get the garage door open that way.  Did that alot when I updated the siding on the house.  With the vehicle and Aaron in the garage I went around the back of the house to assess the damage.  2 pieces of my deck furniture was on the grass.  Not exactly where I left it but in the grand scheme of things that was nothing compared to other damage I saw.  Blinds in the house open, a neighbor that could watch Aaron while I put the deck furniture back together and next thing I knew Aaron and I were having a little picnic of crackers on the floor playing with our iPads.  I figured we would get it back later that night.  We didn’t get our power back until 5:30 this morning.

So my plans were altered but then I think, I can take a vacation day and assess damage, clean up outside, clean inside, pack and pick up Aaron around 3 and make it to my family before it got dark.  The plan was perfect…until about 11:30 when my cell phone rang.  It was daycare and Aaron was having yet another reaction to something.  It couldn’t be food as he hadn’t really taken a bite of anything yet but his face was getting a bad rash and he was starting to have problems breathing.  I ran out the door and drove like a mad woman to daycare.  When I got him in my arms I decided at that point to just get to the Emergency Room.  So from noon to about 4:15 we were in the ER.  Liquid medicine and a breathing treatment and he was comfortable.

So in the last 24 hours our plans changed 4 times.  When all said and done Aaron is feeling better.  I am exhausted but it is OK because our house and my baby are OK.  It has been a crazy last 24 hours.

A wonderful Wednesday

Yesterday was a unique day.  It was good day.  The air conditioner company came over to the house and did a follow up on our new unit to make sure that it was working the way they expected.  I had to laugh because although I appreciate the follow up, I could tell them that it was working MUCH better.  There is now air flow within the house and when Aaron and I go to our second floor there is no longer this instant hit of warm air.  It is awesome. 

Although this was nice it wasn’t until the night began that the true wonderfulness happened.  My babysitter was at the house so I was able to get ready to go out with a close friend without a little one tugging at me for attention.  As she paid attention to Aaron I was able to tell her a few things and pick up the house a bit.  I love being able to do those kind of things while someone entertains Aaron.  It makes me feel normal.  And this is when things changed in my night.  I didn’t realize it until later this morning so I thought I would share. 

I realized that in that moment I felt “normal.”  Not new normal but NORMAL.  I felt like a single mom with the babysitter helper there to watch Aaron while I did the things easier done while he is entertained.  How is that different?  Well…for the first time I wasn’t the widow with the babysitter helper there to help watch Aaron while I caught up on all of the things that life has thrown me and do things easier done while Aaron is entertained.  Again, I didn’t realize this until later this morning.  As they played more I freshened up and got ready for my friend to pick me up to hang out.  I wasn’t the widow getting out of the house for the night for some much needed down time.  I was a single mom going out with a good friend where my friend would help me purchase a MacBook and then we would go out for sushi.  At the restaurant I heard a voice as we sat there chatting and when I looked back it was the girl that does my facials.  It was fun to run into someone else who knows my situation but treats me like a normal person.  The owners of the restaurant were getting a little crazy and somehow I caught some of the madness.  HA!  Normally this could lead to me being sad at the end of the night but I couldn’t have been happier.  I was having fun.  It was the most fun I have had in a long time and it was something so simple…so normal in life.

How did this all the sudden happen?  I don’t really know although I can be sure it wasn’t something that happened over night.  I don’t feel like I am defined as a widow.  Somehow as an underlying feeling I always defined myself as a widow and now for some reason I’m not.  Here are the facts.  I am a mom.  Aaron has two parents.  My husband died on May 9th, 2012.  Aaron’s dad died on May 9th, 2012.  And we will live life because that is what Jay would want.  Jay would not me to define myself as his widow for the rest of my life.  He would not want Aaron to define himself as “the boy whose dad died of a heart attack.” 

And that is why I had a wonderful Wednesday.