Wade in These Waters Pt. 3

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You know how they say “when it rains it pours”? Well, I hate that saying. Mostly because of how much truth it can hold. It’s amazing just how much can change in a year in your body. Each day, a mystery in a bad way. So much so that honestly, you dread going to sleep because you have no clue what the next day holds for you. One day to the next, completely exhausting. And all you truly want is to enjoy the happiness you finally have in your life.

You might remember in the last entry of this series all of my diagnosises up to this point. Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Arthritis, Dystonia, and the latest up that point, COPD.

It has been a whirlwind even since that last post. My vitamins have been out of whack, my fatigue has been in overload, my breathing has seen some very bad days, and some good days.

I want to go back for a moment to 2019. Towards the end of November 2019, I woke up one morning feeling as though I had a large grape sitting in my throat. After a couple hours went by, that grape began to feel more like I had a golf ball sitting in my throat. I decided at that point that I should go to the emergency room. The ER doctor did xrays, and some swabs for strep and told me I had tonsilitis. I was completely baffled considering I haven’t had tonsils since I was 11 years old. He gave me a steroid shot and sent me on my way. The steroid shot did seem to help the swelling in my throat go down. However, a couple of days later, I felt just absolutely horrible. I couldn’t breathe and just felt like complete crap. Two days after that, the hospital called me and said my strep culture had came back positive. A week from then, I was even worse so I went to a walk in clinic. I was so short of breath that by this point, I could barely even get up out of the recliner I had been sleeping in. I found out at this point that I had pneumonia. I stayed deathly sick for the next month.

Over the next year, I had a couple of problems here and there with my breathing and while at one walk in clinic visit, I mentioned how from time to time, my throat swells up and feel like a golf ball in sitting in it. That particular doctor told me that if it continued, I needed to get my thyroid checked.

By November of 2020, I was exhausted. I had since been diagnosed with Lupus along with all of my other things and was feeling beat down. And just like a repeat of the year before, I began to get so sick again. Next came a slew of doctor’s visits, and even a couple of ambulance calls. By January of 2021, I had had enough. I had my doctor refer me to a pulmonary specialist and of course, as stated before, after breathing tests, and a catscan of my lungs, was diagnosed with COPD (stage 3).

Over the past year, I have had problems with the thing (golf ball) swelling up in my throat and began to notice that certain foods triggered it. So, one by one, I began cancelling foods out. I can’t eat pizza, can’t eat spaghetti, can’t eat sloppy joes, can’t eat blah blah blah. But over the past 2 months, it began to swell and not go down. So, my primary doctor set me up for an ultrasound on my thyroid.

Fast forward to last week. My primary doctor’s office called me to set up a slew of appointments discussed in our last appointment. Before she let me go, I had to press her to remind her of my ultrasound and she looked in my file and realized that they were in there. I was immediatley scared as she told me they found multiple nodules on my thyroid.

Now, I wait. I wait with this golf ball in my throat. The thyroid specialist couldn’t get me in until July 28th. And I am also waiting on a GI specialist appointment because I am having so much trouble swallowing.

I’m overwhelmed with so much frustration. My primary doctor for years moved to the beach and didn’t tell any of his patients and I got stuck with a doctor that is very old and only works 2 days a week, which I am quickly realizing is not available enough for me with all of my health problems. He also seems very absent minded and confused which frustrates me greatly. I have decided that as soon as all of my referrals are set up, I am finding another primary doctor immediately.

It’s heartbreaking and so frustrating to be surrounded by doctors whom you feel don’t care about you. The only one I can say cares a great deal about me is my pulmonary doctor. He is incredible.

I daydream all of the time. I dream of what life could be like without all of these health problems. I have an incredible daughter who has a whole future ahead of her, and a man whom I am so in love with that sometimes I want to pinch myself. I want to spend my entire life with him. I want that to be a long life.

I embrace and cherish every moment in my life now. The sun’s brightness feels different on my skin. When my significant other and I are working with our plants and garden in our yard, it is the greatest times I cherish. Cooking meals for him and my daughter are moments that I don’t take for granted. Making them muffins so they have a great breakfast snack. Making his lunches every night before work the next day means everything to me. To be providing for others while I can, and praying that I can do it for many years to come.

I don’t dwell on these appointments coming up. I can’t. I would lose my mind entirely with obsession if I am not careful. Life is too important to focus on things you can’t change. I want to love. With my whole heart. And even if the only adventures I go on right now are the ones in the garden with him, or in the car going down the road with my daughter, they are the greatest adventures in the whole wide world.

Cry of the Blackbird Pt. 3

When you’re younger, you never dream of getting to the day where you have to begin to watch any of your loved ones dwindle away. The truth is, you also plow through your own life thinking you’re untouchable. Eating what you want, doing spontaneous things with an indirect carelessness. Never thinking of the later in life consequences that will be waiting. When those days come, they slam into you like a ton of bricks.

I can remember very clearly the seldom good memories that surround my adolescent years. I can tell you with absolution that most every one of them involve my grandparents. They hold such a huge piece of this puzzle that has been my life.

I can hear my grandmother’s laugh. Her incredible sense of humor lit up the entire room every single second she was present, and you absolutely noticed when she wasn’t around. Her immense sense of innocence from the time she grew up in was so humbling, and honestly to us growing up, hilarious. No matter what, she loved people with her whole heart. Even when they treated her unfair or unloving. She was the direct reflection of Christ. She cooked the greatest of meals, and had a perfect medical remedy for any sickness or ailment you were suffering. It was all right there in a medical search book that was almost bigger than she was.

The most fondest of times throughout my life was watching the love between her and my grandfather. 70 years of marriage and not a second of love lost. A type of relationship that will almost die with their generation. Her being 16 when they married, and living of poverty that most people only read about. I’ve heard time and time again, throughout my entire life, the horrors of their starvation, kids left wanting, tears from not knowing what they were going to do, but also the beautiful stories of togetherness, all the way up until the time my grandfather miraculously got the job that would change their life forever. It’s a story for the books. A story for the world. In the most humbling of sorts, and I want to hear it over and over. I hear something new every time that I do. The part that strikes me as rare, and as the realest form of love, is the fact that throughout all of these years of struggles and fear, they never faltered in their love for one another and their family. They never gave up on each other, even when they wanted to.

My grandmother, the great mother of this whole family, went through so much in her life. An alcoholic father, and a detached and seemingly emotionless mother. Yet, when you meet her, she is one of the most selfless, caring, and loving people you will ever meet in your life. She is one of the rarities that go through trauma, struggles and strife, and make it out in the end making the tough decision to not only not let it define her, but also choosing to love all people right where they are. She incredibly chose to love them with an unconditional love and kindness that is immeasurable. No matter what you were going through, she saw through the bad and could always find the good in anyone.

I can look back on an extensive amount of time I took for granted with my grandparents. Beautiful times I simply flushed down the toilet being selfish, being absent, and most of all, being angry in the most evil of ways. The way I spoke to them and the way I treated them and walked all over them is something that haunts me to this day. Being overly passive, they let me walk all over them. And absolutely never gave up on me. They are two that I can say with absolute certainty, that 100% believed in me, and loved me through every very horrible moment up to this very day. They were and are the reason that I learned the very basic of skills that started me out in this world and kept me alive in the hardest of times. Times that someone of such a young age should never have to experience. I credit them for the gift of prayers, protection, and immense amounts of love that at that time, and sometimes even now, I didn’t and don’t understand, and definitely didn’t and don’t feel I deserve. But my grandmother, she is the one that stands out. My best friend, my confidant. The one person I have always ran to when things were crumbling and completely hopeless. Always having the greatest words of encouragement, and never failing to remind me that I was capable of anything and everything in this great big world.

I never, not in a million years, thought that I would watch my grandparents dwindle away to nothing. My grandfather, now 92, is ate up with Parkinson’s disease, shaking and stumbling around, stubbornly, on a walker, and stumbling around like the tin man. He spends all of his days planted on the couch, a prisoner to his body, falling asleep and drooling on himself. I try to reach back in my mind and picture him out in his building tinkering with a new project, perfectly manicuring his perfect yard. Labeling everything, down to the fly-swatter and each lightbulb throughout the house with the date purchased, and/or the first date used. The memories of those days are fading from my memory, and being replaced with these sad days on repeat.

My grandmother, now going to be 87 this month, is just a shell of herself. Dementia tearing away at her entire being. You yearn in each moment with her to reach in and pull out that comforter, to watch her put on her signature red lipstick, to hear her incredibly encouraging words to pick you back up, but instead, each sad moment, current and long ago, playing on repeat in her mind like a skipping record. The recent death of her sister, the recent death of her pastor’s wife, her brother being in horrible health and on a defibrillator. All seeming to bounce around in her mind like a pinball machine and as each one makes its way to the front, she voices it again, as if it’s the first time.

We can’t and shouldn’t tell her any of the sad things anymore. Most in the family are the doing the selfish thing and telling her anyway. Which is the ultimate selfish act. It’s like writing in a diary that reads it back to you. I don’t. I no longer confide in her, or fish for her encouraging words. I cherish the days that they are offered naturally. There is no red lipstick, hair is never brushed, and she is always in the same outfit with the same house robe on top of it. She waddles around, door to door in the house, sitting blankly on the porch. Day in and day out, the same day over again. I want to hold her. I want to tell her everything is going to be ok.

She repeats a story to me. We took care of her mother who had and ultimately passed with Alzheimer’s disease. She has always repeated the same thing to me. I will go any way the Lord wants me to, I just ask him not to take my mind. And now, here it is. The one thing she didn’t want to happen. She still repeats it, even in her deteriorating state, that everyday she prays to hold onto her mind, and that home-health says she is doing great, even though we know she’s not.

I’m sure the black bird’s cry is louder than ever. I yearn to peek into that realm even if for just a moment to see what they’re seeing, to hear what they are hearing, to think what they are thinking, and to feel what they are feeling. But it’s for selfish reasons. If only just to comfort myself on the feeling of having already lost them, or even to understand it a bit better when it’s time for them to fly away swiftly with those waiting on them.

The grass grows up past the sidewalk now. The flowerbeds choked with weeds. Building in the backyard, in the past filled with noise of new projects being completed, now sitting in rot in the overgrown yard. A lonely shrill in the air. A sadness in the waiting and the not knowing. An almost beautiful feeling in thinking that every time you’re there with them, is the last. Teaching you, and forcing you to cherish each and every second of the time spent with the parts of them that are not already gone. For now, the black birds compete with the song of the blue birds, which is a lasting hope I’m holding onto.

Faith and Forgiveness

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I feel adrift in this crazy world,

Never knowing what’s coming next.

Being pulled in every direction,

Mostly feeling vexed.

I often feel as if I am on the outside looking in,

Never making up for things I’ve done,

Never feeling a win.

But there’s a hope within me,

And a love that grows each day.

A light like sunshine,

That floods in to extinguish the gray.

I’m clinging to an optimism,

that maybe it’s not too late.

And a prayer that after forgiveness,

I can start with a clean slate.

I’m feeling undeserving,

In the most vulnerable way.

The fight is on for survival,

The fear must subside today.

On my knees begging,

For the chance to show some change.

Whatever I have to do,

And fully prepared to fully rearrange.

So, I’ll walk through this door,

with faith instead of worry.

For once try and slow my mind down,

And not be in such a hurry.

Laying my insides out,

And stop living for everyone else.

Fighting away a doom that makes me want to shout,

Finally placing procrastination on a shelf.

No matter the outcome,

I’m still here in the now.

Thankful for the blessings,

And not questioning the why and the how.

I will love til my last breath,

asking everyone to not be sad.

So incredibly grateful for family and lessons,

Not spending another single second mad.

I encourage you to be raw and open,

And to never waste each chance.

And to never give up, no matter what,

Life is fleeting, love is priceless, and our time here on this earth one big and beautiful dance.

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Leather Face

I think tonight, just once, I won’t look at myself. Each glimpse, like a dagger in my heart.

I looked in the future, just a dim light. Those I love, falling around me like the years I’ve viewed, seemingly, fleeting.

Each wrinkle on my skin, like pieces of leather, and yet, I have hated the sun all my 36 years. I’ve mostly lived not knowing the kinds of losses others know. For you have to have things and people first to truly lose them.

But now, oh now, the two people I’ve loved truly, melt before my feet while I scrub their kitchen counters hoping, by some chance of rare fate, they will come back to me. But alas, the local news screams in the background, and they, in their weakness, drool on themselves while dozed off on the couch.

My grandma tried to put her pajamas on over her pants tonight, and stumbles on which day and month it is. And for the 13th time today, told me how precious I am to her, and cried. If only she knew, her brown eyes turned blue, had saved my life more times than a few, then maybe, just maybe, she’d come back. But they never come back, do they?

She called me the other night, over and over. Standing at her medication as if frozen on repeat. Did I take my medicine? So it’s…Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday….. and today is..Wednesday? Over and over, I had to explain to her. And I did so, with patience. The next day, she remembered just briefly calling me and cried again. Gave several excuses as to why she just didn’t have a good day that day….

I am constantly reaching. Most times without knowing exactly what I’m reaching for. As if even if someone handed me a star right out of the sky, it wouldn’t ever be enough. A void never able to be filled. A dis-satisfied piece of blob of mere existence.

I’m not angry, and have forgiven most of the causes of my sadness, but they have taught me hard lessons. Ones that will long stick with me, following me, constantly reminding me the paths not to go down, the choices not to make, the people not to trust, what to hold onto, and what to let go of.

Sometimes, I want to jump in anyways, but there’s always hesitations, reservations. The truth is, I find that there are many nights I find it hard to look at myself for many different reasons. I think it should tell me something, but have not yet pinpointed its message just yet. But I’m sure in time, it will reveal itself. And I will record it on my shadow to lug around with me to display spiritually.

I will watch as the grands disappear before my eyes, and in that, I will learn to accept what we can’t keep. And how to truly say goodbye, for the first time, to someone I don’t want to say goodbye to.

Cry of the Blackbird Pt. 2

pawpaw and us

March 2020, my grandfather, still in rehab, watched and listened as the world began to crumble. A plague of sorts, not his first of course, had began to ravish the United States. All the while, my sister and I panicked. We begged my mom and uncle to remove him from the nursing home. It no longer mattered to us that his time in rehab since his hospital stay had not yet reached the 21 day insurance order.

I had already began to see the nightmare that was happening in other states to long-term living facilities, and rehab facilities. They were the first places to begin to be locked down. The patients, like prisoners. No visitors. Families that were lucky enough to have loved ones near a window talking through glass. Confused and mentally disabled patients not understanding why their loved ones or visitors wouldn’t just come inside and sit for a while. Then, like a catastrophe, as one elderly patient got sick, therein followed 10-20 more getting sick. All locked inside with each other. Most facilities such as this, seemingly left to their own devices. CNAs and nurses within the facilities pretty much locked inside with them, their only care.

The days started to go by. Being high risk, I was the first to tell my family, and especially my grandfather and grandmother that I could no longer visit to protect myself and my daughter. It was devastating to me. For years, it had just been myself, and my sister when she was in town, taking care of my grandparents. And there had already been turmoil come between us and everyone else once my Uncle had gotten Power of Attorney.

Everything seemed to be like something out of the twilight zone. A dark cloud of sadness in slow motion. My grandfather’s health seemed to improve. The doctor’s decided to release him. It had already been 2 weeks since I had seen him at all.

On his last week in the rehab facility, very intimidating health officials showed up with orders. They locked down the facility and no longer allowed anyone inside, with the exception of close family. My grandmother faithfully had one of us drop her off each day. She had to have her temperature checked before she could enter the front door. And even after that, the officials would decide if they wanted her to enter.

Finally, one day, my mom and uncle arranged and ok’d it for my grandfather to leave. It was as though the grace of God worked his favor on us, because as soon as we got my grandfather home, the next day they began to lock down the facility completely, just as all of those facilities we had heard nightmare stories about in other states.

We were blessed to have watched such a turn around in my grandfather’s health. He had went from shaking like the tremors of an earthquake, and severe memory loss, along with hallucinations, to back his normal self by the time we got him home. Although, even that is not 100% because he’s 91 years old with Parkinson’s Disease.

In the months since, we have seen a tornado of change. Sacrifices by the plenty. Weeks at a time not being able to be in the same room with the grands. Depending on who had possibly been exposed to the virus.

I think at first, back in April, most of us wanted to believe that this virus had been blown out of proportion, even myself, the hypochondriac that I am. However, it didn’t take long for me to fully convince myself that this was the worst. In comparison with the Spanish Flu, dated in the 1950s, this was our depression.

Around May, my grandmother’s mind seemed to deteriorate with intensity. And her complaints about roaring in her ears also intensified. Her balance was not great, and had not been great since about August of 2019, because of Vertigo and Meniere’s disease, which is chronic. This year alone, I can’t count the amount of times I have thought to myself, is this hell, or the twilight zone??

Because of an extreme fear of birds, mainly fearing that they will defecate on me, lol, I’ve also thought it strange that the thought had to cross my mind that a possible slew of birds were taking over my grandparent’s brains. Crazy yes, but after having them my whole life, and now quickly seeing that disappear right before my eyes, I can’t help but not dismiss any excuse I can come up with to explain to me why they have to go one day.

At the end of May, I decided to visit them through their front door, like visiting a prisoner, wrongly convicted. I had them come to the door and sing Amazing Grace with me in harmony, and had my daughter video it. It is something I regret not doing more when they were in better health, but also something I will always truly cherish. Music is something so expressive in my family, like a letter you’re writing that you never quite finish. And no matter how old I get, I can close my eyes and remember being little and waking up on Saturday mornings, the whole house filled with the smell of bacon and eggs, and hearing my grandparents in the kitchen singing and harmonizing with each other. It is one of the memories out of my dark, harum-scarum childhood, that I will always cherish the most.

I consider myself to be quite a strong person, to a point, but also quite vulnerable at times. Looking past my fears of the birds for a moment, I can’t help but admit, I want to hear them. Even if just for a moment, I wanna know what they are hearing and feeling. And I want to take it from them. I want to see my grandfather working in his shop in the back yard again, or sneaking a dip in the laundry room. I want to see my grandmother laughing so hard at me that she cries, cackling. I want to see her understand when we are making a joke, and for my grandfather to even be able to hear me at all when I am talking to him. My mind stays in chaos trying to discover ways I can bring them back around, even though deep down, I am also trying to find a way to let go and accept that what they are now, is what I am blessed with for however long until their ailments worsen, or til they’re gone for good.

Most people think of cardinals as the spiritual presence of a loved one, but as for myself, I follow the black birds, hiding so I see them, but that they may not see me. I will always see them as the loved ones who are screeching around us, decade after decade, generation after generation, watching us succeed, watching us fail, watching us grow old as they did, and waiting for us to one day, join them…