Breathing it in

So, lately I’ve been doing a lot of Barre3 and yoga, and it has gotten me thinking about all the craziness since my last post. One core tenet of B3 is learning to “Breathe through chaos,” i.e. learning to not to lose your s*** when your quads and hamstrings feel like they are bursting into flames. I have found over the last few months that this can be applied to a LOT of things in life. The last time I posted – at the beginning of October – I remember going into that month thinking “Whew, this one is going to be crazy…can’t wait for November’s calm.”

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Post-yoga, glowy, happy, relaxed…and yet totally not representative of the last 3 months of my life.

Wrong. So very wrong. Something about this past Holiday and post-Holiday season has had this unstoppable inertia, and all we’ve been able to do is cling for dear life. I mean, we’re finding ways to thrive in the midst of the chaos, but it really has been a wild one, in ways both wonderful and heartbreaking.

October swept in with wedding dress shopping trip with my niece (spoiler: We had success AND I picked out the winning dress! Huzzah! I may never stop crowing about that…). Every week was filled with kid-shuffling and work-hustling. Still no daycare for Odin (shooting out to March for a spot) and I was still handling quarter end stuff as well as going into Q4, and just in general it was a lot going on. Every weekend we had some sort of commitment, coupled with birthday party planning for Odin’s 1st and Henry’s 3rd birthdays. Having two kids with birthdays exactly two years apart (almost to the day) is a really great thing in some ways. At least right now, while they’re little, it makes everything a little simpler. But I anticipate it will actually make everything far more complicated when they are older. As it is, the proximity of all three boys’ birthdays to Christmas is a real financial bear for us. But somehow we make it all work – for now, anyways. I have resolved once again to start my Christmas purchases in July so that we don’t get hit with a whammy right around November, but we’ll see if I actually make good on that resolution.

November had about two weeks of relative quiet before it was time for Thanksgiving and then our first kid-free getaway in nearly four years. Adding two babies exactly two years apart is not only physically insane, it’s just logistically wacky. We haven’t really had a chance to come up for air since about 2014, but we finally got a few days to relax and just be us again the weekend after Thanksgiving. We stayed at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, easily one of my favorite cities in the country (not that I’m an “avid” traveler, but I would do more of it if I could). We drank pistachio-rose almond lattes (ok…I DRANK those and he made fun of me, and I don’t care). We ate AMAZING FOOD (so. much. food. yum.). We walked around a ton and enjoyed all the Bohemian weirdness of Asheville. We slept, I took three baths in the ridiculously deep tub in our room, and I took my very first trip to a Lululemon store (where I bought nothing, because #CommitmentPhobe).

All in all, it was incredible, and we had no idea then how much we’d need that with what December and January held in store for us.

In December, Jonathan’s dad took a turn for the worst and it dawned on us that we could very well lose him in 2018. He wound up in the hospital the week we went on our family Disney World trip, and it was a nail biter the whole time. We had a group of 20, so logistics were complex to say the least, and by the end of the whole wonderful thing, we were all overdosed on magic and deliciously exhausted. For about 3 hours…and then I got the stomach bug on the way home. We spent the second leg of our trip back from Orlando stopping on the interstate so I could lose my lunch. I mean, when you’re hearkening back to labor breathing to get you through a basic road trip, you know it’s bad. I don’t remember being that sick in a long time, but I knew it would pass in 18-24 hours like most stomach bugs. Around the time I started getting better, 13 of our group of 20 had all come down with the very same bug. To top it off, I had also developed an upper respiratory “thing” while at Disney, so I had lost my voice on day 3 of our trip, and was super sick over the week leading up to Christmas. You can’t imagine how convenient it is for your small children (and inconvenient for you) to lose your voice at Disney World of all places. Because of this, Jonathan was the only person in our family who could really safely visit his dad, and even then he kind of had to keep his distance. Right around the time we returned from Disney, we got word that his doctors had told them it was time to bring on an in-home hospice care.

You think you’re prepared for loss because you’ve been dealing with something for a while. Cancer is like that a lot of times…it sucks, you’re sad – heartbroken – but you have known this day was coming. Right? That’s what we thought. Jonathan and I would have late night conversations when he returned from helping his mom and dad, that last week of December, and he’d tell me about how bad his dad was doing. Still cracking jokes, but unable to get a full breath. Eating less each day. Sleeping more. Groggier by the day. The tumors in his right lung had taken over the entire show and he was just along for the ride. By the last few days, my mother in law had maybe had a few hours of sleep each day, spread out into 15 minute increments.

We said “Well, we may only have a few months.” That was December 25th. That was the last day I saw Ken. He grabbed my hand before we left from Christmas morning brunch and said he enjoyed the french toast casserole. Then he squeezed my hand and said “Don’t give up on my, girl. I’m still fighting.” Those are the last words he said to me, and I didn’t know why it made me cry, but I think that was goodbye for him.

Then by New Year’s Eve, we said “Well, we may only have a few weeks.” Jonathan went to the house that night to help his mom and he rang in 2018 at his dad’s side. They talked, joked, and they kept Ken company and made him comfortable. He was in and out of sleep.

By New Year’s Day, we said “…Maybe only days.” It got worse. Jonathan was there in the evening on New Year’s Day, watching bowl games with his dad and helping his mom with Ken’s care. He got home around 11:30 pm and was completely shocked at how fast this was happening, how severe the changes were. And still we said “Maybe only days,” because that’s what you say when all you hope for is tomorrow. Just tomorrow.

At 2 am on January 2nd, we got a call from Jonathan’s mom and I could hear the panic in her voice. It was happening. Jonathan was out the door in probably 30 seconds and I stayed awake staring at the ceiling for a long time. What was happening over there? What kind of chaos? Or was it an eerie calm? I’ve never seen someone die before, and up until that point, neither had Jonathan. I tried to stay awake, pray, wait for a call, but I ended up falling asleep about 20 minutes after he left. Then the phone range around 4 am and I knew before I picked up why he was calling. Jonathan’s dad had passed from this world into the next around 3:45 am.

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A one of a kind man.

The acceleration of his deterioration at the end was humbling. Life is FRAGILE. Our minds are strong for a time. Our bodies are strong for a time. But everything about us is so damn fragile, and we don’t get it. We can’t do anything but just lean into that and take care of one another. All the Instagram-level bullshit of “training like a badass,” or “fighting through it,” or “Being unstoppable” is so tired, for me, at this point. We are not badass. I am not a badass because I have three kids. I am not a badass because I find a way to be reasonably healthy. We can only fight for so long. We ARE, by our very nature, quite¬†stoppable. We are finite.

We are strong, but our lives are fragile.

Accept it. Breathe it in. This air is temporary. This is all a mirage on the way to something much more beautiful. Today is today, but it is not tomorrow, and nothing is promised. Enjoy this temporary mirage. It is brimming with struggle and beauty.

Doing yoga the day after he died, I was crying basically the whole time, because I was literally sitting there, soaking up the fact that I could breathe air deep into my belly and my father in law hadn’t been able to do that in such a long time. The burden that must’ve been on him overwhelmed me. I miss him laugh and I miss his gnarly and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor. Russ has had a pretty tough time with it, but we’re going to do some family counseling to try to help him find ways to cope. Jonathan and I spend a lot of time talking about his dad, and about the fact that something changes when you lose a parent. I’m TERRIFIED of losing my parents, y’all. For so many reasons. My dad is such a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy that I worry sometimes he’ll just be kicking ass one day and flying away the next. Especially now, I fear that day.

When you lose your parents, you see, you’re not someone’s kid anymore. As long as they walk the Earth, there is someone who can still see the child you once were. Once they are gone, there’s this sense that you’re just a little more grown up than you were before they left. At least, that’s how Jonathan and I pin-pointed it. We’re not jaded enough just yet to think we’re “total grown ups.” Where my mom and dad are concerned, they will always remember “little” Becky. There’s a comfort and a sweetness in that fact that nobody else can really quite replicate.

I’ll tell you what, though. After losing Ken, it has been such a blessing to have Jonathan’s mom over here at our house more. I think it helps both of them with their grieving, and the boys and I love having her around. The exhaustion she was carting around was immense. If you remember that scene in “Forrest Gump” where Jenny comes home and sleeps for days, that’s how it was – she just slept so much, she was so thoroughly exhausted. And then she got up and got her hair done, went to lunch with a few friends, and things like that. And we were SO FREAKIN’ PROUD. That’s toughness. We talk about being a “badass” in our society like being able to squat a certain amount equates to that, but that’s stupid. Being able to lose your soul mate and keep going is badass.

Did I mention I hate the term “badass?” More every day. I think sometimes we say it because we don’t know what else to say (I’ve been guilty of this before, I’m sure, but I’m really working on removing it from my vernacular because it’s just really empty and vapid). Let’s start calling it what we think it is. Perseverance. Strength. Gumption. Ingenuity. Challenge your vocabulary a bit.

This is the kind of photo you use to guilt pharmacy staff into due diligence.

So that was how 2018 kicked off. Since all of that happened, we’ve again been hit by a round of flu (Flu A – two positives so far) and so we’re muddling through that along with about a bazillion other people. This means tracking down Tamiflu in a town where everybody and their cat have flu at the moment. Yesterday was a wild goose chase after getting a prescription from our pediatrician for a round each for Odin and Henry. When I finally got the prescription transferred to a pharmacy I’d heard had stock, it was all I could do to maintain my composure over an hour-long debacle at the pharmacy for pick up. They only had enough children’s suspension liquid for Odin – not Henry. They told me “Sorry, try again tomorrow.” Considering Henry was on day 1 of being sick with it, I knew it would probably be too late by tomorrow. I also knew, after interviewing the pharmacy unit at Children’s Hospital a few months back, that there are ways to get creative with adult dosage for kids. In this case, Tamiflu capsules can be broken open – in the right dosage – and stirred into applesauce or baby food for a child who may not want to take a capsule. My pediatrician had instructed me to ask for this if they were out of children’s suspension. This is how that went down.

“We only have the one scrip for Odin, there’s not enough for Henry in the children’s.”

“Can you look at doing the adult version capsules instead?”

“Sorry, ‘mam, we’re out of the children’s and you’ll just have to try again tomorrow.”

“Let me ask, when your truck came in today with this Tamiflu shipment, did you only have enough for one child, or was there a waiting list and a lottery, like Packers season tickets? I’m curious.” (Pharm tech looks at me like I’m asking for the location of the lost Ark)

“What do you mean, ‘mam?”

“What I mean is…I’m just trying to understand if it’s a supply issue, an overdemand issue…you know. How much did you get in, and where’d it all go? And why can’t we look into subbing the adult formula capsules in the equivalent dosage? Help me understand.”

“Uhhhh…hey guys, how much children’s Tamiflu did we get in today?”

(WHOLE FREAKING STAFF:) “Uh…hmm…I dunno…”

“NO. We’re not doing this.” I pulled out my phone and grabbed the picture I took of Henry lying sick on the couch today. “THIS person needs you guys to put on your critical thinking caps so that he can get better sooner. There’s just no reason you can’t call the pediatrician who prescribed it.”

“Well, ‘mam, you could call them and ask them to send a different script…”

“Again. NO. I’ve done my part. I’m here to pick up a prescription for Tamiflu for my kid. You are professionals. Please call _________ (called out the number…twice) and get this straightened out. I have an English degree…I am not qualified to tell you and a doctor how to communicate. I’ll wait.”

Ten minutes later, I walked out with meds for both my kids and quite a few dirty looks.

But you know what? I don’t care. I’m doing the best I can. Mama Grizzly sounds real funny to folks until they meet her in person, and that’s okay. Maybe I’m a bitch. Maybe I’m a “badass,” whatever the hell that means. Maybe I’m just breathing through the chaos.

…you know, trying to hold back from kicking over a display of cough drops next to the pharmacy counter. Normal stuff like that.