lastmandystanding

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Blogger. Aspiring writer. Smartass. But you'll probably still want to be my friend.

Archive for the tag “family”

Umm…there’s no prize or anything

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Let me just start this off with a healthy dose of honesty – I am FULL of awesome ideas. But every once in a while, I pull one out of the ol’ bad idea box and run with it. Those are the ones that usually seem like great ideas at the time, and only reveal their crappiness at a later date.

To better understand this particular story, I should give a little bit of a background here. My sister and I are like two peas in a pod. And our dad was the third pea. The three of us were so much alike in our personalities, our sense of humor, the way we would tease each other. So when his last birthday came around – our first without him – we felt we needed to do something together…something special.

I took the day off work, and we started out eating breakfast at a local diner – one that my family has eaten at for years, kind of a family favorite. At breakfast, we talked a little bit about what we thought we should do for the rest of the day. The goal was to just honor our dad on his birthday and try not to start crying.

We thought we’d get some balloons, write messages to dad on them, and release them down by the river. Simple enough, right? WRONG. There was a national shortage of helium (seriously), so finding helium-filled balloons proved to be not such an easy task. On our third trip to a store trying to find helium, we found some pre-filled mylar foil balloons – one that said “happy birthday” and the other was just a smiley face. Alright, fine. That’s just going to have to do.

As we were looking around the store, we stumbled across this package of yellow rubber ducks. One big one, and two smaller ones. GENIUS!! The big one is dad, and the two smaller ones are US! Omigosh, it’s PERFECT! So we got the two balloons, the package of rubber ducks, a black sharpie, party hats and a 2-pack of Butterfinger candy bars – dad’s favorite – and we headed on down to the river.

To help you paint a mental picture, we drove separately down to the river and parked right along the edge and I got into my sister’s car. Lucky us, we pulled up next to some old dude in a truck who didn’t really try to hide the “WTF?” expression on his face as we took turns with the sharpie, writing the messages on our balloons, going back and forth from tears to laughter. We had the windows rolled partially down, and his were completely down, so he really had a front seat to our little freak show.

I decided to have a little fun with things, so I took the rubber ducks out and started drawing on them. I drew broken hearts on the chests of the two little ones (obviously), and wrote my and my sister’s names on the bottom. Then, I drew my dad’s trademark necklace, his two tattoos, an earring, and hair on the big duck. The resemblance was uncanny.

Then – in a stroke of genius – I had the best idea ever. (Me to my sister: “hey – let’s put ‘if found, please call [my phone #]’ on the ducks and the balloons to see how far they go!”) Ok. Fine. Maybe I’ve seen one too many “Message in a Bottle” type movies. Whatever. My thought at the time was that, say…if it traveled an hour away, NEXT year for dad’s birthday, we would do the same thing from wherever that location was, and so on an so forth. Y’know, kinda like a “grief around the world” type thing.

So… On two balloons and one of the ducks (the biggest), I wrote my phone number and “If found, please call”. We released the balloons, and after a very slow start, they were up, up, and away. The ducks, on the other hand, were little bastards. We took turns tossing ours into the water, and watched them float about 20 feet, and then they just kinda hugged and kissed the shoreline for a good ten minutes. We finally left with the notion that the river current would carry them further downstream.

I need to add something here so that you have a better idea of where this is going. I live in the Midwest, and one thing about us Midwesterners is that we LOVE us some festivals. Parades, food, carnival rides and craft shows all centered around some sort of theme – a flower, a gourd, a bird, etc. Some of these festivals kick off with some “treasure hunt” type shenanigans, which involves reading clues and hunting all over the city for this special object. Once found, the finder is given instructions to “call this number” to verify the authenticity of the object. The super sleuth who finds it is awarded with some very nice prizes – a cruise, goods and services from local businesses, etc. It’s a pretty big deal around here. And it just so happens that my dad’s birthday was one week after one of these festivals.

Fast-forward to a few days after my dad’s birthday. My phone rings. It’s a local number, but not one I’m familiar with. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hello?”
Caller: (with TONS of enthusiasm) “Hi, yeah, I’m calling this number because I found this duck!”
Me: (thinking OMG, yay, it worked!) “yeah, where did you find it?”
Caller: (still enthusiastic) “It was floating in the river down by (MyTown) bridge, so I picked it up and called the number!”
Me: (well that SUCKS. That’s freaking EXACTLY where I put the little bastard in the water) <– and that’s actually exactly what I said to her.
….. LONG PAUSE …..
Me: “Uhhmmm…yeah…there’s no prize or anything, I’m sorry. We just—It was— We just wanted to see how far it would go.”
Caller: “Oh. Ok.” <– and it wasn’t cheerful, like “Oh. Ok. No biggie, thanks anyway” It was more like “Oh. Ok. EFF YOU AND YOUR STUPID SCIENCE PROJECT.”
POP! went her bubble. She probably would’ve punched me and spit in my eye if we were face to face.
…… END OF CONVERSATION …

At this point, I was half pissed, and half amused. I was pissed that the stupid rubber duck traveled a whopping ZERO FEET in three days, but super amused that this chick found the duck, bee-lined her ass to a phone and called the rubber ducky prize hotline, only to be met with “Uhhhmm…yeah, there’s no prize or anything.” What a dick move on my part, right?

So I told my sister about it. We laughed and agreed that dad was most certainly getting a kick out of all of this. End of story. –WRONG.

A few more days pass, and again, local phone number unknown to me, is calling my phone. I answer.

Me: “Hello?”
Caller: (with TONS of enthusiasm) “Hi, yeah, I’m calling because I found this duck and it said to call this number!”
Me: (thinking to myself – you have GOT to be shitting me) “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. There’s actually not a prize or anything. It was something we did for my dad’s birthd—just never mind. I’m sorry. But, since you called, can I ask where you found it?”
Caller: “It was floating in the river down by (MyTown) bridge.”
Me: “Of course it was. Thanks for calling.”
She hung up on me.

Again – half pissed, half amused. PISSED because this meant that the first caller, probably in a fit of rage over not winning anything on the rubber ducky prize hotline, just launched that sucker right back into the river, probably cussing me the whole time….which set Caller #2 up for HER letdown. AMUSED because – well… for the very same reason.

I figured that this last chick – since she hung up on me – would just throw the duck in the garbage. Then again, I thought the first woman would have done the same thing. I was wrong on both counts.

So another several days pass. By this time, it’s been about two weeks since my dad’s birthday, and over a week since I heard from the last would-be rubber duck millionaire. So imagine my surprise when I received a call from a MAN that went a little something like this:

Me: “Hello?”
Caller: (again with the enthusiasm right outta the gate) “Hey there, I found this duck floatin’ in the river and it had this phone number on it!”
Me: (Sigh with head-shaking)“Can I ask where you found it?”
Caller: “I found it in (MyTown) down at the (MyTown) bridge.”
Me: “Yeah…it’s been there for two weeks. It was just something we did to see how far it would go, but apparently it’s broken. I’m sorry…there’s not a prize or anything.”
Caller: “oh…” – Mr. Happy Pants has left the building and has been replaced with Mr. Pissy Pants.
Me: “Would you mind doing me a favor and just throw the thing in the garbage for me. Don’t throw it back in the river.”
Caller: “yeah.” —dial tone.

I have to believe he actually did throw it away, because I never heard from anyone else.

This whole thing had me so perturbed. I mean REALLY – can’t a girl just try out an awesome idea without it backfiring in her face by getting three total strangers pissed off at her? Can people not be so greedy? They call up all nice-y nice sweetie pie, and then one “I’m sorry, but there’s no prize or anything” and they turn into a-holes. I mean, these people were seriously…pissed…off. I’m sorry, but did someone sneak some writing onto the duck that said “If found please call this number TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE???” I think not. I didn’t promise anything. I just said “If found, please call”. I mean, it’s not like it was a briefcase or a bag of money floating. It was A RUBBER DUCK FLOATING IN WATER. That’s pretty much their sole purpose. And while I’m on that subject, can someone find me a damn rubber duck that might actually FLOAT? Is THAT too much to ask? Well, technically, I guess “floating” wasn’t really the issue. He actually really excelled at that particular area. But how about one that might actually flow with a current or something? I mean it was very early fall, so I know boats were still traveling through. You’d think some wake action might move the damn thing along. Nope. Not my duck. Mine was a stubborn little $h!t that apparently came with an anchor.

You had ONE JOB, rubber duck. ONE JOB.

But then I just couldn’t stop thinking of how awesome it would’ve been to actually SEE all of this. And the more I told about these people calling me thinking they’d won something and me shooting them down when I tried to explain what I thought was a great idea, the more I realized it really just needed to be told on a broader spectrum…because it’s just absolutely typical of things that only happen to me.

I think we can all take away a valuable lesson from all of this. Well, maybe two lessons. #1 – I’m putting my sister’s phone number on things from now on. #2 – Nicholas Sparks and Sting are both full of CRAP and they can just knock it off with their “Message in a Bottle” crappery that puts such stupid ideas and CRAP in the heads of sentimental fools like me. And again I say CRAP.

But all in all, I got exactly what I wanted – something that brought honor to my dad, and did so in a way that he would have LOVED. With each phone call when I was having to explain myself, hearing the “whammy” sounder in my head as I let these greedy bastards down, feeling dumber and dumber about my idea, I could hear his cackling laughter. I have no doubt that he orchestrated the whole thing. I don’t know what we’ll do for his next birthday, but I’m not sure anything else could have quite the “bite me in the ass” backfire effect that this did. But if it does…I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

Five Thirty-One Twelve

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve written about my funny dating stories, my trust issues, relationships, my quirkiness, funny, light-hearted stuff, etc.  I’ve even written about my mom.  But I haven’t written much about the first man I ever loved – the last man on earth that I trusted completely with my heart and my life…my dad.  I had started writing a piece about him a few months ago, but could never get it “just right” – so I never posted it.  Maybe it’s because the story wasn’t finished.

 

Sadly (and inconceivably), the only thing I’ve written since my last post has been my dad’s obituary and a speech for his funeral.  In a whirlwind of events that still seem unreal to me, my entire life – my entire family – changed forever.

 

This is the series of events that runs on a constant reel in my mind…

 

I talked to my dad on the phone on a Friday. It was a good conversation, ended with “I love you.” He and my mom spent the day together on Saturday. My mom sent me a picture of him teasing and laughing at her (being himself). They went for ice cream later that Saturday evening – my dad told my mom that it was just exactly what he wanted – hit the spot perfectly – the ice cream, and I suspect just the entire day with her as a whole. The next day, on Sunday, he told my mom he was running out to get a garage door opener. He was gone too long. The kind of too long where you start to get a little worried, which my mom was. The next thing we know, the local hospital was calling. He had been in a car accident (minor, thankfully) because he had suffered another stroke. (He had one in early April – minor in comparison). He was being air-lifted to another hospital with a team of neurosurgeons, and my mom had to get there by car – almost an hour and a half away (a trip I think she made in just about one hour).

 

 I got the phone call that he had had another stroke, and we had to wait and hear more details from my mom. The first time he had a stroke, my sister and I (daddy’s girls, through and through) dropped what we were doing and made the five-hour drive to be with him and my mom.  I was upset and scared by this news.  It had only been 6 weeks since his first stroke.  What did all of this mean? Was he just going to keep having strokes? What can they do about this, etc? I was trying to go with the “no news is good news” theory, but couldn’t convince myself.

 

Then, in a blur of events that I will never forget, my oldest brother called me and asked if I was home. “Yes”, I said. “Ok, well I’m outside, I’ll be up in a second, just come to the door” – This. Was. Bad. And I knew it.  I started shaking and answered the door to him and my sister-in-law, walked them upstairs and tried to play the “so, what’s up?” card, trying to pretend this was just a surprise visit to say hello. Instead, his exact words were “…our family is f*cked. Dad is on life support, and there is nothing they can do. The brain damage is really bad, and even if they did surgery, it still wouldn’t help…so we have to go there and say our goodbyes and let him go. You’re coming with me and we’re going. Now.”

 

After collapsing into a puddle of tears and screams, I grabbed some of my things, made arrangements for my girls, and we were on our way there – an agonizingly long drive when you NEED to get there, like, yesterday.  By the very late hours of that night/wee hours of the morning, all five of us kids and most of the spouses and grandkids were there with our mom to say goodbye and let our dad go. We each had some time alone in the room with him, saying everything we wanted and needed to say – if that’s even possible.

 

Then, the team of doctors came in and were asking my dad to squeeze their hand, checking his pupils, etc. and he was responding. I don’t care how bad the prognosis is…when your loved one is responding to the doctors’ and your own requests for a hand squeeze or a thumbs up, taking them off life support is no longer an option. Period.

 

There was talk of which side of the brain was involved, etc. and we learned that because my dad was left-handed (meaning he was right-brain-dominant), there might be a little glimmer of hope.  The right side of his body was affected by the stroke (as the stroke had started in the LEFT brain – not his dominant side).  We could deal with a long road ahead of us, as long as we had him, and he had a good quality of life. But we wouldn’t know anything until the brain swelling went down. And so, the next few days were a cruel emotional roller coaster of hopes being built up and torn down over and over again. We were told he was somewhat stable and this would be a long road, so on the 4th day, I was planning to head back home so I could get my girls ready and be with them for their dance recital, which was a 3-night event.  So that morning, we headed up to the hospital to see him before I left, and the doctor met us and wanted to talk to all of us as a family. There’s that sick feeling again.  

 

In a private conference room, they told us that the swelling in my dad’s brain was getting worse and beginning to shift the entire brain. To have ANY chance of survival at all, they needed to do surgery to remove half of his skull to allow the brain to swell without damaging itself any further. And they needed an answer quickly, as in minutes. It was an extremely risky procedure on an extremely compromised person. They laid out – in no uncertain terms – what our options and likely outcomes were. And all of them SUCKED. We asked each of these doctors – off the record – this is not your patient, this is YOUR DAD – what would you do? And every one of them had the same answer. They would not put him through this surgery, under the circumstances, with the likely outcomes. They would let him go.  Despite the rapport we had developed with them over the past few days, I suddenly hated every single one of those doctors. And their options.  

 

As someone who used to be a respiratory therapist, I knew what was about to take place. I knew that he would be taken off the ventilator and made as comfortable as possible until the end. I knew that it could happen very quickly, or that he could last several hours, even days. At that point, my prayers changed. They were no longer selfish. My prayers of “please save my dad” became “please take my dad…and end his suffering…and help us all through this.” I remember laying in a reclining chair in his ICU room, staring at him, wondering if he was scared, if he could hear our last words, our cries, our pleas, our prayers. I was actually sitting there trying to telepathically get inside his head and speak to his innermost self – “daddy…can you hear me? It’s ok to go now…” I took pictures of his hand in mine, pictures of his tattoos.

 

For the next 8 hours or so, we stayed by his side until he passed away at 8:31 p.m. on May 31, 2012.  FIVE. THIRTY-ONE. TWELVE. Numbers that I will never forget.

The world lost a one-of-a-kind man. My mom lost her best friend and soul mate. My kids lost their funny, silly grandpa. My siblings and I lost the best father we could ever ask for.

 

I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number or days I haven’t cried since that day.  And I can tell you that, on the days that I DON’T cry, I feel guilty at the end of the day. Guilty for not crying, as if my tears are what keeps me connected to him. I know better than that. I had a very strong connection with my dad. And I know, as if I can hear him saying it out loud, that he would be furious at how upset I am, at how often I cry, scream, fall to my knees, think to myself that I just…can’t…do…this.  

 

I’ve read about the stages of grief (some sources say there are 5, some say there are 7). Either way, I’ve cycled through all of them and back again – sometimes all in the same day.

 

SHOCK & DENIAL:    Yep. I can recall every sordid detail about the hospital – the smells, the tile pattern on the floor, the way my dad’s skin felt. I can recall people who brought food to the house, or just stopped by to offer condolences – friends of my dad – grown men – crying. I remember seeing and hugging certain people at the visitation – remember how someone smelled – their perfume or aftershave, what someone was wearing, etc. I can recall everything. But there are many, many times when I have to stop what I’m doing and actually CONSCIOUSLY convince myself that it was all real. And then I tell myself “there’s just no way…”

 

PAIN & GUILT:   This is self explanatory.  The pain is nothing short of unbearable at times, and comes out of nowhere at any place, any time. God bless the WalMart check-out clerk who hurried me through with my groceries the other day as best she could because we had a moment of eye contact which must have conveyed my need to get the hell out of there ASAP because I was about to completely lose it.

Guilt over all the times I “should’ve” but didn’t.

 

ANGER & BARGAINING:    The anger part – definitely. I’m so horribly angry. I’m angry about so much…and it’s more than just losing my dad.  It’s as if it set off a domino effect, going back to some of my earliest memories, and falling down piece by piece through different events in my life. Simply put, I am pissed. I have no other way to express it. And I know others around me – those closest to me – are suffering for it. I am quick-tempered (more so than my usual feisty self). I scolded my girls for something that was really nothing more than little girls annoying their sister, and my youngest said “gee, mommy…why are you so mad?” – and I completely lost it, and told them I was mad because my dad died and there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve had to reassure them that my anger is not at them, it’s just because mommy is so sad over losing their papaw.

 

DEPRESSION/REFLECTION/LONELINESS:    YES, YES, and YES. At times, I have not answered or returned calls or text messages from friends. I have declined invitations to go do things. I think I have even seen people that I know out in public, but I walk around in such a fog most of the time that it doesn’t hit me until later (after the moment has passed) that I just saw someone I know and I didn’t speak. Anyone who knows me knows that is NOT ME.  I avoid going certain places because I just know I will run into someone and it will come up in conversation.  Oddly enough, I WANT to talk about my dad, but on MY terms, if that makes any sense. So, if you are reading this and you are one of those friends – I apologize.  I am so very sorry.  Please know it is nothing personal.  Your sentiments are felt and appreciated more than you know, but more often than not, I just find myself thinking “I just can’t…not right now…”

 

THE UPWARD TURN:   This is supposed to be when life becomes a little calmer and more organized and depression lessens a bit. *If I have been through this stage, it was for a nano-second.

 

RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH:    This is supposed to be when your mind starts working again and you can come up with realistic solutions to life’s problems.  Currently, I find myself unable to come up with solutions to some minor issues.  Everything seems monumental to me. For instance, the transmission in my car went out this week. The car used to be my dad’s. That plus the fact that I am a single, working mom without a car right now plus everything else equals me inching closer to my breaking point. I can’t come up with a good solution. You know why? Because this is one of those times when I would pick up the phone, call my dad, and he would have a solution. And I can’t do that. And so, yes, it’s just a car…but it’s so much more. This probably doesn’t make sense to most people reading this, but it’s all I got.

 

And lastly – ACCEPTANCE & HOPE:   Accepting and dealing with the reality of what has happened.  Again, my time in this stage has been miniscule – tiny stitches in time – and usually sends me right back to the beginning of the cycle.

 

I know my life will never be the same, and neither will my family. Ever. This is the most profound loss I have ever experienced – that my family has ever experienced.  I find some comfort in a few things – wonderful memories, knowing he is no longer suffering, knowing I will see him again one day. I have some of my dad’s ashes, some of his cologne. I can close my eyes and smell it and imagine myself hugging him and smelling that.  I find comfort in seeing dragonflies after a dear friend shared a wonderful story with me about “waterbugs and dragonflies” You should google the story.  If I knew how to add links here, I would.  It comes from a book about explaining death to children, and is a wonderful story that I still can’t tell out loud without crying. Maybe I will try to post it here in the next day or two.  

 

Whether this is the first time you’ve read my blog or you’ve read them all – I hope you take something away from this.  Life is uncertain.  Say “I love you”.  Use the good dishes on a Tuesday night.  Go get some ice cream and enjoy it like a kid. *Quick funny story:  speaking of the ice cream, I spent two days in a row eating a chocolate ice cream cone – dad’s favorite – sitting in my car down by the river at lunch time, SOBBING. I mean all-out blubbering sobs. There was a guy in a truck parked next to me who must have thought I was some kind of psycho – licking the ice cream cone, tears just streaming down my face. Sad, but still funny to me. Something only I would do…TWICE.  

 

The funny, witty, sarcastic girl is very much still here.  She is just under layers and layers of grief, anger, despair, disbelief, and sadness right now.  But so much of my humor and wit came from my dad, so I feel I would be dishonoring him if I stopped writing.  He wrote a lot, too. I intend to do more of it, and I may even share something he wrote once just for me. I can’t guarantee my writing is going to be all Wheat Thins and Catman Don’t any time soon, because I have a lot of things I need/want to get out, but I still remember how to laugh and tell a story. I learned from one of the best.    

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