Passing notes

Shortly after Rich’s own birthday in 2015 (when his fistula returned), he and I went to Target and bought birthday cards for Ian for his 7th through 18th birthday. I took a picture of the receipt, because I take pictures of everything, and I felt like there was a story on that piece of thermal paper.

Birthday cards for years to come

Birthday cards for years to come

Rich wrote out notes on all of the cards, closed them in envelopes, and put them in the fire box. About a year later, he handed them over to Travis to be their custodian. 

This year, Ian wanted to have a birthday adventure versus a standard party, so we spent the weekend in Luray going to the caverns, playing around the log cabin we rented, trying out a canoe on the pond, and zip lining in the trees. However, we made sure to be home on Sunday evening in time to have pizza dinner with Travis and Zoe.

As we were unpacking the truck from our trip in anticipation of their arrival, Ian said, “It’s kinda messed up that Daddy wrote all these cards and expects me to read them when he couldn’t even bother to read all the notes that I wrote for him when he was dying.”

That’s my kid, dropping truth bombs in the driveway. 

I agreed that it’s disappointing that Daddy didn’t read the notes that Ian wrote. I reminded Ian that Daddy didn’t feel very good then. “Well, yeah, but he could at least have had you read them to him if he was too sick to read them himself. I put a lot of thought and effort into those notes.” 

I asked him if he knew what it meant to be in denial. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that. But it’s still messed up.” I nodded. 

We went inside, had pizza with Travis and Zoe, opened his present from them, opened his card from Daddy, and played a board game together. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Last night, I reminded Ian that he needed to finish his chores before we headed out to Atlantis Games for Tabletop Tuesday. As he put the vacuum away, I heard some rustling in the front room. He walked out with the stack of notes he had written to Daddy from the fire box and just handed them to me. “Here.”

I asked him what he wanted me to do with them. “I dunno. I just want you to see them. To read them. I want you to know what I wrote. I want someone else to know.” 

And so, even though we were about to walk out the door, I went to the dining room table and read every note again, lovingly turning them over to see the illustrations and noting the dates I had penciled into the corners. I put his 7th and 8th birthday cards from Daddy with them and put them back in the fire box. 

Passing notes

Passing notes

As we drove to Atlantis, Ian asked me, “What did Daddy do to get cancer anyways?” I explained that in some cases cancer is directly because of something you did (like smoking cigarettes or being exposed to chemicals) but a lot of time it’s just bad luck. 

“Yeah, like, oh I know, here’s this kid who has a great relationship with his dad so let’s just give his dad cancer and ruin that kid’s life.” 

I actually laughed out loud at that. I’m not sure if that’s an appropriate response but it was just so matter of fact about how shit happens and it’s not fair. 

We talked about life being unfair (I mentioned this super great dude named Buddha who talks about suffering) and he pontificated about how “they” should have picked somebody without a kid to get cancer and die. Somebody that nobody would miss. 

Home again

There was a good chunk of time when I felt like an intruder in my own home. There were caregivers living in my house who were less than happy with me. My husband wasn't speaking to me. I felt pretty out of control of my situation. 

I wanted desperately to retreat from the house to anywhere else. I also had Ian to consider. It meant spending time at the house until Ian went to sleep and then running away until late that night or the next morning before dawn. It was toxic in the house, and not just because of all the bowel fluid. There was a dark cloud hanging over the property, as far as I was concerned. 

And then Rich died. And the caregivers left. And we got past the funeral and the drama of my scandalous actions the last two years. And the world continued to turn on its axis and birds built nests and flowers bloomed. 

I had my lawn mowed, trimmed, and edged by Lil Don and his uncle. They hacked away all the bamboo that had taken over the last 10 feet of my property. My azaleas are now lower than the front windows. 

I brought Lil Don and his uncle back last week to pressure wash the house and garage. My buildings are white again! I opened the pool and the water is actually clear. It's completely clean and running great. Children laugh and splash for hours while I nap in the hammock. I ordered a retractable awning for the back deck so I can chill out there without bursting into flames. 

I put new artwork up in the living room. I ordered three canvases to put up in my bedroom. I open the windows every morning to let sunlight into the whole house. I have called for bulk pick ups almost every week to take away moldy hockey gear, piles of junk from the garage, and the broken bits of the trampoline net. I threw away countless numbers of DVDs and books.

I sold a pavilion. I will soon get my other pavilion back home. (Many thanks to Rob for storing it for like 700 days.) I gave away three of the four camp beds. (Why did we have four camp beds?!) I hacked up the recliner in the back yard. I threw away lovely handmade gifts from hateful people. I did save all the sappy love letters from Beatrice, though, because they're an amazing and amusing testament to crazy.

I put all my motorcycle equipment in the cubbies that once held medical supplies. I have a ridiculous set of cat stairs for Kitterson to get into my bed and it delights me to see her use them every night before she curls up with me. I gave away the coffee machine and replaced it with a burr grinder and French press for my Death Wish coffee. The second fridge is full of organic veggies from my CSA instead of bags of TPN. 

I walk around my house in little to no clothes because there are no guests sleeping on my couch. I listen to music in the kitchen every day. 

I've made appointments with my witch doctor, my therapist, my hair dresser, my photographer, my endocrinologist, my massage therapist, and my trigger release therapist and they're all helping me get back to me. I had the opportunity to go out of town this weekend and chose to stay home simply because it's so nice here. 

I am home.

Hammock time

Hammock time

Single parent status

Hey gang, checking in.

Ian is now registered for summer camp at Norfolk Academy (space camp, chess/3D printing camp, soccer, and swimming every afternoon) for June and July. He's also registered at the Jewish Community Center for camp in August (also with swimming twice a day). I was able to pay those in full (which included a discount for doing so) because of your generous donations.

Ian is seeing a counselor every other week, at his request. So far that's going really well. We spent Spring Break in Tampa with friends where we played in the pool, saw wild animals, and went kayaking.

We celebrated Ian making A's honor roll last week for the third quarter. His certificate is on the fridge and he was delighted to see both Shrop and me in attendance. He also used his own money at the book fair last week to buy a journal *with a lock*, a Minecraft book, and a giant 15" long pencil. We're back to reading Harry Potter again before bed. He just met Professor Snape in the potions class. 

He's spending the afternoons with my parents down the street as he's not very comfortable with the house being empty now. We just got two kayaks with a lightweight trailer and have already been on the water a few miles from home. As my mom said, we're not letting grass grow under our feet.

Once I finally got an appointment, the Social Security office visit was painless. Direct deposit for Ian's death benefit is already set up and will start June 1. I must say having that behind me is a relief.

I'm not sleeping 10-12 hours a day anymore, which is a welcome change. I am back on the wagon of getting massages regularly so that I can turn my head to the left *and* the right. And I can't rave enough about my witch doctor (chiropractor and applied kinesiologist) for clearing up my head, my muscles, and my heart. Anyone local to Tidewater should go to Applied Health Chiropractic and make an appointment with Dr. C. Honestly, it's worth a long drive or a flight to see her. 

I'm doing a keto (high fat low carb) diet to manage my anxiety and my blood sugars and that is working well right now. I put heavy whipping cream in my coffee, I buy eggs from Costco in five dozen packages, there are three different types of shredded cheese in my fridge, and I cook lamb at least once a week. I do miss sweet potatoes but not bread. (I may have an occasional small sweet potato.)

Shrop has finished his senior project as of last week and will graduate this spring with a mechanical engineering degree (in addition to his previous BS in Psych and MBA). Commencement is May 6th and we're celebrating with friends. Shortly after that, he leaves for Mount Everest for two and a half weeks where he will hike 38 miles to base camp (and the same 38 miles back down) with his besties. I'm excited for him and very happy that I'm not also going on that adventure right now. 

I'm pleased to say that I'm doing better than just surviving. I'm thriving. When I went to renew our membership at the JCC so Ian could go to camp (and I can lift weights and do yoga) the front desk attendant's computer blurted out the first six notes of the "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" theme song as he accidentally clicked on a link someone sent him. I had assumed hearing that song after it played in our living room non-stop for a year would make me cringe, but I actually smiled. I checked the box on the form for "single parent" and will assume that song was Rich's participation in the whole process. 

Hammock season has begun

Hammock season has begun