Love and Acceptance

IMG_3575If you have ever been abandoned, especially as a child, then you know how easy it is to feel “unloveable” and to feel like you are not “enough”.   EVER.

But today, once again, I had an amazing experience that made those two feelings just disappear.   And my sister, Patty, agreed that she felt the same way.   We went on another adventure together and even though it was a long day and involved a lot of driving, we are so glad we did!!   The rewards were so worth the effort!

Earlier this year, my Aunt Nan, gave me the phone number of one of her cousins named “Stevie”…Stevie being short for Stephanie.  So we connected by phone and I immediately felt a connection with her and even though she is really a cousin, her being fairly close in age to my Aunt Nan, she let me call her “Aunt Stevie”.   She and her husband run a veterinary hospital in Texas and even though she works 5-6 days a week, she still made time to phone me at least 3-4 times (some times more) per week, just to check in and make sure I was doing all right.  She immediately let me know that she was glad I had found their family and that she loved me and wanted me to be part of her life.   She also called me “Angel” from the first phone call…even though I felt like SHE was the Angel for reaching out to me the way she did and caring about me enough to call and check on me in the way she did.  It reminded me of my sweet Momma, who often called, just because she hadn’t heard from me that day or just wanted to make sure I was doing all right.  And while Aunt Stevie lives in Texas, she seemed much closer, and she, indeed, had relatives in Indiana, including two daughters.  She told me they have a family reunion every year and she wanted to make sure I would come this year!  And she told me to invite any of the other family members I had met, as well, which I did.  So today was the much anticipated reunion day!

The only other family that was able to make it to this reunion was my sister, Patty.  So she got up at 430 am on Sunday so she could drive 2 1/2 hours to my house, hop in the car with me, and then we drove another 3 hours to get to the reunion north of Indianapolis.  Having never met anyone else who would be at the reunion, we were both a little nervous and apprehensive, but hopeful that it would be a good experience.  But what we hoped for was nothing compared to what we were to experience?!

We were welcomed and greeted at the door by one of Stevie’s daughters and whisked inside like we were ceblebrities or something?!   We were taken directly to Aunt Stevie, who could hardly hug us and kiss us enough!   She seemed so genuinely excited that we had come.   She immediately started taking us around and introducing us to everybody and their brother….And then some!!   She went out of her way to make us feel like we truly were part of this family!  And it was incredible.  We must have told and retold our stories 20 times and everyone was just so kind, and so happy that we had found them, and they made us feel so genuinely welcome!

After a great lunch, we were invited to be part of the family pictures that are taken every year at this reunion….And after the photos were taken, Aunt Stevie got everyone’s attention and she was looking at Patty and me and started saying “Today, we have two new….”And her voice trailed off and she just started to cry.  She asked her daughter, who was standing beside her, to finish the story and she tried, but she too teared up.   So of course, Patty and I are both crying by this time, because we are just so touched by the sweetness of it all.  Anyway, long story short…They somehow managed to introduce us.  And anyone we hadn’t yet met, also introduced themselves to us and talked to us and welcomed us to the family.   It was almost surreal.

We also met and got to talk with another family member who is very into genealogy and has worked extensively on their family tree!  She spent some time with Patty and me taking notes about our families and the information we knew so that she could include us in the family tree and such.  We told her about the DNA testing we had done and I shared with her my original certificate of birth.  We also told her about the other siblings that we know are out there somewhere, and she said she would do what she could to help us with that search.  We are, of course, very excited about that!!

As the day wrapped up, I think Patty and I both agreed that we weren’t really ready for it to end…It had been such a positive experience.  And we knew it was one of those days that would not soon be forgotten!

We pretty much talked non-stop on our long drive home about how glad we were that we decided to make the trip and how wonderful everyone treated us!  We both feel that we have really “lucked out” in the biological family search department, because we have felt welcomed and accepted by most everyone we have found, with the exception of a few.   And we do realize that this is NOT always the case for people connecting with their biological families, especially when the family members are adults and not children. I mean, here we are, definitely well into adulthood, and we just kind of “show up” after 55 or so years…and we are just welcomed in, without question and without hesitation!  Just. Like. That.

It is an incredible feeling!!  So I dedicate this blog tonight, to our Aunt Stevie.  Thank you for everything you have done to bring us into your part of this awesome family!

So Many Emotions

I have lost loved ones before, but this, this was so very different.   It was not natural.  It was “contrived” and “forced”.   I was sure I was in some sort of shock, because I just still could not wrap my head around what had happened over the past week and the past three months.  But one thing I knew was that my Momma was gone and I missed her more than I could have ever imagined possible.

The evening after her funeral, with several people including some close relatives who I love dearly at my house, I told Bradley that I needed to get out of there…I am not sure if I was just anxious or if I was having a full-on panic attack, but I did know for sure that I needed to get away!!   So Brad politely excused us and told everyone we would be back soon.   We hopped in the jeep, without the top on it, and took off to ANYWHERE but where we were.   Having to drive by and look out our windows and see the house where my Momma once lived, that was now occupied by my father and various relatives of his, depending upon the day, was going to be harder to take that I had envisioned.

It is was close to nightfall and we were just driving around in the country, feeling the wind in my hair, and looking at the scenery from the country that I grew up in.   We stopped the jeep in a spot that was overlooking some of the land owned by my father and talked.   Brad asked if we needed to just put our house on the market and move elsewhere?  And while it sounded tempting, me, being the stubborn person I am, said “No way!  I am not going to be bullied out of our home that we love by my father!”  I reminded him how we had just remodeled it the fall before, adding our big family room, with a wood-burning stone fireplace, a big new deck connecting the house to the pool and plenty of space for our kids, grandkids, neices, nephews, and other family and friends we wanted to have around, and our bulldog and boxer crew!  He said “Okay, but if you change your mind, I am ready to go…It’s just a house.  We can make a home anywhere.”

The sun was setting, so we decided we had better go.  As we were headed back to our house, we came around a corner and there, in a small tree with limbs overhanging the road, was a big, beautiful owl!   Definitely NOT something you would typically see, especially considering it wasn’t even really dark yet?!   I knew right then it was a sign from Momma…I felt sure of it, but I wasn’t sure what the message was supposed to be??  In case you missed this detail in one of my earlier blogs, my Momma LOVED owls and had for many years.   She had some pictures and figurines when I was a kid, but my father had since made her take them down and told her they looked stupid in their house.   After she moved in with our family, she had picked out some owls as decorations for her “new” room and was thrilled to have them!  I just couldn’t feel seeing this owl tonight was a coincidence.

We returned home and went to bed, but I couldn’t get the image of that owl or Momma off my mind.  Brad asked what I needed to make me feel better and I told him “the beach”.  You see, we had a trip planned a few weeks earlier in one of our timeshare resorts, but had cancelled it due Momma’s illness.  He said that we should just go…I told him, I didn’t think it would be possible because we had cancelled at the last minute.  And I reminded him that it was summer vacation season, so everything was likely booked.   He encouraged me to try calling our timeshare company the next morning anyway to see if there was anything available…even if  it was only for 3 or 4 nights.   I dreamt of my Momma that night….which really made me determined to try to find us a place.

I called our timeshare company early the next morning to see if they had anything available on a beach…any beach??  And as I figured, they did not.  But I couldn’t give up…I thought of our other favorite beach, which wasn’t a part of our timeshare company.   We love the beaches in Alabama, so I called our favorite resort, Sea Chase, in Orange Beach (which is not part of our timeshare company).  And, to my dismay, but as expected, they were also booked solid and didn’t have anything available.  I was getting ready to hang up when the customer service rep asked if I would like for her to check their Sister Resort, St. Martinique in Fort Morgan, which was about 20 minutes from Orange Beach?!   Sister Resort??   I didn’t even know there was one, but yes, please!  She took my number and told me she would call me back.  I was sure they were probably sold out too…It was mid-July.   My phone rang a few minutes later and it was the customer service rep.   She said “Well, you are not going to believe this, but it just so happens that they have one four-bedroom house available starting tomorrow (Thursday) and checking out Monday morning.   Do you want it?  Did I??   “Yes!!  Absolutely, I definitely want it!”  And so, it was booked!   I called Brad and Alex who were catching up on their mowing.  They said they would be home later to pack and we would leave around midnight!   I called my daughter and invited her and her family.  And my niece, Gracie.  And Alex invited his friend, Sam….Afterall, we had plenty of room!

I had already made a decision that one of the things I wanted to do when we were at the beach was for Bradley and me to renew our wedding vows.   After getting through the past three months together and the love and protection Brad had shown my Momma and my younger brother and his family, I felt a renewed closeness.   So I called our good friend, Troy, who lives in Orange Beach and asked if he knew anyone who could do our vow renewal there.   And, of course, he did!   And he would contact them and try to set something up.   And he and his family would be there to be part of our celebration.   Perfect.

I let my family who was staying with us know that we were just going to get away for a few days, but that they were welcome to stay at the house with my brother and his kids, who were also staying there.  They were, of course, beyond understanding.   So I packed some bags in record time (This was a big deal…for anyone who knows me).  And I told Brad when he got home that I still wanted to renew our vows and had made arrangements through our friend.  So we left earlier than planned that evening so we could shop for a new, special ring on our way out of state.  This wasn’t necessary, of course, but he insisted.

We drove all night and arrived at Fort Morgan mid-morning on Thursday.   We were able to check in early.  The house was fantastic!  And huge?!  It was in a resort neighborhood very close to the ocean.  We had a golf cart to drive to seaside..It was perfect!   The people I loved most were there with me.  And our friend, Troy, came to visit us…And to tell us he had set up our vow renewal for Saturday.  We spent the rest of that day and the next at the beach.  It was the perfect place to relax and unwind and just “be”.   It has always been the place where I feel “at peace”, which I never really understood, but it now makes sense (which I will blog about later when I get back to the DNA tests and such).

And while I was still overwhelmed by sadness, it was peaceful.  The beautiful sight of the endless ocean, the sound of the waves rolling in, the warm sun on my skin, the sand between my toes, the smell and feel of the salty air, and helping my grandsons build a sandcastle…All of it.  It helped me get some perspective and regain my composure.

So, as you would imagine, I wrote my own vows and mostly thanked Brad for not only taking care of me and Alex, but also my brother and his kids, and mostly for loving and being so very protective of Momma.  The love and support he had shown reminded me of how much he loved me and how very much I loved him.   I had two of the most handsome escorts ever…my two older grandsons.  And an adorable ring bearer, the smallest grandson.  And two beautiful bridesmaids, my daughter and my neice, Gracie, and two great groomsmen, my son Alex and my son-in-law.  And a very familiar groom.  And our friends, Troy, Natalie, and Johnathon, were there to witness and share the moment with us.   And Alex’s friend, Sam, acted as photographer.   It was small and intimate and beautiful.   We were so afraid it was going to be a washout because it rained a lot that day up until about 20 minutes before we  were scheduled to start.  And then the rain stopped.  And it was gorgeous.  And emotional, but so heartfelt.

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We had another day to play and enjoy the sun and the ocean.  And go to dinner with our friends.  And I got to be with the people that I loved the most.   We made new memories and shared old memories, especially those involving Momma.  And we smiled, and laughed, and cried, and cursed, and there were lots of hugs and a fair amount of kisses.  It was just what we all needed.

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And it was…definitely the beginning of grieving and trying to start healing and get on with the life we had been given.  There was no doubt whatsoever this would be what Momma would want…She always wanted everyone else to be happy.   THAT was what brought her the most joy.   And at that time, that was a way to to pay tribute to her and her life.   But I knew in my heart that my life would never be the same….However, I had absolutely no idea of the twists and turns it would take.

 

 

 

Saying Good-Bye Too Soon

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Upon arrival at the funeral home in the town where we always lived, as soon as they opened on Friday morning, we were greeted by staff who were not only professional and caring, but also friends who knew we needed a little extra empathy.   And they were determined to help us plan some special arrangements and a celebration of life for my sweet Momma.  And I am still so thankful for that because to be completely honest, it felt like I was a robot just going through the motions after everything that had just happened in the previous week.

Of course, Brad was with me and he was the strong one…always holding me up and keeping me going.   I had fallen apart so many times during the week already…I’m not sure how he kept at it and stayed so tough.   I knew he was hurting too.  And tired…We were both so tired…from lack of sleep and the overwhelming worry and helplessness that we had endured all week.   And I knew he loved my Momma as much as I did.

Anyway, we spent a couple of hours planning out a visitation for the following Monday (to give Momma’s out-of-town family time to travel to Indiana) and a beautiful funeral service for the following Tuesday.  We tried to pick things we knew my Momma would have loved, but, of course, would have never indulged in for herself, because she wouldn’t have felt entitled to it, but we knew she was so entitled to it and then some.  To us, it didn’t feel like nearly enough…But we did the best we could.  We were determined to try to abide by her wishes she had made known to us about her end of life.

We then went next door where another very good friend of mine worked at the flower shop.   I knew that my Momma LOVED flowers of all shapes, types and colors, so we just went with a large variety and focused on colorful and cheerful and beautiful.   I trusted this friend and the staff there to do a phenomenal job and they did not disappoint!

I remember driving back home with Brad and just feeling so drained and exhausted, but there was still so much to be done.  And I wanted to do the very best I could at this one very last act of love and kindness for my Momma.   So, I willed myself to just “snap out of it”…And I went into full-on action mode.   We continued to still be very much on pins and needles because after getting a call-back from Momma’s attorney this morning, we learned that even through the hospital legal department agreed that the emergency guardianship gave us the ability to make Momma’s arrangements after it was questioned by my father, the attorney told us that it was not out of the realm of possibility that my father might try to file an injunction to block these arrangements.   We asked what we would need to do if this were to happen and he explained that we could fight it, so we instructed him to draw up whatever documents we would need to do so and to have it ready, just in case that happened.   So while we were completing these tasks toward the final arrangements, we were not sure how this would turn out.  And it all still seemed surreal…I was still waiting to wake up from the nightmare.

Next stop was the salon where Momma had enjoyed visited each week since she moved in with us to ask if her stylist would do Momma’s hair.  She was a little hesitant, as she had never know this before, but she had grown to love my Momma and agreed and said she would be honored to do it for her and she hoped she would be able to get through it.

We went home and Brad and Alex had mowing to do, so I asked my younger brother if he would like to go with me to look at monuments for Momma and he said he could.   So we went back to the place where my friend, Kena, had taken me a few days earlier and I showed him the stone that I thought Momma would love and he agreed that it was perfect.  So we talked to the business owner and told him we wanted it and decided upon what would be engraved on it…including “Our Sweetest Angel”, as well as her favorite saying “Oh fiddlesticks”.   And we checked one more item off the list of our things to do.

We had already contacted all of Momma’s family and several of her friends to let them know that Momma had passed and now contacted them to let them know when and where the arrangements were planned.   I also called the cemetary and confirmed everything with them, as well.  I had never planned a service and funeral so this was all new to me, but it was actually a blessing to have something to keep my mind busy and occupied.

I also made contact with a good friend of mine who is a lovely singer and asked her if she would like to sing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral service and she graciously agreed to do so.   We also picked out one of Momma’s all-time favorites sung by Vince Gill “Go Rest High On That Mountain”.  And I picked out a song that just seemed so fitting by Tim McGraw…”Please Remember Me” because I did not want anyone to ever forget my sweet Momma.   That was another item to check off the list of things to do.

Family would be coming in starting this evening.  As I had mentioned earlier, some of my nieces (Momma’s grandchildren) had been wonderful about being at the hospital throughout the week, which was quite impressive given that they were just teenagers.   But they loved their MeMe.    I wanted to make them a part of this and hopefully do something to help them get through this difficult time.  So I messaged and/or called them, and my daughter, to see if they would be interested in going with me this evening to pick out a new outfit for Momma/MeMe to be laid to rest in and they did.   So we planned a family dinner with them and my youngest brother, and my niece, Gracie’s Momma, and my daughter and her family and Brad and Alex at one of our favorite restaurants in Evansville for later in the evening.  And then the girls and I would go shopping after dinner.

Late in the afternoon, I got a call from Momma’s attorney’s office and when I saw the number pop up on my phone, I am pretty sure my heart stopped for a minute…I, was, of course, thinking my greatest fear was coming true and my father had filed an  injunction, as our attorney feared.  But I answered it to find that it was his assistant and she wanted me to know that Momma’s attorney had drawn up the papers necessary to address an injunction, if it were to be filed and she wanted to know if I could meet her at the local courthouse to sign it, in case if was needed.   She asked me to meet her at 330 pm, as the courthouse closed at 4 pm, so I did.    We met in the parking lot and sat in the car.  I signed the documents and we waited.   Momma’s attorney called at 345 pm and he said he had just checked and thus far, nothing had been filed.  He said he would check again in 10 minutes and call back.   He said that if nothing got filed, he did not feel we should file our paperwork because it might just cause a fight.   So he called back at 3:55 and nothing had still be filed.   So we did NOT file our documents either.   The court house was closed Saturday and Sunday, of course, and so he could’t file anything then, so Momma’s attorney felt we were good since everything was already scheduled and the visitation was set for Monday.   This was such a huge relief…I finally felt like I could actually breathe for the first time since early this morning.

After dinner, my daughter, my two nieces, Gracie and Skylar, and I went on a little shopping excursion at the mall.  We found Momma a beautiful, but comfortable outfit that we felt she would have loved and, of course, we found her some beautiful shoes.  And I know some of you might be wondering why in the world we would be worried about shoes, but if you knew Momma, she was very self-conscious about her feet from a surgery she had and she rarely went out without her feet being covered.  We also could not resist getting her some accessories including some jewelry that we felt she would have really loved, and, of course, we had to send her off with a purse!   She ALWAYS carried a purse and her granddaughters all agreed that they had better put some Mentos candy and some Kleenex in it or she would never forgive us.  She rarely ate a Mentos, but she made sure she had them in her purse for the grandkids.   She was very thoughtful like that.  The evening turned into so much more though, as we spent time telling stories and sharing memories about our favorite times spent with my Momma and their MeMe or the things about her we all loved the most about her.  It was a happy evening to be able to remember her like that and to be able to be activitely doing something for her one last time.   And we could not end the evening without stopping for coffee?!   Momma and I had coffee most every night after dinner while she lived with our family and she looked forward to it.  So we made a toast to her in Heaven that night.

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The next morning I took the items we purchased for Momma to the funeral home and our friends there were delighted with what we had done to honor Momma and remember her in such a fond and loving way.   They promised to include all of the items in a way that would hopefully carry on her sweet memory.

The rest of that day, we had friends and neighbors stopping by, kindly bringing food, drinks, paper supplies, and gifts.   But what meant the most were their kind words and heartfelt sympathies and offers to help out if there was anything they could do.   It was a flurry of activity, but I was really thankful for it because it kept my mind occupied and helped me not dwell on what had happened.

On Sunday, we spent the day with family again and asked my kids and the other grandkids to help in creating some nice picture boards to be on display at the funeral home.  We wanted to share our precious memories of Momma and MeMe with others.   There were not as many photos of her as we would have liked to have had, but there were several and we put together what we had into some nice collages.   I also had pictures of all of Momma’s grandchildren and great grand-children printed and framed for display because they truly were her pride and joy.  She loved each and every one of them like there was no tomorrow…And now there wasn’t.  At least not here on earth, for her.   And she was going to be so missed by them.  And by me.

My son-in-law approached me and Brad and said he would like to deliver the eulogy.   We already had the minister from a church she had attended in the past, with one of her best friends, to participate in the service.  However, since we truly wanted to make this as positive as possible about our memories of Momma and the new life she had been making for herself, we decided it would be a good idea.  We definitely did not want to dwell on the awful circumstances surrounding her death, so my son-in-law and I worked together to write a eulogy that was as uplifting as possible and that would give others some insight about all the things she had been able to do in the last 3 months of her life.   Hopefully, knowing she had some happiness and independence in those few months would help to ease the pain of losing her…If only just a little bit.

Sunday night, was a fitful night of sleep, if there actually was any sleep at all.  I was so worried that there would be a big scene made at the funeral home or that something was still going to go wrong before the visitation even started.   But somehow, with lots of prayers and by the Grace of God, we made it to the visitation.  And while it was completely uncomfortable because my father had gotten another exception from the protective order to be allowed at the visitation and the funeral, I knew I needed to be strong for Momma and make this about HER and the celebration of HER life, so I did my best.   The showing of sympathy and support from Momma’s friends and her side of the family, Brad’s family, and Brad’s and my friends was nothing less than amazing…We got so many hugs and so many kind words that it was hard to imagine.

I was doing pretty well handling it all, even with being completely ignored by relatives from my father’s side of the family (who I had considered as “MY” family my whole life), including the nieces who had supposedly helped fataher acquire and present the copy of the “Living Will” to the hospital that changed everything.   But then, a friend of my father’s came in and got him from his chair, in the front row (which I felt was pushing it for him to even be seated there),  and proceeded to move him onto a stool she placed right at the head of my Momma’s casket…you know, like the place typically reserved for a loving, caring spouse?!   I actually thought I was going to be physically ill and I had to excuse myself and go out of the building for a few minutes to get some air and regain my composure.   Why was I even at all surprised by this??  Here was my father, playing the “victim” once again…even after everything that had happened and the circumstances surrounding my Momma’s death…Many people still had no idea what had really gone on.   They had only heard one side of this story…His.  Most of them didn’t know what actually happened, so, of course, he would play on their sympathies!  It was beyond sickening.

However, this made me all the more determined to make this about Momma, so I marched back in there and got back in place with Brad and my younger brother at the foot of Momma’s casket to talk to people as they came through the line.  There were so many people who came to pay their respects….It was wonderful to know how many lives Momma had truly touched.  And I thank God that Brad, and Alex, my daughter and her family, and several of Momma’s side of the family and her very good friends, members of Brad’s family, as well as friends of mine and my family were there to help support us through that very, very long and difficult evening.   Honestly, I don’t even remember a lot of the details…I think I was still in a state of shock, at that point.   After the visitation was over for the evening, I just remember being so very drained.   I hoped I could muster the strength and the energy to make it to the funeral the following morning.   I prayed that there would be no more problems at the funeral home and that Momma’s service could be completed with the utmost dignity and respect, as she deserved nothing less.  After spending a little time visiting with some family that had just gotten in today…That night, I did sleep with the help of a sleeping aid.

There was a brief hour of visitation prior to Momma’s Funeral the next morning, but I told Brad and my family that I really just wanted to get there a few minutes before the service started, so that is what we did.   Just as the service was getting ready to begin, my friend who was singing “Amazing Grace” in another room out of sight, asked me to deliver a message to the Funeral Home Director about her music, which I did.   As I was walking back from their office into the main room, I noticed that one of my cousins who had apparently helped my father with the “Living Will” was at the Guest Register Stand.   She picked up the register book, tucked it under her arm, and walked out of the funeral home door with it!!!!   I went back into the Funeral Director’s Office to tell them what I had just witnessed and they said they would go out and retrieve the book.   They said they had never had anyone do that before?!

I went back in and took my seat and my friend sang a beautiful version of “Amazing Grace”, and the Minister shared some really comforting thoughts, and my son-in-law delivered the eulogy, which left very few dry eyes in the place, but I also noticed that it made me and others smile, at least a time or two, for the love and happiness Momma had been able to experience, if even for a very short time.   The other two songs were played and I cried so much I wasn’t sure I could actually muster any more tears.   I just couldn’t believe that my Momma was really gone and we were nearing our last good-bye?

After everyone who attended the funeral had their opportunity to offer their final condolences and say good-bye to Momma, we did the same, and were the last ones out of the room.   The guest register stand had been moved to the back of the hallway, where anyone who hadn’t signed their name already could do so on their way out.   When I walked out into the hallway, I see this same cousin of mine who had taken the book earlier, in a heated argument with one of the funeral home staff about taking the registration book for my father because he “deserved” to have it.  I thought to myself, “Really?   You are going to make a scene in the funeral home?!”   The funeral home staff looked at me to get my reaction.   I quietly asked the funeral home staff if they could make a copy of all of the pages in the book?    She said that they could.   I told her if they could do that, I didn’t really care about the book.  I just needed the names and addresses to send out Thank You cards.  She asked if I was sure and I said “Yes, it’s just a book..It certainly isn’t worth fighting over.”   So they made me a copy…And my niece took the book to supposedly give to my father.

The ride to the cemetary seemed like such a long one that day.  Following that big black hearse felt so…Final.   I cried silently most of the way there and we arrived at the gravesite for the short service there.   Since it was out of town, there was not a large crowd…it was very immediate family and a couple of my Momma’s very good friends.  And I was glad for that.  I insisted to Brad that we stay until my father and my older brother had left the cemetary, which we did.  I am not sure what I thought might happen, but I was still fearful that somehow her making it to this resting place was going to be interrupted.  Seeing her casket, there, in that cemetary, was certainly something to be thankful for, as we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to accomplish that for her.   But it looked like we had.   At least for the time being….

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So much to be thankful for….

IMG_3524So, I am back home in Indiana and am still reeling from the past week that I thoroughly enjoyed!  Was that for real???  It was such a special and fun vacation on the beaches of Alabama!   And while that is my happy place and I always love going there…It was the people surrounding me that made this one like none other!

I just wanted to share a few more thoughts that might encourage another foundling or adoptee, who is thinking about searching for their biological family, to just go for it!!   I have said this before and I truly mean it…If I had only found my original closest DNA match from my initial Ancestry test, which was my Aunt Nan, I would have been happy with the results!   She and I immediately bonded and she became one of my favorite people very quickly.   She accepted me and welcomed me and made me feel loved by the second time we talked!   She, alone, would have been worth doing the test.   But all of the other family members that I have had the opportunity to connect with from meeting her, as well as others I met from these test results, and a subsequent 23 & Me Test, is truly nothing less than a MIRACLE to me!!  I know it sounds dramatic, but it really did change my life!

Has the whole journey been perfect?  No!  Has the journey been an easy one?  No!   Have there been frustrations along the way?  Most definitely!   Has everyone been welcoming and accepting?   Hell no!!   Has there been hurt and rejection along the way?  Absolutely.  But, do I have any regrets about searching for my biological family?  None.  Zero.  Nada.  The good has so far outweighed the bad!!

If you are thinking about searching for your biological family, I would just caution you to be realistic in your expectations.   Everyone may not be thrilled that you found them or made contact.   Does that hurt?   Or sting?  Of course it does!  And the closer family they are to you, the more it stings and hurts.   In my case, when I tried to contact my biological mother initially, the reaction I got was complete and total denial.   And she was angry that I had made the contact.   How did that feel?   It felt awful…It hurt bad.  Not at all the way I had dreamt about an initial conversation with my birth mother if I ever found her…There was no warm and fuzzy.   She tried to convince me that I belonged to her older brother?!   Who lived several states away.  In a nursing home.  And who had dementia.  I remember feeling very discouraged because it didn’t sound like he would have a plethora of information to share?

But, did I let it stop me?  Or destroy me?  NO!   I reminded myself that I was raised by a wonderful Momma who always made me feel loved and wanted.  I wasn’t searching for a “mother”, because I already had the best one I could imagine and even though she was gone, she could never, ever be replaced!!  I reminded myself that I began this search with the goal of finding out if I had any siblings out there!  And guess what?   I did!   I am not sure how many or where they all are or who they are now, but I definitely had siblings!   I also reminded myself of my own immediate family and some special extended family members and how blessed I was to be loved and supported by them on this journey!

Thus far, I have been able to connect with and meet three of them.  I met my youngest sister, Sissy, first when she flew to Florida in May 2017 on my first visit to Aunt Nan’s.  Sissy was the only child kept by our biological mother.   I also got to meet my cousin, Carla, on this visit!  Sissy and a friend of hers were instrumental in finding our oldest sister, Patty, this past January!   And I met Patty two days later because it just so happened that we only lived about 2 1/2 hours apart?!   Since then, my two sisters and I have spent time all together on a couple of mini-vacations…one including all of our husbands this past spring.   My son, Alex, and I flew to meet my brother, Michael, and his son who lived in Boston last summer.  On second trip to Florida with my husband, Brad, we were surprised by Aunt Nan’s sister, Aunt Carol and her husband, Uncle Vernon who came down from Georgia!  We also got to meet Aunt Nan’s daughter, Missy, and her kids by swinging by her home for her daughter’s graduation party, on our drive back to Indiana!   Last summer, I also connected to some other cousins who belong to Aunt Nan’s older brother that I mentioned earlier, via Facebook.  Last fall, I got to meet several of these cousins and second cousins, when I got invited, as a plus one, to a wedding!   In addition to those who live in Indiana, I got to meet cousins and second cousins from California!!

Last Thanksgiving, Aunt Nan came to Indiana!   My first holiday with newly found biological family….It was amazing!!   And at Christmas, she came back to Indiana and stayed for a week!!  And my brother Michael flew back to Indiana and actually met Aunt Nan for the very first time…this was a great Christmas surprise!!   Then Sissy flew in after Christmas to be there for my birthday.   They got to meet my kids and my grandsons, and my husband.  We met up with some of the Indiana cousins and my brother got to meet them for the first time.  And Aunt Nan and Sissy enjoyed seeing them again.  After meeting Patty in January, she and I flew to Aunt Nan’s to for a surprise visit…She hadn’t seen Patty since she was a baby?!   It was amazing!  During that trip, Patty and I also got to meet another Uncle named Greg who lives in Florida too…And he also remembered Patty as a baby.

This spring, after finally getting my original birth certificate and then my adoption papers, I learned that there were definitely 2 more siblings out there that we continue to search for!  I also got to meet a cousin who actually remembers me as a baby!!!  She also remembered my sister…And the two of us together!!   She didn’t actually remember the brother that I also reportedly had, but remembers hearing about him.  She and other cousins from this part of the family that I got a chance to meet said that the three of us were left with their Uncle and all got adopted out to different families.  They didn’t know where we all ended up or who we became, as obviously our names changed.  But I did learn that MY first and middle name were never changed, as I had been told by my biological mother.  I also learned that my actual biological father was not who I was originally told it was by my biological mother.

CeCe Moore dug into my DNA results again and narrowed my father down to one of three brothers!   The sad thing is that they have all passed away, making it nearly impossible to know which one I belonged to, unless my biological mother were to tell me.   Thus far, she has been unwilling to do so and actually said she “didn’t want to talk about it anymore”…And that “It was none of my business!”   I have connected with some cousins from this family and actually met two of my second cousins who live about an hour away.    They are soooooooo nice!!!   I hope to meet some more of this family in the near future and they are trying to help me unravel the mystery.   They have provided me with some pictures of two of these brothers.   I truly appreciate them trying to help me too.   I won’t give up…I will continue to work at finding the answer to this mystery.  And I will continue to search for the other siblings that are out there.    But if I don’t ever figure out the definitive answer about my biological father or find these other siblings, I will still be overjoyed with the wonderful family members that I have found and connected with, who want to be connected to me!   I am truly thankful that my family has grown by leaps and bounds this past year!!

So if you are on the fence, do a DNA test and move forward with your search!!!   And focus on and embrace the positive parts of your journey!   And if you find negative pieces of the puzzle, it can go a long way as part of just “knowing” and of “closure”.   Just be prepared for that part of it….Like most things that happen in our lives, there is good and bad.   At least in my own personal situation, the good has been so good, that I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone through with it!!!

 

 

How lucky can a girl get?

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Not only am I in my happy place right now, but it has been made even more happy because I have been joined by people that I love…And they love me back!!

The past few blogs have been extremely painful to write, as they were about the loss of my sweet Momma.   However, I spent enough time with her to know that what made her happy, was to see those she loved happy, so I trust that she is smiling down on me with laughter tonight.  I just wish she was here so that she could actually meet all of these lovely new people in my life…I know they would have loved her too!!

As many of you will recall, about a year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to get DNA results and a very close match that led me to this wonderful family named “Kalman”.   A match with my Aunt Nan was the beginning of an unimaginable journey for me that continues today!!!

Yesterday was the beginning of a reunion like none other…because of where it is and who is surrounding me!

It all started with a message from my Uncle Robert a few months ago, letting me know that he and his wife were going to be vacationing in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  He asked me if that was where Brad and I usually vacation?   And I told him anytime we get the chance?!   He asked if we happened to have any trips there scheduled for September and I told him no, but we were planning to go in the fall.  Long story short, he gave me their dates… And I made it work!!  And once I made it work, my sweet sister, Patty, and her husband, Larry, Aunt Carol and Uncle Vernon, and Aunt Nan and her daughter, Carla, all wanted to come too!   So we just planned a nice beach family reunion!!

So tonight, Uncle Robert and his lovely wife, Aunt Dena, drove into Gulf Shores from Texas and my sister, Patty, and I just got to meet them for the very first time!!  And they were just as sweet and kind, as we thought they would be?!   He hugged me so hard, he bent my eyeglasses?!   And do I care???   Uuuummmm NO!!   What a sweet, real and genuine hug…You know, the real “bear hug” kind of hug…One that makes you know that you are loved.

My sister Patty and I have cried more than once today…Not because we are sad, but because we are overwhelmed with the love we feel from this “family” that we now get to call our own.  We can’t believe our good fortune.  And even though, we aren’t getting connected to our birth mother, we feel so very lucky to have all of these other lovely people who have accepted us, welcomed us, and made us feel so loved.   Our only regret is that we just found all of them this past year…And we are pretty sure they would have loved us…FOREVER.   We asked Uncle Robert tonight at dinner if he would have been that “cool Uncle” that got us wine and beer when we were younger?  And “Of course I would” was his reply.

Keeping this blog short because I am having too much fun right now to write a long blog, plus y’all are probably tired of my long blogs after the last two!!   There will be more on this reunion I am sure, but in keeping with my Sunday blog schedule, to keep me accountable and in check, here is hopefully enough to make you want to read more about these wonderful new additions to my family and the adventures we are about to enjoy!!

The unimaginable…

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I know it isn’t Sunday and I don’t usually blog this frequently, but this is tugging at my heart and I think I just need to get it out.

Momma was initially diagnosed with lung cancer back in the fall of 2009.   This was very unexpected, especially considering she NEVER smoked and neither did anyone in our household.   Anyway, she was scheduled for surgery and they removed the lobe of her left lung.  It was a tough surgery and she was in extreme pain afterwards. But the good news…The surgeon said they got all of the cancer and she would NOT have to undergo chemo or radiation!  Nonetheless, she was, of course, as insurance demands, kept the minimum amount of time in the hospital and came home sooner than what was probably healthy.  Within a few days, she was running a fever and feeling really bad.   She reluctantly went back into the hospital and apparently, an infection had taken residence in the empty space where that part of of lung that was removed had been.  It was determined that another surgery would be necessary…The surgeon said that happens sometimes and they needed to fill in that empty cavity.  They would do that by cutting a tendon in her back and wrapping it around the front to fill in this space.  As bad as that sounds…it was much worse.

The surgery was very tedious and long.  And when she finally got out, she was in ICU, of course, and was put on a ventilator, with IV fluids, tube feeding, and a catheter.  She had so many tubes and wires, and bags, and buzzers, and bells.  And even with major pain medication, she was in severe pain and suffering greatly.  The physicians were not overly encouraging that she was going to make it.  She fought the vent and would moan in pain when she moved or was moved.  It was so hard to watch her go through this and it continued for several days.  Finally, she came off the vent, but she had a very large wound to heal and she wound up being diagnosed with MRSA.   She also went through a period of having hallucinations and significant depression.  She was such a trooper, but she just wanted to come home so badly.  We tried to get to Evansville to see her as often as we could.  She was still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, which was really hard for her because she always hosted our holiday gatherings.  I remember doing it, so we kept tradition alive and making her a big plate of her favorites, especially dessert, and delivering it to her and spending Thanksgiving evening with her at the hospital.   But even as much as she wanted to come home, she was her same sweet self and all of the nurses and aides went on about what a good patient she was and what a trooper she had been.  She wasn’t one to complain and always thanked the staff for taking care of her.  And they took very good care of her.

She finally came home just a little before Christmas, but was still very weak and not feeling that well yet.   I Christmas shopped for her…for the grandkids and other family members and my neice, Skylar, and Brad and I had a gift-wrapping bonanza to help her out because everything had to be wrapped or it just wouldn’t be like Christmas.   She reluctantly agreed that it would be best if we had our family celebration at our house this year.  She continued to get better, but never fully bounced back, in my opinion.   And she was so tiny.

So fast forward to June 2014….As we sat in the oncologist office together, holding hands, awaiting news we really didn’t want to hear.   But there it was.   Her cancer had returned, but it wasn’t isolated to her lungs.   During a PET scan, it was determined that she had a few areas of concern…one being her lower back, which had been causing her a lot of pain.  The new oncologist was a female and she was very kind, but very realistic, and suggested that Momma was not really strong enough to do anything extremely aggressive or radical to fight this returning cancer, so she said her suggestion would be to use a newer chemo pill that had been noted to have less side effects and could be stopped once it was started, if it started causing problems.  She said she would recommend a little radiation to hit the spots that were causing her the pain, but told Momma she felt like her quality of life would be much better by going this route and that basically, the cancer could not really be “cured”.   Momma asked the hard question.  “How long do I have?”  The oncologist said that if they followed the protocol she suggested, she should have at least 6-8 months, and again stressed that her quality of life should be much better by going with this course of treatment.  So Momma said “okay”…She told the oncologist that she was going through a divorce and enjoying her life right now, so she didn’t want to be spending her time in a hospital.

As we drove home, Momma was pretty quiet, as I expected.   I asked her if she was scared and she said she was.  I told her I was too, but that we would just try to make the best of it and that if there were things she wanted to do, now would be the time.   She said she wanted to get her divorce over with.   I told her we would update her attorney and try to get it moving along faster.  We had already had to postpone a couple of appointments and such because she had become ill.

So, within a few days, she was scheduled to start radiation the following week on the spot in her back that was causing her pain.   She had the first two sessions and she seemed to do very well.   By the time she had the third one, she started having some nausea.   We let her oncologist know and she prescribed some medication for her to hopefully help with that side effect.  It did seem to help a little bit and she went through with a few more scheduled appointments and the nausea worsened and I could see Momma getting weaker.   I hired one of my friends who was a nurse to come in and sit with Momma on the days that Brad, my younger brother and I had to work.

The Fourth of July that year was on a Friday.   We stayed home and had some family and friends to our home to just hang out by the pool and relax.  Momma got up that morning, but said she still didn’t feel well and didn’t want anything to eat.  She hadn’t eaten since a little bit of food the day before.  She laid down in the family room on the loveseat.  Our rescue Boxer, Milo, laid down on the floor right in front of the loveseat and basically did not move away from her.  A little later when she needed to go to the bathroom, she said her legs were too weak to work right.  We called around and borrowed a wheelchair from a friend and to help her.  She was weak, but more worrisome was that she was starting to seem a little disoriented.   I had seen this happen to her before when she had gotten dehydrated and her potassium level had gotten very low.  Brad, my younger brother and I talked and decided to talk with her about going to the Emergency Room.  I figured she would fight us on it a little bit, but she actually agreed that it was probably a good idea, but she didn’t want to be any trouble…That was my Momma.  She never wanted to inconvenience others.    We asked her if she wanted us to call an ambulance and she did say she would rather we took her if that was okay.  So we pulled the car up to the back deck and Brad and my younger brother, who was staying with us, physically helped her into the car.  My brother and I accompanied Momma to the the hospital in Evansville.

Keep in mind that it was the Fourth of July, on a Friday evening…the beginning of a long holiday weekend.  So we get to the hospital and sign Momma in and as expected, the place was pretty busy.   I felt she was given some priority, but we still had to wait a while.   So when she finally got to go back to be seen by a physician, my brother and I waited out in the hall while the doctor examined her.  He came out of the exam room and said she was very dehydrated and was really sick, and he had noted in her record that she had recurring cancer.  He then asked us if we wanted her to be a DNR–My brother asked what he meant, and I told him that meant “Do Not Recusitate”.  I asked the doctor what Momma had said about it.  And he then rudely told me that she was not able to make that decision.  I told the doctor that Momma was an adult and that she was her own guardian and that was her decision to make.  He reiterated that she was not in a condition to make that decision, so we needed to.   I told him to wait right here and we would go ask her what she wanted.

So we went in to Momma’s exam room and she was obviously not feeling well, but still knew who we were and that we were there.  She was able to see us and talk to us.  I told her that the doctor that had checked her had asked us if she wanted to be a DNR.   She asked what that meant and I told her it would mean that if her heart were to stop, and/or she stopped breathing, that the doctors and nurses would not perform CPR.   In other words that would just let her pass.   She didn’t say anything for a minute and I wasn’t sure what she was going to say.  And then she looked at us like we were crazy and said, and I quote….”Well no!  I don’t want to die yet!”   That was all my little brother and I needed to hear.  We told her we would let the doctor know her wishes.   So we told him we had talked to her and she did NOT want to be a DNR, so we asked that they please do everything they could for her.  He said okay and they started an IV of potassium, and said they would also try to find something that would work on her nausea.

We stayed with her until she got settled into a regular room and we got a report from her nurses that they would be monitoring her regularly and would give her something to help her rest and sleep.   We drove back home that night.  I called and checked on her before I went to bed and they said she was sleeping and stable.

So the next morning, Brad and I drove back to the hospital and found that Momma still hadn’t eaten anything and she still said she felt very nauseous.  We asked what was going to be done about this and stressed that she hadn’t really eaten anything since Thursday morning.  Finally later in the day, I asked to talk to an advocate because we didn’t feel they were doing everything that could be done.   At that point, it was agreed upon to get a tube feeding going for nutrition and the doctor told Brad that he felt when they got some nutrition going that it would make a big difference and he anticipated that she would likely be ready to go back home by Tuesday.   The feeding tube was to be put in on Sunday morning.   So we stayed until bedtime and then we came home and told them we would be back first thing in the morning so we would be there while they were doing that procedure.

So Brad and I went back to the hospital Sunday morning and later in the morning, they proceeded to put in the feeding tube.  Momma was obviously not feeling well, but was still coherent and knew us and was communicating with us and the nurses and aides, as well as some other family and friends that came by.  On Sunday afternoon, my dad’s two neices, who were at least in their 60’s, came to the hospital.  They were coming through the waiting room toward Momma’s room as Brad and I were going out to get some lunch.   They asked us how Momma was and we told them a very shortened version of what had happened between her and dad and that her cancer had returned and they said they had no idea that my father had tried to shoot her or any of this.   They told us they had only been to see my father once and that was to take him some food.  They also said they didn’t condone anything like that and the younger one mentioned that was why she had left one of her husbands.  And the other said that was why her daughter had left her husband.  They also said they had always loved my Momma and they wouldn’t want her to go through that.  Still…Something just didn’t feel right, as we knew that they had been up to my father’s on a few occasions because we lived next door and we had seen them there.  We had even seen their mother, his older sister (the one he didn’t talk to for 45 years because her son told me I was adopted at the beach in Florida) in the yard up at my father’s house one day.  These neices had not called or stopped by our house to check on Momma since she had left my dad.  So we followed them back in the room.   They basically just walked in and seen that she was awake, but obviously really was ill.   It was very strange because they didn’t really bother her or talk to her, and then they left.

Brad and I stayed until bedtime and Momma seemed to be resting pretty peacefully.  We decided to go home and go to bed.

We drove back early in the morning and Momma’s best friend, Sue, had also come down early too.  When we got there, we learned that Momma had somehow pulled her feeding tube out in her sleep during the night.  We questioned whether they would be putting it back in and they said they would, but were waiting for a particular physician to come in to do so.  After checking on Momma and learning that Sue was there with me, Brad decided to head back home so that he could get back to his mowing business.  Sue told me I could ride home with her.

About a half an hour later, one of the nurses came in and told us that my father was in the waiting room on the floor we were on and said he was here to see your Momma, and there was three women with him.   (We had told them when Momma was admitted that she was in the process of a nasty divorce and she had reportedly been in an abusive situation.  We had also let them know Momma, and Brad and I, and my younger brother had protective orders against my father.)  Momma got panicked, and said she did not want to see him and they told her that was fine….They would tell him he couuldn’t come back.   We told them we were very nervous about them being there because if it was the two neices with him who were here yesterday, they knew where Momma’s room was.   We also let them know that he had reportedly threatened to kill her.   The Social Worker came in and talked to us and told us they had decided to be proactive and said they were going to move Momma to a new room….so this was done.  In the meantime, I called Brad, who was almost back home and told him I felt like he needed to come back to the hospital because my father was in the hospital and was trying to get back to see Momma.  He said he would be back as soon as he could get there!   Momma was visibly shaken and to be honest, so were Sue and I…Just knowing my father was there in the building was unnerving.

In the midst of all of this, my neice, Chance, who is the daughter of my older brother, and her mom, who was my sister-in-law at one time, came in to see Momma.  We told them what was going on with my father showing up and they couldn’t believe it!!  They also confirmed that they saw him in the waiting room and he was with the two nieces who were there the day before, plus another niece of his.   The Social Worker came back in and said they were ready to move her to a different room on a different floor.

So she had to go through this move and stress and worry.   We all stayed with her.   I called Brad to let him know where she had been moved to, so he returned shortly thereafter.  And even though the hospital staff wasn’t supposed to tell my father where Momma had been moved to, they somehow found out and my father and two of the nieces were in the waiting room on that floor when he returned.  The other  niece was leaving Momma’s room when Brad was coming back in.   Brad said that my father was on the phone in a heated conversation when he came through the waiting room, but just figured he was arguing aand carrying on about not being allowed back to see Momma.

We asked the nurses when they were going to put Momma’s feeding tube back in as it was getting later in the day.  They said they were waiting for a certain doctor who was very skilled at placing those tubes to come back in to do the procedure.  I was aggrevated that they weren’t taking care of getting her nutrition going more quickly because she was obviously getting weaker, more lethargic, and less responsive.  Momma’s friend, Sue, my niece, Chance, and her mother stayed, as did Brad.  My nephew, Cody, Chance’s brother, also arrived.  We all vowed to watch over Momma and to not leave her alone so my father and these neices couldn’t bother her.  It was nerve-racking to put it mildly.   We were all on pins and needles and kind of in disbelief at what was happening.  And Brad and I felt particularly betrayed by the two neices we had talked with the day before, as we felt like they had just been there to spy and get information to take back to my father!   I was infuriated with them, to say the least!

At around 5 pm, the doctor and social worker came back in to let us know that my father had provided them with a “Living Will” dated several years back and signed by Momma and him.   My father had evidently insisted that it be followed since they were still, in fact, married.  Reportedly, the hospital’s legal department had reviewed it and decided that they had to honor it because they were still legally married.  We were in total and complete shock…How could this possibly be??   By this time, Momma was weaker and more out of it, so they didn’t feel she was capable of making a decision.  We asked what other recourse we had and they said we could petition the court for temporary emergency guardianship, but for now, they were bound to follow the “Living Will”  my father provided.  I was literally physically sick, but immediately called Momma’s attorney’s office.  But guess what, it was now after hours…And we got the answering machine?!   So we left an urgent message for him to call us the minute he got it.

In the meantime, the procedure to re-insert the feeding tube was cancelled.   The IV fluids were stopped, as well as anything else she was getting through an IV, and all of Momma’s medications, except for pain relief were stopped, per this order.  So no nutrition and no fluids and none of her regular medications….You can’t even imagine how frightening this was?  My Momma was on a lot of medications, including anti-anxiety medication, medication for her Multiple Sclerosis, a blood thinner to reduce the risk of a stroke, etc., etc.  She took several medications, so was she not only not going to get them, she was also probably going to experience some withdrawal symptoms.   The hospital staff did finally ask that my father and these nieces leave the premises.  At this point we weren’t sure Momma understood what was happening, as she was getting weaker.  We just tried to love her and reassure her that we wouldn’t leave her.

Needless to say, we watched Momma go downhill pretty quickly.  Her friend, Sue and I stayed overnight with her.  Chance and her Mother left in disbelief, but Cody stayed with Sue and me for quite a while longer.  Brad went home because he did not want our son to be there alone with my father next door.   Later that evening, my older brother, who had been spending a lot of time at my father’s showed up and took a seat by Momma and started talking to her and doing some sort of chanting or something.  She wasn’t really responding.   But it seemed to be upsetting to her, so Sue and I told him so and, he stayed for a little while longer and then he left.

Sue and I slept on the sofa and in the recliner and did not leave Momma alone for a minute.  I don’t think either of us slept a wink.  I had called her family and friends so I could let them know what was going on.  The next morning, Brad returned early and we heard from Momma’s attorney and told him what had happened and what we wanted to do and he agreed to draw up the emergency guardianship paperwork and bring it down to the hospital for us to sign so we didn’t have to leave her.  In the meantime, Momma was kind of in and out of it, as she was getting strong pain relief.  More of her grandkids arrived.  My son and daughter and son-in-law and grandsons came in.  My younger brother brought his kids back in.  My neice Gracie from Tennessee came up and she was going to stay with us.  Cody and Chance came back.  And one of my best friends since childhood came to be with me too.  It was comforting having them there.   Momma (MeMe and Ma to most of the younger ones) was able to talk to them and still knew everyone when they came in, but kind of drifted in and out due to the pain meds given in her IV.  She  got lots of hugs and kisses and she seemed to be loving that.

Around noon or 1 pm, Momma’s attorney showed up with the Temporary Emergency Guardianship Papers to get Brad’s and my signatures.  He explained to us that it would give us the authority to make medical decisions on her behalf and that if needed, it would give us the authority to make her final arrangements.  Wow.  Her final arrangements….That was definitely a trigger for me, and I temporarily lost it.  No!  We did not need to make final arrangements…We were going to get her the treatment she needed!  But nevertheless, we signed the papers.  The Attorney said that he had included a provision that my father would be able to see my Momma in the hospital if it became imminent that she was going to pass.  Brad and I argued that we did not like it, but he said he felt it would help it get approved and signed by the judge.   So he rushed off with it to take it an hour away to the courthouse in the county we all resided and to try to get it signed by the Judge.

My head was now spinning…Final arrangements??  What the hell??   No…This can’t be happening, I told myself!!   I had prayed so many prayers for Momma to get better and for this nightmare to end.  I was in tears and so exhausted.  And I felt so defeated.   And stupid.   Why hadn’t I anticipated my father doing something like this??   I was so determined to allow Momma to make her own decisions and not be controlled by someone else that I wasn’t thinking that by encouraging her independence and choices, I was allowing her to be vulnerable to the evil.   Brad was right there trying to calm me down and bring me back to the moment.  He asked if Momma and I had talked about her arrangements and I told him we had briefly, in the car one day.   I told him I had gently asked her if she had given any thought about her arrangements and she had said “Not really.”   I remembered telling her I hated to bring it up, but again, I told her I wanted her to have a choice about where she was laid to rest….That it was her decision.  It was not a comfortable conversation, but after she thought about it a few minutes, she said she knew for sure she didn’t want to be buried with my father at the cemetary in their hometown.   And she said she wanted her funeral in the town where we had lived.  She got real quiet and I knew that she was thinking about dying and it was making her sad, so I didn’t press it any further and I figured we could talk about it more later.   After all, she was supposed to have 6-8 months, so there would be time.   And now it seemed that maybe there wouldn’t be?!

We went back up to the room with Momma and just sat with her.   Her friend, Sue, was still there and so was Gracie, Chance and Cody.   Momma was sleeping a lot and we felt if she was sleeping, she was at least maybe not in such discomfort.  She would  briefly wake up and would tell us she was thirsty and that her lips were so very dry.  We let the nurse know and they said they couldn’t give her liquids, but they could get her some lip balm.  It was unbearable to not be able to give her a drink of water.   Obviously, as she became more dehydrated, she was more disoriented and less responsive.

Around 4 pm, Momma’s attorney called to let us know the Judge has signed the temporary emergency guardianship order, but that the court offices had already closed so the order wouldn’t be processed until the following morning.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing??   We needed this now!   However, we were not going to get it till morning.  He said we should have it just shortly after the courthouse opened on Wednesday morning.   Oh it was going to be a long night?!   Gracie, Chance and Cody really were troopers and stayed for a good while longer, especially Cody.  They all LOVED my Momma…My older brother had basically abandoned all of them when they were very young and they fortunately got to spend time at my parents and Momma was always more than willing to babysit or have grandchildren stay with her ANY time.   Brad went home to take care of our dogs and Sue and I spent the night again.  Momma didn’t sleep as well on this night and we could hear her having some difficulty breathing and she would occasionally sigh or faintly moan.  It was absolutely heart-wrenching.  My older brother had showed up again earlier that evening and was once again repeating some chants or something sitting by Momma.  He stayed for a while and then he left.

Sue and I barely slept again, and were up early.  Brad came back first thing.  Momma  seemed more out of it this morning and seemed very restless.   At a few minutes after 8 am, we were told there was a fax for us.  We got it!   And it was the temporary  emergency guardianship order!  And it gave Brad and I the authority to make medical decisions on Momma’s behalf.  We asked for the doctor and social worker to be paged so we could talk to them.   They came in and we showed them the signed order and told them we wanted them to do whatever they could to save Momma and gave them permission to restart her fluids and meds and to get the feeding tube re-inserted.

I was in no way prepared for their response…They explained that Momma’s internal systems had already started shutting down.  And that IF they restarted all life-saving measures, that it would cause her extreme discomfort and pain AND that it would be unlikely that it would be successful.   I was totally and completely crushed at this very moment.   I was trying to be strong and professional, but inside, my heart was breaking into a million tiny pieces and I pushed back the bile in my throat.  I managed to tell them that Brad and I needed a few minutes to talk.   We were both crying by this time and so was Sue.  We decided we could NOT put her through any more pain and suffering than she had already been through and told the doctor and social worker what we had decided.  They were very kind and said they understood what an awful decision that was to have to make, but they felt like we had made a wise decision and were doing the most humane and loving thing we could do at this point.  They promised that they would do everything the could to keep her as comfortable as they possibly could with pain relief medication.   They suggested we call in anyone who might want to see her….

I was beside myself and really just in shock, but there were tasks to do.  Sue called a few of Momma’s closest friends.  Brad and I called some of Momma’s family including my younger brother, her remaining siblings, including her sister in Henderson and her brother and sister-in-law in Florida, and her nephew so he could inform her other brother; however, he was in a nursing home and had Alzheimer’s.  Brad let his family members know.   I let my friends know and a few people that I worked with, as well.  We also contacted the Pastor where Momma and I had been going to church.

As this day went on, some of Momma’s friends visited…One in particular still sticks out in my mind.  It was a neighbor who lived close by.   Momma was mostly just sleeping by this time, but she would grimace or moan or groan occasionally.  It was painful to watch.   Anyway, when this neighbor lady, who is one of the kindest, most Christian- like ladies, I know, asked what had happened and we told her, she said “Wow, your father is killing her…He is going to make sure she doesn’t make it out of this hospital!”  I said “Yes, it would appear so.”  She just hugged me and Brad and she held my Momma’s hand in hers and she just cried.   It was about more than I could take.  One of Momma’s other best friends came in and said she was so very sorry about what was happening.   We told her about the temporary guardianship order and let her know that we would be making her arrangements.  I told her about the conversation I had with Momma about her NOT wanting to be buried by my father.  I asked her if Momma had said anything to her about making arrangements?   She said that she hadn’t directly, but that when the two of them would come to Evansville, they often visited the cemetery where Momma’s parents were buried and that Momma had always commented about what a nice cemetery that was.  She went on to say that she felt that would be where Momma would want to be.  Sue thought that was an excellent idea.  So after most of Momma’s visitors left, Sue and I told Brad that we were going to go check out that cemetery and see if they had a plot available and get it purchased, if he would stay with Momma.  Cody, Chance and Graceie were back there again too.  Momma was really mostly out of it.

So, Momma’s best friend and I went to the cemetery which wasn’t far from the hospital and visited the office for some help.  We let them know where her parents were buried and told them we would like something within close proximity, but preferred that it be across the road, where she could have an upright stone, rather than a flat one, and if possible, the shade would be nice as she never really liked sitting in the sun.  He said there were fewer “single” plots available, but that there definitely were some and we were welcome to take a look at them.   He showed us three or four and then he showed us THE one….I knew that was it as soon as I saw it. It was under this big beautiful shade tree and just down the hill from her parents.   I asked if there were any empty single plots in close proximity to it?  I wanted to make certain that my father couldn’t come in and buy a plot close to this one…Because after what had happened in the past few months, absolutely NOTHING would surprise me…Well, until later.  That’s another blog for later.   There was nothing else available around it, so I told the person who was showing them to us that I wanted to purchase it for her.  So we went back up to the office and completed the  paperwork and as sad as it seemed to me, I felt a little bit of…relief.  Very bittersweet relief, but  at least I felt like I could protect her from my father by not allowing him to insist she be laid to rest with him.  It was still unbelievable to me that she was actually dying…right now.   I just couldn’t wrap my head around how this could be happening…It seemed like a horrible nightmare and I kept praying I would wake up soon.  But that didn’t happen.

We went back to the hospital.  Brad was still there and so was Cody, and Gracie.  Sue came back with me too.  I remember as we walked into the room how so very tiny and fragile Momma looked.  It was so heartbreaking.  And I felt so helpless…There was nothing I could do but to keep praying.   And ask others to pray for her too.  Brad said he was going to go on home and take care of the dogs, but for us to call if we needed anything and he would come back.  We took turns going to get food in the cafeteria because we didn’t want to leave Momma alone.   We told the kids they might as well go home and get some rest…I knew they were exhausted too.  They said they would be back tomorrow.   And they hugged and kissed Momma and Sue and me before they left.

A short time later, my cell phone rang and it was an Evansville number that I did not have in my address book or recognize, but I answered it anyway.  It was KAY Jewelers in the local mall.   Momma’s ring was in.   Wow.   Momma’s ring.   I had forgotten all about it?!    After she had been diagnosed with her cancer returning and after one of her doctor appointments, we had stopped at the mall to pick up something.  She was sitting in the cafe court with her friend, Sue.   I had picked out a Levian diamond ring for her that was just beautiful and purchased it.  I took it to her and said it was sooooooo beautiful, but, of course, wanted to know how much it cost?   I told her it didn’t matter, because she deserved it.  I told her I remembered that she had talked about missing having a ring on her finger since she didn’t want to wear her wedding band anymore and we had talked about how she had never really had a real diamond ring.  So she agreed that she loved it.   I told her she needed to walk back to the jewelry store with me to have it sized to fit.   The salesperson that helped us was so kind and sweet and said it was definitely too big; however, in order to get it to really fit her tiny, tiny finger and go over her knuckle which was swollen and inflamed from arthritis, the salesperson had suggested having a local jeweler put a clasp on it so it would expand to go over her knuckle, but then once fastened, it actually fit her tiny finger perfectly.   She didn’t want to have to do anything that was any extra trouble.  I told her it wasn’t any extra trouble, so she agreed it would be nice.  And so, it was sent to another jeweler for the special sizing.  And now, it was back and ready to pick up.   I asked Sue if she would stay with Momma that I was going to go pick it up so that she could have it.   She agreed…So I did.  The salesperson who had originally helped us waited on me and said she hoped my Momma liked it.  I told her what had happened and she was genuinely sad to hear it, as she said she remembered what a sweet little lady my Momma was.  I told her I was trying to get it to her so she could see it…before…And she understood what I meant and again told me how sorry she was.

When I came back, I was able to wake Momma up enough to tell her I loved her (again) and that her diamond ring was here.  I put it on her ring finger on her left hand…where her wedding band had been.  And it fit PERFECTLY.  And she managed a faint little smile.  She was 76 years old.  And dying.  And she just got her first actual diamond ring.  I wished I felt like she was going to get to enjoy having it.

Shortly after, my cousin brought in my Momma’s sister Becky, who lived over in Henderson.   She couldn’t believe the difference in Momma from a few weeks earlier when she they had all met up at Cracker Barrel.  She talked to Momma and Momma woke enough to acknowledge her and her son.   She hugged her and kissed her and hugged me and said she was so sorry this was happening.   They didn’t stay very long because she rarely drives anymore and her son had to go work shortly and had to take her back home first.  I told her we would keep her updated.

My older brother came in again on this evening and walked over to see Momma.  He almost immediately asked where that ring came from and what had happened to her wedding band?   I told him that was her new ring and that she didn’t want to wear her wedding ring anymore because she didn’t want to be married to our father any more.  He told me I needed to get it back on her and I told him that wasn’t happening.   He stormed out into the hall mad and got on the phone.  I could hear that was on the phone talking to my father…telling him about the ring.   He came back in and sat down by Momma like he had been doing and started his “chanting
and saying things Sue and I couldn’t really understand.  It was so strange.  After a little while, this really seemed to be irritating and bothering Momma.  Sue spoke up and told him that Momma was in a lot of pain and she let her be so she could rest peacefully.   He got up and went back out in the hall to make another phone call to my father to “report” again.   While he was out in the hallway, one of Momma’s nurses who was a very large man came in to check on Momma.   We told him that Momma seemed really restless, especially since my brother had gotten there and that he was sitting close to her head “chanting” or something and that we felt it was really aggrevating to her, as she kept shifting around in the bed and kept moving her legs.   He said if it continued to let him know and he would deal with it.   So my brother came back in and sat quietly by Momma for a little bit and then started in again.   And again, Momma seemed to start to thrash around in the bed and be more restless.  She even groaned a couple of times.  This time I didn’t say anything to him, I just walked up to the nurses station and told the nurse that he was doing the “chanting” thing again.  He said he would be there shortly.   So a few minutes later, he came in and witnessed this occurring and Momma being very restless.  He asked my brother to please stop what he was doing as it was apparently causing his patient  to be uncomfortable and she was bothered by it and that if her was going to stay in there, he needed to stop agitating her.  He again went out in the hall and  called our father to give yet another report.    Sue and I went over sat and stood where my brother had been to kind of shield her from him.

It was starting to get late and we told my brother we were staying overnight when he came back in.   We also told him that we would like to go to bed, as we were beyond exhausted, and we wanted Momma to be able to rest comfortably.  So he left.

Sue and I got as comfortable as we could and started the beginning of what would be a VERY long night.  We talked softly and we cried.  And we prayed that Momma would not be in such discomfort.   But it didn’t really work.   Momma seemed to become more and more restless as the night went on.  She would moan and groan occasionally and a few times, she actually cried out in pain.   And Sue and I cried.  And wished there was something we could do to help, but there wasn’t a damn thing we could do.  I am pretty sure that I might have slept a half an hour throughout the entire night.   I will never forget the obvious pain and suffering Momma was in during that night.    We tried to comfort her, but she was mostly just unresponsive at this point.  It was awful.

Brad came back early the next morning and when he came in he said that he had just ridden up the elevator with my father, my older brother, and a “preacher” friend of theirs.   A few minutes later, a nurse and social worker came in and said that my father was here to see Momma.   I immediately reminded them there was a protective order against him.   They said they knew this, but that the judge had granted him an exception to come in and see Momma since she was obviously not going to be with us a lot longer.   I asked them if they knew what had happened and they didn’t really, so we gave a quick run-down.   And I told them this “If my Momma happens to come to and opens her eyes to see his face, she will, without a doubt in my mind, have an actual heart attack?!”   Brad, Sue and I all stressed how afraid of him she was.   They told us they understood, but they had to allow him in….However, they promised us that they would give her enough morphine to make sure that she would not wake up while my father was there.   They said they would give her another dose and have him wait until they were certain it had started working before allowing him back.  They said they felt that it would be best if we left the room when he came in.  I asked if they would be in here with Momma.  They said they would not, but that there were two others with him.  Sue and I agreed to leave because frankly, I did not think I could hold it together if I actually had to face my father and what he had done to my Momma, especially over the past few days.  Brad; however, told them he wasn’t leaving.   And they really didn’t argue with him.  So Sue and I went to the cafeteria and Brad stayed.

He texted us about an hour later and said they had left Momma’s room, so we went back.   We asked what had happened.  Brad said that it was pretty uneventful.   And he was certain Momma never knew that he was there.  He said my father said to him “Brad, you know that I have no hard feelings for you and Sherri through all of this.”  Brad said “There’s none here either, but I told Sherri’s Momma I would protect her the rest of her life and that’s why I am still here.”   He didn’t speak to Brad again.   He also didn’t really try to talk to Momma.  He just stood there and looked at her.  He said the “preacher” did most of the talking and they prayed and then they left.

My good friend came back to sit with me.   The Grandkids were in and back out and sat down in the waiting room together for a while.  My younger brother came back.  Another of Momma’s best friends came down and told us how sorry she was and told us to just know that she would be in a better place soon and would never have to be mistreated again.  One of my best friends from work texted me and told me she and two of our mutual friends were downstairs and asked if I could come down.  So I went down and they just wanted to give me some hugs and have a good cry with me.  As they were leaving, my boss came in and he hugged me and told me how very sorry he was and to let me know that he had been praying and wanted me to know to not worry about work, and that he and my other friend who was just there and some of my other co-workers were keeping the lid on things and would handle whatever came up and to know that I could take off whatever time I needed….Family First.   He had been such a father figure to me for many years….I had learned so much from him about our field, and dealing with people, and business, and just life lessons, in general.  He helped to build my confidence and had faith in me to do things I didn’t know I could do.   I had always wondered what it would be like to have a dad like him who adored his daughter the way he did?  He had always encouraged her and supported her in what she wanted to do and they had a sweet closeness that I had never known.   And she was successful in sports, and academics, and work, and her marriage and she had beautiful twin baby girls, who he also adored.  Him making the trip to Evansville to tell me that, meant so much to me.  Thank God, I had an employer who had a heart.

Momma had basically not been responsive to any of us all day.   She was fading fast and they had her extremely medicated.  It was killing me to watch her like this.  My friend asked if we had picked out a stone yet, since I told her I had called the funeral home just so they would be ready when we needed them.   I told her we had not picked out a stone.  She asked if I wanted to get out for a little while and Sue and Brad encouraged me to go.   She and I had a good talk.   And she said she wanted to show me where they got her dad’s stone.   It was in a neighboring town.   We got there and there were several on display…And there was one that immediately caught my eye.  It was a rose quartz with a really beautifully shaped top and a flower vase on the side, and it had a rose engraved into it.   I talked to the salesman about it and asked how long it would take to order and get one like that and he said if I liked that one, we could purchase it.   I told him I wanted to bring my brother to see it, but I was pretty sure that would be the one.   He said it wouldn’t take that long to do the engraving.   So my friend was driving me back and I told her to go to the cemetery because I wanted her to see the plot I purchased.  She agreed that the stone we just looked at would be sooooo perfect there.   She then took me back to the hospital and said she had to go because she had an appointment a little later.   I hugged her and thanked her and told her to keep on praying.

I also got a call from Momma’s attorney to let Brad and I know that he had gotten the Judge to agree to letting Brad and I plead Momma’s divorce case tomorrow afternoon at 1 pm, so that it could possibly be completed…Since we were her Temporary Emergency Guardians, he said he would allow it.   I hoped we could at least do that one last act for her.

My daughter called and asked about her MeMe and I told her she had basically been unresponsive all day.  She asked if I would come home and said if I would, they would come out to our house and bring my grandsons and we would have dinner together.  I didn’t really want to leave Momma, but a good long shower and a home-cooked meal sounded so perfect.   Sue said she wouldn’t mind to go home for a while either.  She asked if we were going to come back to spend the night?   I told her we could touch base a little later and decide for sure.   The nurses told us they would call us if there was any change, but they didn’t really anticipate her becoming responsive again.  About the time we were leaving, my older brother had shown up .  I didn’t really like leaving Momma there alone with him, but since the nurses had said she was going to continue to be unresponsive, we hoped he wouldn’t agitate her this evening.   We talked to the nurses about it and they said they would keep a close watch on her.  We had also pointed her new ring out to them and asked that they make sure it didn’t disappear.  We hugged her and kissed her good-bye and told her  that we loved her and then we prayed some more.

So I went home with Brad and the kids were there making some dinner when we got there.  I hopped in my own shower and put on some comfy pj’s and we ate some dinner and then I got lots of grandson lovin’.   They helped me so much.   We read a book and sang some songs and we just cuddled.

Around 9 pm, I called the hospital to check on Momma and they said she was basically the same.  Still unresponsive.   They did indicate the my same brother was still there, but had not seemed to be agitating her.  I asked if they would call if anything came up and they promised to.

So I called Sue and told her I really wanted to sleep in my own bed tonight as I was totally exhausted.   She said she was okay with that, but to call her if I needed her or if anything happened.

So the kids and grandkids left and Gracie and Alex were hanging out downstairs, as Gracie was staying with us.  Roger and his kids were, of course, still there too, so Skylar was in that mix of the teenagers.

Brad and I went to bed and it felt so good to hit my own mattress, but about 2:30 am, on what was now July 11, 2014, I heard my cell phone ring.  And I am pretty sure my heart stopped at that moment.  I reached for the phone and saw it was St. Mary’s.   I didn’t want to hear this, but I answered it anyway.  And sure enough, it was one of Momma’s nurses letting me know that she had just passed.  I asked if she had been all alone and the nurse said that my older brother had been there…I had very mixed feelings about that, but nothing I could do about it now.

Brad and I got dressed, hopped in the car and took off for the hospital.  We got there before 3:30 am and stopped at the nurses station and they told us we could go in and say our good byes and gather up anything we wanted to take home.  They asked what funeral home we wanted her taken to and we told them.  They said they would make that call.

We walked down the hall and my older brother was out in the hall on the phone, on what appeared to be a phone call to my father.   We went in Momma’s room and told her good-bye, and kissed her sweet face.  She was cold.  And it really hit me.  She was gone.   My Momma was gone.   I stood there with Brad holding me tight and had a good long cry.  I felt like I could barely breathe.   But in a bit I pulled it together.   We then gathered up some of the things of hers we wanted to keep and said our last good-byes and let the nurse know we were leaving.  She said they had called the funeral home and they were enroute.

Brad and I walked out of the hospital and it was probably around 415 am by then.  it was still dark, but immediately I noticed the deafening sound of the birds singing and chirping…..really loudly.   This doesn’t usually happen until the sun starts to rise, so I took it as a sign that it was Momma letting us know she was alright.   And I couldn’t help but to smile just a tiny bit.   I made some calls on the way home that I didn’t get made on my way there.

Brad drove us home and we decided to lay back down for a bit because we would likely have a busy day ahead and thought we could get a little more sleep.  However, around 530 am the phone rang again and it was St. Mary’s.   I just figured it was an update that Momma had been transported to the funeral home, but no, that wasn’t it.  It was one of the nurses there letting me know that my father had called them and told them to take Momma to a different funeral home.   I told her that we had the authority to make her funeral and final arrangements.  She told us that he was saying he should be making those decisions.  I told her that it was in the guardianship papers.   She said she had just gotten there and just found the papers.  She said that she read them and agreed, but was going to have legal look again to make sure and she would call me back.   I asked her if Momma was still there and she said “Yes, they will just keep her in the morgue until it is determined by legal what needs to happen.”  So now we are most definitely up.   For the day.   And we are waiting on pins and needles for the next phone call.   It arrived an hour or so later and was positive news.  Legal agreed that we did have the authority to make the arrangements, so we decided we should get up and go to the funeral home and get things picked out and taken care of….

A Whole New World…

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So, Momma moved in with our family and it was delightful to see her transform into a different person.  Not that it happened overnight, but it actually happened much more quickly than I could have ever imagined it would?!

For some reason, even though we were next door to the situation she ran out of, somehow, she felt “safe” with us.  Could have been because Brad made a vow to her to keep her safe from now on.   And Alex was his back up.  Oh and then there was the Bulldog and the Boxer, Rowdy and Milo, who also seemed to sense that she needed protecting.  And at the time, my younger brother and his kids were staying with us, and my daughter and her crew were frequently in the house, as was my niece, Gracie, as well as a few of her friends who remained close to her…so needless to say, we had a pretty full house…most of the time!!

Brad and I were both working at the time this all went down, as was my younger brother, and the kids were still in school.   We certainly didn’t feel comfortable leaving Momma at our place alone, so we had to get a little creative.   It wasn’t difficult, because Momma loved getting to go and especially to places that she actually wanted to go to (We learned that she rarely had any say about the plans that were made.  She often had to ride along on fairly long trips, to just sit in the car while my father would go in to talk to someone about tractors or tractor parts, sometimes for long periods of time).   She was also happy to get to visit people that she enjoyed spending time with…Something else we learned that didn’t happen all that often, even when she was invited, because our father might “need” her to get or bring him something or clean up after him at home.

My Mother–In-Law, Patti, and Brad’s Aunt, Jenny, her friends, Sue, Pat and JoAn, all invited her to spend some of her days with them while we worked.  She loved all of them and felt comfortable in their homes.  She also made fast friends with her hair stylist and manicurist and enjoyed spending time at the salon.   Momma very much wanted to get her hair done every week, but had said my father said that was too much trouble because he would have to drive her and wait for her to get done and that it was a waste of money.  And she had NEVER had a professional manicure…And boy, did she LOVE it?!  So this became a weekly ritual, too.  Brad, my brother or me would take her and drop her off at the salon and them pick her up when she was finished.   She seemed to really enjoy that “me time”!

We had also visited the Senior Center in Washington and she enjoyed meeting the director and was interested in some of the activities there, so that was another option if her friends were busy when we had to work.  She and I also toured an Assisted Living Facility in Washington because I wanted her to understand that she had options as to how she chose to spend the rest of her life with her newfound independence.   I remember leaving there and her saying “That place is REALLY nice, but I think I will just stay with you and Brad and Alex if that’s all right?”   Which I, of course, told her it was!

We also are definitely not home bodies and so we invited Momma to tag along wherever we were going.   She enjoyed going to Alex’s baseball games and Skylar’s softball games, and to Church.  She really wanted to go to Church and said she hadn’t been allowed to even though she had friends who invited her and offered to take her.  And since she no longer drove, she couldn’t just go by herself.  So we began going to Church on Sunday mornings…and she loved that too.  She and I even signed up to be volunteers for their upcoming Bible School…We would help with refreshments!!  We both loved baking cookies!

She also got to experience some new and different food….In particular, Mexican Food!!  She quickly became a fan….This was not a food she had ever gotten to try because my father didn’t like it.  We also took her to a Japanese Hibachi, which she also liked very much!!  She had also had never been to Orange Leaf for frozen yogurt.  She became an immediate fan of that too!

When she first came to stay with us, she was in dire need of some medical care, as well as some major TLC to help build her self-confidence, which as you might imagine, was very low.  She often talked about being “old” and about being “ugly”.  We made her an appointment with her regular physician in Evansville, an appointment with her eye specialist in Evansville, and her podiatrist who was also in Evansville.

We saw her regular physician first and she was pretty open with him about what had happened.   He thought this was quite interesting and told her that my father had reportedly been down to see him the week or so before and he had told her doctor that Momma had been “kidnapped” and was being “held against her will” by Brad and me.  Her physician said he had done some checking and learned that this was not true, but wondered what had precipitated that?   The one thing that sticks out in my mind the most about this appointment is that her physician asked her how long this abuse had been going on and she said “Always”.   Wow!  “Always”…that’s a long time.   And it was heartbreaking for me to hear that.  She also asked her doctor if it was alright if she started cutting down her anti-anxiety medicine, since she was feeling more relaxed and comfortable…of course, he agreed this was fine to start reducing it.  So we did!   This was the medication she used to ask me if she could have one of almost everytime I stopped by her house when she was living with my father.  On the way home, I asked her about her comment about the abuse happening “Always”.  I asked her if this was the real reason that she had filed for a divorce the first time she was married to my father…And she said “yes, that was why.”  (Hence the two marriage licenses I had questioned many, many years ago!). Wow…How did I miss this?

Momma insisted on sleeping on our family room sofa when she first came to stay with us.  We had a big, comfy sofa in there, so it wasn’t really a problem, but we also had a spare bedroom with a nice bed in it.  I didn’t push it…I just wanted her to feel comfortable and more importantly to be able to make her own decisions.  She explained that she had slept in the recliner in her and my father’s family room for years because if he needed her, he expected her to be right there.  She said she had gone into the living room (which was beside the family room) a couple of times and when my father woke up and she wasn’t in the recliner, she said he “threw a fit”.  So to avoid that she said she just slept in the recliner.   This made me feel like her lying down on the sofa, that was made up into a bed, was a step in the right direction.

After a few weeks, I offered her moving into the bedroom again, and this time she said “yes!”   I told her we could go shopping and she could pick out some things she liked to decorate the room with and so we did.  She picked out some ceramic owls.  She told me they were her favorite and asked me if I remembered the owl picture and figures she used to have when I was younger.  I told her I did.  She said “I loved those, but your father told me they were studpid and made me take them down and get rid of them.  How sad was that???  She also picked out some nice pictures for the walls.  And a soft pillow.  We had already cleaned out half of the closet so that she could hang up her clothes she had gotten out of the house.   She started sleeping in there and even slept in until after 730 am a few of the mornings!!  This was unheard of for her as she was always up at the crack of dawn.   It also started a ritual that I loved.  I would go in to tell her good night and make sure she didn’t need anything before I went to bed and I would tuck her in and kiss her goodnight.   She would always say “You know I love you, don’t you?”  To which I would always say “Of course I do”.  And then we would say good night.  The other night time ritual she and I had was to have some coffee and watch the 10 pm news.  I think that routine was comforting to her and I loved my one-on-one time with her.

In the mornings, when I would be getting ready for work, Momma would wander in and ask me if I would fix her hair a little, which I would.  One day, I was putting on my make-up when she wandered in and I noticed she was just watching intently.   Momma hadn’t really worn make up for years.  I asked her if she would like some make-up on?   I will never forget what she said.  She said “Oh no.   I’m too ugly…it won’t do any good.”  I told her she was beautiful and that I was sure she would look even more lovely with a little blush, mascara and lipstick, so she agreed to try it.  And that was the beginning of another morning ritual.   She honestly started feeling “pretty” and even bought some make up of her own!

It was getting warmer and all she had brought from her house were wintery clothes, so I told her I thought it was time to go shopping.  She was tiny, but usually wore things a little big and dressed a bit drab and plain.  We went to Goody’s and she picked out some beautiful, bright and cheerful clothes…That fit.  And while all along she kept saying “That is too expensive, I shouldn’t spend that much on me”….I convinced her otherwise and she was quietly very proud of her new clothes.   We also went to Macy’s and she wanted to pick out a summer purse.   She found one from Tommy Hilfiger that was woven and leather.   It was on clearance, but was still about $90.  She said “Oh, I can’t get that….I have never had a purse that costs that much?!”  I told her she was definitely worth it and deserved it.   And she bought it.  And LOVED it.  She was so proud of it!   I got such joy in seeing her finally be able to have some things that she had wanted and deserved for the past 76 years.   I just hated that it was just now happening.

There were many little things that I am sure most everyone else just takes for granted…like being able to watch something they would like on TV.   When she first came down and we gave her the remote to the Living Room TV and told her she could watch what she wanted, she kept saying “Are you sure?”  “Is there something you all want to watch?”  After a few weeks, she realized, she could truly chose.   For any of you who knew her, getting her to sit down and actually watch a program was a feat…She was always on the go…Always in motion.  The first few days she was at our house too.  She would was dishes everytime she came into the kitchen, even if was only a glass or coffee cup or a cereal bowl.   We finally convinced her that this wasn’t necessary, and that we could just load the dishwasher throughout the day and run it in the evening.   It also took a bit of coaxing to get her to relax while we made dinner.   She wanted to contribute, so she almost always set the table.  She was in awe that Brad helped in the kitchen and did the majority of the grilling.  She talked about how my father NEVER helped with anything around the house, especially not cooking?!

The other thing she was really enjoying was time with her grandkids and great grandkids….Oh did she love those kids and how they loved her?  Seeing her get hugs and kisses from them made my heart so happy.

A few weeks after she moved in with us, she was complaining about her vision, so we made an appointment with her eye specialist.   He got her in very quickly and found that she had really huge cataracts and that he wasn’t sure how she could see anything.  So he scheduled an appointment right away to take care of that.  I asked him how long this had been going on and he said she had needed to have the procedure for quite some time,  but that she hadn’t been in touch to schdule it.  She got new glasses too!  She was happy and amazed at how much better she could see!

Next was an appointment with her podiatrist.   Evidently, she had missed a few appointments with her, as well.   So when I took her in, she spent a great amount of time working on Momma’s feet.   She asked that she please throw away the shoes she had been wearing and for me to help her pick out some good-fitting, supportive ones.   So we went shoe shopping too…Again, she was reluctant to spend more than $20 on herself to buy some shoes…But she did.  We talked about how important it was to take good care of her feet.   We made her a follow-up appointment and promised we would keep it.   I asked Momma why she hadn’t kept those appointments before and she said my father said they weren’t that important and she would be fine without them.  And since she couldn’t drive, she was reliant upon him to take her.   All I could think of were all of the times she had complained about her feet hurting…I had no idea that she wasn’t getting to those appointments.

There were other little things that happened that I will always treasure…Like having our morning coffee on the front porch.   How she loved to sit out there with me and Rowdy and Milo and Cash and listen to the birds singing?!   However, it was spoiled kind of early on…If you remember our front porch faced the north end of Momma and my father’s house.  So, one morning while we were sitting out there, my father proceeded to ride the JD Gator out to the edge of his yard, parked it, and just sat there and appeared to just stare at us.   Momma said that we had better go in.  She didn’t want him to do something to us….so that was the end of that lovely morning ritual on the front porch.   Fortunately, we had a deck on the back of our house that my father was unable to see from his yard, so we started sitting out there.    One evening while we were cooking out back there, she was at the end of it…looking up at her old house.   I noticed it and went over and said  “Momma, do you want to go back home?”  She paused a moment, and gave me “the look” and said “Hell NO!”

After a week and half or so, I asked Momma if she was doing okay.  And she said yes. She said she thought she was ready to file for a divorce, so we found her an attorney and she did it.  She said she felt “relieved”, but wished it was all over.  However, she really wanted to get her “stuff”.

One other thing Momma very much wanted to do was to visit with her family members.   So we made that happen.   Her Brother and Sister-In-Law, Bill and Gayera, came up to Indiana from Florida that spring…So we planned a day to meet them in Evansville at the Cracker Barrel and they brought along her little Sister, Becky.   We ate and talked and laughed, and laughed, talked and ate.  Boy, did she love Hashbrown Casserole?!   Another day, when she had one of her appointments, we called her Sister, Becky, who lived in Henderson, Kentucky, and she met Momma and me at The Donut Bank…Coffee and Donuts…And Sisters.  They had such a nice visit.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more??!!

Then, out of the blue, around Memorial Day, Momma got sick and appeared to be dehydrated, so I took her to the hospital to get checked out.  They gave her some IV fluids, but also did some tests and saw something suspicious.   And before we knew it, she was scheduled to see an Oncologist…

I prayed to God this wasn’t what we feared.