January 5, 2017

As I was having tea with my dad this morning he casually mentioned that he was going out to lunch today with a friend. My mom died a little over two months ago so I was glad that he was staying busy and being social. What I didn’t realize (at first) was that his lunch date was with a woman.

“What? With who? Where? Today? What?”

Okay, so I may have over reacted just a tad.

Turns out his “lunch date” was with a dear friend who lost her husband a few years ago. She’s a very sweet lady whom I chatted with at my parents summer party this past June. She has a grand daughter the same age as my daughter and we hoped maybe they could meet up one day.

Still, it felt a bit odd.

Would I want my spouse to be going out for lunch with another woman that soon after I died? I don’t know. I like to think that I would be. Really, it’s just a casual lunch right? Why shouldn’t he enjoy the rest of his life?

As I drive home I thought….”I bet they spend the whole time talking about how much they miss their spouses.”

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Mom

jane-hamilton-1-cropped

Tonight it hit me.  Tonight the tears fell.  

It’s been three days since my mom died.  

I finally realized why I haven’t  gone through my photos to find the perfect picture for the reception.  Why I haven’t decided on a caterer.  Why I have told people it was “for the best” that she wasn’t suffering anymore. Why I have gone to work and kept busy.

It was because I didn’t want it not be true.  I didn’t want it to be real.

I didn’t want my mom to be dead.

But she is. My sweet, feisty, occasionally inappropriate, mom is dead.   Not passed away.  She hated that expression.  She always used to say.

“People don’t pass away.  They die.”

The first time I walked into the apartment after she died I was shocked to find that she wasn’t there.  Where was she?   Why wasn’t she sitting at her desk?  Why didn’t I hear her voice?  Why was I only making one cup of tea with honey?

I have lost my comfort person.  The person I call when life sucks.  The person who always picks up and knows that something is wrong before you even speak.  And right now I need my comfort person.  Because right now life sucks.

She was so brave in these last weeks.  She tolerated the imaginable and still kept her sense of humor.  

At one point my brother, bless his heart, was trying to get her to take a sip of water from a straw.  On the fourth attempt I could see the exasperation in his face.  He really wanted….needed her to take some water.  She was having none of it.  Without even opening her eyes she put her hand up and said “Piss off”.   Classic mom.

I know that she is still here with me in her own special way.  Telling me that it’s going to be okay.  Maybe she’s right.  She usually was.  

The Best Thing in Life is that I will have eighty four years of memories to keep me company.  But tonight, the tears will continue to fall.  

Why Don’t The Assholes Die?

This Saturday my husband and I will attend a memorial service for a man we worked with earlier in our careers.  He was forty seven.

In the last five years five young men we worked with at that same company have passed away.  Some from disease, others from sudden fatal accidents.  With the exception of one, all men had children. Some as young as two or three years old.  They left behind spouses, parents and colleagues who cared for them deeply.

Without exception all five men were great guys.  Kind, hard working, decent men.

Why don’t the assholes die?

Have you ever noticed what happens when a young person passes away traumatically.  If the media is involved they interview their friends and family.  The reaction is typically predictable?  “They were always smiling and happy.  Everyone liked them.”  Have you ever heard anybody say “Ya, he was a total jerk.  Mean to everybody he encountered.”

Happy pictures are shown.  Happier times are remembered.  Making it all the more devastating.

Why don’t the assholes die?

Now when I say as assholes I don’t mean the guy who cut you off getting onto the highway this morning.  Or the woman who didn’t pick up her dogs business at the park yesterday.  Not even the boss who fired you just because he thought that he could get some young hot shot to fill the position you’ve given your heart and soul to for five years.

I’m talking about those people in your life that give you consistent aggravation.  Ones that go out of their way to make your life more difficult simply because they can.

Why don’t those assholes die?

The five men that have died in the past five years were not that person.  They were funny redheaded goofballs.  They were gentle hockey loving fathers.  They were guys who always “knew a guy” who could help you out.  They were wizards with Christmas lights and skateboard ramps.  They were work colleagues who boosted you up instead of climbing over you.

They weren’t assholes.  And yet they died.

 

33 Hours In A Van – Re-posted from a year ago

ragnar start

It’s 7:30 am and twelve moms are arriving in two vans at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. The plan is to race with 500 other teams on a 200 mile course from Blaine to Whidbey Island, Washington. Each team member will run three legs over the course of about 33 hours. Some legs are easy and some are hard. Some will be run in the heat of the day and others in the dead of night. We are all excited and nervous at the same time. Am I ready? Can I do this? Too late now. The announcer is calling our team. We line up to see our first runner go. Five, four, three, two, one…..race!

Lisa starts us off with a 10 km leg while van two heads back to the hotel. They won’t start running until 1:45 this afternoon. They may get a bit more sleep but I don’t imagine waiting around for five hours does anything for the nerves. At least we, van one, are off and running; literally. The temperature isn’t bad for the first two or three legs but by the time I run at 11:40am the sun is full on and it’s hot in Ferndale. As I start my 10 km run through the small town, I can’t see any other runners and no vans have passed me for a while. I start to panic and my heart rate goes up. What if I missed my turn. I don’t see any signs. Crap. Finally a van passes me with writing all over the windows. Okay, I’m going the right way. Head down keep running. Where the hell is that “one mile to go” sign? Once I’m done there’s one more runner and we are done our first legs. Time to eat and rest.

ragnar 1

After a much needed meal at the Train Wreck pub in Burlington (how appropriate) we get out our sleeping bags and find some shade at the high school designated for our exchange with the other van. All over the schools lawn teams are sleeping, fueling or just chilling. Team spirit is alive and well in these events. Some go all out with costumes and themes. We see two team members dressed as sumo wrestlers preparing to meet their runner. The “butt girls” as we have named them, are all running with plastics bare butts around their waists. These runs are hard enough as it is, why make it harder? Another team is dressed as the cast of Star Wars. Storm Trooper and all. We are Team Reruns Eh. We proudly represent Canada in our red and white maple leaf t-shirts with some embellishments provided by Sharon. We can easily identifiy Emily by her sparkly tutu. We wonder how van 2 is doing? It’s hot and they have some serious elevation to run.

At about 6:30pm our second legs start. It will be dark soon so we all make sure we have our night gear. Reflective vest, butt flasher and head lamp. My second leg starts at about 9:30pm. It’s pitch black as I ran up the hill and around the corner in a light rain. I hear bull frogs croaking in the ditches and imagine some backwoods crazy jumping out and pulling me into the woods. It weird what goes through your head when you’re running alone in the dark. All the runners I had seen during the previous leg have suddenly disappeared. Did I smell that bad? Slowly they start coming up behind me. One at a time they pass me. Good job. Good job. They each say as they motor past me. I was probably at about 13km and I needed to walk for a bit and stretch my calves. A guy comes up behind me and says “Don’t stop.” Under my breath I say “Asshole.” Two seconds later another guy passes me and says “You’re doing great. Keep it up”. As he catches up to the asshole who has just passed me he chastises him for being negative. My faith in runners is re-established.

So we are done with our second legs and it’s time to get some rest. We drive to Oak Harbour and find some space in the gym to lay out our sleeping bags. It’s 1:15am. Within minutes we were all asleep. Okay, maybe not everybody as Donna made the unfortunate choice to lay down beside somebody who snored; loudly. In what seemed like about 10 minutes it’s time to get up. it’s 4:30 am.  At this point the only thing keeping us going is the fact that we know this will be our last leg. When this one is done we were finished. It’s cool and threatening to rain. The last runner for van 2 is coming in. They have had a brutal night. Three of their head lamps died, Leanna had to give another team her flashlight as their headlamp died too and didn’t have a back up and Rosa tripped and gashed her knee. They are still smiling though.

ragnar 2

At this point you can tell that runners are tired. Stiff legs and lack of sleep is catching up with everybody. My final 8km leg is along a beautiful shady road with views of the water. I could have just stopped and headed down to the beach. No, really I could have, that’s how tired I was. Somehow, though, we all manage to cut a few minutes off our projected times and arrive in Coupeville ahead of schedule. Chris, van 2’s first runner, is fueled with a good breakfast and ready to go. They have gotten some rest and are also looking forward to their last legs. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have accomplished so much in really, a very short time. As Jen said on Saturday night when it was all over, it’s a leap of faith to get into a van with 5 women who you may or may not even know and push yourself to do things you probably have never done.

At about 3:45 pm as we all run across the finish line together,  I think to myself, The Best Thing in Life is spending 33 hours in a van, finishing a race with 11 other crazy women and having memories and friendships that will last forever. It is a leap of faith that I will most likely take again…..but not for a couple of years.

ragnar 3

TBT – Kamikaze Friends

J&K wedding

I remember this day so clearly. It was the summer of 1994. My dear friends Karen and Jeff got married in the Rose Garden in Stanley Park. There were only four of us there. Karen, Jeff, me and my ex-husband. (We were married at the time). It was a beautiful sunny summer day and we were young and happy and had no cares in the world.

My ex-husband met Jeff through a friend of his. They were going sailing one day and his friend asked if his cousin could come along. When I got home from work that day the three of them were all hanging out in the front yard drinking beer and laughing at Jeff’s titanic impression on the boat that day. “I’m the king of the world” he screamed as he hung onto the front of the bow.

Jeff and Karen met purely by chance. They were both extras in a movie being shot at Nat Bailey stadium. Karen spied Jeff in the crowd and surreptitiously maneuvered her way a little closer to him. Okay, maybe not so much a “chance” meeting. We met Karen a short time later and the four of us hit it off right away.

We had a lot in common. We all loved tennis and played doubles any chance we got. We all loved to travel. We all loved cooking and good food and spent many evenings cooking and drinking wine together. And then there were the Kamikazes. Frozen vodka and lime cordial shooters. I’m not sure why we thought they were a good idea but they were present at every occasion. How many times we headed out to the tennis courts with wicked hangovers I can’t recall. Oh and did I mention that we ended up living right beside each other?

Karen and I were die hard Martha Stewart fans. This was before she went to jail…Martha not Karen. I still have the Martha Stewart cookbook they gave me on my thirtieth birthday. It’s a bit torn up and stained but every time I open it I think of them.

On the day they got married in the Rose Garden by a justice of the peace there couldn’t have been a happier couple. So in love and so happy to have found each other. Both had been married before and endured difficult divorces. As we drank champagne in a horse-drawn carriage we toasted their good fortune in finding each other. And then we did kamikaze shots. It was kind of our thing.

J&K spoons

The horse-drawn carriage took us along the edge of lost lagoon and down the path to the Tea House. That’s when the picture was taken. Karen and I on the lawn across from the restaurant, overlooking English Bay. Considering it was mid nineties I had some awesome 80’s hair going on. Karen, of course, looked fabulous in her wedding dress.

A couple of years later, 1996, the four of us all went to Mexico together. I had just found out that I was pregnant and Karen discovered that she was pregnant while we were there. I still remember how the two of them giggled when they told us how they had gone into a pharmacy in Cancun and quietly tried to find a pregnancy test that didn’t have instructions in Spanish. Our sons were born two months apart.

J&K hammok

In February of 1997 my husband and I split up. Jeff and Karen were in a difficult position. They were still living beside my ex but found it difficult to accept the things he had down that ultimately ended our marriage. They were both there on the day that I moved into my new home but shortly after moved to Calgary. That was 1997. In 1999 Jeff passed away in his sleep.

Our carefree days were over and the realities of a different life set in. Karen’s birthday is coming up next month. I might just need to go out and by some vodka and lime cordial. The Best Thing in Life is beautiful memories and life long friends.

Call Your Mom

mom boat

Just before Christmas my dad called and said that he had taken my mom to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing so they were running some tests. She was on oxygen and feeling okay by the time he left to go home. He was really calm and matter of fact so I assumed there was no huge emergency. I had an appointment close to the hospital that morning so I stopped by with a couple of magazines for her to read. She was off the oxygen, sitting up in bed and looked normal. I left the hospital and called my dad to tell him that she wanted her cell phone. She went home later that day and we waited for the outcome of her tests. Congestive heart failure. Not great news, but manageable and we all enjoyed a happy holiday season. Small sigh of relief.

Now its February and she is back in the hospital. Her heart was the original concern but after some preliminary testing they are doing more tests on her digestive system and monitoring her heart. She also has Parkinson’s Disease. Just to complicate things. She’s been in the hospital for almost a week now and I’m kind of having a hard time with it. I feel confused and scared and I just want it all to stop. I want the doctors to figure out what’s wrong with her and fix it damn it. Okay, so maybe add angry to that list of things I’m feeling. What if the results are bad? What if she needs surgery? She’s 82 years old and surgery would put extra pressure on her heart. What if her heart can’t take it?

mom skiing

So I’m doing what I typically do when I’m avoiding something bad. I’m cleaning the house. Top to bottom, bathrooms, floors, kitchen. Anything to stop thinking about it. The hardest time is trying to get to sleep at night. As I lie in my cozy bed I can’t help but think about my mom lying in the hospital. Uncomfortable bed, noises from the hall and nurses station, monitors glowing above her and side effect from the medications she is on. She’s putting on a brave face but I know how miserable she is and I want to help her. She was the one who always made me comfortable when I was sick. She’s the one who brought down all those high fevers I suffered from. She’s always been the one to make me feel better. I have taken her cookies, a crossword puzzle book, some sushi but it all seems so futile. I want to make all the icky stuff go away like she used to do for me.

In a lot of ways all of this would be easier if I was a religious person. I would have an outlet for my feelings and somebody to pray to. Maybe I could resign myself to the fact that this was God’s plan. And if it was serious, and she did pass away, I would know that she was in heaven and at peace. But I’m not religious and I don’t really know how to handle it. I’m a black and white person. I like things in neat packages and I like having all my questions answered. And not with “we don’t know yet”. I don’t have anything to turn to and make this earlier. I don’t have answers and there really is very little that I can do. Now I know why some people drink.

So this is what it all boils down to. The fact that it’s totally out of not only my hands, but anybody’s hands. It’s just that I’m not ready for this. I know she’s not going to die today. Probably not even this week. But this is the first time I’ve thought that it could happen. I can’t help but feel like this is the beginning of the end. I don’t want to feel that way but I do. She could very well be around for another ten years. But even that’s just not long enough for me. I don’t want her to die. There I said it. She drives me crazy sometimes but I’m not ready for her not to be there to drive me crazy.

So in the words of recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons…..call your mom. Go. Do it now.

No More Pity Parties For Me

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It was Sunday night and my husband was packing his bags for yet another week away. I felt a small pity party coming on. He has a job that requires him to travel a lot. Typically he is away for at least three weeks a month and often that involves being away for the weekends too. It’s hard on all of us. He practically lives in a hotel and misses out on so many little things that happen at home. Our seven-year old misses him like crazy and knows exactly how many minutes it takes for him to get home once his plane has landed. But, as he packed and I felt the typical Sunday evening disappointment of being alone again creeping in, I stopped for a moment. The night before we had enjoyed dinner with our friend Nicole and her son Jacob. Jacob is three weeks younger than my daughter. The love of Nicole’s life and Jacob’s father died four years ago. They are alone all the time.

Lucas was only 29 in late 2005 when he was first diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It wasn’t found in his lungs though. The first tumor was found in his nasal passages. After a horrific surgery Lucas and Nicole thought they were in the clear. Wrong. During the appointment to have his surgical staples removed they were given some literature and an appointment date with the BC Cancer Agency. They asked why and were told “Oh, it’s cancer. You didn’t know that?”  They were shocked but still weren’t particularly worried though as the doctor didn’t seem to be. But after meeting with an oncologist and doing what every sick person does, googling his condition, Lucas and Nicole realized just how bad things were. The doctors were now saying “we will do all we can” but the odds were not in their favor. Somehow in that horrific, stress filled time of radiation and chemo and sickness there was a bright spot. Early in 2007 Nicole discovered that she was pregnant.

Jacob was born on September 26, 2007. Fortunately, the next eighteen months were free of treatment for Lucas. It was a welcome change from all they had been through so far. I remember those times well. My daughter and Jacob as babies. Lucas playing Lego with the two of them at one of Jacob’s birthday parties. Comparing milestones, as all new parents do. The joy that Lucas had for being a dad. It wouldn’t last though. Over the course of six years the cancer came back 7 times and Lucas had 5 rounds of radiation, 3 rounds of intense chemo, 2 brain surgeries, a hip replacement, and countless other appointments and tests. Sadly on January 30, 2011 Lucas passed away. Aside from losing her husband, Nicole was now the sole provider for her family and at the young age of 38, a widow. Your not supposed to be a widow at that age. But she was and despite the fact that she has an amazing family and support group, she and Jacob were now on their own.

Feb 25 Jacob and Olivia...aren't we cute!

It’s not a particularly fun thing to do, but try to imagine your life right now if your husband was gone. Not just for a week-long business trip, but forever. Think of all the things that you rely on when your spouse walks through the door at the end of the day. I know that I struggle with things when my husband is away. Typically it revolves around discipline. Was I too hard on her? Should I have let that one go? Maybe I should have been stricter? Not having your spouse there to bounce things off of can make you question yourself. It breaks my heart to hear Nicole say. “I would give anything to have him by my side to tell me I’m doing alright. Even if just for one minute”. She often finds herself wondering in those times “What would Lucas do? To Nicole’s credit, Jacob is the sweetest little boy. He does well in school, loves to swim, loves Lego and can keep up with my crazy daughter on the dance floor. No small feat.

Liv and Jacob

Jacob is seven now and a great kid. He is a mini Lucas. Kind, funny, smart and energetic. But he is having a bit of a hard time right now understanding why all the other kids in school have dads and he doesn’t? He’s even gone so far as to ask Nicole “will I ever have a new daddy”. If that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what will. Can’t even imagine how you would answer that question. Nicole keeps Lucas’ memory alive as best she can for Jacob. They look at pictures and she shares stories of Lucas. His love of sports and the Miami Dolphins. Most stories, she says, include the word “fart.” Its a boy thing. Lucas liked a good “fart” story too. He was a big kid with a huge smile and a positive attitude about everything. Mostly she tells Jacob how proud Lucas would be of him.

I’m pretty sure that if all of this happened to me that I would find a dark closet corner somewhere and curl up into a ball. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to not only lose the love of your life but to then be a single mom and entrusted with raising a little boy without his father. Nicole doesn’t understand how people see her as an inspiration but if you met her and saw the love in her eyes for that little boy and the smile that is on her face every day, you would understand. When I asked her if she had any advice for somebody else going through this she said. “Be easy on yourself. It’s a tough journey”.  What keeps her going?

Jacob-the reason she gets up each day
Family-her mom and brothers
Friends
Lucas’ strength of never giving up
Wine-it’s not an answer but some days it sure helps!

So going forward I will not hold pity parties. Whenever I am feeling like the world has dealt me a poor hand or if I feel like I just can’t quite make it through a difficult time, I will think of Lucas, Nicole and Jacob. They were all short-changed in the game of life but somehow have managed to move on and are seeing all that is good in what they do have. Beautiful memories, love and family. The Best Things in Life.