A Love Letter to 1988…

Dear daughter,

February 12, 1988, was a chilly Friday morning in Hampton, VA. Your maternal grandmother was at our apartment helping your soon to be “big sister” ready for school and the dentist. Daddy and I were going to Hampton AFB Hospital to welcome you into our arms and introduce you to the world. You were so loved and we were ready to grow our family for the final time.

You were born after 11 hours and 56 minutes of labor, though not all hard labor. You were very small for a full term baby, sort of blue, and screaming once the doctor got the cord from around your neck. You rapidly turned pink and had a set of lungs that would continue to give you issues throughout your youth. You were jaundiced, laid under the lights in the hospital and then in the sunlight streaming through our patio window once you came home. We loved you so. We still do…

You were an easy child to raise but a difficult babe to carry. I was very sick the entire length of my pregnancy with you. I’ve often said had you been born first I never would have had another child, but I would have. Especially if that child was like you. I remember being so sick your Daddy would cry from not knowing how to help me. Every single day of sickness was worth it because we have you and we love you. So much…

I don’t know how to tell you how much your love has meant to both Daddy and me. How do you tell someone that they’ve been your guiding light? How do you express a love so deep that to think about it brings tears of joy and pain at the same time? Joy because you are a wonderful person. Pain because we miss you so much. You had so many physical challenges to overcome as a young child, and you did. We loved you through all of it, we still do…

You were young when you said to us that you would never hurt us like your older sister did. You never have. I know you miss her, we do, too. Your determination to stay out of trouble and do well in school has led you to a wonderful life full of love, learning and stability. You set the kind of example for your children that shines brightly and they have the most amazing mom. Ever!

There are so many things I would change for you if I could. Your Daddy wouldn’t be sick. We would still be in SC being hands-on grandparents and enjoying being so close to you and your beautiful family. I wish I could give your son back his Poppa. I wish I could hold your daughter’s hand and see her new Hatchimals in person. I miss you and love you, so much. We both do…

When people tell me that they’re amazed at how strong I am, I tell them that I don’t have a choice. I’ve had to be strong. With you I can fall apart and cry and rage and hide… and I appreciate that more than you will ever know. I’ll be honest and tell you that I am weaker than ever, but in that weakness is beauty and resilience. With each day that passes and we cannot be together, I want you to know that I pray for you and your family. I pray that you all know how much your Daddy and me love you all. I pray for your safety. I pray that your children know how much they are loved by their grandparents. I give thanks to God and the universe for the gift of you. As a mother that has known the pain of losing a child, I can tell you that the joy of loving you has been a healing and soothing balm to my broken heart. Thank you for loving me, for loving Daddy and for being the daughter that you are. You are my heart. Always…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Man Without Us…

Hi all, I hope this entry finds you all well and staying safe…

I write a lot about how I feel because it makes sense to me to write what I know. I know how “I” feel. I woke up this morning feeling like I usually do. I wake with the light and since the light comes early on the East Coast, I wake early. Not a big deal. This morning I woke and my first thoughts were of my husband as they always are now. This morning I woke thinking how each day passes and how alone he must feel without us. How alone he must feel without his brothers, his mom, his daughter, his sons-in-love and his grandchildren. How alone he must feel without all of the people that love him being allowed to see him everyday.

The man without us is a man of broad shoulder, barrel chested, sports a military buzz cut, and has blue eyes that shine. My husband stood at 5’11” and carried himself with the discipline and pride instilled deep within by the many years of service to our nation. He was a larger man, with a solidness that made his hugs the best ever. A Teddy Bear in private; a fiercely loyal and protective man all around. He served 24.5 years in the military and it was an honor to serve beside him. It wasn’t easy then and it’s not easy now, but we made it through all those years, surprisingly intact, and I am grateful for the opportunity we had to make a life together.

As I sit in the kitchen of my oldest brother-in-law’s kitchen, I find myself feeling way too much to be able to share everything in my head about this subject in one blog post. Can you imagine what any patient in a skilled care facility must feel on a daily basis because of the restrictions of visitation due to Covid-19? Granted, the restrictions are in place to protect the health of patients and employees, but when you’re dealing with compromised patients, they aren’t always able to process rules and regulations. They see limitations as cruel, and hurtful, and beyond their comprehension. My husband was a smart, logical man before his TBI, but now he’s like a little boy that just “doesn’t get it.” He cries, he rages and he aches for the loving touch of a hug, a hand held, and a kiss on the cheek. He deserves that. We all do. Imagine having that taken away from yourself with no warning, no comprehension, and no end in sight? This is the plight of hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We are being told that we can visit our loved ones by appointment only, but that we can’t touch them, we can’t approach them, and we can’t hug them. It’s torturous from no matter how we look at it. People mean well when they say things like “you should be grateful that you can see him.” They tell me to be patient, that “this too shall pass.” Or, “You should…” You need to…” “I want you to…”

The man without us doesn’t care that other people “think” those of us that love him “should.” He doesn’t care that the reasons for the limitations on visiting are in place to try to protect the most vulnerable among us against a silent virus that spreads like wildfire. He cares that he’s lonely, that he feels abandoned and that he thinks no one cares. I love my husband beyond my own life, I would take the TBI onto myself and set him free of all the pain and loss and loneliness. I can’t. What I can do? I can carry my share of his heaviness and do it with as much grace, fortitude and determination as I can muster on a daily basis. Some days it’s easy, some not, and then there are the in-between days. The days that start with tears, but end with smiles. The days that rain without ceasing and you swear that you’ll never see the sun again. The days where the weather is the stuff of dreams… I know the man I married all those years ago is gone, but he’s not at the same time. Until you experience the challenges of an event like the one that changed our lives, and the lives of so many around us, you’ll never quite understand the struggle. I pray you never have to understand the struggle.

The man without us is safe, he’s being well cared for and he is loved. At my darkest times I cry out to God for the strength to make it through another day. I cry out in my pain and beg the universe for peace, and sometimes I find it. I think back on the happiest times we had as a couple and relish the feel of my husband’s arms around me. I can hear his voice saying “baby, take your glasses off, you’ve fallen asleep reading.” I can picture him playing Matchbox cars with our two youngest grandchildren. Or fishing with our oldest grandson. I can see him encouraging our oldest granddaughter to hit the softball. The man without us is not without us, he is always with us. In our hearts, in our minds, in our every day lives.

The man without us would want those of us that love him to continue pressing onward toward that which brings us joy. He wants us to live, and love ,and never forget that he loves us. He is a Poppy, Opa, Daddy and Dad to so many. An uncle, brother, brother-in-love, and friend. He is strong even in his weakness and he is loved beyond measure. He is my person and I am not without him, no matter what happens. I hope that his life and the trials we face together and separately help others know that life after a TBI is possible. It’s very different, but it’s possible. The love shown to me by the man I married in 1982 is pure of heart and simple in nature. That everyone would know that such love exists is possible, and seeking it is worth the effort. When you wake up each day, I pray that you find joy in greeting the new day, even if the struggles you know you will face seem unbearable. If you cry each day, don’t despair. Learn what you can from your pain and sorrow, and give the gift of yourself to someone else.

The man without us is not alone in spirit and for this I am beyond thankful. He prays, he sings and he talks to his Lord in his own way. I am comforted by this. I believe differently than he does, and that’s okay. Knowing that we’re not alone is sometimes all we get, and learning how to be grateful in the small moments makes the larger ones less scary. I miss the man that was, I love the man that is, and I pray for continued safety for us all.

Until next time…

Stay safe, be well, and remember to always be kind…

Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato on Pexels.com

If There Hadn’t Been You…

Hi again,

Today’s title comes from a 90’s era country song by Billy Dean. I heard it in my car this morning, on my way home from picking up my pup’s remains at his vet. Morgan is home now, safely ensconced in a beautiful African Walnut urn, next to his former kitty mate, Dexter. I miss my four-legged boys, and try and remember that they both had wonderful lives, were loved and spoiled, and had it not been for them, my life would not have been as joy filled. Rest well sweet ones, until we meet again…

Hearing the song this morning made me think of all the people that have been a part of my life over these 57 full, and just shy of 58 trips around the sun. I think back to the very first memory I have and I was 4. In the Boston Children’s Floating Hospital, (which no longer exists) in an oxygen tent with a terrible case of pneumonia. I didn’t know it then, but the man who was my nurse was considered a trailblazer by many. He was a man in a world that didn’t readily accept men, especially black men. 1968… and only one of those things seem to have changed for the better. Men are no longer seen as less than for being a nurse, but being black is still an issue for many narrow-minded, priviledged people. I was sick. I was very, very sick and this man would hold me in his huge arms, sing to me, rock me and make me balloons out of rubber gloves. I didn’t care then that he was black or male, and I don’t now. 54 years later I am just grateful that he was there. A human being with a gift for compassion was what I needed, and he was that person. If there hadn’t been you…

If there hadn’t been my first best friend when my parents divorced, and my mom moved herself and three kids to the inner city, I wouldn’t have had the most awesome childhood adventures. My best friend was from a large family, still has the most stunning red hair and accepted me as the skinny country kid that had no clue how to make friends. The friends I’d had up until then were basically built in. I still maintain contact with her after 50 years, and if this damned virus ever breaks, I hope to see her again someday. If there hadn’t been you…

If there hadn’t been my middle and oldest siblings what would this life look like? Sure, we have our issues, but siblings are our first friends and they don’t really have a choice about that. Unless of course they’re much older and reach adulthood long before you do. My siblings are mine, and though I wish they were closer to one another, I maintain relationships with them both, just separately. I’ve always thought that after your parents die, who keeps the family together? Siblings do. It takes effort, but we’re all that’s left of our parents, and I am not willing to expend energy on the negative side of sibling rivalry. Heck, my husband had 5 siblings and is now down to 3, it’s sad and lonely and hard. The conflicts aren’t worth the hatred that grows from things unresolved. Eventually that hatred becomes numbness and numbness brings apathy. There are times that apathy can be a type of shield, a protection from the heartbreak of a child throwing her parents away, but it’s not something I want to have to learn. Or to live with.

If there hadn’t been my first serious boyfriend, there wouldn’t have been a future father-in-love to save my life. Literally. I have never had the easiest of lives, and that’s okay. I left home at 15 and ran to my boyfriend’s house, where I was safe and protected from the demons that preyed on me as a young girl. My future father-in-love slayed the demons and he saved all of me. My physical self, my emptional self, my spiritual self. Looking back more than 40 years later, I realize that he loved me then, and I think he knew his youngest son would become my husband. He died in1999, and I sure do wish he could’ve lived forever. Or at least long enough to know the joy of being a great-grandfather. “Bumpa,” we sure do miss you.

If there hadn’t been all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years, I wouldn’t be half the person I’ve become. One of those friends became a sister-in-love when she married my husband’s next oldest brother 11 months after my wedding. I am not proud to say that I let her down, but am beyond grateful that she forgives me for such. We are reforging the bonds of love, family and forgiveness as we walk out our grief together. I know she knows that I love her. So much. Life seems to have brought us full circle and though we both wish our husbands could be with us to share in the journey we’re on, we know that they had their own journey together. Their journey was complex, as is ours, and we know our husbands made true amends at before the end for both of them. My heart aches so much for her loss, and though my husband still lives, the man I married all those years ago is gone as well. We feel our husband’s walking beside us in spirit, and for now, that has to be enough.

If there hadn’t been my husband, there wouldn’t be the gift of our youngest daughter. She is an amazing woman, a great mom and a compassionate person. She is as moms want their daughters to be. Strong, fierce and brave. Tender, loving and kind. She has given us the son we never had when she married her husband and he is the answer to prayer. Many prayers. As girl parents we prayed often for the men that would one day join our family and our prayers were answered. Without my husband, we would not have our oldest child. And though she is lost to us, we prayed for her mate as well. We miss him very much, as well as our beloved oldest grandchild. I now pray for our son-in-love and grandson to be safe, and that’s all I can do. Love will break your heart, and love is worth the pain, even when the brokenness is more than you can comprehend.

If there hadn’t been our youngest grandson I believe my husband would have died from pneumonia in November of 2019. Sometimes you just have to let go and that night was such a night. My husband was so sick and his doctor said I should call family since he believed my husband would die in the night. I did. I whispered to him it was okay to go, our daughter did the same. Sometime during that dark and scary night my husband dreamed of our youngest grandson. He swears that little boy is the reason he lived. I am beyond grateful.

If it hadn’t been for our youngest granddaughter, I wouldn’t know what joy really looks like. She is fearless and stubborn and so much fun to be with. She loves with her whole heart and has had it broken, even at her tender age, and she still loves with all she has. She will be a world changer someday. And the world will be a better place for all because of the fire that lives in her heart. She believes in fairness, and she knows that people are not always kind. She keeps going with a determination that most adults would love to have. It’s true, she gives her parents a run for their money, and she can be as sassy as any 5 year old, but she is light and happiness and joy also. She is my heart beating outside my chest X2.

If it hadn’t been for the pain brought into my life because of the events of May 2018 and the ensuing months of turmoil, this blog would have never come to life. My heartbreak has found an outlet to ease the pain and I am so thankful that people read what I have to say. After my husband’s stroke I thought I might not be able to write again, but I was wrong. His stroke has changed the course of both of our lives and the lives of our entire family as well. It has become my priority to keep him safe, let him know that he is loved and to appreciate whatever time we have left together. My blog gives me a way to share and hopefully communicate that we don’t have to be alone. I feel bereft much of the time, but I know I am not alone. My most sincere wish for people all over the world is that they know they matter, and that they are not alone. Being lonely happens to each and every one of us throughout our lifetime, but there is always light at the end of any tunnel. Walk towards it. Crawl if you have to, you are worthy and loved and no one should live compltetly in the dark.

Until next time…

Photo by Barb Enos

Dog is love…

Hi All,

Yesterday, July 2, 2020, will be another one of those dates we all have. You know, anniversaries for a special (or not so special) event. My beloved Morgan, my 9.5 year old Boston Terrier, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He is running without pain and illness, I am, however a wreck. My experiences dealing with crushing loss will see me through. I’ve learned over these past three years that I can withstand heavy losses, both emotional and physical. I’ll be okay, some day… I know the decision to have my beloved dog euthanized was the right one, but it doesn’t make the loss any less greivous. Even when we decide a loss needs to happen, it doesn’t diminish the pain. At. All.

Almost a year ago I had to let go of my Dexter kitty, Morgan’s kitty mate. The two boys loved each other… after Dexter decided this small, smelly, beastly puppy was no threat to himself or his domain. Morgan came home on March 17, 2011 at the age of 8 weeks and was as cute as could be. (Yes, they were named Dexter and Morgan for the series on TV called Dexter.) And, the best part of bringing him home was the puppy breath!!! He was small and warm and happy, and we all loved him so much. He had his challenges as he was born with a mega-esophagus, and had also suffered a stroke at birth, but he was ours and he became my constant companion. We had intended to make him our grandson’s dog, but dogs choose their people, it seems, and he chose me. I am so glad he did because after my husband’s stroke, the dog became the driving force in moving forward in my life. Once my husband was moved to Richmond, VA for long-term treatment, I lived for getting Morgan back. He spent 6 months with his foster Momma in NC while I was dealing with my husband and his decline. We were reunited in April and now he’s gone. To say I am sad is putting it mildly, but I am so grateful I had these past 3 months with him… Thank you KP, for all you did for MoMo (a nickname) and for me.

Morgan had a plethora of health issues throughout his life, but we managed them and he flourished. We went on hikes together in the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains when we lived in Western NC, he played with our daughter’s Dutch Shepherd whenever we took him there to visit. He would jump in the car, as excited as he could be, until you turned the key and started the car. Then he had a split personality… he would never look out the window, wouldn’t lie down, and prefered to ride behind the driver’s seat on the floor. Weird. He barked aggresively at gun shots, thunder and fireworks, but was afraid of the bing of my phone telling me I had a text. Weird. He loved to play tug of war, and would growl incessantly while doing so. Weird. Eating was his favorite thing, next to farting (ugh) and he would eat until he puked if I let him. I didn’t let him. He was fed twice a day, loved to play, hated the bath and having his nails trimmed. He loved his D, his Daddy R and Momma D, and me. Our youngest grandson was so in love with him. He loved so many people in his own goofy way. He loved me through the crushing grief of losing our oldest daughter. He loved me through leaving NC for SC. He loved me through my husband’s stroke and craniotomy. He went to his foster Momma the night of the craniotomy, and he loved me through the move from Richmond to Boston. Four weeks to the day after we moved to Boston, he was gone.

I am thoroughly convinced that grief is the price we pay for love and I can also tell you that I am no longer willing to pay such an exacting price again. I am done being a dog owner; I can’t bring myself to step over the threshold of loving a dog again. At this point in my life I am learning that inviting pain is unwise. I’ve learned that sometimes the choices we have to make are not at all the ones we want to make. Not even close. The choice to put Morgan down was made a tiny bit easier because I had taken him to his vet just a few days ago and his health was failing. He was showing signs of increasing neurological damage. He was losing muscle mass. He was falling. A lot. He was in pain. His liver was failing. He went to his vet on Sunday past because he had fallen down the stairs late last week and I wanted to make sure he was okay. No broken bones, but lots of soft tissue damage. Lots of pain. Then he fell between our stone wall and our neighbor’s privacy fence and I knew then I had to make the choice I did. It wasn’t a matter of being strong, it was a matter of doing what’s right. It killed me inside, and it will for a long time, but it was right.

Morgan had a good life and he gave so much more than he was given. He was many things and had many names. MoMo, Puppa, Dews, Beast, CC (constant companion), stink-pot/stink/stink-butt. For anyone that has owned a flat faced breed, you know this to be true… He loved to sleep in the bed with his humans, he loved stretching out in the sunshine and he hated going out in the rain. A well lived life for a well loved dog. What more could we ask for?

Morgan, wherever you are, know that I loved you so much… So did everyone who met you. Run free, sweet boy, and give Dexter hell!!! I hope you found Zoe and Gozi and that the three of you play without ceasing… Goodbye, MoMo… You will be missed.

Morgan in Virginia. Photo by his Momma, Barb Enos

Gratitude…

Gratitude. From the Latin word gratia. Gratia also means grace and graciousness.

As I sit here in my room reading, and now writing, I am moved by the word gratitude and its’ multiple meanings. I have spent the last four and a half days focusing on being more grateful, more positive and more kind. More gracious. Being gracious doesn’t mean you let people take advantage of you, at least it doesn’t to me. It means you show kindness and compassion and understanding. It shows that you see the world around you with a more positive set of eyes. I am very grateful that someone that loves me enough to say the hard things I needed to hear wasn’t afraid to speak up. She showed me the book she was reading and now I am reading the same one. “Attitudes of Gratitude” by M.J. Ryan. A beautifully written missive on the importance of living with a spirit of gratitude, even when things are bleak, hard and seemingly impossible to surmount.

My husband and I have been married 38+ years and have experienced so many highs and lows, like any other couple has. We had our first date in June of 1977. We went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then to see Star Wars, the first release, and we had such a good time. By this time we were both in high school, but we met in elementary school. 6th grade. Mrs. Sallen’s art class. I didn’t like him much then, or any other boy for that matter. Our date was sweet, and when we got fortune cookies after dinner, his said, “Stop searching, happiness is just next to you.” Those same words were in the fortune cookie of the author M.J. Ryan when she went to lunch with a friend after completing her book!!! Happiness… Happiness has been next to me for the 44 of the 57+ years I’ve neen alive in the form of my beloved and I am very grateful for him. Gratitude is not difficult to come by if you practice finding it, so practice frequently!

We can get lost in our lives so easily. Sucked down into the depths of stress, grief, angst and a myriad of other vampiric emotions. It seems that these type of emotions are more likely to be present in today’s noisy, fast-paced and tumultuous world. Slowing down in today’s world is pretty much frowned upon, or misunderstood, but it’s necessary. We get one life. One. That’s all. No matter the circumstances of your particular life, isn’t there a little room for an attitude of gratitude? Start small. Restart small. I woke up this morning. I’m grateful. My beloved husband is doing as well as he can since his catastrophic stroke. I am grateful. I am grateful that I saw him in person yesterday, albeit from 6 feet away, with no touching, but I’m still grateful. Looking for the moments that we can be grateful for becomes easier as the time goes on. It takes personal effort to look within and find those moments, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean things won’t be difficult, or that you are self-centered, it just means that you choose the positive, no matter how small. You matter. I matter. Human beings matter and when we lose sight of just how much we matter to ourselves, it’s very difficult to believe that we matter to anyone else.

How is it possible that something as simple as having an attitude of gratitude seems so unreachable? What stands in your way? I’ve stood in my own way for much of the past 8 months, and the only person putting up road blocks and barriers to my personal peace is me. Other people have hurt me, sure. But those hurts are on them, not me. I’ve been struggling with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for many months now on my husband’s behalf, and I’ve been damining them at every turn on one hand, and grateful for them on the other. I’ve decided to try and be more patient, though I’m not exactly known for being patient. The federal government of the United States is a behemoth, its far reaching tentacles invade most of the lives of those of us that call America home, but that invasion is no reason for me to be ungrateful. I am beyond grateful for the care my husband has received, and continues to receive. Yes, he earned his benefits, but those benefits come with milies upon miles of red-tape, and that’s where the damning comes into play. The red tape just is… it’s not a reason to be defeated or ugly tempered. I’m tying hard to remember this.

Close your eyes for a minute when you’re done reading this blog entry and just breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly. Be grateful for the ability to do so. Listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Do you smell anything on the air? Are you surrounded by man made noise? Is your environment a pleasant one? What can you do to change your environment if it’s not a pleasant and peaceful place to be? At this precise moment I can close my eyes and hear the floor fan blowing in the background. I hear my dog snoring under the bed, his favorite place to be. I hear my Echo playing music I love. I smell the body lotion I out on after my shower. I feel the softness of my favorite t-shirt against my skin. I can see the light from my desk lamp through my eyelids. All small things to be grateful for. When you seek gratitude, I can guarantee you’ll find it, don’t give up!

I’m going to stop here as I am hoping to get some surprise house work done for my sister today. Something else I am grateful for the chance to do. I live in her home now, and I am hoping to show her that I am grateful for her opening her home to me. People say I love you in a million different ways… I do things to make her life easier because I love her. She loves me, too. I am grateful…

Photo by Barb Enos