25 September 2009

Goodbye, Again

Goodbye Again Jennifer Barko Jessie Serving The Queens
I don't know how to write about today.

If there are words for this kind of sorrow, I've not learned them yet.

I've willed her to go quietly in the night, but the constant companion and faithful friend that she is, she remains. Not who she once was, but still, who is?

I've finally come to a point where I cannot watch the indignity of what is to come any longer and cannot accept the pain in her life to delay pain in mine. Our vet will be here tonight, after her clinic closes, so that Jessie can be home with The Queens and I when she leaves this world and so much of my world leaves me.

Until then, she and I are heading outside and taking in this perfect fall day together like we've done so many times in the past 16 years, slower, with less ground covered, but together, until Goodbye.

15 September 2009

Small Truths

Turns out taking a running leap from the rocks of faith and attempting to soar was a good thing. I've always said if I could have any super-power, it would be the ability to fly, and if I could be any animal, it would be a bird, so I could soar.

It's just that time is so scarce now that I am struggling to manage it well. I always knew he was a thief--he was always up front about that: a wrinkle here; a brown spot there; a roll of baby fat overnight, vanished; a first step, then, seemingly within a heartbeat, a full-out racing child; a mother holding my hand, then I, a mother, holding my own daughters' hands.

And so it goes, this thing called life.

There are a few things that I kept telling myself while I was swimming through the hard stuff, and I keep telling myself those things still, for they kept me afloat. I haven't forgotten that there is something more that I want to do, except rather than telling myself that I possibly cannot change the world, I am now telling myself that I can--start small, then grow.

Here are a collection of things that I've taped up or memorized and kept close to me that I thought I'd put out there for you now, because I think that we all need those reminders, and if we feel like we don't, I can assure you that someone close to you does--perhaps not personally close, but maybe physically close--look around--I can tell you, without doubt, that you can spread hope, and that it once given to someone else, it continues to grow.

  • "When you're going through hell, keep going" (Winston Churchill; a magnet)
  • "Psst, here's a secret: Your last mortal thought will be: "Why did I take so many days-just like today-for granted"? (My favorite PostSecret card)
  • "Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be" (Celmentine Paddleford)
  • "People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful you will win some false friends and true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may resent you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway". Associated with Mother Teresa, however, it was adapted from The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent Keith (1968)
  • Each day I'm grateful for a body that, despite some creaks and cracks, works, perfectly. I'm not in a wheelchair, I'm not missing any limbs, I might hate to get wet, but I can still run in the rain into the store from my parking spot a hundred spaces back. I can drive myself where I need to go. I can hug and see my children.
  • Despite having been at such a low at one point in my life, I can tell you now that I am grateful for it--I know, without fail, those that will stand by me, no matter what, and those that won't. I'm eternally blessed to be able to share my life with the people that love me, and I'm not going to devote anymore time to worrying about what others that ultimately don't care about me believe. It's a huge weight to remove--you should try it today.
And finally, the poster that I've carried with me for fifteen years:

14 September 2009

With Much Gratitude

Abrielle Barko Jennifer Barko Gratitude Ann Arbor

Dear Readers,

It is with much gratitude that I'd like to update you on my completely corrected and now hardly-existent condition.

Seems that in addition to being a miracle in general, I've managed to have my body grow and heal itself, so there will be no more kidney surgeries in my future, just check-up trips to The Big Hospital.

Following my day of torture and the purchase of whatever doughnuts I wanted (3 of them), we got to go and visit this disturbingly large bird, who was thrilled to be able to be photographed with me.

Thank you, dear readers, for all of the love you sent my way. If you'd like to order a picture, please send $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to me and I'll have my minions get on that.

Queen Little A

Posted by Picasa

03 September 2009

Five Feet Tall

We've begun a tradition in our home: On the first of each month, I measure the Queens.

Little A: Yep. I weally tall ta-day. Wike so tall. Hey, Ma, 'member when I was a wittle girl and I went outside and I picked up 'da 'fing and 'den 'dere was a bird and I want ta go see Smoosh in Doggy Heaven, Ma, 'cause I miss her so much. Yep. I tall ta-day Ma.

Big A: (Staring, appalled at the complete lack of structure and point in the above mentioned update) Well, I'm five feet tall.

Jesus Christ, what was that? No, what the hell was that? I recovered quickly from the sound of something moving within by pretending to cough and saying I needed to get some water.

- - - -

I don't think that I wrote about my panic attack? How I calmly said to the sitter that I wouldn't be right home because I was going to drive myself to the ER? Because I was certain I was having a heart attack and about to die and my feet and hands kept turning pure white and aching and I was sure that it was because my blood wasn't flowing properly and I kept telling myself that nothing was wrong, nothing was wrong, nothing was wrong, but my heart kept racing anyways and I could.not.breathe. and since I was able to tell myself that I knew I could physically breathe but still couldn't breathe, then I was probably in the throes of death and I should just get to the ER and hope I arrived in time for them to save me and I did and as I sat unable to stop wringing my hands and tapping my chest the doctor told me that no I wasn't dying that day and what I was suffering from was not a heart attack, but an anxiety attack and this is what sometimes happens to people who are under stress--are you under stress--are you depressed--have you had any life-altering changes lately--and a bitter laugh escaped with my tears and you should see your family physician and take these Xanax and you should try to sleep? No, I didn't mention that?

- - - -

That's probably because I'm ashamed of it, I think. Ashamed that I have this beautiful life and yet I cannot quit crying a lot of the time.

I remember the day that it started; it was cold and wintry and the sun was very bright and I was sitting on a bed, trying to weep quietly so as not to disturb anyone outside the door, but my niece came in anyway.

I was enraged with the concern, (he is fucking dead! can i not sit here and cry if i fucking want to! do i have to explain every detail of my goddamn life to everyone! can i not just have a few moments of peace where i can cry and not answer to anyone!) but I didn't say so. 

Instead I mumbled something and I buried it within me, and at times now I think that on that day, at that moment, I planted a seed and a monster has grown from it.

I had to keep myself in check, for Big A's eyes were upon me--if I acted as I wanted to, it would scare her. It would make her weep harder. It would make her ask questions that I couldn't answer.

As we drove to the church that day, I wept silently in the driver's seat and I sat in the pew and dug my nails deeply within my thigh and bit my lips and pushed away the hand that reached out trying to hold mine because I was afraid of what would happen to me if I held it instead.

About a month later, I was checking my email and realized that, no, there would be no more messages from him; I hadn't even really been aware that I was still looking for them. 

I tried, I really, really tried to stay focused on the good, on all I had, on the memories--but at the end of the day--actually, the beginnings of the days, for that is the only time I could cry, protected by the sound of the shower and the fan and the closed door--the loss was a truth I didn't know how to face: I'd never lost someone that I had loved so much. I didn't know how to explain that I was sadder now than I had been then, and so I explained nothing.

It was a few weeks later that I got hurt and it took weeks before I could have surgery, so in that time, I could blame my state on the pain--it was searing--and the drugs--they altered me. 

The length of my recovery and the well-documented pain that I would be in during that time provided an additional crutch for my tears...you'd cry too if you were in this much pain! You'd cry too if you had to take these medications! You'd cry too if you wanted to get off the medications and were dealing with withdrawals! You'd cry too if you had to go to rehab and be unable to even move your arm one inch! (You'd cry too if you weren't really sure why you were crying.)

- - - -

Then my dog died. The hours that followed: The screaming, the weeping, the frantic calls to my mother, the call to my sister where I just sat wailing into the phone, the call to my other sister, who brought out drugs, sweet drugs, and tried to hold my hand that I needed to keep twisting the fabric of my pants with in order to keep breathing and who had to sit with me on the floor as I told her the awful, gruesome details that I will not repeat again, to anyone, but for some reason needed to keep telling her, over and over, even though I knew each time I said them that it was causing her physical pain, and finally, the the last recollection of that day, her saying, "This hopefully will knock her out," as I swallowed another pill and prayed for the dark.

I stayed in bed for days. I don't remember them, but I know I did. I remember going in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, thinking to myself, "I need to brush my hair," and then saying aloud to the image looking back at me, "Fuck off." 

And I went back to bed.

- - - -

And finally, two weeks ago, I took Jessie back to the vet. She won't quit pacing. Her breathing is rapid. She is in a state of nearly constant panic. I wanted medication to calm her. I wanted stronger pain medications to ease her.

I couldn't stop weeping.

"I think you've really got to consider helping her out soon," she said as softly as possible, her hand on my shaking leg. "I know, it must seem unbearable right now, but I know how much you love her and that you want to do the right thing by her."

"It's too much," I sobbed into the phone. "It's too much."

- - - - 

And so I went home that night, and I rolled a medication bottle in my hand. And I debated with myself over and over and over again. And I put it back in the drawer where I had stored it, and picked it up again a few times.

And ultimately, I opened it up and I swallowed a pill.

- - - -

And so that brings us back to tonight and a scream disguised as a whisper, one daughter rambling of her bygone days as a 'wittle girl, another daughter five feet tall, a decision balancing in the air.

- - - -

Big A is five feet tall.

I miss my grandfather.

Big A is five feet tall.

I miss my dog and everything about her and I wish I could erase the memory of her last minute on this earth, but I can't.

Big A is five feet tall.

I don't want to let go of Jessie.

Big A is five feet tall.

I need to show her how to stand as such, and I cannot do that from my knees.

Big A is five feet tall.

But I am taller. For now. And I'll be damned if she thinks that just because she's going to be taller than me someday that she will ever beat me at a game of hoops.

- - - -

Game on, 2009, you miserable bitch of a year. I'm gonna go barn-style, old-school: no blood, no foul; no clock; first one to "mercy" loses. Let's just see which one of us is standing on January 1st of next year--if I were you, I'd put my money on the chick with the white high-top Puma's who has a kid who is five feet tall.