29 January 2013

The Edge

"You figured what?  You'd just get out of there and bounce right back?"  

I shrugged, wiped away my tears that seem to always be threatening to fall and said that I just thought I would feel better.

"You probably feel better than being dead. It's been a little over a month. A month. Think of that."

"I think of it too much, I think."  

17 January 2013

A Letter To The A's Following 40

Dear A's,

I always write a birthday letter to you on your birthdays, but I figured for this milestone that has just passed that I would write a letter to you following my birthday.

40 is different; an age that I'm sure feels a million miles away from your beautiful faces; I hope it always does. There are things I want to tell you, sitting here at 40, realizing how time does really does pass and immortality begins to wash away as the moments that add up to a lifetime march across the decades.

First, you are my entire world. It's crazy that I know that an entire galaxy exists around me, yet you hold it all within your hands. I hope that you never love anyone this much, but I hope that you are always this loved. I know that if you have children, you will understand what I mean when I say this--unless you do, don't try to dissect what I've said--the words will never make sense to you. 

I want you to know that it's OK to take chances. And fail. And get back up and try again. Ignore what everyone else says and listen to what you hear within you; follow that course with all that you have, no matter where it takes you. Just always get back up again. It's with the falling that we learn to rise.

I beg of you your patience with me as you grow. My direction is, sadly, but truly, what most well-meaning parents direction is made of--the realization of how truly each moment matters; how the smallest of actions can do or undo almost anything--an entire life can hinge on the tiniest of circumstances. I would urge you to do it, whatever it is that you fear, whether that means jumping from an airplane or reaching out for a hand in front of you, speaking in a moment that won't ever come again or simply allowing yourself to be loved.

Whatever it is you choose to do, do it with wild abandon. Be the scrappiest player on the court, be able to hold intellectual conversations and keep an open mind, but be able to hold your ground when you know from the deepest parts within that they are right. Laugh--loudly, cry when you need to and always understand that not everyone can do those things at the same time. Study the times when you feel the very happiest and know what it is that made you feel that way; don't let go of those things.

It's not easy to sometimes hear the loudest of sounds around us; sometimes you have to listen from within. It's an acquired trait and I've seen it in both of you; please, wherever you go, whatever you do, do not forget that compassion and pass it onto your children should you choose to have them; it would be the greatest trait possible to pass on.

Hug more. Hate less. Your energy is your energy--only let you decide how you use it, but do know that you only have a certain amount and you can use it positively or negatively, I pray that you choose positively.  

Books! Don't forget books. I hope that you always let the magic pull you in. You cannot recall how religiously I read to you from infancy, but I know that you've both realized the magic and worlds that are within them. 

It's alright to be an introvert. It doesn't mean being anti-social, but it means that you are alright on your own--and that is the thing that I want you both to be, more than anything--good with being with just you.  Whether that means always having someplace or something for just you, or whether that means simply choosing to never anchor yourself to someone or something, I want you to know that it's OK. 

Baseball. I want you to remember baseball, but I want you to be able to watch it without crying when you recall all of the Detroit Tiger games that we attended. It's tricky; I haven't figured it out yet. I can tell you that one of the strongest dreams that I had while I was fighting in the hospital was me riding in a pick-up truck with my Grandpa, Ernie Harwell was on the radio.  

It's why I couldn't watch the Tigers the year after he was gone. It's why I cry still, three years after he's been gone, when the Tigers are on. It's why I keep reminding you when we go to the games to shut your eyes and listen; study the field; stop; to remember the moment. Because those are the moments that you will realize at 40 that were the best moments of your lives. You won't know that until time passes and you will wish that you slowed down to remember.

I wish for you every happiness, but enough sorrow to understand that there are those that know nothing but that. I wish for you enough challenges along the way to make you stronger; smarter; your very best and enough knowledge gained from those challenges to make you happy; so very happy that you never feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, but realize that there are those that feel only that and a heart wide enough and bright enough and big enough to help them.  

Realize that there is not enough good you can do in the world.

Take off your coat when you see someone without one on the street of a city that I hope you roam and give it to them. Open doors for everyone, with a smile. Pay the toll for the car behind you when you can. It will come back to you; I promise it will; sometimes when you least expect it and most need it. 

Realize that beauty lies within almost everything; sometimes you have to look for it, sometimes you just feel it. Make sure that you, too, sleep with your daughters, should you have them, under the stars on a warm summer night on a trampoline. Feel free to watch them as they sleep under the very galaxy that they hold within their hands.

Do not listen to those that tell you that you can hold your child too much, let them sleep with you too much or love them too much, for time passes quickly and before you know it they may stand taller than you and you will wonder where the time has gone, and no matter how much you held them, you will find yourself wishing that you'd held them more.

I love you both so very much.  

I love you more than love.

Your most willing servant, always,


14 January 2013

On Turning 40

  Today is the last day of my 30's.  I'm home today because Little A is sick with the flu.  It's sunny outside; I wish I could lace up my shoes and go for a run; I wish I could make my lungs ache the way they used to after running outside in the cold instead of the way that they ache now. 

  I didn't spend the last year in my thirties as planned.  When I added it up in my ever-thinking brain, I spent about three months in the hospital and almost all of it laid up because of my hip.  Four surgeries later and I finally have hope; sometimes that is what springs from the darkest of nights. 

  After my last surgery, the day after I came home, my temperature was 102.9.  The following day it was 103.2 with a racing heart and difficulty breathing.  When I said that I was hurting and couldn't breathe, I was met with disbelieving eyes, so I quit saying it.  The next day I had an ache in my back that I said pain was radiating from.  That was the same day that I had to promise the visiting nurses that I could get to the hospital faster than them calling 911.

  It wasn't the emergency room that was so bad; it was what followed about six hours later when nurses and a doctor ran into the room.  They told me I was being moved to a bed for more tests; when I got back, the doctor sat down on my bed and reached for my hand.  "You're very sick, you are septic."

  After initially joking that sepsis couldn't kill me (yes, I still joke at the darkest times; it's my coping mechanism of choice) I asked him if I was going to live.  I expected him to answer yes, but instead he said that I had a big battle ahead of me.  It was an odd sensation; like a whirling inside, spinning fast, yet slow; hearing voices, remembering moments, recalling regrets, all at once, with The A's wrapped around all of it.

  I had to call my parents.  I remember the conversation, asking my mom if my dad was home.  I tried to sound casual, but my mother wasn't buying it.  I told her that I was in the hospital and sick; that I was septic.  "Are you going to die?" she asked.  I can't imagine asking either of my daughters that question.  I don't remember how I answered her.  When I awoke, my friends were there.  I had IV's in both arms and the room was dark.  The fight began.   

  I asked for my computer; not out of boredom, but to type up letters to say goodbye.  I did this periodically, between waking and sleeping.  I worried about the A's.  I worried about my family. I worried about my friends.  I wonder now if I should just send the letters despite making it; that's the hardest part-the wondering. 

  I wanted to go home; I wanted to be with the girls, but at the same time, not let my family see me.  I wept each day as the infection grew and began to compress my internal organs. Each time they tried to draw blood, it was an extremely painful process; it took an eternity as my veins rolled around inside of me and IV's blew out of my arms.  I wept each time until they finally gave me a PICC line.  It entered in by my elbow and ran to near my heart.  When they pulled it out of me, I asked to keep it as a reminder of what I'd done, just in case I lose my nerve or hope again. 

  I had dreams; dreams of my grandfather, dreams full of light.  Dreams that I was swimming deep within the ocean.  

  I wasn't afraid to die; I just didn't want to.  Those are two very different things. 

 Each day my lungs filled with fluid.  Each day I thought of the irony-that all my life I'd worried about open water and drowning in it, but the reality was that I would drown myself in a hospital. I would say the lung tap was the worst pain that I endured there, but truly, it was a visit from Big A that was the most unbearable.  She had broken down and wept and wept and wept.  I wanted to take all of her pain and place it within me.  I know that this is not how it works. 

  I wonder now why I pushed her so hard to grow up.  She's a freshman excelling in advanced classes with a 4.0 GPA; next year, the odds are that she will actually attend college rather than high school.  I tell her each day how much I love her.  Each day I wish for more time.  Almost without fail, I cry on a daily basis from being so happy or seeing something so beautiful that it makes me ache and want to share it with her and Little A.  I want more time with her.  I will not get it.  

  The day I came home, it was easier to let go of the people that weren't really friends; it was easier to see appreciation in each sunrise, easier to breathe, figuratively, although each day the breathing does come easier.  

  Tomorrow when I turn 40, my grandmother turns 80.  I never would have imagined us spending birthdays apart, yet we will.  I've loved sharing our birthdays over the years, but I can see dreading them in the future.  So much of me was woven with her; by her, and  yet here we are, so many miles apart.  I wonder what it will be like if I get the opportunity to grow that old and not be with the people I love the most.  

  I thought I was going to dread tomorrow.  Rather I am grateful for it.  For a new chance; for a new day; for a new birth at 40.  Here is to 2013; to 40; to The A's; to life in general.