Monday, December 21, 2015

For Carolyn

It's only appropriate we meet here, the place that brought us together for the first time.  Travel with me if you wish while I share my friend with you.  She's a great person.  She'd be okay with this.

In the days, weeks and months following the death of the most important human being in my life I struggled.  I struggled with sadness.  I struggled with anger.  I struggled with guilt.  I lived with a constant dull ache in my chest.  But I lived.  I kept on living.  It's what the majority of us do.  But what I struggled most with was the one question I would never have an answer to.  A question that could be asked in so many ways.  What was going through my dad's head upon his diagnosis?   How was he really feeling?  Was his brave face all just for us?  Was it a fa├žade?  Was he scared?  My dad was our super hero.  He wasn't afraid of anything.  Was he? 

And then I met Carolyn.  Sweet Carolyn.  Someone sent her to me at just the right time.  (She says I helped her too, but I really do feel our relationship was one sided.)  Crossing paths was a fluke.  A blip.  You see Carolyn was living with Metastatic Breast Cancer in Alberta (far from my world in Ontario).  There is no cure for MBC.  She knew she was dying and it was just a matter of time before she would kill that cancer that was killing her.  Because, when she dies, the cancer dies.  No one wins in this war.   And all the while Carolyn was bravely sharing her story through her blog Art of Breast Cancer.  And the blogging world is where she and I became friends.

I soaked up her words as quickly as she posted them.  I found comfort in her thoughts and feelings.  They were raw, and hard to read, and real, and, and...exactly what I needed.  So I stepped out of my comfort zone and I reached out to her (which isn't exactly easy for someone like me - I'm a caregiver, not taker).  I sought help from a woman I didn't know.  A woman who had no idea I had been searching for her.  A woman I had no idea I was searching for.  And she virtually embraced me (because she's awesome).  She answered my questions, she humoured me, she helped me get past this stumbling block I'd been falling over since my dad died.  She shed some light on what his mental state was probably like.  She gave me peace of mind.  She gave me some closure.

But Carolyn was so much more than just this awesome component.  While cancer tried to destroy her body, her will power, her energy, her strength; she kept on living.  And she lived.  In just the short time I knew her she worked on her memoirs for her three sons, she created art (she was a stunning photographer), she wrote, she was an advocate for MBC education, she was anti pink, she cared for her mother who lives with Alzheimer's Disease, she researched her illness, she beat odds, she watched her son get married, she rekindled a lost relationship with someone who was so important to her, she became a grandmother...TWICE!  She remained a systir, mother, daughter, grandmother, aunt, cousin, blogger, and friend.  She had the best sense of humour and was no stranger to busting out jokes at Cancer's expense.  And this woman's use of the word "fuck" was like art itself.  I'm sure it's what endeared her to me in the first place.  Carolyn was beautiful.  Like for reals, stunningly beautiful.

I know after a person dies they become untouchable; placed up on a pedestal and made out to be all saint-like.  And there is no doubt in my mind someone somewhere has a terrible story or memory of Carolyn.  I mean c'mon she lived almost 5 decades she was bound to mess up at least once.  But she genuinely was such a lovely person.  So wonderful that it escapes me more often than not that I didn't actually meet her in person - in real life, if you will.  Our relationship was born and lived through the world wide web.  Just typing that out makes it sound 'not real' like it's a fake friendship, but she means so much to me.  She has had such an impact on me.  She's helped shape me into the new me - the me after my dad died.  The me who know longer has a dad to call upon.  That's who I am now, and she played a strong part in that healthy transition.  But we got beyond just talking about that stuff.  We talked about everyday stuff.  Our friendship changed.  I celebrated all her milestones with her.  I laughed at the craziness that was her awesome life.  I encouraged her when she was feeling down.  I felt pride for her when she continued to conquer.  She became one of the strongest women I have ever met.  I am in awe of her.  So when she went into hospice I made sure I had no regrets and I told her all of that.

I told her I valued our unique friendship, and how much I appreciated her taking the time to talk to this virtual girl from Ontario about grief.  I told her that her sense of humour was contagious and breathtaking.  She was a breath of fresh air.  I told her how proud I was of her and that she was someone to look up to and admire.  But what I didn't tell her was how much I was going to miss her. 

The death of my father, in a round about way, brought me to Carolyn.  She died on what would have been my father's 66th birthday.  Fuck irony.  Carolyn's sense of humour would have found a laugh in that. 

So to quote Carolyn's last words to me

"Dear beautiful woman, you were and will remain my special friend.  I love you Carolyn."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Almost Time

It's only a matter of weeks left.  Mere days until a part of me leaves.  There's a feeling of emptiness and despair that comes over me when I think about it for more than a millisecond.  I know it's silly, but for the past 18 years + he's been the one constant in my life.  He's what kept me going, what kept me persevering.  It's just been me and him, then me and him and Roan and then we added Eric to the mix, but it's been me and him always.  I'm not really ready to lose him just yet.  It's all happened so, so fast.  I've blinked and just like that his needing me is gone like a blip.  Everyone says it won't be like that, that he'll always need me but be realistic, boys don't up and call their mothers frequently or check in as often as we'd like.  He'll meet someone and then that person will take up where I've unwillingly left off...And I hope I like that person because if I don't well then what?!?  These are the things I've been thinking about.  I already feel a bit broken and it hasn't even happened yet.

I feel like parental love is the only type of love that you enter into knowing it ultimately leads to separation.  I feel a bit like Dorothy and Gage is my Scarecrow.  <sad face>

It's Been a While...

Hello old friend(s).  It's been a while since I've visited.  I didn't think I missed you but I've been lying to myself.  I've been lazy and indifferent.  I feel like I've let my relationship with my blog slip since the day I came into possession of a smart phone.  It's just so much easier to check my familiar sites from that little gadget then it is to set up shop with my lap top.  But I'm off for a week so I'm going to try to find the time to get back here and tap away at the keys and see if there is anything inside me to share.

I guess the first post should be the obligatory 'Whatchya been up to lately Holly?' So here goes...I'm gun shy to say it out loud let alone type it, but 2015 seems to be turning into THEE year for my household.  I suppose the minute I put this out there into the universe it will all come crashing down on me (or us), but I'm really trying hard to lose the pessimism deeply bred into me.

This year we have begun to see major changes in Roan.  He's definitely losing some of the childlike traits.  He's unlikely to cry at the drop of a hat at the first sign of disappointment and he's curbed the whining but he's still maintained his wacky sense of humour.  We'll never truly know if it's because we changed his meds or if he's just maturing and coming into his own, but life is a lot easier day by day.  Currently his favourite past time is scootering with his buddies while mastering new tricks weekly.  It really is entertaining to watch him on that scooter zooming around with ease and learning new, crazy, tricks quickly.  I'm so proud that he's found something he enjoys and he's stuck with it for the past three years or so.  He's just getting better and better. 

He's also signed up for Taekwondo and has committed to a year, minimum.  He seems to be really enjoying it and takes his first test in the middle of August to move from white belt to yellow belt.  I'm fairly certain the small goals will keep him interested and this type of training has been known to promote discipline and maturity.  So here's hoping he'll continue on this new refreshing path. 

School for him has never really been easy, but he seemed to have a better year this go around and really liked his teacher.  She was even able to tap into the passion the kid is having for scootering and convinced the school to start a 'scooter club' that Roan is running with a friend.  So my fingers are crossed that like his brother this is the year we start to see Roan's real personal growth start.

Gage is having a great year.  He finished his high school career with a great surprise at his graduation ceremony:  recipient of a $1500 Niagara Peninsula Energy Scholarship, Ontario Scholar Award for above 80% in Grades 11 and 12, AN Myer Medallian awarded for earning a place on the Principal's Honour Roll in Grade 12, District School Board of Niagara Silver Medallian Scholar's Award for above average 80% in Grade 11 and 12, and finally a technology Cerfitciate. Better late than never I suppose.
In February he received a letter of acceptance from Mohawk College in Hamilton for the Electrical program (his first choice) starting in September. He was also acceptance to live in Residence while away at school for his first year. Two big sighs of relief and an unexpected jubilant feeling of pride.  So many mixed emotions.  He's been working two part time jobs for the past couple of years and for the most part squirrelling away his money and staying out of trouble!!  He really has made raising a teenager a breeze.  (I feel like Roan will test my abilities a little more often.  haha)  Definitely turning into a good man.

Eric spent the past year working a dream gig up north in Northern Ontario with a friend of a friend. But this January he scored a great opportunity to complete testing for General Motors and eventually was offered a full time, permanent position with GM 5 minutes from home that started in early March.  He's gotten a position within the plant that works perfectly with his personality so he seems genuinely pleased and appreciative of the opportunity.  

Things with me are also going well.  I've been keeping busy with work life, family life and my new volunteer position that started in July with Victim Services Niagara.  I've also amped up my role as a funeral director at this point and time in my career and have taken on some added duties within the profession that are giving me new found passion.  I was also approached with a new challenge by my company and have accepted a slightly altered position.  It comes with some new stresses but I think the challenges will out weigh those in time.  I'm still getting my feet wet and trying to sort it all out, but once I do I'm certain it's going to be great.   Changes are all around us and I'm really enjoying the newness of it all.

So that's the first 6 months of 2015 for our little family!  I'm hoping to start to find the time and desire to get back into some sort of regularity with this blog if not for anyone's sake, but my own.