Odyssey 2018

7 February, 2018
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I confess it makes me sad to look at all our past Odysseys in the category list and see the gaping hole that was 2017. Twenty-seventeen was a sad year, and I’ll always view it that way. I’m starting to become accustomed to the notion that I will never “get over” the Thriller not being with me; rather, I’ll just learn to deal with it better. And I’m all right with that, because I know that’s what he’d want from me.

He also wanted me to take this upcoming trip for years. So I’m doing it.

Odyssey 2018: The Pilgrimage.

Fully 40 years in the making, it’s going to be quite the reward for my outrageous fandom. I will try to not act like a giddy fool.

Now, to those who know me and my issues with aeroplanes, you know this is a big deal. And not only am I flying to UK this summer, I’m also flying out to Sacramento to visit Kay. Whaddya think of that noise? Me and my Valium will get a major workout on the runways.

My sister Vicki and sister-in-law (also Vicki, and a native of Manchester UK) have been super helpful with the details of what to do in Liverpool, and where to go, how to get there, and what to do stateside to prepare to leave. I’ve also done some research on good tips for women traveling alone, and I must say I’m really looking forward to it. Super huge thanks to my sister Mavis, who will take great care of my pups so I don’t have to worry at all. (Fellow pet people know what I’m talking about.)

Super-coolest detail, though: if the planets align and she can swing it, my dear fiend and fellow RtB citizen Suzanne will hop a plane from her home near Amsterdam to join me for a couple of days on the London leg of my trip. How fun is that?

So, come 10 June, I’m traveling to northern Illinois to visit with my four fabulous, crazy aunts, stay the night, and then drive to Chicago to jump on the plane to Manchester (if I must fly, I prefer direct flights and don’t mind driving a bit to grab one — and the price was right this time). From Manchester airport, I’ll get on the train to Liverpool to relax for a bit at the Nadler, then start my wanderings. Can’t wait.

Are you doing something fun or outrageous this summer? If so, do tell — I don’t want to feel like the Lone Ranger here.

Love to all.

New and new

1 February, 2018
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Fiends:

I wrote not a single word to you in January, letting an entire month go by while the dust bunnies gathered here (only the second time that’s happened since I started this little circus way back when). It wasn’t on purpose, but I guess it was meant to be. I suppose I just didn’t have much to say.

But life indeed does go on, and I’ve experienced some beautiful joy amidst the heartache. My family and friends have been constant sources of comfort. My fears about intense loneliness have been calmed by activity and new adventures. I’m grateful to my wonderful Thriller for being so attentive to detail so that this transition could be as minimally painful as possible.

I’m thankful to — and this will surprise some, I’m sure — the Social Security Administration, the VA, and the Navy for processing Michael’s information so quickly. They took care of me within a week of my submitting documentation. They made it easy for me to tie up loose ends, enabling the Texas loved ones to make plans to travel north in April for his memorial.

Christmas Eve seems forever ago. There’s still a big hole in the house and my heart and life, but from everything I’ve heard and read, that’s to be expected. I know he wouldn’t want me to mope around; I’m working on that with some success lately. Lots of new feelings and experiences.

Do you believe RtB will be starting a new decade this month? Holy cats. I must come up with something fun to celebrate my 10th birthday. Maybe a neat giveaway or a contest. Or I’ll mail you all a pony. So many possibilities.

But now, alas…the shower, the road, and the school house. Back at it. Much love to you all this first day of RtB’s birthday month. Finkuary. ;-)

RF

Peace

31 December, 2017
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The Thriller is at peace. Me, not so much yet, but I know I will find some farther down the line.

On this, our wedding anniversary, I reflect back on his life: one well-lived and full of great adventures. I’m sure at the end he regretted nothing other than the fact that he couldn’t stay with us. On my last post in the “Fighting Cancer” category, I will write about his last day while it’s still fresh in my mind, so I never forget.

The night before he passed, he kept his children up for hours (they had forced me upstairs to bed at 10 p.m., as I hadn’t slept much over the previous four nights), wanting to walk around the house, suspended on the arms of his son and son-in-law. They all took turns walking him around in his restless, somewhat agitated state. This was his active period; according to my research and what I was told by the Hospice staff, cancer patients in their final hours have periods of activity or restlessness. They often cry out or moan or talk in their sleep. They see and talk about people who are long dead. With other patients, it’s a time of physical regeneration, albeit temporary. Such was the case with the Thriller.

He refused to lie down to nap on that last full day and night, and it was wearing us all out, because he couldn’t be left alone for a single minute. We feared for his safety, as he wanted to stand up on his own and try to walk, but as soon as he’d take a step, he would surely lose his balance. At this point, he was almost completely non-verbal, with just the occasional “yeah” or head nod.

Anyway, about 5:00 a.m. on the 23rd, I came downstairs and told the kids to go get some sleep. Oldest daughter Becky stayed, and my younger son came over. They helped throughout the morning, and then at 11 a.m., I told them to go on home, as I had convinced Michael to lie down for a nap, finally.

He never left his bed again.

As Friday gave way to Saturday, we noticed his breathing becoming more labored, so I increased his morphine, and it helped. Then the apnea began, and throughout the day, we counted up to 20 seconds going by between breaths. This continued throughout the afternoon. We all sat by his bedside, taking turns holding his hands. We told stories, laughed together at funny memories from the kids’ childhoods, kissed him and stroked his hair. I’m convinced he could hear us and feel us.

In the early evening, his breathing changed somewhat, and he began breathing in through his mouth and out through his nose, at a faster rate. We took more time to talk to him and tell him how much we loved him. When his physical body control gave way and there were several accidents, we teamed up to clean and change his clothing and padding, while talking to him and doing all we could to spare his modesty. We put on our gloves, and while the girls assembled the waste bags and replacement garments, Josh lifted and moved his father (saying, “Sorry if that’s uncomfortable, Dad; I’m just going to lift you up…”) so I could clean him. No one minded. It was our privilege.

I suppose I could have/should have called Hospice in at that point, but as wonderful as they are, I didn’t want them there. I wanted it to just be family. And since he didn’t appear to be in any distress, I was fine with it staying that way for a while.

Just before 11 p.m., his children and I saw Michael open his eyes wide and look right at me. I knelt down beside his bed and said, “Well, look who’s awake.” It was then that his eyes closed again, and he exhaled softly. We waited for him to start breathing again, but he never inhaled. It was over.

There was no wailing or rage or histrionics. It was perfect, still silence. After a few minutes, we called Mavis and the boys, and took turns sitting next to Michael, holding his hand and kissing him goodbye. We held each other. We talked and cried.

After a couple of hours, I called Hospice. A nurse arrived and formally examined him (although we know he died at 10:58 p.m. on the 23rd, his official time of death was when the nurse examined him at 1:35 a.m. on Christmas Eve; hence, the 24th will appear on all official documents, and on his grave marker). She then contacted the funeral home. By the time the two men came and placed him on the gurney with a beautiful quilt covering him, it was 3 a.m. We gave him a final kiss goodbye, one by one.

And now I begin another journey: my future. I’m sure the good times will return, but it’ll be a different kind of enjoyment. I’m as ready as I will ever be for it. Next post, I’ll be back to my normal drivel about entertainment, daily life frustrations, school, grandchildren, grammar, and various and sundry things that make me alternately happy and furious.

Happy new year, fiends. Much love to you all.

#teamthriller

New normal

21 December, 2017
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Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Blessed Kwanzaa to all. And for those who don’t celebrate any holiday, I hope it’s a beautiful Thursday wherever you are.

I will tell you today about our new normal, which started basically over the last five days. The Thriller is on some heavy duty medications, which, combined with the disease progressing through his brain, have affected some major changes in his cognitive functions. He doesn’t speak in complete sentences anymore, and what he does say often does not make sense. He struggles to finish a thought.

He spends most of his days alternating between snoozing and sitting up in his bed or office chair, attempting to make sense of the thoughts that are obviously crowding inside his head, but for which there seems to be no descriptive words. He’s lost interest in his video games, the newspaper, and in most TV. Leaving the house stresses him out to no end. He fights against the rest the morphine wants to give him, which leads him down the dark path of sleep deprivation. He fixates on imagined problems that never existed, or real issues that have been solved already.

We can no longer leave him alone in the house for any length of time at all, as he took a pretty serious fall trying to maneuver around the bathroom the other day. Gave himself a super-sized egg on his temple, a gash on his forehead, and tore up the skin on his arms. The bathroom floor looked like a crime scene (you know how head wounds bleed). After that, no more sleeping upstairs with a call button; I’m back on the couch in the living room.

I desperately want him to be able to tell me what he’s thinking. I can see the frustration on his face and in his body language when he knows what he wants to say, but can’t articulate it. What comes out is jumbled fragments that I can’t fully understand. We’re both pretty much exhausted from the constant interrupted sleep, although he did nap for five straight hours last night — huzzah!

In spite of all this sad news…once in a while, Mavis and I will see the old Thriller coming through. A sly smile when he’s giving one of us a hard time, or eye contact and a grin when he “gets” an old private joke between the two of us. I believe the light is definitely still on to a degree. The other day, when I wanted to give him a diversion, I grabbed the TV widget and wondered out loud what channel his favorite news program was on, and I heard a whisper from behind me: “202.” ;-) The old man still has some of it.

At all other times, he’s in a place I can’t go, speaking a language I can’t learn. I guess I’m OK with that, as every time I tell him I love him, he responds in kind. He’s always up for a long hug, and rarely is anything but agreeable (except when it comes to lying down for a nap). We continue to look for the joy in each day, even though it’s a new kind of joy. A quieter one.

Much love,

#teamthriller

It’s all relative

3 December, 2017
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Does this clock animate if you don’t click on it? Not sure, but if it does, I’m sure it’s annoying. You’re welcome. :-D

Hello to my 100 worldwide readers. (I hear I’m pretty big in Japan — two hits from there in the last month.) ;-)

It’s been a few days since I last wrote to you. During that time, the Thriller has had both good news and bad news, and a new radiation treatment.

The bad news was time-related, but as we all know, a) no one knows for sure, b) there have been thousands of inexplicable turnarounds in people’s cancer journeys, resulting in long life, and c) when it all shakes out, we’re all on the same road, right? So everyone — not just cancer patients — should live purposefully and celebrate every day. That’s what we’re doing here, and for the long haul. Time’s all relative, anyway.

Insomuch as I need to practice what I preach, I took some personal stock last week. The truth is that many people in my family (especially my sister, Mavis) have seen to it that Michael received excellent, loving care while I am at work. And that’s what began to gnaw at me, I think: others are caring for him while I’m at work — the place I’ve put above all else for the last two decades.

Time out. Strike that. Reverse it.

So I sat right down and wrote an email to my three bosses (two principals and superintendent) and said pretty much what I said above. I told them it was time now for me to spend more days at home, caring for what/who is most important. Granted, that puts my upcoming Christmas performances in a bit of jeopardy, but I’m happy to report that not only were my superiors completely supportive and understanding about everything, I think I’ve worked it out so I can take the time I need away, but still do the gigs.

So for the time being, there’ll be no more 4:30 alarms set. With the exception of my going in for some afternoon rehearsals, during which Mavis will cover for me, I am home until school resumes in January.

What does the Thriller think of all this? He was happy to hear it, but I’ll wager he will end this coming week pining for some solitude. :-D

Much love,

#teamthriller