Fair

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

It’s not fucking fair.

Prior to 2016 we were constantly looking for “baby sitters” for me because I couldn’t handle being alone if Parker went out of town for more than a day.

Hell, even when she worked for part of a day I’d have a hard time being alone.

Even when she was asleep in our bed in our house I’d have a hard time being awake without her. Unless I was interacting with someone online or on the phone.

I woke her up so many times just because I couldn’t handle being alone long enough for her to nap.

I fought and I fought HARD to get over that after she died. I fought with everything I had, sitting through discomfort and anxiety and fear.

I started to look forward to my mornings when I’d wake up and the house was quiet. My time to feed the animals and wash the dishes and play my own music without worrying about who it might bother.

When Wonder Woman and I started living together, I would be gone all day doing my appointments, and she would be gone all evening working.

I loved this setup, because as much as I missed her, I enjoyed the time in solitude.

And then covid happened, and I had to adjust my expectations. There was no time in the house alone but I still enjoyed my mornings when she was sleeping and enjoyed the evenings when she was holed away in her makeshift office.

I took a nap this afternoon, I knew it was safe because I could hear the TV playing in the living room, I knew she was right there. It was still early in the day which is easier for me.

Then, as I woke up, she was ready to lay down and nap before her night time appointments.

I pouted and then cuddled up against her. I wasn’t tired anymore but it had hit that time of night where the world suddenly seems scarier.

That time of night when the shot rang out.

That time of night where the light in the sky starts changing.

That time of the night leading to darkness.

She said she would get up with me, but that’s not fair to her. She needs her rest because I’m so much . . . more . . . right now. She needs a break too.

And eventually my sister texted me, a beautiful thing that needed to read. I told her I was stuck in bed, because I couldn’t bear to be alone in the house.

She asked why, and as I was typing the tears started flowing.

If I’m alone and a shot rings out there will be no one there to comfort me. If I’m alone and I’m blindsided again, I won’t have anyone to hold me. If I’m alone and the world is suddenly scary, there won’t be anyone right there to hug me.

I fought really hard to stand on my own two feet.

And now those feet are shaky. Those feet are afraid. My knees wobble and want to buckle.

Even when I play music I hear the silence underneath. I’m afraid to wear both headphones because I might miss something. Something might sneak up on me.

Something may catch me off guard.

It’s not fair that I did all of this work and with one gunshot he left me behind to work through it again. He got to leave his pain and he brought mine back with a frenzy.

And no, I’m not back at square one, I have a head start over last time.

I know that there’s work to be done but I’m bitter.

And I’m sad.

I don’t want to be a trauma queen again. I want to go to sleep and wake up as I was.

I want to have enough emotional energy to do the work I need to do on my self AND to work a job that I worked so hard to be healthy enough to do.

I know I’ve got this. I know I will make it through this. I know I’ll be back where I was.

But damnit. I worked

So

Fucking

Hard.

It feels like he took all of my hard work with him, with that one gunshot.

I’m sitting alone writing this, literally glancing over my shoulder every few lines. I can’t play music because I might miss something. I need to pee but the effort it will take to walk down that hall feels unbearbable. Something might catch me off guard from one of the rooms.

Another gun shot might ring out.

I worked so hard to not be afraid anymore.

So.

Fucking.

Hard.

It’s not fair.

It’s really not fair.

Silence

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Mention of a gunshot and completed suicide.

This is another long winding one as I get my late night thoughts out.

Night time is hard. I feel like something is going to jump out from behind every corner. Daytime makes things seem a little more open, but in the dark there are shadows and I feel like I won’t see what’s coming.

It was daytime and I was sitting at my computer, in my dad’s house. I didn’t have any music on. I was listening to him in the kitchen through my ipad. The occasional shuffle of something on the table where he always had a stack of snacks.

Wheelchairs move absolutely silently, I didn’t hear him move from the table, around the counter, through the door separating the kitchen from the dining room.

I didn’t hear him open the drawer and retrieve the gun.

I was just at my computer, which was sitting on the end table that I had spun around to use as a desk off of the side of the bed.

I was responding to an email from Wonder Woman. We were discussing the best way to work our couple’s therapy schedule since the therapist wouldn’t see us while I was out of state. I was detailing what schedule had been worked out for Draven and I to switch off. Flipping between my email window and the calendar, typing up exact dates so that we could have 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off with the therapist.

I was proofreading the email, making sure I had the dates right, and checking for grammar.

It was silent.

And then it wasn’t.

The gunshot echoed repeatedly. It took a long while for it to become totally silent again. At about the same time the room filled with the smell of gun powder.

I knew I didn’t need to look, I knew exactly what had happened, but I just had to look, something made me check.

“I wish you didn’t look.” Aimee has said to me a few times now, in person and in text.

I’m not sure what made me look.

Tonight Wonder Woman has the TV playing in the background, we just ate dinner together. Behind me, or off to my left, depending on which way I’m facing, is the rest of our tiny apartment. A small hallway, a bathroom, 2 bedrooms. I can feel the darkness coming from those rooms. I could just leave the lights on, but then there would still be shadows and I’m not sure what’s worse, total darkness, or the hidden shadows.

I reach far out in front of me to hit the light switches as I move throughout the house. I don’t want to step into the dark.

But back to the TV playing. I still feel the silence underneath. The silence that could be broken at any second. I feel like I haven’t fully relaxed since that shot rang out.

I’m waiting, waiting, waiting.

My Partial Hospitalization Program is done through video chat. One of the people in our group participates from her car, probably because it’s the only place she can have privacy. Today she had to sit her phone down get out of the car for a minute. She didn’t turn off her video. I could see her steering wheel, a bit of her seat, and her drivers side window.

I kept waiting for the loud pop and her window to be splattered with blood. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her little square on my screen. I was frozen with panic for absolutely no logical reason. Nothing she had said would have lead me to worry about that. Eventually she came back and I could breathe again.

But I’m waiting to be blindsided. If I worry about every potential trauma, then I won’t be caught off guard next time.

Of course that isn’t how this works.

Kidlet asked me this afternoon, “Hey ma, can I ask you a potentially insensitive question?”

“Of course.”

“Have you made popcorn since you’ve been home?”

Popcorn is my all time favorite snack. I had just made some earlier today, before he asked his question. I commented out loud to Wonder Woman that each pop sounded like a tiny quiet gunshot.

She rattled off a few other things that sound like popcorn.

Popcorn doesn’t scare me. The sudden sound of the blender does, even when I’m the one turning it on.

This afternoon Wonder Woman opened a door slightly differently than normal. The towel rack that hangs from it popped back against it. It wasn’t all that loud, but it was sudden and it caught me off guard.

I was too frozen to yell out and ask if it was her.

A few moments later I heard her feet shuffle towards me and I released the breath I had been holding.

I’ve mentioned before all of this, how thankful I am that Wonder Woman goes out of her way not to startle me. She shuffles her feet whenever she walks throughout the apartment. And now, when something makes an odd sound she lets me know what it was.

I’m lucky to have someone who is so trauma aware and so thoughtful.

She just went to the bathroom and paused the TV. The silence is deafening.

I’m exhausted all of the time now. Being tense and on edge will do that.

After Parker died I found myself checking that people were breathing whenever they were still. Slowly, over time, that need faded. I trusted that someone could be still and alive. However, even now, 4 years later, I still have those odd moments where I stand absolutely still and watch a sleeping Wonder Woman, waking her up if I don’t see the rise and fall of her chest.

I wonder what this new anxiety will be like in 4 years. I’m sure it will slowly become part of my new normal. I’m sure I won’t need to turn on lights ahead of me, and I won’t hold my body tightly whenever it is quiet. I’m sure I’ll stop clenching my jaw.

But that time can’t come quick enough.

This trauma is new, exactly a week old today, I need to cut myself some slack, but I expect myself to heal immediately. I know, logically, this isn’t likely to happen again. Not this exact trauma in this exact way.

But I’m still holding my breath.

Still waiting for the next gunshot to break the silence.

Road Trip

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Completed Suicide including some description.

I picked my sister up from the airport late last night. She had a choice between flying in last night, way past her bedtime, or this today at noon.

“I just need a hug.”

“I’ll be there tonight.”

Yesterday while I was still at dad’s place, I asked if we could fly Wonder Woman in, so I didn’t have to do the drive home alone. Wonder Woman quickly realized it would be $700 and 3 layovers for her to get here yesterday or today.

That just seemed excessive.

While Aimee was on the plane, texting back and forth with me, she had the idea that she could drive with me back to Baltimore, and fly further north from there.

We were both giddy with excitement over this idea. We rarely see each other, I think it’s been 3 years this time, and we’ve only done one other short road trip together, 17 years ago.

On the ride back to the hotel she made a list of things that needed to be handled before we could leave this godforsaken state. Tying up a few odds and ends, paying the boarder who will train Willow and then find her a new home, thanking the neighbors who have gone above and beyond.

We realized we could be on the road this afternoon, making it at least a few hours north before getting a room for the night. Aimee isn’t a drive all night kind of person, and honestly, it would be a horrible idea for me to let myself get that worn down right now.

I need my strength for fighting through the restless anxious nights ahead.

Last night Aimee got herself a room with 2 beds, just in case I couldn’t be alone. I slept in my own room though, leaving a light on in the bathroom because the dark seemed too scary. Comedians playing through my phone, as a reminder of home.

I, thankfully, didn’t have any nightmares, but I tossed and turned a lot, and each time I woke up I’d start ruminating about what I’d heard and seen. I’ve pieced together the scene before he died. The movie replaying in my head of him shuffling his way to the dining room, fighting to open the drawer where yet another handgun was hidden, I even see him hold his the gun in his shaking hands and put it in his mouth.

Of course I didn’t actually see these things, and I don’t know exactly how it played out, but minds are good at trying to fill in the blanks.

More than once I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, figuring that 3 hours was all I’d get. And then that 4 hours. And then that 5 hours.

I actually slept until 7 this morning after going to bed at midnight. I call that a success, given what yesterday looked like. I haven’t slept through the night in more than a week, at some point that would be nice.

We will drive to the funeral home so that Aimee can sign some papers and we can arranged for dad’s cremation. We’ve discussed chucking the whole urn off the side of a bridge.

He’s always liked the water.

I feel like I can go back into dad’s house. The police said that there was just some spots on the rug, any carpet cleaner would get them out. We’ll have that room cleaned, and the bedroom where he pissed all over the floor more than once.

And if I can’t go in, I’ll drive over to the next middle of nowhere town and hang out while I wait for her to clean out the fridge, arrange for the disposal of hundreds of guns, throw away the still wet sheets and clothes in a dryer that never finished spinning.

I wonder when my head will stop spinning with these images, both imagined and real.

I won’t shed any tears over his death, good, fucking, riddance. But I may shed tears over what I heard and what I saw.

His one last traumatic gift to me.

But I’ll be okay.

I am, okay.

Loud

TW: Completed Suicide, some graphic description of the event.

This is a Really Real Aging Parent post.

Although, I guess that’s not the right way to put it anymore.

I’m going to repeat this . .

TW: Completed Suicide, some graphic description of the event.

Gunshots are less of a bang, and more of a pop.

I’ve known this for most of my life, I have memories of shooting in the back of my dads yard back in Maryland. Gun safety being drilled into me from such a young age.

We knew he had a gun in his endtable, it’s been there for as long as I can remember. My first suicidal thoughts reminding me that if I died that way, I’d just become one more anti-gun statistic.

Back then I felt very strongly about gun rights. Even from a young age.

Not so much anymore.

But back to the beginning. Gun shots are less of a bang, and more of a pop.

I never realized how loud they would be indoors. The sound echoing off of the walls on all sides of me.

I knew immediately what that sound was, but I had to go look.

His sweet dog was standing there looking scared, and as I turned the corner I saw him slumped over in his wheelchair.

What looked like dark, thick, blood was hanging from his face.

I didn’t go any closer. I didn’t need to check if he was alive.

If he was, hopefully he would be gone before anyone got there.

I called my sister first, I don’t know why, I just needed to hear a voice other than 911.

I’d made that call to 911 before.

I’d been asked the questions and told to go try CPR.

I listened the first time, touching Parkers cold, dead skin. She was long gone by the time I found her.

But I knew my dad would still be warm, and when 911 told me to go check for a pulse I refused.

“But he might need CPR.”

He has a DNR, I’m not doing that.

Aimee got a neighbor to come over. By then I had locked myself in the bedroom where I was when this happened. Some irrational fear that he was going to come shoot me next.

I knocked on the window as the neighbor walked to the carport.

“He’s in the dining room,” I yelled. “Please remember he has a DNR.”

I wanted to make sure everyone knew, because no one deserved to live the way dad had been living for the past few days.

With his daughter wiping his ass after helping him from wheelchair, to bed to get his pants down and diaper off, and from bed to commode, and from commode back to bed to help him clean up and get him dressed again, and finally back into his wheelchair.

A routine we had mastered, even in just a few short days. A routine that wore us both out.

But that wheelchair was his final resting place.

He had been mostly quiet today, but we had fought over a tube of chips. He wanted to open them and I wanted him to wait until I had gotten him back to the table. I don’t want more mess to clean up.

I used dad’s voice on him. I yelled, furious that he wouldn’t just relax and work with me. Furious that things still had to be his way.

We had gotten very quiet and tense, and eventually I went to my room, setting my computer up at the little makeshift desk i had created from an end table.

I set up the monitor so I could easily hear if he yelled out for me.

The gun shot reverberated from the monitor and through my closed door.

Or was it open.

It’s a blur now. As happens after a traumatic event.

The neighbor came back to my room. “He’s gone. There’s no pulse.”

I’m so thankful that he didn’t suffer in those final moments.

I wonder what was going through his mind.

The house filled with EMS and the Sherrif’s office. So many questions that I’d been asked once before. I knew this routine.

“Please warn me before you take him out, I don’t want to see that.”

I remember going with my mom to Burger King when Parker died. I don’t think I ever ate what we bought, but I couldn’t be at the house when her body was taken out.

I closed the blinds in my room, it became my safe haven as I called and messaged more people than I can remember.

I remember making those calls after she died too.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have dropped that like that, I should have given you some warning.”

I remember saying the same thing after she died too.

Once all of the questions were asked, and my hands were swabbed for gun powder (“Just a formality,” she said.) I hastily packed my clothes. My sister rented a room for me, far out of that backwards ass middle of nowhere town.

I wonder if that gunshot silenced his voice in my head once and for all.

I wonder how long I’ll hear that gunshot, less of a bang, more of a pop.

I wonder how long I’ll see that dark red blob hanging from his face.

I wonder why my life is so filled with trauma.

But I’m okay.

I really am, okay.

Tired

This is a Really Real Aging Parents post.

We have good days and bad days, and today is an incredibly difficult day.

I’m over tired and grumpy.

Today this is overwhelming, today I’m wondering what the fuck we were thinking. And Dad is having one of those times where he can’t find words, and hes bored and restless and I don’t feel like I have the patience for this.

I’m tired.

Closure

This is a Really Real Aging Parents post.

Dad had a really rough evening tonight.

He slept for a long while this afternoon and he was so tired that when I was getting him into bed at 2 pm, he was falling asleep before we even got him adjusted up on the bed. He woke up about 4 hours later, and was stumbling on words, lots of 1 word answers, and lots of “I don’t know.” He ate something little, and wanted to go back to bed.Within 10 minutes of getting him in bed he was yelling for me and saying he wanted steak, there was a discussion about how we’d have steak tomorrow, it needed to thaw. I suggested shrimp and he said I should bake them for 90 minutes. When I said I wasn’t baking them for 90 minutes, but that I would cook them my way, he said “Damnit, I wanted steak, forget it then.”5 minutes later he wanted up, he tried to peel frozen shrimp, then after I asked him 3 or 4 times he let me run them under water to thaw. He peeled them and told me to cook them in a way that I never would have thought of (directly on the oven rack), for 9 minutes instead of 90 . . that made more sense.Not long ago I said that I’d need to go to bed soon, we’ve been up since 6:30 am, and I wasn’t able to nap when he did because I had other stuff that needed to be done. A few minutes later he said why don’t you put me in bed so you can sleep.He doesn’t say please or thank you at all to me as he’s weakly barking orders. There’s lots of pointing, lots of repeating a word over and over again and getting frustrated when I’m not looking in the right place (like he’ll tell me something is in the drawer, and keep pointing to a specific drawer and getting frustrated when I’m not finding it, then he’ll realize he didn’t mean drawer, he meant pantry. Or he’ll say computer, and I’ll ask if he wants to go to the computer and he’ll say “not computer, computer” until he finally finds the word he actually meant.)

I’ve spent my life trying to anticipate his needs to avoid his anger, now I’m trying to anticipate his needs because he can’t communicate them with me all of the time.And it’s heart breaking, because his brain is still there for the most part. When he’s having good moments, we have in depth conversations about stuff, but his speech is fading and there are more and more moments when he’s stumbling and stuttering on words.We spent the early part of the afternoon discussing memories with the hospice nurse. Some of my favorite childhood moments happened with my father (but also most of the worst ones). Seeing him light up when talking about shark fishing, and crabbing, and taking me up in a piper plane and showing me he could fly it. I saw emotion on his face, which isn’t seen often. His illness leaves him with a wide eyed, emotionless, stare.90 percent of the time he calls me Aimee (my sister’s name) and sometimes he’ll correct it without me saying anything. He knows who I am, but the wrong name comes out.As I was turning off his light tonight he said “Thank you, Tina, for helping me.”I didn’t realize how much closure this experience would provide.

Recording These Memories

This is a Really Real Aging Parents post.

I’m writing these so often because this time next year I believe he’ll be gone, and just like I look back on my mental health progression, I want to be able to look back on this time in my life, as well as the progression of his disease.

This one is long, apparently I have a lot on my mind tonight.

Dad has always kept his house at 80 degrees. I keep my at 68, plus have fans going constantly. One of my bigger complaints when I would come see him was that it was hot and humid and gross inside, not to mention outside. When I first got here, I turned the damn AC down to 72. Still hot by my standards, but at least I’m not dripping sweat. And I’m working my ass off here (literally, this is one hell of a weight loss and exercise plan.) Today Dad was cold, and he wheeled himself over to the thermostat, first time he’s noticed since he came home. “Turn this back up, no wonder it’s cold.” “Dad, you’ve been fine for 4 days at this temperature, we can get you a sweater if you’d like, but I can’t take care of you if I’m sweating so badly that you slip out of my arms.””Oh.”

Dramatic much?

He went back into his room to watch TV and when I came in a few minutes later, he was struggling with the comforter that he’d pulled off the bed. I asked again if he wanted a sweater and he said no, so I bundled him up.He had me take him into his closet a little while later and he picked out a sweater.

The hospice nurse came today, 3rd day in a row as they get him set up. Today was the care plan.He’ll have an aide 2 or 3 days a week to bathe him and help him shave, etc. They are going to figure out if using the chair in his shower works, or if we need to get a transfer bench that we can use over the regular tub in the guest bath. She said it was great that I’d gotten so much stuff, but said don’t buy another thing without asking them first. They cover most of it. Yesterday they brought waterproof pads and briefs and wipes and gloves. Today they brought him a hospital table, a cushion for his wheelchair, and something else. A fully electric bed will be here any day now.

I asked if a lift chair was possible, I can’t get dad in and out of his recliner, but a lift chair would make it possible to transfer him. She said no, but if you find one, we’ll reimburse you for the cost. We can even help you find one if needed.

The social worker will be out one day this week, she can help arrange respite sitters and connect us with other community resources. Most of his medications will be mailed to him now, without a copay, and if we have to pick something up at the pharmacy they gave us a card which will waive the copays there as well.

They are sending out a speech therapist and a physical therapist. I can ask tomorrow about occupational therapy, because I forgot. The goal is to maintain his current abilities and quality of life.

I was shocked when they said they could provide a mechanical lift for transfers when he can no longer help us with that process. I hope he doesn’t live that long.

The nurse recommended we get him a laser pointer for those times when he can’t find words. He can point from across the room and show us exactly where something is. I wonder if one day we’ll have a picture board for him, just like I had with my son before he could talk.Today I could tell he was depressed. The reality of this situation is setting in.

He told me I talk too much, asked me if I ever stopped yakking (nope dad, I never stop, sorry). I’m sure it sounds incredibly loud when you’re used to a silent home with no one around.

He was restless, moving from one room to another, calling for help when he couldn’t push himself anymore. He never did settle on anything to do, eventually asking me to help him to bed even though it was only 730.And he was wiped, once again dozing off before he could help me pull him up the bed. He was dead weight in my arms.He asked for his night meds, said he was just done for the night. He choked while taking them, trying to gasp for air. It was one of the scarier things I’ve been through with him, as I quickly raised the head of his bed getting him more upright. He eventually cleared it, but he’s been coughing ever since.Losing the ability to swallow is one of the symptoms of his illness, aspirating foods or liquid will often cause pneumonia. Pneumonia is regularly the cause of death with his condition. I sit in the kitchen hearing him dose off and wheeze a bit, then wake up with a little cough and clearing his throat. I could call the hospice nurse, but it would just wake him back up when she got here in an hour (he’s so far out from anything), and it’s not like they can do anything anyway.I have the number in my phone though, and I’ll be listening to him through the monitor all night, stirring with every cough. I will call if it becomes too bad, because maybe they can do something to make him a bit more comfortable.That’s the purpose of all of this. That’s the reason I’m here instead of letting him spend his final days in a home. I’m here because no matter how difficult our relationship has been, he deserves to spend however long he has left, at home, or at least as much time as I can give him.

Wednesday his dog comes home. It’s been almost 2 months since he’s seen her and he misses her so much. I’ve hated that we had to wait this long but I needed to have a routine down, before adding another mouth to feed.

And for the first time since he came home I just burst into tears reading back over this. My dad is dying and I’m watching it happen before my eyes. Maybe it’s just a few bad days, maybe this is our current new normal. There will be lots of new normals before this is over.

I hope I’m here when it ends, and not my son. I hope he doesn’t have to find him dead in his bed like I found Parker. But I’ve already talked to him about it. We know it’s a possibility.

Hopefully he’s still in his own home, with his dog, when that day comes.

Hospice

This is a Really Real Aging Parents post.

Dad slept mostly through the night, only waking me up once at 430.

Late last night he was accepted by home hospice, something I never realized I would be happy about.

A nurse will be here daily for the next few days, and then weekly after that. They are providing some equipment, taking over many of his medications and providing them, and will helpful in supporting us as his caretakers.