Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Unlucky 13

I’m not a superstitious person. Really I’m not. But today is my Friday the 13th and for the next year 13 will be my unlucky number. You see, today is the 13th anniversary of the day that changed my life. Thirteen years ago we lost my father to the demon disease, cancer. My dad was the kind of dad that every kid wants. He was funny, brilliant, dedicated, and he loved us. We always knew he loved us. He was affectionate and would never hesitate to give us a hug or tell us he loved us. And on the flip side, he was the bad guy when needed. I was sure his hand was as big as a frying pan when I was little. Or at least it felt like it was.

My dad was my first knight in shining armor. I remember being a little girl and just knowing I was going to marry him. Well, I was four, give me a break! But as I grew and started dating, he was the standard all men were measured against. And let me tell ya, he set that bar pretty darn high.

My pop was a big bear of a man, but he was all squishy and loveable on the inside. And a joker. Ohmygosh did he love a good joke. Or to pull a joke on someone, like his friend Mike Tyler. Mike owned a furniture store next door to my dad’s office and they were like-minded in the dry humor department. For grins, one day my dad bought a can of Skoal (disgusting, repulsive stuff), dumped it out and replaced it with chopped up raisins. Dad was a smoker, not a dipper. blech to both. Anyway, so he’s standing around shooting the breeze with Mike and casually pulls the can out of his pocket and proceeds to place a ‘dip’ in his lip, as if this is nothing new and happens every day. Mike’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he started in on my dad,

‘What are you doing?’

‘What? what do you mean?’

‘That! You don’t dip!’

‘Sure I do. I just started.’

it goes on for a bit and at some point my dad finally came clean. (I wasn’t actually there to see this, I heard about it later, I’ve inserted what I think may have been said.) But it really happened, we found the can in his desk after he passed.

He had a stubborn streak too, maybe that’s where I get my determination from. When he was in his very early 40’s he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have a vivid memory of visiting him in the hospital. His tumor caused him to have a seizure commonly called an absence attack. It’s like the lights are on, but no one’s at home. He was driving late at night and had one of these seizures and wrecked his car. This was when the tumor was discovered. The news just kept getting worse. Not only was he in a bad crash, he had a brain tumor on top. My visit to the hospital after his wreck was earth shattering. Here was my Superman, lying in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask, two black eyes, and numerous other cuts and bruises. He wasn’t supposed to look like that. Things like that weren’t supposed to happen to my dad. That was the day I learned that yes, it can happen to me.

Dad went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for treatment. They did the best they could, but were not able to remove all of the tumor, so he did chemo & radiation. My uncle bought my dad a goofy Tina Turner wig as a gag so he wouldn’t have to be totally bald. That stubborn streak served him well. The doctors told him that the 5 year survival rate for his type of cancer was only about 5%. Which means only 5% of people with that diagnosis live to the 5 year mark, post-diagnosis. What did my dad do? He told the doctors to piss off, they don’t know everything, and they’re sure as hell not gonna tell him when it was time to die. GO DAD! He changed his diet and lifestyle significantly and he did it, he lived, and lived well, for 18 more years.

I don’t know how I would have turned out if he’d listened to the doctors and not made it to the 5 year mark. I was 13 when he had his wreck. Thirteen is an awkward enough age and I was still reeling from my parents divorce when he was given this diagnosis. I am so incredibly thankful that I didn’t have to find out. I am however very sad that my children will never know him and how much fun he could be. How his laugh sounded or how great his hugs were. He always wanted grandchildren. He had big plans to spoil the heck of them and send them home. My oldest was born the year after he died. I tell them about him all the time and what he used to do and the things he loved and enjoyed. Fathers have a profound effect on their children. I just wish that every child was fortunate enough to have a dad like mine. The world would be a much better and  different place.

Even though it’s been thirteen long years, I still miss him terribly and think of him daily. I still talk to him sometimes too. Not as much as I did in the beginning, but I do. Even though it does get easier, you never get over it. The pain is just not quite as raw as it was initially, but it’s still there.

I love you dad.

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Frailty of Life

You know, I never really thought much about it, even though I lost my dad 12 years ago. Life truly is fragile and can be exceedingly short. In the time span of the world, even a person well over 100 is still young. In a million years, 95 or 100 is only really a blink, a wink.

I have been blessed to be able to say that I have not experienced alot of tragedy, trauma or death of people close to me, either family or friends. In my younger days, there were people whom I knew in passing that, in one way or another, were claimed by death at all too early an age. And while it saddened me and reminded me of my own mortality, I didn’t feel the acute pain felt when losing someone who is close to your heart and part of your life.

Becoming a mother really has changed my perspective on the world and on life. When I see an obit of a parent, I feel terribly for the child left behind. The devastation of losing a parent is enormous. And I was an adult when I lost my father. To be a young child and tragically, and/or suddenly, lose a parent must be the worst kind of pain imaginable. To have to learn your way in the world without the guidance of your biggest supporter, your biggest fan and advocate has to be daunting. I know not all parent/child relationships are like that, but in my world they are.

I nearly lost my father when I was 13. He was in a horrific car crash that almost killed him, and when they got to the hospital, it was discovered he had a brain tumor. Being 13 is hard enough as it is, without things like that happening. My world had suddenly shifted on it’s axis and was completely upside down. One minute, everything is fine, he’s driving a babysitter home. The next, we get the dread phone call at midnight. We were very fortunate to have had him with us for nearly 20 more years. I have no idea how my life would’ve turned out without him.

Today, I’m once again slapped in the face with my own mortality. It’s a beautiful January day, the sun is shining, it’s going to be nearly 70 today. Yesterday was a bit rough, but nothing we can’t handle. And then I get the news that a good childhood friend of mine had passed away last night. She’d had surgery in December. She felt like she was progressing in her recovery process. She was upbeat earlier this week about everything. And today she’s gone. How does that happen? We are here, and then we’re not. I am incredibly sad to lose her, but I feel even worse for her daughter, who is my son’s age. That precious girl has to go through pain that no child should ever have to experience at the age of 11. Her husband will now have to raise their daughter alone. Her mother will have to do what every mother fears.

We were good friends in elementary and middle school and drifted apart as we aged, like people do. We had different interests and friends, but we reconnected online. She was a deeply religious person and had overcome her own struggles with drugs and alcohol to become an addiction counselor to help others overcome their inner demons. She was a beacon of hope and love to everyone around her and she will be missed. I hope she knew how many people she helped and how many lives she touched.

We are all angels, clothed in flesh and bone. Life, no matter whose it is, is precious and fragile. Live today like it’s your last day. Share your love and compassion with those around you, strangers included because you never know when it could be their last day.

My other challenge to myself, and to you, don’t just live for now. Live your life in such a  way that when you are gone, you will be remembered for years to come, and not just by family. Make your mark on the world. Become that beacon of hope and love for others, and do it with joy in your heart.

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Suck it up and stop being a “Man”

This applies to all men out there, young or old. A friend told me last week of a friend of hers who was too much of a ‘man’ to go to the doctor. This man had an 11 yo son (the only child I know of, she told me an abbreviated story) whom he took to football practice every week. And for all intents and purposes he loved his son.

Here’s the rub. He had an ulcer. He knew he had it, for 13 years this ulcer was a part of his life, his health. And yet, he ate aspirin like candy, according to my girlfriend. Guess what! Ulcers do not like aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner. And if you are in pain enough to need that much medication, you need to take yourself to the doctor because there is something wrong that you need to have checked out. He was at his son’s birthday party a week ago and wasnt’ feeling well. Two days later that ulcer perforated. Can you say bad, very very bad? In the 40 minutes it took to life flight this man to the nearest major hospital he bled out. In case you don’t know what that means, all of the blood in his body drained through this ulcer that has now basically ruptured and into his abdominal cavity. When he arrived at the hospital he was clinically dead. DOA. Ever heard that one? At the ER they pumped 19, NINETEEN, units of blood into this man, and were able to get his pulse back, but it was too late, there was no brain activity. He was on life support for a couple of days before they decided to take him off.

How sad is that? Something that was preventable and needless and didn’t have to happen, all because he was a man and didn’t think he needed to go to the doctor. His son is now without a father. His dad can’t take him to football, teach him how to drive, see his son graduate high school, or college, or get married, or see his grandchildren. That boy’s life will never be the same. Can you imagine what life would have been like if you had lost your father at an early age? I almost lost mine, not from something preventable, but to cancer, when I was 13 and I have no idea how differently my brother and I would have turned out if we had been raised by my stepdad alone. dont’ get me wrong, he’s a good man, but completely different from my dad.

I am writing this because we really don’t like statistics like this. Pain is your body’s warning signal that there is something wrong. Here’s a comparison for you. If your car’s ‘check engine’ light comes on and you just put a piece of tape over it and ignore it, eventually the car will poop out, or fall apart, or blow up, or whatever. That is what pain is, your body’s ‘check engine’ light. If you ignore it, or mask it with pain meds, eventually you will end up in the doctors’ office, in the ER, in the operating room, or in the morgue, take your pick.

So I say to you today, if not for yourself, for the ones you love, suck it up and go to the doctor. I have a newsflash for you, no one will think less of you for going. No one will think you’re being a baby, or a whiner, or a wimp for doing it. They will think you are responsible and smart for going. And while I’m giving newsflashes, doctors don’t think you’re complaining when you tell them what’s wrong. When you see the doc and they ask ‘How are you?” IT IS NOT A RHETORICAL QUESTION! Tell them what is going on and why you are there. They need all the info you can give to best help you. It is not complaining when you are asking them for help. I promise, no doc will laugh at you, look down at you for being there, or consider you to be a wimp at all. This I know for a fact.

Take care of yourself and never ever say this again:

MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY”  Those are the five most dangerous words in a man’s vocabulary.

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Daddy’s Little Girl

This is a piece I wrote shortly before my dad died eleven years ago today.

Daddy’s Little Girl

When she was born she was the apple of his eye

His was the first face she saw in this world

Eyes filled with joy and love

Endless possibilities in store for this brand new perfect life

He promised he would be the best, teach her all she needed to know

Protect her from the boogeyman, hug away the fears

Bandage her owies, kiss away the tears

Walk her down the aisle

Hold her hand through all of life’s adventures

When he saw he had done all he could

To help put her on the right path in life

He knew the time had come

He kissed her on the forehead, let go of her hand

And went home to wait for her

Her course in life was gently guided by his love

Now it’s her turn to carry on what he started

To make sure everyone knows the affect a daddy had on this little girl

I love you dad

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For My Dad

Eleven years ago today, my world lurched,  tilted on its axis, and came to a screeching halt. It was the day my dad died and my life changed. I remember waking up the next day crying that I wanted my daddy back. As I got myself back together over the following days and attempted to pick up my normal routine, it just seemed so odd to me, and unfair that the world went on. People still went to work, the grocery, the mail was still delivered, the sun still rose and set, as if nothing had even happened. And here I was with a gaping hole in my chest feeling like everything was going to fall out at any second.

In 1981, my parents divorced and less than a month later, Dad was in a really serious car accident and nearly died. The accident was the result of a brain tumor that caused him to black out. I was 13 and my world was crashing around my very narrow shoulders. Talk about a basket case.

Dad went through surgery, chemo and radiation and was declared cancer free. We danced and thanked God. Dad also did his part to get healthy, he quit smoking and found some diets that would help rebuild his body and make him stronger.

My dad was an amazing man. He had a dry sense of humor and  loved bad jokes and pulling pranks on his friends. As far as I was concerned, he knew everything and could fix anything. Above all, he loved my brother and me. When doctors told him that his type of cancer had a low survival rate, he told that doctor it was not his job to tell him when he was going to die. he was that kind of person. He was very headstrong, but also very kind and loving. A bear of a man with the heart of a teddy bear.

Dad was the one who told me I could do anything I wanted to if I worked hard enough for it. He encouraged me to do things and try new things and always built me up, even if he thought I might not like something. When I was in 6th grade I think, I decided I wanted to play soccer. Even though he knew nothing about the sport, he volunteered to be one of the coaches. He showed me the value of hard work and acceptance. In a part of the country where prejudice and bigotry run rampant, he taught me to look at the person as a whole, the color of our skin does not define who we are and we’re all the same on the inside.

In the late 90’s, dad’s cancer returned and he began having increasingly regular blackouts, several of which lead to car accidents. One of those was extremely serious and landed him in the hospital for several days with multiple broken bones. he never really recovered from it and died 8 months later.

He lived long enough to see my brother and I grown and to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. he was even able to hand me my diploma when I graduated chiropractic college and followed in his footsteps. I miss him like mad and so wish he could’ve met his grandchildren. He would be so proud of them.

I love you dad.

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