Monday, August 28, 2006

To those I've never met

Please email me. There are many of you out there whom I know of but do not know - friends of Dalton (or Jim) that I would love to be in touch with. There are a select few in particular - dear friends and old girlfriends (funny, I know) that I would love to hear from. I won't name names, but I suspect you are out there reading but staying anonymous. Stay anonymous no more. Email me at


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Chatting it Up with the Doctor

Is there anyone left in this town who doesn't have a therapist?

I've tried before. Really I have. I mean, it's the hip thing and goodness knows if there's anything about me that you should know by now, I'm all about being hip. Unfortunately, somewhere between notes made in a manila file folder and the coy timer that politely states "Time up", therapy always loses it's charm. Nevertheless, if one person tells you you have a tail, ignore them. If several people tell you you have a tail, it's time to find a mirror. Several people have told me that I should see somebody (yes, that's right I seem to have misplaced my husband), so i guess it's time to find a counselor.

And in spite of myself, I might have done that. The good doc is safe. She's sweet and quiet and looks at me in a "poor dear" sort of way that would have previously made me wretch. But she asks me about Dalton. No one does that anymore. And I can talk about him without feeling guilty that I am ruining someone's day or monopolizing a conversation or being a boring/dreadful friend. After all, I am paying her to listen and I had best get my money's worth. So I talk. And talk. And talk.

And funny enough, I cry. And it feels good.

She asks me about him. What is he like? What do I like most about him? How would I describe our relatinoship? When do I miss him the most. How did we meet? What is the hardest part of my day? And on and on until the timer says "Time's up." And she says without any hesitation, "Bring a picture next time."

I will.

What Happens in Vegas...

So despite anonymous' insightful recommendation that I should stay home and take care of Iain, I was kidnapped and taken to Vegas last weekend. I suppose I could say shopping was my excuse. Or fine dining a la Prime. Or fabulous accomodations at The Hotel. Really, I don't think I need an excuse. Just an escape.

The problem with escapes is that they never last. And mine ended in the McCaren airport while monies were being exchanged for hoetl rooms and airfares. After all, "We were all going home to our husbands and might forget about settling up."

No one else noticed. At least no one else acknowledged the slip. But suddenly and subtly I discovered that I was different. Not the same. And homecoming was a bitch.

To the gals that were my Vegas buddies and best of friends, it truly was a fabulous adventure. There is no reason for guilt or sadness. It simply is what it is and the who's, why's, when's, where's or how's of my awareness are irrelevant and unimportant.

A day at the spa. Now that's important.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cancer, Baby

Somehow I ended up here.

I emailed her husband tonight. Jessica's. She died recently of ovarian cancer. She was 33.

I really don't understand sometimes.

Why is it that eloquent, smart, caring, and most of all useful people die while others who intentionally waste away their lives, live.

I know, it is a stupid question and there are a million right answers, but that's how one feels when one thinks about Dalton...or Jessica.

It seems so random. And unfair.

Remind me to tell you later about tonight's evening out and my first bereavement counseling session. Have I mentioned before that Dalton was my soulmate?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Go with the flow

Who's to say what steers the grief process? For the past week or so, I have been functioning quite well. On occasion, I have even had moments of gladness and optimism about the future. In my daily life, I have managed times of productivity, personability, approachability, poise, concern for others, interest in life beyond my grief, etc. I have been getting along quite well considering...and then there was today.

I have no clue why I woke up with an elephant on my chest. I don't know why I found myself gasping for air and choking on my own panic all day long. Why I didn't eat or couldn't sleep past 3:50am. This isn't a "significant" date. Nothing momentous happened on August 15th. And yet, I have been in real physical grief pain all day long.

I suppose there's not much more than that to tell. I'm tired now. Iain is screaming because in I am attenpting to reaquaint him with his own bed. My head hurts because I haven't eaten all day. And my heart hurts. Nights are always hard, but tonight is especially difficult.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

step one - the day he slipped away

One of the eight grief recovery books I own begins with the end in mind. That is, it suggests that I begin my recovery by remembering the day that Dalton died. For me, this happened in two parts; the day he slipped away and the day he died. This is part one. Some of you may not have heard this story. You may not want to. I relive it nearly every day. Perhaps by writing it down, my brain will no longer feel compelled to dwell there; I don't know. I'm only following instructions.

...we had spent the better part of Tuesday at the City of Hope; Monday's consultation had resulted in a Tuesday visit with the wound care nurse. Dalton wasn't himself that day. He hadn't been on Monday either (needing a wheelchair and slipping in and out of confusion), but how would the doctor at COH know that? He'd never met Dalton before. Perhaps confusion and the inability to walk were part of Dalton's normal demeanor (sarcasm). Although we never saw the doctor on Tuesday, several of the nurses expressed concern about Dalton's physical condition (body temp: 95 degrees, oxygen: 89%, mental state: altered). I guess it wasn't serious enough to warrant a look by the physician. Whatever. They decided to order us some oxygen at home and see us in two weeks.

I went to my church meeting that night knowing things weren't good but unaware how bad that really was. Our friend Millie was at my house watching Iain. When I returned home, Dalton was in his usual spot in the living room chair, and their was an oxygen machine beside it. Iain was asleep in his room. I kissed Dalton goodnight and went to bed.

At five o'clock in the morning, Dalton came into the bedroom. He had just showered and was still wet. Hi legs were swollen. His shoulders were skin and bones. Dalton hadn't showered on his own for a month, so I was confused.

"Did you just take a shower?"

"Yeah, I need to get to school or I'm going to be late."

My heart sank. I ushered him into bed and curled up next to him. He was so frail that I was afraid I would hurt him, so I rested my head on his shoulder.

"You don't have to go to school today, Dalton."

"You say that now, but tomorrow will be another story."

I bit back the tears and took a deep breath.

"Honey, you have cancer, you're off work and school until you get better. Do you remember that?"


We laid there for a few minutes.

"Why are you trying to keep me from getting to school?" he asked. "I mean, I like it, but aren't I going to get into trouble?"

"I promise you're not going to get into trouble."

"Ok, if you say so."

We lay there a few more minutes. Then he asked again.

Each time, I became a bit more panicked. Iain would wake up sometime around 6:30. What would I do then? I decided I needed help, so I waited until six, then started calling friends. I called the one closest to me geopgraphically. No answer. Next closest, no answer. Next closest, no answer. Finally, I got ahold of my friend, Anna, in Van Nuys and she left immediately. Along the way, she picked up Kelly, and both of them arrived with Anna's son in tow, sometime around 8:15. By then, of course, Iain was awake, but I had coralled him in the pak 'n' play and he was being entertained by the Sesame Street Alphabet video. I was still tending to Dalton.

I knew things weren't good, so I called Dalton's family who were in Las Vegas celebrating his sister's birthday. They said they'd head home later that day. Then I called the nurse practitioner at USC. SHe said to bring him in. While I was talking with her, Anna was watching the boys and Kelly was hanging with Dalton. He kept throwing up bile and trying to drink it. As she transported the full tupperware containers of bile back and forth to the sink, Dalton graciously apologized for being such a burden. To that, Kelly wholehearted replied, "Dalton, you are not a burden. You are my friend." and she took the next tupperware container to the sink.

When I came out of the bedroom and into the living room, Dalton said he wanted to return to bed. Since the home health agency had delivered an empty portable oxygen unit, we had to disconnect him in order to get him back to bed. As he was walking along holding my hand, I could feel him starting to collapse. I screamed for help, Anna threw her son on the floor and ran over while Kelly moved the chair underneath him. We frantically raced to get the oxygen reconnected. And Dalton slumped back in the chair.

His eyes had rolled back in to his head and his head was arched back in an unnatural position. I though he was dead Kelly thought he was dead. I turned to her and said call 911. At some point in the next few minutes, I managed to talk Dalton through some breathing and he became somewhat more alert. Kelly somehow communicated our address to the 911 operator and then we waited. It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes and I have no idea what everyone else was doing, but I think I was sitting on the ground holding my husband's hand and resting my head on his lap. I remember taking his head in my hands, looking him in the eye and saying, "I love you Dalton." Somehow, he found the breath to reply, "I love you too."

When the Fire Department showed up, they moved in and began asking questions. They gave him more oxygen, asked me about his history and told me where they were going. Anna and Kelly said they'd take care of Iain, so I got in my car and follwed them to the hospital. When I arrived at the ER, I was told that Dalton was extreremely critical and that they needed to incubate him. He was desperate for air and maxed out on the oxygen. The ER doctor suggested I call a pastor.

Dalton was septic (an infection of the bloodstream) and had pneumonia. He'd been that way on both Monday and Tuesday while we were at City of Hope. For whatever reason, though, they had missed it. They would do everything they could to treat the sepsis and the pneumonia, but they would not promise anything. In the meantime, they would keep him comfortable.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Your Timeline Is Not Mine.

A letter to my younger friends...

I can tell that for some of you, my grief is getting old. "Shouldn't you be further along by now?" you ask. "When will you be done mourning?" "Is there any way we can help you get over this, after all it's been almost three months?"

Many of you are young and have experienced very little loss in your lifetime. Like me, you have just begun your family. Your husband or wife shares this joy with you. Your parents embrace their role as grandparents. In many cases, even you grandparents are bragging to the other folks in the senior community about their great-grandkids. This isn't me assuming some air of superiority; it's just fact.

Not so for me. Dalton's grief would be difficult enough. But I grieve more than my husband. I grieve my grandfather, who died in February, my mother who died last November, my father who died in 1994.

I grieve my entire family.

Iain is all that remains.

So please don't rush me through this. For once, i am trying to let myself heal. I am feeling the pain and still living with it. I am not numbing it in dangerous ways. I am not hiding out in my home. I am not isolating myself from those who love me. Crap, I'm not even taking any anti-depressants.

I just am.

And I believe that God is an will continue to bring healing.

Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable, wondering what the future might bring. Most of us will suffer tremendous loss in this life. Wouldn't it be easier if we thought of it as a temporary, even fleeting "thing to get past."

I'm not ready to past it yet. Sure, I'm ready to be done with the social awkwardness, the self-indulgent blog, the selfish monopolizing of conversations, the single-mindedness of my life. But if that is the price I pay for experiencing the pain of loss, for now that's alright. I can't imagine what I would be if I didn't, but I doubt I could be called human.


Iain is wonderful. He is smart and funny and sassy and tempermental. Just like his dad. Just thought I would share.

It was a good day

In my previous life, Dalton and I threw parties. We hosted Alpha courses, led small groups, and threw cocktail parties. Individually, we were certainly capable of engaging in cheery small talk and playful party banter. Together, we were twice the fun. We played off each other, cracking jokes and welcoming folks into our lives.

For ten months, I have actively avoided these situations. Even church, a huge source of my support and the connection point for many of my close friends, became a get in the door, don't look at anyone, hide in the sound booth affair. Only twice during Dalton's illness did I speak to someone at church whom I didn't know, and those were the two occasions that Dalton was able to be there with me. Truth be told, I was obesessed with the cancer that was dominating our lives. Since Dalton died, I have been obsessed with my grief and awkward demeanor. Sunday offered a glimpse of hope.

There was no fan fare, no grand plan to step out of my shell. People simply approached me and I responded. Not all of them knew my "situation". Two were new to the church. Two wanted to become more involved. One wanted to share with me that her husband was ill. And, interestingly enough, I was able to form more than two sentences. Did I look more approachable this week? Was i smiling more? Making eye contact? Who knows. However, for the first time in 10 months, I met new people without being concerned with my husband's cancer and subsequent death. It was nice and at the same time, odd.