It did not hurt at all….


Vic and her boys on the beach.

He eased his body onto the mattress while pulling up the covers and rested his head on the pillow.  There are far too many memories of his selfishness, but he will not deny them; he will learn from them. That is both his prayer and his hope.  Mercifully, the memories were not all bad. He smiled as another one surfaced. http://thresholdofheaven.com/2012/09/27/now-i-lay-me-down-to-sleep/

This is an extract from a blog of a father’s journey after the death of his young son.  Like all parents he is wracked by feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Shortly after her third birthday Vic developed a bad cold.  Her nose was running and I asked her to go wipe her it.  She looked at me and in her most defiant tone of voice said “No!  I won’t”.  I gave her a light smack on her bum.  She moved her little arm in front of her bum in an attempt to stop me … three of my fingers struck her arm.  She screamed!  I immediately knew I had broken her arm…

The x-rays showed that the ulna was broken in three places…. Imagine my horror, guilt, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt!

I worked hard as a young mother.  I was young, divorced, a single parent climbing the corporate ladder.  My child had been diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and I needed a lot of money to keep Vicky alive and living a fair life.  She attended a private school.  Did I neglect her at times as a child?  Yes, I am sure I did.  Not because I wanted too but because I had to work extra hard for that bonus or the next promotion!

Did I abuse her as a child?  Absolutely not!  My neighbors and some emergency rooms did however think I did…  By her 3rd birthday she had had 40 fractures…

When Vic was a little girl there was no internet and Osteogenesis Imperfecta was a “new and extremely rare” disease.  I spend many hours, days, weeks even months researching OI in libraries.  I went from doctor to doctor.  I tried alternative medicine, physiotherapy and hormone treatment!    I have spent thousands of hours on the internet researching every single medical report, diagnoses, blood test result that Vic has ever received.  I have bullied doctors, nurses and anyone who ever dared cross our path.  An ICU sister once told me I am a control freak and that I feed off Vic’s illness!

I can however honestly say that I did my best.  I cannot apologize for the mistakes I made as a mother as, at the time, whatever decision I made, I thought it was in Vic’s best interest.

Am I special?  Absolutely not!  I only do what any other mother would do under the same circumstances.  I cringe when people say “oh you are so brave” or “Oh you are so special” or “What an exceptional mother you are.  Vicky is lucky to have you as a mother”.  Nothing could be further removed from the truth…  I am the one blessed with an incredibly brave, compassionate, brilliant child!  Vic has enriched my life so much!  If I could choose a life with a healthy (different) child where I could have a life of my own, I would not.  Vic is part of my journey.

I come from a long line of very good mothers…My Mom taught us the values of being a “family”, honesty, unconditional love, caring and nurturing… I am surrounded by good mothers.  Vic is a good mother to her sons.  Esther, Lelani and Michaela are good mothers to their children!  All my grandchildren have good mothers.

Mothers love the way love is needed.  If the child needs caring they get caring, if they need nursing they are nursed.  A mother’s love is love in its purest form.

When Vic was 10 years old she lied to me about a school test.  It was not the first time she had fibbed and I knew I had to punish her.  Lying is an unforgivable transgression!  I always told Vicky that it is better to face my wrath for 5 minutes than to lie to me and destroy the trust that we had forever.  If she lied I would ALWAYS doubt her…Remembering the broken arm episode and knowing that she knew that I was a pacifist at heart, I decided the worst punishment I could give her would be a smack on her bottom.  I made her lie on her bed, on top of her arms, and gave her three smacks with my slipper.  (It sounds so barbaric!)

She smirked “It did not hurt at all” and I sobbed….

I phoned my Mom and sobbed “I am such a failure.  I am such a lousy Mother!  My child is lying to me.  I failed as a mother AND I GAVE HER A HIDING!”

Mom quietly asked me “What can you do to be a better Mom?”

I replied “Nothing!  I don’t know what else to do! That is why I am phoning you!  I need guidance and advice!  Please tell me what to do!”

My Mom gently replied “You can never do better than your best!”

These wise words have remained with me all my life.

Good decisions or bad decisions…I did my best….

Right or wrong…I did my best…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danie – the “Wind Beneath My Wings”!


Today my beloved Danie turned 74.  He is an absolutely amazing person.  He has the wonderful ability to love and to be loved.

I met this amazing man through mutual friends 24 years ago.  It was two weeks before his 50th birthday.  I casually asked whether he was going to have a big party and he said “no”.  He was newly divorced and did not feel up to a party.  In a moment of pity I said “Well, nobody should be alone on his birthday.  If you are not doing anything pop around for a glass of wine…”

He duly popped around for a glass of wine.  After a couple of glasses of wine I asked him if he had dinner.  He said “No” and I said I would see if I could throw together a tuna salad…  I opened my fridge and it was pretty empty.  Some salad stuff, milk, apples and a couple of bottles of wine…

I managed to put a salad together but I could see the birthday boy was not overly impressed.  I was not concerned at all.  He was far too good looking and newly divorced so I did not want to get involved with him.  I had been divorced for many years and Vic was used to it just being the two of us.

I dodged all Danie’s advances for more than a year.  On the 8th of December 1989 I accompanied Danie to a black tie event.  At the function I could not help but notice the reverence his colleagues had for him.  He danced like a dream and remembered that it was my birthday at 12 O Clock….  It was truly a fairy tale night and I fell hopelessly in love.

Vic immediately sensed that there was danger!  She referred to him as “that man”…. She cried a lot and wanted to come home from boarding school.  Vic made a 360 degree turn around.   She went from wanting to go to boarding school to wanting to move home… from independent to needy… from being a difficult teenager to being an impossible teenager.

I met Danie’s children.  I was terrified!  I did not know or like children.  My life was structured, neat, organized and perfect.  I was totally committed to my career.  I had property, a business, lots of friends, a healthy bank balance and my own toolbox.  I did not need any complications in my life!!

I prayed so hard so direction… I explained to God that I was so scared of making a mistake that would affect so many people’s lives.  I asked for a clear scripture!

I opened my Bible and the scripture that jumped up at me was Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

I immediately went back on my knees and prayed again.  “God, thank you for the scripture you gave me but what about all the children?”

I opened my Bible and it fell open on page 793 of the Old Testament.  Isaiah 54:1-17 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. “

Barren? That was me…  The day after Danie’s 52nd birthday we were married.

So tomorrow this wonderful man and I will celebrate our 22ND Anniversary.  We have managed to create a “home” for our five children.  The children, I feared, I now love as my own.  Two of the four call me “Mom”.  Their children are MY grandchildren.  They allow us to be part of the children’s lives and do not discriminate between the grandmothers.  From the day we were married Vic has called Danie “Daddy”.  Danie’s four children are her siblings.  They are our infrastructure.

Danie has been so absolutely amazing with Vic and her illness.  When my dad moved in with us Danie just accepted it as part of our journey.  He was incredibly patient with my Dad who suffered from Alzheimers.  He is my back-up system.  His selfless, caring nature has allowed me to pursue my career.  I am able to travel internationally for my work as he is home…..he is my back-up.  He fetches and carries the boys.  He checks on Vic and loves her and the boys unconditionally.  He shops and manages the home in my absence.  He thinks I am beautiful and smart.

This beautiful man is more than I deserve.  I love him with every fiber of my body.  I am grateful to him for the gift of his children and grandchildren every day of my life.  I am grateful that he taught me the biggest commandment of all – love!

So tonight I salute a wonderful man, husband, father and grandfather.  He is my best friend.  He is an amazing father to Vic.  Thank you God!

He is truly “The wind beneath my wings”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9ZMDPf9hZw&feature=colike

For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have..


Vic as a baby

 

For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Love entails profound care for another person. Love is boundless.  “One can never love too much….”

No!  That is not true.  Loving too much is as scary as lovelessness.

It is hard to see how positive care can be criticized. Even normal cases of romantic love tend to create a narrow temporal perspective that focuses on the beloved and is often oblivious to other considerations. In a romantic love situation loving too much means that one person in the relationship’s love is not returned in equal measures creating an unhealthy in balance..  Profound romantic love is not in its nature excessively wrong; but some cases of such love have a greater chance of being so.

With regard to parental love, some might claim that loving a child too much could be harmful as it can spoil the child. Others might argue that the problem here is not in loving the child too much, but in not understanding what is good for her in the short and long term. To this one might respond that it is precisely the nature of intense emotions not to realize the genuine nature of the given circumstances.

When a child is ill the balance of love becomes severely disturbed.

So I am actually going to rephrase the question – Can a caregiver “care too much?”  My answer to that:  Perhaps not emotionally — hearts are pretty boundless — but in practical terms, definitely, yes. It is possible to do too much for the person you look after.

Obviously, aging and ill members of family require different levels of assistance.  Providing help is often the only humane thing we can do for our loved ones.  I have researched this and discovered that sometimes well-intentioned caregivers overdo the role without realizing it.  

The effects on the caregivers…as follows;

  1. You hurt yourself by becoming at risk for chronic stress, burnout, or ill health from not taking good care of yourself
  2. The rest of your life suffers: A spouse grows resentful and distant, you’re less attentive or fall behind at work, your child feels neglected and your friends think you’ve dropped off the planet.
  3. Your sick loved one, on whose behalf you’re working so tirelessly, is also negatively affected. He or she may feel resentment over what’s perceived as invasiveness, may become depressed over a lack of control in his or her life, or may develop “learned helplessness” and mental and physical skills suffer from lack of practice.

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line from good intentions to brink-of-backfiring? 

  • You handle all the details of the person’s life so effectively that they complain of  having “nothing to do.”  Vic for a long time said “Mom I can do my own tablets….  I said “No baby, it is fine.  Let me do it!”
  • You’re regularly in doctors’ offices – but they’re the doctors of your loved one. You can’t remember the last time you had a check-up of your own.  True!
  • You can’t remember the last time you took a “day off” — that is a day in which you left the house, left your everyday life, and did not do the majority of caregiving yourself.  Guilty!
  • Caregiving is pretty much your main hobby.  Not by choice!
  • You prepare all the meals, even though the person could do some of the prep work or cooking – even if it took longer or wasn’t done quite the way you’d prefer.  Vic prefers my cooking.
  • You’ll drop everything to take a call from your ill loved one multiple times a day and then resist bringing the conversation to a close once you realize it’s not an emergency.  Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!! 
  • You have more fixed appointments in your weekly calendar for the person you take care of than just for you –i.e. no lunch dates, standing walks with a friend, visits to a gym. True!
  • You offer to do things for others reflexively — but you’d really never think of asking someone to do something very specific for you.  Absolutely!
  • You cater to the person’s special diet needs (low salt, for example) but don’t pay any special attention to your own nutrition.  MaybeOk guilty!
  • The last time you took a vacation was a long, long time ago!.  Innocent!!!  I went to England for a week in May 2012
  • A friend or relative slips and calls you a “control freak.” So?  I don’t have a problem with it.  Vic is my child and I know best.  I love her more than any other person in the world loves her and only have her best interest at heart!

So what?  I am guilty as is many, many other caregivers in my situation.  We love so much that we want to protect, nurture and control.  By caring we think we may extend our loved one’s life.

Tonight Vic showed me a birthday card that I gave her on the 31st of August 2002.  In the February of 2002 Vic had her blotched back surgery that triggered 80 abdominal surgeries and years of pain, indignity and unbearable suffering…

I wrote You are so special. You are brave, strong, resilient and caring.  I love you so much!  Baby, from now on we are moving forward.  The end of all of this is in sight.  Remain focused and continue to fight.  I know things are getting better!”

3 October 2012 I would write: “You are so special. You have been brave, strong, resilient and caring all your life.  I love you so much!  Baby, from now on we are living one day at a time.  The end is in sight.  I am sorry I held you back for so many years.  I am so sorry for the pain I have allowed you to suffer and endure seeking a cure.  Know whatever I did was done in the name of love.  Please forgive me.  It is okay to let go now.  Go in peace my beloved child.  I love you more than life!”

So, in conclusion I must admit to myself, I have loved Vic with an obsessive, possessive all-consuming love all her life.  From the first time she moved in my belly I loved her.  When she wrapped her tiny fingers around mine I was lost….  I love you too much, child of mine, now and forever!

 

Rest in Peace dear Friend 7.8.2012


Today we buried a very dear friend.  As his coffin was lowered into the grave, gentle snowflakes fell.  A light layer of pristine white forming on the dark, cold soil…..

One does not leave a funeral in the same way that you have come. One cannot help but have death on one’s mind.  One cannot help but be aware that such is the end of all life. One may look at oneself and have a new awareness that one’s body will not last forever. These thoughts are ones that humans must face and find a way to deal with. Some believe that the death is only the beginning of the next great mystery and the soul is eternal. Others take a practical view that death is all there is. Everyone leaves a funeral with thoughts of life and its fragility on their mind.

Today we bid farewell to a dear friend, a brother in every way but blood.   We know that friends like Dries come so infrequently that we want to cling to them and not let them leave.  We want to beg them to stay, but love’s power gives us the strength and the courage to let go. To let them leave when it is time to say goodbye and give them the wings they deserve. To let them fly into the boundless sky…… where the gentle snowflakes reminded us of them as it brushes against us

My regrets are many.  If only I had gone to the hospital to visit when I heard about Dries’ heart surgery……  If only I had gone to visit with Danie when he popped around after Dries was discharged from hospital……..  If only I had truly made Dries realize the value our friendship.  Regrets will not bring him back. I have become so self-centred in my journey with Vic that I have closed myself off from the world.  I have excluded friends and acquaintances and almost jealously guarded my pain.

I bid you adieu, my dear friend. Your kindness, your generosity and gentle spirit will live on through everyone whose path you crossed.   It is with love and the faith that we shared that I will move forward from here.  I will never forget you.

Rest in peace my dearest friend!

Though I do mourn for you my friend
And though I may cry,
And though you are leaving me
I do not say goodbye.
For goodbyes mean forever
Yet here you still remain.
Because, forever you will live
Here in my memories,
And forever in my heart
You will remain. (Thomas Barnes)

(That was for you dear friend, I love you, and will miss you)

www.familyfriendpoems.com

 

 

Dries 2003