Things we lost, things we kept

24 Jan

These past few weeks have been really hard, physically and emotionally. The next few weeks are going to be harder. I’ve been kicking this entry around for a while, but I didn’t know how to end it.

I do now.

It starts about three weeks ago. Well, the backstory starts over a year ago. November of 2011. We were going through our first round of IVF and we were in that special hell known as the two week wait. Two viable embryos implanted, two days of bed rest, and two weeks before you get the phone call of joy or despair. I was convinced it had worked. I had twinges. The due date would be the one year anniversary of my father in law’s death, which I figured was actually a good sign, life goes on and all that. I was nauseous. Smells bothered me, especially coffee, same as with Daniel.

So when I saw the expensive luxury stroller on a significant sale on a daily discount website, I debated. I didn’t know if I was really pregnant, but I also didn’t know if I could pass up the deal. $350 for a $750 stroller?

wwgd: what would gob do?

So I bought it. We took it out of the box. We admired it. We dreamed. And we lost both the embryos. And we held on to the stroller, “just in case.”

This past Christmas I started coming to terms with the idea that there weren’t going to be any more babies. Having spoiled the baby I do have (3DS, thank you Santa), I decided it was time to sell the stroller.

I listed it on craigslist. It was snapped up within an hour by a couple in the city. I offered to drop it off. The wife was a lawyer, a US District Attorney. The husband was super nice and apologetic. They lived in a loft in Printer’s Row, the loop neighborhood I always wanted to live in. They paid cash, I drove off, and cried. A lot. It just seemed so unfair – they had the life I always dreamed of. Working where I had once dreamed of working, living where I had once dreamed of living, and using the stroller I dreamed of using.

there’s a surprisingly large number of gifs of george michael looking sad

It was rough.

The next week, I went to Springfield for work for two days. I do love the job I have. I bonded with my boss and coworker. I watched a case I worked really hard on get argued in the Illinois Supreme Court. And I decided to drive home via Champaign/Urbana, to stop and visit Kirsten.

My grandparents moved to this country from Denmark, and eventually settled in Urbana where my grandfather taught at the University. When my mom was an adult, but before I was born, they divorced. My grandmother moved all the way to Champaign (opposite side of town), and my grandfather remarried. He married his high school friend, Kirsten. English is her fourth language. She’s very cultured, an amazing cook, and sweet as can be. I spent time in Denmark with them one summer, and really got to know her and her family.

My mother warned me that Kirsten may not recognize me, and that her English comes and goes. I knew that, and yet I wasn’t prepared for how far gone she was. I smiled, spoke in Danish. “Jeg er Ingvar’s gran-dotta.” (Phonetic spellings from here on out, so don’t yell at me, Danes.) “Jeg ha en barn, en son navn Daniel. Daniel ar seven ans.”

And that was all I could think to say. The other Danish phrases I knew were all inappropriate. I debated between “glaedlig jul!” (“merry Christmas!”), “Jeg vil gerner ha en coke,” (“I would like a Coke”), “to billet til Vaerlose, vaer sa venlig,” (“two tickets to Vaerlose, please”), “Lek alle pengene i posen” (“put all the money in the bag”), “Jeg er fold”, (“I am drunk”), or just screaming “TISAMEN!” (“Penis!”) and leaving the room.

I settled for stroking her hair, kissing her cheek, and whispering over and over, “Jeg elsker dig.” I love you. Although, on second thought, the “I’m drunk” might have been equally appropriate, considering Kirsten is the one who taught it to me many years ago. While falling off a chair. She’s kind of hilarious.

When I left, she was sleeping with a smile on her face. In all honesty, it may be the last time I saw her. She’s 93, she’s in otherwise good health, but let’s be realistic.

I cried driving through the streets of Chambana. So many of the places I remembered from visiting either of my grandparents (never both at the same time) were gone or changed. The goofy restaurant. The stairs outside my grandmother’s building (thank god, they were a death trap). And so much was exactly the same – my grandfather’s house, West Side Park, the incredibly boring drive.

Almost as soon as I got home, I got sick. I thought it was the flu and tried to tough it out, but after six days with a fever finally went to urgent care. Turns out I had an upper respiratory infection and another ear infection. I thought grown ups didn’t get those? False. They do.

So it’s been rough. So I decided to treat myself and take the stroller money, some tax refund money, and a second job. I RSVPd yes to the upcoming wedding of one of my favorite people in the world, my cousin Rachel. We are exactly two months apart. We’ve had countless overnights, week visits, and adventures. We spent what seemed like an entire summer together, watching X Files episodes, listening to the Beatles, and dancing in the rain. We frolicked through Denmark. We spent countless summers in Door County. We couldn’t love each other more.

So, even though her wedding is far away, I don’t want to miss it and I bought the plane tickets accordingly. Danny and I, this May, are going to Australia.

…but will Gene Parmesan be there?

But May is a long way away, and it’s going to be a long winter. Aside from her diagnosis, I haven’t talked much about my mother in law on here. Partly out of respect for my husband’s privacy, and partly because it’s too damn hard. But I’m going to need some support and comfort. If my husband objects, I’ll delete.

For a long time, we knew something was wrong. It was chalked up to stress, depression, anything but the glaringly obvious. Two or three weeks after my father in law died, she had incredibly bad pain in her hip and leg, to the point that an ambulance was called. The hospital ran a bunch of tests, including an MRI.

They discovered that chunks of her brain were dying out, primarily in her temporal lobe, explaining the loss of vocabulary and memory, and the personality changes. As a chunk dies off, it causes pain in the hips and/or legs, which eases as what’s left of the brain adjusts and compensates. It’s progressive, incurable, and devastating.

So why am I bringing it up now? This week, she complained to my husband that her legs were hurting again. I don’t know what we’re going to lose this time. I feel like we’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years, maybe this is that shoe falling. Each chunk that goes, I worry how we as a family are going to adjust and compensate. It’s hard, so damn hard, especially the uncertainty.

So I’m re-evaluating, re-adjusting. What can go, what can stay. What will I need in the journey ahead?

And this is what I’ve decided. I’m letting go of the anger, of the sadness, of the self pity. I’m keeping my memories, and the lessons I’ve learned. My chin is up, my eyes are open. Bring it, world.

6 Responses to “Things we lost, things we kept”

  1. Nancy Caddigan January 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Oh Sheilah – my heart goes out to you. You are a strong and amazing woman. I’ve known it for years, even when you were a feisty teen. You’ll be the better person despite it all. I’ll keep you and yours in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. AnnotatedLA January 25, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Hugs! You are going through a rough patch, but you and your family will come through it stronger on the other side.

  3. sohobbes January 25, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks, Nancy! I was kind of feisty, wasn’t I? I’m surprised you all put up with me. Hope things are well in Dubuque.

  4. sohobbes January 25, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks! Hugs to you too!

  5. Trudi Westwood January 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Wow, you have had a lot to deal with!!! Glad you decided to use the money for a happy event. It’s all we can do when life is difficult is try to help ourselves to the best outcome possible.

    My recommendation for a long plane flight is an electronic boy device called a DS something or other. It kept William totally amused the whole trip back and forth to India, that and watching movies he was actually the happiest member of our family on the plane ride.


  6. sohobbes January 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Great advice, thanks Trudi!!

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