A Happier you

Catchy, eh? It’s a book I finished reading today on positive psychology written by a dear childhood friend. When he spoke about growing up or his father, I kept thinking, “I was there. I was part of that journey. I knew him.” He lost his father a few years back to cancer as well.

The book is excellent. It’s filled with practical information, exercises you can do to help capture the moments of pleasure and joy in your life. So often I’m talking to my therapist during darker days and I express to her that I don’t feel any joy in my life. I’m hoping I can use some of the tools from this book to help find those moments of joy, even in those darkest hours.

Today was MLK Day. Ted was home; I was working from home, but it wasn’t my most productive day. There may have been a nap involved.

Ted and I booked Honeymoon #4? #5? for next week. I’m heading to Miami a few days early to WFH (Technically, WFM), and then he’ll join me. We’ll be staying at a little studio in South Beach. I am just excited for a change of pace, a new view outside the window. I think we’ll be very close to the beach. It won’t be beach-weather, as they say, but at little dip of feet in sand never hurt anyone.

1/14/22

My dad passed along an email this morning that my cousin Sue passed away from Covid yesterday. She came to mom’s funeral to offer her support with her husband, who was my dad’s first cousin on my grandmother Ruth’s side of the family. And now, after a bout on a respirator, she’s gone. I don’t know if she was vaccinated or boosted, but after seeing Ted struggling with Covid after having a vaccination, I am going to recommend anyone who isn’t boosted (or vaccinated!) to please go and do it. I am proof that it works. I lived with three people with Covid, and I did not get it. I am boosted as of November 2021. Either that, or as someone said, I have super immunity. I take a handful of vitamins every morning, as directed for someone who had gastric sleeve surgery.

I had my orientation for my MBA last night. We had a chance to hear from one of our professors, this amazing guy who will be teaching us about leadership. He said he is not looking for us to talk about aspirational leadership, but to learn from how we have and currently lead. It should be a very interesting reflection as I aspire to get back into a leadership role where I manage a team again. It feels like a lot to take on right now, yet I am very excited about it as well. Maybe not my accounting and finance classes, but fortunately, I live with a math whiz!

Wishing all who read this a happy friday and long weekend.

Solitude & recharged

I’m sitting in our sunroom, which previously had served as Ted’s office while he had Covid, but he has returned to work today, so I’m taking advantage of all it has to offer. First, there aren’t piles of laundry in there that need to be put away (yes, they’re all mine). And the room is wall to wall windows, so it makes for a perfect oasis for someone who gets season affective disorder (yes, I take plenty of vitamin D). Our two cats love it in here because it can get nice and toasty in a drafty old house, and it has lots of windows for them to gaze upon the neighborhood.

After my meltdown last week, all 3 of the men in my life – ted and the twins – were diagnosed with Covid, so we decided it was best if I took refuge elsewhere until they tested negative and/or were no longer contagious. I had been sleeping on the couch – or not sleeping, I should say – and my neck was throbbing from the lack of support. And I could not get away. I spent a few days at a local hotel and it was the best medicine for me. I was able to sleep as much as I needed – no disturbances unless you count the loud hotel guests – and I watched mindless Netflix. I even skipped a shower. It was lovely. I returned home on Sunday and resumed my role as wife and stepmother. I was able to take Monday and Tuesday off from work using “covid emergency time” which was a terrific option. I even read a book….finished it in one day. It was also lovely. I sat in the sunroom with Ted, and it was nice to just be with him.

I need to recharge alone. I’ve been this way for years. And going from living alone for nearly 30 years to being in a house of husband, kids, and cats is jarring for my former life of solitude. Every few weeks/months, I need to recharge alone. And I couldn’t do it. One of the kids can’t understand “Do not disturb” or “Do not knock.” He just has a compulsion to knock or disturb. So, I am forced to lock the door, which isn’t my favorite option. Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy this time with the kids, that soon they will not want to have anything to do with us, and I’m not complaining about the love and affection from them. They’re wonderful children. But, my nature is to need to recharge alone. So I’m working on it. I told Ted I may need to do the hotel thing again once in a while.

Did you watch Sex and the City? Remember when Carrie and Mr. Big eventually married, but she kept her apartment? It was so she had a place to go and write, catch up on sleep, reflect. I can relate to that need. No, I do not plan to get my own apartment, but you get the concept. I think I need to find the right balance, whether it is plan a night or two away as needed, or plan an annual getaway for me, myself, and I. It is completely separate from my relationship with Ted, who I never feel like I need to get “away” from – it’s more like I need a break from the bills, dishes, dirt, and all that accompanies that.

It’s like the game “whac-a-mole.” You knock down one issue and another pops up right away. Eventually, I just can’t knock them all down and I lose myself in the flurry of stuff to get done. Every time Ted and I try to get a routine going, something pops up and interferes, my dad can’t find my mom’s will and now we have to go to court to probate it, the family gets Covid, we can’t go on our honeymoon (again) and I have to fight to get our money back (finally got it after a public shaming on Twitter), my job gets more demanding, I’m trying to get myself ready for my MBA program.

It’s an endless flurry of stuff.

But, I’ll come out on the other side ok with two feet firmly on the ground, like I always do.

A new day

Feeling better this morning. One of my stepsons tested positive for COVID this morning so I’m off to a hotel. The other one seems ok. His dad will test him when he gets home from school but he has no fever.

My dad said just when it couldn’t get any worse, it did. This too shall pass. That which kills us makes us stronger. Insert meaningless cliche here.

Misery. Plain misery.

Just when I thought things were settling down, Ted contracted COVID. The kids and I tested negative. I’m not going to lie – this is miserable. I had a glimmer of hope with a trip to the Bahamas planned, and that’s off. American Airlines won’t give us a refund or travel credit because we booked a “basic fare.” I booked it through cheaptickets.com and all I can say is, never again! I’m going to have to sit on hold for a million hours to find out if we can get our money back.

And then my dad called me in a panic because his bank froze his assets. It’s all fixed – and it was their error. Poor guy blamed himself.

Kids will be kids. One day at home was enough to put me on edge. Trying to work from home is tough. About 25% of my team is out with COVID, including my intern, so I’m busy doing his work & my work.

Holy crap – while writing this on my phone – Louie the cat jumped on me. I had no idea he was in the room with me. Anyhow…

I’ve been sleeping on the couch and I have such a stiff neck that it hurts to turn it.

I told my therapist that I’m juggling so many balls that I haven’t had time to be sad about my mom. But all I want is to pick up the phone and call her and have her tell me everything will be ok. I have no one in my life now to do that. My friend texted me to “be gentle” to myself. I can’t get away and mourn. I have no privacy, no space. I can’t have a work day without interruption or focus. My therapist keeps telling me to aim for B’s but I feel like I’m barely making C’s.

I miss mom. The tears are flowing now. I’m pretty much at my lowest point right now.

Please – no comments or responses. This is my place to write and grieve. I’m not asking for you to weigh in, console me, or offer me advice. I just need a place to express myself. I want to just be left alone right now and I can’t get away.

I told Ted I need a break, and will go to a hotel for a few days. I need sleep, quiet, a break. Call it self care, an escape, a treatment for depression, but I can’t go on like this.

This is raw and unfiltered. I’m crying uncle.

12/28/21

We’re in the midst of the “holiday season” with three more holidays to go – New Year’s, Christmas with Ted’s family, and wrapping up with Ted’s birthday on 1/4/22.

Today my depression – or the big “D” as I call it – reared it’s ugly head. I couldn’t get up from the couch. I tried, I really did. I even worked from it. I took breaks & watched Selling Sunset on Netflix which may be the most vapid show to be created since the Real Housewives franchises. Yet I still watched it.

I received a wonderful letter in the mail today from a longtime family friend and it really touched my heart. Thank you. I’ll respond to her privately but it was just what I needed today.

My dad is hanging in. He had his first dentist appointment in MA today, and is learning what’s east (Boston) and what’s west (Framingham). My brother is east, and I live south. Boom, that’s all he needs to know.

Ted and I have a 4-day “mini moon” scheduled soon to the Bahamas. However, 1,500 flights are being cancelled daily due to COVID & staff shortages, so who knows if we’ll make it? Honestly, it’s a lot of work for 4 days between COVID tests and vax cards but I’m determined to make it happen. The thought of dipping my toes in the sand and swimming up to a pool bar with my hubby makes it all worth the effort.

The kids are with their mom this week so our house is quiet, unless you count our cats, Nermal and Louie, chasing each other, or as Ted says, galumphing about.

It’s been 2 months – today – since mom died. My mom died. No matter how often I write it or say it, I still can’t believe it. Is she seriously gone? I won’t ever see her again? She’s been coming to me in my dreams. She’s still alive but I can’t make out her face. I just can’t come to terms with her being gone. It’s still too painful. My friends have suggested I try speaking to her or writing to her, but I’m not ready for a one-sided conversation with her right now.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it – this is a very tough patch of life that I’m living in. I’m trying to be very mindful of overpromising & underdelivering because I’m drowning in my own sadness. The sense of loss is, at times, overwhelming.

And just now. I can hear my sweet Louie – aka Boo Boo – with his baby meow in the kitchen as Ted begins to build our new IKEA desk for the kitchen. He will no doubt watch him lovingly, hoping for a treat (or two) and a scratch on the head. His needs are so simple.

Ok, I’m off to watch something vapid or about true crime. Whatever works to take my mind off things for a few moments. 💕

12/15/21

It’s been a minute since I last wrote. I’ve been really busy with work & then I was sick for about a week with a non-COVID runny nose stomach bug type thing so I was flat out for a bit. It’s 11:15pm and in 45 minutes it’s officially my dad’s birthday. Happy Birthday to my dear ole dad!

I’m listening to the gentle breaths of Ted’s sleep. So romantic yet creepy. My sweet toddler of a kitten, Louie aka Boo Boo, is curled up in his favorite spot – my lap – and I’m tapping away on my keyboard on my phone.

I can feel my sleeping pill kicking in so I’ll bid you goodnight and will post an update later!

11/29/21

Just laid on my bed, grabbed my phone, and instinctually went to call mom to discuss my day. So there’s that.

I’m debating now whether I want to do the MBA right now. I am on the fence since I have so much going on right now. At the same time, I know I’d enjoy it. I’m speaking with the program director tomorrow to discuss.

I had my performance review today. Pretty much keep doing what I’m doing. We’ve had to put a lot of my work on hold due to COVID and now staffing shortages = overworked medical teams = not a good time to ask them for money. So I’m focused on alumni engagement & I am set to close a $2 million gift this year from an alum so that’ll get me to my goal.

Dad came over for dinner yesterday & saw our “work in progress” aka house. He had vertigo and is clearly in mourning over losing mom, so there’s that. It’s tough no matter how you slice it. Our family has a mom-sized hole.

I got a new laptop so I was setting that up tonight. It’s perfect for what I need for school and non-work stuff (like YouTube!). I did my first Instagram live tonight after a hiatus & it was fun. It’s a good escape.

I’m trying to get my body back on track after basically neglecting it for months & eating crap, as I sit here eating a cookie. Been taking my vitamins so I’m hoping my iron & thiamin are normalizing again. I’m also going to see a gynecological oncologist from where I work so I can get some advice on preventative care. Good times. Three of my dear friends – plus my cousin & aunt – all had breast cancer so it’s no joke. Plus, mom was stage 4 ovarian when hers was discovered.

That’s about it. Ciao!

11/23/21

Well, the bereavement support group was a bust. It was too painful to hear other people’s stories and the facilitator wasn’t my cup of tea. So, I’ll stick with my individual therapy for now.

It’s been a really tough week with the kids. They don’t understand that my workday doesn’t end when they get home from school, and that I can’t provide them with attention at that time. I have had a tension headache for days and I’m literally going to burst. I have no where to go to be alone, and if I try, I get scolded by them for “avoiding them.” I’m suffering greatly and have no place to go & grieve. I’m not sure how long I can go through this. (Please, don’t text me or email with solutions. I’m not asking for them. This is simply my place to vent. I’m not soliciting advice right now.)

I miss my mom terribly. I can’t look at a photo of her without tears coming to my eyes. It’s too painful. She was the person I’d solicit advice from, so I’m trying to channel her voice as I navigate all of the changes in my life. Everyone keeps telling me not to avoid “feeling” but I have no place to privately “feel.” In the support group tonight I was encouraged to start telling people “no, I’m not available to support you now. I need to take care of myself.” It’s hard. Whenever I try to take care of myself, I’m criticized for “taking on too much.”

My solace right now are our the cats – Louie & Nermal. Louie is curled up next to my leg right now as I type. Nermal is probably pacing in our living room, looking for mice. They are my comfort & joy.

I was talking to our big boss today and he was asking me how I’m doing. I told him that even though we all go through this – losing a parent – it is a very lonely experience as we all mourn differently. I look at the world through a new lens now.

I reconnected with an old friend today, which was excellent. I am so grateful to know him & to reconnect after all of these years. So there’s today’s positive. Good night 🌙💤

11/22/21

It is so dark outside and it’s 5:05pm! I hate daylight savings. I think I wrote that the other day, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. It’s dark and dreary. I just want to curl up on the couch. Technically, it’s after 5 so I can but the kids are home. Speaking of, we’re surprising them with a trip to Orlando for Christmas (we’re going in Feb), so I’m busy working on that. So far we have the Universal stuff booked. Next I need to do Disney and flights. They are going to be so excited! I’m excited because I booked a suite that has a separate room for Ted and me. A little privacy will go along way with me! We’ll have a good time!

It’s Thanksgiving week so I’m excited that it is a short week. I took off Thursday and Friday; because I work at a hospital, we have to take off for all holidays in order for there to be equity amongst all staff. It’s my least favorite part of the job, but it’s not the end of the world. There are so many other benefits to my job, so I have to think of it holistically. I think I also mentioned previously that I applied for an MBA program through my job, and I was accepted. I just found out I have to take Calculus…which I took previously, so I am hoping I can place out of it, but….who knows? I will dread that class!

I’m also joining a Board in January where I’ve previously been an Advisory Board member. So that’ll take up a bunch of time, but I like keeping busy and keeping my brain active.

Not much else to say. I’m cooking dinner tonight, which is a novelty because Ted usually cooks. I’m making Nanny’s Chicken (for those of you who know it, I salute you). It’s an homage to Mom and Nanny, who are both now in my heart and memory.

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

11/19/21

It’s 4:46pm and it’s so dark outside. By 6pm, it will feel like midnight and I’ll likely want to bundle up in layers and snuggle under my blankets. I guess there is no reason not to other than it’s our week with the kids so I may need to do some parenty things.

I don’t even know where to begin. I’m back home, back in my life, but my life has forever changed. There is a general malaise hanging over me, like I should be doing something else at all times, and I shouldn’t just be living my life again. One day mom was there and then she wasn’t. When I try to envision her being gone, the pain is too unbearable and I tear up. We were so consumed with “will she? won’t she?” today and now it is just “she’s gone.” It’s painful to look at her photos and I haven’t been able to go through her things. I understand so deeply now why mom couldn’t wear her mother’s jewelry or go through her stuff. I am ok with wearing her jewelry, but other stuff, it’s hard.

The sadness comes and goes. It’s not omnipresent, though it’s still there. I got emotional on a call with a colleague today, which is ok, but not great. All she did was ask how I was doing.

I’m in a relatively new surrounding (my house) that I still don’t feel connected to deeply yet. There are still piles of stuff and we’re slowly making our way through it, but I don’t feel at home yet. Sometimes I just want to run and hide, but there’s nowhere to run. My instinct is to pick up the phone to call my mom, and I can’t. What do you do when the person who talked you off the ledge is gone? Yes, I am fortunate to have my wonderful Ted, but there is 46 years of history that my mom knew, so I’m still getting him up to speed.

I’m starting a bereavement support group next Tuesday, and I am so relieved that I’ll have a place to talk, listen, and learn. This is all new territory for me. In the past when I’ve been depressed, I can just curl up and hide. I can’t do that now. I’ll get scolded by the kids for being absent or I’ll have to do chores, so I am trying to handle my sadness while going through the motions of life. It’s hard to fake joy right now, but I’m doing my best.

You know what’s funny? I miss seeing my dad every day. We went through something so beautiful and tragic together, and now we’re apart. We talk on the phone, and I’ll see him on Sunday, but as he said to me yesterday, we’re all still terribly grieving. And we will for a long time, I think.

I’m going to continue to try to pick up the pieces; namely the pieces of me, which feel feel pretty cracked and needing some sort of emergency crazy glue to keep me together. I was told that grief can feel very isolating, and damnit, it really does. My grief is different than others in that I lost my mom. The only person who truly can relate is my brother and my sister-in-law, as she was close to mom too. So many of you have reached out to me – and it really does help – so don’t stop but remember I may not get back to you right away, but don’t take it personally. It usually isn’t, especially if you don’t make it about you.

P.S. A very happy birthday to my dear A!

11/11/21

There must be something symbolic in deactivating a deceased person’s Facebook account. Not sure what it is, but since my mom’s account was hacked, it is forcing the issue sooner than later. Thank goodness I kept mom’s phone so I can take care of these random things. I’ve submitted a request to “memorialize” her account. Thought that sounded like the most respectful option.

It’s Thursday, and I’ve been back at work since Monday. It’s taken me a few days to get back into the swing of things. I’m working on getting my home office finished, or as I like to think of it, my “oasis,” as soon it will also have a couch and tv set up for “me time.” It’s hard to adjust to all of the tumult at my house.

Thank you to all who have been reaching out to us. I’m finding it very hard to talk nostalgically about my mom or look at photos of her right now, so please understand if I don’t get back to you right away. It still feels very raw and at a moment’s notice, I can burst into tears and then be fine again a few minutes later. It’s not super fabulous if it happens during the work day, Fortunately, if it is during the evening, Ted will give me a hug and that helps.

My dad has moved here to the Boston area, so we’ve been busy getting him settled in. He is about 25 minutes away from me, without traffic, which is pretty much never. But he lives near two good Whole Foods and my favorite TJ Maxx so traffic, schmaffic! He’s getting his furniture deliveries on Friday and Monday, so that’ll help get him settled in. There will also be a series of items coming to my house, such as the sofa and a few tables, plus many boxes of items for us to go through at some point but will land in my basement for the time being. Photo albums, my parent’s china, etc will be nestled somewhere in our basement. Speaking of our basement, did I ever write here that there are remnants of a fire on the beams in the basement from the 1920s from a still that was hidden in there during Prohibition?

Ok back to work.

Mom’s eulogy 10/31/21

When I asked mom what she wanted me to say in her eulogy, she said to stress that she had “no regrets” and she encouraged us to celebrate her life. “I lived a great life, Jo” she told me. So today, I ask you to share in celebrating Helaine and her courage, compassion, love, and strength. My mother was the strongest woman I’ve known. In some ways, there was an invisible line dividing mom’s life before and after her cancer diagnosis in 2018, but in truth, she was very much her authentic self regardless of her own health. My mother was known for providing support to others, and she continued to do this, even while undergoing chemotherapy or recovering from major surgery.

I was amazed that despite her own turmoil, she was still able to sit on the phone for hours on end, and administer her wisdom, offering words of support and strength to others. “Where does she find this inner strength? I used to wonder. Since mom had been a hospice social worker, she was well versed in handling conversations about the end of life. When I needed help addressing something related to her health, I would say, “Mom, what would YOU tell you?” And then I was the one on the receiving end of her wisdom.

There are two particular Helaine-isms I’ve been carrying around for years. First, my mom used to always say to me, “Always tell the truth. You can never go wrong with being honest.” She was right. The other thing she used to say, “You can’t control anyone else’s actions; you can only control your own.” That piece of wisdom has served me so well in life, especially in the workplace. She encouraged me to not sweat the small stuff, and I’m still working on that one.

Besides giving advice, mom was also extremely passionate about music. Mom may not have been able to carry a tune, but she loved to belt out a song, especially in this very sanctuary. I used to make faces at her when she’d sing along here. I can still picture the tears in her eyes when she’d hear Rabbi Pearlman and Cantor Grissold sing. Mom brought Ken and me to Broadway plays and musicals as soon as we could sit still in our seats. We have memories seeing They’re Playing Our Song, Annie, Phantom, Miss Saigon, Anything Goes, Rent. We had a chance to see Barbra Streisand – her favorite –  together a few years ago. She reminded me that she had seen Barbara perform opening night for Drat the Cat in 1965, and it proceeded to close the next day. When she loved something or someone, she gave it her all.

Speaking of loving with her “all”, let’s take a minute to look at Helaine and Don together. They were wonderful role models to Ken and me, celebrating their 52th wedding anniversary this past June. In 2019, my parents renewed their vows in front of their closest family and friends, which was an incredible experience to witness. As Ken, Marina, Kirill, and I held the Chuppah poles, I saw my now husband, Ted, and felt such a sense of pride and peace at the family we had all become. 2 years later, this past May, Ted and I got married in my parent’s living room. Mom was too weak to join us downstairs, so we set her up with her iPad and she watched us from the comfort of her own bed. I can’t put into words the significance of that moment – my mom got to see me get married to the love of my life. We will all cherish that for the rest of our lives.

Mom had an incredible thirst for knowledge, which manifested through her love of travel and devouring the latest best seller from the NY Times Book List. She would sit with her cup of coffee every morning and read the newspaper from cover to cover. But let’s be honest. Her favorite section was Modern Love. She loved a good love story, and was always scouring the paper for the most romantic or unique love story. She would weep over The Way We Were and when we saw Beaches together. And did she love reviewing the Style Section on Sundays! She was always up on the latest trends and her closet – packed to the brim – was filled with the most stylish items. “Jo, do you want to do a shopping trip to NY?” and off we’d go, visiting our favorite floors of Sacks and Bloomies, concluding with a chardonnay and chatter at the Café, complimenting each other repeatedly on the beautiful makeovers we just had at Henry Bendels. I can still picture us coming in with all of the packages and putting on a fashion show for Ken and dad.

As I look around the sanctuary, I know every single person here has their own personal memories and shared experiences with my mother. She knew just how to make you feel like you were the only person in the room, and her complete focus was on you. She listened, she observed, and she cared. My dad recently asked mom what was it about her, what magic did she possess to get so many people to divulge their deepest secrets to her? She smiled and pointed, saying “The face.” And she gave him a giant toothy grin. We’ll all cherish that smile, and of course, that face.

Barbra sang beautifully these words in The Way We Were. I encourage you to all sing along in your minds.

Memories
Light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were

Scattered pictures
Of the smiles we left behind
For the way we were

Love you always.

And so it goes.

Mom has been put to rest. We paid our respects at Shiva. And now we go on.

I go through periods of sadness, then relief, then guilt for the relief, and back to sadness. Having Ted & Louie (kitty) has been incredibly helpful. Thank you to all of my dear friends who have been reaching out and to those who made the journey to NJ, I am grateful always.

My colleagues sent me a beautiful wrap with a note that they were sending me a “warm hug.” I will cherish it.

We’ve had a chance to see so many friends of mom and lives that were touched by her kindness and compassion. I told one of her fellow volunteers from the American Cancer Society that I want to continue the work she was doing and said she, “big shoes to fill.” I was later telling some close friends & family what she said and I said, “oh, but she doesn’t know me! MY shoes are also big to fill!” I meant it not as a bragging moment but more so that when I put my mind to something, I give it my everything…and then some.

I want to give a special shout out to T for two reasons. One, because I know she’ll appreciate the shout out. And two, for commenting on my attention to detail because I take pride in that (and sometimes I forget not everyone is like that). Thanks for the support, friend (and to my dear A too).

See you on the flip side. ❤️

And just like that…

Mom has passed on. The flurry of texts & calls have momentarily subsided, and I’m processing. Dad and I hugged each other and we agreed we did our best to support her through these last few weeks.

I’m crying, I’m sad, I’m up & down. The funeral home just picked her up, and the guy was Israeli. I looked at that as a positive sign.

My friend just gave me some sound advice – people will say stupid things to me now & at the shiva because they don’t know what to say. It’s already happening. I’m not one to hold grudges so I’ll be forgiving of stupid comments unless they’re beyond the scope of forgiveness.

I’m grieving in a completely new way now. I have only memories now of mom. I will cherish them. But I’m overwhelmed. So please be gentle and patient with me now as I grieve this unbearable loss.

10/28/21

Our nurse Peggy said “today, tonight.” Bags are being packed, and we wait. When Peggy called in the morning to check in, I said, “Peggy, she’s sill breathing” with genuine shock. But then again, I’m not. #Strength

I showered, put on real clothes, and took a stroll around the Grove today, a local outdoor mall. I wandered in and out of the stores I used to frequent with mom – Anthropologie, Chicos, Talbots – and channeled my endorphins. It was good to get fresh air and walk a bit. Sitting around the house can become absolutely excruciating. I offered for Dad to join me, but he wanted to stay here.

I’m processing the lessons I’m learning while here. I talked through many of them with Peggy today and told her that people keep telling me how strong I am, but I don’t feel it. I’m just doing what feels like what I should be doing. I told Ted the only thing bugging me is when people criticize me or say stupid things. There have been a few of those as of late, but chalk it up to human behavior and try to let it roll off my back. Not easy for me to do, but as I’ve been saying, a moment of telling someone off will only end up causing a rift in relationships, so I bite my tongue.

There have been a few shining stars coming through the clouds for me, and those are the people I choose to confide in. They don’t make any of this about them. Thank you. You know who you are, and if you don’t, I will be sure to tell you when the dust settles.

I continue to mull my eulogy in my head. I am going to try to write it today. I put on my headphones, and I’m blasting Hamilton in my ears. I am going to treat myself to a viewing of the movie when I return home. Ted and I bought a giant TV when we were in our rental, so it’ll be fun to watch it there.

I haven’t written about this, but I’m on leave from work now. I initiated it on Monday, so I’m off until at least November 8th with the option of taking more time as needed. We know we need to stay with Dad until he moves to MA. The lease is signed and he has paid for 2 months, so we can move him in as of November 1, which clearly won’t be happening, but the place will be ours very soon.

My comfort comes from Ted and Louie coming once mom passes. Ted can take a week of bereavement. I already bought litter and food for Louie aka Boo Boo, so I will set it up in anticipation of his arrival.

FYI we will be doing a funeral service at my parent’s synagogue followed by a burial at the Jewish cemetery where my family is buried. So far, we plan to do Shiva services, once after the funeral and the day after. The service will be streamed online, so if you can’t attend, you can watch from home. I’m glad to know we have this option for friends and family who are far or who can’t travel. I told my brother that the only person I expect to be here is Ted. I think this is self-preservation so I don’t feel disappointed if someone doesn’t attend. People react in all sorts of ways when someone passes away, and I can’t predict who will come to the plate. If you can’t attend, we understand.

10/27/21

Today has been amongst the worst of them all. She’s yelling out to us, and we’re helpless to do anything. The nurses have been checking on her and they, too, say we’re doing all we can. But when I can hear her call out through a closed door and a TV playing, while talking to Ted, it’s really unsettling.

So many things floating around in my head. The hospice nurse asked us to call the funeral home today. I did. They told me to call back after she’s gone. Pop that one into the old noggin of stuff you aren’t excited to have to do again!

I keep thinking she’s yelling “Jo.” She may very well be. It’s hard to know. She does keep yelling “Help!” and that sucks. I’ve asked her what help I can provide. I grab her very cold hand, and tell her it is ok to go. Her breathing is so shallow and then she gasps like with sleep apnea. For those of you who continue to read this, God speed, as I can only think your imaginations are going rampant. But we are assured she’s restful and comfortable. There is a part of me who keeps hoping that somewhere, my nanny – her mom – is waiting with an outstretched arm, holding out her hand. It’s the only way I can get through this.

I can’t respond to texts except from Ted at this point. I can’t make small talk and I can’t send any more emoticons. I will rejoin all of you living, breathing souls soon, and with no hesitation, they’ll be full of hearts, rainbows, and flowers. The only only thing that calms me down are photos of the cats, which I’ve been getting all day from Ted & the kids because they’re home from work/school due to the storm in MA. I think we had a storm here too today? I have no clue. I’m in my own little Dad/Mom/Jo bubble right now.

We just ordered sushi from one of our favorite local places – my treat, this time. Our wonderful local friends have been so generous with the food – we do not want to be schnorrers (google it).

I want to keep writing as it is cathartic but I don’t have much more to write. I keep trying to work on another closet today but I’m just too darn tired. I went to the doctor while I was home, and got blood tests, and it turns out I’m iron and thiamine deficient from my bariatric surgery. So I’m busy popping vitamins and hoping for the best.

That’s all for now.

10/26/21

Dad and I are here, alone now, without caregivers. There’s really no more support that is needed other than administering medications to keep mom comfortable, so we’re taking turns doing it. I said my goodbye to her. I am convinced she doesn’t want us to see her go, so I’ve been encouraging my dad to leave her be. As my grandmother Ruth used to say in Yiddish, “Let it be.”

The hospice nurses are astonished that mom is still here. Told you, strongest woman I know. I modified that to include “woman” because I told my dad he is the strongest man I know. He is so much stronger than he gives himself credit for.

I just wrote mom’s obituary. Short and sweet. I left the date of death blank. I know, it seems totally morbid, but I wanted to do it while my mind was clear. I still haven’t written the eulogy, but I’ve been running ideas around in my mind.

My sweet stepson J called me twice today to tell me how sad he is about my mom. He has the biggest heart. He is stressed about being called out of school when mom passes on. Today he said to me, “I just want our family back.” He then asked if we could have sushi when I return. 1,000 times yes, my sweet J. R is like his dad – he internalizes things, and processes differently. I will make sure to spend some time with him alone so he can sort out his feelings too. Maybe some more pottery painting….

It’s peaceful here now. I can hear mom’s breaths from the other room. They are slow and loud. It is sound I don’t think I’ll ever get out of my head. This whole experience has changed all of us forever. It feels like I haven’t been home in years.

I cleaned out two of mom’s closets today. I found some amazing things that I will keep and cherish, including a dark green leather swing coat from Italy – it even has her name sewn onto the label. She has the most beautiful clothes, and I found some great barely worn shoes to add to my collection (I can hear Ted sighing now at the sight of more shoes!).

We’re working on a bottle of red wine together. I’m drinking out of a Dollar Tree “Bachelorette Bash” cup that gives me tremendous joy whenever I use it. I’m so glad we moved the wedding.

Ok, those are today’s thoughts. It won’t be long now.

10/25/21

I have started and stopped about 3 posts in last 24 hours but I’ve been caring for mom, and they get interrupted. She’s asleep now after a very agitated morning.

This is truly the hardest thing we’ve gone through. Through some miracle, she is still with us. She is sometimes calm, sometimes vocal. Last night she screamed, “come in!!” like she heard the doorbell. Shouted it for a second time. And then the phone rang, and she said, “jo, would you get that?” Incredibly surreal.

I brought my work computer in here but I can’t focus on it nor have time to do it. I’ve been composing a message to HR in my head about the need for supports for staff during a time like this. Thank goodness for my boss who has been truly terrific to me.

I glanced at Facebook and everything on there feels so insignificant right now.

Just gave mom her morphine. And put some concoction on her wrist to help her rest.

Spending this time with her is agonizing, grueling, yet also beautiful. We all agree it will take us a long time to recover from this experience. We’re forever changed.

Dad just came by. He is wearing this funny little fluorescent hunting (?) hat – fyi he doesn’t hunt – but it looks nice & cozy. Ted left behind his hoodie for me which I’ve been snuggling up in to feel close to him.

I know everyone is thinking of mom & praying for her. I’m sure I’ll come out of this with lessons learned but I’m too exhausted to think of them now. It’s too hard to talk on phone & make small talk right now. As I say to Ted: no superfluous information. 😊 I’m excited to get my life back soon.

Still the strongest

“Mom, did you just tell me to f%^k off?”

She nodded yes.

I’m sitting with my mom in her room and all of a sudden, she pulled off her covers and started moving her legs to get out of bed. She wanted to use the bathroom and wanted to walk to it. I calmly reminded her that she hasn’t been out of bed in several months and she could just go ahead, and let nature take its course.

She told me to stop telling her what to do and that she is “still in charge.” Literally, she is until the end. I summoned my dad and together, we settled her down.

“When is her next round of morphine?” I asked him.

This story is so “my mom.” Still telling me what to do. I saw a glimpse of my grandfather George in her – feisty, tough, and yet, so loveable.

She pulled down the sheet and I can see her – still! – perfectly manicured toes.

That’s also my mom.

Throughout this experience, I’ve been her beautician – taking off her polish on her fingers – cutting her nails. Just today she mumbled and pointed at her fingers, and I knew – the edges of her nails needed to be filed.

TBH the nurses told us 2-5 days yesterday. Who knows? As my dad said, mom’s in charge.

“For 46 years, Dad!” I responded.

He looked at me. I said, “Ok, clearly longer but I’ve only been here for that long”

My mother is, by far, the strongest person I’ve ever known.

We’re all together now as a family – just waiting on Ted to arrive tomorrow. I haven’t been responding to texts or emails because it’s too draining. Just know we know you’re thinking of us.

Heading back to nj tomorrow

Dear friends and family,

The end is near for my dear sweet mom. I am writing this last post now and will likely not write again “publicly” here as it is too difficult for me. I am heading back to NJ tomorrow and will remain there until mom passes, which hospice believes will be soon. At this time, it is too difficult for any of us to read your dear and thoughtful texts and emails to her, but that doesn’t mean you’re all in her heart. And if you feel the need to send something anyhow, that is totally ok. Just know it may just be read by just me.

The outpouring of support has been wonderful, and we thank you.

Watching a mom die is excruciating but being away feels worse, so I’m heading back tomorrow. Tonight I sign the lease for my dad’s independent living in MA along with my husband and sister-in-law by my side. He will be well taken care of living near his kids.

As I said to Ted last night, this is my most pain I have ever experienced in my entre life. I’m sure those of you who have lost a parent can relate. May their memories be a blessing.

Love,

JRB

10/18/21

I’m back home in Boston, working from my dining room table. My home office is buried with piles of suitcases and clothes. I had a serious amount of clothes accruing at my parent’s place in NJ, so I cleaned out most of it and brought it home. It felt in some ways that I had moved in there, and I want to try to feel more connected to my house. I still don’t feel connected to it somehow. I feel like a visitor who comes back for a few days here & there. It’s tough. Ted is trying to help me with that. I think when we hang our paintings on the walls that will help.

I saw every hour on the clock last night, partially because I was ruminating but more so it was because my “toddler” kitten, Louie, was snuggling with me. That part was so sweet, but there were times when he’d think I was his Mama, and he’d bury his claws into my skin like he’d do with a mama cat – except I’m a human with soft skin! The cats are a true sense of comfort, though.

Ted cooked me a beautiful dinner last night – steak on the grill with root veggies, and an amazing apple crisp with homemade whipped cream. I told him my mom would like the whipped cream, as she used to comment when we’d go out to eat on whether the whipped cream was “real” or “from a can.” Fortunately, I benefit from Ted’s cooking skills!

I saw the kids briefly this morning before school. They were so excited for their Hamilton Playbills and t-shirts. J changed his shirt before he ran off to the bus. I left them a bunch of goodies on their beds, including other fun shirts and comics from “Silent Bob and Jay’s Secret Stash” in Red Bank, which is Kevin Smith’s flagship store. It’s a fun place to wander.

The report from NJ this morning is that Mom is on a morphine routine now, and while it doesn’t stop her stomach episodes, it is helping her be more comfortable. It is quite agonizing to see her suffering. She is rarely lucid now, so our conversations with her have mostly ceased. I did get a chance to tell her I saw Hamilton. I asked her how she was feeling, and she said, “like complete shit.” That’s my mom for ya.

Ok, must get back to work.

10/15/21

It’s 10:15pm on Friday evening. I’m sitting on the couch at the foot of mom’s hospital bed. Tonight she requested morphine. She’s dealing with these painful heaving episodes so my hope is she gets some relief. Dad and I called the on-call nurse & she talked him through it.

My brother returns to NJ tomorrow so I’m heading out. I am going to NYC tomorrow for 24 hours, namely because the kids were exposed to someone at school with COVID so I’m giving them time to get test results. Never a dull. So, I knew I needed a break and thought I’d treat myself to a wander around the city. Dad and I split the cost of a ticket for me to see Hamilton, so I’ll be in row G at tomorrow’s matinee. Super excited!

It’s never easy to leave. I always wonder if it’ll be my goodbye with mom. This time, it very well may be.

It’s funny. Mom didn’t like Hamilton. She saw it when it first opened with Lin Manuel Miranda, before all the hype. I appreciate her candor about it as she wasn’t swayed by public opinion. She smiled today when I told her I was seeing it.

Ok, dad is back so more later.

Sleep

It’s 3:30 AM and I’m adding to my bundle on thredUP. using credit that I have on my account.

My eyes opened wide about an hour ago. Usually I wake up around 4 AM, so this was a change for me. My parent’s condo is still. Downstairs, Gertrude is likely watching TV while checking in on mom. Dad is probably like me, either tossing and turning, or staring at the ceiling. He asked me to get him some doodling books to potentially help with his insomnia. Normally, I will listen to a podcast, and fall back asleep. That didn’t work tonight.

Lately, I’ve been trying to make mom laugh. Yesterday, we received a box from hospice in the mail of chucks, wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, and more. I made a big production of telling her she got a package – you know that feeling when you get a package in the mail. I tried to make the fact that these were “the best chucks,” according to the hospice nurse, seem like we had gotten the best package ever. I am pretty sure I even quoted Oprah’s famous line by saying, “you’ve got a depends, and you’ve got a depends!” It was good to see a smile on my mom‘s face for even a moment.

In the middle of all of this, I somehow booked 4 meetings next week for work. I am incredibly proud! I am heading home on Saturday morning. If things remain stable, I will hopefully be heading to a B’nei mitzvah on Friday before I return. Of course everything is tentative. I’m looking forward to seeing Ted, the kids, and the cats. Hey Ted, are you happy that I put the kids before the cats in that statement? We all know how much I love those cats! But seriously, I do miss the kids. J has been calling me in the evening and I enjoy our chats. He is a very special person – definitely has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen, full of love and kindness.

Well, I should try to get some sleep. Thanks again for all the outreach. It really does mean a lot. We received some delicious food yesterday, and a care package. my dad will not go hungry! He is well taken care of by all of you, and I am incredibly grateful.

caring for a mom on hospice

The Hospice Chaplan Lisa just said to me as we sat on the couch and I cried, “Hospice is hard to understand if you’re not ‘in it.'”

My emotions don’t care if it is 1:15pm on a Wednesday, after a team meeting and during a training, and prior to a 2pm call with a colleague from another hospital. They are raw and appear when they feel like it.

“But I’m the rock, here, Lisa,” I told the Chaplan. “And I have clinical depression and anxiety. I do not have time to collapse or everything collapses around me.” I am desperately trying to set up my time back in MA so that I can get appropriate rest, but I have 2 cats and 2 kids who seek my attention. They aren’t thinking about my needs. I feel completely isolated and alone. And I know this is the trigger to my road to depression. I am desperately trying to block these triggers by finding additional therapy resources, providing a quiet place to sleep, an uninterrupted workplace, and a break from this hell I feel like I am living in. With all do respect to my mom’s friends and extended family, this is my mother I’m losing – my support person, the person who listens to me when I need advice or support, and I don’t have her to talk to anymore. So when people come to me with their sense of loss, it sometimes boggles my mind because what about my loss? These are the times I feel incredibly alone. This isn’t a judgement on anyone in particular or to dissuade others from verbalizing their personal sense of loss. This is just me feeling like I need to take a step back from my people pleasing mentality and remind myself that I don’t need to respond to all of the emails, texts, and calls right now. I can wait until I’m stable enough.

This is the depression talking, and I’m trying to find the tools to help me. I asked to reschedule my afternoon meeting, and I will make it up later.

There is a vulnerability to writing this here on my blog. I know there are a lot of people reading this who may not understand or get personally offended by what I write. It’s not about you. It’s about me and my needs. It’s about my family’s needs. Here is a good overview of what hospice entails in case you’re not sure.

I am so grateful to friends and family who read this and support us in the ways we truly need support. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, your outreach is truly special and we love it. Mom loves the flowers and plants she has received. We discuss each sender and their role in our lives. Dad and I have loved the delivery of sweets, especially those Nothing Bundt Cakes. Yesterday I went over there and bought us two more! And when we’re emotionally stable, we read all of the texts and emails to her. As long as you’re ok if we do it on our timeline, keep them coming and I’ll share when I can. If you need a response on your timeline, I would wait for a greenlight from me either here or on Facebook when we can handle these things emotionally. It’s the little things that help us out. My parent’s friends have been dropping off food to us several times a week. It’s incredibly helpful. Going to the supermarket has become increasingly more stressful for me because of crowds and lines. So, when Dad tells me he has salmon croquettes waiting for him, I am incredibly relieved because I know he’s set for the night. My friend “M” sent me a Dunks gift card. So amazing. “A” sent me a Door Dash gift card. We feasted on gourmet Chinese on that. It is so much easier for folks to just send to us what is in their heart than to ask me what we need. It’s hard for me to think about what we need. I drink a ton of coffee, eat a lot of salads and chocolate (nice balance, right?), and my dad will pretty much enjoy whatever food he doesn’t have to make himself!

And wouldn’t you know it? This post has calmed me down and helped me center myself. What do I need right now? Lunch and rest.