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Month: September 2005

I want my Mommy

I want my Mommy

I am changing.  I’m not sure I am a big fan of it.  Physically, you can see it.  Those tiny lines around my eyes are not so tiny anymore.  The dark circles under my eyes are darker.  My face just looks different.  Older.  Wiser? I’m not sure.  But definitely older.  The past two months are taking their toll on me.

But it isn’t the physical changes that bother me.  It is the deeper, hidden changes I feel that I am fighting.  I want to slam on the brakes and stop this.  Other people, older people face the death of a parent.  Not me.  I am certainly not mature enough to handle something this hard.  This heartbreaking.  This life changing.  I don’t want to be that person.

There is a bond between a mother and daughter.  Something that binds them together in a way that no other relationship can.  Many women identify who they are as women and mothers by their own mothers.  Whether they are trying to not “become” their mother or if they are trying to mimic the one woman they identify the most with.  A deep part of who they are comes from their Mom.

What do I do when my Mom dies?  Who do I become?  Even though my mom has not been “my Mom” for years due to her MS and the way it robbed her of so much, I need her. Right now, she is still there.  I can talk to her.  I can hug her.  I have always been “Sandy’s daughter.” It makes me proud. She is a very loved woman.  If you have ever thought I was funny, trust me, I am nothing compared to my Mom.  She has always been the funniest woman you will ever meet.  Even now, she will crack a joke or laugh at her own expense.  She sees humor in any situation.  When I get in one of my silly moods or hit super sarcasm mode, the common refrain is “She is her mother’s daughter.”

And I am.  I am my mother’s daughter.  And my mother is dying.  A huge part of who I am is dying.  And I just can’t wrap my mind or my heart around that.  I am not ready.  I am just not ready.

Little things that seemed so important suddenly have lost so much of their power.  My home is a wreck?  So what.  My Mom is dying.  What’s for dinner?  Who cares!  My Mom is dying. What have you written today?  Nothing.  My Mom is dying. When the grocery store clerk asks me if I have found everything I needed and how I am doing, I struggle with “Fine” but I want to shout, “I am in non-stop turmoil and want to just not feel this way. Do you have a product to make me better??!” Where I used to be hyper involved with my kids’ schools, now I can barely muster the interest to pick them up after school, let alone know what is going on during the day or when they have tests, programs or special days. I feel like I am moving under water while the rest of the world is flowing in the fast lane. 

I know I am depressed.  Who can blame me?  I know that.  But in all honesty, how do you not feel anguish as you watch your very own flesh and blood, your hero, lying in ICU suffering?  How do you not let it take over every emotion you feel (or try not to feel)?

I am grateful I was able to spend so much time with her when I was in the hospital during their lock down.  I was there around the clock to be able to cool her with a rag when her fever rose.  I was able to hold her hand when she got dialysis.  I tried so hard to comfort her when she told me she was scared.  She asked me if I was scared too.  How do you answer that?  How?  So, I looked into her eyes, and with all of the strength I could muster, I lied to her. I told her that I was not scared and that I was there for her.  I told her to take my strength and know that she is not alone.  When she fell asleep I whispered, “Yes, Mommy.  I am very scared.  I want my Mommy. But you should not be scared.  I don’t want you to be scared.  Forgive me for lying.”

I’m changing.  And I don’t like it.

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Mass Exodus

Mass Exodus

Making the decision to evacuate Houston was not an easy one to make for me and my sister.  Not only did we realize that traffic would be more hellacious than we could imagine, but we didn’t know how long we would have to be away from our Mom.  At the time we needed to make a decision, Rita was headed straight at us and Mom was stable, but critical.  The deciding factor was my nephews.  We just couldn’t keep them in harms way if there was a way to avoid it.  So, we stocked up, loaded up and headed out.

Or should I say crawled out.  Slugged out with the speed of a sloth. Never before have I seen so many cars in one place.  It was beyond description.  Every median, shoulder and lane had cars filling them.  Cars along the side of the road had their hoods up as they wandered along talking to other stranded motorists.  At first, I was still in a good mood.  I had my humor and the radio to keep me entertained.  After a couple of hours and only a few miles, the grins were fewer.  I was SO over being in the car. With no air.  Not moving.  Over. It.  I also realized that I had made a crucial traveling mistake.  (Women, you can back me on this one.) I wore an underwire bra.  *gasp* Yes, I know the horror of such an idiotic wardrobe choice.  I wasn’t thinking.  I had no choice.  The bra had to go. I did have on a shirt with a built in bra (Yeah RIGHT), so I didn’t care.  Whooosh.  Off it came.

At this point I needed something to lighten my mood.  What better way to do that than to call someone who can make you giggle.  I called Jenny and began to replay the events of the day to her.  I knew I was becoming delirious when I told her what I had in my Hurricane Survival Kit.  Note the Pull-Up for emergecy potty situations.  (Little did I know how much I might need it later!)

Sometime during my conversation with Jenny, she told me that she saw the Mass Exodus on television.  I asked if she saw me.  I told her that I would hang my bra off of my antenna to ensure that my family and friends could keep track of my progress.  “Yeah, I am the one in the white car with the bra flapping in the non-existant breeze.” I even offered to flash a bus full of prisoners who are being evacuated.  I mean, they’re bored.  I’m bored.  We are already going through hell.  How could it get worse?  It’s not like I would get arrested.  The police just want everyone to get the hell out of Dodge.  They certainly aren’t going to get pissy about a middle-aged woman with a bra hanging from her antenna flashing various evacuees to pass the time.  As if they could get to me anyway! 

If you know me, you know I really have never met a stranger.  There I am in the worst traffic jam in American history and I am chatting it up with people in the other cars. (It’s not like we were moving!) I am hooting and honking at the people gawking at us from the overpasses.  I am shouting sarcastic comments to the idiots that are trying to cut in front of other motorists.  (Just WHERE do you think you are going to go, idiot?) I can’t just sit.  I have to talk.  And wave.  And whoop it up to the best of my ability.  Hey, that is me.  (To the woman whom I asked to “turn up her jam so I could get my funk on”, forgive me.  I know you were probably close to 90 years old and you were listening to the likes of Lawrence Welk, but really I just could not resist it.)

During the entire Mass Exodus, I kept the radio on to keep up with the “Late Breaking Situation” regarding the Mass Exodus.  Other motorists were calling in to report anytime they found a gas station open or a convenience station that had a restroom.  Even better than counting on the radio, I had my amazing Geek Husband at home in Dallas logged into both Google Maps and Houston’s local NBC station.  He would check in every couple of hours to see where we were. (Not much further than last time you called, dear!) He would then tell us how far to the next exit, what kind of facilities they had and he was able to let us know exactly where we were.  When you go only 40 miles in 9 hours, you can get disoriented.  Trust me on that one.

It was around our 7th hour into the Mass Exodus, I realized I had to pee.  BADLY. Normally, I can go longer than 7 hours if the situation calls for it.  However, one of the things the radio DJ’s continually reminded people was to stay hydrated.  If you had water, drink it. Drink .  Drink.  Drink.  I mean, afterall, it was one of the worst heat waves in Texas.  102 degrees.  That does not even take into account how much hotter it is on the road with thousands of other cars.  So I drank water.  A lot of water.  Too much water.  And now my bladder was PISSED OFF.  (No pun inteneded.  Or maybe just a little intended.) But there was NO WHERE to pee.  You just can’t get off of the freeway.  There are too many cars and too few exits that are open.  When we finally did decide to just cut through the grass to get to the service road, the police officer eyeballed me a bit.  I told him I was in tears because my bladder was about to explode!  Rather than let me off of the road at the exit and risk having hundreds of other cars do the same, he just explained the best way to cut through the grass in order to prevent becoming stuck.  Uhhh, thanks.  I appreciate that one, sir. I had to laugh.  The first time in Houston that you can do that and not get a ticket.  But you see, there was NOTHING open.  No where to pee.  It isn’t like there was any privacy anywere either.  Cars were lined up along every free space along the road.  People were out of their cars in the middle of the interstate walking from car to car talking, sharing water and sharing stories.  It was a giant tailgate party.  If I was going to relieve myself, I would have to go deep into the woods.  At night.  With thousands of people around.  No thanks.  I can hold it.

10 hours into this Mass Exodus, I can no longer feel my bladder. It has gone completely numb.  I had to look down to see if I had wet myself, but with all of the sweat, who could tell?  (By that time I had lost 5 pounds in sweat.) I have a blister on my right heel from going from the gas to the brake and back for an entire day.  I am slightly dehydrated (because all fluid is backed up in my BLADDER!) and more than a little exhausted.  And for the love of all things rancid, I smelled awful!  My sense of humor?  Left it on the side of the road a few hours prior.  Now what? I had my Dad and Clint calling me to see what our plans were.  They were greeted with, “How the fuck do I know.  I am just going to DRIVE until I can’t drive anymore.” You see, at this point, we still think Rita is heading that way.

I am not sure that I can put into words the helplessness that enveloped me.  As I sat in traffic, I watched my gas gage get lower and my engine temperature get higher.  I knew that if I ran out of gas or the car overheated there would be absolutely NOTHING I could do about it.  There was NO gas between Houston and Dallas.  There are NO hotels with vacancies.  The shelters were all full.  Even if we can get off the road, we had no where to go and no way to get there.  I’ll be honest.  It was pretty scary.  Twelve hours.  56 miles.  How would we ever get to Dallas?!  What would we do if we can’t make it?  There were no options.  It was the most helpless I have ever felt in my life. 

11 hours into the Mass Exodus, my sister’s husband called. (Again.) He had a friend he works with that lives in Conroe.  We were just a few miles from the exit, but we both knew that translated to hours until we got there. We decided we had no options.  We would have to go to their home stay the night there.  Even though we didn’t know them personally.  They have a 3 year old and the woman is 37 weeks pregnant.  And here we come with 2 kids, a new puppy, and we stink with the funk of a thousand locker rooms. 

It took us another hour to get to their house.  Just a few miles away.  I was so gross I wouldn’t even sit on their furniture.  I mean, I was BAD smelly! Watering eyes and flies swarming smelly.  I am not sure that I even spoke to these amazing people when we first arrived.  I may have mumbled something polite initially, but then began to yell loudly “BATHROOM! BATHROOM!  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHERE IS THE BATHROOM?!” I am pretty sure I just knocked the poor pregnant woman out of the way as I waddled my full, numb bladder towards their bathroom.  Five minutes later, and after much rejoicing, I could once again move without fear of wetting myself.  I tried to do the polite small talk thing, but eventually had to just say to the sweet woman, “I am sorry to be so rude.  You have no idea how much this means to me.  But seriously, my eyes are watering from my own funky smell.  May I please use your shower.  I fear that if I don’t, your lovely wallpaper may begin to peel off of the wall from the fumes I am emmitting.”

Never before have I wept openly when stepping into a shower.  I had no idea what we would do in the morning, but at that moment, I was delirious with joy that I was taking a shower in a safe place.  I washed and wept and washed and wept. 

After crawling into a soft bed, I managed to sleep for a couple of hours.  As soon as I woke up, I was hit with that helpless dread.  “What were we going to do?” We decided to head back to my Dad’s house.  We just knew we would never make it to Dallas without gas.  We had no more options.  We thanked our gracious hosts and headed out.  Again.  It took an hour to get to Dad’s home.  AN HOUR.  On the way home, taking all backroads of course, we saw one lone woman at a gas station appearing to be pumping gas.  But, the gas station was closed and the sign said NO GAS.  I stopped and asked her if it was pumping.  She said as long as you used a debit or credit card, it worked.  BINGO!  I pulled in and began to pump gas.  Before I was finished, the cars were 6 deep at every pump.  Either this station got a delivery after they jumped ship or they were hoarding for post-Rita.  Either way, they were empty by the time they opened up again.  There was some relief knowing that I had a full tank, though.  Actually, I felt IMMENSE relief knowing there was a full tank.  Who knew when there would be another chance to fill up?

Once I reached my Dad’s I took off as fast as I could to get together my things to go to the hospital.  They were going into a disaster lock-down mode in 30 minutes.  I had to get there before that time if I was going to stay with Mom.

Next time I write, I will tell you about the amazing people I met.  The friendships I formed.  And hospital secrets to rival Grey’s Anatomy.  People who are in lock-down together talk.  A lot.  For a writer, it was sheer heaven to hear so many stories in such a short time.  I can’t wait to share them with you!

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Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Are you still here?  Do you remember me?  I feel like I have been away from the real world for much longer than a week.  Between being in the hospital with Mom and hearing nothing but Rita coverage for DAYS and DAYS ad nauseam, I am devouring every newspaper I have been able to get my hands on.  When you are locked in the same place for so long and the only news you hear pertains to a hurricane, the aftermath of a hurricane and the hysteria of the media about a hurricane, you begin to feel like the rest of the world must have stopped with you.  It feels like a shock to emerge and see that the rest of the world went on without you.  You mean there is life outside of Houston?  Outside of the hospital?  Who knew! Where do I begin to update you?

I’ll start with Mom.  The doctor that called me at home was jumping the gun with calling me.  I mean, Mom is not going to hop out of bed and be better, but at that moment she was not dying.  Not immediately.  Do I think she will heal from this?  I certainly hope so.  But, she has so many things wrong and so many things going against her.  It is heartbreaking to see one thing get better only to have something new pop up.  Example:  Today, we were thrilled to see that her fever was down.  Her fever has been a big source of head-scratching because they cannot find the source of her infection.  So, no fever is great.  Of course, not to let us get too hopeful, her x-rays showed that her lung had collapsed.  See?  For every good news medically, we get something new that is a set-back.  The emotional roller coaster is harder than I could ever do justice to with mere words.  I am a mess.  A MESS.  I cannot describe the hell it is to get a phone call telling you to come to your mother’s bedside to say goodbye and then be told that “oops, not quite yet”, so you stay so that you can sit with her and try to comfort her when all you want is for her to comfort you.  It is an emotional mind-fuck if ever there was one.

She continually asks me to take her home.  Oh how I wish I could!  I hate leaving her and knowing that she would give anything to be able to go with me.  Her tears kill me.  There is nothing I can do reassure her or give her what she wants.  She wants to talk.  She wants to go home.  She wants someone to promise her that she will get better.  I feel so damn helpless not being able to give her any of those things.  It’s not fair.  I know.  I know.  No one said life was fair.  But holy crap on a crispy cracker this is outrageously unfair.

But wait, the fun never stops here!  In the midst of this we are told that “Sorry ‘bout it, but a Cat-5 hurricane is headed your way.  Get the hell out of dodge!” If it was just me, I would have completely ignored the warnings.  But, my sister has 2 young children that she wanted to keep safe.  So, we did what we felt we should do to protect them.  We loaded them up–along with a 3 month old puppy– and hit the road.  Along with 2.7 MILLION other Houston area residents.  My sister had the van with the air conditioner and the kids and puppy.  I had the small car all to myself with no air.  I asked her more than once if she wanted to switch cars in order to get a break from the kids.  She, however, said that I looked “pretty damn hot back there” and that she was just fine with her own little chaotic van.

It took us 12 hours– TWELVE HOURS– to go just over 50 miles.  12 hours.  50 miles.  (For those of you who know Houston, we got from I-10 and Beltway 8 to southern part of Loop 336 in Conroe in those 12 hours. We began to lose all mental control when we hit Hwy 1488 and still knew it would be at least an hour to the next exit.) I suppose it was around the 5th hour that I started to go a bit mental.  I called Jenny just so that I could scream at someone who would hardly even bat an eye at my rantings. 

But the drive is an entirely different entry that involves flying bras, Pull-ups and flashing busloads of prisoners.  You may feel guilty for laughing, but trust me, it was entertaining to hear (not so much to live, though).  I will post that one later today.  I mean, you know what they say….Always leave them wanting more.  Oh, I want to tell you all about the amazing people I met while I was at the hospital in lock-down for 36 hours.  Everyone has a story if you will just sit quietly long enough to listen to the people who will share them with you.  From a Katrina evacuee to a surgeon to an alcoholic who was there for detoxing, I met many people who touched me deeply just by sharing who they are with me.  I would never ask for the situation I was in, but if I had to be there, I am glad I was there with the people I got to know.  But again, that is another story.  Actually, many stories.  But now, now I must sleep.  I am still not normal.  I still feel like I am a step or two behind the rest of the world. (More so than I usually am.) Will you come back again?  I’ll leave the light on and the coffee pot full.

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Mumble, grumble, yawn!

Mumble, grumble, yawn!

I am home.  In my own bed.  My own clothes.  My own shower.  And my own family. I cannot begin to put into words the complete hell that the past week has been.  I think I might have had a situation where my brain shut down just to have the ability to cope with the intense stress levels I was under.  I am definitely not up to par yet.  In fact, after dropping the kids off at school, I put my keys in the refrigerator, crawled into bed with my glasses still on my face and promptly fell asleep.  For about 45 minutes.  Then the phone starting ringing.  For anyone who called me and was greeted by mumbling and incoherant babble-assing, forgive me.  I didn’t mean to call you names or on the flip side I also didn’t mean to weep openly when you innocently asked, “How are you doing?”

I should be normal back to myself soon.  Or at least I hope so.  If not, just keep reminding me that I should check the fridge for any missing keys and the pantry for any lost shoes.

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In the Hospital!!!

In the Hospital!!!

Oh settle down. Not like that. She’s fine.

(I’m a stinker.. I know)

Jenn made it back to Houston (West side where impact is suspected to be light) and is staying in the hospital with her mom. The hospital is a very new ‘hardened’ building that is approximately 12 stories tall, has full backup power, cafeteria etc.

She was also ironically blessed by filling up her tank right by the hospital. She saw a lone woman at a gas station. Upon pulling up and asking the woman if the station actually had gas the woman replied that she had pulled up and tore the ‘out of service bag’ off of the handle and gave it a try. My wife pulled in and started filling up. People driving by immediately lined up and they were 6+ cars deep by the time she finished. This will be a great help when she finally is able to leave (hopefully Sunday) and come home.

I miss my baby!

nef’s blog

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Psycho Hurricane Update

Psycho Hurricane Update

Howdy… nefarious (the husband) here. I have gotten a couple of emails and know many of you are concerned about Jenn since she has been in Houston. Here’s the latest:

She left her parent’s house this morning at 10:30 am.

As of a few minutes ago she has made it almost 60 miles.

Yep… you guys are pretty good at math. That is 11+ hours and 60 miles. That would be 5.45mph. She has used half a tank of gas. I don’t think she is setting any fuel efficiency records and most every place is out of gas. She is stopping at a friend of the family’s house for a pit stop, stretch and try to locate some fuel. She’s still in the zone that they are forecasting hurricane force winds. We’re playing it by ear.

UPDATE 08:30 CST 09/23/2005:

The phantom gas trucks have yet to be seen. Jenn was unable to find additional fuel. Fuel stations are sold out to the North. With this being the case she has decided to turn around and head back to her parents’ home in the WNW suburban outskirts of Houston. 🙁

Thanks for your continued thoughts and prayers.

-nef

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