4.29.2009

Four Years Later

My mother says that the best way to remember someone is not by the day they died but rather by their birthday. But I disagree, because the day they die is the day everything changes. It's the first day that you start the rest of your life without them.

Birthdays almost seem inconsequential, what's a cake or a party or just a quiet dinner with friends when the life-altering day comes later, when you're gone? I cannot remember much about celebrating my Grandmother's birthdays while she was alive, but I remember well the day she died, now 4 years ago today.

I remember other days, when I was 9 and her husband, my Grandfather died. He was in the hospital and my mother woke with a start, (or by a phone call from a nurse, I can't remember which) and rushed to the hospital. She's not a fan of highways so her journey took her down city streets in the pre-dawn light, where she hit every light. And because she was his daughter, because he'd taught her that this was important, she did not run a single one.

Nor did she make it to his bedside before he died. But that was okay, she said, because she'd stopped for all the lights. She'd followed the rules, like he taught her. I'd never noticed that he worked that way, but that day taught me a lesson -- that there's some great value in respecting the rules and by being honest. Doing my very best to hold true to my word is how I honor him, a man I didn't get to know for long enough at all. So I honor that day for the integrity that lesson has brought to my life.

Later that day, I sat at a neighbor's house, thinking wow, now I only have 3 grandparents. I knew I'd been lucky to have 4 for that long but now, that was over. I had 3. And for the first time, someone I knew had died.

We didn't look at the body, in the end I'd sort of wanted to but Mom talked me out of it. I have no regrets about that, I don't wish I'd seen whatever his body had become. There was no need, the memories were all in my heart.

I didn't look at Grandma either. There was No Way I could do that. The casket was open for a while at the viewing, I think mostly for the family. There she was, at the front of the room but I did not look. Out of the corner of my eye, I swear I saw the edge of one of her brown shoes with the buckle but I don't really know.

I didn't see her like that. And still, always, I will carry no regrets about that.

I didn't see her at the very end of her life either. I could've. Without too much effort I could've dropped everything to fly there and sit with her in her final hours. But I didn't. Because she was lucky enough to be surrounded by my family, by her children and some of us grandkids. She didn't need me then but they needed her.

The lovely woman who'd lived with her for 5 years and cared for her said a prayer from her homeland. Then she quietly left the room and left my family to surround Grandma with love as she moved to the next world. For her sake, I hope it's everything the Church promised it would be.

My dad called me, his voice choking. Grandma's gone, he said.

That night, I played at least one hockey game and miraculously scored 2 goals. Each time, I looked to the heavens and said 'that was for you.' Only I was inside the rink and looking up meant seeing the ceiling covered in some kind of tin foil insulation. But I hoped that she saw me through that and knew that I'd given her something that mattered.

We flew home, Andrea, my brother and me. On the way we got stuck in Chicago and missed flight after flight. Though it wasn't super urgent, the visiting hours weren't until the next day, I needed to be back in Ohio, needed to be near Grandma even though she was gone. Chris and Andrea waited patiently as I stood politely at the ticket counter, asking quietly every few minutes if a seat had opened up. Finally, after 2 or 3 flights came and went, our names were called and we got the last 3 seats home.

So much of that week is a blur. The loudness of my extended family at the viewing, sitting in Grandma's living room with her there but not there in the house, the long drive to the cemetary and how we were escorted by a really nice motorcycle-riding police officer. How he waved us through as if Grandma was royalty and indeed he was right. She most certainly was.

I spoke at her funeral. All week, I went over what I'd wrote, gathered my nerve to walk up to the podium at the church where I'd grown up and speak into its cavernous depths. When I got up there I made my voice as loud and as solid as possible and read what I had to say. I think I captured how I felt about Grandma, how much she meant to me.

But what I've learned since that day is that I was only starting to understand how very precious a gift she was in my life. When you consider all the variables that go into being adopted, into finding my way into this particular family and somehow, by the grace of God, into the waiting, loving arms of my Grandma, well, for one I know that God exists (or I'm extremely lucky, I'll take that too) I feel so utterly grateful that the stars aligned and I found myself part of her family. Out of all the waiting families with the agency at that time, how did they know that within the next family on the list was the World's Best Grandma?

That gift extends today into Val, who bears Grandma's name for a middle name. We knew we'd chosen correctly when I looked up the meaning of Valerie Marta -- strong lady. Valerie means strong and Marta means lady.

Yes, I thought, Grandma was every bit a lady.

As I sit in Grandma's breakfast table chair every day, as I wear her simple wedding ring, I do what I can to keep her close and honor her memory. I show Val pictures of her, most of the time Val knows who she was. Marta, she says, my great-grandma. Yep, that's right. You only missed her by a year but she sees you just the same.

I know she would've been crazy about you, kid.

4.23.2009

More Things I Can Tell You About IVF

Before we started this, I thought there was one kind of embryo and that
the best way to maximize your chances was to put back (note: the term is
transfer, not implant) more than one and hope for the best. Turns out,
that's one way to go about it, especially if money is an issue (meaning
you can only afford 1 cycle) or if your egg quality may not be the
best.

But, you can also let the little critters grow for 2 days longer and get
a good idea about how well they might do in the long run. If you get to
that point, you can put one back instead of more.

When insurance covers your efforts, it's easy to see this as a great
option. There's no panic about getting it done the first time (though,
seriously, this is it. If IVF doesn't work for us, I'm done. I've been
through enough.) And you can put back one of these slightly older
critters (blastocycsts) knowing that your odds are about as good as you
can make them.

The disadvantage is that sometimes, they don't make it to this point and
that it's harder for them to make it to a point where they can be
frozen. That said, we're taking our chances by going for the 5 day vs.
3 day.

4.20.2009

What Kind Of Shit Is That?

Recently some Miss U.SA contestant was asked by Per.ez Hi.lton how she
felt about gay marriage. What I'd like to know first is why people need
to feel anything about it. It will happen, either sooner or later, and
what all these people with their feelings will find out is that in the
end, nothing changes for them.

Take a minute if you must, go ahead, wrap your head around that.

But back to our humble contestant. She blathered on about her feelings,
said something to the effect of she wasn't raised to see marriage as
anything other than a man and a woman. No offense to gay people, she
said, but she was raised to see marriage that way, in her country.
Let's assume she meant that she was raised in 'the country,' for
starters.

Even at that, if I was from the country (wherever that may be) how is
that an excuse for being bigoted or at the very least, condoning
oppression? In other words, where she's from, people think one way and
one way only so those rules, those are the only rules.

Not to mention the 'way I was raised' bullshit. Looking solely at my
own childhood and the town I'm from, you could say that the way I was
raised, African-American people don't live near us, in fact, the only
African-American people you'll ever come in contact with (as a child) is
the woman who cleans your house. You'll also say that indeed, marriage
is between a man and a woman because yes indeed, the only marriages I
knew were between straight people. While we're at it, the way I was
raised, schools had 95% white students and it was somehow okay for a
teacher to refer to the lone African-American student in his class as
Tituba. More than once.

No, I'm not kidding.

I could go on but my point here is not that my parents did anything
wrong, but rather that my upbringing certainly didn't allow for a great
range of experiences or acceptance when it comes to diversity. If I'd
stuck with the hapless contestant's party line, I'd be missing so much
of the best parts of my life today.

So if you're looking for an excuse, I'm afraid you'll have to do better
than that.

As a related note, I can't quite describe how relieved I feel that Bush
and his anti-gay agenda has left the building. I didn't realize how
deeply year after year and hateful ballot measure after hateful ballot
measure of being singled out by our nation's highest office as some kind
of unworthy, unequal minority added up to me feeling more than a little
less proud of who I am. Now that we have a President who speaks for gay
rights instead of campaigning against them I'm breathing a little
easier.

4.19.2009

What I Can Tell You About IVF

So far, is some of what I've learned:

- You sort of get used to getting shots every day. Sort of.
- That my little lunchbag cooler thing holds just enough meds for a
weekend, and the needles too. It also could possibly holds the med that
one could buy off of someone from the internet.
- That when insurance stops covering the Big Guns as far as medication
goes, the bill is fucking brutal (even if you are truly blessed because
your lovely wife's company was bought by a Giant Company that has
kickass fertility coverage, but you have to submit the receipts after
shelling out a shitload of money upfront)
- That switching from plan old in injectables/IUI cycles to IVF means
that you get more attention at the fertility clinic, including a
dedicated nurse, faster responses and the moving of your donor sperm to
a special lab where, God willing, your child(ren) will be created.
- Any sort of test that involves the injecting of dye/saline into your
nether regions fucking sucks.
- Letting a male radiologist attempt to inject dye into your nether
regions amounts to an unpleasant experience that honestly, was more
painful than the worst parts of labor.
- Making the switch was both freeing and utterly disappointing. And
somehow requires almost daily calls to the clinc, most of which end in
tears immediately afterwards.
- The freeing part is knowing that we'll be able to better control the
number of possibilities for each cycle. Whereas with any other kind of
cycle, you grow a few follicles and hope just one of them becomes a
baby, with IVF you can grow a shitload then watch them carefully to see
the winner.
- There's something *very* strange about having birth control pills in
the house.

That's all for now. More to come on this exciting journey.

4.18.2009

Sticking To It

This year, I had a lone New Year's Resolution. Knowing that IVF (and a
shitload of bloating/weird weight gain) was on the horizon, I knew
better than to attempt any kind of weight loss program.

No, I kept it simple. It was 'feed the dogs more people food' and I'm
proud to tell you that I'm totally doing it. We're quite short on
kibble at the moment so they've enjoyed 2 meals in a row of expired but
not dead baby food and now, we've enjoyed the gaseous aftermath of
blissful bassets.

When we got Alice, she was pretty overweight so we kept her on a
kibble-only plan that she supplemented on her own by getting into
*everything.* Who can forget the day she crawled through a small hole
in the fence, got out, ate a ton then couldn't fit back through the same
hole so she waited on our doorstep?

But that was Al. Other than having fur, she wasn't like Rainie and
Patrick in many ways. It's been a challenge to remember that the dogs
we have now have been with us most of their lives and are by and large,
blessed with good physiques. So I forget that a little bit of leftovers
won't kill them.

But this year, I have remembered. Their weights are still great and
we're all happier for it.

4.15.2009

Levelling Off

I'm sure, 100% certain that by blogging this it will cease to be true.
But for the moment, my job is a bit better. The work remains just as
busy and the management is finally loosening up just enough that I'm
starting to feel like a grownup who can be trusted to manage my own time
during the workday.

It's something, and I'll take it.

4.14.2009

smiling eyes


smiling eyes
Originally uploaded by gadgetgrrl
And this, how could I forget about this???

"hi mom"


"hi mom"
Originally uploaded by gadgetgrrl
Wasn't this just yesterday?

Tougher Than It Sounds

The other day Val asked me 'Mommy, do you follow directions from your
mommies?' First I resisted the urge to laugh and then I resisted the
urge to say, well at this point in my life, we call that nagging.

In the end I said yes, when I was little I followed directions most of
the time.

4.09.2009

Can Not Win

During the day at work, I go towards getting out of there at 4:45. In
theory, this lets me beat the traffic and get Val at a reasonable hour.
That's the theory. But really, it only happens that way about once a
week. The rest of the time, it's more like 5 pm.

The difference in traffic at 4:45 and 5 is insane. Seriously.

Today, I was totally on track to get out at 4:45. I worked ahead on a
few things since Val's school is closed tomorrow and I have to work from
home with her.

But still, I was fine, all set to get out of there. And then bam, bam,
bam in comes a ton of work and before you know it, it's 5 pm. And
raining. Which means that traffic is just stopped everywhere.

Guess we won't get to gymnastics today. Sorry, Val.

4.07.2009

I'm Still Mad

Just thinking about Prop 8 still makes me want to spit. Do you suppose
the Supreme Court will do the right thing?

4.06.2009

Yes, I Suppose That's True

I was chatting with a friend yesterday, sharing some highlights of our
crazyass weekend. She said 'it sounds like you learned a lot about
parenting this weekend.'

She's right, we did.

Thursday, Val woke up with a fever so Andrea kept her home. Friday, she
also woke with a fever so Andrea took a day off of work to stay home
with her (Thursdays she works from home so she was here anyway). They
went to the doctor, learned that Val had Fifth disease but it was almost
gone, so they headed to the park.

I met them at the park after another frustrating day at work. We had a
nice time, then headed off to meet friends for dinner nearby. Val
starts randomly crying during dinner, saying her stomach hurts. So I
take her to the bathroom, where she does not poo.

We return to the table, I inhale some tasty food and then leave early to
take Val home. When I strap her into her seat, she points to her chest
and says that's where it hurts.

Chest? That's not good.

So I go back in and tell Andrea we need to go. Our kind friends do not
make us wait for the bill (how much do we owe you guys, anyway?) and we
head off to the ER.

The ER on a Friday night is a very special place. I'll try to avoid
this joint at all costs going forward.

3+ hours later, we get a bigass dose of Motrin and a guess that she
must've fallen at the playground but she likely didn't crack a rib. At
this point, we were pretty sure she was fine so we just wanted to get
the hell out of there.

Saturday, she's fine, no fever, no random chest pain so we do some fun
things. She fell asleep in the car but woke up when I changed her out
of the bathing suit and dress she was sporting. Yes, she's got her own
ideas about fashion.

I didn't think much of it until 2 am, when I woke up to the sound of Val
screaming. It wasn't something I'd heard before, not like this anyway.
But soon enough it was like I'd never not heard it. We sat with her as
she thrashed around, eyes closed the whole time, freaking us both out.

I googled night terrors and confirmed that yes, this is what it was.
20+ minutes later, we moved her to our bed and she was asking for milk,
though still not quite awake. Finally, the episode ended and she went
back to sleep.

I kept thinking 'at least it's Saturday night' because then I didn't
have to get up superass early the next day to go to work. We all slept
till nearly noon. That part was great.

And for what it's worth my job is not improving. Management is oddly
focused on time, to the point where they want me to make up the hour I
spent at the doctor and are debating if I can take a day off unpaid.
The work itself remains fine and even interesting. I guess you can't
have it both ways.

Doesn't stop me from wishing, though.