This post continues to stand alone, as an on-going tribute not only to the accident that profoundly changed who I would become, but to my only brother, who I miss always and especially on this day.
Even though 38 years have passed, as soon as the calendar flips to August, I am transported back to that day, the day that forever changed the trajectory of my life. It always coincides with the heat of August. It was so hot that day.
I have moved through the grief and the survivor’s guilt while the pain of his loss lingers. I sometimes think how my life would have been. I suspect every single thing would have been different. I would not have become who I am, my relationship with my family would be entirely different had they not been broken by his death, I would have likely married earlier and someone else, I may have not had the career I had, or the sons and husband I have now. I can’t even conjure who that eleven year old girl would have grown up to be. She is a ghost.
And, my brother, too, is a ghost. He would have gotten married and I know he would have had children. He would have been such a great and proud uncle to my sons and our holidays would have been complete with him and his family present. But, he is forever frozen in time, a young teen-ager, taken too soon.
Even though my heart hangs heavy on this particular anniversary I am also reminded that I would likely not have the many gifts that make up the me that I am today. I wouldn’t have the love of horses that I do; I wouldn’t have the daily gratitude and profound respect for this one life I have to life; I would have never developed my resourcefulness, self-protection, compassion, or deep sense of self; I would have never become so self-reliant and independent which allowed me to embark on my successful and gratifying career in sales; I likely wouldn’t have switched elementary schools following the accident which means I would have probably gone to a different high school and college; I may have continued on to become a lawyer, which is what my parents wanted for me; I may have married young, even my college sweet heart and I would have had entirely different children; I would be an entirely different person walking around in this skin.
When I connect the dots from that tragic yesterday to my happy today, I am humbled by the knowledge that had things not unfolded as they did, I would not have my husband and we would not have our sons. Of course, I can never know what life with someone else and other children might have been like, but I do know that I love my boys, in my heart, in my soul, and in my bones.
And so, it is on this day, brother, a day where I miss you profoundly, that I say thank you. Your death was not in vain. I have tried to make the most of the second chance at life that I was given and I am utterly and completely grateful that it all led me to this life and to my family. My adorable, challenging, sweet, smart, spirited, loving, talented H and the almost always smiling, joyous, cherubic Baby G. You would love them and they you. I send a hug up and out through the universe to you. I love and miss you, brother.
Although you can’t be here with me, We’re truly not apart, Until the final breath I take, You’ll be living in my heart. ~Excerpted from a Bereavement Verse
The discriminatory stance that the Boy Scouts of America has taken against gays among their ranks has been a thorn in my side since I knew my first born would be a boy. Our position as parents, that our sons would not join a group that discriminates against gay boys or gay leaders, has been unpopular among our many friends who aren’t as passionate as we are about equal civil rights. I have been quite vocal at school meetings (where the scouts recruit boys), with my fellow mothers, on Facebook, etc. I’ve spoken to my gay friends and promised my solidarity regardless of the pressure. And, yes, as a result, we had to begin having conversations with our son two years ago about what it means to be inclusive and why joining the Cub-then-Boy-Scouts would not happen as long as they excluded gay boys and men.
It’s caused many a heated debate with otherwise decent friends because our not allowing our son to join caused problems of exclusion from events for him. But, I would not relent, and would not cave to their pressure.
Our most recent conversations have centered around how our older son would feel if the Boy Scouts (or any group) wouldn’t allow red-heads to join. Would he want to be a member of a group that his brother couldn’t be a part of. His answer was a resounding NO! It was easy, then, to draw the parallel between his brother’s red-hair, something he was born with, and someone’s sexual orientation, something they were born with. In this way, he is able to understand.
In May, the president of the BSA called for a lift on the ban of gay leaders but also said that he would not call for a vote on the matter during the remainder of his two year tenure. The story sort of died after that and just last week I asked my friends who have boys in the Scouts if they’d heard anything new, to which they replied, no.
So, imagine my surprise when one of those moms sent this to me yesterday. We are now one vote away from having the choice of becoming a Scout family, provided our local chapter also supports gays in leadership roles.
I will NOT abandon this space. Just knowing that it is here as a touchstone is comforting. I enjoy the writing process. I need a place to gather my thoughts and, frankly, I appreciate every single comment. I share things here that I can’t/won’t/don’t on FB or anywhere else. As the banner says, My place to vent, rant, share, and chart my course and that’s as true today as it was over 5 years and 525 published posts ago.
Yes, G is in his 4th week of part-time preschool. It was rough early on, for both of us. I made the comment that he and I are connected at the heart and leaving him there crying in the arms of his teacher made me physically sick throughout the time that we were apart. Yesterday was our first tear free drop-off. We’re both doing better. I can see him coming fully into his own independent self. It is a beautiful thing.
As for me, it’s been a rocky road with this pituitary thing. The hydrocortisone makes me hungry all the time. The transition to Effexor was a dismal failure (I was having at least four, 20 min hot flashes/day) and I’ve since transitioned back onto Prozac and BAM! no more hot flashes. It is such a relief. I feel a whole lot better overall, though, although I am at my highest post-pregnancy weight by 20#. It is demoralizing and frustrating and I do a fair degree of self-flagellating. My primary care doc said she’d refer me for bariatric surgery (I don’t technically qualify by pounds overweight or BMI, but am close) or to a medically supervised weight management program (Optifast) which I wholeheartedly do NOT believe in. I am >this< close to at least going to the bariatric consult. I have a conference call w my doc this week and I'll see what she has to say.
For my part, I work-out a lot, on average 5 times/week for an hour of hard full body conditioning/strength training/endurance/cardio. That said, the adage 'you can't work off of a bad diet' holds true. And, not bad, per se, just too much.
After more than a year of being in contact with my husband's birth-mother, we are now also in touch with his younger half-brother. This is all very new, only a couple of weeks old but it has been a lovely experience thus far. We've had great email communications and are friends on FB. I easily see an in-person meeting at some point. He and his family (wife, two young children (girl and boy) live in PA. There are a number of dynamics at play but my husband's birth mother has described her estrangement with her youngest son and let's just say he doesn't see it her way. It means I have to be careful managing both relationships. So, on my husband's mother's side, we're in touch with her, her oldest daughter and her youngest son. There is another son, older than my husband, who she describes as a 'loser' and I'm not quite sure what that means or why, but do know he has a daughter, that he abandon and that his sister adopted and raised.
And, in case you are wondering, there has been no further communication with my birth mother or any movement toward finding my birth father.
My 50th birthday is 10 mos away and my 50 before 50 is always top of mind. The list is somewhat fluid, evolving, and changing as my priorities and interests do, but it is roughly the same as it was in the beginning and I have made fairly good strides, especially with #s 1, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 31, 32, 34, 37, 39, 41, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50. That’s 34%
As it pertains to my facial rejuvenation, I am having monthly facials, had my first round of botox with round #2 scheduled along with some filler, and have my first chemical peel scheduled. Other than cleansing/moisturizing and the 1-2/yr facial, I have never focused on my face. There is something empowering in working toward looking my best self for myself. My weight plays a powerful part in how I view myself and as hard as I have worked with the opposite result than I’ve been working toward, doing what I can elsewise (<--- really should be a word) feels good.
G has been in speech therapy for almost a year. His progress has been steady and sometimes fast to the point where he is now caught up in all areas and ahead in some. He speaks in sentences, sometimes words not fully recognizable to those outside our family, and is a parrot, repeating back almost everything that is said to him. His little voice, with its affectations, completely melt me.
A few months ago his speech therapist recommended preschool, even on a part-time basis, as a way to support and further develop his speech. As it is, he spends almost all of his time around fluent talkers and it would be beneficial for him to be around children his age at the same level of speech development. We looked at several preschools, but were so late in touring/applying that there were no spots available this summer, let alone in the fall. I’d forgotten that admissions starts in January for the following year. We got on the wait-list at two preschools and I’ve kept in touch with the directors at both for months.
I got THE call a week ago that there was a space at one of the two schools we liked in their summer program. He will be starting tomorrow. As in TOMORROW, 18 hours from now! Just typing that and sharing that here makes me nauseous. He and I have been together every day of his life. And, while his older brother started preschool 4 mos earlier than G is starting, I was already back at work and my older son was such a handful that, as hard as it was, it was better for all of us that he get the structure of being at school.
With G, it is an entirely different situation. I’m not working. We spend almost every hour of every day together. And, whether that is playing at home, having a play date, going to the park, going to the Discovery Cube, going to the zoo, or running errands, he is with me, tethered by an invisible umbilical cord. Even though I don’t baby him, he IS my baby, my last child. This milestone, this rite of passage, seems the biggest and insurmountable of all other milestones combined.
Whereas our older son showed no real preference as a toddler to me or my husband, G’s preference has always been me. This is no fault of my husband who is the only other person that loves and cherishes him as much as me, it’s just that we are each others constant companion. Other than being in the care of occasional sitters, or being at home with my husband, he is always near me. I am the one to get him in the morning, I am the one he snuggles with while eating his banana, I am the one he snuggles with before nap, I am the one to get him from his nap, and I am the one he snuggles with before bed even though his daddy actually puts him down. The question my husband asks repeatedly is, ‘is he on you?’ and the answer is always yes.
And so it is with a proud yet heavy heart that we prepare to drop him for his first day of preschool tomorrow. We visited the school a few times last week, so he already knows the drill, walking through the gate, across the bike playground, up the ramp, through the second gate and across the yard to his room. He is a Bear (the theme of the summer program is Happy Trails and everything has something to do with nature). He already knows where the toys he likes to play with are.
I never thought it was possible to be joyful and sad at the same time, but it is. I love this little boy, my love for him expanding my love for my husband and older son. I am grateful to the depths of my soul for him, that he picked us as his parents and family, that he was our hail Mary pass, our last and final effort, our only remaining hope for having a second child, for completing our family.
My desire is to shelter him, keep him close and safe under my watchful eye, to have him always with me. But this is not about me; this is about him and allowing him to do something that is not only going to be fun, but so enriching for him. I love this school, the director, his teachers, the campus. He is going to get to do things we don’t often do at home. He is going to make his first friends. He is going to learn so many things from someone other than me, his daddy, or his brother. We are fortunate to be able to send him.
But, my heart. For all I went through to find my way to him, for all his being here did to heal my wounds from failure and heartache, can this time have really come? So soon? I know there is no way to stop time, there is no way to roll back the clock, there is no way to forever freeze every moment in the recesses of my mind. I also know that my love for him, my wanting the best for him requires me to do this for him. It feels so profound, so deep, causing such a cosmic shift in my psyche. Joy and sadness, sadness and joy.
G, my darling, amiable, sweet, good-natured, funny, charming, happy-go-lucky, trusting, adventuresome, smart little red-head, I love you as if you are my heart beating inside my chest. You did hang the moon my little one. I will miss you and count the hours until I pick you up, dusty and grimy and pink-faced from a morning hard at play. Yes, my little Mushy, you are going to have so much fun. For my part, I promise not to let you see me cry.
The results of my MRI were negative, meaning no tumor, no mass, no growth. This, of course, is good news, although it has made a treatment approach more difficult. I am into my second week of oral hydrocortisone which is supposed to counteract my low cortisol and make me feel better. A standard dose would be 15mg in the morning and 5mg in the evening but in an attempt to avoid the weight gain associated with taking hydrocortisone, I’m taking 5mg in the morning and 2.5mg in the afternoon. Honestly, I can’t feel any effect.
Because the Prozac I’ve been taking to control my hot flashes is also associated with weight gain, we decided I’d wean off it and see how I did. Within a day of cutting my dose in half, my hot flashes returned with a vengeance. So, I am trying Effexor which is a different form of anti-depressant also approved for hot flash management. My doctor started me on the lowest dose which did nothing to reduce or alleviate them. Yesterday, we doubled the dose and I need to give it a full seven days to see if this dose is effective. If not, we’ll either increase it again or I’ll go back to Prozac. I have been looking forward to the switch, though, not just because Effexor might aid in weight loss but because it doesn’t have the sexual side effects that Prozac does. And, truth, in just the 9 days I’ve been on it, I can feel my long dormant libido returning. Yay for that!
Generally, I feel thick headed, worse in the afternoons/evenings than in the mornings. I’m not really sure which medication is causing it and it probably wasn’t a good idea to add two new meds at the same time, but it is what it is. The hot flashes are merciless, so bad that I will sacrifice my libido and figure to get some relief.
In other and happier news, last week I celebrated my 49th birthday. I had a lovely sushi dinner out with my husband, and brunch the following morning with some close girlfriends. We’d gone to Palm Springs for Mother’s Day weekend, and it felt like a lot of celebrating but the right amount for a non-milestone birthday. Even though I am dealing with this new health issue, I feel good I am able to work-out regularly and hard, and continue to be fueled by gratitude for the life that I have. My older son will complete 2nd grade next week and G was 2y5m yesterday. Time is marching on despite my best attempts to freeze it.
I have officially begun my journey to 50, something I am looking forward to with gleeful anticipation. The two biggest hurdles I need to cross are to find day care for G and a paying job for me, neither of which are going to be easy (we are on wait lists at two preschools for any openings they may have and have nixed a handful of others for one reason or another. I have a few more to contact, but am late to the game for fall, 2015. Worst case he won’t be able to start until next summer and that is going to put us in a financial bind). I can’t diligently look for employment until we find consistent care for him.
I am going to start daily meditation. At the root of most of what ails me is too much stress, or an unsuitable reaction to how I manage stress. Another thing to add to the list of self-improvement
Except for a complete inability to lose weight no matter what I do, I mostly feel good physically. I am working out 5 times a week for an hour each time and am sore in one place or another all the time. Well, except also for the afternoon fatigue. It used to be that I’d take an occasional 12 minute power nap a couple of times a week. Then, I started napping for a half an hour. Then, an hour. Then, I’d wake up after an hour and if G was still asleep, I’d go back to sleep, too, sometimes for another 30 mins. And then there is the forgetfulness. Not the kind that comes with age where you walk in a room and forget why. Or even the kind that has me hunting for my keys. This is literally not remembering what I’m talking about mid-sentence. This is asking myself a dozen times a day, “what did I just say?” or “what was I just going to do?” or “what’s the word that means…?”.
It was a combination of the above but mostly the frustrating inability to lose weight that had me reach out to my endocrinologist (who has been treating me off/on for the last 25 yrs) to inquire about running some tests. I wanted to check my cortisol. That required a 24 hr urine capture test, where I had to collect my urine for 24 hrs, refrigerate it, and take it to the lab. The results came back that my cortisol was indeed, low. She then ordered a blood test to test both my cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (acth). Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and acth is produced by the pituitary gland and signals the adrenals to produce more cortisol when it is low. Both levels were low, which is odd, as acth should have been high. As a result, she ordered a stimulation test, which meant an IV was placed, synthetic cortisol was injected, and my blood was drawn in specific intervals to check both cortisol and acth. There is a normal starting point for cortisol and a normal rise over the length of the test. Not only was my starting cortisol half of what it should be, the rise, which should have been 12, was less than half that, too. Acth was on the low end of normal.
Cue orders for a pituitary MRI. The pituitary, a pea sized gland, is part of the endocrine system and considered a master gland as it secretes hormones that balance almost all of the body’s systems, is located behind the eyes:
2010 Terese Winslow
It is possible that one of it’s two lobes is enlarged but more probable that there is a tumor, most likely benign (hopefully) causing the problems I’m having.
I had the MRI today. I’ve had two MRIs before so knew what to expect. I also had the chance to meet with my endocrinologist face to face for an hour, something I haven’t done since 2010. We reviewed my symptoms, test results, and possible outcomes of the MRI. Unfortunately, the most straightforward treatment will be if there is a tumor. If not, there is going to be some trial and error to figure out the underlying cause of my pituitary problem. I made the request of the tech that the images be expedited to the radiologist so that my doctor could call me by Friday. I want to go into the weekend knowing what there is to know and, hopefully, be able to celebrate my birthday.
My doctor reiterated that nothing is straightforward with me, something I have heard all my life and recounted on this blog more than once. She did validate that I know my body better than most and that when I say something is wrong, something is. It’s a matter of what that something is, in this case. Oh, and I’m at my highest post-pregnancy weight as of today (I could not, for the life of me remember that the word is “highest” and continued to spell it ‘heighest’ and couldn’t figure why it was underlined in red. That kind of memory problem).
I posted recently that my mom sent a letter to my birth mother. Since my last few attempts at corresponding with my birth mother (including the floral arrangement I sent her for her birthday in April) have gotten nary a response, I wasn’t sure if she would respond to my mom. But, she did:
The IRL friends I’ve shared this with have been mostly interested in how I feel about it and to that I would say this: it is not at all surprising to me and it only emboldens me to find my birth father. If other opportunities arise to work on my birth mother, I will, but she is a dead end and I need to pursue other avenues.
To that end, I submitted my DNA for analysis to ancestry.com and have gotten the results back. My ethnicity shook out thusly: Europe 85%
Europe West 18%
Great Britain 11%
Iberian Peninsula 9%
Trace Regions 4% West Asia 13%
The closest DNA relative matches I got was two third cousins which means that we shared great-great grandparents (and both cousins are of Italian descent (which my birth mother is not) so I’m fairly certain they are on my birth father’s side). One of them has his profile administered by a 3rd party (possibly another family member) and the other hasn’t logged into the website in over a year. I have a slew of 4th-6th cousins, but the one 3rd cousin that’s active on the site seems the most promising. Oh, and the person who is administering his profile lives in MA, hometown of both my birth parents. I haven’t figured out what to say in making contact, yet.
My mom offered to fly me out to MA so that I could either show up on my birth mother’s doorstep and/or find out what church she attends and get a meeting with her priest to see if he’d be of any help. I’m not likely to do either.
For those who are wondering why I don’t just let it go, the simple answer is that I can’t, not yet, anyway, not as long as she is alive and is the only living person to know his name or until I exhaust other avenues. My birth father makes up half of who I am and unless you know how it feels to not know about half of yourself, I can’t explain it.
If you have any suggestions about finding my birth father, please leave a comment.
Next up: I was right, there is something wrong with my health and after three rounds of tests confirmed it’s with my pituitary, I’m scheduled for an MRI.