“This book is incredible. A great read to help you put perspective on your life. Easy to get wrapped up in, waiting for the next event to happen. It clearly, and truthfully, shows how she deals, copes, and ultimately overcomes the negativity her dysfunctional in-laws bring into her life. I must say, inspirational is an understatement. I wish the best for Ms. Caron in her future writing endeavors, and will be waiting for her next publication.” ~ Review by Liam D. Ducharme
I think I’m having a stroke
I grew up as most little girls do… Hoping and dreaming about that guy on a white horse that would somehow slide that glass slipper on my foot, and we would live happily ever after. I write this and laugh thinking about how independent I have always been. How in the world did I think those things could ever happen when I refuse to let any man pay for my meal on a date? I have my dad’s voice in the back of my head, and I can see his face. “You don’t owe any man anything.” I am so blessed in this area of my life. I have this incredible man who took the job of being my dad when it wasn’t his responsibility to do so. Yeah, I have a “step dad” but if you say that in my company you will get “the look.” We don’t use words like “step” or “half” in my family. I was raised that the people who step up, and love you without condition are your family-period. That whole “Blood is thicker than water” deal does not apply here. I could write an entire series of books on the relationship I have with my dad, and how he saved my life many times over, but I need to keep this just about the other man in my life, the one that promised me the glass slipper, but somehow got sidetracked….
Don and I had been dating for a few months, and we both knew that this was going to be what forever was. There was this kind of instant connection that made it feel as if we had known one another our entire lives. That being said, there were some serious “red flags” that I kept seeing pop up, but I was at an age in my life that I figured we all have this baggage to deal with one aspect or another, right? No one’s perfect, and I want to have kids and someone that has to legally be there for me at the end of the day because we signed this piece of paper, and promised we would do and be that, for one another in front of our friends and family. Yeah, I want that, please.
[bctt tweet=”If you’re upset, speak your piece, but try to do so with love, and honor. #memoir His Stroke; My Recovery #selfhelp” via=”no”]
I’m going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly, and in some parts of this, I played all three of these characters as well. There are no good guys or bad guys. There is human emotion, and every person in this book has a different perspective on how the very same story I’m telling went for them. I walked through the depths of hell, and total despair, and I’m on the other side of it telling you that life is short and that you need to love with all your heart. If you’re upset, speak your piece, but try to do so with love, and honor. If you love someone secretly, JUMP the hell in, and tell them. You want that piece of chocolate cake, but feel like you shouldn’t, HAVE the cake. If you’re struggling in your relationship with your partner, strip it down. At some point, there has to be the place of not wanting to be right, but wanting to meet in the middle. MEET in that middle NOW. Who cares about who was right? Really? If that person were to meet their demise today, would you really care if you were right? One more day, give me one more day, please, I’d do anything for one more day… TODAY is that day, kids. Live it, like it’s your last, and know we’re all struggling with our own demons. Be kind, be present, and always love, always…
“I couldn’t tell your cousin that you were in the bathroom.” I’m just surrendering to all of the emotions that are welling up as Don says this to me. The past eight months have been anything but wedded bliss, and I’m at the end of my rope with it all. I’m trying to think of how we can just get through today, and once again, put on a façade for our family and friends, that all is good. At this point, I’m seriously wondering how we can get through forever, and not be whatever this is.
“Don, it’s fine. Stevie ended up waiting, and not walking in while I was in the bathroom, so it’s fine.” Don has his spatula for the grill in his hand, and he’s looking at me as if I’d just told him I’m having an affair… We ended up here in our bedroom, in the middle of June, for my parents’ wedding reception. They decided after being together for twenty-plus years, that they would finally tie the knot. I wanted to make sure today of all days went well. Don and I have been to special functions for his work, and breast cancer fundraisers, and numerous other work events in these past months, and every single time he calls me out for talking too much, or not talking enough, not holding myself the way I’m supposed to. You name it, it’s been said in these days past, and today I’m waving my white flag. Today, I need to just not argue and to make this celebration everything I know my family deserves.
“Mindy, I couldn’t tell him you were in there.” Now his face is beet red, and he’s got this look of someone who just wants to just get their point across. I say “Yes, Don, but again, he didn’t walk in on me, and it’s okay.” The energy of the room is high, and I’m trying to get us back outside to tend to our loved ones. “You’re not listening to me, Tiffany, I couldn’t”… Tiffany, TIFFANY!
“I know you’re upset, but please don’t call me Tiffany.” I know we’ve been through the rigmarole of emotions, but DO NOT call me Tiffany.” Tiffany is Don’s first Ex-Wife, and he is anything, but fond of this woman. You wouldn’t blame him if you knew the history. He dealt with, and shouldered things that would make anyone lose their mind. When we were dating, he came to my house and said she met him at the front door with a knife in hand when he was there to visit his daughter. She threatened to slit his throat if he didn’t leave. He ended up staying with me, and my roommate for a few weeks until the lawyers could hammer out the details…He had asked me over for dinner one night, and when we opened his front door all that was left in his house was dust bunnies. She took everything but the kitchen sink, and that’s probably because she couldn’t fit it in her friend’s car. There is absolutely no love lost there, and so when he called me Tiffany, I was in a state of shock, and it cut deeper than anything he could have said. Little did I know what was going on, little did any of us know.
“I’m sorry, Tiffany, Mindy, I mean, Tiffany.” A few friends and family had come looking for us to see what may have been taking so long, and there’s a knock on the door. “Come in.” I know they had been standing there for a while, with the looks they all displayed on their faces. I think for the first time they saw how hurt I had been all these months. There was no more hiding. “Are you two okay?” As I went to answer that, I had no idea how to. NO, we were NOT okay. Does THIS look like okay? We don’t sleep in the same bed most nights because we’ve argued, and that thing that makes you know it’s all going to be okay, we don’t have that. I don’t think we ever did. Do they want to hear all of that? So, I just let go. I finally surrender, and say “I don’t know what’s wrong now, but there’s always something wrong.” I look around the room, and look to see Don’s expression, and he’s calmer, but he’s in the same place I am. We’re both crying, but he’s still adamant about the bathroom. My mom and two closest friends are in the midst of all of this. I felt like a fraud, a total liar. I kept this all to myself for this long, and they’re wondering what in the world is happening, and how?
“Okay, Min, and Don, so Stevie was trying to get in the bathroom, but Mindy was in there, and you tried to tell him that she was in there, Don?” “Is that what’s going on?” My mom asked
“I’m so sorry I keep saying Tiffany.” Don has tears coming down his face, and I’m crying too. The shock, and awe from my mom, and friends went through us like a bolt of lightning. I know that in this very moment they’re getting their minds around it, and trying to help all at once. “Don, why call her Tiffany, you know that has to hurt her.” “I couldn’t get the words out straight, I couldn’t get the words out, and now I don’t know.” You could cut the tension with a knife, and every heart in this room is confused and very heavy. “It’s going to be okay guys, you just need some time, and it’s going to be okay.” I know that my mom rarely talks to hear herself, but that day, she was blowing smoke just to try to lighten the mood up a bit. I think she hoped, as we all did, that it would work out. The first year is the hardest they say, and I would agree completely.
I turn to Tom, and say “I want a cigarette.” I had quit years before, and it was so hard. Tom insisted that I stay smoke-free. “Give her an effing cigarette.” Today I write this, and think of this moment, and THAT makes me laugh. If you could have seen the look on my mother’s face when she told Tom to give me that cigarette, you’d have shown up with a carton, and an apology letter as to why it took you so long to get there to give me that cigarette. Tom hands me a cigarette, Carol lights it, Carol’s boyfriend Mike opens his jacket, and takes out a flask with chocolate liquor in it, and hands it to me with a smile. Looking at it now, I know that these people were just as lost for words as I was. They were just the most supporting, loving group me, and Don could have asked for. Don went back outside to man the grill, and I stayed inside and spilled my guts to my loved ones. I had no clue how we had lost it all. We were mere shadows of the couple we had been. It happened very fast. We didn’t have the normal fighting over money, and the exes, and kids, and sex. We had bi-polar exes, and kids that talked to Don on the phone to keep him busy as their mom literally steals all of his belongings, and a new boss that made sure Don knew as long as he made him look good, he could keep his job. I think that living with all of that negativity for so long robbed us of the relationship that could have been. I will say that we should have said NO, and thrown up boundaries, and made people stick to them. Both of us are guilty of that. Both of us can take the wreckage today, and own our part in it, and TODAY, we insist that we, me, I could have done better. I could have done more, and I am so sorry that I didn’t make you the priority. Not many exes can have that argument, and mean it.
The party is officially over, and Don and I talk. We talked that night like we should have talked our entire marriage. “Tiffany is going to jail, and the girls are going to be alone, and I can’t let that happen.” I wasn’t shocked, I just said that we wouldn’t let that happen for sure. They could live here, and we’d figure it out. Don always wanted them to live here with us, but they didn’t want any part of it, so I knew it was going to be a fun ride getting there, but we’d make it happen. Don’s mom told him about Tiffany going to jail earlier that day, right before he couldn’t tell Stevie that I was in the bathroom. Good ole’ Lucille has a knack for timing. Who is Lucille? Lucille is the Mother-in-Law you always heard about in bad bedtime stories, and if you don’t agree with me by the end of this book, I’d be shocked…
“Don there is something in your past that you haven’t dealt with, or even spoken about, or something that you need to talk to a professional about. I knew a little something about things in the past that had the potential to kill you, but left you there, just barely breathing.” I hit the nail on the head, the one time in life I’d rather not be right, but Don agreed that he would see someone trying to find peace, and hopefully we could do that together. Hell yeah, I’m in, I’m all in. This is our marriage, and I’m going to fight like hell for it. We held each other that night as we always should have. I knew that this was just the beginning. I did know that, but I didn’t know what it was the beginning of. I don’t think anyone knew.
I am the lightest sleeper you would ever meet. I am woken up to the sound of someone hitting the bathroom floor over, and over. The party went well, all things considered, and I figured that sound was my baby brother all of seventeen, who had way too much to drink, hitting the floor. I get up thinking I’m going to have to muster up all the energy I have to pick my brother up off of the floor and drag him to the couch. I could have woken my parents who were in the downstairs guest room, but figured I could handle it. I opened the door, and there’s Don sitting on the floor with his toothbrush in his hand. He turns his head, and when I looked in his eyes, I knew this wasn’t good. I run over to him, and say “Hey, Pooh, are you okay?” And he didn’t speak, I knew he wanted to. Now, I’m running through what is going on in my head, and he is nestled between the toilet and the bathtub. I am on the ground with him, and he’s trying to get up on his right side. It’s like the ground beneath him is falling, and he cannot get up. I’m trying to help, and hold him all at the same time, so he doesn’t knock his head because he insists on getting up, but cannot. I know something is very wrong, so I hold him, just hold him, and say “It’s going to be okay, Pooh, I got you.” I know I have to call 911, so I tell him that he needs to stay right there, and I’m going to run, and get help. “I’ll be right back, please don’t try to get up, Sweetie.”
I run downstairs, and open my parent’s door, turn the light on, and say “You need to call 911 NOW, something is wrong with Don.” I run back upstairs, and before I can even think my folks were behind me, and calling the paramedics, asking me what happened? “I don’t know, he’s not talking, and can’t get up.” The look in Don’s eyes is a fear I will never forget as long as I live. This look goes right through me, and I put on a strong face, as I always do, and tell him “It’s okay, baby, it’s going to be okay, help is on the way.” The paramedics get there and ask me every question under the sun. We get in the ambulance, and Don’s holding onto my hand like it’s his only lifeline. I talk to him the whole way, all the while answering questions about the day before. Getting ready for my parent’s gathering was a lot of work, they said he may have had a tick embed themselves, and that does a number on you…. We get to the hospital, and it was around 4 in the morning on a Father’s Day Sunday. I called his brother’s house as Don’s parents were there for the summer. I knew they’d want to know what was going on. I tried calling every few hours and had my family do it for me until they reached them so I could be there for Don. The things I’ll always remember are here in the beginning. These things carry a place in my mind today, and forevermore. Don was able to talk when we got to the hospital, not in a complete sentence, but was able to answer questions, and said to the doctor, and I will quote this until the day I die.” I think I’m having a stroke.” No, Mr. Clark, you’re not having a stroke, we are going to run a battery of tests, and we are keeping you here until we figure it out, but you are most certainly not having a stroke.” In the midst of all of this, my senses are on overdrive. I know, I don’t know how I know, but I know I need to really listen, and make sure I understand all that is happening, and if I don’t, to put my pride away, and ask the things I don’t understand. It felt like seeing and hearing things through another point of view. Like I was watching, and participating in the same movie. Don, being able to speak again, is telling me that he wants me to call my friend Diane about that kitten I wanted and that he wanted to re-do our honeymoon, and this time, we’d go to “Skinny Legs” a restaurant I had asked that we check out, and he was too busy working on his laptop…..He said he wanted to go back to the restaurant we got engaged at, and have dinner, and…..I can see the desperation in his eyes, and I stop him and say “We’re okay, and it’s going to be okay, we will get through all of this, and do everything you want, we want. Please don’t waste your energies on regrets, we have forever to make memories, and we will.”
Don squeezes my hand, and said: “No matter what they say, you have to be completely honest with me, whatever the diagnosis, don’t lie.” Today he knows that I would do all of that, and then some, but I think then he was still getting to know his wife.
“No matter what they say, and how hard it is, I will tell you truthfully everything. I will do whatever it takes to help you, and you have my word that when Tiffany goes to jail, that your girls know that they have a place to come home to. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you, Pooh, I love you.” My family is there supporting us, and doing their best to make us laugh. My dad mentioned that we could use their time share, “Don works too hard, and needs a vacation.” Yes, yes he did, and yes, he does. You need to tell him that, though. This man started working for his company at fourteen years old. He started out as a bag boy and has made his rise all through the years in this corporate environment. He eats, sleeps, and breathes this company. I will not use the name or any, as I don’t need a lawsuit. And if any company could find a loophole, it would be this one. So, I shall just say company. He loved his job and everything about it. The place had changed leaps and bounds in the years that have passed, but Don’s loyalty to them is something I had never experienced. He loved his career, and this company as if it were a living, breathing person, and he loved it with all his heart. No matter what. He worked all of our honeymoon. I snorkeled and went scuba diving all alone because he was on his laptop. I remember crying myself to sleep every night, and spending the days with total strangers as I was in the water, and he on his laptop. All couple-strangers, who were thinking the very same thing I was.
Don worked far too hard, and it was catching up to him quickly. I couldn’t think about time shares or anything but who else are they going to bring in here that is going to diagnose him? Around eight in the morning, I got the answer to that question. Dr. Fortier came in like a hurricane, and got in my face, and said “I need to get your permission to give Donald Heparin. It comes with risks as any drug, but ultimately it will get the blood going through to all parts of the brain, and he needs that now, make the decision as quickly as you can.” As he goes to turn away, I tell him to do it. If you haven’t guessed Dr. Fortier is a Neurologist, and Don is STILL in the middle of a STROKE. “That’s what I wanted to hear, it’s scary, but it’s for the best, he’ll be in a coma anywhere from a few hours to a full day, we induce it, and are here to monitor it.” Dr. Fortier is right the point, and he’s looking at me like HOW old are you anyway?? There is a thirteen- year difference between Don, and I, and at the time, I was twenty-seven. Today, my brother is twenty-seven and I cannot imagine him going through this at that age. He’s so young. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I’ve felt young, and this experience certainly was no exception.
“So, it is a stroke?” I think that question went through all of us at once. Don literally said that, and we’re all in awe, and shock. Don doesn’t smoke and is UNDERWEIGHT. He lives a clean, healthy lifestyle, and if he can have a stroke, no one is immune. That’s why I say if you want that piece of cake, eat it. Our lives are predestined. It doesn’t matter what you do, or don’t do, and I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for this, but it’s my truth, I welcome and accept yours as yours too. That’s what makes this big world go ‘round. I won’t push my truths on you, I simply want to share them as a way to get you to look at the kaleidoscope that we call life to look a little differently than what you’ve been accustomed to.
So much was happening, and so fast that I would get the information, and update our families, and I had another set of information coming at me just as fast. It was hard to keep up, and the entire time I’m just trying to send Don as much healing energy as I can. I know that even though he’s in a coma, he knows exactly what is going on. I know that his spirit is here, and listening to everything that is being said and done around him. Our families were at each other’s throats. Dr. Fortier said he’s been doing this as long as I’ve been on this earth, and there are usually two things that can happen. This can make a family stronger, or it can tear them apart. I knew which of those two choices Don and I were catapulted into very early on. So, here’s my advice if this happens in your world (and I hope and pray it doesn’t) leave your ego at the door. Leave all arguments from the past in the past. Don’t make it about you, and don’t let the other family members make it about them. Speak from a place of courage, and strength, and if you can (and it is hard when the world is falling apart), speak from a place of love. And if you have to be your loved one’s voice, be brave. Do and say things you are too scared to for yourself, for the love of them. I always say in the beginning I used my voice (and what a boastful bitch I am, who knew?) and as I prayed for more strength daily, I began to see the need to be just as brave, but with grace. It’s a balancing act for sure.
Don and I had been married eight months, and in those eight months we never spoke of death, and what we should do if we had to make such horrific decisions, or even buying burial plots. We pretty much sucked at the good stuff, so to talk about that would have been even worse. So, I have Lucille chattering in my ear about how her son wouldn’t want to be a vegetable. She knows him better than I do, just ask her, she’ll tell you. “He’s not going to be a vegetable; can we take this outside of the room?” I am at my wits end, and a feeling I will come across many times, and for many years following this conversation.
“That is MY son in the bed, and he wouldn’t want this.” Lucille and Joe (Don’s dad) have been here at the hospital during visiting hours wreaking havoc. Not a positive word had been uttered, and it somehow became about Lucille. She was due for a check-up, and she just knew her blood pressure was going to be right through the roof, she was going to tell her doctor that she needed to be checked now for a stroke. Her head hurt, she couldn’t believe that this was happening to her. This is what I am replaying as she’s letting me know that Don wouldn’t want this. I look at her, and for a moment, I forget that it’s been a few days, and I hadn’t dressed when we left in the ambulance. I was in my pajamas, and the hospital didn’t want me there around the clock, so I couldn’t have a shower either, and they made every attempt to make my life miserable so I would go home and come back just during visiting hours. I smelled funky, and I didn’t give a damn. I was staying with Don, period. I look at Lucille, and I’m aware that my hair is greasy, and I hadn’t eaten since we left the house. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep food down, the nervous nerves of an empath. That would be me. I know that Lucille gets what Lucille wants, and what she says is law. I was told that by Don, and everyone that warned me about her, and there are far too many to list here. I felt in that moment that I knew a little about what my husband’s childhood must have been like. She was so furious, and kept saying, “Let him go, he wouldn’t want this, and you need to pull the plug.” I told her that was my husband she was talking about, and we didn’t have those conversations, but he’s in an induced coma, and the hospital knows what they’re doing. They had to induce the coma to get the blood flowing to all parts of his brain again. She’s been told this numerous times, and refuses to HEAR it, and just pushes her way through so you hear what she is demanding you do. She shakes her head yet again, and I say “That’s my only husband in there, you have four other kids.” That sentence has haunted me every day since. How in the hell did those words come out of my mouth, and who says that? Not one of my prouder moments but Lucille came back with “So that makes it alright to lose him?” No, no, it doesn’t. I was already done. The Mindy I know would never say that to another human being, even if said human being was a monster. We’re in the middle of this conversation, and Dr. Fortier approached us, and looks at me, and asks to talk about Don for a minute. Lucille insists that he talk to her, and Dr. Fortier asked me if that was okay? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so entitled, so very mad. She said “You asked to speak to Mrs. Clark. I AM MRS. CLARK.” Dr. Fortier looked at me as if to say, what do you want me to do here? I gave him the nod it was okay. These were Don’s parents, and regardless of what was going on, they needed to hear his prognosis as well. He told us that it was Don’s corroded artery that burst and the clot got through that way.
Lucille asks if they were going to do surgery to get the clot out? Now, this was the third time I had heard and seen her ask this same question, and again Dr. Fortier said no, that wasn’t necessary. Dr. Fortier then excused himself, and walked off, leaving us there to hash it out again. Lucille is on her tip toes (and I’m a short lady myself) and she got right in my face and told me to make this right. I wasn’t pulling the plug, there was no need to, this isn’t a goddamned Lifetime movie, and YOU are not the patient. That was what was going through my head, and I simply said “No, please just try to speak to him when you are visiting, he can hear us, and I want him to know that we are right here waiting, and keep it positive, the spirit never dies, and his is just waiting for reason to jump back here.” I got the look that I always get. I do energy work, and I work with all things holistic. “That’s not true, and you need to do this for Donald, your husband is dying.”
“GET OUT, GET OUT, GEEETTTT OUUUUTTTT!!” I was so mad in that moment that I could have hit her. I was in such a state that the nurses came running, and told the Clarks they needed to leave as they escorted me back into Don’s room. Don’s dad Joe finally stepped in and said that it wouldn’t be necessary for security to be called, they would leave. Probably the smartest words I ever heard come out of his mouth. Joe, of his own accord, is a good man, he just stands there like a knob on a door while his wife says, and does whatever she pleases to whomever she pleases, and goes along to get along. Side note here- I began writing this book and didn’t want to “Hurt anyone’s feelings” and was going to try to smooth over these instances. Not even smooth over my own, but everyone else’s, and then Don went missing, and was so sad when he was found, that he said he wanted to “Be with god.” Then I knew I had to write this just as it happened, and if they didn’t like it, tough shit. In my morning meditations, I was being guided to write the truth for those caretakers of the world. So, here it is. Where was I?
Oh yeah, I threw Don’s folks out. Not literally, and I was more than okay if they came back to the hospital when they gathered their emotions, and sense. Mrs. Clark told me that I’d be sorry, I was dead in her eyes, and I would regret this for the rest of my life. Just what every daughter-in-law dreams of hearing…. Yeah, she made it her life’s mission to do just that and is very good at it. I am one of numerous ex-wives that have gotten the same speech. In fact, we could hold an ex-Mrs. Clark support group, no joke. I think that the other exes are just happy to not live in a state of “crazy” any longer, and as an ex-Clark, I agree completely.
Dr. Fortier said that by all rights Don should have died that night. He is a walking, talking miracle. The following days in this hospital were some of the hardest days I’ve ever known, (am I making this about me?) NO, I don’t like to put words in Don’s mouth. I’d give twenty years of my life to read his book on all of this. As a matter of fact, I’d give twenty years of my life to have dinner with my best friend, and tell him that because he chose me to be in his life, he made my life worth living. He made me have to find a place in my soul that I never knew existed.
Don came out of his induced coma and was a mess. This man literally had to learn everything we take for granted every single day. He couldn’t eat, or drink anything that wasn’t thickened for WEEKS. He hated that (who wouldn’t?). My folks and brother were there daily for us. They live about an hour away, and they were there every day like clockwork. My and Don’s stairs at the house were in pretty bad shape. My dad decided that Don needed new stairs for when he came home, and he and my brother built the most beautiful stairs I had ever seen. My dad said, “Don has new stairs so he’ll be safe when he comes home.” My dad works 10 days a week so to make the time for this was mind boggling. They fed our cat, mowed our lawn, and just kept both of our spirits up as best they could. They wanted me to go home to get sleep, and eat. I refused. Still stinky WEEKS later, and the vending machine food was better than nothing. I hadn’t even gone to the cafeteria. I didn’t want to leave Don. I finally surrendered after Tom called, and one of the nurses came to give me the message. Don looked at me like “WHO IS TOM?” I said, “You remember Tom, my bridesmaid from our wedding, the one who had a more handsome date than any of my girlfriends??” Hoping to make him laugh, and remember all at once. No such luck. He picked up the phone and was about to throw it at me. Okay, stop here for a second. Don, in no way, shape, or form is abusive. This is all about the stroke, kids. AND he didn’t have a voice to talk- the stroke robbed him of that. It completely took out his speech “center.” I left to get coffee. Oh, coffee my love, how I have missed you. If your last name is Caron, you were born with a cup of coffee in your hand. It’s a hard birth, but caffeine is so worth it…. I rode in the elevator with Lucille (Oh yay) When I got in the elevator I didn’t know which number to press, and Lucille said: “You don’t know where the cafeteria is?” NO, this was the literal first time I had left Don’s side, 3 weeks in. I just said “No” and she pushed the floor for us, and offered to pay for my coffee when I realized I hadn’t brought my change. If you could have seen the looks I got getting in that elevator. I didn’t care how I looked, or as it were, how I smelled. If you knew me, you’d say NO WAY. You are the queen of lotions, and always smell so great. Not then. Looking back at it today, I’d have taken better care of me. Without taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. I would have gone home for a shower, and food daily for a few minutes, and then right back to the hospital. If you’re a caretaker, please read this, and know that self-care is just as important as taking care of your loved one. Read and re-read this, and know that it’s not selfish, it’s necessary, and will only make it easier for you to continue being a caretaker.
There was this nurse that I hadn’t seen before, and I was pretty up on the staff, she ended up being there when I got back from getting my coffee in Don’s room. She looked at me and saw something that no one else had. I got back to Don’s room, and he was still very upset that my gay best friend had called me. This roller-coaster ride was something else. I put on a brave face and sucked it up. I tried to sit down near Don, and he still wasn’t having it, and this nurse came to me, and pulled me in the hallway, and said: “This is just the beginning, you have a long haul in front of you, let it out.” I looked at her stone-faced and refused to let it out. As I was about to rebut that I was “fine,” she wrapped her arms around me, and squeezed, and said, “let it out.” I was still stone-faced, but when she held me, I started to shake, and I knew it was coming. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming now, no matter how I tried, and she stood there and held me tight. I thought if I cried it would hurt Don somehow, and I wanted to be strong for him and had been. This kind, beautiful stranger just showed me a kindness, and love I had been too strong to feel from anyone else. I sobbed on her for what seemed like forever. I finally stepped back to look at her, and thank her, and she just looked at me, and moved my hair out of my face, and nodded. I’ve yet to see a beauty, and kindness in someone as I did that day. She said, “I have to go to another patient, you’re going to get through this.” And she was gone. I hadn’t seen her before that day, and not a day thereafter. I didn’t even know her name to inquire. I tried describing her to the other nurses, and they said: “you need sleep, honey.” I get goosebumps thinking about that day, and will for the rest of my days. That kind angel helped me so very much. I think that day, that cry, I knew it was going to be hard, but I could do it. I could get us through this, and get to a place we had never known. Yeah, I can do that. No problem.
I got a call from our benefits person at work and had to leave the hospital to take care of paperwork. I explained to Don a thousand times that I had to leave, but would be back as soon as I could. If you could have seen the way, he looked at me YOU would slap me for having left that day. My job was also on the line, and we were going to talk about what the next step for that would be. Don and I worked for the same company. When he had the stroke I called HR and told them we would be out until further notice. I knew that FMLA would carry us through for a while, the problem was that I was a few days short of being eligible for FMLA. I had quit work when Don and I married, and begged Don to go back to work because I was SO bored. So I got another position at the same company, and we drove to work together. It was up to my supervisor if they would hold my job. I wasn’t sure if I had been able to showcase my work ethic in that short time. My manager decided to keep my job open for me and hire temps until I got back. I found out a year or so later that my managers’ boss wanted to fire me, but Linda went up to bat for me. She didn’t have to, and I’m so very blessed that she did. Linda showcased a compassion and bravery I have never seen a manager exude. Months later she was very literally my advocate. I don’t know many managers who give their employees the same support you would expect from a family member. She went above and beyond.
I ran home and jumped in the shower. HOLY JESUS, I forgot how good it feels to be this clean, and when I blow dried my hair, I felt like I was at a salon. Putting on my make-up, and clothes that day I had an appreciation I never had before. I left the house sleep deprived, but DAMN I looked like a million bucks! And smelled like a dream. I got to the office and wanted to not be seen. I knew I’d get bombarded with questions, and get that look of pity that no one ever wants to see. I have no clue how I pulled it off, but I did. I met with benefits, and then the credit union. Don took care of all the bills, and I knew I had to get a crash course in this, and they were so helpful. I almost had a heart attack when they opened our account. The teller said, “You don’t pay all of these bills monthly, but they’re in the system for when you do.”
I had let Don take care of all of those things. I didn’t know anything about our finances. I am kind of old-fashioned, and was okay with handing my pay check over, and just letting Don take care of it all. Today, I am in the know, and I urge anyone, woman or man reading this to do the same. It’s of great importance that you know what’s going on in case something happens. You don’t want to be slapped in the head with these things, AND deal with whatever it is that put you in that situation. For instance, (you’re going to love this) I had no idea you could have more than one mortgage on your home. Yep, I had no idea. WHY would anyone do this to themselves?? If you hadn’t guessed, Don and I had two mortgages on the house. Don had been paying his folks’ cable and electric bills too. I called my mom and said, “How many times a month do you pay your cable and electric bill?” And she laughed, and said “HOW MANY times a month??” “Yes, mom, how many times a month??” “ONCE, Min. Do I even want to know why you’re asking me this???” If you’re a couple, be in the know. Talk about these things, and come to an understanding. It’s not about who brought what debt, and how much to the table, it’s about getting through it together, and in complete knowledge. Knowledge is power.