Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Henry's Return

At day twenty or twenty-one, we were pushing hard for discharge from the co-op. Bob’s low blood pressure was keeping us caged and pacing. He was clear of infection but couldn’t get his blood pressure up or his appetite back. We had hoped to be back at the apartment by the time Henry returned but it appeared Bob’s blood pressure was not following our plan.

Henry arrived back in Omaha with his Aunt Kathy, his blue eyes wide, giving us the Henry Stare when I opened the door and found them standing stiffly in the hallway. My nine month pregnant belly blocked the doorway and I was still wearing the latex gloves and yellow mask needed for the dressing change I had just performed on Bob’s central line. Bob cautiously stood up from the chair, careful not to get lightheaded from the effort, pulled his shoulders back, and raised his bony face toward his son.

Henry, standing in that dimly lit hallway, looked older than his three years. His eyes were weighted by all the thoughts swirling in his head, his body guarded, ready for the next blow. Henry looked at us as if we were apparitions. It had only been three weeks but a lifetime had passed since we last saw each other. We were surely different people now.

How could we come back together from these different lives we had been living and resume our life as a family? Were we still speaking the same language?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Hey there-

I find washing another person's hair one of the most physically nurturing things you can do for a person. A foot or hand massage comes in a close second.

Every Monday I "watch" my mother-in-law. She is 86 and has memory loss, bad eyesight, pain in her knees, and poor hearing. She lives by herself next door to two of her daughters. I like to think of it as the Milwaukee Wellenstein compound.

One of the activities we do together is a bath. (well, we don't do it TOGETHER....)I fill the tub for her and make sure she gets in safely and put in some good smelling essential oils or bath salts her daughter mixes up. Once situated she lays back, closes her eyes, and groans in utter relaxation.

"That smells great," I heard her say yesterday as I walked down the hallway. I smiled because I think aroma is so important and it was very satisfying to hear her appreciate the bath salts.

After she lingers in the tub a while I get to wash her hair. It can be a tricky task because I seem to have difficulty regulating the temperature of the water that comes out of the hand held shower;

"That's too hot.....now that's too cold!" she yells (because her hearing aide is out) at me as I try to rinse the soap out without scalding her scalp.

Even with the water temperature challenge I love to wash her hair. I give her a nice scalp massage and she moans in gratitude. But that is not why I love it. Something about washing her hair makes me feel so close to Bob. I can't explain why the action of washing Bobs mom's hair makes me think of Bob every time, but it does.

I miss washing the boys hair for them now that they shower and do it on their own. I hear some parents complain about bath time but it is one thing I really miss with the boys growing up.(It just might be the only thing I miss!) As long as we weren't rushed I enjoyed the frolicking and splashing and the smell of lavender and orange wafting up from the water. I loved rubbing their little heads, soaping up their hair and watching the bubbles run down their back as I rinsed them off.

Occasionally these days Arthur will ask me to come in and wash his feet. I sing a silly song and tickle him when I lather up the toes and he loves it. But neither of them ever ask me to wash their hair anymore.

But I get to do their grandma's hair, and I find it even more satisfying. I think it has to do with the fact that I can no longer nurture her son. While I did massage Bob's feet with peppermint oil right up until the end, I never washed his hair, and I will never have the chance to now since we aren't growing old together as planned.

My sisters-in-law act like I am doing them a big favor even though I am not spending time with my mother-in-law simply out of the kindness of my heart, they do pay me for my time. No one tell them but I think it is they who are doing me the favor,and I don't mean financially. I am the one who is receiving the biggest rewards from the situation. I get to do a little pampering for the person who was literally connected to Bob for nine months. Maybe that is why I feel such a connection to Bob when I wash her hair.

Every week I get to nurture the woman who nurtured the father of my children, I think that is pretty special.

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, May 14, 2010


Hey there-

Mike and I wrote a proposal to do a presentation at Camp Widow hosted by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. (www.sslf.org)

It was accepted!

The camp is August 6-8, 2010 in San Diego and our topic is remarriage after widowhood. We are calling it "Plan B", the same as my new blog for milwaukeemoms.com

We are excited about the opportunity to share our story and inspire others in similar situations.

There are lots of other very cool topics that will be addressed during the weekend and good old fashioned camaraderie. If anyone knows of anyone who might benefit please send them to the website and have them check it out. www.sslf.org

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, May 7, 2010


Hey there,

I am working on perspective with Henry.

He has none.

If he forgets his lunchbox at school (which he has done exactly one time) he storms around the house throwing things and yelling about how stupid he is and that he does not deserve to be in the third grade. If he forgets his library books (which he has done exactly one time)he, once again, beats himself up, crying about how embarrassing it was and it was “all his fault” that his class didn’t get any cookies because he was the ONLY one to forget his library books. One time he forgot to do his math homework (one time) and the whole house had to hear about how much he hates to forget his homework and how stupid he is and now his teacher was going to SAY something to him.

The horror!

Come on. You would think I punish him with a branding iron if ever forgets anything. When in actuality I go the other way, trying to explain to him that these events are not that big a deal in the grand scheme of life. It is only third grade and it was only one time. Much worse things could happen; we could be living in Haiti and have no place to live or running water, we could be living in America and have no house and no running water, our house could burn down, your dad could be dead.

Wait, that one really happened. Oh dear.

Therein lies the problem for me. I believe Henry should have some built in perspective meter due to the fact that he has survived much worse. Forgotten library books and lunchboxes seem rather trivial compared to your dad dying. Am I right? Really, if Bob’s death has taught us anything let it be not to sweat the small stuff.

Enjoy the small stuff, but don’t sweat it.

But apparently that is not the way it works, at least not for Henry. Maybe the opposite has happened. He knows that bad stuff does happen, and for no apparent reason. So why not freak out about small stuff like forgotten homework or library books? Next thing you know your dad might be dead. Life is a precarious event.

But that is not the lesson I want to be taken away from Bob dying. I want the lesson to be that we should be grateful for what we have and enjoy people while they are here and that your lunchbox is not that big of a deal. There is always a paper bag.

I know I have lost some of the clarity that comes with being so close to tragedy. I have blogged about it before, that feeling of being stripped of everything but the most basic necessities, and the clear knowledge that nothing matters but love, affection, nourishment, and safety.

Over the last six years the layers have built up again and I find myself getting agitated about being late to swim lessons or to a dinner date with friends, pretty small stuff in the grand scheme of things. If I want Henry to gain some perspective I need to gain it back myself. I don’t want to be living another tragedy, but I long for that stripped down feeling that made it so easy to know what was important and what wasn’t. Where can I find that and how can I teach that to my children, without someone having to die that is?

Thanks for checking in-