Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dad's condition

Taken most of this post from an email to a family member, its been changed and updated

Things with dad have been going well, took him out for a walk the other day. The last two days he's been to the bank with M and then today he follow J (the landlord) around the house for a few hours as they fixed some drafts and mouse holes and then they started looking at fixing the faucet in the kitchen. J was there from 2pm until about 630. Which meant dad was on his feet for the entire time.

Gave M the hours for the Aqua Size/Fitness class for the pool. She's very interested in going to it with dad since he's allowed to swim. He's not sure about it, he needs to get his own clearance from Dr first. My brother also gave him the skating schedule as well, he's not as keen on that with his back and lack of good balance, that might be something for next year.

M was talking last night about going to get their bikes from the trailer in Newfoundland and having them in Cape Breton for the summer, so that they can get some use out of them. They don't want to spend a lot of time in Newfoundland either to keep him away from the drinking over there while he's still so tempted.

Speaking of tempted, he asked M for a glass of wine with supper the other night, she gave him a wine glass with water and ice in it.

He had a hard time remembering my nephew's name last night and the fact that it was his mom who was pregnant after he first asked us when we got there. Though, he knew one of them was.

Overall his brain functions have been similar to what they've been for the last couple of years, always stumbling for words to finish his sentences and coming up with names is a little tricky for him most days. This is probably something thats always going to give him trouble since its been on going for so long, probably some short term memory loss from the drinking. Gave him a hockey question with my brother the other day and our hint was "his sisters son's name" - he's been calling him by a nickname for so long that it took him almost 30 minutes to work it out.

We gave him a hard time tonight about calling the girls and gave M the numbers for both of them and told her anytime after noon tomorrow would be great to call, even if its just to leave a message. This is the same thing K has been fighting with him for the last couple of years. Thats the best we can do about it though, he's an old stubborn man and it takes alot to get through to him. Brought up AA a little, he still wants to get his balance better before thinking of going. I'll probably mention it once a week when I'm talking to him though.

(Back to my sisters, when dad was moving out of the house he had issues with one of my sisters - they had a screaming match one day and he went to work for his 2 weeks. By the time he was done his shift she was in Vancouver without a job or a place to live just to be as far away from his temper. The other sister had a run in with him when he came back to take the computer that "he paid for" which she didn't agree with. My sister got married away so he wouldn't have any input in the wedding and wouldn't even be required to attend. He showed up as per the invitation but brought along his girlfriend without asking anyone or getting permission. He spent most of the week in his room with her drinking, as per usual. Since then they haven't called him or really told him they were pregnant, it was up to my brother and I to fill him in on their lives, babies and new houses. Makes me sad really. There are 3 people in this relationship and all of them are stubborn about things that have happened in the past. They're all just a bunch of Dumbasses.)

Thats all thats been going on, he's been really chatty and chipper with us when we've been visiting with him, which is a nice little change. We took it easy tonight with our last visit and let the dogs run around like crazy for a while.

I am now in complete possession of his wine making kit. His empty bottles, his containers, filters and all his measuring and temperature gauges. I'm at a loss as to what to do with it. Neither my wife or I drink wine, we have no intentions of ever making it. Deep down in the recesses of my heart I want to keep it in hopes that if he ever gets better he could maybe have a glass of wine with his supper, but I know that he can't stop at just one. (Reminds me of old Ruffles commercial.)

I'm just going to recycle it.

Last week

For the past week, I've been back home essentially babysitting my father. Not anywhere I thought I'd be in the middle of January, but with dad just getting out of the hospital, we thought we needed to come home to be with him.

When dad had his stroke over Christmas, it scared the ever loving shit out of him. There is nothing in the world he wants less than a drink. Though he asked for a glass of wine with supper the other day, but he doesn't consider beer or wine drinking - just rum and vodka. Thats exactly the attitude that got him into the problem he has now.

As we've been spending time with him over the last while, we've learned a few things:
  • When you're so drunk all the time and do not realize you've had 2 (TWO) strokes already, thats a bad sign.
  • He refuses to go to AA. When he "has his feet under him" he would go, maybe to help someone else, since he "doesn't have a problem".
  • My wife got a lesson from my mom on what it was like growing up with my father drinking as often as he did. It was a real eye opener, even for me. (More on this later? probably not, don't need that much detail of my life getting out there.)
  • The doctor seemingly has no hope in my father's ability to keep his seizures from happening and as such, they've banned him from driving for at least 1 year.
  • Trying to get the laziest man on the planet out to do some activity outside of his home, is not the easiest thing in the world.
  • Dad's memory isn't that bad when it comes down to it, he just needs some cues to get it all running again. But having 3 strokes and 3 seizures probably didn't help.
My one accomplishment for the week has been to remove the wine making kit and empty wine bottles from the house. To this point, I'm not really sure what to do with the kit since neither of us drink wine. Thinking of abandoning it on the side of the road by a gas station like they left kids in the 20s and 30s. Bad idea? Probably.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A missed opportunity... or a chance to save a life..?

This is your only warning. This story is about as hard to read as my last post in my blog, it's not a good story in the slightest. It is nowhere near as hard to tell as the story of Chris but its hard to imagine things turning out the way they did if you weren't there to witness it.

I apologize for all of the sadness that has past and is to come in this blog, there are some stories I've been carrying around for years that need to be told. The stories are hard to write but they get that bit of a weight off my chest as well.

The wife (to keep some anonymity referred to as “the wife”) and I have been happily married for 5 years now as you know and up until she became pregnant we were missing something. The little thunder of a child scampering through the house. It was to the point where the wife wasn't as happy for her pregnant friends as she once was, she'd never admit to it but she was starting to get disappointed that she was left behind all of her friends as they started their families.

Lets set the scene: In September of 2009 we were driving back from a visit to Cape Breton when my wife received a phone call. From a friend and she gets really excited. All I hear from my seat is "Yes. Yes. Yes. Say Yes." And begins texting like a maniac on her phone. A couple of minutes pass without much clarification from her when I ask what the deal was.

"Do you remember the girl I worked with, her name was A (referred to from this point forward as “baby mama” [BM]), she was really loud, obnoxious and I had her fired not that long ago? Well, apparently she's now pregnant from a one night fling and is looking to put up the baby for adoption but wants to give it to a family she can meet and not loose the baby in the system doing it through the government."

Thinking about it for a few minutes I think, being the rational one in our marriage, that we should meet up with her so I can get to know her before actually agreeing to this whole thing. Since we don't know what her family is like or what her medical history is like either. the wife agreed to this, all the while texting BM telling her that we're adopting the baby. (I found this out later, the wife knew we were saying 'Yes', she just had to make me realize that it was my idea.)

As time went on, we got to know her and everything that she has done for the past while. She was the type of person who liked to talk. A lot. It was hard getting her to shut up most of the time now that I think about it. Before she had gotten pregnant she was living with a few friends in an apartment that was too small, drinking most nights after work and generally having a reckless disregard for her well being.

We were there when she lost her job at subway, again. We were with her as she moved out of her apartment, she was 4 months pregnant sleeping on the couch because that was where her bedroom was. And as she was having issues with her parents, where she moved back. Her family was understanding of her desire to put the child up for adoption as she is from a broken home and did not want to be a single mom with no job and no place to live.

We started to bring her to our family doctor for her prenatal visits since she didn't have one. All of the visits to the doctors were usually entertaining since she didn't have an inside voice. I stopped going in after the day she blurted out in the waiting room, "Holy fuck my tits hurt today." With a room full of kids present. I would begin to wait in the car to have a nap as I never really felt connected to the baby, after all, she could have changed her mind at any time.

On the first trip to our doctor, was the first real opportunity that I had to meet DM and get to know her. On the trip there she told me how excited she was make us parents and that this baby was ours and there was nothing that we could do to change it. As soon as she was out of the hospital after giving birth, she was going to the bar to do a couple of shots then enrolling in school to do bartending and photography. That's all she talked about for weeks after. The baby was ours.

Things with BM started to get strained around late November. She would call 5 or 6 times a day to talk to the wife because she couldn't stand to be around her mom and her relationship with her seemed to be getting worse by the day. Her mom, by this point, had started letting her share a bed with her, since she was relegated to the couch again. They had a 3 bedroom house: mom had a room, dad had a room and so did her brother. Her brother owned his own house in Hanwell, but she couldn't sleep in his room.

With all that in mind we began the process of adoption, went to meet with a lawyer and put down our $1000 deposit for their services in completing the adoption when the baby was born. Our lawyer seemed awesome, was really enthusiastic about it as they do not get a chance to do many private adoptions. The only problem: he would not be our lawyer, in 3 weeks he was going on paternal leave for 6 months to be with his own child. Looking back now, I could begin to see the signs.

Once we finished with the lawyer we began to finalize the name for our baby. Since we knew it was going to be a girl, we decided her name was going to be Zoe.

The first of December she started calling at the strangest times. I received a telephone call from her at 5am because she couldn't sleep. Not realizing that other people would be sleeping. It took me 45 minutes to interrupt her enough for me to say anything to get her off the phone.

It was shortly after this that the wife and I began to find ways of not talking with her as often. We were slowly becoming the replacements for her current family and we didn't want her to be our 2nd child. Sadly, the only way we could cut communications was to stop answering the phone when she called. Not the best solution in the world, but it was the only way for our marriage to survive.

We began to talk to our doctor about these things, when we mentioned the 5am phone call the look of terror on her face worried me. She began to explain the problems we were going to have separating BM from our lives after we had the baby. She was concerned that she would become obsessed with us and we would never be able to have a life without her.

We talked to BM about what was going to happen after the baby, about visitation, visits, family, names, etc. She seemed to be accepting of it and started backing off on calling 20x a day.

Shortly before this, the wife was able to get her her job back at Subway as a favour from her best friend and manager. This gave her something to do with her time and got her out of the house.

Little did we know, that this would help us see the issue first hand.

First week of December: BM went to get a mani & pedi from the salon next to Subway. She was there for about 5 hours, she spent a good amount of time in the backroom closet on the phone writing the name of the baby over and over and over again on a piece of paper. the wife and her boss went to collect her from the store around 930 as they were receiving complaints from customers. When they found her she was asleep in the chair after her pedi. They brought her home and had a discussion with her mom about keeping an eye on her because something wasn't clicking. A few days earlier she was screwing up orders and giving away food because she thought she was the assistant manager.

After this, she lost her job again as she started to become unreliable and was no longer doing her job. She began to call us at random hours again, but only a few times a week.

Sometime around the 15th of December (could have been a little later), I answered the phone at 3am and discovered, with no surprise that it was her. She was on the phone for less than 30 seconds.

"I'm cold. And I there's some guy looking at me from the closet." Then she hung up.

Around 4pm in the afternoon. the wife received a phone call on her way home from work. From the hospital. The Psyche Ward.

Around 310am, BM was picked up walking on the New Maryland Highway walking into town. She told the paramedics that she got a 'phonecall' from her grandmother and that she was going to Boom! to go dancing before they went on a vacation together. Her grandmother is in her early 70s. When they found her it was shortly after she called us and the person in the closet was someone in their living room window watching her walk down the road.

I'm not sure if they called an ambulance or not, but when they picked her up she was wearing the following:

  • Winter boots.
  • A scarf
  • A sundress

Did I mention that it was THIRTY DEGREES BELOW ZERO!?

That's what she had been walking to town in. She lives out of town, somewhere near Beaver Dam. Which for those needing a point of reference is about a 20-30 minute drive downtown, so it would be about a 3 hour walk.

The wife rushed over to the hospital and went to the Psyche ward. They had called the wife because it was the only number she would give them and because she kept telling the nurses about the baby we were adopting. When she arrived the wife discovered BM was in isolation, being very despondent and restrained. She could not go in to see her, she could only watch her from a monitor in the control room. She had gotten a little violent when she first arrived. (I picture her that day much like my father the last time I saw him in the hospital). Nothing BM was saying was making any sense according to the doctors.

The pregnancy had caused her hormones to become completely unbalanced causing her to have delusions and visions, which caused her episode. This had been happening for a couple of months according to the doctors at the hospital. She had never mentioned anything to us before that day.

That day was the only day they'd share information with the wife, it was 3 days later before her mother bothered to check up and find out where she was. THREE FUCKING DAYS. How does one go about not wondering where their pregnant single daughter is for THREE FUCKING DAYS!?. In those 3 days, her coworker had called the hospital posing as her mother to get some updates. After a while they stopped giving updates over the phone as well.

She spent the better part of the month in the psyche ward. She was on some pretty heavy meds to get her mental condition back in balance. After talking to the nurse we were told that the mother's health was more important than the baby at this point. After a while she came back around and was a bit more like herself. We went to visit her a few times, spoke to her parents a bit as well. Things in her life began to turn around, her parents began to care about her and spent time with her.

The first part of 2010 we had our first visit with our social worker who would be working with us during the adoptive process. She had gotten the report from BM's social worker who had visited her at home before the incident. We went over that report and a number of things began to stand out at us:

  • she was diagnosed as bi-polar with a mild case of schizophrenia. Which is hereditary.
  • she mentioned that her mom and maternal grand mother were as well (truth? We don't know)
  • she had severe learning disabilities growing up to the point that she had her own TA
  • she was held back several times in elementary school
  • she knew nothing about the father of the baby, she only knew his first name and that he was from PEI. So, the father's side of the family was a total mystery.
  • the adoption couldn't go through until the social workers had found or tried to find the father for a period of 6 months.
  • she mentioned to us she wanted to find him and sue him for child support for us. (which doesn't work)

All of this compounded on the incident made us decide to walk away from the adoption. She gave birth the end of February and this was the middle of January. Her deal the entire time after we said yes, was that if the baby wasn't ours she was keeping it until we changed our minds. She even told that to her social worker.

When we told her no she was understanding, might have been the meds though.

That day she said something that sticks out in my mind. She said to us: “I'm going to keep the baby then, I've gone through the pregnancy this far knowing the baby is yours. This baby inside of me is meant for you and when you change your mind she'll be right here waiting.”

Summary of everything since:

  • She got out of the hospital after the baby was born.
  • Her mother (the grandmother) was made the legal guardian until her mental health returned to normal.
  • Her mother named the baby Rihanna (yes, her mother named her after the singer.)
  • BM was not allowed to be alone with the baby for 6 months. If the baby cried she had to have someone else go with her while she picked up the baby.
  • The day we told her no, her dad brought home a crib.
  • She's now off of all her medication and is alone with the baby 3 days a week when her mom is at work.

Her life has been turned upside down and thrown sideways through the grinder, and in a way I think its turned out for the best. Having been diagnosed with a mental condition isn't the upside but taking your life around and out of the destructive path it was on is what I keep focusing on. That little girl is loved and is well taken care of.

That about summarized the baby story. The end of the adoption process is a total blur to me so I hope what I wrote makes sense and I didn't leave out any important parts, again.

With the birth of our own baby girl upcoming I was really partial to the name of Chloe, but this was too similar to Zoe and the heart ache was still too fresh in my heart. We have picked another name for our girl, which in no way reminds of the girl that was going to be ours last winter.

We are both really happy that mother and baby are doing well. Before BM had gotten pregnant she had a drinking problem, like to swear, smoke weed and be your typical out of control teenager. This child has taught her a lot about her life and where her priorities are in life. We couldn't be happier to have helped her.

Now that I'm sitting looking back on the entire experience, I never felt like I was a part of the pregnancy. Don't get me wrong, I was there for the ultrasound, doctors appointments but I never felt a strong attachment to the baby. Was that just my way of preparing myself incase the worst would have happened?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Hardest Story To Tell

12 years ago my life changed. Some would say it built character, I call them liars. Coming up soon is the anniversary of the death of my friend Chris.

I've tried countless times to get this post out, to get it started but every time I do I end up tearing up just thinking about writing it. I'll see if I can go better today.

In the fall of 1997 I started life at University, the single most glorious day of my life. Or so I thought. I arrived at the University late, missed 1/2 a days worth of activities and was the last in the room so I got stuck with the last bed in the room. I'm quite well adaptable so I was able to just deal with it.

On my way down the stairs after unloading the car I run into a guy from the next room. Seriously, I ran into him. Neither one of us were paying any attention at all to what was happening. He begins to show me around the hall and introducing me to some of the guys on the floor. Shortly after it was time for supper and the first evening of frosh week. This is how I met Chris.

He was a tall, and lanky guy from Montreal. He was the clumsiest person in the world since his legs were too long for the rest of his body. He also couldn't speak a lick of French, which being from Montreal confused the hell out of us Maritimers.

He would routinely tell stories from his summer vacations or about his love of snowboarding. The first story he ever told me was the time he wrapped his Volkswagon Golf around a pole while on the way home from a friends, or the time he was skiing on the first run of the winter and broke his ankle and missed the rest of the ski season. Those were the kind of stories you'd hear from him.

That year of University was fantastic, I couldn't of had a better time if I tried. The guys in the hall were great. The parties on campus were great and living in a male wing of a female residence was the best thing a shy guy like me could ever ask for.

When we returned to residence the following fall, there was a new coed residence opening where everyone applied. Chris and my roommate were living directly below me and life was grand. Or so it would seem.

By the time the first set of fall midterms had rolled around, Chris wasn't himself any more. The happy go lucky guy from last year was dispondent and distant when you spoke to him. You had a hard time getting him to smile. Things just weren't the same.

By the time Christmas rolled around Chris was having a horrible time hearing the professors in this classes, he began to tape the lectures to play them later so he could take notes. The year continued on, we had parties, played practical jokes on the cleaning staff. Nothing could be better.

At the end of the year, we all said our goodbyes and moved back home to be with our families and work for a few months until we returned.

When the fall rolled around again, Chris was given his own room in the dorm so that he could study without distraction since he was now having an even harder time hearing. We all figured that it was because he routinely listened to music way too loud on his headphones.

At Thanksgiving he went home to be with his family. And he didn't come back right away. It was about a week later he returned to residence with a smile on his face. We started to see the old Chris come around. The semester rolled on and in the middle of November Chris went home again, this time for the rest of the semester.

A couple of months went by with no word from his family as to what was happening with him, when the Dean of Residence came up to us to give us the news. The Dean was a very close family friend and he had known what was happening for a few weeks now. His father had come down over the weekend and cleaned out Chris' room. He would not be returning this semester.

While he was home at Thanksgiving, he went for some tests and found out that he had an inoperable brain tumor. They didn't get results back until in November when he went home again.

The doctors gave him a few months to live, which according to the Dean was a high estimate.

In February, Chris came to visit. By this time he was in the middle of his Chemotherapy and could no longer walk more than a few steps. The man I had befriended my first day at University was dying.

Regrettably, I did not see Chris when he was in town for a few hours. At the same time I was dealing with the passing of a grandparent the week before and could not bring myself to have that much emotion running though my body.

After speaking with a few people who saw him, Chris no longer recognized anyone he attended school with nor did he remember the layout the residence he lived in for 2 1/2 years. To this day, I still have a hard time coming to terms with my decision not to see him, but I understand everything that I was going through at the time.

In my 31 years on the planet, this is my only regret in life.

Three weeks after his visit to town Chris died in his sleep at home.

His family, realizing the large community of friends he had came to Fredericton with his ashes to have a memorial service at the residence. When the arrived in town they took us out to dinner where they gave us a small urn for us to spread. The Dean of Residence paid for his closest 4 friends to travel to Grand Manan and spend the weekend remembering Chris and everything that he meant to us. Which is what we all needed for some closure.

I will always remember the weekend in the middle of exams when we spread his ashes into the Bay of Fundy on a cold and blustery day in April.

Since University, the 4 of us who were on Grand Manan have since drifted apart and moved all over the world.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Change happens one day at a time

As you may have heard from Facebook or Twitter, my dad had a stroke.

He had a stroke 15 minutes before I was going to see him over Christmas. This stroke was only a mild stroke, more like a warning than anything else.

What was it a warning of? My father is an alcoholic. A terrible alcoholic. When I found out how much he drank in the run of the day I was in shock. It actually scared me.

As I'm standing next to his girl-friend, listening to her retell the story of the happenings of that morning to the neurologist on-duty, the only thing that I can focus on is the number she used when the doctor asked what he drank that morning. It was only 11am when the stroke happened. What was he doing with that already in his system? Did he get up extra early because he knew we wouldn't let him have a single sip?

When I was 18. I hit the bottle like all young kids going away to university. After my 8th week in school, I began to notice a pattern in myself that I didn't recognize. I couldn't remember the weekends any more. From the moment the first liquid hit my lips on Friday afternoon I had little to no recollection of what happened until Monday afternoon.

I sat in the library one afternoon studying for a test when this occurred to me. At the same time, I started to look back at my childhood and all the pictures I've seen over the years. In each picture and memory, there is something sitting on the table, on the arm of the chair, or curled within the frozen pose of my father's hand. A drink. For 18 years worth of pictures and memories, my father always had a drink in his hand. From the moment he woke up until he went to bed. It appeared to be a never ending flow.

I made a commitment to myself that morning. A commitment to my future that would better ensure my health and future for whatever family I had. I vowed that I wasn't going to pass on the desire/need to drink to my kids.

Lets look at some family history.

4 grand parents.
2 parents.
6 aunts and uncles.

7 of them have problems with alcohol. Almost 60% of my immediate family have alcohol problems.

That is where I draw the line.