It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season. For the past two weeks, yes TWO WEEKS folks, I’ve been battling with the flu. I’ve had bronchitis and walking pneumonia before, but I had no idea what I was in store for with my first-ever battle with influenza. It even involved a trip to the ER for fever, dehydration & severe back spasms. While I got some good pain-killers for the spasms, sadly the doctor told me there wasn’t much he could give me to cure my ills. He advised me to hunker down, stay hydrated, sleep and stay away from others, especially my kidlets as much as possible.
This past week has been nothing I could have ever expected.
In a previous post I talked about my 85 year old father, who has now been in rehab for six weeks following colon cancer surgery. He still cannot get up, stand or walk even with the aid of a walker or cane. He has not regained his strength or coordination. Though my father had been trying during his therapy sessions, there has been no significant improvement in his condition. So last week his medical team at the rehab hit our family with a sad conclusion: his physical and occupational therapy should be discontinued. They have suggested that we place him in a nursing home where he can receive 24-hour care. My dad’s not totally aware of what is going on, but you can clearly tell he’s tired, frustrated and scared. However, before we even had the chance to look at potential nursing homes to move him to, we received a call that he needed to go back to the hospital. He had developed an abscess and would need an operation to resolve it. He had the procedure yesterday, Thursday, and is now comfortably recovering. The next step for him is still to be determined, but we are fortunate to have him here for another day.
In the midst of all this was Peanut’s second birthday. She’s still very young and oblivious to what is going on with her Pop-Pop, though she does know something is not right, but I still wanted her to have a birthday celebration. So we invited my mom, sister and brother-in-law to come over for dinner and mini-party, complete with a Hello Kitty birthday cake. That was this past Saturday.
Now, we live in NJ, and as I’m sure you’ve seen on the news over the past week, we had a freak October snowstorm aka “Snowtober” on… SATURDAY! Yes, the very day of Peanut’s birthday celebration. The wet snow combined with leaves still being on the trees resulted in lots of downed limbs which also meant lots of downed power lines. Just as my mom and sister arrived, the electricity went out and wouldn’t return for four very long and cold days.
We made the best of the situation and used our ingenuity to make sure that Peanut still had a celebration. My husband was able to rig our gas line grill up to our generator so he could cook the roast and grill the veggies. I was able to light the stove with a good old-fashioned match and cook some couscous. Mom helped make a salad with what was soon to spoil in our rapidly defrosting fridge and we wound up having a pretty nice feast lit by candlelight and flashlight. A couple of glasses of Pinot didn’t hurt, either!
Waking up in my house on Sunday morning was like walking through a frat house the morning after a rush party. My house was a mess, dirty dishes and glasses in the sink, empty bottles on the counter and sleeping bodies everywhere. With the power company telling us it would be days before electricity and heat would return, the kidlets and I decamped to my mother’s house. She always manages to escape these disasters, so we stayed with her for the next two nights. The poor hubs spent those two nights with our dog at our igloo, I mean, house, with the generator cranking away to make sure our basement wouldn’t get flooded from the melting snow.
I was thankful that my mom took us in. Though I grew up in that house, it’s been a long time since I’ve lived there and with my dad not there, it certainly felt strange. I felt bad for my mom and sister, they are not used to the chaos of two little kidlets. They can sure wear you out. My mom said she enjoyed it all, that having the kidlets around took her mind off of things. I also felt bad for the kidlets, though they dressed up in the costumes, they didn’t really get to celebrate Halloween since it wasn’t really safe to be trick-or-treating with downed power lines all over. However, Nana saved the day with some well placed candy snacks in the kidlets jack o’ lantern buckets.
When the power went back on at 4:50 pm on Tuesday, I screamed and jumped with joy. We were able to return home – as a family unit.
It was not the week that I expected, but right now I’m just grateful that I still have my family….
What are you grateful for?
About six weeks ago my mom called me at work. I instantly knew it was bad news because she rarely calls me at work and this was the first time she’d ever called me there using her cell phone. She got right to the point: “Your father is in the hospital.”
Dad is 85 and his health has been declining for the past few years. There’s been a few scares, but he’s always come out on the good side of luck. This time, though, it was much more serious: his doctor ordered him to undergo a colonoscopy and sent Dad right to the hospital from his exam.
The doctor had found a mass and quickly determined it was malignant. Somehow it fell on me to tell both him and my mom the cancer diagnosis, but that’s a story for another time. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread and the doctor wanted it removed as soon as possible. However, Dad already had plenty of other health problems, – he’s on blood thinners because of clots, has bad circulation in his legs, plus he had recently told he’s diabetic. His entourage of doctors were fantastic and within five days, they were able to get his blood count up and his various other ailments under control enough so they could perform the surgery.
This triggered a flashback from when I was six years old: when my parents told me and my sister that my dad was going to have an operation on his arm and would be in a hospital for a while. I don’t think they ever said the word “cancer,” but I do remember overhearing my mom saying the word “melanoma” when talking to other adults about it. Details are hard to remember, but I’ll never forget feeling scared and not understanding what was happening.
This is where my dilemma began.
What was I going to tell my kidlets about Pop Pop? To them, Pop Pop is king. Why, I’m not quite sure. Dad doesn’t play with them, can’t hear them – he wears hearing aids in both ears – but does light up when he sees his grandkids and loves to give them hugs, kisses and let them sit on his lap. I knew it wouldn’t be long before they would ask me why they haven’t seen Pop Pop, especially if we went and visited Nana. What if something happened to my dad? How could I explain that without giving them a backstory?
That night my husband and I discussed it. Our kidlets are four and almost two. How should we tell them? When? How much did they need to know? Would they even understand?
We decided that we needed to tell them something and right away since we were going to take turns going to the hospital each night to see Dad. We came up with, “Pop Pop is sick. He’s in the hospital so they can help him feel better.” It was simple, direct and easy to understand. Luckily, the kids accepted it pretty well, not too many questions that we had to deflect. They both immediately started to color pictures for Pop Pop so he could hang in his room.
Phew, I thought. Crisis averted….until my four year old son wanted to visit Pop Pop in the hospital.
My husband and I had another round of discussion and this time with my own mom and dad. With some hesitation, we agreed that our son could visit. Our daughter wasn’t even a consideration. She is way too young and could be traumatized by seeing him there. She would hang out downstairs in the hospital with her aunt during the visit.
Two days before his surgery, after a few blood infusions, a good grooming and not too many tubes sticking out of his body, Dad looked well enough to see his grandson. The visit only lasted 10 minutes, long enough for my son to give his Pop Pop a paper plate fish with googly eyes and a round of hugs, kisses and “I love yous.” It was good for both my son and my dad to see each other. My son still talks about how brave he was and how happy Pop Pop was to see him! I think it was the right decision.
My father made it thru the surgery, but his recovery has been very slow. He’s now in a rehab facility to build back his strength. I go and visit him at the rehab after work a few times a week, and the kids always make sure I have some new drawings to give him. Dad’s bulletin board is covered with artwork including of Chuggington, Cars and Curious George. He’s doing physical and occupational therapy and is finally starting to walk again, so it won’t be too much longer now before both the kids can see their Pop Pop again.
Have you ever had to tell a child something difficult? How did you do it?