Listening to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd.
Please "Read More" under the photos to get the full story.
In early June, we had 2 managers quit at work. I took their place which meant going from a carefree, fun photography job within the organization, to manager of a whole department and tentacles reaching to other parts of the company. I had to "learn" my new responsibilities in about a weeks time. I don't want everyone to click away here so I'll just say, I have been behind the proverbial 8-ball all summer. Ugh!
This is where the emotions parts come in. In July, as we prepared for our annual family trip to CO, Mom went back into the hospital. There was hope that she was going to get to go but it would not happen. She just couldn't get on her feet, literally. For the first time, my wife, kids and I went to CO on our own. It was such a different trip with out "the parents" to help plan, haul some gear, meet up with in Trinidad, have a planned meal every night, play cards after the sun went down, get ice cream in Lake City with or all the other things you do as a family. Bear in mind, this was my 40th year for this trip. I was a 1 yr old the first time I went with my mom and grandparents.
My grandfather had started this tradition long before I was born. His uncle built a cabin right on the Rio Grande, about 22 miles west of Creede, CO way back in 1927. This cabin still stands, however, our family sold it off in the 60's, before I was around. My mom and her siblings have stories to tell of staying at Uncle Charlie's cabin. They would put things, like milk, in the river to keep them cold. There was an outhouse, no electricity, and a wood burning stove. There was a cozy loft the kids would climb up to to go to sleep. Once the family sold the cabin, they started staying at San Juan Ranch. It is walking distance to the old cabin. This whole area is right smack in the middle of the San Juan mountain range. To say it is beautiful, remote, and peaceful is just a start in the right direction.
My grandparents have not been in 2 years because it was just too hard on them, and now my parents did not get to go this year. The whole trip felt like something different. It WAS something different. I had more time to go out and shoot (photos) but also, was documenting the trip to bring back to Mom and Dad. I shot differently. The landscape was also different this year. There were sooooo many wildflowers everywhere. It was especially pretty in the areas that had burned a couple of years ago. I was surrounded by "Death and Beauty". My wife bought a decorative moose that we took around and shot environmental portraits of to give to mom when we returned home. I wanted to put together a whole slide show for Mom and Dad. Photos are below.
The slide show never came. We got home from CO on July, 23. Mom was still in the hospital. We brought the moose to the hospital and showed her a few pics on our phones, told her of our adventures, hugged her and went to work, you know, the one that has been kicking my ass all summer. I went to the hospital everyday before and after work, but had to work 10 days straight after vacation. On Wednesday Aug, 2 she started to crash. She was barely responsive to anything. She did not eat and eventually became completely unresponsive. She slept, snoring, in for her last 4 days.
At the same time, my grandfather, the one that started the whole CO tradition, was in the hospital across town. Parkinson's and Dementia was taking him out fast. In less than a month's time, he was no longer able to communicate and had to have a feeding tube inserted. My family was running back in forth between hospitals. One of the last things he was able to say was, "Where's Sue?", my Mom. He wanted so badly to see her. We finally got him out of the hospital and into a rehab facility. From there, he was able to go see Mom one last time. We were all crying. He was barely aware of his surroundings and mom was sleeping. I helped load him back in the car and my uncle took him back to the rehab place.
The morning of August 8th, I had been at the hospital with Mom and Dad a ton and had been the rock for my entire family. I had called my sis in Cleveland to get here. She is and always has been more emotional than the rest of us and I knew she would absolutely break down when she got here. I have been the one she has turned to for years and would be again. There was no else that could handle her. My younger bother was not much better at the time. I even had to hold my mom's sisters hand and spell it out for her what was happening over the past weeks. Her older sister / best friend seemed to be doing somewhat better, somehow. I think her defense mech. was just stronger than the others.
Back to that morning, I got a text from Jane, my sis, to bring some breakfast burritos when I come. I had been battling my own demons and just wanted to be alone with my Mom for a bit. I wanted everyone to leave. I was tired of everyone hanging on me. I went to the hospital room, put the bag of burritos on the table and left. I said nothing even though, I know they were talking to me. I went to my favorite park, the one with all the deer and squirrels, sat on a bench and cried and wished everyone one would just go away. That's all wanted is for everyone to leave her, leave us alone. after about an hour and a half, I regained myself and went back up to the hospital. I sat and held Mom's hand and told her I loved her. I said nothing to anyone in the room. Dad and Jane ran down the hallway to get coffee or something. My aunt mentioned she was going home and started to leave. That's when Mom took her last breaths. She wanted people to leave too. She waited for me to get there and for others to leave. I was holding her hand as she passed. Cancer had won.
I cried in the room holding her hand for about 5 minutes and got up and left. I still didn't want to be around anyone. That hospital room had become a cage over the last 2 weeks. I went back to the park, sat on the bench and cried some more. She's gone, she's gone, she's gone. That's all I could say to myself. For the rest of the day and the next, I spoke to no one. I couldn't speak. I was at the same time, mad that not one person had called or texted to check on me after I left the room and wanted to be left the fuck alone. It would be late the next day before I could even mumble anything to my wife.
It was time now to make plans for the memorial service. Time to go see all the people that I had spent those weeks in that room with, all those people that did not call, all those people that wanted to hang on me and blubber in my ear about being sorry for me. I didn't want people to say they were sorry and ask how I was doing at this point. I was a fucking train wreck. I felt trapped and smothered and let down, sad, mad and lost. I wanted out. I wanted to go away. At the planning meeting, we were all at a table discussing details when the guy asked if everyone wanted to see the chapel. Of course they did. Now, I have been in this funeral home many times because one of our friends has worked there for years and creepy as it sounds (and it is), we have used the facility for events for our boys in Scouts. I didn't need to see the chapel. Everyone got up and left, except me. I sat in that room alone for about 5 mins. That was enough. If I was going to be alone, it sure wasn't going to be there. I walked out, got in the Jeep and started driving for Colorado. I needed the fresh air and the mountains. I still do. I drove for about 2 hours before I got a text from my wife. Told her I was going camping. She talked me out of it and I drove back home feeling even more trapped. I had found the end of my leash. I don't mean a leash that she is holding but one that life is holding. I love my wife and kids, I just hate living in Oklahoma and I had just lost one of the big reasons I'm here.
The memorial service was fine. Pictures, videos, friends and family. I still didn't say much to anyone. The family had found a way to get my grandpa to the service. My grandma said he had "lit up" when he found out that he was getting to go. He of course was still unable to communicate, but he was there and he knew he was.
Four days later, Aug 18th, I was out with my wife watching a friend of ours play guitar in a band at a local wine bar when I got a phone call from my Dad. Paha, my grandpa had passed. But then it got weird. 45 minutes later, I get a second call saying they are trying to revive him! WTF?! I guess because he didn't have a DNR, when the paramedics got to the rehab facility, they had to start CPR. What a fucking roller coaster. He never came to but here I was at a wine bar trying to hold my shit together 4 days after my Mom's funeral and I'm waiting for a call back to let me know what's going on.
Same funeral home. Same group of people. Same feelings inside of me. It's just 9 days later.
In the middle of all this, Aug. 20th to be precise, I get a call from my biological dad. Aunt Jennifer, his sister, my aunt, has passed. She had been very sick for a long time. I was not as close to her but as a kid I was very close to her daughter, my cousin. We were only 6 months apart and did a lot together when we were younger. It seems that the stars would have us lose our mothers together too.
One more funeral, different place and different people. Becoming numb.
They say death comes in 3's. I hope this is over for a long time. I lost two of the most influential people in my life. Mom and Paha were very much responsible for who I am today. I will continue the tradition of the Colorado trips and cherish every one of them.
I am beginning to heal now and am finding my new norm. I still have moments forgetting all that has happened and I come crashing back to reality. She's really gone. Work helps keep my mind occupied as time, the healer, slowly works it's craft. Yesterday was my 8 yr wedding anniversary. (Happy anniversary babe Love ya!) I have begun to find my voice again and am working real hard at finding the happy here in Oklahoma.