Tag Archives: sick

Worry, Worry, Worry

Worry, Worry (Regal Theatre) by BB King

It’s been a week.  I won’t detail the drama, but the kids’ Grandfather – Andrea’s Dad – isn’t well.  Not well at all.

That makes for just more than a little worry in the house.  I’m worried about their Aunt, they’re worried about both grandparents and their Aunt . . . and nobody really knows how to act or what to do.

It’s an odd circumstance, having to deal with the possible death of a loved one all over again.  It’s not their Mom or Dad, and their Grandpa isn’t young, not really, but it doesn’t make it easier.  My kids have all acted differently.  The one key line that keeps coming up, from Noah, Sam and Hannah is “will Grandpa end up like Mom?”

If I learned anything from the last almost two years it’s that I just cannot lie to the kids.  Nor can I really hide anything from them.  The reality is we don’t know anything yet, not really, other than he’s likely got cancer and likely won’t make it.  But how long?  What type?  Can they treat it?  Nope.  No idea.

“I don’t know,” is the line to my kids, and sometimes that’s okay to tell them.  As long as I’ve added “but we have to prepare for the fact that he could.”  They don’t like that.  Hannah, in particular, started to cry.  Add to that the fact that I’ve been sick with first a cold, then pneumonia, then a sinus infection, and last the flu . . . and I’d been in a near coma for the last month.  Want to freak out kids whose Mom died?  Get that sick for that long and then have a close relative get even more ill.  Worry is the constant theme in our home right now.

But I’m recovering, seemingly well . . . finally.  That has given them some bit of comfort.  We have visited their Grandfather and Grandmother, both of whom are very ill – their Grandma with a genetic disorder that’s like Parkinson’s on steroids.  I cannot begin to imagine . . . I married into the family, this . . . this is their family.  I’m helping where I can, but that’s all I can do at this point.

So we wait . . . and we worry . . . until we have answers, or a timeline . . .

And I love them and tell them what my daughter already so amazingly pronounced: “we’re still here.  We’re all together, and that’s something.  That’s really amazing.”

A variation of what I’ve always said . . . We’re stronger together than when we’re apart.

Again . . . posts will be random and few in the next couple weeks.  I’m hopeful you’ll understand.

In the Land of Dreams

I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep lately.

I'll Sleep when I can . . .
I’ll Sleep when I can . . .

It’s not by choice, or even by family dynamic.  It started about ten days ago when I couldn’t sleep due to the bug I caught.  I’d fall asleep initially due to exhaustion from fighting off illness and then wake up, like I’d been asleep for 9 hours, at 3am.  Every night.

But the last few nights, when I’d actually managed to get to sleep and stay asleep, my routine was interrupted for other reasons.  My son, Noah, has had a number of frightful nightmares about being kidnapped.  I don’t know why, not even sure what brought it on, we don’t watch crime procedurals in front of him, nor do we spend time watching intense shows or news.  It’s not by design, it’s just not the kids’ cup of tea.

But each night, the last few anyway, he’s come down after the nightly routine and been in tears scared someone’s going to break into the house and take him.  Tonight’s the first one in a few that he hasn’t awakened and come down asking me to calm him down.

Then tonight comes Hannah.  Her nightmare had me passing away and leaving the kids alone.  She was in tears.

I don’t blame any of the kids.  I’ve told both Noah and Hannah before . . . I sleep with my door open, my bed right near the door, and I’m more than a bit of a light sleeper.  Noah takes comfort in that and comes into the bed quite often when he’s scared.  So does Sam, and occasionally Hannah.  Abbi hasn’t had to do that for some time now, but she’s now eighteen, technically an adult.  I don’t blame her there.

Still, I decided today that I needed to go to the doctor again and be seen, just because the kids seemed so concerned about me.  It’s no coincidence that the bad dreams have been coming as long as I’ve been sick, at least horribly, hacking up a lung sick.  I’ve posted before about this, not to be seeking sympathy.  I’ve made a major change in how I handle things, though.  I no longer think I can put up a front of an iron constitution and hold out going to the doctor.  If I had, though, I’d have ended up in the hospital.  Now I’m on my second round of antibiotics and I saw a noticeable calm in my kids as they realized I got another set of antibiotics, steroids, all of that.  Now I’m breathing better and my kids are happier.

Sometimes it’s what they don’t say.  Their subconscious minds are running wild, looking at their father and worrying.

Still, it’s not been bad enough for them to decide to clean up the kitchen table or do the dishes.  Those are still there.

Some things never change.

Piles and Piles of Separation

You never realize that you’re really not getting as much help from your kids as you think until you get sick.

I’ve been sick for a good week now.

I don’t mean sniffles, sneezes, sore throat kind of sick but laid up, more than a week of pure exhaustion kind of sick.

Let me explain a little about my normal routine: in an effort to keep my kids on a routine and so that they don’t feel as lop-sided parentally as I think they really are, I compensate by cooking, doing the laundry, etc.  The boys put away the laundry.  Hannah cleans the kitchen.  Abbi watches them in the afternoon and helps pick up the rest of the house.

But the Thursday after Christmas I caught a head cold.

That quickly became a chest cold.

That . . . very, very quickly turned into pneumonia.  I mean, lightning fast.  I made the connection my kids did . . . their Mom had gotten sick that fast and was in the hospital one day and never came home.  I was determined not to let that happen, even though I put on my brave face.

But somewhere after I went back to work – which I had to, no comments from the peanut gallery, please – and making nightly dinners while my kids sat around saying “I don’t know what to have for dinner” I ran out of steam.

It’s amazing how much steam you realize you actually had each day when you run out.

Today I did seven loads of laundry.  Seven!  To give you a perspective . . . I have about seven more I have to do still.  Five people in one household, two of them girls, tends to pile up the laundry.  Get one really girly-girl with lots of delicates and frilly tops . . . and you get the idea.  I blew through my whole giant box of borax.  I had an extra tub of detergent . . . I’m already tapping into that extra.

This comes after a weekend where, after using my inhaler multiple times in a visit to the college campus my daughter is thinking of attending . . . in the rain . . . with pneumonia.  Yeah, I know, for a guy who thinks he’s pretty smart I can be a big idiot sometimes.

On SF State Campus
On SF State Campus

But that visit took us to San Francisco and the campus was nice.  The kids had a blast, and though my calves are killing me from the stairs, hills, and probably 3 miles we walked with too little oxygen to my brain, I have to admit it was worth it.  I took the boys to Ghiradelli Square for the first time.  They had ice-cream . . . in the cold . . . and didn’t care that we were getting soaked just a few hundred yards from the ocean.  Sometimes a cone with cookies-and-cream ice-cream is all you need to have a good time.

Overlooking the City by the Bay
Overlooking the City by the Bay

As I tucked the kids in the boys looked at me and said “I had the best day, Dad,” and then I realized the routine was interrupted but their memories were made.  That’s what was really important.

Of course . . . then I looked at the mountain of laundry and realized that I still  had another 3-4 hours of chores to do myself.

But it was totally worth it.

They’re Smarter than You Think

My father always used to tell me something:

“Kids are smarter than anyone gives them credit for.”

He’s so right, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that every parent thinks their kid is the smartest, most amazing kid on the planet.  I’m sure I’m not different, but this is not about IQ, it’s the fact that kids are far more aware of things than most parents think.  My kids are no different.

I talked a little about being sick and the worry I saw in my kids’ faces.  That’s not a surprise.  But my kids worry more when they hear that I’ve gotten pneumonia and the bug attacked me so quickly I was bedridden in less than a couple days.  That’s what their Mom caught and she didn’t come home again from the hospital, so I looked at my sons who were constantly hugging and talking to me as the days whittled by.

But when I went back to work, both because I was sick of being cooped up in the house for six straight days and also because I needed to work.  Throughout the day I started getting text messages from my daughter:
“how are you doing?”
“fine.  But run down, but I’ll stick it out.”
“Come home if you don’t feel good.  I don’t want you getting sicker!”

When I got home Abbi told me how worried she was about me.

It was then that I realized that sometimes you have to put on a brave face and look stronger than you are.  I realize now that my parents must have done the same.

It’s a difficult thing to portray to your kids that you’re still immortal.  Mine saw through that facade nearly two years ago after they lost their Mom.  Now, no amount of pleading and swearing at them will convince them that I’m well enough to work until I’m actually well enough to work.  So when sitting on the couch resting, my kids come to me and hug . . . and I tickle them, without chasing them around the room.  I stay up and watch an extra episode of Homeland (which we just started watching) on VOD with my oldest, just so I look like I normally do . . . up late and working hard.

Then 6am rolls around and the amount of coffee I need to survive the day should go into an IV just to keep me upright.

But it’s worth it.  I’m getting better each day, 5 days of antibiotics left, and I can breathe a little better.

And each breath I take helps the kids breathe a little easier . . . so it’s totally worth it.

Does It Make Me Stronger?

I know, I haven’t posted in a couple days.  I can explain, and it’s a little bit being sick and it’s a little bit of just being scared.  Not just my fear but also the fear of my kids, my family, lots of other people.

I am certain I told everyone, but in case some of you have come to this website or blog recently or via my friend Rene Syler’s “Good Enough Mother” I feel like I need to tell you what caused this fear.

You see, I fought the flu about ten days ago.  It’s not a big deal, it’s the flu, right?  I went to the doctor, both of my own volition and my daughter’s insistence, as well as because I had 48 hours after the first symptoms to get the anti-viral medication to do any good and lessen the symptoms of the flu.  My kids had been sick, coming home with fevers, coughs, all of it during school.  I used sick days for that and then we’d entered the all-important “sweeps” period, the ratings survey for our television station.  I couldn’t call in sick, and quite frankly, I wanted to reserve what days I had left for the kids being sick.  I had also just asked for about 10 days vacation so it wasn’t exactly “good form” to call in sick right after requesting vacation, right?

But that’s not the big thing.  After a couple days of aches, fever, barreling through the chills and such I figured I was fine.  Sure, there was a heaviness to my chest, but I was breathing OK, wasn’t coughing anything up, no pain when I breathed, so I figured I was OK.  But a few days into that, 10 days after the flu, I could feel it.  You see, as a kid, I had horrible asthma.  It was to the point that I nearly died when I was a baby, got even worse the couple years later when my family moved to Nebraska.  I knew the feeling, I had it now.  Fluid in the lungs, the heavy feeling inside the chest, like a glass filling, not with water, a liquid though.  It itched, pushed, feeling like you have a man standing on your chest as you try to breathe in.  It’s like you want to reach into your throat and start scratching your insides.

But I tried my hardest to ignore it.  There’s no sign of true infection and I really didn’t want the kids to freak out.  I just wanted to get the kids to feel like I was OK and still taking care of them.

But I wasn’t.  The house isn’t as picked up, the laundry’s piling up . . . again . . . and they know something’s not right.  By the time I’d gotten to Monday night, I was having a hard time breathing in and I knew I had to face it.  I also had to face the fact that if I waited far too long I’d end up in bad shape and the kids wouldn’t be able to handle it.  Mainly because this was the chief cause of their Mom’s passing away.  Pneumonia with a secondary infection going to sepsis.

We tend to take modern medicine for granted.  Pneumonia sounds bad, but we go to the doc in a box, get some antibiotics, go home and rest, it’s nothing, right?  I mean, it’s not like the Old West, we don’t lie in a bed of straw, racked with fever, tossing and turning, and a mortality rate with a top age of 45.  Pneumonia is a curable disease, not something that kills you anymore, right?

Still, remember Jim Henson?  The founder of the Muppets?  He wasn’t supposed to die, he had been fine one week and gone the next.  John Ritter?  The guy from Three’s Company?  Same thing.

My best friend, my beautiful, wonderful wife?  She went in on Tuesday, was gone by Saturday at 8:30am, the morning of our 18th anniversary.  So when I had a hard time sleeping because lying down made it even harder to breathe I decided it was time to go to the doctor, no matter how stressed the kids may get.  That night, my daughter breathed a sigh of relief and said she was thrilled I wanted to go in because, in her words, “you’ve been sick for far too long, Dad!”  I realized then that they were really concerned that I hadn’t gone to the doctor.  When I went, the fears were confirmed, pneumonia.  Not like I needed the diagnosis, I guess, I could feel it.

You see, there is that tendency as a guy, a father, as the protector of the family, that you can’t take the time.  You have to keep going and show them that they’re protected and happy.  You want them to know that you’re still somewhat invincible, even though you know deep down that you’re scared to death something could happen to them, that you could disappoint them or see that horrible, panicked look in their eyes like after they realized their mother was gone.  It’s also that very thing that made me decide to see the doctor.  I cannot fathom disappointing those little children again.  It’s a silly theory, that, “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”.  It’s actually silly to think that you can get through something without getting help when it’s possible to get it.

So I sit here, today, breathing a little better, forcing myself to sit rather than walk around or go to the grocery store or even do laundry.

It’s not smart to try and get through something this serious – and kid yourself not, it is serious – without the help or the medicine.  Andrea didn’t ignore her illness, she was just too weak, too many things attacking her body at once, to get through it.  My kids need to know I’m not just taking care of them, I’m taking care of the family, and that includes myself.

It doesn’t kill me . . . it makes me stronger.

Absence makes the heart pump faster…

Noah on "Tip Your Hat Day"
Have a Little Faith in Me by John Hiatt from “The A&M Years”

I am sure you noticed how I’ve not posted since a couple days ago.  Stress will do that to you, as will running around crazy.  It was Open House at school one day, bills due, sweeps approaching, then it hit.  The petri dish that is grade school, and by proxy, my household (have five people in a confined space in the winter and wonder how you DIDN’T get sick, I say!).

Yesterday I sat at work and went into an interview with someone who wished to remain anonymous, skittish, not wanting to be imposing, I shut off my phone.

You see where this is going, I’m sure.

Mere minutes after shutting it off, at 10:30am, the phone blew up, calls coming in every few minutes from the school.  Sam, you see, was in the office.  Running a fever.  Needing to be picked up.  This is just after having to call the high school so my oldest, Abbi, could stay home as well.  I wasn’t there to answer, so by the time I got the voicemails and the random text message I realized I had all this and it was nearly noon.  I was absent for less than two hours and I was in a panic.  I saw my son, in the office, burning up with fever, coughing, and wondering why his Dad didn’t come to get him because he feels so awful.  I need those four kids to have faith in me, but I feel constantly like I am finding ways for that faith to slowly whittle away.

I called the sick Abbi in a panic and asked her to run and get Sam.  I sat struggling how to figure out picking up the other two and avoid the inevitable scariness that was there with the fact Abbi was going to practice for her high school play at 3pm, sick or no.  I stared at the clock and the phone.  Then I got a text from my Sister-in-law.

“The school called, don’t worry, I’m on my way to get Sam!”

I tried to inform her Abbi had him, that I could figure it out, not to inconvenience her.  But she had already left work and told me there was no place she was going to be but at the house to help me today.  Nothing.  She got in, took care of the kids, forced Hannah to do her chores, even cooked dinner!  I kept thanking her and she kept telling me to knock it off.

I can’t help it.  I know the biggest lesson I learned from all this is I cannot do this alone.  It doesn’t change the fact that I feel that Midwestern Catholic guilt for having to ask for the help anyway.  I just feel so much like it’s an inconvenience to the people involved that I don’t want them to feel like I’m taking advantage.  I know they don’t feel that way, but it’s my own fault.  I feel it anyway.

Then today Hannah and Sam are both sick.  Abbi, too.  Yet they stayed home and I was forced to let Noah go to the school Extended Day Program, or EDP, for the rest of the afternoon.  After a bunch of legal wrangling over a particularly sticky script, I’ve been forced to call family friends to pick him up!  The EDP room closes at 6pm, after all!  Again, they tell me not to thank them, they do it all the time, it’s no big deal, come get him at our house.

But my absence from the house bothers me.  It bothers me a lot.  Nothing would bother me more than my kids thinking they can’t count on me; that they think I put my work before their livelihood.  But I DO think about it.  I debate it a lot.  Sure, they come first, without question.  But what happens if I can’t work?  If I can’t do my job?  What do I do then?  I have been going through this since Andrea was here, debating the idea of whether or not there was something I could do about the fact sometimes I have to work late at a moment’s notice.  That and the fact I’m 40 miles from home when I do work.  The advantage of my job is that it gives me flexibility to be able to get to appointments, school events, and other necessities.  But it can’t only be give with no take.  I have to do the job I’m paid for or the kids cannot stay here in California, I couldn’t afford it.  Sure, I’d love nothing more than to stay home and take care of the kids, I’d love to make that my only task in life.  I cannot do it, though, not and survive.

So I lean on family, friends, Andrea’s family, and feel my heart racing.  My stomach is growling.  My head is killing me from the stress of trying to get this to balance.  Problem is, sometimes the weights balancing my life fall off, sending me plunging and carrying more weight on my end.

What’s the solution?  Asking for help.  Problem is I have to ask at a moment’s notice.  The other problem it makes me miss Andrea that much more.  I look and think “I’d at least have someone who could help me to juggle all this” but instead I’m juggling with one hand.  I look at how she’d figure out the schedules and the disagreements and be able to help me figure it out.  I had that person who could help me to breathe.  But now she’s gone and I can’t figure out what to do when my daily life gets out of control crazy.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with people who help me.

Blessed, because help was given, once without my even asking, another time when I asked and there was no reservation, no thought, no discussion.  Just “what do you need me to do?” and it was done.

You may think this is no big deal, that you ask for help all the time, that you do this kind of thing yourself or help people all the time and it’s no big deal.

Being the man that has to ask for and receive the help: it is.  Believe me, when I come to you and say how much I appreciate the amazing help, it’s not an empty state ment.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes mine pump that much faster.  And all I want is for them to have a little faith in me.

Sick Again . . .

Sick Again by Led Zeppelin

Yes, I know, but I never waste an opportunity to use a Zeppelin song as a reference.  I’m quite amazed but yesterday and today are the first times I’ve been really sick.  I mean sick to the point where I cannot even get out of bed without burning all the energy that’s not fighting the sickness.

Getting this sick makes me aware of a few things that I guess I knew but wasn’t paying attention to all these months.

First, of course, was the fact that I realized just how much stuff I do every day and don’t even realize it any more.  I mean, the daily routine that amazingly I seem to be getting used to following.  I know this because having let the routine lapse for these two days alone has let the house turn into an absolute mess.  The kitchen is filled with dishes.  The floor is full of opened Christmas presents that hadn’t been played with during the holiday and the clothes have piled up onto the laundry basket like Mount Everest.

Before you all make the suggestions, yes, I tried to yell at the kids, tell them what needs done.  The problem is they knew I didn’t have the energy or the fortitude to back up my threats.  It was like being adrift on a leper ship.  Two of the boys got sick, neither of them lasting more than a day.  I’m on 2 1/2 days already and only now feeling human.

Second is the fact that Abbi, my oldest, is a godsend.  Yes, I know I’ve been complaining about the lack of chores being done, but I’ve been reliant on her help to make sure that things get done.  She entertained the other 3 kids while I slept.  She got me the medicines I asked for and did a run to the store when I needed it.  I managed to cook a batch of chili for dinner but ended up having her make the rice that we eat with it.  Where the other three kids yelled and argued with each other Abbi worried and told me I was too run down and needed to rest.

The last thing, which I should think is obvious, is that I need to take better care of myself.  Just the other day someone told me I needed to make sure I took some time for myself, though I don’t know when or how that will happen.  But one thing I can take from that is the fact that I need to get in better shape and lost some more weight.  If my body is in better shape my immune system will be in better shape as well.

This last one is probably the hardest thing I have to do.  I have to make the time to exercise or get some time to work out but finding the time isn’t something I can foresee at the moment.  It may wait until Spring, when the clocks go forward and there’s more daylight.  I can jog or walk, but it’s not an easy thing for me.  I prefer to have a destination.  I have a bike that’s worth using, and my son has one from Santa so I may just go on family rides when the seasons change.

These are necessities.  I have so little room for error these days that I have to look forward and see what’s coming.  I cannot afford two days where I’m not even just sub-par.  Otherwise the kids worry, like they did this last couple days.  I have reached a point in life where hiding in bed for two days isn’t possible.  Yet when I try to do the routine I get more worn down.  Only through getting my body in order along with our lives will things end up on better track.

I’ve started, but like so many other things, I can’t afford to let up.  It’s not just my life on the line anymore.  I can’t afford to let those four kids down.

It’s a lot of philosophy from a bout with the flu, I know.  Maybe I’m a little fever-addled but in the end, it’s all for the best.  I can’t afford to let myself slide either.  I can’t afford to be sick again, not a long time.

It’s amazing the things you realize when you least expect them.