Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A childhood tragedy

When I was little I lived in Timberlane. In fact I lived there from age 1.5 - 18. When I was 3, the Hemmingers moved in across the street. Gary, Kristi, Heather, Nate and Chris... although at that time Nate was probably an infant, and I don't think Chris was born yet.

Heather was my bff. We got into all kinds of trouble. By all kinds, I really do mean ALL kinds. We laughed, we played, we imagined, we fought, and we tortured Nate and Chris. Almost every memory I have of childhood contains Heather, and a vast majority of those memories also include Nate and Chris.

Over the years things have, of course, changed. Heather moved away in 2003 or 2004 to Colorado where she married and had a baby. I didn't see her at all for years, but we kept in touch occasionally. About a year ago we got back in real touch. She filled me in on the family. Her marriage had ended, but she was in love with a lovely man she had dated in high school. Nate had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, Chris had moved to Virginia, married a girl, and had a baby. Although things had changed and times hadn't been perfect, they were all managing well and happy. I was happy for them.

On Sunday tragedy struck the Hemminger family. Driving home from their Church campout, Heather, her fiancé, Nate, and Heather's son Donovan were in a car accident. Apparently the car went off the road, flipped, and went into a tree. Heather was driving and received a concussion. Her fiancé and her son were fine. Nate died.

I can't quite comprehend it. Nate died. He was 22. Heather is only 25. And people say the most horrible things, like here, here, and here. People assume that drugs and alcohol were involved. Heather is a few months pregnant. She doesn't drink typically, even when she's not pregnant. I don't think she's ever done drugs. She was on the way home from church... but they make her out to be a murderer, a drunk, and an irresponsible mother. Every time I read these, I get outraged. I want to yell at the stupidity of people for saying such things. Her whole life will be affected because they've published them. It's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen.

My heart breaks a little more every time I stop to think about Nate. He was always a good kid, a sweet boy. Life's been rough, but now it's over.

To remember him let me tell you a few little stories:

We used to sneak from one end of the Hemminger house to the other, trying to make it without an adult seeing us. Nate was particularly good at this game.

Nate hated loud noises. He was scream and cry every time a siren went off.

Nate's first day of school he was SO excited to be going off with the big kids.

Nate LOVED my brother Benji. Just thought he was the coolest kid ever.

Nate was typically pretty chill. Not really a "quiet" or a "shy" kid, but a chill kid.

One summer I rode with Nate, Chris, and their mom, and another adult all the way to Southern California. I had to sit between Chris and Nate because they would fight the whole time. It was horrible. I was maybe 6 or 7.

We used to build "teepees" out of fallen branches in the green belt across the street. They would stay up most of the summer.

We used to have races from one end of the yard to the other, even though it was maybe 25 feet long.

Snowball fights, food fights, real fights. Swimming, laughing, building, sleeping outside. School, bike rides, car rides. Lollipops, push up pops, ice cream. Lemonade stands. Childhood.

I will never forget Nate.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wanted: Circus Performers

“Just when I’d stopped, opening doors

Finally knowing the one that I’d wanted was yours

Making my entrance again, with my usual flair,

Sure of my lines, no one is there.

Don’t you love farce? My fault I fear.

I thought that you’d want what I want

Sorry my dear

But where are the clowns?

Send in the clowns…

Don’t bother, they’re here.”

Today marks a good day. A good day, tentatively.

You must understand, this shouldn’t be a good day. I shouldn’t look at this day and think, “Now that’s a good day,” because this day really isn’t all that great, but considering the recent days, this day is actually good. Perspective changes all things, even good and bad.

Today I did a good job at work. I generally do that. But today it felt really great to be definitely good at something. I love that.

Today I went to the Social Security Administration and I was given every confidence that I am going to get what I want: Disability for my father. Coverage: medical and financial. And above all of that that I would retain control. I would be responsible for his finances, so he can’t whittle away his SSDI checks on things like alcohol and drugs. I can get him into a good apartment, even after he is out of the hospital, and the nursing facility. I can give him petty cash. I can make sure that everything is taken care of. Because I will have complete control, I will know that he is safe… that if his life goes wrong from here it is by no fault but his own.

Here’s the clincher. I will be financially responsible for my father… for the rest of his life.

I no longer know if I am strong enough for this. Perspective changes all things, even strength and weakness.

Saturday, Virgil got married. I still don’t want to marry him – even when I cried when he was happy with another woman. Bryce went to the wedding with me. I still don’t want to date him – even when I cried when he told me he wanted to be happy with another woman. I guess perspective doesn’t change everything.

I still want what I’ve always wanted. I want to fly away and find new worlds, and meet new people and build new bridges. I still want world peace. I still want my very own adventure that has nothing to do with taking care of people. Perspective has changed my time, my color, my life… but most certainly not my hope. And not my dreams.

So send in the clowns, because I plan to make a circus of this present graveyard.

Come with me… let’s be carnies.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hospitals, Gay-dars, and Friends

Well so so much has happened, so I am going to start in the middle and work out. I think that is the only healthy path.

Dad's surgery went well, but oh it was SO long. I was there for almost 17 hours. But we made it through and dad is in the ICU getting lots of rest. Now we wait to find out how recovery goes and if the cancer has spread. We pray that he can give up cigarettes completely and never drink again. We wish that we knew how to make things move faster with the State for funding. We worry that no matter how much we do it still won't be enough.

The day of the surgery was, for me, a very new experience. Peter and I went in with dad at first and all was fine. It still didn't register that that would be the last I would hear of his voice. I didn't get that until after the surgery. I knew it in my head, but hadn't accepted it. Bryce showed up around 9 and we played cribbage and other games for hours. Katie V. showed up with lunch around noon, and I loved her company. Russ and Tirell showed up around 3 and kept Peter company. Auntie Jeanette came around 3 and played more games with Bryce and I.

Bryce is a friend of mine, but never have I had a person so support me on such a hard day. He was there for me. and just me. That was weird. And amazing. And if his mother ever had a chance to read this I would tell her that she raised one of the finest men I've met. He stayed with me the whole day, drove me home, let me cry, let me nearly pass out, kept me from passing out, and even let me sleep. Seriously. I have been blessed with some awesome friends.

Last week, I yanked a gay man out of the closet. Now I dated this gay man about a year ago. I didn't know he was gay. He did not alert my gay-dar in the slightest. I just couldn't make chemistry happen so I stopped dating him. As the next few months passed, I just didn't get it. Then it hit me one night, and I couldn't let it rest. All this year I have been hinting, trying to get him to admit it to me, while simultaneously avoiding any other dates he asked me on. This time I couldn't avoid him any longer. I told him I wouldn't go on a date, but we could have dinner as friends. I didn't intend to yell at him. I didn't intend to talk about his sexuality, but he brought up gay men and something in me snapped. In the middle of my favorite bar, I went off! on him. I yelled about how people should not lie about their sexual orientation, how people should not keep things like that a secret. I mean I get it. I understand why you would not want people to know, but really, it is so frustrating. Especially when the guy is just trying to use you as his beard. I am getting angry again. Needless to say, he told me the truth.... he's Bi. Which is not the same as gay. Okay.

I have to go off and sign some more papers, and be with my dad. I hope your week is as productive as mine.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Cancer

Well my father has cancer. We've been going to appointment after appointment for weeks and weeks now, waiting to find out exactly what that means. Here's what that means:

On June 14th, he will undergo a full laryngectomy, which will remove his larynx, his vocal chords, and the lymph nodes in his throat, as well as reconstruct the way his esophagus and airway function. He will no longer breath through the same hole which he eats through. He will have a stoma in his throat through which he will breath, effectively cutting off his ability to smell, which will then also affect his ability to taste. The worst part is that he will entirely lose his ability to speak. Completely. We will eventually get him a machine that he holds in his hand and puts up to his throat which will create sound waves/vibrations in his throat that he can manipulate to make words, sounding a little like Darth Vader. Until we can afford one of those, he will use a pen and paper. I think I am most sad about this.

After the laryngectomy, he will be in the hospital for 10ish days to recover. From there he will move into a nursing facility to recover, where he will stay throughout the entirety of his radiation treatment. This is the most wonderful news we could have received. I had no idea what I was going to do with him during those three terrible months, but the hospital came through and gave us a social worker who will help. I love the hospital. I literally cried when they told me.

I don't know what will happen after radiation. I do know that he has a 40% chance of surviving the next 5 years. Those are apparently really great odds. They don't look great to me. 40% is failing. I hate failing.

I am surprised by how okay I am. Until this week, it was harder, but now that I know the game plan, I am doing much better. I still have a lot of work to do on his financial aid status, but I am doing okay.

Here's hoping that all of this will end well. And that someday it will actually end.