I’m glad you’re gone. I’m glad you are now past tense. I’ve never been so happy to see the back end of a year. You were a bully. You were cruel. You seemed to take pleasure in finding new ways to torture me. But I survived because the people in my life stood next to me and picked me up every time you knocked me down. It is now 2018 and I hope 2018 kicks your butt!
Thanks for the worst year ever. Screw you 2017.
Not your fan
Saying good-bye is never easy. Except to a year that sucked beyond belief. Beyond my worst nightmares. Actually 2017 was my worst nightmares come to life. As we enter 2018, I have hope that it will be a better year, but the wounds and baggage from 2017 will continue to plague my existence and there is not much I can do about that.
Let’s go back to the beginning. 2017 started like any other year. My dad and I went on a Disney cruise for my birthday. Then something new and exciting happened, something I had been hoping to happen for years – my Aunt J and Uncle G joined us on a week long Celebrity cruise. We had a wonderful and relaxing time. It was really nice just being with my family. Before 2017 our family had suffered a few setbacks and scares, so this cruise seemed to come on the tail end of a series of mishaps which included a couple of broken bones that required surgery (both my uncle and I), a very serious cancer scare, a very bad reaction to a pain relieving surgery, and a serious fall down a flight of stairs in a foreign country. As the the four of us enjoyed our week long adventure of sea, sun, fun, food, and togetherness the forces of evil and torture were circling around us.
Back in November of 2016, my mother had gone in for emergency umbilical hernia surgery. She’d had this surgery before and recovered as expected. However this time, she struggled with her strength and mobility to the point I had her tested for Pompe Disease – just in case. She did not have Pompe. She was in and out of in-patient rehabilitation until they finally allowed her to go home against medical advice. She refused to get the care she needed, which was putting her in a long term care home – even if only for a month. What I found out later was that she wasn’t doing the physical therapy work she was assigned. Two of my aunts and I spent hours and hours on the phone trying to keep senior protective services from taking her away because that is not what she wanted. It was a giant mess and I was stressed more than I had ever been. I went on anti-anxiety meds for the first time in my life. Trying to get my mom the help she needed in her home went on for months, I spent hours and hours on the phone and internet as did my two aunts. I spoke to all of her health care professionals and social workers and neighbors. I was in Florida, she was in Nevada, and my aunts were in Colorado and Georgia. I was on the phone or internet for hours every day for weeks trying to get her the help she needed. I paid for a nurse to come help her, I paid for food, and groceries to be delivered to her since she couldn’t get out of the house. My aunt and I made plans to go to Las Vegas at the end of March to try and get her better situated in person. We didn’t end up going to Las Vegas until May.
My dad and I had a our usual assortment of travel adventures coming up. We booked a trip to Asia for April 2017 to visit Shanghai Disneyland. From there we would fly to Tokyo and spend some time there before setting sail on a cruise from Tokyo to Vancouver. About 4 weeks before we were scheduled depart, my world changed forever – my father suffered a heart attack and passed away. I’ve lost people and experienced grief before, but this hit me harder than anything every has. I couldn’t eat or sleep, and I was physically ill. It was probably a good thing that I was already on anti-anxiety meds because without them I am sure I would have been even worse.
Thankfully I have some really amazing friends in Florida who were there by my side immediately and my Aunt J and Uncle G arrived the next day – they had just returned to Colorado from our cruise on March 1 and now they were back. I’m an only child so I had no siblings to share this burden, but again, thankfully my friends and family were there. I will be forever grateful to Susan, Jeanne, Jagger, Cristy, Anne, and Angelica for making sure I was never alone and didn’t have to leave my room until I was ready. I am grateful that Allen was able to pick my aunt and uncle up from the airport so I am grateful to may aunt and uncle’s neighbor who drove them to the Denver airport in the middle of the night so they could be with me the very next day. I didn’t have leave the comfort and safety that was my room. I wasn’t ready to explore the rest of the apartment my father and I had shared. It was a couple of weeks before I could even go into his room, we kept the door shut when people had to go in there because it was just too painful for me to see his room without him in it.
My cousins and Aunt K and Uncle H flew in as well from Colorado, Kentucky, and California. Somehow thanks to a LOT of support I got through planning and executing my dad’s services and I think he would have been happy with the choices we made. We had a simple military ceremony at the National Cemetery in Cape Canaveral – very fitting seeing as we cruised out of Port Canaveral numerous times over the years and it was one of his happy places. The next day we had a “Celebration of Life” at our clubhouse. I know how cheesy that can sound, but it really wasn’t. My friend Leanna, whom my father thought of as a niece, created a beautiful slide show of photos of my dad and set it to music from Main Street USA where he had worked since 2007.* We prepared some his favorite foods to serve at the Celebration including explanations of what they were and quotes from dad about the items. Such as: Mashed Potatoes – “I’m Irish and I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.” – Bill Griffin. Loads of people he worked with at Disney came by and shared stories of his antics, my family really enjoyed hearing about his life as part of the Main Street Mafia – if you have to ask, then you don’t need to know. Wink. Wink. I asked people to sign a guest book and share a story about my dad. People has some great things to say about him. I will treasure that book.
After the services were over and the out-of-towners headed back home, it was just my Aunt J and I. She stayed behind to help me figure out what to do next. She ended up staying with me in Florida for almost 6 months.
I needed to make a decision on what to do, as in where to live and who to live with. I had a number of offers, which is always nice. As much as I would have loved to stay in Florida, it made the most sense for me to move to Colorado with my Aunt J and Uncle G. They are both retired and are around to help me with the things Pompe prevents me from doing on my own. Plus, it is not just my aunt and uncle here. It’s my cousin and her husband who live in the same neighborhood, two of her kids, my other cousin, my cousin’s husband has a sister, daughter, and grandson in the area as well. Our family gatherings can be up to 11 people. Family game night is a thing! An awesome thing! And most of them are now hooked on escape games too! I miss my amazing friends in Florida. I miss the weather soooooooo much. I miss the beach, theme parks, cheap cruises and all that, but I am so blessed to be surrounded by family. I have good medical care here and didn’t miss an infusion with the move thanks to my nursing company and my Case Managers at Genzyme. As hard as it was to leave Florida, the transition into my new life here in Colorado has been pretty good.
Once the decision was made that I would move to Colorado, the packing and planning needed to begin. I had my things as well as my father’s things to sort through. The first order of business was to deal with dad’s bank account. So my aunt and I went over to his bank and handed them the death certificate, but my father had not named a beneficiary on his account. They gave me instructions on what I needed to file with the probate court. My aunt and I went to the court and filed the paperwork and I paid the over $300 filing fee. We followed the clerk’s instructions on what to include and what not to include. A week letter a rejection letter from the court arrived. My parents who had been separated for over 23 years were still in fact legally married and therefore my mother was automatically the beneficiary. My mother was in Nevada and didn’t know my father had passed away – it was his wish that she didn’t know. Plus she was dealing with her own medical issues. I did have power of attorney papers for her which did allow me to have my father’s body released from the medical examiner to the funeral home. But those papers did nothing in the eyes of the probate court. Then just 7 weeks after my father passed away, my mom passed away. She went downhill so quickly that even her nurses and doctors were shocked. No one can tell me what she died of. No one. I had them send me her medical records and I’ve had a couple of my nurses look through them and no one seems to know.
Everything in Florida came to a screeching halt when I got word that my mom had passed. My Aunt J and I had to get to Las Vegas immediately. We had to make arrangements and clear out her apartment. That was a nightmare of different color. Stating that she was a pack rat is putting it nicely. She was a hoarder, not like the hoarders you see on tv who live with piles of trash. She just had multiples of everything and everything was stuffed into every nook and cranny in that place. We counted over 100 pairs of shoes, 14 Christmas tea pots, 6 leather coats, and so on and so on. To walk into her place you wouldn’t know she was a hoarder, everything was put away and she had decorated her place nicely. Remember folks, hoarding isn’t just about trash it is about buying and buying in excess. It is not always about living in cramped conditions, it is an addiction to buying “stuff” and not letting go of it. Also, from time to time you should raid your pantry and throw out expired food. My cousin and his wife stayed at my mom’s place the weekend of the clean out – the rest of us were at a hotel on The Strip (Thanks to a generous discount from one of my sorority sisters). My cousin called one morning before we got to the apartment and asked if he could get rid of any expired food and then donate the rest. Sure! Great idea! When we arrived at the apartment he had a fun new game for all of us: Guess how long ago the oldest product expired? The answer: 22 years ago! Clean out your pantry and fridge at least once a year, or even every Leap Year for crying out loud!
When I got news that my mother had passed away less than two months after my father’s death, I took my struggle to Facebook. I didn’t know where else to turn. I needed more help than my closest circle of friends and family could provide. Friends from all over the world stepped up and helped me. They gave me help I didn’t even know I needed. I asked for help with packing both in Nevada and Florida, but my friends did way more than that. A friend from elementary school asked for people to help me financially – I didn’t even think I needed that kind of help. Boy was I wrong! Thank you Heather for having the foresight to know I’d need that kind of help. Death is freaking expensive. Taking a last minute trip from Florida to Nevada is expensive! Plane tickets, hotel, food, cab fare, everything! People offered frequent flyer miles, buddy passes, hotel discounts, help with packing and packing supplies, flowers and cards arrived, meals were purchased, well wishes and prayers were sent. My friends Candi and Rob sent me a wonderful book on how to cope with loss. Everything everyone did, no matter how big or how small helped and was greatly appreciated. I am not sure I would have survived this year if it wasn’t for the support I received from everyone. In the end I sent out over 100 thank you cards to people who came to my rescue in my darkest hour of need.
When my Aunt J and I arrived in Las Vegas, we were greeted by Aunt K and Uncle H from California and my high school/theater buddy Carie also made the journey from California to Las Vegas. My aunt and I arrived pretty late and so we had to wait until the next day to head over to my mom’s apartment to clear out her belongings. I had spoken to someone in the office a few days earlier as well one of my mom’s case managers from Hospice and gave them our travel plans. They both told me to take as much time as we needed to clear everything out and not to worry about the rent that was now overdue. We met with the apartment complex manager who proceeded to tell us that we would need to be let in and out of my mom’s place by a staff member and could only be there during business hours. Oh, and that we only had 2 days to clear everything out. This is just the tip of the iceberg of our dealings with the apartment manager, I have it all documented and may post it separately because I don’t have the strength to go through it all again. Basically she was drunk with power and cold hearted and wrong. We got her overruled and over 10 days of 12 – 15 hours a day and with the help of over 30 people we got the apartment cleared out. And the apartment manager got what she deserved – fired. Not that I would want to interfere with anyone’s ability to earn an income, but this manager was in the wrong line of work and I think she may have even broken the law. The apartment community staff and residents are much better off without her at the wheel.
My cousin Lani Kai and Aunt LaVonne from California also came to my rescue in Las Vegas. As I mentioned, my mom had a LOT of stuff. Everything from antiques both authentic and reproductions, a mink coat, valuable art work, loads and loads of silver and gold and fine china. A lot of this stuff I had never seen before. And we are pretty sure the China Hutch had some sort of magical Tardis-like power because it kept producing more and more stuff. No matter how many items we pulled out of it, there always seemed to be more. It took hours to unload it.
We discovered that Las Vegas isn’t really the market for vintage anything. Well, what can you expect from a city that tears down buildings every other day and builds bigger and better ones? My Uncle H spent days dealing with consignment shops and dealers in the area and no one wanted anything in that apartment. Well, ok one lady offered about $200 for some furniture and tea cups. Aunt LaVonne knows a woman with a consignment shop in California who was happy to take on a LARGE U-Haul truck crammed with stuff. Everything from furniture to tea cups to porcelain figurines. That cleared out the majority of “stuff” but it took a team of about 10 of us all day to get the truck loaded – but it was worth it. That truck pulling away was a huge weight lifted. I had no idea what I was going to do with all the “stuff” until Lani Kai and LaVonne arrived.
After the worst trip to Las Vegas ever, my aunt and I headed back to Florida. We were mentally and physically exhausted as my infusion nurse pointed out. He put us both under strict orders not to do anymore work of any kind for a week. Otherwise he feared I would end up in the hospital. I had a speaking engagement in Louisiana that week, so while it was technically a business trip it was also a very nice and much needed get away for my aunt and I. We returned from that trip much more refreshed than we had from the Las Vegas trip.
All this time I was still going back and forth with probate court over my father’s estate. They kept telling us it is a simple case and should only take another week or two. We heard this over and over again. Each time I submitted more paperwork they had new problems with it. It was like they were making up new excuses not to process things and they were very inconsistent. We kept putting off the move to Colorado because we were under the misguided delusion that this court thing would be wrapped up quickly. Additionally, I was still responsible for the lease on my apartment that wasn’t up until November. Finally we just decided to suck it up and start the move to Colorado and deal with whatever may come our way with probate court and the breaking of my lease. Probate is still pending and I have no idea what to do next other than having to hire lawyers in both Nevada and Florida – which is really not in the budget. Getting out of my lease was much easier than I expected and the staff and management couldn’t have been more helpful. The exact opposite of how the manager at my mom’s place treated me.
So my Uncle G flew back to Florida from Colorado to help my Aunt J and I with the drive. And also, he hadn’t seen his wife for the better part of 6 months and wanted to make sure she still knew what he looked like. He along with my cousin and her husband did drive from Colorado to Las Vegas when we were there, but that was a quick and chaotic trip for all of us. Finally, they were reunited for good and we made the trek home. We had all these plans to stop at 3 Presidential libraries on the way home. However, once we got on the road, we all just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. This move had been drawn out for so long that is was time to just get to Colorado and put that last chapter behind us.
The journey from Florida to Colorado was not without its misadventures. A semi made a left hand turn right in front of us on the highway causing us and everyone else around us to slam on our breaks. The next day a couch fell off a pick up truck on the highway sending us and all the cars swerving to miss the debris and struggling to see through the snowstorm of cotton stuffing that exploded everywhere. After several long days on the road we finally arrived home. We pulled into the driveway and my aunt and uncle went to unload my scooter from the back of my car. There was a problem. My scooter was not there! It had fallen off the lift somewhere between the Kansas/Colorado state line (our last pit stop) and home. So the hits just keep right on coming! Of course, this was a Sunday of a holiday weekend so there were no mobility stores open. We made some phone calls and ended up at Wal-Mart to purchase a manual wheelchair. The two days I had to spend in that chair were exhausting and uncomfortable. On Tuesday when the mobility shop opened up I bought a new scooter – out of pocket. Why? Because I didn’t have pre-authorization from the insurance company and that takes months. I still don’t know if I will get my insurance to cover the cost of it.
I have still not settled the estates for either of my parents. That is whole mess of crap. No wills, no beneficiaries named, probate court in two different states – neither of which I currently live in. Folks – write a will, name beneficiaries, open a trust. Probate is not fun nor is it cheap. Do not put your family through this crap. Please!
My cousin Val volunteered to help me make final arrangements for my mom in California. The plan is to place her remains in a family plot where her parents and brother are buried. You’d think it would be simple enough right? Nope. Val and my Aunt J called the cemetery to ask about pricing and what needed to be done to make this happen. We’ve gotten several different answers. A family friend who lives near the cemetery even visited and tried to get to the bottom of things. We keep getting different answers and different hoops to jump through. I need permission from my mom’s brother to use the plot for her. We’ve been told there is a form he needs to sign, but no one can seem to produce this form. We’ve also been told there is no form. We’ve been told that they can’t start the paperwork until we schedule services. We’ve been told we can’t schedule services until the paperwork is complete. Anyway, Val was on top of this and you don’t want to mess with her when she is determined to get something done – then in October, the unthinkable happened. Her father, my Uncle H (the one who came to Florida and Nevada with my Aunt K when my parents passed) took a nasty fall, hit his head, and suffered a heart attack. Val did CPR on him and EMTs got his heart started again in the ambulance. He was unresponsive for days, but did have brain activity so we had hope. It was very touch and go and he had a set back his first night out of ICU. The nurse didn’t listen to Val’s instructions about putting his I-Pap on him before he went to sleep. So he stopped breathing during the night and back to ICU he went. His sister, a retired nurse was soon on hand to help make sure nothing like that would happen again. Val was prepared to sleep in the hallway or lobby to make sure her father was getting the care he needed. Well, their persistence paid off and he is scheduled to go home on January 4th.
I also had surgery in November. Remember the broken leg I mentioned earlier? About 3 years ago I broke my femur and had rods and screws placed in my leg. The bone healed nicely and I did all my physical therapy, but 3 years later I was still in pain. My new doctor here in Colorado suggested that I be seen by an orthopedic specialist and I agreed. The surgeon suggested that I have the hardware removed and that could get rid of the pain since I had an inch of metal sticking out of my bone in two spots. Also, I had a tendon that ran over those two sharp pieces of metal every time I stood up and tried to walk. So I agreed to surgery and it went pretty well. Because of my Pompe Disease, I opted for light sedation and an epidural. That’s right, I was awake during the surgery, but it was the best thing for my respiratory system. It was weird and a little scary, but I know I made the right decision not to be put under. As well as the surgery went, the recovery was a lot tougher than the initial surgery. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort for the first couple of weeks and was not allowed to put any weight on it. I have been house bound for about 5 weeks now. The pain is almost completely gone and I start physical therapy on Wednesday. Hopefully that will give me some independence back or at the very least, mean that I won’t experience the pain I had before the hardware was removed.
2017 continued to take aim at my family. There was a semi-emergency gall bladder surgery, a job loss, two beloved family pets had to be put down, a gas leak that could have been deadly, and a mining company wants to put a gravel pit in behind our house.
I am still recovering from an abusive relationship with 2017. Please be gentle, patient, and kind. I would love for some great things to happen in 2018, but I am more than happy to settle for no more tragedies. My family and I really need a break.
Hoping for a better year.
Your hopeful fan
*Click here to view the slideshow Leanna created for my dad’s Celebration of Life Gathering: Bill1 2