Archive for May, 2014

Graduation #2

Monday, May 26th, 2014

On Saturday, we celebrated the second of the three graduations happening for our family this month. Our middle daughter, Valerie, graduated from Chapman University in Orange County with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.Valerie2-72

We arrived on campus an hour early for the 9:15 a.m. ceremony and the minute we stepped on the campus, we could feel the energy of the parents, family members and students who like us, were all a little stunned that this day which seemed so far away four years ago, was actually here.

One of the benefits of arriving early besides being able to select a place to sit that was front and center, was the pre-Pomp and Circumstance fashion show. Every few minutes I found myself saying, “Oh my gosh, did you see her shoes!” I saw some amazing platforms and wedges; and not just on the twenty-somethings but also on the moms. No doubt this has a lot to do with Chapman being an expensive school in the OC where affluence and appearance are prized.

I quickly got an education on what is the trendiest look: it’s a baby-doll nightie (I’m already dating myself with that reference) paired with shoes that are so high that it’s surprising that they don’t give the woman wearing them a nosebleed. Gosh, did I feel ordinary in my black loafers and cardigan.

But I’m rambling – the day wasn’t about me; it was about celebrating the accomplishments of my beautiful daughter who struggled through the homesickness of her first year, less than ideal living situations, challenging classes, and learning how to assert herself to get to this graduation day. She takes with her the support and training that she received during her four years, and in particular from two outstanding faculty members who nurtured her talents and opened their hearts to become her friends as well as her professors.

College graduation is bittersweet – for the past 18 years there has always been another year of classes, familiar friends, and predictability to look forward to. As long as you’re a student, you can put off being a grown up. But now, the protective bubble of school is gone. The student loans have to be paid back and a career has to be built.

As parents, what do we do? Pray…worry…like we always have done for our kids and trust that everything that has been poured into them, has prepared them for what lies ahead.

Four weeks post-op

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Last Friday marked the four week anniversary since Steve’s triple bypass surgery. And we continue to be thankful that those are four weeks that we won’t have to go through again.

Now, Steve is in that awkward period of recovery where the lines of what he can do (or shouldn’t do) are a fuzzier than a couple of weeks ago.

Immediately following the surgery, there was no question that no demands should be placed on him. No one would expect someone who had just had open heart surgery to take on any of their typical daily tasks such as answering emails or cleaning the cats’ litter boxes (I really miss him doing that one).

If you’re not in a scary situation – such as when the possibility exists that things could really take a bad turn – it’s kind of a blessed place. There is freedom from knowing that you have permission to do absolutely nothing. If it wasn’t for the minor matter of excruciating pain, it would be a pretty good stay-cation.

But now that he has passed the four week mark, he is feeling some pressure both literally (he has one big zipper up the front of his chest where they cut into him) and emotionally to begin resuming a more normal routine. I have to remind myself when I come home from work and he is sitting on the couch watching COPS that it’s because he truly doesn’t have the energy to do anything else.

Steve will ask me, “I had major surgery, didn’t I?” He is asking that not because he doesn’t remember, but because he needs confirmation that there is a valid reason that his energy is spent by 2:00 in the afternoon. He is wounded – yes , he was wounded voluntarily and once he is fully recovered, he should feel better than he did before surgery – but nonetheless, his body has gone through some major rearranging. I’m sure his heart and lungs are still a little offended at the poking and prodding that they had to endure four weeks ago.

So in the meantime, we all need patience for the recovery process. It’s going to take more than a month for his wounds to heal.

Graduation #1

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Another one of the blessings of Steve’s cardiac bypass surgery was the timing of it. Although his surgery was only three weeks ago, Steve was recovered enough to be able to go to our son’s graduation last week; the first of the three graduations happening for our family this May.

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Ethan gets his diploma from the DLI. Even in formal dress uniform, he’s not immune to teasing from his sister. Jennifer especially liked his kicky beret.

On Thursday, we packed Steve, his pain meds and pillow and drove to Monterey for Ethan’s graduation ceremony from the Defense Language Institute (DLIFLC is the full acronym). The DLI is a pretty cool place because it is where every branch of the military sends their soldiers for language training; it doesn’t matter what rank you are, if you need to learn a language to do your job in the military, the DLI is where you are sent. Privates, lieutenants, Green Berets, sailors, Marine Special Ops, airmen…they are all there.

The length of time that a service member spends at the DLI is determined by the language they are learning. French and German are six month programs; Korean which Ethan was studying is an 18 month program. Eight hours a day of Korean in a class of about eight students…passing the proficiency test is as much a victory in overcoming the tedium of the program as it is in mastering the language.

As he told me at lunch after graduation: can he speak Korean? He’s not entirely sure. Can he run an academic marathon that at times seemed designed to suck the life out of him? That, he is absolutely sure he can do.

We are very proud of him.

 

Bypassing time together

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

We feel so blessed that that in the two weeks since Steve’s bypass surgery, there was never a crisis. We didn’t encounter any dramatic moments where we felt like we were in a Grey’s Anatomy episode – when things suddenly take a very scary turn and life hangs in the balance.

No, thank goodness. Steve’s recovery is just a slow progression toward less pain and more energy.

I’m sure if Steve’s post-op experience had been traumatic, I would feel differently – but as odd as this sounds, I’m going to look back on his heart surgery with a certain amount of fondness. Not that I ever want him to go through a repeat performance. One triple bypass per customer is quite enough.

So why am I getting all nostalgic about Steve’s surgery, when pre-op, I was pretty darn anxious about the whole thing?

Steve came home from the hospital on Tuesday, April 22, and I took the rest of the week off to be with him. The next five days were like a gift. Unlike typical weekends, that are jam-packed with errands and chores, my only task was to be with him. It would be giving me too much credit to call me a caregiver. Spending time with him and occasionally getting him something to eat or drink was so much easier and less demanding than my day usually is, that it was like a vacation.

I felt so much freedom knowing that what I needed to be doing during those days was just be with him. And the great thing is, it wasn’t like being with someone who is really sick and the anxiety that comes from watching their temperature moment by moment. Steve was weak but he wasn’t sick. He was uncomfortable but not in excruciating pain so he could be himself.  We sat on the couch and talked – we talked about the kids, food, redecorating, Syria, what is the difference between CYMK and RGB… our conversation rambled far and wide.

We have joked that we probably haven’t spent that much uninterrupted time together since our honeymoon 30 years ago.

Before Steve came home, a friend who has been through numerous health issues and knows whereof she speaks, gave me the advice to enjoy this precious time. When she told me that, I didn’t understand what she meant. I do now.

Now the challenge is how to recreate that kind of precious time without one of us spending three days in the ICU. We will work on that.