Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I recently read a post asking the question, “Why God?” I have to say it definitely touched a nerve for me. Not because I think there’s something wrong with her, but because I’ve been there. Let me explain, but do not feel sorry for me. I feel like one of the luckiest people that ever walked this earth. Get ready, here it is.
I am the proud mom of 4 awesome, wonderful, loving kids. 2 girls and 2 boys to be exact. My oldest, now 26 and another blogger, has her own little girl now. She’s great. She smart, funny, and she thinks I’m not too bad. That alone should qualify her as the best daughter ever. I have twin boys, now 24, who are just wonderful. One of them has a sense of humor that’s a lot like mine. Very sarcastic and sees odd angles in everyday life. My other son is a lot more serious, but still has an odd sense of humor. What they all have in common is that they tell me I did okay as a mom. Apparently, I didn’t scar them too badly.
I know you’re asking, “What about the 4th child?” Well, that is where my simple question became a mountain. The baby, Amanda, lead a life of what most people would consider to be a hardship. She was born a “normal” baby, healthy. When she was about 18 months old, she began to have problems with her balance and her foot started turning inward. I took her to the doctor who felt she may have a bone issue and set us up with an orthopedist. Of course, the appointment was almost 3 months later. (The pediatrician is no longer seeing children, thank goodness). By the time we saw him, it had become even worse. He immediately got her in to see a pediatric neurologist. Thus began a life of serious ups and downs that would control almost everything we did.
Between the time we were told about her brain tumor, at the age of 2, and the time she left us, she endured 4 craniotomies, radiation therapy, viral encephalitis, 2 strokes, and shunt placement. We had 12 years of relative ease. During that time, we managed her seizures through some trial and error. That’s normal for anyone who knows what seizures are like. And we tried to lead as normal a life as possible.
The kids were in Little League and we took Amanda with us to all the games. She even got to sit in the dugout with the boys’ team because I was coaching. She was the mascot in her little red and black wheelchair. She LOVED that. The other members of the team thought she was fun too, so she fit in well. She cheered, even for the other team because all she knew was that someone was clapping. It was rather amusing. When she was sitting with her big sis in the back of the Suburban, they had a blast watching the game because big sis would tell her when to clap and cheer. And she would have done almost anything her big sis would tell her to do. When we went to big sis’s games, she would always want to know where she was. So we would sit in the back of the Suburban and clap for Cari.
She didn’t just get to go to baseball games. When we lived in Wyoming, we camped every weekend in the summer. And I mean, every weekend. Rain or shine you could find us somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We always had a fire going and that’s where you’d find Amanda and Georgie, the Boxer dog. Being a little chillier in the mountains, Amanda could be found wrapped up in a little sleeping bag to keep her feet and legs warm. It would be fairly close to the fire for more warmth. Her circulation wasn’t that good. You could also find Georgie there. She was hoping Amanda would let the corner of the sleeping bad edge farther away so she would have a place to lay her head. She was such a princess dog. In rain, we stretched a tarp between the trees to keep it off Amanda and her best bud. They loved it. We even had one of those little recliners that she sat in, so she would be comfortable. It was the life.
Amanda was also a huge fan of anything bumpy. We had a dune buggy set up for the old logging trails that criss cross the west. There are miles and miles of them. She couldn’t really go very far in the buggy, but she would be laughing so hard just going 50 feet that she wouldn’t be breathing. We always call that her whole body shake giggle. It would be so funny to her, she would forget to breathe and we would finally say, “OK breathe!” She did the same thing when we went on the snowmobiles. I had her strapped to me with a harness system I made so she could go with us. She would laugh and laugh at the bumps. When we went offroading in the Suburban, we would inevitably hit the washboard part of the old road and she would just crack up. We had more fun watching her sometimes than doing what we set out to do. Above all, she loved all of us unconditionally.
She finally lost the battle with her health issues on January 30, 2004. This is when I started asking that simple question. Amazingly, it wasn’t during her last few months. I was so preoccupied with her comfort and needs that I didn’t stop to think about that part of the equation. When it did come, it came in a massive wave of emotion. And I could not stop it. I spent the better part of the next 2 years in a fog. It was punctuated with panic attacks that I thought were going to kill me. I couldn’t breathe and my heart felt like it would come out of my chest on its own. I should have been under a doctor’s care, but because of personal circumstances, I didn’t have anyone who was in a position to or cared to make sure I got the help I needed. So I slid farther into the hole.
The hole is what I call the place a person goes when they are at their lowest emotional point. While I was in there, a voice in my head came on one day that said, “You’re in this alone. You need to get up if you’re going to survive”. I want to say that was Amanda. She was a person who loved to laugh and loved to live. So the question was, “How can I dishonor her memory like I was?” That’s when I stopped asking the simple question. And what a burden was lifted from me when I did that.
Why is the hardest word in the human language when in reference to our happenstance. Accepting that we will never have all the answers will take that nasty, 3 letter abomination and kick its ass out the door. I always remember part of the Serenity Prayer when I think about this. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”. When those words were written, no truer words are needed when we are put to the test. We cannot control everything in our lives. That is a fact. Accepting that fact will be the single, most important part of our ability to be happy.
I know that I was lucky enough to be Amanda's mom. So please don't feel sorry for me. How much more could I ask for?