Friday, September 10, 2010

The Child With The Best Toys Wins.....

It was roughly 14 years ago that WB, Kate and I packed Mikie up and moved him to Kerrville, Texas to attend Shriner University. Enrolled and settled in, I not only sobbed, but wailed the entire way home. Some 950 miles and about 16 hours of drama which probably traumatized my then 4-year old baby girl. Do kids that age really know what parents go through when sending one off to college, one who you know is not ready to leave the nest? 

Mike thought he was ready and WB was more than ready. I harbored a tremendous amount of resentment until I realized several years ago that Mike had forgiven his step-daddy.  I can now forgive Bill for never wanting anyone or anything to interfere with what he perceived as time for him. He was always selfish that way and still is. Some things will simply never change.

Mike and I were together and mostly alone until WB and I married. With our nuptials came a whole new program. Within just a short time span during Mike's adolescence, there was a house fire, a baby, a new family, a new house,  an adopted daughter from down the street, a drivers license, and a different level of  responsibility for his mother. My time for him once constant became partitioned off into tiny sections, here and there. From an only child with all the attention to one of 7. 

 Bill had 4 children (Susie, Amy, Wade and Brandon) and I had Mike. These were our natural children ages 13-28 when we married. Then add a baby and another teenager.

The dynamics of this blended family were stressful from the first day. I remember walking in the door from our Las Vegas honeymoon with a call from WB's ex-wife, "welcoming me into the family". How dare she! It was from that moment forward that I began trying to create a wall around our unit to try and separate the then from the now. It is very hard to create new traditions with kids already old enough to be married with children of their own. The new wicked stepmother took some heat, for years and years and years. 

I was a young, strong and independent single mother and not at all totally innocent. I owned my own home, was successful in my business and was substantially full of piss and vinegar. Early on we had struggles, as it seems everybody was jockeying for position. Not only did we have children's' feelings to consider, try throwing in a couple of ex-wives.

The constant innocent throughout was Katie Bug. I couldn't fix what had happened in the past and it was evident to me that WB and I would never agree on the parenting of the older kids.  She was something and somebody we could rally around. So we settled in on raising Kate, together. She absolutely flourished and is a constant reminder to all what that level of parenting produces. 

It is not necessary at this writing to produce a dossier of our dedication or her accomplishments, only necessary to mention this to get us further along in the story......

That she has experienced heartbreak over the last several years is an understatement, but WB and I unknowingly prepared her for most anything life decided to throw her way. She may have found it unsettling that I did not wail and sob when moving her into her dorm room a month ago today, but that day was a most joyful and exciting time for us. Bittersweet sure, but this was something two under-educated rednecks had made right, together.  

Well educated, well traveled, exposed, abundantly loved and over-nurtured. My motto, "the child with the best toys wins" does not mean Barbie dolls and electric ATV's. Instead, its definition to me was giving it everything we had and concentrating on what we could do something about. Still no wailing and sobbing here.

It is uncanny to see how this family is pulling together around WB's illness. One may wonder why it could not have happened sooner and then perhaps recognize that it may have been impossible. At first I am sure we struggled with denial, some shame and remorse, but now it is simple acceptance. This is what it is. We can make it better for each other, but we cannot make it go away.   

I have opened the door to 'receive' the gifts of love this family has for their Big Daddy.  Each of us carry special and sometimes separate memories of Bill's influence on our lives as his legacy is far reaching and his antics renowned.

Postings continue to change in scope as I feel the need to digress from time to time. Without traveling back, I cannot truly and accurately expose how we got to where we are. Additionally, if the blog is only about the illness, it will never provide the bread crumb trail for this or any other family to follow.

Just last night I received an email from a dear friend who said, "please call me, I am worried about Bill." WHOOP, I am sorry friend, but that's our job. If you are paying attention and spend any time trying to understand this, you will find that if you're doing any worrying, it needs to be going on for the caregiver(s). It is why each and every visit to the doctor ends with this question to me, "how are you doing?" It took me a while to get, but now its as plain as the nose on my face. If the caregiver throws in the towel or breaks, the whole thing comes tumbling down. The patient eventually knows nothing or comprehends the sacrifice. I do not wear this title on my chest as a badge for honor or glory. Once again, it just is what it is.

Six of our children know this and are taking on as much of the responsibility as they can. Some are scattered across the country with families of their own. Kate understands that this portal is part of mama's therapy and reminded me just the other day that I needed to update her daddy's blog. She knows that I abandoned my personal space to chart daily living with AD, therefore these diatribes will try and encompass it all. It is interesting to read back over posts from just a month ago to see the roller coaster of emotions we go through. Anger, fear, helplessness, resolve, understanding, acceptance. WB would say its like "Pete and Repeat". He's right, it will surely repeat itself again.

I cannot expect an elevated understanding by all and still try and accept today the things I can do something about. It is certainly with remorse and grief that we live with daily, but it reminds us constantly that fate does not discriminate.

That said, I expect the baby of this brood to eventually query the rest of her family, gather all of this fodder up and then someday package it into a tightly woven memoire. Actually, I expect no less.

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