Friday, August 20, 2010

One Year Later.

I’ve had to spend almost all day in bed again, but I am weaning myself off some of the pain meds and am feeling just a tad better.  For some odd reason, I’ve almost completely lost my voice so I not only look pretty pitiful but I sound pretty pitiful as well.

But . . . I am making slow, steady progress.

Throughout the quietude of this day of rest, my mind has been full of memories from exactly one year ago today--the day my Dad left earth for heaven.

I’m re-posting a journal entry from that chapter of life. 


                                          Singing Him Home

When I left for the airport to fly to Wisconsin, Dad was very close to the end. I so very much wanted to make it there before he died and felt so tense all day, wishing the plane would go faster, wishing there wasn't a layover between flights, wishing I could just miraculously be transported to his bedside.

When I landed in Atlanta for a one hour layover, I discovered that my next flight had been delayed an extra hour. Of course, that just made me feel even more anxious. I was also nervous because I was afraid that a family member would call me at the airport to tell me Dad had died and the last thing I wanted was to hear that kind of news standing amidst a thousand strangers. And yet I just couldn't bring myself to take off again without touching base to see how things were.

With some trepidation, I called my sister, Debbie, and said, "How's he doing?"

She tried to talk, but immediately broke down and handed the phone to her husband, Randy.

My heart dropped. I thought, "Oh, it's happened. He's gone and I'm alone in this big airport and I don't know what I'm going to do."

However, all Randy said was, "Beck, it's getting very close. He's getting clammy, and his breathing is changing and it doesn't look like it will be long. I think he's hanging on though, waiting for you to arrive."

I said, "Well, please tell him not wait. If he needs to go, it's alright."

Randy said, "I'll hold the phone up to his ear and you can tell him."

Now you have to picture this. I'm standing in one of the busiest airports in the world, completely alone. And I am saying on the phone, "Dad, it's okay to go. Don't wait for me to arrive. I love you."

Well, who can speak those words without tears? Not me.

I stood in the middle of that hallway and just cried. Surrounded by strangers, I sobbed. Life ebbed and flowed around me as I stood on my small island of sorrow, clutching my phone, choking out my final goodbye.

I eventually made my way through the chaotic corridor to the women's bathroom where I holed up in a stall so that I could sob (as silently as possible) in relative privacy. As I left the bathroom a few minutes later, I decided to powder my nose. However, when I took a quick glance in the mirror, I realized that all the face powder in the world was not going to even make a dent in improving my appearance. Bloodshot, swollen eyes, makeup cried off--it was not a pretty picture.

I was hoping I might be seated on the plane next to a compassionate, grandmotherly type of person but instead I was plopped down next to a sophisticated businessman who ignored my ravaged face altogether and spent his time complaining about the flight delay.

I wanted to say to him, "Sir, I don't know what your interrupted plans for the evening were, but my plans were to make it to my dad's bedside before he died. Sometimes 'stuff' just doesn't seem so important when eternity is knocking at the door."

But I didn't say a word. I just turned my face to the window (so as not to unduly alarm anyone else with my swollen blotchiness) and silently endured the ninety minute flight to Milwaukee.

My brother, Phil, and his family picked me up at the airport and after a 3 1/2 hour trip through heavy rain, construction, and slow traffic we arrived at the hospital at 11 pm.  Amazingly, Dad was still there. Not "there" in the sense that his eyes were open and he was talking, but still "there," none the less.

On the final night of my dad's life on earth, he was surrounded by people who loved him. Phil was in a chair on one side of his bed, my mom slept on a cot at the foot of his bed, and I was in a recliner on the other side of his bed. Other family members were scattered throughout the hospital, resting, waiting, weeping, hoping, each one so grateful for his life, each one so thankful that they knew where he would go after he left us.

I spent most of the night fitfully tossing, watching the clock, watching the nurses as they came in and out, listening to Dad breathe, counting the seconds between the breaths, wiping silent tears, looking at my mom as she slept for the very last time near the man she loved so deeply.

It was the longest night.

It was the longest night that in turn gave way to the Longest Day--at least for my dad. When he stepped into eternity at 9:40 am, he stepped into a realm that doesn’t allow night time, darkness, sorrow, sickness or tears. And amazingly, the song that was playing on the CD player right as he died just happened to be one I had written many years ago and recorded with Steve, Randy and Debbie. One line of the song says, "It's time to rise, step through the skies . . ."

As Dad left the hospital room and started his journey, our voices were singing him home.


Gathering around him to pray a couple hours before he died.

Waiting . . .

At the front desk area of hospice, they lit this candle when dad died.

The cemetery where he was buried and the nearby church. It is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen--Wisconsin scenery at its finest.



It's time to rise, step through the skies . . .

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Soup, Meds and Bed.

Not feeling so great today.

Had diarrhea and nausea at about 7 am and went back to bed for six hours. I'm up long enough to get a little something on my stomach and then will head back to bed.

The "girdle bra" is driving me crazy but I'm trying to be a good patient and leave it in place.

Just don't feel so great, all in all--pain wise, fatigue wise, and upset stomach wise.

My immediate future looks like it will consist of soup, meds, and bed.

Thanks for your sweet comments in the guest book and for your prayers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Girdle Bra.

You know how stinkin’ uncomfortable it is to wear a girdle for any length of time?

Well, right now I am wearing the girdle equivalent of a bra—a very, extremely, horribly, incredibly tight girdle-esque bra. And what makes the situation all the more lovely is that I have to wear said bra for twenty-four hours a day. For the next seven days. Ug.

Which means no shower or bath. Ug. Again.

And since I’m not allowed to raise my arms higher than 90 degrees, I can’t wash and style my hair. Ug. Yet again.

By this time next week, I will no doubt look like something out your worst nightmare. Plus I’ll probably be just a tad bit crabby as a result of being everlastingly ensconced in this Houdini-type straitjacket. I tell you one thing, next week when the surgeon finally removes this torturous bra and all the dressing underneath, I’ll probably be almost as happy as I was when the surgical drains were removed last time.

Overall though, everything went very well. The surgeon did tell Steve, however, that he had to do some unexpected extra surgery in the area which would definitely cause me more pain than usual during the recuperation process.

So far though, as long as I keep on schedule with my meds, the pain hasn’t been too terrible. And I’m also happy to report I’ve had no nausea whatsoever, which is a wonderful thing. Vomiting in the hours following surgery (which is what happened last time) is pretty awful.

Yesterday morning, after I had been taken back to the pre-op area and had gotten myself all pre-opped, Sarah and Steve were allowed to come back for a few minutes. We talked a little bit and I just vaguely remember Steve praying. (I told Steve it’s great having my very own personal pastor to come and pray with me before my surgeries.)

But what I do remember quite well are the unexpected tears that came to my eyes as Steve and Sarah kissed me good-bye and left the room. Surgery is such a lonely procedure, being so cut off from the whole world and from the people you love. Those last kisses and good-byes only magnify that feeling all the more.

I had another teary session in the shower the night before the surgery and I can’t really put my finger on the name of my feelings. Maybe it was just the knowledge that although I was moving one step closer to my new normal, I was still grieving the old normal that I knew would never come again.

Through the long, hard day (five hours on the road and five hours at the surgery center), Steve and Sarah were extra attentive and helpful and compassionate. They even got to be entertained by all of my woozy ramblings. Steve said I told him the same thing four different times on the way home!

And another aspect of surgery-related wooziness I’ve been experiencing is trying to keep up with the storyline of my mystery novel. I read for awhile last night in kind of a twilight haze and had to keep going back through the beginning of the book to remind myself which character was which. And then by the time I went back and scanned a few pages, I had already forgotten which character I was searching for. And then I couldn’t remember which page I had been on when I started the whole backward scanning process.

So then I just gave up. And went to sleep.

Which I am about to do right now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Note from Sarah

I updated at 9:15 this morning and for some reason, after it had been up for a few minutes, it just disappeared! Happily, we found the post again and were able to get it back up. Even though the news is already old news, you can scroll down one entry and see that earlier update.


Sarah again.

Mom, Dad and I arrived home about forty-five minutes ago, and of course Snowy was only to happy to see us after being alone for so long. The surgery went just as planned, and there were no complications - praise God! Mom is currently in bed asleep, and she will probably be resting the rest of today and tomorrow as well. Dad said she should have a post ready by tomorrow, though, so you all can get back to your regularly scheduled Smithellaneous-ness!

Hello Smithellanites!

Sarah here, Becky's daughter, to say that the Usual Blogger Woman went into the surgery room about half an hour ago. Dad and I just came back from our brief visit with her; we prayed over her and kissed her goodbye, then were skedaddled from the place. By then, Mom was already quite loopy and slightly forgetful, as she had been put on a relaxing medication about ten minutes previous. This aside, she looked somewhat aware of herself and she seemed ready to get this part of her journey over.

Thank you for stopping by.
Stay tuned!


The Toilet Paper Stand Off (Reprised)

Since I won't be able to update today, I thought I'd re-post one of my favorite pieces from the past. Enjoy!

The Toilet Paper Stand Off

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm sure you've all been sitting around your computers this entire day, completely incapable of tearing your eyes away from the screen for even one second for fear that you might miss the first installment of the first moment of the first word of the first telling of our first Toilet Paper Stand Off.

But the moment has finally come. The time for the telling is here. Here's the whole story.
Last week, I bought toilet paper. Nine rolls of toilet paper. On sale.

What I normally do when I get home with the Smith Family Supply of toilet paper is to put three rolls in the downstairs bath, three rolls in the master bathroom, and three rolls in the kids' bathroom.

(Aren't you ever so excited to have the inside scoop on how our family's toilet paper is distributed? I realize that blogging really doesn't get much better than this.)

On this particular day however, I did my first two drop offs and then I thought, "I'll just throw these three rolls down the hall towards the kids' bathroom and one of them can pick them up and take them in when they go that direction."

Just so you know how well that plan worked, I would like to share a picture of what the hallway looked like on Thursday evening, several hours after I had tossed the toilet paper down the hall.

Now I'm just asking this for the purpose of scientific research, not because I'm dissing my children or anything, but if you walked down this hall and into this bathroom several times a day, would you notice those three rolls on the floor?

I kept on thinking with my perky positivity, "Any moment now, either Sarah or Nathan will pick up the rolls and carry them the two or three steps into the bathroom and put them into the Official Toilet Paper Storage Area. It's a no-brainer!"


On Friday afternoon, this is what the hallway (still) looked like.

Now it may just be me, but I can't really tell much of a difference between those two photos, can you? Once again, I'm asking for research purposes only. I am not in any way insinuating that my lovely children would ever ignore such a vital housekeeping issue for TWO days in a row.

And you'll never, ever guess what the hallway looked like on Saturday.

Even though I'm not going to post a picture, you won't even have to use your imagination. All you have to do is to scroll slowly back up the screen to look at the pictures on Thursday and Friday. There was No. Change.

My first instinct was to make my way down the hall and with my patented, martyred maternal sigh, pick up the three rolls and put them away. But then I thought, "Nope. I'm not going to do it because first of all, both of those children bend much easier than I do and secondly, it's their toilet paper and their bathroom."

By Sunday, the (unspoken) stand off was still going strong. At dinner however, Steve casually mentioned the toilet paper that had been sitting in the hallway for three days.

I said to him, "Oh, you weren't supposed to say anything. I was going to see how long the kids were going to let it sit there!"

Both Nathan's and Sarah's heads shot up and their eyes opened wide. By the looks on their faces, I could tell that they either hadn't even noticed the toilet paper lying there--on the floor, right in front of them, that they were tripping over and stepping around---or else they hadn't thought it was any sort of a big deal. They both kind of made a joke about it and we went on with the meal.

After we ate, Nathan disappeared upstairs. Steve followed a few minutes later and when I heard him up there sort of chortling to himself, I went upstairs to investigate. This is what I saw.

Well, I just stood there and laughed and laughed. It was such a Nathan-esque thing to do; it was like he was saying with his Tower of TP, "Okay, Mom. I moved the toilet paper. Are you happy?"

Now if your heart is longing for a more artsy view of the Tower, I took a picture from a different angle. I know how important it is for toilet paper to be portrayed in an artsy manner.

When I had finally finished my laughing, I called Sarah upstairs and she got a pretty good giggle out of the TP Tower, too. However, when all the laughing was over, Sarah (being a female), figured out that enough was enough and that it was time to get the toilet paper moved to its rightful home.

After posing for the inevitable picture, she cheerily deposited the aforementioned rolls into their aforementioned Official Toilet Paper Storage Area and just like that, the stand off was over.

Later on, I was kidding Nathan about the whole "toilet paper in the hallway" situation and asking him how long he had been planning to leave the toilet paper in the hallway. He replied with the kind of sincerity and wide-eyed innocence that only a 19-year old college student can muster, "But Mom! I was planning on going out there and getting a roll whenever we ran out in the bathroom!"

Like that was the obvious solution. Leave the toilet paper in the hallway and just get out and get some when you need it. No biggie!

He is SUCH a male. Such a beloved, funny, "non-picking up the toilet paper" kind of male.

And Sarah is SUCH a female. Such a beloved, funny "I'll help Mom and and pick up this toilet paper for her" kind of female.

And I am SUCH a Mom. Such a beloved, funny "Those kids had better jolly well pick up that toilet paper or I will have a major mamma hissy fit!" kind of Mom. (smile)

I am very happy to report to you all that the stand off ended peaceably. The toilet paper is where it belongs and the hallway is neat.

And that's the end of the story, right?

I wish.

I had actually written most of this entry before dinner and was going to finish it up and post it after we ate. Well, while Nathan and Sarah and I were at the table (Steve is away at a conference) I casually said to them, "I'm about to post a blog about the toilet paper and how Nathan stacked it in the hallway."

Nathan looked at me with great puzzlement and said, "Mom, I didn't stack the toilet paper in the hallway!"

I gaped at him and said, "You didn't? Well, who did then?"

He said, "It must have been Dad!"

Sure enough, when Steve called home a few minutes ago I asked him The Stacking TP Question and he said, "Oh yeah, I stacked it. I just called you upstairs because I was having such fun with it."

Somehow all along, I had assumed it was Nathan's doing. And now my entire blog is ruined because I told the story wrong.
Hmmm . . .

Here's the deal, folks. I would like to earnestly request that you please just ignore the untrue portion of the blog that talks about Nathan's stacking because I have spent way too much time already writing about toilet paper and I'm not going to re-write the entire blog over one little ol' stacking error.

The bottom line is that the stand off is over. The toilet paper is put away. Peace reigns.

Life is good.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day Before Surgery. Unraveled Spices. Poll Results.

So what does a girl do with herself during the days before surgery? During the days leading up to the time when she knows that she’ll not be feeling real great for a week or two?

Well, this girl spent the last few days giving into my “nesting” instincts, trying to get things cleaned, organized and arranged so that I can spend time recovering without worrying about a million things that need to be done.

Don’t laugh, but I even alphabetized my spices! I’ve actually done that in the past but in the last few weeks, the alphabetization had started to unravel a bit. And there’s nothing worse than unraveled spices! I must say that it is wonderful to be able to find a spice in an instant. (Is it so obvious that I’m very easily entertained?)


I also got the bright idea of using the walls in my (fairly small) pantry for storage. That helped to free up lots of drawer space. And free drawer space makes me a happy woman!


The pantry got a little pre-surgical attention as well. Because we all know that one can not go into surgery until one’s pantry is clean! (I think they mentioned something about that in the pre-surgical instructions.)


Earlier this morning I also took my last bike ride for a while. I never thought I’d say I’d miss exercising, but when exercising takes me into lovely places like this—well, I can’t help but miss it.

The pictures below are from another one of our bike trail destinations.


IMG_7142 IMG_7113

As for the surgery itself, its scheduled for 8:45 tomorrow morning. We’ll have to leave the house about 5 am to get there in time for all the wonderful pre-surgical activity. And of course, I can’t eat or drink anything so I’ll probably be dreaming of oatmeal with blueberries the entire trip.

The surgery will last somewhere between ninety minutes and two hours. The surgeon will open up the incisions that are already there, take out the expanders and put in the permanent silicone implants. Even though he and I have had a conversation about sizing options, he will still have several sizes of implants in surgery so that the final decision can be made as to which is the “best fit.”

I’m not quite sure who makes that decision. The surgeon? The nurses? The anesthesiologist? I have this wacky picture in my mind of the whole team surrounding me and having a long discussion about which implant they think is best. Maybe they'll have some coffee and pastries while they're doing it. Maybe they'll sit down and put their feet up and have a long conversation.

Or maybe they could just wake me up momentarily and get my opinion. I mean, I’m the one who has to live with those things, right?

But the really good news? No drains!

I am so ecstatic about that little piece of info that I think that I shall leap up off the surgical gurney and entertain the assembled troupes with a No Drain Dance. Happy, happy, happy!

I’ve already gotten my four prescriptions filled (two pain, one nausea, one antibiotic) and have printed out the Med Schedule Sheet that Steve made up for me after my mastectomy.

So now that I have a med schedule and an organized spice rack, what more could I possibly need? I'm good to go!

In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in last week’s poll.

Here are the results

There were 621 votes cast in the age category.

Readers are who 18 years old or younger:



(Oops! I left out this category earlier but I'd already erased the poll so I couldn't go back to find the figures. Instead, I added up the other categories and subtracted them from 621 and came up with 183. Sorry to overlook you wonderful folks!)






2 (One of these votes was my husband!)

For the male vs. female poll, 513 voters out of 522 were women.

To the brave guys who venture by here occasionally, let me just say that I’m glad you’re here!

Okay, that’s it. My To Do List for the day is longer than you can imagine so I’d better run. Steve or Sarah will update tomorrow as soon as they can.

(By the way, stop by Sarah’s site when you have a moment and read about a special family memory we made before her bone marrow transplant.)