Breaking down what 2022 was like for me. A bit of a blur, a lot of stress, and thinking hard to find the good stuff.
Boy, did I have some craziness at the beginning of this year. Back in January, my elementary-aged daughter was still in the throes of being entirely homeschooled. Yep, I’m crazy. We’d decided that since there was still a massive risk of COVID, and with her father and I being “high risk,” it was best to keep her home. Again. The year prior, the public school district had offered full-time remote learning, but they weren’t going to be doing that, so in September 2021, I filed the paperwork to pull her and do the homeschool thing.
Our biggest downfall there is that she has no siblings. No one to “do homeschool” with. Sure, one of her friends also was homeschooled, and her mom and I tried to get the girls together whenever we felt it was safe, but dang — not much to do when you’re staying home.
Anyway, by January this year, we got in our groove, and she finished her work by noon-thirty. The rest of the day was spent with me trying to get work done and struggling. That has been a problem since March 2020, but I digress.
In February, my husband and I celebrated 12 years together. He will always be the one who stole my heart way back when we were dumb kids who dated for about six months in the mid-90s. Yep, it’s my rom-com kind of story, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
March was a blur, except we agreed to send our kid back to public school. Numbers were going down, and she missed out on so much socializing. The schools still required masks, and I am not qualified to be a teacher. I was also burned out between trying to work and teaching and doing every.damn.thing.
The day after she went back, the state lifted the mask mandate. FML.
Have I mentioned my pandemic-induced anxiety? No? Did you figure that out yourself? I bet you did.
So, she returned, and fortunately, none of us got COVID. She did continue wearing her mask, even when no one else was. She told other kids who asked her why, “Because I’m trying to keep my mom and dad healthy. You got a problem with that?” (Yep, that’s my kid.)
April brought my 45th birthday; with it, my daughter’s desire to “get out” and do something with me had reached astronomical heights. So she (with her father’s help) bought us tickets to see Joan Jett and The Blackhearts because it was between her and Bonnie Raitt and well… I’d already seen Bonnie Raitt in the 90s. (Damn, the nostalgia’s heavy today.)
I believe the end of April is when my daughter decided to join a local youth softball team, so yeah, there’s that. I was anxious, not even wanting her to be in the dugout without a mask. I was okay with her being out on the field without one. I’m so weird.
May & June
May and June were a blur. I was elected to the local Board of Education, which I had been pressed to do by several friends who are either parents or teachers in the district. I’m into the thick of it for three years at this point, and thus far, it’s been pretty rewarding. I’ve helped implement changes I hoped to affect, so there’s that.
My daughter finished the school year, got decent grades (for a homeschooled-by-computer kid), and we were happy to hit summer break. We didn’t start going out and about too much, but it was nice to have nice weather and friends outside, as life had become in the COVID years.
July brought some friends back to town who’d moved across the country, and my daughter could spend some time having a fun and relaxing day with one of her oldest friends. There was swimming and bounce housing, cotton candy and kettle corn, and tons of fantastic food. We also went to a graduation party for a friend’s son, and that, too, was a lovely day with friends, games, and just not worrying so much about this stupid virus.
Of course, July couldn’t sneak past us without some drama. We did celebrate Dad’s 69th birthday with a trip to the Van Gogh Immersive and some lunch in Little Italy. He looked worse than he would admit, but it was a day of family, art, and fantastic food. My father had been brewing a horrible infection from a bacterial kidney stone. I suddenly became a patient advocate, a panicked daughter, and had to literally threaten the surgeon’s secretary with a lawsuit if anything happened to my dad because she refused to take this seriously enough to get him into surgery.
So I fought. And I fought. And finally, after a month, we had a surgery date. August 23rd officially changed my father’s life forever, as hours after the surgery, while in his hospital bed, my dad had a stroke. At 1:13 in the morning, I received a call from them asking my permission to do surgery to clear the clot and some other things which I can’t even remember.
It was the first time in my life that I caught myself hyperventilating as I ran upstairs to my husband and, between gasps of air, told him what was happening. I kept telling the doctor, “Okay. Okay. Yes. Please save my dad! Okay. Okay. Okay…”
“Okay. Okay. Okay,” was the scratched record that came out of me for the next several hours as my husband and daughter rushed me to my mother’s, and we drove to the hospital. It was like I was stuck.
Dad came out of that surgery, and seeing him like that was the hardest thing I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t even really look at me. His entire right side was “flaccid” and cold. He was in the critical ICU for five days, then moved to standard ICU, and literally had so much going on that every day I was there wondering if I’d be getting another call that night.
He learned to point to what he wanted and give thumbs up or down depending on what was asked of him. He started to be able to move his feet, and occasionally, the fingers on his right hand would be able to squeeze ever so slightly.
Meanwhile, my daughter went back to public school and turned 10. We had a birthday party, and that Monday, she tested positive for COVID. Now, I’m barred from seeing my dad in the rehab center he’s at for ten days.
Somehow, either by pure luck or 13 cans of Lysol, her father and I escaped COVID. Right after she recovered, she managed to conduct a fundraiser in the school district that raised $2500 for her nonprofit, Creating Hope Foundation, and got all kinds of attention in the papers, and additional donations came in. It was all around an enormous success. Yay for the good news, right?
October brought us to having to decide if Dad would need to go to a nursing home for a month or would be able to go home. There was no way I could be with him 24/7, so that was our big hurdle. He was talking some but struggles with apraxia and aphagia, where the words are there in his head, but he can’t get them out. Fortunately, his cognitive abilities seemed unharmed, so it was indeed a matter of getting him to the point where he could be home independently with just a few visits a day for meds and meals.
I remember explaining that I had a bunch of people working on his house to make it safe for him to go home but that they won’t let him go home until he could show that he could do certain things on his own.
Friends and I got to work. Grab bars everywhere. I had the 70s carpeting ripped out of the house in a month, with vinyl plank floors put down throughout—a new toilet and sink in the bathroom. Deep cleaning was done, and moved his bed to the center of the house so that if he still needed his wheelchair, he could get anywhere he truly needed to go.
My dad is one hell of a stubborn guy. He’s been a firefighter and EMT for nearly 50 years. He owned and operated multiple businesses in his life. He worked as a 911 dispatcher for 20 years, and after he retired, he took on a job as security in a casino. This man is no joke.
I told him to fight and get stronger, so he could go home, and he did. He was walking unassisted with a forearm cane. He could handle himself and his hygienic needs, even shaving with minimal cuts! So on October 14th, he got to go home!
Since then, he’s been comfortably growing stronger in the place he wants to be. He’s walking short distances without a cane. He’s barely using the wheelchair except to have a place to sit. He does laundry and dishes and even some of his own meals! When I think about where he was three months ago, compared to now, it’s just so amazing. When I think about how had I not fought as I did, he could’ve had the stroke at home, and I’d have found him in a completely different state. I would not have tears of joy as I do now. He’s getting better every day, going to therapies twice a week, and everyone’s confident he will continue to improve over the next 6–9 months.
Of course, my husband and daughter are also struggling right now. He’s facing the probability of another (third) back surgery, and she’s developed an anxiety disorder. When I say my daughter is everything good in this world, I promise I’m not just a boasting mama. She is literally everything good. And she’s now suffering from a crippling anxiety that has brought missed school days, massive meltdowns, and a sadness over her that is so incredibly heartbreaking for me, I can’t even put it into words.
And me? Well, I’m here. I’m taking care of Dad, husband, daughter, work, the school board responsibility, and everything else in everyone’s lives. I’m honored to be in my role; do not mistake that for a second. But this is hard, y’all. Like, more brutal than anything.
Pardon the interjection here for a late December Update:
On December 15th, 2022, I was rushed to a cardiac cath lab for an emergency thrombectomy and a stent to be placed in my heart.
I’d been feeling chest pains on and off for about a week and a half and finally got freaked out enough to call a cardiologist. They got me in that day, and 20 mins later, I was in the back of an ambulance.
Apparently, for the entire ten days, I was having a heart attack. For. Ten. Days.
I shoveled snow four times in one of those days.
I drove around with my daughter, had dinner at my mother’s for her birthday, and a million other things, all while in the throes of a heart attack.
Apparently, there was a 95% blockage due to a clot in my heart, and had I not gone in when I did, I wouldn’t be here today.
Three days later, I left the ICU and returned home. I usually feel like a million bucks these days, with only a few annoying side effects from new meds. But it’ll work itself out. I know it will. Because I’m one lucky bitch. Obviously.
Now, back to the pre-cardiac portion of this story…
I’m learning a lot about myself because I’m a caretaker, an empath, and strong. I know that I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in, that I’m beyond fortunate to be relatively healthy so I can care for the people I love, and that, like everything good and evil in the world, this too shall pass.
There will be a time when Dad can be fully independent, even for a while. There will come a day when my daughter can walk into school without needing to be peeled off me with tears in her eyes. There will be an element of relief for my husband when his pain is lessened. Someday, I can relax, spend time doing things for myself, and get back to rediscovering all the other parts that got backburnered this year.
For now, I’m just hoping that everyone in my life understands that I’m not trying to avoid them or abandoning them and that I look forward to the day they get to know the new me. The me who has been affected by trauma, grief, sadness, fear, and anxiety, as well as the me who has been affected by relief, joy, pride, fun, happiness, and courage.
I can’t wait to meet her, too.