Monday, July 31, 2006

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

As you know, my Dad and I shared the same rare bone marrow disorder. He passed away in February from even rarer complications of that rare disorder. Talk about being one in a million...

Today I had my periodic consult at Johns Hopkins, just to make sure I'm staying on track. We discussed the tests and treatments (which is to say, there is no treatment--just management of symptoms). I almost didn't make it out of the visit without dissolving in tears because my regular roster of tests now includes screenings for all of the complications that took my Dad's life back when we didn't know to check for them.

It was a lonely drive home, if not physically certainly psychically. There is something singularly desolate in realizing that you will live a longer life because your father died. His death was, in a way, a gift of life. I know this is how he'd have planned it if he could have had the choice, but it leaves me with profound survivor's guilt to the extent that I have been unable to even speak these words since February. Perhaps most specifically because I'm grateful for the knowledge.

I look at my daughter and I want to be here. I want to live. I want to be healthy. I want to grow old, get fat and stay happy. And, because my father's passing raised the red flags, damned if that just might not happen, precluding any of my usual unfortunate bus accidents, plier incidents or bread knife mishaps. It is that gratitude-in-grief that makes my good health a bittersweet condition, knowing that it has come at such a cost, and knowing how I struggle to reconcile the two feelings.

So what's my point, besides confessing all in an uncharacteristic fashion?

Life is good. Enjoy it, be happy in it. Stop worrying if you are too fat or thin or old or gray or poor or unfulfilled. Don't tell me you aren't happy or you're so stressed or whatever. Fix it or forget it. Do something about it or shut up. If you are physically healthy, financially able to afford three squares a day, and able to count at least one person who loves you, you are a lucky SOB indeed. So cut the crap and enjoy the ride. Don't be an ingrate. Life is a gift that can be repo'd at any moment. It's a sweet deal. Made all the sweeter for me by the fact that my Dad is still taking care of me, even after he has gone.

{And because it ain't right to have such a "very special episode of The Haggis" post without the usual dose of leavening humor, I give you Ben Franklin, who sums up a good few of my days, and whose wisdom I highly recommend:
"I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up."}

EDIT: This quote nagged at me all night, because I know Ben Franklin was an "up at 5am" kind of guy. I re-researched it, and it is also attributed to Harry Hershfield, who sounds from name only, the type of guy who would "grab" the obituaries at 9am. So, who knows. But I'm going with Harry rather than "early to bed, early to rise" Ben.


K's and A's Mom said...

E., you don't know what potential gifts you are giving to people. That is if they choose to use them in positive ways that will assisit them in their personal lives.

I can feel your pain for your Dad. My Dad died just over a month ago, after being ill (from a fall causing a stroke) for close to two years. I was with him nearly every day and I miss sitting with him - just holding his hand. He was a man of few words, however, he sure did make you understood what he was trying to get across in his teachings. In December, my Mom died, just six months and five days prior to Dad's death. It is painful to live without my folks, yes, of course.

However, the most unbearable pain its that of loosing a child. It happened five years ago in a bus accident in Canada. However, to continue to honor our daughter and to be able to make sure that older daughter would be able to continue to be the fun loving, kind, caring, smart (due to her love of learning), and her wonderful ability to care about people that other folks have a hard time even looking at,
we had to make painful decisions. I am not telling you all of this to make anyone feel badly about my family. It is what it is. We had choices; either do some very heavy work towards a healing process and learn how to live without one of your children or just stop and never move forward. Through the tremendous help of many many people we have made it through the darkest time of our lives.

E, I look forward to your postings. You are a amazing person and mother. I love (and I mean love) to read your postings about about your precious Bambina. They make me laugh and cry at the same time. It reminds me of my children at that age. So, you just keep up that hard work that you do for yourself, child, family, and folks like myself.

May you be well and enjoy very moment with the people that you love.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are going through but in a different way. In 2003, I lost my daughter at birth. She was a perfectly healthy baby but at 40 weeks, I had a silent abruption and there was nothing that could have been done. I had a perfect pregnancy so what happened shocked everyone. However, if I hadn't had lost Bernadette, I would have never learned what genetic problem I (and part of my family) had. Now, my doctors and their colleagues are testing women for MTHFR and finding it isn't as rare as thought so now many of these women are giving birth to live, healthy children. I also gave birth in 2004 to a healthy little girl we named Evelyn (meaning Life). I still, on occasion, feel guilty for being so overjoyed at having Evie because in order to have her, my Nadette had to be sacrificed (can't think of any other word). Enjoy the gift your father gave and live. Good luck!