Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018: Goodbye Awful, Hello Gratitude

I fully intended to write about the awfulness that was 2018.  For most of the year, I have been saying it has ranked high on the list of “worst years ever.”

After all, 2018 brought us Carol passing out in our dining room and smacking her head – lying unconscious for long enough that I was convinced she had died. 

Robert was hospitalized three times due to a variety of reasons: the flu (even after getting the shot), sepsis, pneumonia (twice before March), RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and a week-long video EEG (which caused yet another bout of pneumonia).  He had his usual episodes of aspiration pneumonia which didn’t get severe enough to get him to the hospital but which knocks him out for at least a week.  Oh, and the usual seizure clusters (at least twice a month) which almost seem like the least of the problems he had in 2018. 

Richard underwent four skin grafts on his never-healing wound and saw each one fail.  Even after spending many days in the hospital on aggressive antibiotics and wound care. 

And 2018 also brought me my own huge wake-up call: a stress-related stroke that left me with numbness in my thumb and face. 

I almost forgot!  2018 also decided it was a good year for me to get side-swiped by a semi which left me very shook up but, thankfully, unharmed.

At first glance, yes, 2018 was nothing short of awful and stressful and, most certainly, difficult. 

I was the most overwhelmed I have been in my ten years of caring for Robert last January when both he and Carol were in the hospital at the same time and Richard was still recovering from his first skin graft.  And that was the first month of the year – before the weight of the year really bore down on us!  

I had no idea we were just getting started with our “epic” year. 

So, yes, 2018 was just awful but as I was looking through my calendar and photos from the year, I realized it was something else: wonderful!  I was so focused on how stressful it was that I had minimized the beauty of it. 

While Carol and Robert were in the hospital early in the year, our son-in-law spent hours converting our bathroom tub into a walk-in shower. It is not only so much easier for both of them to get in and out of but it is absolutely gorgeous!   

My best friend married the love of her life and one of my other dear friends drove me the five and half hours to the beautiful ocean-side wedding so I could be there for Joelle!  Sarah and I made the trip in one day so we only missed one day of work but we had a blast surprising Joelle and she got us there and back safe and sound (even with me cringing in the passenger seat because of the ridiculous drop-offs on some of the “roads”).  Bonus: I got to see the ocean!!
Richard and I took a trip to Alaska – just the two of us!  It was so relaxing and so much fun to spend time together without having to worry about hospitals, seizures, medications or caregiving. We saw whales and seals and more bald eagles than I thought I would ever see in my life!  The trip fueled my soul and I could feel the stress washing away. 

We had a second wedding later in the year when my step-daughter was also married and which brought an opportunity for family (including the siblings) to be together.  Two weddings in 2018!

Our annual trip to Disneyland for Epilepsy Awareness Day brought a reunion of sorts with my co-authors.  It feels as if they are always by my side (which they are) but we rarely are able to see each other in person. Hugging them was just what I needed in 2018. 

2018 also led me to a writer’s conference which introduced me to people I probably would have never met if I hadn’t taken the step to attend.  (I’m actually not sure I would have pushed myself to attend if I hadn’t had a stroke.)  It was out of my comfort zone but it is possible this will lead to more exposure for our books and some wonderful opportunities (fingers crossed)! 

And I don’t want to jinx anything but my face and hand numbness seems to be lessoning in intensity!  With any luck, I am hoping it will go away completely. 

When my mom became sick almost 20 years ago and we knew she only had few months to live, our motto became “there is no time like the present.”  We visited the ocean, we welcomed visitors we hadn’t seen in years, we shopped; we shared recipes, watched movies and played games. If 2018 taught me anything, it was to remember that motto and to live like there is no time like the present – whether we are dying or not. I did not need a terminal illness to remember that lesson (although, apparently, I did need a somewhat dramatic kick in the pants.)

Most importantly, throughout the year, I had the incredible love and support of my family and friends.  I know many caregivers are not as lucky as I am and, unfortunately, have family who abandon them.  I am fortunate – no, I am blessed (and I know that word is overused but I have to use it) – to have a daughter who spends time with me and who makes me laugh; a husband who pushes himself through pain to help alleviate my caregiving load and loves me so much; friends who listen to me rant at any time; a son-in-law who, regardless of how busy he is, spends hours helping us with home projects; a beloved mother-in-law who is there for both Richard and I as much as we are there for her; extended family who make me laugh and help whenever we need it and a sibling who not only appreciates the care I give to our brother but who is extraordinarily generous (beyond – I mean, he gifted me with a new car for my birthday! Who does that?!?!).  He is not only extremely generous but also emotionally supportive (and even came through in a pinch when I needed someone to stay with Robert during wedding #2).  I am happy to report that he and Taz are now pretty much best friends. 

My year may have been overwhelming and over-the-top stressful but through it all there were always smiles (sometimes through the tears or after them).  2018 ended with gratitude and love and the realization that we came out alive but also with a hope for a quieter 2019.  

I’m all for lessons and challenges and don’t want to be selfish but a less eventful year would be a welcome relief. 

Here’s wishing all of you a happy, healthy and hopeful year!  May 2019 be excellent for all of us! 

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