Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The In Between

Life is one big in between, yet we desperately push for the end. We feel the pressure of a phase or a season and want to instantly push through to the other side. We can fast forward through commercials and order our coffee on an app so we don't have to wait in line. We are forgetting how to be uncomfortable. Being ok without being ok is a marvelous skills to possess. It doesn't mean fake it until you make it (also quite useful at times). But it means- I WILL be ok even when things aren't ok. I WILL be ok when things are hard. I WILL be ok. I just will, because I choose to be. It's a muscle we must strength like anything else. I think I need a brain trainer.

I've often associated some level of shame with not being ok. My inner asshole says, GET IT TOGETHER WOMAN. You are not a victim. You are in control of this. Yet, I still struggle to see the blurry line between what I can control, what I can't and what I simply MUST let go of. What I am not and never have been able to control. That list is long, yet I try to cut it down. I think- if I can control it- it won't shook me. It won't drown me. I will not be unprepared. It won't kill me.

It hit me last Spring. I am NOT ok. It wasn't a bad day or even week- it was a deeper level of not ok. My anxiety had blown my roof off my head. In January my person- Jack the dog died suddenly. It had been so long since I had experienced that level of loss, and I was undone. And five days later his sidekick, Belle the dog died. They were our first babies. Our constant companion from kidless young marrieds in Los Angeles, to two kids and old people in Fresno. They knew all the me's I've ever been, even when I had forgotten.


Then at the end of January, my Dad had a routine-ish surgery on a brain cyst, then complications, a second emergency surgery, and then a lengthy stay at a horrible Nursing Home/Rehab facility, and in March he died. My dad is so much a part of my DNA, I still don't quite know who I am without him here. There is a level of safeness I've always felt that is gone because he is gone. I didn't realize that, until it was gone. I keep his picture at my nightstand and on the kitchen windowsill where I wash my hands elevently hundred times a day. 





My Dad's death has made me reevaluate everything about life and my own mortality. The initial intense pain is lessening, but it still hurts to look at pictures. I cup my hands on either side of my face and close my eyes and pretend it is him. Oh, to just touch his face ...

So as we started the process of having Greyson evaluated to go back into public school for the first time in almost 2 years, I realized all the glue and tape and temporary fixes I had used to put myself back together like Humpty Dumpty, weren't working. I recognized that I felt scared all the time. I was ready to stop feeling that level of intensity. 

I signed up for an appointment with a psychologist on an app called Doctor On Demand.  It's an app for all things Doctor covered through our health insurance. It seemed the easiest way to work with our crazy schedule. I eagerly awaited my appointment. Finally the day/time arrived and I logged in. It's like Facetime- (I know kind of weird). And for the first 8 minutes the screen read "technical difficulties". I hung up and tried again. And again. And again. Finally, I tried again from my computer and it worked. Until it didn't The screen would freeze, while I could still hear her talking. It was distracting and annoying. It kept freezing up and booting us off. So then she decides to just call me. Immediately- not being able to see a person and have them see me felt like not therapy.

ding ding ding

I hear her opened her car door. I am so distracted. Is she driving? Where is she going? This is still our allotted appointment time. It was hilarious. I was honestly laughing out loud. I make an appointment to help with the piles of anxiety I had been feeling, and I got off the phone feeling SO SO EXTRA ANXIOUS. Turns out tele- mental heath therapy isn't for me right now. 

That unbearable intensity has let up a little. Summer (and doubling up on my Effexor) was a welcomed break and refuge. But I have still found myself hiding. I always want to stay home. I'm scared to leave my dogs. (There I said it). After Jack and Belle died, Oliver and Lucy joined our life. 




And there is this irrational fear that accompanies my deep love for them. We were out of town for just 24 hours when Jack got sick. We came home and he was in so much pain, and then he was dead. If I don't leave Lucy and Oliver- they won't ever die, my mind tells me. Add this to big anxiety when I (rarely)leave the boys overnight. Can you see the running theme in my life? Fear. Anxiety.

I realized I feel scared a lot.

When Summer started, the beautiful Jamie-Lynn Sigler asked me to be a guest on her podcast Mama Said. Of course my first instinct was NO. And then- Why would you want me on there? (But I told that inner chatty asshole suffering from Imposter Syndrome to shut the F up and replied that I would LOVE TO DO IT. Because that was the real truth.)

And we booked it for September, and this weekend it happened. It's been so long since I had done anything like that- just myself. It was out of character for who I have been feeling like for so long, but - it is absolutely IN character with the real me- if that makes any sense. I drove by myself. I stayed in a hotel BY MYSELF. At first I was a little nervous with myself, like it was a first date. So, do you come here often? (actually no.) And then in tiny little droplets I remembered me. The me I've been before and after marriage and kids and everything in between. 

I took a long walk that evening up and down Wilshire and all the tiny side streets in Beverly Hills. Nostalgia smacked me in the face repeatedly. I can't believe this used to be part of my life- Los Angeles. It's a place that feels so familiar yet so far removed from my day to day now. I loved it then. I love my life now, here in the Central Valley. But the rapid movement of time, and the ability to hold only so many memories at once scared me. How did I forget all about this part of my life? 


I will NOT take a selfie with Villa Blanca in the background. But I WILL take a picture of it like a total tourist while walking by!


And of course it was ALL perfect and exciting and so much fun. I am so inspired by Jamie's honesty with her diagnosis of MS. I love how she shares the honest struggles of it, yet isn't a victim. I love how her whole life isn't MS, it's just a part of it. It doesn't define her- she is not MS. She is a Momma and wife and daughter and actor and sharer and connector. Maybe it's because she and her incredible co host Jenna Parris, are so damn relatable, or maybe because I feel like I know them from listening to their podcast, but it wasn't scary at all. I felt all of Joan of Arc's words: I am not afraid, I was born to do this. 



These ladies so a need- more communication and connection around the ever-evolving feelings of motherhood. Sometimes it feels so isolating, and so often we feel as if we are the only one who feels these things. 

Here are some of my favorite episodes:
This one on Grief is SO GOOD
And this one on being an F***ING awesome mom is LEGIT.
And an interview with the Husbands  (SO RELATABLE).

So often we wait for the end. Its written in all the fairy tales, and it's when it all finally comes together. It's often the beginning too. But my Dad's death reminded me- maybe we don't want to get to THE END. Because sometimes it really is the end-end. And at the end, we don't know what will have- things we might take for granted now, like the ability to walk or talk or see or not experience intense pain. The beauty and the grit and the lessons and the profound and ordinary is in the mucky complicated middle. If we are really, really lucky- we are so far from THE END, and we are drifting through our own in between. Truly feeling ok, deep in our bones, even when we aren't.

Monday, August 26, 2019

one more step

Today is just one step on your million mile journey. In the moment it can feel like your forever, but it's all so temporary and tiny. Even the big stuff. Endings crash into beginnings at a rapid pace at this time of the year. All an imbalanced mixture of excitement and pain and fear of loss and the unknown.

Man is being a human hard sometimes. Constant transitions and the reminder that we must (we must we must, please Chrissy- YOU must) learn how to let go. "You are in control of nothing," I remind myself by the day. Sometimes by the hour. Sometimes it's so concrete. But more often, it's hard for me to see the line between what I can control and what I can’t. It is SUCH a blurred line that overlaps in many places.

At the end of last school year, I wrote myself a SMART IEP goal. Something along the lines of: By September 2019, Chrissy will make an appointment with the following medical providers: OBGYN, Mammogram, Dentist, Ortho, Podiatrist, Primary Care with 100% accuracy, as measured by calendar data.

While Greyson was in a home school program, I seriously neglected this aspect of my life. Don't feel sorry for me- I found a way to work out and on occasion, stop by TJ MAXX way too often for retail therapy. But when I have "me time" I'd prefer not spend it getting my teeth cleaned or my boobs squished. But alas, I am old people, and old people are like old cars that you can not trade in for younger models. You just must find the problem and the missing part and then wait for it to come in as you also wait for the next thing to break down. You just hope it isn't your heart or your air conditioning or- I don't even remember what I'm talking about anymore. It's 8:30pm and all my brain is fit for is BRAVO TV. So forgive me.

I've been chipping away at making those appointments. (Atta girl, proud of you.) Today while at the Dentist (on a MONDAY no less. Warrior I say. Someone give me a trophy), the woman cleaning my teeth said- I see a spot. Not sure if it's a cavity or just a dark spot. Also, this part here feels a little sticky. We'll have the Dentist look at it. I don't mind going to the dentist, and I can totally handle dental work. But I can NOT handle waiting while the Dentist reviews my xrays to see if anything is wrong. I won't to yell out like I do when watching crime shows on TV.  "WHAT IS HAPPENING?! WHAT DOES 'STICKY' MEAN?! I BRUSHED MY TEETH BEFORE I CAME HERE AND DIDN'T FEEL ANYTHING STICKY.

So, the Dentist came in and said a spot under the crown I have is "sticky". But since I had a root canal on that tooth, the root could be decaying and I wouldn't feel it until it was too late. "This pocket here, could be decaying but we can't tell", he says, pointing at an xray where everything looks the same to me. (Me,  imagining a pocket of rotting funk in my mouth that takes over my face like a zombie unexpectedly.) I start swallowing rapidly while my eyes grow big as dinner plates- "Can we do something about it now?!" I ask. Attempting to control the situation to avoid the horrible and unexpected. But nope, I just have to use this tiny Christmas tree looking floss pic and make sure I keep the underside of my crown root clean. (Also, I'm eating chocolate as I type and I'm not a small bit regretting that.) Also- I have TWO cavities- in between two teeth and I have to go back to get them filled.

I left the office feeling like all of this was a 9-1-1. That's the thing about Generalized Anxiety- it can't usually categorize big from small with any regularity. But I brush my teeth! I floss. I can control that- so why can’t I control cavities? I asked the Universe, who then laughed at me for STILL not learning how to let go. We can't completely control our physical and mental health, but there are many aspects within them that we CAN CONTROL. THIS IS TOO CONFUSING.

Ugh. Maybe my next IEP goal will be to understand the difference between things I can and can't control. My baseline is pretty inconsistent, and boy would that knowledge take a load off.


So, Grey is back at school after a break of almost two years. Doing home school was always meant to be temporary. He needs and deserves peers and community and the group routine that only a school environment can provide. His time in his home program was so valuable. You guys- he can read (not decode, not yet) but can read HUNDREDS of words and do basic comprehension of the text he reads. He can use his device to say SO MUCH. SO SO MUCH. He can write things- with a pencil- in correct form!  These are things I KNEW he could and should learn but wasn’t in the school environment. I had the privilege to keep him home and come up with the skills I knew he needed, and then work with professionals to make it happen. (Don't ask me advice on how to Home school. I am lost without subject matter experts, and I seek out everything I don't know how to do- which is A LOT.)





Every year I make an "About Me" for the boys. It's hard to hand over a little piece of your soul, especially if they can't verbally express themselves like a General Ed student can. So I do my best to give staff- all staff, from the cafeteria to the nurse to the Speech Therapist- a little glimpse into my boys.


But what about everyone else who deserve to be presumed competent and given the supports they need to learn ? (A thought that keeps me up at night.)

Today marked the beginning of week three of school, and he's handled it like a CHAMP. Both boys are, but they are already ready for next Summer. Grey tells me, "Greyson all done school", eleventy hundred times a day, but he goes and he tries every darn day. I am proud of them.

I don't talk about specifics with regards to the boys and school. I have to respect the process, and respect the privacy of the many people who work hard (often with limited resources) and do the right thing. I will however continue to discuss the advocacy I do to change the system and the World.

"You can only advocate for your own child" many seasoned Special Education Parents of older children have told me. But that wasn't God's plan. I know that so much of what my boys need and are legally entitled to- everyone needs. I believe if you see something that isn't right- it is your job to speak up if you can. The outcome I can't control, but the speaking up- I most certainly can and will.

Baby steps my friend. The end of the million miles will be here before we know it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

respect the breed

Author Kelly Corrigan's Motto is "Things happen when you leave the house". She is absolutely one of my favorite writers and feeler ever, but her life motto sounds more like a torture theme to this high anxiety introvert.

But sometimes our greatest pains are directly connected to our greatest strengths. I remind myself of that when I beat myself up for not being (more extroverted, less anxious, more adventurous, a better cook and approximately 11 million other things depending on the day and the amount of grace I have left in my cup). I like to stay home. A lot. All I really need are the people (and animals) I love, a good book, a comfortable spot (hopefully in the sun), and exercise. I like home. Sometimes the world just feels too big and too scary. Home is predictable. Safe.



I told you about our new dog Lucy. Lucy is so chill. So sweet, so laid back. The other day Parker squeezed her face too hard- to the point she yelped. And two seconds later she was following him around ready for any attention he would give her. She also doesn’t get worked up when someone rings the bell. She runs into things all the time. She literally ran into the back glass door this morning causing a thump so loud I jumped. She’s a little bit of a doofus. And it’s perfect. Because it’s also how she’s so chill with the kids. Lucy is Lucy. Chill with the kids, not a watch dog, and a bit of a clutz. 





Now Oliver is kind of high strung. He is part chihuahua- so he guards the castle. He’s fast and super agile and doesn’t love the unpredictability of the boys sounds and movements. But he does love to run with the boys and play outside. He doesn't tire easily. He's also a super fast learner, and takes what we tell him seriously. You can't expect a chihuahua to be a Golden Retriever. And vice versa. 


I can so easily look at my dogs and respect their breed combined with their own natural tendencies. Respect that for them to be one thing- it might completely exclude them from being another thing too. I don’t judge it, I just notice it and try to work with it.

I am trying to offer myself that same grace. So maybe I am too anxious, and definitely too this, and not nearly enough that. I am anxious more often than not. I am constantly thinking, researching, writing. But I am also super organized and love to meet fear of the unknown with learning everything I can. 

I am deeply by routine, and often rigid in my patterns. But I don’t need much at all to entertain me. I am organized predictable and dependable. 

I can’t be anxious AND laid back AND organized AND constantly moving and going. I can't be all the things at once. It’s not my breed. I'm a HUGE fan of self-improvement, but I'm trying to tackle that from a place of "I am enough, and I can always be better," not from a place of, "Boy are you broken!" 

All of our lefts have rights, our yin’s have yangs, our sweets have sours. Life is a series of contrasts. One cannot exist without the other. 

What is your breed? How can you love it?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

life is good

I am a little lost. 

And when I am lost, I often hide. Writing is a way to help me figure things out, to help me be found. My internal GPS. So, I hide from writing too. I don't realize it, until I realize it. So here I am. 

I have no plan now, but to unwind with words. To pull out the things I have been stuffing down. 

Transitions. They jolt me completely.  Way before autism was part of our family DNA. I hate it when people blame their own shit on their kid’s autism. Nope- you were uptight way before autism, Susan, let's be honest.  

Even good transitions, like crashing into summer. What will we do? Not in a bucket list sort of way, (I hate those by the way. I don’t need another list, or another reason to feel inadequate.) I mean what will we do on a Thursday at 11am when the week feels like it’s lasting forever and Parker has already lit something on fire and found all the knives and the one hidden sharpie and I just don’t know how I can fill the emptiness of the next 40 years.

The good news is, it just takes us all a week of dipping our toe into the new schedule before it doesn't feel so scary.

So, my dad is still dead. A fact that still shocks me most days. If I refuse to believe it to be true, perhaps it won’t be? I hate that it still genuinely surprises me when I allow my mind to linger there. I will hate when it doesn’t shock me anymore, because that will mean it's real. 

2019 has not been my friend. Jack my dog died. And Belle 5 days later. And then my dad, after a horrible extended stay at a horrible place. There was negligence, there is a lawsuit. I ask God- how do I process this information? Where do I put it? Why are elders and special needs children targets for some people who just don’t care? I remind myself that there are also people in these fields that are angels and making magic too. But right now- the ghosts of the evil ones linger because of what I have seen. That kind of evil is hard to process.

Parker is so so happy to be "all done school", and I am too. We need to detox from that joint for a couple of months. Grey will probably be going back to school with Parker in August. Even the transition into making that happen has been difficult. I try to put that worry in a box, and wait until August to open it. It shouldn't be this hard, I find myself thinking on a loop, over and over again.

I bring my mind back to the now. The boys are in Behavior Therapy. Oliver, one of our two new beautiful babies is sleeping by my side. 

I never officially introduced them here. 


 This is Oliver. 



And this is Lucy. 

It's scary to love this much. But love is always worth it. Always.

My current television obsession, "How to Get Away with Murder" is on Netflix in the background. Today is good. Life is good. Thank you for reminding me of that.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

goodbye

So much of my writing is also my internal quest for a silver lining. I often end up finding it by the time I'm done. This is not one of those times, there's not a lining, silver or otherwise in sight. I’ve put off writing this post over the past month. I just don’t have the words to say other than "My Dad is dead". A fact so raw, that there is no right way, so instead I just dive into the unbearable truth of it all.

The feelings crash through me at an inconsistent pace that I can’t predict or keep up with. Fear. Anger. A deep and draining sadness that shows up and stops me from getting shit done. Sometimes it is just hard to breath. I called his number to prove it was disconnected, which then made me cry harder. I listen to old voicemails that feel like torture and a soothing balm all at the same time. "Chrissy, this is your Father, Ron Pratt." GOD LOVE HIM for stating his name, as if I had multiple Dads. I stare at his picture and know he will walk in at any minute. He just can’t be dead. If I simply refuse to believe it, then it can’t be true-right?

On January 28th, my Dad had surgery to remove a cyst from his brain. After a few weeks in the hospital, he was transferred to an Assisted Living/ Rehabilitation Center. An unexpected blood clot post-surgery did some damage to his cerebellum and he needed to spend time getting stronger. Within 24 hours of being at this facility, my Dad fell out of his wheel chair three times. “The hospital didn’t tell us he wasn’t aware of his own safety,” they told my Mom. The picture my Mom texted me filled my stomach with cement. It was my Dad with a large contusion on his head, and a black eye. His eyes looked so sad. He was in Missouri, and me being so far away in California, felt like drowning. 

I didn’t understand how he could have fallen more than one time. How were no corrective procedures put in place after the first fall? Why didn’t the facility do their own safety assessment to see what my Dad’s needs were as soon as he was admitted? What was their plan to keep my Dad safe? I called and spoke with the facility, and their words brought no peace. I let them know that we would be moving him as soon as I found somewhere else for him to go. 

I barely slept that night. The next morning was spent on the phone with insurance and other Assisted Living facilities. I was looking for one with a good reputation that accepted my parents insurance and had availability. Several places didn’t have room. A few did, and my Mom and Aunt toured them during a particularly bad snow storm in Missouri. We put in a transfer for the place they liked best. After a couple of days this facility said then said they actually wouldn’t take my Dad. We were back at zero- and I was devastated. I called to see what happened. When my mom toured this place, everything was good to go.  “Why won’t you take him?” I pleaded from thousands of miles away. “Because we can’t offer the same level of care as they can,” they told me. “But you are an Assisted Living/Rehab facility too. What do they have that you don’t?” I asked. No answer, except to repeat the sentence again. I realized how similar advocating for slippery special education services was to this new scary world. Why isn’t transparency and safety a guarantee for children with special needs and the elderly? I am sometimes terrified by what we value as a society.

I had to see my Dad, so I booked another flight to Missouri, my second in less than a month. I was trembling with excitement and sadness and hope and fear as I drove there from the airport. Walking in and hugging him was everything. He was still Dad, just now with sad eyes. But he was my Dad, and I knew he would fight to get to the other side of his recovery. I knew I had to put the happy into his eyes again.


Going to Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy with him was my favorite. It was incredible to watch the strongest man I know regain his physical strength. He was so brave. When he had first arrived, he could barely talk, and he couldn't eat real food or stand or walk. Now, not even two weeks in, he was able to speak and he could eat real food. He was working hard on standing and coordinating all the things it takes to walk. It’s remarkable the things we take for granted until they are gone. He tired easily, but I know him better than I know myself and I knew when he needed to rest and when he needed a little extra push to keep going. I was his drill sergeant- cheering him on but pushing him further. The therapists got a kick out of us.  


At night he still tried to get up out of bed, so sitter would sit with him. He was strong enough to push himself up, but not strong enough to walk. The last night I was there, I slept next to him in the recliner. We watched Forensic Files on repeat. I slept with one eye open. He would stir- “Everything OK, Pop?” I would ask. And then he would remember that I was with him… remembering the joy in his eyes when he realized it was me sitting next to him is causing me to sob out loud as I type through my tears. “Hello dear.” He would say with his twinkle in his eyes, reaching out his arm to hold my hand. Even when my arm fell asleep from stretching to reach him, I didn’t let go first. He is my heart. 


My sisters, Katie, Lisa and I with our hero- our Dad.

His diet had progressed from liquids to purées to chopped foods, to whatever he wanted when I arrived. You better believe I brought in Jalapeño Krunchers and Red Hot Riplets potato chips - our favorites and St. Louis Missouri legends. My Dad and I shared a love of snacking, watching TV and napping, and that’s what we did each day. It was magic. 

The other residents there were magic too. I don’t think we should call people who have been on earth the longest “the elderly”. They are so much more. They are the wise. They are the humbled. They are recipients of so much experience. There were a couple of residents 100 years old. I made some new friends. I listed to many stories, and was truly humbled by the perspective only the wise can offer. 

I can only imagine how hard it is going from full independence to depending on someone else for your every single move. Having to ask permission to get out of bed or go to the bathroom. We assume people know how to get older, simply because they age. But I think it's surprising and confusing for us all at times. 

My Dad wanted to leave this place so badly. “There’s just no dignity here, Chris”, he told me on more than one occasion. Based on how some of the staff interacted with him, I could understand how he felt that way. There were big things and little things. Little things- like assistants walking in- not saying hello or introducing themselves and shoving medicine into his mouth. It’s incredible the difference a little kindness can make. It’s incredible what it’s void can do too.

“This place can’t be your prison.” I told my dad, gesturing around us “Your only job here is to gain your strength back so you can leave. This is temporary. This is the only place that can be your prison,” I told him- tapping on my head. I know first hand how I can imprison myself with my mind more than any circumstance could imprison me. I could feel my Dad’s pain. It was unbearable.

I remember kissing his sleeping forehead on my last day as I left. I held it together until I got to the airport. I called my husband, Michael while waiting for my flight, and all I could do was sob out loud on a couch in Starbucks. “We need to get him out of there,” I told Michael in between sobs. My Dad hated it there, and the thought of making him stay was beyond unsettling. I needed to fix it, and I didn’t know how because my Dad wasn’t yet able to travel. My parents couldn’t go back to their home- it is an old brick building with several old steep and narrow stair cases. My Dad still needed to get stronger before he could leave. 

My Dad continued to get stronger. He was able to stand with assistance in therapy, and he was walking the distance of the therapy gym with a walker and the therapists help. A week after my return back to California, I woke up to a text from my mom. I was expecting a picture of my Dad in therapy, kicking ass. Instead I found out he had fallen again. There was a huge lump from the top to the bottom of his forehead, and blood was rising to the surface of his skin. It looked horrific. The sad eyes were back. My Mom walked into the facility that morning, and found my Dad set in a recliner and pushed up to the breakfast table. He had his head down on the table and he was in pain. My mom was told my dad had fallen at around 5am. No one was in his room watching him per orders. He was not seen by a doctor after his fall. He was on blood thinners, which can make falls even more dangerous. It was now three hours later, and my Mom requested that he be taken to the hospital to be seen. An ambulance didn't arrive for another 30 minutes. So much time was wasted.

Soon after arriving to the hospital, my Dad became unresponsive. His skull was filling with blood and causing his brain to swell. After confirming this with a CT scan, he was rushed into surgery. They had to remove a flap from his skull to make room for the swelling and work to stop the bleeding. After a follow up CT scan post-surgery, the doctor confirmed that his head was still bleeding. We had no choice but to let my Dad go. 

On March 5th, at 3:30 in the morning, my Dad’s heart made its final few beats. I sat in my closet on the phone with my sisters and Mom, as to not wake Michael and the boys, and we all cried. I wanted to die with him. I kind of thought I was. It hurt more than any words can explain. 

Three days later, Greyson, Parker, Michael and I flew to Missouri to say our final goodbyes. It was so wonderful to be with my family, and so horrible to be there without my Dad. My Mom and sisters and I went through old pictures and we laughed and we cried. The 80 year old man I knew, was replaced with every age he had even been. He's one of the best people I've ever known. And now he's gone. I gave my Dad’s eulogy, and it was such an honor to be able to share what a remarkable human he was. 


My Grandma Agnes, who died before I was born, my 19 year old Dad and my Grandpa Jesse.



My wedding day with my Dad and Mom, June 24th, 2006. My parents were married for 52 years, and are a remarkable example of what real love is. 




Poster Boards my sisters and I put together for his funeral. My Dad was a husband, a real estate owner and property manager (he never retired), a veteran, an uncle, and a friend to many.


It’s not the kind of thing you get over, so I’m learning to live with a dad shaped hole in my life. We all are. My Mom's strength is incredible.


Thank God we have each other. Sisters, Katie and Lisa, me and my Mom. 

The sharp pain I felt while crying in my closet has been replaced with a dull and constant ache. Somehow the world goes on without a Ron Pratt in it, although I'm not quite sure how. When burned down to its most basic of elements, this pain is really love. It hurts this much, because we love so much. And it's worth every moment we had.

I'll leave you with some words written by poet, Nekia Thomson, which we included on my Dad's funeral program...

When tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand, that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand; the angel said my place was ready, In Heaven far above, And that I'd have to leave behind all those I dearly love. But when I walked through Heaven's Gates, I felt so much at home, for God looked down, smiled at me and told me, "Welcome Home." So when tomorrow stars without me, Don't think we're far apart, for every time you think of me, I'm right there in your heart.

I miss you Dad. I am so proud to be your daughter.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Dad

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. (Sue Monk Kidd).

When I think of my dad, I will forever picture a 45 year old man, with tan hands and a dark brown mustache. A witty, quiet man, who could often help you make sense of this complicated world with just a few words. A man who loves naps almost as much as he loves my mom, his wife of 52 years. He knows struggle more intimately than most, through the loss of his first born, a 7 year old boy named Douglas, and many other tales that are only his to tell. I hold his stories in my heart.


Doug, Dad and me


Ron Pratt, was born in St. Louis Missouri in 1938 to parents Agnes and Jesse. 



His best friend, Don Steinmeyer (left) and my dad (right in both pics.) "Our Dad was a babe", I told my sisters when we saw these pictures.

Dad graduated high school from St. John the Baptist, and went into the Navy for the next 5 years, 2 years in active duty and 3 years in the reserves. He started civilian life at Union Electric, the local Utility Company as a lineman, where he worked by day and then went to night school. He met my mom, Joan, when she was just 18, and he was 25 at the Cathedral Club, a group for young single Catholics. "We were in a Christmas Program. I danced and he played the banjo," shares my mom.  




They married in 1966, after a simple proposal that occurred one morning at Uncle Bill’s pancake house in St. Louis Missouri.  Together Ron and Joan had 4 children. Douglas was their first born, a precious son. Followed a few years later by me- (Hi- I'm Chrissy. Nice to meet you!). When Doug was just 7, he was hit by a car while crossing the street, and he died the next day. A year later, daughter Lisa was born. And last came the youngest, Katie.


Chrissy, Ron, Joan and Lisa
Katie, Dad and Lisa

I can remember times we only had one car, so my mom would wake us up while it was still dark out to take my dad to work at the Utility Company. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but even then, my fondest memories really have nothing to do with cost. A big night at our house involved a TV movie and popcorn popped right on the stove. "I'm popping," my dad would say. "Who is pouring?" It was my mom's job to pour Kool Aide from a plastic tupper wear pitcher, or if we were really lucky, Hawaiian Punch stored in the fridge in a half gallon metal can. I can almost taste the slight tinge of metal and the pure sweetness of childhood.







Recently my dad had surgery to remove a benign cyst in his brain, located specifically in his cerebellum. Hopes were high and the surgeon didn’t seem too concerned. But a few hours after surgery, my dad became unresponsive. He was rushed back into surgery that same night, where they discovered a blood clot that had formed. It did damage, and recovery is not what was initially expected. Greyson and I flew from Fresno, California the next morning. I was terrified the entire flight that I would land to the news that my dad had died. 




He remained in the ICU for several weeks and transferred to a skilled nursing facility a few days ago. We are working to transfer him to a different Skilled Nursing Facility, one that can better take care of his needs. He has fallen a few times and has a huge knot and abrasion on his head and a black eye. Not being there able to help him feels like drowning. I am going back to Missouri soon, and my only goal is to sit and hold his hand with my family around. There is so much that has to be done (transfer facilities, figure insurance out, sell my parents home- it's got three stories and will not work again, find an accountant to help with my dad's Real Estate books...drowning...) We will do 24 hours at a time, while chipping away daily at the future. 24 hours we can do. My dad has always taken care of us, and deserves the best- He is a precious part of many hearts. 

In parenting they say, "It all goes by so fast." The same rings true for being a child, and watching your parents grow up and old too. It's all so fast. Now that I am a parent and see just how dang hard it is, I appreciate my parents even more.

If you are the praying type, we sure would appreciate yours. I am my father's daughter, and he is my heart. I needed you to know just a glimmer of my dad and his story. He helps me remember who I am. 


He is my safe place

Thank you God, for our dad. We really got a good one.

So much Love,

Chrissy

Monday, January 7, 2019

Belle

You were always here to welcome us home. 

I despise using past tense to talk about you, Belle. But Jack was waiting for you in heaven and it was time. In just a five day span, we had to say goodbye to both of our dogs. 

Our house is too quiet and empty without you, but I feel better knowing you are with your precious sidekick. I miss the click of your nails on the hardwood floors and the clink of your dog tags on your water bowl.




Jack was a just few months old, and he was devastated every time we left the house. He wouldn’t even eat the treats he usually snarfed down, because he was just too sad. So we got you to keep him company. At first your presence made Jack was even more sad. (Ha!) He was like a firstborn child when a new baby is brought home. After a couple of weeks he warmed up to you. And you’ve been a constant duo ever since. Your role in life was the bringer of joy, and that you did in spades my Belly. 

I see myself in your curiosity for all things, your neuroticness, and how you think everything is yours to fix and stress over and control. You were the pack leader. 


You are a daddies girl. I won't past tense that one. It's forever. 

We never even had to potty train you. You didn’t have any accidents in your early days. You were so smart. So stubborn. So amazing. In a way, I think all dogs are rescue dogs, because they rescue us from the hardest parts of life. And life is so very hard sometimes. They help us focus on what matters. They help us notice the simple and profound beauty all around us.









You welcomed home Greyson and Parker, 22 months apart. (Parker pictured, 2 days old).




You helped me potty train. You were such a good little momma.


 You were always there. 

And without you, we are lost. I will miss your head tilt. Your expressive eyes and eyebrows. The way you always guarded the boys. Wherever they were- so were you. (Especially if they had food.)






As long as we search, we will never find another Belle. There will never be another Belle. Albert Pike said “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

You and Jack gave so much to our family. Immeasurable patience and unconditional love. A warm welcome every single time we came home. You were our family and your absence will be felt daily. You were a healer, a therapist, a pillow, a tear catcher and licker, a food off the floor eater, a sunbather, a door greeter, a joy bringer, a protector, a soulmate, a friend. Your gifts and your spirit are immortal. 


So many jobs, just one title - Dog. God spelled backwards. No coincidence. Of course dogs go to Heaven. How could it be Heaven without them?




I know one day you and Jack will be ready to greet us in Heaven when it's time. Until then, we will miss you like crazy.


So much love,
Mom

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Jack


I hate writing this post. If I write it, it’s real and Jack not being here can’t be real. It must be a bad dream that I will wake up from soon. 

The contractions were coming closer and closer as the pain increased in intensity. I desperately needed to think about something else as I waited for my epidural. “Tell me the story about the day we got Jack”, I asked Michael. It was the best day, and it was exactly what I needed to take my mind somewhere far away. He is my person, Jack the dog. One of the few who made me feel understood. The smell of his fur is an instant decrease in my blood pressure. 

But now he is gone.



We brought him home to our new condo in Hermosa Beach, California almost 12 years ago. I insisted we crate train him, that is, until I heard him cry in the middle of that first night. From that moment on, he was in our bed and in our hearts. He slept curled against me at night. He knew I was pregnant with Greyson before I did. Suddenly he followed me everywhere- even scratching on the bathroom door when I was inside. What is up with Jack? I wondered. One positive pregnancy test later and it all made sense. 

Through moves and the birth of two little boys, he’s been there all along as my husband and I grew up. Jack always knew he was my first born baby born.

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to Jack. And I’m terrified to live in a world without him. My chest physically hurts with each breath in, after watching him take his last. He had a severe bacterial infection in his blood called Sepsis. They couldn't find the infection's origin and would have needed invasive surgery to even attempt to find it. Surgery that they didn't think this sweet old boy could survive.  One day he seemed fine, and the next he was throwing up, had a slight tremor and was unusually warm to the touch. It was so hard for him to breathe and he was in so much pain. Michael called me from the vet with the news.

WHAT?! NO! 

I was in disbelief. He was supposed to go to the Vet, get medicine and come back home. That’s what always happens and this time should be no different. But Jack was never coming home. 

I loaded the boys in the car and we drove to the vet to say our very last goodbye. We walked into the small sterile room. Jack was on heavy pain medication and wasn’t very responsive. His eyes were open, so I got down to talk to him. I climbed onto the small metal table and placed him in between my legs as I stroked his fur and told him what a good dog he is.  I told him how special he is, and how sorry I am that he is in pain. I thanked him for loving our family. I thanked him for loving me. What a gift it was.

Baby Grey, Jack and me. Jack slept by my side. Sometimes there was a newborn baby between us. 




When we would go to the dog park, he would run so fast in circles around the park as soon as we got there. It always looked like he was smiling.








He put up with all my antics.

He loved to find a sunny patch and just lie down for awhile.


The Vet asked us to let her know when we were ready. Are you ever ready to put poison in your dog and hold them as they die? 

“They want to know if we want his paw print and his ashes,” Michael told me. “NO!” I whispered angrily. “I don’t want those things, I want my dog.” I cried. I just want my dog...

Each breath of Jack’s took so much energy. It was time. The vet poked her head back in and I solemnly nodded. She came back with syringes to use on the port he already had in his paw. The vet explained that they would first give Jack a sedative. And the last syringe was the end. I held Jack's head and he body was cradled in between my legs. Michael and I held hands. I wanted to start screaming and never stop. The Vet used her stethoscope to check his heart, and then tried to close his eyes. I knew he was gone. 

Those 12 years were over so fast. 

The boys said goodbye to Jack. They are more intuitive than we could ever imagine, but life and death are very complicated, not-concrete terms, and I don’t really know how much they understand. I’m in my 40’s and I still don’t understand. 

A video Parker made a few weeks ago.


JACK!!! JACK!!! JACK!!!.... I went outside this morning and yelled his name over and over again in agony. I sat down on the frosty sidewalk and welcomed the numbness of the cold. I just want him back. I can’t sleep without him. How will I advocate without him? Every rough meeting ended with me snuggling with Jack at home. How will I homeschool without him? He laid at our feet. He was my home. He is my heart.

Everything good in life has a cost, and the cost of love is intense pain and loss. We must still love though. Jack's love was always without conditions. In many ways, he taught us how to love, simply by the way he loved us. So for now I will figure out how to live with a Jack shaped hole in my life and remember that this pain is so big because our love was even more grande.