Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Eyes Have It

Her name is Marty Jean, her mother’s name was Ethel Jean, her brand new human granddaughter is Lucy Jean.  

The “L” for Lucy is a part of son-in-law Lyle’s family tradition.  The Jean is for Marty, to honor Marty, to connect Lucy to Marty to Ethel Jean.  The name Lucy Jean sings Texas; the name is daughter Erin’s ode to her mother.

I was there when Lucy Jean was born.  I don’t mean in the room, I’m a cool dude, I’m not that cool of a dude nor was the mom to be, Erin, cool with me being that cool of a dude.  I was in the same town, the same hospital, the same floor as the birth, that’s how cool of a dude I am.  I was being a cool dude with Larry and Eileen the other grands, in the waiting room as the actual birthing took place.

The new human, Lucy Jean, was born around 8 p.m..  I sent pictures to Marty Jean who was at our lake house with Nathalie Nichole, her caregiver.  Not long after Lucy’s introduction to the world, not long after the pictures, not long after Erin and Lyle announced the name I sent another picture to Marty and left for the one hour some minute trip to the lake.  

When I got to the house a little after 11 that night I was tired but still a little juiced up from the day’s events… know, a whole new beating heart human being in the world that was a direct descendent of …..Me.  Marty and Nykkie were wrapped in soft sheets and blankets sitting up in her bed watching a little night time trash TV and sipping on drinks….cranberry.

I walked in and asked if they had received the pictures of Lucy I had e-mailed, with my smart phone skills you never know.  They did.  

I asked, “Well Marty, what do you think?”  

She didn’t hesitate, “She’s beautiful.”

“Damn straight, she’s your brand new grandbaby.”

I sat on the edge of the bed, looked at Marty and said, “What do you think of her name, Lucy Jean?  You know she is named after you don’t you?”

Marty smiled and her eyes opened wide.  I could see glimpses of pride and gratitude creep onto her face and come out through her pale blue eyes.  

I have to say for a 20th century guy I am pretty intuitive.  I am lousy at poker because I can’t read strangers well enough to discern dishonesty, but I am good at seeing emotions played out in body language, facial cues, and the eyes of people I know really well.  I know Marty really well…..I have a doctorate of Marty after all.  

The eyes almost always do it for Marty, they widen, they brighten, they become clear and focused when she is happy.  

She said in response to my question of the name, “Oh, that’s kind of dumb.”

The words were the polar opposite of her face.  The words, “that’s kind of dumb,” came out of her mouth, “it is amazing, it makes me feel wonderful, I am so proud,” came from the face of the woman I know better than I know myself.   

The part of Marty’s brain that allowed for, that fed unmitigated physical displays of joy went away with the first stroke.  She doesn’t seem to get outrageously happy anymore and she certainly doesn’t show extreme happy these days.  There’s no raising of the hands in sheer joy, no verbal or non-verbal yippees, no happy dancing anymore.  Unrestrained is not what Marty does post stroke.  

Apparently she has adopted some false modesty in place of the yippee. I know she was thrilled because she can’t close down her eyes or her face or her smile.   When she said, very simply, “Beautiful,” in response my question of “what do you think?”,  when Marty’s eyes opened wide and flashed blue when I asked about the name, when she let go with her broad smile all I could see was Marty doing a wild gyrating happy dance.  

Lucy JEAN thrilled Marty for a lot of reasons.

I don’t remember if it was a song lyric or just a colloquialism but the words go something like this, “Are you going to believe what a say or believe my lying eyes.”  The eyes have it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Looks of Love

Marty loves me.  I know this.  I know because she says she does, I know by the way she looks at me, I know by what she does.  Marty loves me, as she says, “Very, very much.”

It’s a really nice thing to know you are loved; it is very simply the best thing about this care giving gig.  Married people need to know they are loved by their partners and too often we neglect the very simple but seminal detail, you are loved.  Me, I haven’t always known it. Me, I know it for sure today, I feel it every day from the woman I married.

It is the simple stuff that convinces me.  It is the way she looks at me when I am sliding my arms beneath hers to lift her from her chair.  She looks up at me, she looks at my eyes, my face, the growing dearth of hair on the crown of my head, she looks at me with soft blue eyes and I know I am loved by this amazing woman.  

I know her love by the way she takes her right hand and squeezes mine when I reach across the car as we drive down the road (assuming I’m not competing with the ubiquitous Diet Coke), it is the way she offers her cheek for a kiss and says “One more time” and then repeats that two or three times.  It is the way she grabs my arm as she is laying in her bed and I am giving her one last good night kiss or how she reaches out to goose me if I turn around too soon.  

Signs of love come at you in a lot of different ways.

I know her love is there when she swallows all of her pills without complaint or when she drinks the G2 Gator Aid that she doesn’t particularly like or when we prick her finger for blood or when we place the nebulizer mask on her or when we put the nasal cannula under her nose for oxygen or when I move her too fast from chair to chair and she say, “Ouch.”
Her willingness to handle all of the daily indignities without complaint, without balking is a singular message of her love for me.  She hates so much of that stuff, she hates being handled, I know she hates it, but I know she loves me more than she hates the procedures because she accepts what we do, because she knows how much harder my job would be if she complained or balked at the stuff we have to do.  She knows complaining would make the necessary parts of getting and giving care nightmarish.  She chooses to show her love.  It’s a big thing; it’s a big I Love You smack on the lips.

I am one of the fortunate ones that have always known love.  I knew my mother and father loved me, they showed me in so many different ways.  Too many don’t get that, I got that from my family from the time I was born.  And, somehow, some way, when Marty and I met, I knew she too would love me.  

Seeing love is really not that hard, you simply have to open your eyes and look for it.  It’s around you in the way a grandmother looks at a new granddaughter or a great-grandmother looks at her son’s brand new granddaughter.  I know what loving looks like.

I don’t ever wonder anymore if Marty loves me.  I have no doubts about how Marty feels about me, I know she loves me and that is a grand thing. 

And you know what else?  She is absolutely convinced that I love her too.  She’s right about that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Waiting on a Brand New Human

I’m at the Ebola capital of Texas in Dallas, Presbyterian Hospital.   I’m with baby daughter Erin and her husband Lyle awaiting the appearance of grandchild number 4, Lucy or Luke, we don’t know which yet.

Lyle, Erin and I have an over-under on the estimated time of arrival of this critter.  Erin has 4 p.m., Lyle says earlier, I saw later, but not much, I suspect Luke/Lucy will be here at the exact right time.

Birthing is a completely different experience compared to when Matt and Erin were born way back before the turn of the century.  It’s a bit odd that I’m sitting in the room while waiting for the arrival of a new and fresh human and everyone from the nurses to the doctor to the prospective mother is okay with my presence and the presence of other audience members. 

It’s new and pretty cool.  I like it….. I think.

I’m going to keep this record of the events of the day while maintaining a certain level of decorum…this is my baby girl you know.  I’ve said it before, my daughter is not pregnant, she is with child.  If I want to think this conception was immaculate, let me.

We are in the labor and delivery room, water has broken, contractions are contracting and we can hear the fetal heart beat beating and everything is moving as it should be.  Erin is most excellent, Lyle is handling the anxiety well and Lily, Erin and Lyle’s daughter, is at camp Kinard at Matt’s house.  We are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

I miss Marty being here, Erin misses Marty being here but that’s our new normal and we carry her in our heart and I know we are processing the whole event with her guidance.  She may not be here in person, she is at the lake with Nykkie, she is never far from how we do things.

I will keep you posted.  It’s now 11:55 a.m. on Pi day.

Contractions are now coming about every two minutes and Erin is a champ.  She is getting a little more insistent about the epidural.

A nurse from anesthesiology has made an appearance and left but will be back soon so I think we are making headway.  I'm always impressed with birth moms and what they do to bring life, it's pretty amazing.

1:40 p.m.
Big news.....I had lunch.  I gotta say....lunch in a hospital is never fun and just a bit strange regardless of the hospital or the food, it just feels strange to eat food among all of the germs.  That's probably just me.

We had the epidural....we didn't....we are not doing anything, Erin had the epidural and is in good spirits and feeling good though I suspect she would like to get up and walk around.  That's not happening until Lucy Lou/Luke makes their entrance.  The nurses have been attentive and professional and the IV pump is really obnoxious, which is just part of being in the hospital.  

I'm thinking this child should be named Pi in honor of the day. 

4:11 p.m.
It's not going to happen before 4 p.m. so I won bragging rights on the over money here.  We are in waiting mode listening to the machines and the heartbeat of Pi/Lucy/Luke.  Erin's blood pressure got a little low because of the epidural but a little bit saline and everything is hunky dorey.  The thing about birthing babies is you wait on the baby, it's all on the baby's time.  It's hard giving life, it's hard for the baby to grab hold of life, but it happens a lot.  It's happening a lot up here, lot's of new humans coming out at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The only interesting thing is Nykkie who is caring for Marty at the lake lost Maggie our geriatric wiener dog.  The dog did come back and Nykkie is breathing normally again.  To quote her, "I'm not letting her out again, I'll clean up the poop."  They miss me.

So here we sit, waiting for a new life.

6:19 p.m.
There is a rhythm to Pi/Lucy/Luke's heartbeat.  The fetal heart monitor is constant and rhythmic and comforting.  It is a metallic sound but it is the human heart sounds of new life, new beginnings, new opportunities.  It is a comforting sound, much like the sound of Marty's humming, you become used to it, you listen for it, it is comfortable.

Erin is doing great, the baby is doing great but she is taking her own sweet time in coming.  We are closer to birth but not ready to give it a time frame.  Erin just said that the contractions seem to be more intense which may signal we are a bit closer.  Pi in her own good time.

7:43 p.m.
Larry and Eileen, Lyle's parents, made a mad dash to Whole Foods in search of pie.  Erin wants pie when she can eat again.  Apparently pie is hard to get on Pi day because there was very little pie.  But, the Pi/Lucy/Luke has decided to move to the light and Erin is doing the whole push thing even as we speak so I suspect Pi/Luke/Lucy will be making their grand entrance fairly soon.  Erin was excited and a bit anxious, Lyle was fired up and a bit anxious, Marty's Husband is sitting in the waiting room a lot fired up and ready to go (to quote our President).  Soon folks, soon.

8:03 p.m.
What I know to this's a girl......

8:26 p.m.
Lucy Jean Cmerek is her name.  She came to us with dark hair weighing in at a svelte 7 pounds 14 ounces.  She has long fingers, great color and is hungry already.  Erin did great, more than great and Lyle stood tall and cut the umbilical cord.

When Matt, our son, was born Marty sent out announcements that said each child is a gift from God showing that God has not yet tired of human kind.  Lucy Jean, born on Pi day, is a gift that warms all of us and reminds us how fragile yet resilient we all can be.  How about that?

8:56 p.m.
About to go 30 on this all day post.  Sarah brought Lily down to the hospital and she is in the room with Lyle, Erin and Lucy Jean.  Yes, we have a Lily Jewel and a Lucy Jean, Jean being Marty's middle name and her mother's first name.

We have a new human aboard tonight, a new unique human who can do and be whatever she dreams.  I love a miracle, make no mistake, it is a miracle when a new human being arrives.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Cards

It’s a little dangerous when I start organizing, I never seem to finish.  I didn’t get very far because I’m easily distracted from tasks that kinda suck.  Mostly I was side tracked by a treasure trove of old cards, cards from about ten years ago, cards to Marty in the aftermath of her ruptured aneurysm.  

When Marty was in ICU at Zale Lipshy Hospital in Dallas people would send cards to our son’s address in Dallas or our home in Waco and friend Sue would truck them up to Dallas when she visited.  The cards were from all over, friends from church, Marty’s high school and college friends, strangers from other churches, little kids from Sunday school, from our own kids and our family.  I saved all of those cards, bundled them up together and stuck them in a filing cabinet.

I would sit by Marty’s hospital bed where she lay in a coma with tubes coming from all parts of her body, draining fluids, breathing for her and feeding her.  I would sit there and read her the cards and read her the notes inside the cards, often several times.  It was a way to stabilize the chaos in my head, a way to drown out the constant hum of the respiratory equipment and the tones of the machines measuring Marty’s life forces and maybe a way to reach into Marty’s consciousness.

Reading those cards kept me connected and reminded me of the love and caring of others. I read the cards to Marty hoping somewhere somehow she heard their message….we love you, we are praying for you, wake up, get up, recover.

After Marty regained consciousness I once again read her all of the cards she had received.  I sat by her bed, amazed she was finally awake.  I read each card aloud, to my miracle of a wife who was still missing the left front part of her skull, had matted dirty hair from lying on her back for six weeks and still had way too many tubes coming from all parts of her body.  

I read the cards to her, each word, several times, sometimes multiple times during the day.  I wanted her to feel what I had felt when I first read her the cards.  I wanted her to feel the connection to people outside of our new world that was centered in a medical center; I wanted her to hear the encouragement and pleas of her friends, old and new, to move, to recover, to get well.  I wanted her to know how many people loved her and the cards helped with a very simple message, you have been laid low but you have not been forgotten. 

I read her the encouraging words from Jane Ann, the words of love from my brother John, the words of comfort from Sherry, the words of prayer from complete strangers from a friend’s church, I read her the simple words from children.  

We read them over and over again as Marty came back to life.  We read them as she went to a regular room, we read them as she sat up in a wheelchair for the first time in weeks, we read them as Erin cut off her dirty, matted hair.  I took the cards to comprehensive rehab and read them to Marty as she started getting stronger and the miracle of her recovery continued.  I read the new ones Amelia and Joe and Ellen and Luan, I read the old ones again and every time she would listen and ask, “Now who sent that?”  It was proof she was recovering.

I’m a big connectional guy.  I hate to feel isolated and away, I need, and I mean need, to feel close to the world, to my people.  The cards did that for me and they weren’t even meant for me, they were for Marty, the woman fighting for her life.  

For Marty, they meant something even more, they reminded her of who she was, in a strange kind of way they brought her back to her world, to her friends and to her family.  From very simple words, from very simple cards, from very thoughtful remarks she was reconnected to life.  

Of course I read through the cards again instead of focusing on the reorganizing task ahead.  It’s strange that these simple pieces of cardboard still carry power today.  I will let Marty hold them and read them again and then file them away one more time.  

The cards and the words and the people who sent them are our treasure.