Friday, November 28, 2014


Thanksgiving has come and gone.

We had a quiet day, just six of us here. Tim, Eddie and Grace and Steve's dad were here. It was a bit melancholy, for sure. We missed Maggie and shed a few tears as we talked about this past year. But we all know how much we have to be thankful for and tried to concentrate on that. We have each other, we have memories of Maggie and we have the support of so many people, including you who are reading this.

Obviously, we have so much more than that, as well. We have food and shelter and all the creature comforts we need. We have more extended family than anyone and we live in a beautiful place and are participating members of our community.We are thankful for all of that.

Still, it's hard this year to focus on how we have when we all think so much about what we lost. That tiny young woman was so filled with energy and joy that it is impossible to fill the hole she left. She was whatever is the opposite of a Black Hole. She didn't swallow energy, she exuded it. She was the sunshine.

I did grab a decoration to put on the table. I showed it to the boys and said, "this is something Maggie supposedly made at school, but we all know she didn't really make it." (There was absolutely no way she could have placed the decorations in the right places.) She would have been more of a consultant.

 Tim and Eddie then went into a description of Maggie  working on this project  that had me laughing very hard !

Teacher or aide: Should we use red? yes or no?
Maggie: No! ahahhaha (throws back her head)
Should we use orange? yes or no?
NO! ahahahhahahah (throws back her head)
 Should I put it here? yes or no?
NO! hahahhahah    I want my music please. I don't like  TV. I don't like TV.

We were all laughing at her imagined antics and then got quiet and kind of smiled at each other sadly. She was missed.

But we were thankful we had her, thankful for her huge personality and thankful we could laugh about her, even for a few minutes.

Hope your day had some laughter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Area of Refuge

I had a dream the other night that Maggie and I had evacuated to an "area of refuge" and were awaiting assistance, but no one was coming. The dream was a little scary as we were all alone and I wondered if anyone would be there for us.

 There are lots of possible read ins to this, but I know for a fact that it stemmed from the scavenger hunt at the new UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital which is all but complete and will open February 1. The scavenger hunt was part of an all day training for staff and contractors (like me) who work at the hospital. People need to know where things are and we were charged with finding several places, including the area of refuge. It is a place where people who cannot get down the stairs wait for help. You and I would call it the stairwell, but building codes require these places be labeled as a specific "area of refuge" .

The dream stayed with me all day yesterday and I felt a little unsettled, and very alone and helpless. I worked at the current hospital and felt Maggie's presence all day long. That doesn't usually happen to me, but it was strong yesterday. It wasn't just my imagination either.

As I was headed home a car pulled up along side me. The woman inside was smiling, but I didn't recognize her. She asked, "Aren't you Maggie's mom?'  She was a therapist who worked with Maggie for a short time when she started high school.  The therapist moved away, and I lost track of her. It was kind of her to bother pulling over to offer condolences.

When I arrived back in my neighborhood, I went to the little market from which I always buy my Thanksgiving turkey. I just wanted to confirm my name was on the list. While in there I saw a neighborhood woman whose name I don't know. She is sort of the queen of the dog people in the 'hood. She's very nice and had offered assistance with Maggie in the past.  I figured I should tell her about Maggie. She was shocked and kind as always. I told her I had seen her in the past months but didn't say anything because I couldn't talk about it. She completely understood. But when she compared my experience  to the loss of her first dog, I quickly ended the conversation. Not rudely, mind you, but ended it nonetheless. I do realize some dog people equate their pets with children and though no harm is intended, it is a rather insulting comparison.. I have both. In fact I've lost both this year. It's not the same,

Finally home, I gathered the mail and went upstairs. I listened to two messages as I plopped my things down. One message was from a mom of another disabled young man. She offered her condolences about Maggie and gave the other reason for her call. Then I opened the mail to read a card from a law school friend who had just learned about Maggie and offered her sincerest sympathy. It was very kind.I stared at the message machine and the card in my hand, not quite believing all of this was happening on a day when I had felt Maggie with me so strongly.

Amazingly, all four of these encounters happened in the span of about 45 minutes; and they all happened nine months and nine days after we lost Maggie.  Even after all this time, there are people bothering to offer their condolences and tell me how cool  Maggie was.  Taken collectively they made me realize that the dream didn't need to bother me, I'm not alone at all. There are plenty of people ready to assist. My area of refuge is anywhere I go and in the people who knew Maggie.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What do you do with a general....

There have been so many changes in our life since and because we lost Maggie. Our once bustling house is quiet. There are no nurses coming and going, no supplies taking up half the garage, no fighting for coverage or services or anything. I was just on the back deck and noticed the barbecue in the lift, which is where we keep in now that we don't need the lift two or more times a day.

Steve and I were so programmed to wait for the nurse to arrive at night that we automatically stayed up until she would have arrived; it took us months to just go to bed when we wanted. Getting up in the morning is also completely different. There is no crazy morning ritual because I don't have to hurry down to meet the bus with the talker programmed and everything done. There isn't a drawer full of tubes and the bottles and bottles of medications are gone. 

Those are just things, though. The hardest part of all is missing Maggie. She was the nerve center of everything. She was the queen  and she knew it. We were her loyal subjects, we were her army. We were happy to do her bidding and fight her battles. Without the queen, the subjects are a bit lost, the troops disbanded, and the generals a bit at sea, especially me 

My role was clear when Maggie was here.  I was the general, so used to taking charge and getting things done. I led the troops which included her nurses, teachers, therapists and people on the street. Now I have no troops and no queen and I don't know who I am. 

Maggie has two brothers, but they are all grown up and certainly do not need their mother running their lives. Steve was a co general --three stars to my four, really -- so he doesn't need any bossing around. (Though I'm not above trying from time to time).

Now I am charged with figuring out how to live in a world that doesn't need what I have to offer, and doesn't offer what I need most. I suppose when you get right down to it, it's nothing more than a dramatic case of empty nest, so I will find my way.

Until that is figured out, I just find myself singing this song from "White Christmas" over and over


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Jury is out

I touched on this a couple of weeks ago, but I just found it again in a pile of papers, so you are getting another dose.

Maggie received a jury summons a couple of weeks ago. She is supposed to report on Monday November 24 unless she has a legitimate reason to be excused. She does. One of the few legitimate excuses is if the prospective juror is deceased. One simply checks a box and one is excused.

Now I know my reaction may be extreme because of my situation, but I find this appalling. Obviously the City and County of San Francisco summons the deceased for jury duty often enough that has modified its summons form to make that an acceptable excuse. That is bizarre. Maybe it's time to rethink this.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to cross check a list of prospective jurors against a list of death certificates issued in the City?  Once it was set up, it would take no time at all, it would be an automatic check. Of course they wouldn't get everyone, but you would get a lot of people. The City and County could save the paper, the postage and a lot of heartache/angst for the family members of the deceased; it could do right by its citizens.

Part of me just wanted to toss the summons in the garbage.  I mean what are they going to do?  I wasn't summoned, I have no reason to do the City's job for them.  But then I realized if I didn't send it back in, the notices will keep coming every year or so forever, which is likely what happens to many, including those without a family living at the same address. That means I would get annoyed/hurt/angry every time I received one.  It's worth the trouble and the stamp to stop that.

 But it really better stop.

Maggie was summoned two years ago, and I found it rather charming. (Maggie World: Juror #5, what say you). The court had no reason to know Maggie could not serve as a juror. So I told them. I submitted medical information that she was severely and permanently disabled and had actually been conserved by the San Francisco Superior Court, the very same department that issues the summons, One would think her name would have been taken off the rolls at that time. Hence, I have my doubts that sending this back with notification that she is deceased will do any good at all

Could it possibly be that no one in City Hall actually reads anything?

Check a box  ___ Yes   ___No

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Heading into the Holidays

My neighbor asked about our Thanksgiving plans. I told him we were having it here and it would be very quiet. That surprised him because he knows how big my family is. I told him this year quiet may be better for me since it will be the first holiday season since Maggie died.  He asked if I was still having a hard time.

 The answer is yes. 

And I'm not sure that will ever change

As of this writing it has been 9 months and 4 days and I feel like I miss Maggie more with each passing day. Maybe it is the approaching Holidays.  Maybe it was getting through Halloween. Maybe it's just because it's Tuesday. It doesn't matter why. I just miss her smile and her laugh and her joie de vivre.

its just not the same without her here.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Remembering a face in the crowd

As I walked out of Golden Gate Park today I heard the sirens and saw two firetrucks pass by. I was concentrating on crossing the street and didn't notice which way they went. I was still a couple of blocks from home. Just because of the way the traffic lights worked, I walked north and then west, which is about 50 yards longer than walking west and then north. Close enough to be called a tie, really.

As I turned onto Cabrillo street I saw those fire engines and an ambulance in front of my neighbor's house. I don't know what happened, but the front door was opened and rescue workers were streaming in and out of the house. I kept going, not wanting to be a ghoul. The ambulance drove by my house as I put the garbage cans out, but the firetrucks stayed behind.

It's now an hour later, I can see one of the trucks  through the yards when I'm on the back deck. I am sitting in my dining room and I can hear the radio on the firetruck. If I decided to listen closely I would probably hear exactly what happened. Really, for all the talk, we have no privacy at all.

Seeing all that brought me back to Valentine's morning when we had the same three trucks and an ambulance in front of our house. Of course it was 3:30 am, so not too may people were walking by, but I'm sure they could all hear everything on the radio if they chose to. It doesn't matter, but it makes me wonder.

So many things stick out about that day. So many painful images. The obvious ones need not be discussed, but one less obvious one came right back to me as I saw the paramedics climb into that ambulance today. I remembered the paramedic's face. It was as clear as day.

Maggie had been "down" for a long time. Too long. They were about to give up when they finally got a pulse; but we knew the damage had been done. And the paramedics knew too. They transported Maggie to the hospital where the staff worked on her feverishly for 30 minutes or so in the ER and then immediately transferred Maggie upstairs to the Pediatric ICU. There were so many people in that ER room. Several doctors and nurses from the ER and from the PICU as well as the firemen and paramedics who were still doing paperwork.

As we walked behind Maggie and the  numerous caregivers surrounding her now moving gurney, I caught the eye of one of the paramedics. He was sitting in a little alcove finishing his paperwork. He was probably the same age as one of my sons. He looked so sad and so defeated. He looked at me and I quietly said "thank you for all your hard work" and he just put his lips together tightly and nodded. We both knew what was going to happen and we gave each other just an acknowledgement of respect.

I think of that guy often and find myself looking at paramedics closely to see if it's him. I did that today as this moment was replaying in my head. If I did see him, I would probably say nothing because it would be too weird, but I would want to tell him what a huge difference he made to us.

Without his efforts - and those of his fellow firefighters - we would have lost Maggie that morning. Instead, we got another 40 hours. They weren't easy hours, but they were important. We spent that time laughing and crying and preparing ourselves. Without that time, we wouldn't have been able to gather our family. Eddie never would have had time to get here from Orange County nor would Tim have been able to come from his house across the park.  We wouldn't have been able to share our memories. We wouldn't have been able to say goodbye.

It's no wonder I can still see his face so clearly. He was an important person in my life.

I hope all is well with my neighbors.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Someone to watch over me

The best thing about changing from Daylight Savings back to Standard time is hopping out of bed in the morning. It's light and still early. I feel like I can attack the day head on.  No alarm clock is necessary because it already feels decadently late after all those dark mornings before the time changed.  Between the new dog and the bright mornings I have done more before 8AM this week than I have in months.

This morning that changed just a bit. Georgie started barking at something around 5:15. Steve got up to investigate and I went back to sleep. I realized Steve had been gone for a while and started to worry. (Not enough to get up, mind you, but enough not to sleep.)  I heard him come back up the stairs and asked what was up. He said, "Nothing as far as I can tell, I think she heard the coffee pot go on."  I responded, "well then she is really going to keep us safe."

I tried to settle back to sleep when I found myself wondering why the coffee pot would go on so early, but decided I forgot to set the clock back on the coffee maker and it started at 5:15 instead of 6:15.  I debated whether I should get up to get that first cup from the fresh pot deliciousness, but figured it would still be pretty good in an hour. But going back to sleep was not in the cards just yet.

The dog came back upstairs clinking her over sized dog tag they gave us at the rescue. She wandered into the room and then out and back down the stairs. She repeated this several times, finally coming over to my side. I realized she was looking for Steve. He had opened the back door for her and then returned upstairs while she was outside. I told her everything was OK and to go lay down, but she was getting frantic so I told Steve to say something. As soon as he said, "I'm right here Georgie," she went over to her bed and went back to sleep. I started laughing and said to Steve we've really got someone watching over us now.

Again I toyed with the idea of just getting up, but didn't. I grabbed the ipad and started to play words with friends, but I fell asleep with my glasses on and the ipad wide opened on my bed.  The next thing I knew Steve's alarm went off at 6:45. It scared the bejesus out of me. I never wake up to an alarm because my internal clock is so set, but the hijinx of the early morning knocked me off my game.

My first reaction was panic because I thought I had to get Maggie all ready for the bus and I was late. (And that's the first time that has happened.) That turned to a bit of sadness as reality set in. No bus was coming. Strangely, though, the sadness was mixed with a bit of relief that I wasn't late for anything - except my perfect cup of coffee.

I always have a piping hot cup the second the pot is ready because I am always up. Generally I don't have it together to make it the night before and set the timer, so I wait (impatiently) for the pot to finish and pour a cup the moment it's ready. Today I got up and had that cup of coffee that had now been sitting for almost 90 minutes. It was OK but not the same.   Nothing is the same.

As I drank my coffee this morning and missed my girl,  I ruminated over the events of the past few hours. I thought OK, that was a weird chain of events. We still had a version of morning madness, but completely different from those with Maggie.

I missed the craziness of my mornings with Maggie and the relief I felt as the bus pulled away and the day was mine. I loved how quiet the house was when I went back inside after the bus left, but I hate that same quietness now.

Then I had to smile a little because our house was anything but quiet this morning. The ruckus was different from before, but there was indeed ruckus. Apparently the coffee pot makes enough noise to bother the dog who made plenty of noise for us and then patrolled non stop until he found Steve. We are safe and protected by this sweet animal. Maggie is watching over us from above and Georgie is taking care of the house.

As nice as that is, I'm still going to reset the clock on the coffee pot. One morning like that is enough.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Here Joy, c'mon joy...

The past year has been the most difficult of our lives. By far. 1994-96 was rough, 2007 and 2010 were tough, but 2014 takes the cake. Losing Maggie is, of course,  is the defining moment of this year and of our lives to date. But it came amidst so much other turmoil...

Steve's dad was ill and in and out of the hospital and finally had to go into assisted living. Steve hurt himself caring for his dad and needed surgery. Tim was in a terrible car accident on Memorial Weekend but was fortunate to come through it with only a slight concussion. And then Brisco the 16 year old wonder dog -- who spent every single night from the time Maggie went into the hospital sleeping at the doorway of her room -- suddenly died on 4th of July weekend. (I really don't care for Holiday weekends this year)

Steve and his siblings made the difficult decision to sell their parents hours and spent the summer cleaning it out and getting it ready to sell. That was very emotional for all and they did an incredible amount of work. But we marveled at their cousin Russ who did an amazing makeover to that house and got it ready to sell. It sold in a flash and now Steve, his brother and sister can focus on what their dad needs and wants instead of worrying about the house and the things in it.

It wasn't like we cornered the market on sadness either.  Other family members had scary illnesses and one of my cousins died suddenly of a heart attack. Maggie's friend Tyre passed away making us so very sad again.

To have all these things happen in a single year is incredible. Of course, when you are already in sadness and grief, as we are, it is easy to see all the dark things. It is harder to find the joy.

The best description I can give for grief is heaviness. It feels like a weight is on your shoulders and in your arms and gravity is working at double strength. All of these other things add to that heaviness and we found ourselves trudging along. We needed some lightness to balance out the heaviness.

The easiest thing to do is to climb into bed and pull the blankets up over your head. But you can't do that. You have to go on. You have to. If you don't, the sadness and darkness wins. You can't stay mired in sadness forever. You have to move forward. It is incredibly difficult, but you have to make yourself do it. You have to find some sort of joy however you can or you will be stuck.

At first you don't want to. It feels like a betrayal. You are supposed to be sad. Losing Maggie is worth being sad about. It is. And I will be sad about that for the rest of my life, but I cannot live in constant sadness. After so many months, I know we have to let in a little bit more light. I also know I am not betraying Maggie. She was the definition of joy and I honor her more by adopting her way of thinking.

So we went on a search for lightness and joy. We took an amazing trip to London and Ireland. We saw so much beauty and met so many kind people that we walked a little lighter for a while. Then we came home and back to reality, and the heaviness was waiting for us. But now we know that the lightness is possible and continue to look for it wherever we can find it -- and that's not a bad way to go through life. We went to a wedding at the end of September that was so filled with joy that it carried us for days. If we can find a few more things like that we will eventually find our balance.

We took another step toward happy on Saturday. We adopted a dog. She's a year old border collie/lab mix full of energy and life. Her name is Georgie and she's a beauty.

 It's funny though, we went up to Big Dog Rescue with the intention of getting a different dog, but that dog wasn't a fit for us. He was sort of sad and mopey. We didn't discuss it, but we both knew that wasn't the dog for us.  We needed happy. Georgie is energetic and needs walks and wants the tennis ball thrown 1000 times a day. She is hilarious and will get us out of the house and into the park more often.

Lots more joy in the park. And it's easier to find if I'm out looking for it.