Monday, July 27, 2015

Sunburned Heart

July 27, 2015

It was on this day 4 years ago that we said goodbye to my niece Megan.  She would finally have some peace.

Almost 3 months prior, she lay sleeping in her bed early one morning.  Her father, who adored her for her 20 years, succumbed to what I can only believe is some sort of untreated mental illness, and beat her in the head with a baseball bat.

I know, it's hard to imagine.  You may even stop reading this, as the thought is unbearable.  Especially if you are a parent.

She lay in a coma for a long time, disfigured, unrecognizable except by her pretty purple nail polish.  She fought hard, she was a fighter.  A terrible infection.  Unimaginable injuries.  Many surgeries, including some that removed much of her brain tissue.

She was taken off life support and was let go.  Except that stinker hung on for 2 weeks!  I told you she was a fighter.  There was a sense of peace when she finally passed away.  Although as strange as it sounds, there was a part of me that still imagined she could recover.  She may never be the same, but we could all help care for her.  I thought I would be more relieved to know she wasn't suffering anymore.  But the finality of it was hard.

So, as you can imagine, this changed my family in ways too numerous to count.  In ways we are still discovering.  Therapy for me and my children has been very helpful.  But this is etched in our lives now.  It's a part of us.

Since it's been 4 years, and life goes on, there have been many times when I don't think about this every single day.  Almost every day, but sometimes I am going along with my busyness and I forget this wound is there.  It's like a sunburn.  It doesn't always hurt every minute, but you forget it's there and scratch it and BOOM you feel the pain.  I was feeling pretty normal awhile back.  No disturbing images in my brain of how Megan looked after this attack.  I was in even Pontiac, the city where her first hospital was.  Where she went to the ER and then stayed for about 2 months.  I had driven by here a hundred times since then and was fine.  But this one night, Brad had a band gig near the hospital.  We were driving home, and he drove a different route near the hospital.  I have no idea why this affected me.  I had a breakdown, sobbing.

Then there was the time we were going to binge watch The Walking Dead.  Violent TV shows have not been a good idea for me since this.  But it's zombies, right?  Totally fake!  I can take it.  Well, episode 1 starts.  I am not loving the gore, but try to stick with it.  Try to be normal.  Most of America watches and loves this show, I tell myself.  Then out comes the hero to fight off a zombie.  With a baseball bat.  He raises it above the zombies head.  And I hyperventilate.  Run upstairs sobbing, barely able to breathe.  Poor Brad, he was just at a loss.  He kept apologizing.  He just held me until I calmed down.  Needless to say, I have never seen another minute of that show.

There are so many times when someone jokingly says something about beating someone with a bat.  I know you may not believe that, but it's true.  They don't mean anything by it and have no idea about my sunburned heart.  It was fine a minute ago, but you just scratched it unknowingly with your words, bringing those images back up in my brain.

It's 4 years later, FOUR FREAKING YEARS.  And I cannot LOOK at a bat without thinking about this.  Our daughter plays softball on a special needs team.  And every single time someone picks up a bat, I am imagining what happened.  The force it would take.  The fact that it was his beloved daughter.  I mean, I try to be normal.  And I truly enjoy her games.  I get in the car, not thinking about Megs, drag my chair out to sit and watch.  And there goes that damned sunburned heart, getting scratched and hurting.

I would love to end this post with a nice little thought about how healed we all are.  But.  That will have to come later.  I pray it will.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Anniversary of a Tragedy

This post should have a disclaimer: Not for the faint of heart.  Violent, horrifying incident below.  Don't read if you can't take it.  I am writing it as my own kind of therapy.

Four years ago, May 9, everything about my life changed.  My mom called bright and early (my first clue something was seriously mom is not a bright and early kinda gal.)  Her words didn't even make sense.  My dad was a couple hours away on business (Oh my...this was pre-dementia).  My mom said she needed me to hurry and pick her up.  "We have to go to the hospital because Kelly hit Megan with a baseball bat."

Megan was my 20 year old niece.  Their granddaughter.  Kelly was her father.  Is her father?  Does he get to maintain that title when he did that to her?

We talked as we drove the long 10 minutes to the ER.  "This must be a mistake."  "If he DID do that, it was an accident."  When we arrived, the staff told us the family was in a private waiting room.  Uh oh.  In that split second, before even entering, I knew it was true.  I knew it was bad.

The question I am always asked...Kelly, the he my brother?  No.  Technically Megan was not blood-related to my parents and me.  But she is the half sister of my brother's kids.  You know how family goes.  Blood doesn't make them family, love does.  She was my niece.  She was my parent's granddaughter.

Most of the rest of that day is a bit blurry.  Thank God.  I have enough details that have stuck in my brain, I don't need the others.  I do remember being told she was beaten in the head and was unrecognizable.  I remember the neurosurgeon telling us he would do his best to save her brain and skull.  I remember a few hours later when he came back to say it didn't go well.  The word he described for her skull was "pulverized."  I remember making a few phone calls, trying to explain this unexplainable event.  Police.  Her friends and family arriving.  My dad saw her before the surgery, along with her mom.  He was always strong about those things.  I truly hope that one bright spot of his dementia is that he doesn't remember that moment.  I am too scared to ask him.  I remember coming home and falling apart in Brad's arms.  Like I couldn't stand and he had to catch me.  I don't mean crying.  I don't mean sobbing.  I mean FALLING.  APART.  While my children watched.  I couldn't help it.  I don't know if they remember that part. I am too scared to ask them.

I don't need to write about the gory details.  They are forever burned into my she looked with half a skull.  Even when some of the lesser wounds healed, she looked awful.  I can see that now in hindsight.  But at the time, when her head was all wrapped and she wasn't bruised anymore, we made the decision that our girls should see her.  She was about to be going to was all set up.  This would be a part of our life, visiting and helping Megan.  So, yeah.  They saw her.  If I could take back anything I have done in my entire life, it would be that.  So on top of the awfulness of the beating and death, I have the enormous weight of guilt.  This ain't your typical "Mom Guilt," let me tell you.

It was almost 3 months later when she passed away.  There were so many surgeries.  A horrible infection that meant we had to wear gowns, gloves, masks to protect us.  There was a move to a more specialized hospital. There was an outpouring of love from friends, family and the entire community.  This story was, unfortunately, on the news and in the papers.  It was oddly comforting to have strangers post their kind words on the Facebook page for Megs.  (It was also freaking unreal when a few of them somehow found me on FB and messaged me, asking for details of the crime.  What.  The. Heck.)  There was a wonderful woman from Kensington, our church, who never met any of us before.  Didn't know Megan.  But she came and sat for hours a week with Megan and prayed over her.  I am telling you, most people would run away in tears to see a person in this condition.  But not Janet.  That was a good thing that came out of this.  To see how good some people are and try to forget how evil this man is.

I was MIA as a parent for those 3 months.  Even when I was home, I wasn't present.  I don't even know how everyone got everywhere and how/what they ate.  Just pile on a little more guilt, it doesn't even matter at this point.

Funerals are not fun.  Funerals for young people are just indescribable.  It was a nice service, but seeing all her friends, who just seemed like was a bit much.

On that day, May 9, we basically lost Megan.  Because she never regained consciousness.  But we lost Kelly, too.  He was her dad and was a part of our life.  He was the only dad my other niece and my nephew knew since my brother died when they were just babies.  He was our loved one, too.  He may be physically alive, but that day, we lost him by choice.  This was a hard thing to deal with, too.  Just a couple weeks earlier on Easter, he and Megan sat together on our deck and watched all the little kids play on our trampoline.  At this point, I don't care about the loss of him in our life.  But at the time, it was a strange and difficult thing.  When someone you care about commits a horrendous crime, well, it was something I had never experienced before.

For the past 4 years, we have endured  the effects of this.  To lose a 20 year old relative is never, ever easy.  But the circumstances of her death, her murder, it's just unbearable.  My children were too young to process this.  There has been much therapy around here for us all.  I don't doubt there will be more to come.  There is all the typical grief stuff...thinking about the things she will never do, never see.  That we won't see her again on this earth.  Add to that the fact that she was brutally beaten, survived in a horrendous state for 3 months, all at the hand of her own father, and you can maybe begin to feel our pain in your heart.

I still struggle with this event and my faith.  Not in the way you might think.  I never thought "God, why did you let this happen?"  My struggle is more about what God thinks of me. Because I have had some dark thoughts about Kelly.  How can I be a good Christian and hope with all my being that someone dies because I hate him?  I am working on this, and I don't have those thoughts too often anymore.  In fact, when I think about the fact that he was beaten in prison and sent to the infirmary, I have no pleasure.  I don't feel sorry for him, I just didn't feel happy like I thought I would.  So maybe that shows some promise for me.

We lost something else that day.  The childhood innocence of our girls.  This was the kind of story I would have hidden from them.  I was never really a news watcher, but I would not have let them know that this kind of evil exists in the world.  Now I couldn't hide it.  How do I recover from everything he has stolen from me?  I am still figuring out if it's even possible.

There is so much more in my head about this situation.  I can't even explain why writing this helps me.  It's like it builds up inside and I will explode if I don't get it out.  It's a relief to do so. 

Now I just want to stare at her gorgeousness for a few minutes, if you don't mind.  She was beautiful, inside and out.  Megs will never be forgotten!

Sunday, March 8, 2015


March 8, 2015

Dementia sucks.

My Dad has vascular dementia.  Apparently he had a bunch of mini strokes that we never knew about until it showed up this way.

He looks like my Dad.  His voice is the same.  But my Dad is missing.

To a stranger it may not be noticeable.  He can still chime in on a conversation and make sense.  But many times, he doesn't make sense.

A recent incident involved him throwing away my Mom's calender.  For a second time.  He did it once, she had to go through and figure out all the appointments and dates again and add them to a new calender.  So when he threw that one out, too, it was more than a bit frustrating.  "Why did you DO that?" she asked.  "Because you didn't put my stuff on there anyway."  I mean, it makes no sense.  He just told my Mom that he can't wait for his new phone to get activated so he can get more eye drops.  Sometimes we just have to laugh.

Sometimes he makes us laugh on purpose!  He likes me to take his picture and "put it on your internet!"

He always did have a great sense of humor!

But sometimes it's hard to laugh.  When he tells me for the 539th time that he got new glasses, it just makes me sad.  It's not annoying, it's just that he wasn't like that before a few years ago.  He was a man of few words.  He thought about things before he said them.  He just didn't do this before.  So it's a constant reminder that his brain is not the same.

He was over last week with my Mom to meet Lea's bus after school.  In a matter of minutes, he opened my package that contained my essential oils I had just ordered.  In fact, because this specific oil had been out of stock for so long, the ordering was weird, and I had to stay up until 1 am to get these suckers.  He opened my box, took 2 of the 4 bottles.  Then he went upstairs to our bathroom where I keep my large stash of oils on a rack.  He took 4 large bottles of my precious oils, including one that was brand new and cost $75.  The total for everything was about $300.  If you know me at all, you KNOW how I feel about my oils.  We still have not found any of them.  He went in my closet (again, not something the REAL Doug would have done) so maybe I will still find them in a pocket or a shoe.

As I laid in bed a few nights after this, feeling so angry about my missing oils, I realized it's not the oils that I am so upset about being gone. It's my Dad.  His personality.  This is also just a reminder that he is not there anymore.

I am not saying that losing someone to death is easy.  I have been through a lot of that as well.  What I am saying is that my Dad, my actual DAD, has already passed away.  And yet there is this person who looks like him, sounds like him that we have to deal with and take care of.  This guy often says mean things, though.  Mostly to my Mom.  When I hear this stuff he says, it's like a knife in the heart.  He always was a truth giver.  A speak the truth in love kind of guy.  But some of the things he says now are not true, not said in love.

He was my go-to guy for spiritual advice.  Any questions about the Bible or Jesus, my Dad was the man.  Now I don't know what he knows or thinks about Jesus.  To be honest, I am scared to ask, in case that is missing, too.  It was always something I admired about him.

There are some feel-good moments, too!  It's not all bad.  Yesterday, Brad and I were taking him to Target to get some new phones set up to save them some money.  He was putting on his coat and got choked up.  I mean, literally.  He was choking on tears.  He said "I'm gonna cry!"  I said "Why?" He said "I just love you so much!"

OK.  This is new.  But a good new!  I always knew he loved me.  But he says it now a lot!  And cries about it.  And appreciates us and tells us so!  He still knows I am his daughter.  This disease is not curable or reversible.  So I know he won't always know me.  Once the nastiness and "borrowing" things is gone, this may be gone, too.  So I will try to laugh about my missing oils.  I will just buy more.  I will take every hug and kiss he wants to give me, which is a lot.

Because it won't be long until that is missing, too.