I’ve been playing Scrabble

The Rockies -- from the car, while moving, with my iPhone.

My son and I went on a mini cross-country trip to Colorado last month.  I wanted to tell you all about it, but I couldn’t find my words or motivation to write.  So I’ll share a tiny bit about our trip, and then tell you why I’ve been quiet.

Our trip began on Oct. 2nd in Minneapolis where Jake ran the Twin Cities Marathon and I the 10 Miler.  Then we made our way to Denver via Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, Custer, Cheyenne, Fort Collins, Estes Park, Boulder and the beautiful Rockies.  We drove a lot, saw beautiful landscapes, ate good food, talked and talked, and saw cool wildlife everywhere including  a bugling bull elk and his harem.

Saying good-bye at the Denver Airport.

That’s all I got, but there’s so much more.  The time with my 23 year old son nourished my soul and lightened my heart, then he dropped me off at the Denver airport on Oct. 11th, and continued westward on his own in his hand-me-down mini van and home on the road.

Two days later, my father went to the ER doubled over in pain and was diagnosed with “extensive stage IV cancer.”  Colon, liver, lungs, prostate, bladder, stomach — and who knows what else.  He declined treatment, and went home with pain medication. That was four weeks ago, and I can talk about it now.

My father is dying.   My father will die soon.  It helps to say this out loud.

He’s okay right now, says he doesn’t need help yet, and promises to let us know when he does.

I’ve been laying low and processing and planning.  Okay, I’ve been hiding.  I’ve also been eating jalapeno potato chips and ice cream, and have a new personal record of 6 days without a shower.  I’m bitchy, have no patience, and turned all my lights off on Halloween and ate candy in the basement while watching “When Harry Met Sally.”  (Harry’s right by the way, men and women can’t be friends.)

The day I got the news about my dad, I invited a friend to play “Words With Friends” and we’ve been playing ever since.  I don’t know how many games we’re up to, but I’m madly addicted — or distracted, depending on how you look at it, and if my friend currently doesn’t play the spot I have my eye on, I can play “HEAVEN” for 45 points.  My friend lost his mom to cancer two years ago, and his scrabble abilities are near genius level.

My father Gary Nelson, in one of his favorite places -- in a boat on a lake.

I’ve also been crying which is well and good and such a relief.

I cry in my car, out on walks, and in the shower (that time I took one).  I cried once in the grocery store, at an art gallery, and at church when I shared during “Joys & Concerns” — what was I thinking?  I cry every time I hear “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas, which seems to be playing a lot lately.  Have you ever really listened to the words in that song??  Sheesh! Were they Buddhist monks in a previous life?

Crying is sneaky.  Which is why I stay home.

The thing is, I’m not just crying for my father.  I am grieving the loss of an era.  I’m grieving for my parents, my childhood, and even my childhood home.  I’m grieving for the innocence of playing outside, being happy when my dad came home from work, and for the way my mother called her three children in to supper — “Mar-i-lyn . . . Jo-a-anne . . . Jo-ohn . . . .”

Crying when you’re sad is really an expression of love isn’t it?

It was difficult to lose my mom in July after her long battle with Alzheimer’s.  But the thought of losing my dad — losing both my parents, and then eventually my childhood home feels so much bigger and final, and life changing.

The truth is, I’m grieving my own mortality, along with the joy and sadness that make up this beautiful and tragic life in equal measure.

You may or may not have been wondering where I’ve been lately, but now you know.

I’ve been playing Scrabble.

"Joanne365 played HEAVEN for 45 points!" We're both available for game requests -- just introduce yourself and tell us how cancer or Alzheimer's has touched your life.

 

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Comments

  1. Michelle Fox says:

    Words escape me…I am in shock for you. This is a lousy way to be shocked back to reality just after the loss of your dear mom. Mine did not happen in this sequence. I lost my daddy to a car accident when I was only 7 years old so we never had that wonderful, intact feeling of growing up whole. Mom, who now is at the end stage of Alzheimer’s was a great mother though. Nothing replaces that feeling of “family.” I, too am grieving that now even though a part of mom is still here. I am so sorry JoAnne, this just is not fair, simply said. Cry as much as you want. You are mourning the loss of a family unit. A sad day in the time of your life. Blessings….

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Michelle, it was a shock and like you said, not the best timing. But how can you time these things? I’m thinking of YOU with your mom in end stage Alzheimer’s — such a difficult thing to go through. But I believe there’s a blessing at this stage, in that people in end stage may finally be at some sort of peace . . . ? I don’t know, but it seems to me that when everything else is gone, there is more room for peace, comfort, reconciliation, acceptance . . . . love. Be well Michelle, please keep me posted on your mom.

  2. Karen Ackerman says:

    Joanne,
    My 89 year old grandmother is currently in the same situation. I can’t even imagine Christmas without her…she is the queen. Every single item in her house gets converted from typical decoration to some kind of Christmas motif. Big family dinners with crabcakes, shrimp, hot butter, mushrooms, gourmet potatoes, pierogie style stuffed shells and tons of family. It is so sad to even think about. I am SO sorry for your heart-breaking year. Chris’s mom still continues to struggle with Alzheimers and his dad continues to support her…even bringing her home to watch their beloved Ohio State football/band take on other teams. I do find comfort in that my grandmother will be with my grandfather soon…..nicknamed “Shiek” because of his bald head!! 🙂 She is being more brave than any of those who she is leaving behind. Just remember, your parents do live through you and your children and aren’t truly gone… although it seems unfair. Your children need you as much as you need your parents…find comfort in that. I will be thinking of you and if you ever want to walk or play “Words With Friends” I play all the time. 🙂

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Karen, thank you for reading and for sharing. I’m sorry about your grandmother. She sounds lovely and feisty, and your big family dinners sound delicious and like you grew up near the ocean. I didn’t know Chris’s mother had Alzheimer’s — so sorry. Yes, there is comfort in my family and my children and also comfort in knowing that death is a part of life — there can be no other way, and so it doesn’t make any sense to argue with this truth. I have three Scrabble opponents right now and two are new from reading my blog, which is cool. Thank you Karen.

  3. Cindy Boyum says:

    I met you this year. I met your dad this year. I met your whole family this year. I feel as if I’ve known you longer. You can cry anywhere, anytime. You can play Words with Friends anywhere, anytime. You can eat candy in the dark, declare what you know about relationships, wear your heart on your sleeve, and/or hide (not for too long though). You are coping. And that is enough. Love to you and yours!

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      I feel the same way Cindy. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re not afraid to show your feelers? Or maybe you can just relate to my crazy family? ; ) I’m looking forward to seeing you in a couple weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  4. Mallory says:

    Sending love and peace…

  5. Deborah DeBraal says:

    Joanne, I am so sad to hear this very sad news. I still cry in public. My trigger song is Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. It takes me back to a hot Florida afternoon when my mom was feeling slow and tired and she stretched out on her bed. I went in and got in beside her and spooned her. She felt so tiny and frail in my arms and I knew deep down inside that this would be one of my last opportunities to hold her that way. When she woke and went to get up, I pulled her back to be and just held her tight for a long time…no words necessary. This will always be one of my most precious memories. I heard it on the radio just yesterday and drove down the road sobbing. The man in the car ahead of me kept looking in his rear view mirror and finally pulled over to the side, let me pass, and then pulled back into traffic. Maybe he knew a crying woman driver was an accident waiting to happen! Love you and will be thinking of you today!

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      I just listened to Chasing Cars for what felt like the first time. That is such a beautiful song and so perfect for what you described with your mom. What a beautiful memory. Women crying in cars is not so unusual — it’s the perfect location really with the privacy and the radio and the scenery . . . . there is probably a lot of us. Thank you for sharing your sweet memory with your mom, I have a similar memory that I treasure.

  6. Lynda Ingle says:

    Hi Joanne, I have been wondering about you. My parents are gone, so are many of my aunts and uncles. I know in my heart that this is all part of living, but sometimes it is very hard. Take time to grieve, it is actually good for you. As I age, I am also more aware of my mortality, so I try to live everyday to its fullest. When you are up for it, I love to eat lunch with friends!
    hugs,
    Lynda

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Lynda, It’s so nice to hear from you! You know, I look around at people who are older than I am and who have probably lost their parents by now, and it gives me inspiration to see them moving forward and even thriving. Grief comes and goes — and as sad as I am, I know this will pass. And of course I have to wonder what emotions my father is going through. I’m looking forward to seeing him soon. Lunch would be nice — maybe we can make a date in the New Year? Thank you for reading and sharing, Lynda. : )

  7. Diane Ward says:

    I lost my mom in ‘ 93 to cancer. My stepmom had a heart attack in ’96. She and my dad were going on a trip overseas to visit some places he been to in WWII. She went into the bathroom to get ready to go get their passports, and that was it. My dad died in 2007 of lung cancer. He put up a brave fight til the very end. He came to long enough to stroke my head, and say “Its alright honey, I’m ready”. He was, I wasn’t.
    I cried everyday for a year. Then at least once a month for two years. Now I don’t cry, I think I am cried out. My brother died 3 weeks after my dad, he too had lung cancer.
    I miss my dad terrible. Even at the age of 57 I was still his ‘Baby”. Just writing this is making me cry again. But life does go on.
    Go ahead and cry whenever you want to. God will dry your tears with His love.

  8. Rich Danielson says:

    Very sorry to hear this. I still tell people that I didn’t really start growing up until I lost my second parent (7 years ago). I can tell you the crying lessens but it never goes away. I am still amazed at what can set me off – it can be embarrassing. I will keep you in my thoughts & prayers. You are a wonderful writer so I hope that it will help you.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Ahhh . . . . you get it, it all makes sense now. You’ve been so supportive, and I find that those who have experienced loss are the most understanding — and rightly so. I didn’t know you lost both parents, and you being so young. I’m so sorry Rich. So you’ve been through this, and you’re still living and breathing and life goes on. I’ve been thinking about what you said about “growing up” all day today, and I totally get that. It’s like a seismic shift — passing the baton. Crying is wonderful, good to know I’m in good company. Thank you again for reaching out and sharing, I truly appreciate it. And you. : )

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