Friday, May 29, 2009

Damien Update

Aaron and I saw Damien tonight. He had surgery yesterday and has been moved from the ICU to the Trauma Surgery floor, and it's awful there. Each nurse has at least six patients instead of two, and he has a roommate instead of a private room. The whole floor is much more industrialized and less personal, and it takes an hour to get a nurse's attention instead of simply poking your head out the door. The nurses are also different; the ICU nurses were like lovely kind angels. These nurses seem curt, business-like and grumpy. Onto more important things... Damien had surgery on Thursday. They wired his jaw together and banded his mouth shut. They sliced his scalp from ear to ear and peeled his face down to repair the bones around his left eye and clean out his sinuses. They removed the bullet fragments. They pulled his face back up and stitched it shut again, dozens and dozens of thick black knots over a long, thin red slice. Before surgery, he was on morphine for pain. After five days of narcotics, the hallucinations began. Damien was so disturbed that he asked for the morphine to be discontinued, knowing that he would feel a lot more pain. He is currently on Tylenol and Ibuprofen. He is experiencing a lot of physical pain, but seems to be in less mental anguish. He seems relieved to know that in spite of the pain, everything he's seeing and feeling is real. He will need at least one more surgery, to repair his left eye. It is infected and swollen shut, and for now there's too much swelling to assess what his vision in that eye is like. Depending on what the damage is, it's possible the surgeons can repair it. It's also possible he will be blind in his left eye. We won't know for a few more days. It's frustrating to be in the presence of someone in so much anguish and feel so totally useless. I massaged his feet, which were puffy from bed rest, and told him I love him. "I love you too," he mumbled through clenched teeth. I'll go back tomorrow morning. He can swallow a little fluid now, so I'll take him some juice and some chicken stock I made. I'll bring some books to read to him, or I will watch him sleep. Then I will go home and kiss my babies and cook dinner with friends, because I'm not really sure what else to do but I know those things feel good.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In the Meantime

Damien update: he will have surgery tomorrow to repair the broken bones in his jaw and face. He should be released from the hospital in two weeks. We don't know what happens next, but we're working on figuring that out. Life is a little strange right now. My brother is lying in the hospital wishing he was dead, but I still have to make breakfast and drive Jack to school and change Matteas' diaper. And it's weird. I find that I have to take life in very small pieces right now to avoid feeling totally overwhelmed, and sometimes it's hard to know exactly what to do. Should I go to the hospital? Should I stay home and be with my kids? Should I go to my parents' house? Is there an actual "best choice" to make? I went to the hospital Monday and Tuesday night, but I don't like spending too many evenings away from Aaron and the boys. I miss the comfort of our evening routines and ending our day together, but I feel like I should be doing something for Damien. He's so drugged that he's rarely conscious when he is he can't talk, but it feels cruel to let him lie there alone. My Mom or Dad has been with him the whole time, and they need a break sometimes. To make matters worse, grief makes me irritable. Really, really irritable. And that makes me feel mean and small. After all, I have an amazing life and much to be grateful for, and it feels terrible to be grumpy when my brother is in so much pain. I feel somehow pressured to be well-behaved in the face of tragedy, and I'm not doing a very good job. It just feels absurd to go about normal life like everything is okay when there's this enormous cloud hanging over everything, and I find it difficult to think about what I should make for dinner when I'm wondering if my brother will recover or if we will bury him next to Karoly. I find myself drawn to organic, elemental things, like dirt and plants and sunshine and rain and water. Things that were here before me and will go on being here long after I'm gone, things that are certain and stable and enduring. This morning the boys and I wandered outside after breakfast. We sat in the back yard and ate an entire bag of cherries. We weeded and watered the garden. We kissed. We made mud. We laid on a blanket and let the sunshine warm our bodies.
and little boys...
are very good therapy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Help, Please

Heads up: this post contains adult content not suitable for children. I struggled for a bit with whether or not to say something in this space, but I'm determined to use every means at my disposal to find help. Not for me, for my brother Damien. Damien has struggled with depression since he was 11 years old. Last Saturday, he shot himself in the neck. By some miracle, he unintentionally used the wrong type of bullet. Instead of passing through his head and exiting, it fragmented. It entered his mouth from underneath his chin, impacted the roof of his mouth and dispersed into his face behind his left eye. He lost a lot of blood and broke a lot of bones, but he is going to recover. Physically, he will recover. The reason I'm mentioning it here is that we have greater concerns beyond his physical health. As my Mom put, the surgeons can put his body back together, but who will mend his broken heart? Our family already has a good deal of experience with depression. Experience, we've got. Solutions? Not so much. Damien has been so depressed for so long that he has lost all hope of recovering, so while his body mends we are trying to gather as many options for him to choose from as possible and save him some of the search. We are reading books, we are Googling, we are asking for recommendations. He has tried a few antidepressants with no success, but there wasn't a lot of diagnostic work prior to determining which antidepressant might be best for him. So please, anyone with any suggestions, please share. If you know of a good book, therapist, drug, supplement, alternative therapy, someone who's overcome depression who could offer some insight, anything that might be helpful, please don't keep it to yourself. Damien has a large, supportive family and we will do anything to help him win this battle, but we're not quite sure exactly what to do besides love him and be with him. And of course, please remember Damien in your prayers. He really, really needs them. I will open my blog to anonymous comments, or you can e-mail me directly at All e-mails, comments or suggestions will be kept anonymous.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's a Sickness, Really

One of the perks of having a husband who remodels other people's houses is that he sometimes comes home with things his customers are done with. Since some of Aaron's clients are pretty wealthy, this is sometimes the result of a simple change in decor, not because the life of the piece is up. We have some lamps and a few bookshelves we acquired in this fashion, and a few nights ago Aaron came home with this beautiful behemoth of a coffee table. Matteas got busy right away, squirreling away some of his favorite toys in the storage drawer. For the last two mornings, the boys have gotten up and headed straight for the coffee table. It is big and beautiful, but it takes up half the livingroom. I already have a tendency to rearrange our furniture too often, and just when I thought I'd gotten the couches just right this table showed up. I think it might be a lesson in letting go, after I realize that it doesn't fit my life or my needs. Still, it is so beautiful. Plus Aaron and I had a really good time hefting it up the stairs in the rain together, and it would be a shame to let that herculean effort go to waste. Aaron suggested putting it downstairs as a laundry folding table, since the top of it is big enough to actually hold all the clothes we own. I'm kind of taking this coffee table as a personal challenge, even though I realize we've gone about it totally backwards. Generally, we have a process of identifying a need and then purchasing furniture accordingly, not trying to cram an over-sized(but beautiful; did I mention that it's really beautiful?) piece into a room that's already functional. I was thinking about this already with regard to the boys. A lot of my parenting philosophy is based on some very simple advice I got when Jack was born: Do what works. A particular activity might be a nice idea, but if it's not actually meeting their needs it doesn't work and needs to go. Sometimes I'd get frustrated with their behavior, only to realize that I had set them up for failure by the way I had arranged their environment(remember the chairs?). Occasionally, the right arrangement means thinking way outside the box(doesn't everyone tie their chairs to the table?) or, more commonly, getting way outside the house. Ever since Jack was little I've had a recurring insight into my boys; I need to regularly put them in a space where I don't have to regulate their behavior. When they're in that kind of space they're free to be themselves and I'm free to appreciate them for who they are. Right now the beach is that space, and every time we go I resolve to take them more often. Of course we still work on behaving well in places like church, the grocery store and the library, but every now and then a boy needs to be free to cut loose and get dirty. Which doesn't really help with my coffee table dilemma, but at least I know where to put the children.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This Morning in Edmonds Around 11 AM

Our mornings have not been going very smoothly of late, so I decided that we need to get out of the house if at all possible. I'm so pleased that we did too, because we left the beach and headed for school whereupon it started pouring rain. Now everything is soaked but we've had plenty of outdoor time and after school we can stay in and be cozy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two Boys in a Tub

It may not seem like it, but these pictures capture a truly historic moment in the boys' lives.
Until now...
Jack and Matteas...
...had never been in the bath together. When Jack was 18 months old he developed a highly contagious rash(warts, actually). Molluscum contagiosum, for the curious. They're not a super big deal, but the warts spread easily on contact and can therefore be a drag for a kid in diapers, where a lot of skin touches a lot of other skin. I had the same warts as a kid on the back of my arm and still have scars, and I watched the doctor burn off about a dozen warts on my little brother when they started spreading to his, uh, diaper area. There is no cure, and you can have the warts burned off(grapefruit seed extract also works, but it's very irritating to the surrounding skin so we quit using it) or simply wait for the body to kill the virus. Jack's spread to his left armpit, and he had a patch of skin about the size of a grapefruit that was red, flaking and raw. It was getting so bad that I decided I was going to call a dermatologist, but when I checked the next day the last of his warts had exploded, which is the death rattle for molluscum. After that, his skin started healing rapidly and he has been wart-free for some time now. Since the warts can be quite itchy, we decided not to let the boys bathe together(which is how they're usually spread to siblings) until Jack's warts were gone. It took 2 1/2 years. I was about to give up because I figured there was no way I could keep them from swimming together this summer, especially now that Matteas is too big for his dish pan. I actually spent quite a bit of time praying about it, because I wanted to prevent any suffering I could for Matteas without having the boys miss out on doing normal stuff together or making Jack feel like a leper. I know warts are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'm really happy to be done with them. I heard somebody say once that one way God shows us He loves us is by letting us know that He cares about the details.