My church (City Life Church) talks a lot about community and serving others. Not just “being” but actively ‘participating’ in life and in community. We are constantly taught that and given opportunities to walk in that ‘participation’ idea. I mean my church family really does it. They/we help each other and serve the community on a consistent basis.
Now what I’m about to type may make some people angry. So first, I want to say that this retelling is from my personal perspective. From my personal experience. If this doesn’t fit you and your experiences that’s perfectly fine. We will still honor each other's moments in this literary space.
I grew up in a TV-like household. It wasn’t a “The Cosby’s Show” or “Leave It To Beaver” type of home, although that would have been interesting to live through. My story reflects more of the “Lifetime Movie” type of vibe. Kinda like “A Mother's Escape” (Minus the fugitive part.) and “Homeless to Harvard” (Except I’m not white. LOL. I was not afforded the same things as my white counterparts. Racial Discrimination is real. Also, my mother hasn’t done drugs a day in her life. She is everything that tastes yummy and causes a smile.) with a twist of “Never Ending Story” (My mom can make fantasies exist. Real talk. Things you could imagine became realities with her around.) and a splash of whatever movie represents, “Jesus never left us and my mom is the true OG (Original Gangsta) in life”). LOL! So without going into the details on this post, I’ll say, “I went through some REAL things”.
Jesus was my best friend growing up. Like literally my best friend. I moved so much, it was hard to establish a person as a ‘best friend’ and stick with it. I told all my secrets, dreams, and fears to Jesus. I wrote to him, cried to him, and loved him fiercely. Jesus helped me not lose my mind throughout my life. It would have been expected or understandable for me to have severe psychological issues from the effects of my story. Honestly, I am very very blessed and fortunate to have gotten as far and to have fared as well as I have. I am humbled by this truth. I am grateful.
Even though gratitude emanates from my being, I still recognize that there are holes in me. There are rips in the thread of my story that have become part of the pattern of my life. My story isn’t smooth and I can’t imagine my way out of the holes that can clearly be seen. To be transparent, sometimes I feel so self conscious about it. When I don’t know the answer to something I should know or when someone tells me something that is my normal isn’t everyone else’s normal.
Here’s an example:
When I was in college I had a roommate named Crystal Wiley (She goes by Crystal Rae now. Look her up. She’s awesome!). In our apartment we lived next to an abusive couple. The boyfriend beat any good thing in his girlfriend, out of her. She looked absent of joy anytime I saw her.
Important information: Abuse triggers me because I grew up around abuse and experienced abuse.
One day our neighbor's boyfriend began to beat our neighbor (We will call her ‘Joyless’ for retelling sake). Joyless was screaming like she was about to die. I was sleeping on the couch. I opened my eyes and listened. Then, I pulled out the KNIFE that was under my pillow. Ok let’s pause. Please reread the previous sentence and allow it to sink in. Okay…ready for my explanation? Here goes…
When I was little I had a bear named BJ. He was a large white polar bear. He looked kind of like this stuffed polar bear. My Grandma Lillie (My grandma on my dad’s side.) gave it to me one Christmas. It’s the only gift she’s ever given me. At the time it was given to me, it was literally my size. It was huge and I loved that bear. When we moved, sometimes it was the only item I could take with me.
Because we often made narrow escapes and had to travel light, I made BJ my hiding spot. I performed surgery and cut his belly open. Just a medium sized incision that was large enough for me to place “special items” like my mini kids Bible, my dolly Vanessa (It was this hard plastic white doll with red hair and freckles that I named after my mom.), my favorite book (which changed periodically), and my KNIFE.
Don’t ask me why I had a knife. Just know that I needed that knife. I slept with BJ in my bed every single night. I loved that polar bear.
Ok there’s my explanation for the knife. After BJ, I always had a knife. I had knives hidden everywhere. I made sure they were close.
Let’s rewind back to the original story example:
Then, I pulled out the KNIFE that was under my pillow. I got up and calmly walked to the door. Internally I was 100% ok with stabbing the boyfriend if Joyless life was at stake. It would be self defense. I’d be okay. As soon as I opened the door and began to step out with the knife, I heard Crystal's voice. Crystal looked completely shocked. She explained that we wouldn’t be stabbing anyone today. She banged on our neighbors door and called 911.
While I was waiting to stab the boyfriend she gently took the knife from me and gave me ‘the hard stare’ while talking to the cops. The boyfriend left, and the cops came. Joyless left her apartment crying, banged up, but alive. Crystal and I stared at each other. I was sitting on the couch and she was sitting on the floor. She asked me about the knife. I told her the truth. She let me know it’s not normal to sleep with a knife under my pillow. Crystal gently told me to go back to sleep. As I laid on the couch, Crystal laid on the floor. Her eyes pierced through my eyes and examined my heart. That's when I began to cry. Silent sobs that exploded within. Crystal sang. Her melody hugged me tightly. I fell asleep covered in lyrics, surrounded by peace.
See? I told you I have holes. Missing information in the fabric of my life. Important things I was supposed to learn or be given. To me sleeping with a knife under my pillow was perfectly logical and normal. It’s not normal or healthy for that matter. Now as an aware adult with my own family, I think about those missing pieces. I think about my daughter Kiera (She is technically my step daughter, but she was definitely born from my heart.). She is the physical manifestation of vitamin D in sun rays.
I wonder what I am missing with her. When I’m out serving others like my church rightfully teaches, I wonder if I appropriately served Kiera first. Do the tares in my life fabric make me ill equipped?
My husband and I have been looking up words like legacy and birthright. We’ve been trying to get things in order so we can leave Kiera the good things she deserves. We want to honor Kiera, our child that passed (Joshua Elijah), and our future children by doing better than our predecessors. We want to make sure that we aren’t so busy serving others that we miss our own kid (She’s technically an adult).
We want to leave that birthright, but how do you do that with holes?
It’s 1:39AM. I just got done taking care of Pops poop.
I got off work. Made a quick orange juice run, and was home at 5:30PM.
Finished turning, cleaning, feeding, distributing medicine, emptying the catheter and ostomy bag, plus chatting with dad at 7:30PM. I felt like my stomach was devouring me.
So, I quickly warmed up some food and smiled at the antics of my whimsical daughter. She has a natural ability to add air into the room. It’s an extraordinary gift.
I was in the tub soaking and eating dinner by 8PM. Pausing between bites to respond to my husband who was passionately discussing something. He passionately discusses everything and I love him for it most of the time.
By 9:00PM, I was stretching and meditating on scripture. I slid under the covers at 9:15PM. Rubbed my husband's arm as he kept talking to me. Reminded him to turn Pops (He turns my dad at 9PM every night.) and I dove into a deep sleep.
Pops called me on Alexa at 9:35PM.
Let me type that again. Pops called me on Alexa at 9:35PM.
I opened my eyes. My husband’s eyes were waiting. He said, “Your dad said his poop bag may be leaking.”. Internally, I groaned. I was tired and I knew I had to turn Pops at 12AM. I made a decision that I later regretted. I told my husband, “Tell him I’ll check it when I turn him.”.
Then... I slept. It was a fitful sleep. Pops kept calling. I began to hate Alexa. When I woke up at 11:25PM with a call from my daughter, I answered groggily. She let me know that unfortunately, Pops bag didn’t just leak. There was poop EVERYWHERE. I had given him Miralax earlier and evidently it worked too well.
Because of an agreement with my husband, I had to ask our daughter to leave the room. Hubby and I agreed that our daughter would never need to see Pops private areas. This was for her sake and Pops.
I briskly began cleaning Pops. Using saline to clean his stoma and the wound site for his catheter. My dad had to have been extremely compacted because the ostomy bag was full. Poop was up his shirt, down his back, and some even came out the traditional way. As I cleaned up Pops I reminded him that this wasn’t his fault. I distracted him with jokes and memories we shared.
Our relationship consisted of this year he’s lived with us. This year of his spinal cord injury. This year he’s accepted that he is Quadriplegic. So the memories were mostly ‘quad’ jokes and lessons learned. We cackled about the bowel program I had to do before he got the ostomy bag. He cried tears of laughter when I mimicked how I used to cry in between the three hour bowel program (It really took me three hours!). I cleaned Pop’s whole body and carefully checked his sacral wound dressing to make sure it was clean with no poop debris.
Afterwards, I sat on the floor for a moment thinking how lovely it would be to have a warm Peppermint Mocha made with oat milk from Starbucks. As I reflected on the yummy beverage my mind wandered to thoughts of Miralax. I thought about how it pushes everything out in an explosive way. Although, I am thankful for its effectiveness, it was too much at one time. Would have been better if it loosened Pops stool over a period of time.
Take a minute to think about that:
It was too much at one time. It would have been better if it had worked over a period of time.
That’s like life. We always want things to happen right now. Immediately. But we can’t handle the poop that comes from that instant_____________.
Most of the time I want it now because I’m tired of what now feels like but I really need to experience the process of this right now journey so I don't turn the situation into explosive poop.
Hhhhmm.. the things I learn from poop.
We are trying to get Pop's wheelchair accessible van. We’d love for you to help us by praying or giving towards the cause. If you know other ways we can get the van please let me know. I believe the answer is in the community.
Yesterday, I went to an appointment with Pops.
These days I try to schedule all appointments within the time frame of Pops caregiver. I’m completely out of traditional FMLA, Intermittent FMLA and I had a fight with COVID, so my new days were nearly swallowed whole.
The doctor we visited was a psychologist. I like her. She’s sincere. She was very glad I came with dad.
The visit didn’t go quite the way I expected. I mean… I knew we would talk but I didn’t expect my dad to tell any of the truth. Pop has a tendency to leave out information and color the truth.
Pops paints with vibrant reds and deep blues.
Watching him paint his version of reality is like watching two painters who saw the same thing but the story's conclusion is painted differently. Each painter swears their depiction is the correct one. Like these two artists below. Lawrence’s painting would represent the truth and Lewis’s painting would be my dad’s version
I autocorrect my dad’s stories without thinking.
But at this appointment I did more pausing. Pops told new stories that I had fuzzy recollections of. Stories I didn't know by heart because Pops wasn’t there for most of my life and this side of my bloodline has a nasty habit of keeping truth buried.
As we scrounged through the family closet and discovered things like mental illness trends and old homicide cases, I thought, “What the hell! What the hell! What the hell!” I was in quite a pickle it seemed because we were all related.
You can run from a lot of things, but you can’t run from your bloodline. It flows inside you.
No matter how much we pumped our fist in the air and proclaimed our strength and greatness, the fact of these answers screamed our family dysfunction. It was clearly evident that we had some type of generational curse or super stronghold attached to our bloodline.
At the end, Pops asked questions that were answered and the nice psychologist gave recommendations for us to review before our next appointment. She stopped me before I left, looked me in the eyes and told me I should be very proud of all that I have accomplished.
We just stared into each other and allowed our breath to hug. We had heard the same things and those things warranted a moment of reflection.
Pops and I finally wheeled our way out and he laughed at the memories he shared.
I left thinking, “Jesus, I’m in quite a pickle”.