The Very Bad, Horrible, Terrible, Worst-Year Ever

Posted: July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

Sounds like a great book title, huh?

Well, actually it is the best title I could come up with regarding how my last year has been.

On August 31, 2013, my 87-year old father passed away after trying to battle back from his injuries when he was struck by a car walking across a Wendy’s parking lot. The force of the  hit was so severe it knocked him into the windshield, where he bounced back and hit another customer and dragged her down with him when he crashed to the ground. My dad managed to survive the initial accident, only to succumb later to double pneumonia and heart failure caused by aspirating on food because he had to eat lying down in a prone position while his broken pelvis and ribs healed.

My dad had been spry and in fairly good health for his age — even so far as to be able to still attend weekly tango lessons. His mind was still sharp, even though my mom (and his wife of 62 years) was in failing health and wheelchair and oxygen bound. I’ll get to her in a minute.

I live several states away from where my parents lived and when I received the call from my sister that dad had passed, I was told to wait a couple weeks as the memorial service was scheduled and I’d fly in to attend it. Because of this delay, I put my grief on hold. This was my first mistake.

I was (am) a teacher. I worked for the Catholic diocese of…well, I don’t like to share too much about my location. However, I will share that I worked for (past tense) an institution that supposedly promotes love, compassion and support for those in need. I’ll be putting the truth about the Catholic Diocese in another post called “Hypocrisy at Its Worst: Why Working in a Catholic School is Bad for the Soul”.

To remain professional, I buried my grief and pushed forward with my teaching. I remained the consummate professional and never let the kids know how much I was suffering inside.

The trouble with grief is — it chases you down and catches you when you  least expect it. My chase ended months later, after another event dealt me with another blow.

On January 28th of this year, my mother passed away. My mom had been suffering from a variety of ailments over the last several years, so her passing wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was a relief. She had said over the last couple of years how much she had just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. She was ready. I, however, was not ready to deal with the grief over her loss. I was still not dealing with the grief over my dad’s death.

My mom was my superhero. She was responsible for all kid raising and home cooking, while Dad made the money. Well, that was how they arranged it but not how it worked out. Mom was also a teacher and the inspiration for me to become one myself. I followed in her footsteps and became a middle school language arts teacher. With her grooming over hours of games like Boggle and Scrabble, I developed an expansive vocabulary and the amazing ability to spell. Words come to me with liquid precision. It’s who I am and what I love.

When mom died, there was no service planned right away. The memorial service for my dad was hard enough on my sister so we decided on a June memorial service. Without the closure, I once again had to “bury my grief”. I understand it was my choice, but I didn’t even take a day off from work. I just plugged along and pushed through — remaining upbeat and professional in front of the students. Inside I became numb. To my co-workers I became difficult.

The dam burst in early April, when I was at camp with the kids. It was the last major big “event” I had to be in charge of doing for the year. Once it was winding down, I was able to let all the built up grief and worries and stress out. I fell apart one day and if it hadn’t been for another teacher (and subsequent best friend) lending me her ear and shoulder while I bawled hysterically for two hours, I would have been a total wreck and impossible to deal with.

Work had been impacted and my behavior and attitude had spread throughout the school as “difficult to work with” “unprofessional” “rude, bitter and angry”. Comments were said to and about me. I was called into the principal’s office and reprimanded. People insisted I change or get out. I tried but it didn’t work.

The exact cause of my dismissal is not something I wish to describe in detail but I do own my part in it. I said things that were disparaging, but here is something people need to know about me — I speak the truth. Every thing I said was, based on MY reality and perception, accurate. I was being honest and got the boot for it. Oh well. I have another opinion about that, but again it will be explained in the Catholic school post. 🙂

Just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse, one more tragedy was to strike before the end of the school year. My 51 year old brother was dying after a three year battle with liver failure. He lived a distance from me and was rapidly declining in health. I was being updated daily about his decline but due to school obligations, felt I was “too busy” to go see him. I kept delaying the trip back to our hometown. Finally I woke up one day, packed my bag and shot off in the car, daughter in tow, to see my brother one last time. He died early the next morning. I am eternally grateful I had the chance to say my goodbyes. I didn’t get to do that with my dad and barely did it with my mom (via phone), so I cherish those last few hours I had with my brother and the one final chance I had to tell him I loved him.

Marty (my brother) died one week before my parents’ memorial service and internment of their ashes. He never made it to their ceremony. We made sure to include him in the service.

Two days after I returned from my mom and dad’s service, we had to put our cat of 17 years down. I guess the Grim Reaper wasn’t entirely finished with me yet.

So there you have it: three deaths, one job loss and the lost of a pet all in less than a year. A truly very bad, horrible, terrible, worst year ever.

Thanks for listening.



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