Tuesday, January 03, 2012

So, uh...more than a year has passed since I last updated. Well, let's put this bluntly, 2011 was a totally shitty year! Now most people reading this, probably know why 2011 was so crappy, but for any of you who don't know, here are the specifics:
My beautiful sister died July 25th, I got sick and was in and out of the hospital for three weeks, and my wonderful mother in law died in late September. (I keep thinking of that line in the movie "Arthur" when the prostitute Arthur picks up says "my mother died when I was 6 and my father raped me when I was 12", and Arthur's response was "so..you had a relatively good 6 years then"...I guess I had a relatively good 6 months last year...(you gotta laugh).

This is the second time I have lost a sister. My sister Bridget died in 2002 of an accidental drug overdose. Bridget was a gentle but troubled soul. She was diagnosed in her early twenties with Crohn's disease. She had a particularly bad case and had several abdominal surgeries to combat it. She suffered from alcoholism and eventually drug addiction as well. She was sober for awhile, and did get married to (at the time) a wonderful man who unbeknownst to us had demons of his own to battle. When Bridget died, it was almost unbelievable...there was no warning, no early diagnoses of a possible life threatening disease. We knew she suffered and we prayed she would get better. Maybe our prayers were answered, just not in the way we would have liked. Its funny, but I find myself thinking about her more and more as the years go by: what would she have been like? Would she have ever had children? Would she have ever beaten the alcoholism that haunted her? I know she loved my kids. I know that she would have been proud of them. I think about my mom. What that must have been like for her to see Bridget lying in bed, dead. As a mother myself, I do not want to go there, but I imagine that your whole world falls away. To have to then, bury a second child, it seems almost cruel. Erin was diagnosed with breast cancer 4.5 years ago. I will never forget her telling me just after diagnoses that "this will kill me". I remember saying to her that no...it won't. We will have to fight it. Erin was always very pragmatic in the face of her disease. Oh, she was sad and oh, did she fight, but I think that somewhere in the back of her mind was the realization that her life would be cut short. Oh, trust me, this is no freaking Lifetime movie, there was no garage full of gifts for Nora's future birthdays and Christmases. There was no individually addressed letters to all of her loved ones...there was just one letter, beautifully written and heartbreakingly real. She wrote this letter to her daughter on a small manila steno pad, you know the old fashioned kind, people used to have for jotting down small notes. In it, she allows her emotionally steam of conscientiousness to take over and she lets go in writing what she really never did in life. Towards the end of Erin's illness, it was difficult. I believe that there were probably metastases to her brain and that she was affected by this; she used to accuse us of hiding her medicine. Ironically she was right, but we only did this to prevent her from taking too much. Up to the very end, she fought...a few days before she died, she told me she needed a ride to her next chemotherapy session. I knew, but didn't say, that there would be no more chemo. Honesty at this time would be self serving. I will never forget her last words to me...nothing profound, no last word of advice, just a simple "hey, thanks for coming today..." She slipped into a coma and died two days later. Nora, Ted, all of my sisters and my mother were there for the duration. It was surreal in many ways. I miss her every day. Its funny but towards the end, you start to pray that God shows some mercy and takes her. I mean, I'm not saying we prayed that she would die, but if she wasn't going to get well and be the Erin we knew, then please take her to a place where she can be that person. Take her away from her pain. I'm not an expert on grief...who the hell would want that title?! But I know that it comes and goes and that what you mourn is the loss of that vibrant personality..that big laugh...the honesty and integrity she brought to your life. I hear her voice in my head all the time...saying..."Ruttum...knock it off...stop your crying...get on with it".

Which leads me to the death of my mother in law. Like my sister, Jeanie was taken too soon, although unlike my sister, she had the opportunity to raise her children and see them all happily married with children of their own. Oh, how she loved her grandchildren. I had the honor of producing the first three Ruttum "heirs"...I still remember her coming here after our first daughter was born...oh she loved that little girl. She used to walk her around and comment on the fact that "she is so smart, look at how her eyes follow the light..." This theory that she (Mary) was so smart was further cemented when she bought her that tupperware game...you know the one, with the shapes that you put into the ball. Oh, she was amazed that Mary could complete that game so quickly. And yes, my mother in law was correct in her assessment of my first born. She is currently a jet pilot for the Navy...still looking into the light.
Sadly, Jeanie was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at a younger than normal age. For her, it really affected her ability to perform certain tasks; she would stand in front of a faucet and not know how to turn it on. Her memory for people and events did not diminish though and my memories of her will always be of that HUGE smile and that warm laugh and the way she loved to go out shopping and out to dinner. After she died, I put together a slide show presentation of her life. I came across a photo I had taken a few years back, before Erin was diagnosed. It was at Mary's high school graduation party, and we were having such a wonderful time. I will leave you with that photo. And thank you for stopping by to visit. Here's to a better 2012.