Friday, September 21, 2012

Becoming More Fully Human

The past two weeks have been absolutely crazy, with many random events leading to many new insights. One was watching the video below.

When I watched it a couple weeks back, two things really resonated with me: (1) Her comments about how our coping, and not "the event," determines our fate, and (2) her comparison of being human to a water fountain, and how many of our problems are caused from clogged "jets."

If becoming more fully human interests you ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gabrielle's new wheels!

This morning we made a trip up north to the CDC (The Center for Child Development) in Surrey.  This center provides many services and support for children with complex and severe disabilities.  Today we got to pick up Gabrielle's brand new, custom made stroller.  The equipment team worked for 2 hours to tweak and re-tweak all the supports on her stroller so that it fit her tiny little body just perfectly.

We are so lucky to have access to all the services and supports that we get so that our daughter can be comfortable and live her best life possible.

Here are a few pictures of Gabrielle's stroller 'fitting' from today.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Laser Eye Surgery and Denial

A friend recently shared with me, "I've come to the conclusion that grief and loss are one of my teachers in this life."  ...

In January 2004, Amy and I landed jobs overseas (for the following school year) in Seoul, Korea, teaching at Seoul International School. We knew we would be leaving the country, and I with my glasses, thought it high time to get my eyes lasered. I did in March over spring break.

The Lasik eye lasering process is pretty simple: zap through a few layers of the epithelial tissue that protects the eye in order to get to the cornea, then zap down the over-curved cornea so that it refracts light without blurring vision. Actually, they over-correct the eye so that when the tissue heals, it heals at perfect curvature for perfect vision.

What I failed to tell the ophthalmologist (out of ignorance) was that my skin heals at double the rate, and my hair grows like weeds. I didn't know that the epithelial tissue was part of the same system. So in the 5-7 day healing process, I had great vision on Day 2, and then by the end of the recovery process, my eyes had healed such that they were over curved resulting in blurry vision for my trip to Korea.

So off we went on our multiple year adventure in August 2004, and I was too stubborn to get glasses the entire time we were there. "I'm fine!" and "There's no way I'm wearing glasses" were predominant thoughts I had when I would almost cross my eyes to try and see what everyone else could see on the projector at meetings and assemblies and movies. I got by. My vision sucked. But I got by. Not perfectly. But I got by.

Upon return to Canada in 2006, one of the first things I did was re-schedule another Lasik appointment to correct the problem. They told me that the process would be the same, but the healing would be way more painful because it would be scar tissue that was healing (from the previous zap), and not real 'fresh' tissue. OK. Whatever. I wanted it done. I needed it done. I was too stubborn to ever wear glasses again, and I wanted it fixed.

So in December 2006 I underwent Lasik eye surgery a second time. The procedure was the same, but they zapped deeper knowing how quickly I heal. Day 1 was fine, but come Day 2, the pain was unbearable. It felt like someone was sandpapering my eyes with an iodine rub. Fortunately they give patients a painkiller to manage (I think T3's with codeine), and I popped those by the middle of Day 2 and things were way better. Giddy-up! I popped them Day 3, and the pain continued to be manageable. "This is easy!" and "Why doesn't everyone do this?" were thoughts that I had during those days. My vision wasn't getting any better, but I thought that was because they over-zapped me. Ha ha.

When I went for my one-week check-up, they asked how I was doing. "Great!" I said, and commented how "easy" it was this time. I asked them a little nervously, though, "When will my eyes start to get better?" And a little more worried, "Any day now?"

The technician explained that the painkillers I was taking weren't allowing my eyes to properly heal. At the time, the science behind it made sense, but six years later all I remember is that there was something in the codeine (or some other sub-component of the painkiller) that wouldn't let the epithelial tissue in my eyes heal. The drug was denying my eyes the opportunity to heal. My unwillingness to confront the pain was prolonging the inevitable.

So, wanting to see well for the rest of my life, I had to take a couple more days off work and endure the excruciating pain that ensued. It was like 5 times more painful, for twice as long. I writhed around on the couch like a little weeny and felt the tears dripping down my cheeks for a good 3-4 days as my eyes healed properly.

And they did.

Maybe I'm the only father of a deceased or terminally-ill child out there who has gone to great lengths to deny the inevitable. But I doubt it. It's been my observation that women are much better at confronting things head on when it comes to their children. I reckon women are wired that way. This might explain why 90%-plus of the people who have told me they read this blog are women. Men are better at subject-changing, sub-consciencely denying, avoiding, going on mini-escapes, burying themselves in work, having one-too-many-cocktails one too many times, deliberately distancing, and focusing on other people's problems. I have no research to support this, but it's been what I've observed, and it's definitely been the case with Amy and I.

How do you raise a child who you know from Day 1 (or Day 10 in our case) is going to die at a very young age? We've said, "You just do it," and all other sorts of things on this blog, but I've never really shared that sometimes you find incredible ways to prevent yourself from feeling the pain. I guess the point of this post, however, is that by avoiding the pain you deny yourself the opportunity to grow and heal.

Am I writing this post to my family and friends? No. I'm writing this post for myself and all the other people out there, especially the men – the fathers and sons and brothers and granddads – who find themselves in lonely and grievous situations like I do. Men just don't talk the way women do. "I'm watching the game," or, "Really, you want to talk about that... it's like 8pm," or "No, nothings wrong.. seriously .... nothing's wrong," or "I'm going to the pub," are very much a part of my vernacular.

Our daughter is turning 2 years old in less than a month. It's only now, however, that I'm coming to grips with how much I've been denying things. Yes, it's served a purpose. But my efforts to avoid pain have had consequences. Like preventing me to confront reality and grow and heal in the ways that I should for her and my family. Like making meaning of it while Gabrielle's here, and not some time down the road when she's passed away.

I think that's what happens with denial in all cases. It prevents us from healing and seeing clearly, something like a codeine drop after laser eye surgery.

Denying reality complicates things. Confronting reality simplifies things. Gabrielle is simplicity incarnate. Maybe all children are.

Denial prolongs the inevitable and clouds things along the way. We're far better off facing reality head-on than we are 'pushing it down' for another day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

My 23 month old beauty

Happy 23 month-old birthday my sweet girl

Thank you for all that you have taught me these last 23 months

I have learned to be selfless,

to love more,

to laugh more,

to celebrate life and the people in it,

and that fancy things don't matter.

Thank you Gabrielle

You are so beautiful, and so wonderful

I love every day I get with you.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer Update 2012

Our 'happy' summer months have come and gone and we got to enjoy another summer with our daughter Gabrielle.  We ended up spending 12 days in the hospital as she was sick with paraflu and at the same time Jonathan was born.  It was a very exhausting, emotional week but with the help of our families we made it through.  Gabrielle was discharged on heavy amounts of steroids and we spent a very miserable and tiring first week at home.  Fortunately, we were able to go to Canuck Place for some desperately needed family respite time.  It was so great to see our CP family and they all enjoyed cuddles with Jonathan while I slept up in our room.  It was a win win.  Gabrielle was very busy with all the volunteers and every time I saw her she was doing a different activity around the house.  She is so grown up!

Meeting my brother for the first time.  I think I like him:)

First family picture.  Me, my mom and dad and Jonathan were all in the hospital together!
Home from the hospital and lots of time spent in the backyard

Some respite family time at Canuck Place

So happy and feeling good!

Mickey's 3rd birthday party

Lots of cuddles with Papa
Showing off my new bathing suit to my cousin Sarah

Swimming for the first time ever!!!!

Hanging on the deck with baby Jonathan

Visit with Auntie Tara

The mini golf cheering squad
The mini golfers (minus James)
22 months old - August 13th
I'm still bigger then him:) 

Evening walks with my brothers

Walking James to his first day of Kindergarten! I'm going to miss having him at home with me!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Simple Living in Coke Bottle Culture

Our son James was watching this video over and over and over the other morning. We were struck by it for very different reasons. It eventually came out that he liked it because he got to see people "walking around with bare bums." Ha ha. I liked The Gods Must Be Crazy for that reason too when I was a boy (like what boy didn't)?

But I was drawn to video for an entirely different reason (and likely the one the screenwriter was trying to highlight), and that was how beautiful and 'un-polluted' their way of life is. Sure, it's fiction, but the metaphor of the coke bottle causing the small community so much trouble really rings true for me right now. And it seems just as applicable today as it was in the 1980's when the movie came out.
"A thing they had never needed before became a necessity."  

I must admit: I have been reluctant to write this and other posts because I don't want to relate everything we see and read to our daughter Gabrielle. But the people in this movie clip and the juxtaposition of the coke bottle really did remind me of what she's teaching us.  

While we can't escape coke bottle culture (that's just unrealistic), I think it's important to remember where we came from and who we really are as a species. Often all the coke bottles we have and want in our lives muddy our perception as to what really matters. 

But I'm convinced that we're most happy when we know there are people in our lives who would want to sleep beside us around the fire at the end of the day.