Sunday, September 1, 2013

Breakdown

"Daddy, I hope you get better soon and aren't sick any more!" A statement that pierces  my heart.

I had a breakdown today, the first one I've had in months. As I've been feeling better overall it's been easy to leave all of the emotional baggage in the past. Being back in the daily grind has left me without much time for reflection or even cause to reflect, but I guess that I was due as today it hit me pretty hard.

I spent the better part of the day today working in the yard weeding, picking carrots, and finishing a small retaining wall project, not all that much work really. When I came in and cleaned up from doing all of that and sat down I realized that my lower back was hurting and it would be another 2 hours before I could take another round of pain medication. I laid down on the floor in an effort to get more comfortable and ended up nodding off for 20 or 30 minutes. When I awoke, I was feeling like crap. My back still hurt, I was drowsy, and just felt kind of icky overall. My wife suggested that I go to the bedroom and lay down for a while, that I had overextended myself again, and so I nodded and started shuffling off to the bedroom. Along the way, I passed my oldest two girls who were seated on the floor playing a game together. "Can. We go in the tub now?" the 5yr old asked. " not right now" I said. "I've got to go lay down for a while:"

I didn't have to look to see the disappointment on her face, nor did I even hear her response which was likely something like "Aw, we never get to go in the tub." Or "But you said we can go in the tub today!" It didn't matter, I knew how she felt. I had promised them both earlier in the day that we would get in the hot tub some time that afternoon. I had even used it to motivate them to do some work of their own in the yard, especially cleaning off their trampoline since being able to jump on it apparently wasnt sufficient motivation. They had done everything that I had asked of them and had been on fairly good behavior for the day.

Getting to get in the hot tub is a big deal to the girls. It's the closest thing tha we have to a pool and with everything we've had going on this summer, they didn't get many opportunities to go swimming. They also love the hot tub because its shallow depth gives them confidence and allows them to be a little more daring than they would feel comfortable doing in a large pool, plus, it's their special activity that they get to do with Daddy. My wife has had little occasion to get into the tub since shortly after we got it. Between surgeries, pregnancy and the baby, she's been either unable to get in or unable to gain the freedom required to be able to. Thus, the hot tub has become my thing that I do with the girls, but even those events have been few this summer as it was out of order for a couple of months and I've had few occasions where I've felt up for it on a day where both the weather and our schedule permitted it. The girls have begged on a number of occasions to get in and up until today, I've had to deny them every time, even a couple of times were I had otherwise promised that they could.

So as I walked past them into the bedroom and shut the door, feelings of guilt that I was somehow letting them down washed over me and as I laid down on the bed, I started to sob. It wasnt just about my promise to the girls that caused me to cry. As I lay there, I also my wife's comment that I keep pushing myself too hard doing things out in the yard. She's right, of course, but the problem is that the level of activity that I'm able to perform today with which I push myself too hard is but a fraction of the effort that I could have previously put in.

I am so tired of being limited in what I can do. Much like taking the motorcycle for a ride out in the country, doing DIY projects and tasks around the house is what I love doing, it's my hobby. If I were independently wealthy and didn't have to work, I would probably spend all of my time finding projects to do around the house and I doubt that I'd ever run out of things to do. It's one of the reasons that I bought this house with an acre outside of town so that I would have a place that could keep me busy as long as I had the time for it. Now I no longer have the time, and when I do, I don't have the energy or strengh to do everything that needs to be done and that frustrates me to no end. I'm tired of being unable to do the things that I need/want to do and I fear that's not going to change, that this is the best I'm going to feel even if I'm able to keep the cancer at bay for another 20 years, this is the best it's going to be. These thoughts fueled the sorrow that I already felt over disappointing the girls and I continued to sob uncontrollably. 

It didn't help that my wife left the TV on when she had been in the room earlier watching something on tha Apple TV. Now in standby mode, the screensaver had kicked in which meant a sideshow of family pictures streaming from the computer. I laid there and watched as random pictures of the girls from birth to present flowed across the screen bringing back memories of events and activities, some of witch I'm afraid are no longer possible. As pictures of my oldest as a baby scrolled past, I noticed how much my youngest, now 9 months old, resembles her older sister at the same age and I wonder if I will get to make similar memories with her as I did with her sister as there was so much more that I was able to do then.

At some point, I realized that I wasn't going to be going to sleep and somehow my pain was less noticible. Maybe just laying down for a while was all that was needed, so I got up, put on my swimsuit and directed the girls to do the same. They, of course, noticed that I'd been crying and asked me what was wrong. Trying to spit out an answer only made me start crying again at which point my 5 year old came over to console me and said those words "Daddy, I hope you get better soon and aren't sick any more."

I don't have the heart to tell her that there won't be a time when I'm "not sick any more". I don't know if she'll be able to comprehend that fact or if I even want her to know yet, but it pains me every time I hear her say it. How do I tell her that in one way or another, I will be sick for the rest of my life, that there won't be a time when I'm fully recovered and cancer free unless some miracle cure is just around the corner? It's amazing how a simple statement of comfort and concern can have both it's intended effect and can tear at my heart at the same time.

Afterwards I did take the girls out to play in the hot tub for the short time that was left in the day. They were happy and so was I and even though I was out there past the time that I was due to take pain medication, I was pain free the whole time we were in the tub. Lately I know when it's time without even looking at the clock as I can feel the meds wearing off, but somehow while spending that time with my girls I didn't even notice. I'm glad that I was able to keep my promise.

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