Sunday, October 21, 2012

Looking for Level

I mentioned ups and downs a week ago, but they were nothing compared to the ups and downs of the past few days.

JP continues to job search. He has resumes out at three Fort Worth companies (and several out of state companies), each of which he's had some sort of lead or contact with. There's hope, but not much progress. Sometimes I forget he's unemployed- since he's worked from home the past 7 months, it doesn't seem like much has changed. The kids just have a shorter day at school (they've switched to the part-time program, which is 9-2:30, 5 days a week) and he does all the pick-ups and drop-offs. Then there's also the evenings where he's depressed or frustrated and I can't help him, or the times I'm annoyed at something little but feel like I can't/shouldn't bother him with it, but then if I don't, I end up stewing on it and mess up the fact that our relationship is founded on the fact that we're both upfront about things like that and fix it early.

So you know, other than that, it's like nothing has changed.


Our realtor had the virtual tour done for our house in case we need to list it. We toured a (much) smaller (cheaper) home in a nearby neighborhood with a better elementary school. Our future is full of contingencies right now. Fully researched, carefully considered contingencies.


JP turned 31 on Thursday. The kids were overjoyed. JP was reflective and sad going in (lying in bed Wednesday night, "this is just not where I thought I'd be at 31."), but enjoyed the surprise Angry Birds breakfast when he got home from swim practice and dinner of pad thai and cookie cake (the homemade cake did not work out, but all the batter I ate in the process was still delicious).

I made up the table before the kids woke up and Landon was so excited he decided to hide to surprise JP when he got home from swimming. I tried to warn him that it would be a while, but Landon crouched behind the chair in the living room for 25 solid minutes, only to be overcome and jump out of his spot as soon as he saw JP's lights pulling up the driveway at 7:30 a.m., totally blowing the surprise factor. His face when he realized he was out of position when JP walked in the door was priceless and adorable. Claire sang "Happy Birt-day to Clairebear" on a continuous loop, occasionally replacing her name with "daddy," and always dancing and smiling with joy. It's hard not to love a birthday with kids around. So, up.


Then, down. On Friday my grandpa took a sharp turn for the worse in his recovery from spinal surgery. I hadn't written about his troubles yet, mostly because I just kept thinking they'd go away. The persistence of them, and how deeply they've started to affect him, finally hit me this week. He is, was until recently, the most active, loud, inquisitive, caring, positive, hard-working, stubborn, OPTIMISTIC person I know. I used to call him on a bad day in law school just to get the 4-minute "you're wonderful" pep talk he and my grandma invariably dished out (not that they knew I was calling for that purpose, but they never talk long, and they always make you feel a combination of warm and fuzzy and f-ing amazing every time by the time you hang up). I love him very much.

at Silver Lake in 2010

He's been in pain for months from long-time complications from ejecting him his shot-down fighter jet in Vietnam (a move that earned him a Purple Heart and compressed spinal nerves) and he recently had surgery to improve the situation. And it seemed the situation was improved, but then the pain came back, much more severe than before. It was constant and it was wearing on him in a way I don't think we, or certainly not I, fully understood. By Sunday, he couldn't get out of bed and was transferred by ambulance to the hospital. He had surgery again on Wednesday but was not doing well. He called me on accident Friday and our 90-second conversation had me crying in my office for a half hour. He wasn't lucid. He told me three times "I'm just not doing well, I'm just not doing well." I didn't know who that man was.


We drove to Austin Friday afternoon. We had been planning to go on Saturday, to stay with close friends and celebrate JP's birthday with a double-date night at our favorite restaurant (Moonshine, get the trout with cornbread stuffing), with Natalie (former part-time nanny) babysitting the four kids. All four of us couldn't wait. We moved the trip to Friday because of a scheduling conflict with Natalie and to allow us time to drive to San Antonio to see my grandparents if possible and needed. My mom was there, her two sisters and brother had all been there, and everyone was taking 2 days at a time to keep my grandma company as she tried to keep up with my grandpa and the doctors at the hospital.

We had an amazing time out with our friends on Friday. Moonshine had a 90 minute wait, but we got some drinks, tucked ourselves in the corner of the patio, and talked non-stop. JP and M talking about entrepreneurial plans; J and me talking about everything from babies to law firms, to raising children without eating disorders to euthanasia (it was that point of the convo that the husbands checked in and then immediately checked back out, and our parallel conversations resumed). Dinner (and the shared conversation) was amazing. The drinks were even better. We stopped at not one, but TWO bars on the way home and pulled back up at their house minutes before midnight. I barely recognized us. And the whole time I kept checking my phone and reading updates from my mom, "Gpa very fevered, labored breathing, not lucid at all." "Gma is scared, having trouble keeping tears away." And then I'd feel bad I was laughing so hard with the boys and J between the texts.


On Saturday morning we went on our favorite Austin hike, with J and M's little girl showing great prowess as a "hikist" and their 9-month-old slumped in a happy little ball in Claire's hiking backpack. I talked to my mom while jumping on rocks across a small stream. My grandpa was doing better, he was in the surgical ICU, visitors were tightly regulated and my uncle was flying back in. They were glad we offered to come, but thought we should wait until Thanksgiving as planned.


We went back to our friends' house and spent a couple hours lightly supervising the four kids playing with each other (except for their 9-month-old, who I stole for my exclusive entertainment at all opportunities), watching football, and eating Mexican food. We headed home at 2:30, 22 hours after arriving, feeling like it was a fantastic trip, even given how surreal it was to have such a sharp, bright amount of fun amidst a backdrop of so much worry and tears. It was, I think, exactly what we needed.

Today we found a new park and river in Fort Worth to jump around on and explore. We climbed a rock mountain, scurried up ropes, and flew high on swings. We grocery shopped. We picked up acorns in the front yard. I made my mom's spaghetti sauce. My Grandpa continues to improve in lucidity, if not pain management. JP is next to me. I feel very peaceful, despite the stress that I know lurks within (and despite the hour of zombie fighting Walking Dead gore I just watched).

As my grandma always says, life is good. Even while it sometimes is not.


  1. My grandpa was fantastic at those pep talks during law school and the bar exam. He was also injured in Vietnam. Those are some special men. :)

    I'm praying your grandpa is healed quickly and is doing well.

  2. Oh, this is so heartbreaking. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love suffer. I am so sorry.

    The trip to Austin looks like a nice respite! Good friends are the best!

  3. Hugs for your grandpa, and I hope he's doing better soon. I love the picture -- I can see where you get your beautiful smile!

  4. Keep your chin up and I'll pray that your grandfather continues on his path to less pain and more lucidity.


  5. So sorry to hear about your grandpa. Wishing you the best.

  6. I wish you and your family the best and I will keep your grandfather in my prayers.

    With regard to your family's current circumstance, please have JP get in contact with me as soon as possible. I am an Independent Business Owner. I am currently hiring. I have a position that is open.

    Ralph Wilson-
    Independent Business Owner

  7. hope g-pa is feeling better by the day! and as for jp's birthday ruminations... he's got a great family! he's in great shape! he is a homeowner! he's got a MBA! (i envy him three of the four =P) he's accomplished a lot, really. the job will come in time. and by the next birthday he will be closer to where he wants to be.