The empty nest

To start off I need to let you know that this blog post is not about pancreatitis, but about empty-nesting’s affect on this stay-at-home mom. But, I need to begin with the pancreatitis. For our wedding anniversary we travelled north to Larsmont Cottages on the rocky shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. This was our second trip to this gorgeous resort, and in memory of our first visit, we ordered pizza from the same scrumptious pizzeria in an attempt to recreate the delicious taste experience emblazoned in our mind’s eye. Unfortunately, it was not the distinct chewy crust and thick cheese we remembered, and then to double the disappointment Andrew ended up sick following the meal. We assumed his old gastrointestinal issue he has struggled with since early childhood was triggered. However, the GI issue lasted for three weeks with reprieves here and there and then whoosh a full on attack. We finally ended up in the ER with his body shutting down. Andrew had full body hives, a high fever, and the entire course of GI symptoms. He was given epinephrine which took down the hives and put on a two day fast while hooked up to IV’s. He was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. He suffered in total twelve excruciatingly painful pancreatitis attacks due to our complete ignorance as to what was happening with his body.

His healthcare regime became all consuming for us for about three months, so much so that we didn’t even quite notice that we were empty-nesters after we moved Makaela into Oberlin Conservatory. Once we deduced what he needed to not eat and what to eat, what supplements to take, and how to do a castor oil pack on his liver, he started to gain weight and regain health. He lost 35 pounds in total—25 from the pancreatitis but the first 10 were hard earned through discipline in an attempt to lose weight. He jokingly says now that if could market pancreatitis, he could make a killing as it is the ultimate weight loss tool. Now that he is in full-health, I have caught my breath, and I have started to acutely feel the loss of my girls. The house is quiet. No one needs me to listen to her violin concerto, nor wants to download about her day, or is asking me to watch “our show” together. Our golden-doodle needs me—almost too much. He misses them too. When Samantha slept over for the Thanksgiving holiday, he didn’t even ask if he could join her, he simply jumped up on the bed, curled up at her feet to sleep for the night and that was that.

It’s a huge transition this “empty-nesterhood.” It has been an even weightier shift than becoming a mother. My first year home after Samantha was born was a titanic transition for me. It took a solid year to gain confident footing inmy place as a stay-at-home-mom while watching Andrew continue his education. I struggled with jealousy at his freedom to explore his options while at the same time wanting to want to make my children my focus. Eventually, I did carve out a passion for my home and was able to make it my temporary career. However, I had always planned to be out of the house working when the girls left home so that I wouldn’t feel their void this intensely. But, life happened (a brain tumor followed by a craniotomy that subsequently created brain damage). And, now both of us are without a job. It’s as if we are retired—in our forties! Thankfully, we saved for a rainy day and have funds to float with over the next year or so, but it’s the lack of a defined future that is immobilizing. It’s been nine months since Andrew lost his job. It’s been nice having him around. It has cushioned the inevitable loneliness that is slowly coming to engulf me like a tsunami.

At night I sit in my bedroom chair and put my various creams on. One is a yam based progesterone cream to help with my hot flashes. It works. My cycle stopped over a year ago. I know I am young to have gone through menopause, but it is what it is. I use a DMSO cream to deter wrinkles and another for sleep help. I put a drop of THC and CBD oil under my tongue and allow it to absorb. I squirt some melatonin in my mouth swish it around, lay down and watch Seth Meyer’s monologue on Andrew’s phone with my handsome guy beside me. We follow with Steven Colbert and Trevor Noah. I can usually make it to the end, but I more than not I drift off to sleep with a smile on my lips and laughter in my heart before the last clip is over: thank you melatonin. I almost always fall asleep before Andrew these days, and wake up afterwards, thanks to the THC. I watch him get up. He squeezes my arm, gives Mace a pat, and heads downstairs to shower. I lay In bed a bit longer feeling the luscious sheets on my bare legs with Mace snuggled at my feet. It’s hard to get up these days. Between my lingering THC high and my lack of purpose with no girls in the house it’s tricky to find a reason to pull myself out of bed. I wait until I hear Andrew leave the bathroom and scoop the coffee beans into the grinder. It’s at this point that I find the strength to sit up. Mace happily follows me with his white feathery tail wagging.

I head downstairs to the bathroom to do the essentials: go potty, brush my teeth, and wash my face. Last month I read that you don’t need to use cleanser in the morning if you did in the evening. The author said to just put a drop of essential oil on your wet wash cloth to cleans. Since I read that I now add a drop of lavender essential oil to my warm moistened cloth, inhale, and wash my face. It’s a lovely way to say good morning. I then proceed to our tiny white subway tiled kitchen with blue-grey cupboards and trim. Andrew is always smiling when I enter. He’s in the process of making our bowls of cereal with fresh fruit atop. Most of the time he leaves the coffee making for me as he knows this is my one true favorite morning ritual. The beans are coarsely ground and waiting my arrival in the beautiful crisp white coffee filter a top of the curvy glass Chemex. The distilled water is at the perfect temperature of 200F. I take over from here. I delicately pour 1.5 oz of hot water over the ground beans just to saturation and watch it bloom. We buy our coffee from Jeremy a couple of blocks over on 54th Street. He roasts twice weekly in his charming basement shop ironically down from the corner Starbucks. The beans are always fresh and full of gases waiting to be released. It’s incredibly satisfying watching the coffee bloom. After the grinds have collapsed in exhaustion from their sweet release, I finish gently pouring the remainder of the hot water over the coffee to make the perfect pot.

I am determined to find my passion in the second half of my life. I don’t believe I have cancer anymore. The MRI office continues to call and remind me of my overdue scan, but I don’t want to go. I don’t see what good it will do either way. I continue to research daily on how to beat cancer, and will continue trying new things. I’m never going to do anything conventional again. The conventional research for my type of brain tumor is not a priority for the scientific cancer community and the treatments offered are archaic.

Where our house is geographically situated is perfect if you are able to drive. We are maximum 15 minutes by vehicle from everything: from the airport, from the Mall of America, from Whole Foods, from Orchestra Hall, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, from Lake Harriet. You name it and we can be there within 15 minutes or less. However, I don’t drive anymore. I have taken my own license to drive away as I never know when a seizure may strike. They don’t happen often. Once every three years to every 6 months. I simply do not know how or why or when they will come. And, I’m not willing to risk anyone’s life over my longing to be mobile.

With my lack of driving, I can walk to Starbucks or the library. I can also walk to Lake Harriet. It’s about a 25 minute walk to the lake and then 45 minutes to get around it which ends up being quite the time commitment in total. If we lived on the other side of Lyndale Avenue and Diamond Lake it would not be such a Herculean feat to walk. The traffic on Lyndale and Diamond Lake is uber stimulating for my brain. It sops of tremendous energy reserves just to get across them. I am not complaining. I am just stating my reality. I have found though that if I put my earphones in and listen to a book, the mental distraction creates a protective bubble from the buzz of the traffic. I should do this every time.

Our neighborhood is ugly. I don’t enjoy looking out the windows. It makes me sad. The sky is gray, the houses and yards are unkempt, the snow is dingy lined with dirt from the street. I crave beauty. If I lived across from our house, I would have something pretty to look at, but I live inside of this adorable tiny tudor, and only catch a glimpse of it when I return from an outing. It’s at this time I say to myself, “what an adorable house.”

Andrew currently has 4 job prospects going at once and one business to buy. It’s an exciting time.

But, back to me. What would I like to do with the rest of my life. I’m forty-four. I’m in relatively good health, but I do have brain damage that presents itself throughout the day through word loss, forgetfulness, confusion…I don’t know. I could keep on researching. Or try writing. I can keep on reading. I love learning.

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