Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: My Mom

Right, is a photo of my dad on his and my mom's hike into the Grand Canyon years ago
bellow is a photo of him and I enjoying the scenery on another trip to the canyon

my mom took a recent hike into and then out of the Grand Canyon.. if you have never been there, you can not even imagine the beauty of it.. it's vastness alone assures you that God is real... I asked my mom to guest blog about her experience hiking the canyon for the second time (her first was with my dad), i knew that he would be heavy on the minds of all who went..
when she was first asked to go she shared with me that she didn't want to do it without my dad... i thought this was something that she needed to do, should do... not only would it show that she was able to do it without him physically but it would also show that, though it's hard, we can move forward without him (for now)... what better euphemism for life, than to climb out of the canyon?
as a family we have taken trips to the canyon.. most every time we did i puked at some point.. but i can still feel the importance of being there.. of looking out and just being still.. taking it all in... that was important to my dad.. just take it all in.. experience it... trying to tune out my mom exclaiming "how beautiful!" "wow!" :)
i love this photo of my mom hiking because we found it as we were going through old photos, dad was already on hospice but still ornery as ever and kept saying "look at those legs".. it was too cute!
so without further ado.. i give you my mom in all her snarky humor and exclamations... haha.. when i read it i could hear her voice because.. much like i do.. she writes how she speaks... and we both tend to play fast and loose with punctuation! she also called to warn me of the somewhat risqué parts... nothing i haven't heard before mom!

My first major adventure without my BABYCAKES

Hiking to the bottom of the great Grand Canyon

This trip had been planned by my niece and sister for at least 6 months. One of the girls that was supposed to go with them cancelled out about 2 week prior to leaving. It was to be a hike w/ a two night camping stay at the bottom. At first I hesitated, only because I had no desire to adventure without Robert. I almost felt that I had no business going without him, I also knew that it was going to be very difficult not only because of my weight & lack of exercise but because this was “our thing” to do. I knew exactly what he would marvel at, look for and his reaction to how we packed our backpacks or carried our water. I knew that I would hear his voice in the wind……. ANYWAY, after giving it some thought and constant encouragement from my sister and niece…….. I decided to go. (and I’m glad I did).

We started out on Wednesday night, after church…… (I knew I/we needed a lot of prayer). My thought s were of my honey, just thinking about him, and how he knew just how much I loved the canyon. At any opportunity or any occasion, he’d take me up there. It is beautiful. BUT, I was going to be there without him. What was worse, was that we’d never share the canyon, again…. Or, the motel….. Who doesn’t like to share motel with their loved one…… It was always a honeymoon; even you didn’t like each other. (another story).

The plan was that we’d get an early start, (that was a joke)…. It didn’t matter, except, had Robert been with us, we would have had an early start… we lollygagged in Flagstaff, shopped for stuff we had forgotten; toiletries, snackies, sun screen, snickers, oh, and a diet Pepsi…… We got to the trail we were going to take (south Kaibab) @ 10:00. We were surprised to see so much snow on the trail. So we proceeded with our hike. OH HOW BEAUTIFUL and slippery. I remember looking up at the canyon and looking for the spot or spots that Robert, our baby girl and I would stand, sit and just stare down at the beauty with appreciation for our wonderful creation. I can’t say that Robert ever left my thoughts, although much of the scenery was blurred with tears. How beautiful it was and how I wish my Robert was there with us…….After 5 grueling hrs into our hike, my legs started feeling weak. I knew something wasn’t right. The conditions worsened. At about a mile from our campsite, I thought was going to die…. The girls didn’t know how bad I was (or they didn’t care). We kept going but I felt I was crawling. (this wouldn’t have happened if Robert would have been with us). When I made it to camp, I (so dramatically) dropped my backpack (he would have been carrying mine) plopped myself down….. and it all came up and out….. I was so sick and couldn’t stop shaking…. My niece and her friend put up the tent so that I could get in it (probably to hide me from everyone). I got in the tent and I just remember feeling a relief that just maybe I was going to be with Robert sooner than I had thought. ( I was sick). I guess it was dehydration….. BAD. Actually, I wanted to die, but then I thought about my babies. How selfish of me, I then started to pray and pray for God to please help me get better. My sister (I couldn’t believe this), nursed me all night, making sure I drank water and the slightest move or moan, she’d ask me if I was ok or better. THANK GOD, morning came and I was feeling in better. I got out of the tent and went to wash up (Robert and I would give each other sponge baths)… I walked away, and laid on the bench of a picnic table to pray, and to soak in the beautiful morning rays, thinking about my Robert. I so miss our intimate moments. We had many, many fun times alone. My mind went crazy thinking of his sayings or asking “Do You Want To HUH-HUH” or sing “I’ve got the horse and you’ve got the saddle, together we’re going to ride, ride, ride”….. the times we would be hysterical laughing at one another because of our fat stomachs……..or when he knew that I was upset at him for whatever reason, he would smart off and from the TV room, I hear him tell my son, “I guess we aren’t getting any cookies tonight……….

OH WHAT HAS HAPPENED…….. It is still so unbelievable….

Midmorning I wanted to go look for the deer. I didn’t want to leave the canyon without seeing a deer. We went about a little walk towards the Colorado River and came across a couple looking for Big Horn Sheep, he said they had been spotted in the area, I told him we hadn’t seen any but asked them if they had seen deer. They told us, that they had seen at least 6 of them watering near the river…. So we headed that way. It was funny to me because here I am, looking for deer. (that’s exactly what Robert would be doing, actually looking for any four footed critter). We didn’t see any. I was quite disappointed. (My sister made friends with a fox). After a couple hours at the Colorado River (it was beautiful), we chose to go back to camp…..

My sister and I sat in the sunshine, enjoying the view of the many, huge cliffs. The colors were just gorgeous. Of course, the quite moments took our thoughts to Robert. I can’t express enough just how much I/we miss him. How could we rewind time? Go back to what we had. Undo what was done…. ………………….My sister mentioned him often. She still misses him as well as the rest of the family; tears are always present when we talk about me. WHAT A LOSS WE HAVE SUFFERED. We’d talk about all he taught them (family) about camping. I truly enjoyed our talk. After a couple of hours “sunning”, people started noticing two dumb Mexicans sitting on the bench laughing or crying…… it was so much fun making friends with so many other people. They would actually stop to join in on our laughter with making fun of each other (that’s what sisters do, right). We even had the Park Ranger joining in on the fun. We met people from all over this great world. I posed for an Asian man….. (maybe I’ll be featured in one of their comic books). We decided to go back to camp and get our stuff ready, hoping to leave by 6:00 a.m. While packing and getting ready for the morning, we received company. These people were “friends we met on the bench”. my sister meets strangers and right away want to play SKIPBO, so she a invited mother and daughter to come over and play “SKIPBO”. We laughed so hard telling her, “Yeah, they’re going to come play SKIPBO, with you”. Well they did…….

Time to sleep and then time to wake up and get going………My niece (who took care of Robert) was amazing. I still can’t believe how she just took over and made things happen. You’d think she was born with the talent of an outdoorsman………. She gives credit to her Tio Robert …. She’ll say that her Tio taught her all she knows about camping. I never helped Robert with the camp set up… I didn’t want to learn how to do it…… too much work. So, I’d say, “I do all the work @ home, so here @ camp, you get to do it. AND HE DID! But “Nelelee”, knew how to do it all.

As we started our early morning hike back out of the canyon, guess what we encountered…… DEER! Beautiful deer. There they were, there must have been at least eight/nine. They were watering and just watching us. They were as motionless as we were. My heart sank. I wanted so badly to holler out to Robert, to come and see them, but was afraid to scare them off. Then again, Robert wasn’t with us. I was able to get near enough to talk to them. It was great. I told them not be afraid, that Robert wasn’t with us. (my honey was a hunter). I didn’t want to leave the area; it was so much like heaven. Beautiful, serene, friendly, warm, cool, and peaceful and I felt very close to Robert. I knew we had to keep going, but it wasn’t easy. I didn’t want to leave that feeling I felt. So close, to Robert. I was in fact in his world. I thought of us looking over the canyon beyond the canyons, just imagining what we could see. I saw and felt the great beauty with the taste of heaven.

We went about our hike, crossed the bridge over the Colorado River. We stood in the middle or the bridge looking at the rushing waters, but my thoughts were still on the deer and the beautiful meadows against the large rocks within the canyon. There was such a sense of sadness. I think my sister even mentioned it.

I took us 8 hrs to climb out of the canyon. Still, very beautiful at every angle. At the canyon, there are canyons within each canyon and at every spot you can see a different beauty. Breathtaking. We did, at many points, stop for a rest, but even then, we didn’t stop marveling at God creation. That’s when we’d pull out Robert’s binoculars, to see all we can see. At this one point, I heard a chipping, which I thought was a bird. I told my sister, look for that bird that is chipping. So she pulled out the binoculars to look for the bird. Some other hikers stopped and asked what she had seen and she said, “I looking for that bird, do you hear it”? And they said, oh, that’s not a bird; it’s a squirrel (or chipmunk).

We continued climbing. We were well into our 5th hour. This was grueling and only to get worse. My niece and her friend left us behind. I really don’t think it had anything to do with age nor their fitness. I believe that my sister and I were literally enjoying the beauty. We’d meet hikers on the trail, and we’d talk. The hikers we’d meet coming down, we’d say, “enjoy it”, then we’d ask, “are WE almost there?” The ones that would hike along with us were so good to encourage us, to just keep on going and to enjoy it. So we were all pretty much with the same mind set.

About 3 ½ miles from the top it got bad. We hit the snow again. The trail’s narrower because of the snow. We were slipping and sliding and at just about a crawl. We kept on, slowly but surely. We were still enjoying the sights but really we were worried and wondering whether or not we were going to make it (Robert would have been mad for us taking such a risk). My sister was good about trying to distract us, and this one time she says, “Just think Ernestina, how many sisters have had this opportunity to do what we’re doing , together”. That was nice, but I thought, how many sisters are there that would be so stupid to do this? It was horrible, steep, icy, and slippery. I know there a couple of time I wanted just to quit. Just stop. Then I would hear my Robert say, come on Ernestina, you can do it, we are almost there…… (then I’d remember why I quit hiking with him…… he didn’t know when to stop) At one point my sister slipped. That could have been catastrophic. The trail has logs built in (preserve trail) so we had to lift our leg over to step up. This was on ice and snow. She slipped and only God prevented her from going over…. Scary. We were quiet the rest of the way……I started noticing a place where Robert and I had walked our baby girl down about a mile……. So I knew that we were pretty close but very, very difficult.

Thanks to my loving, merciful God. We made it. I experienced a touch of heaven, a place where I left Robert and beautiful memories. I was able to share many tears with him, and was left with such peace knowing that he is where he wants to be and knowing that someday, we will all be together. Not only the kids and I, but my family that still miss and mourn him. He left us all with precious memories, and I thank God for them. I’M EVEN AT A POINT THAT WHEN IM SAD, OR MISSING HIM, I JUST PRAY AND THANK GOD FOR THE YEARS HE GAVE US WITH HIM. ALTHOUGH SHORT YEARS, FOR US WHO MISS AND LOVED HIM, BUT BIGGER THAN LIFE YEARS, BECAUSE HE LIVED LIFE TO THE FULLEST WITH THOSE HE LOVED.

Monday, March 21, 2011

getting what i came here for

so i may have forgotten why i made this blog.. i think i have been writing things that i want to write about.. but i also have the reader in mind.. when in reality.. .this blog is for me... it was set up so that i had a safe place to write how i feel.. send it out and release it... and there have been times when i don't write what i am feeling.. or i avoid writing because i know it is going to be hard to read... or worse.. hard to write...
so i want to write this for my own therapy.. so that i can sleep.. so that i can stop feeling the way i have been... but i want to write it without guilt that it will make some of you sad or feel bad... it is what it is... and it's what i need to work out...
i don't sleep.. i can sleep.. believe you me. i CAN sleep... i can lay down for 4 hour naps and wake up ready for another round of sleep... i have fallen asleep in the bathtub... at the movies.. in school parking lots during lunch hour... i CAN sleep.. but sometimes. i won't.. i will myself to stay awake... completely terrified of what i am going to see when i close my eyes...
at night.. there is a night it comes down to me and my thoughts... a battle almost... i literally shake my head NO.. i put on my war face and downright refuse to let them get the better of me...
the thing that i am avoiding so much as to drive myself to bite my fingernails till they are painful and bloody.. is my dad... i fight back tears but still feel them rolling into my ears.. hot.. i lose the battle every time... even with my eyes open starting out into darkness i see him... he is thin.. frail... he is scared too...
and that's what gets me... i am laying in bed fighting sleep the way he did every night... we would beg him to sleep and he wouldn't... and i know what he was afraid of... because i see them too.. i see all of the memories and things we work so hard to hide away in our minds.. i know what it feels like to not be able to stop them... and i know.. without a doubt that is what he was seeing... in his over 60 year of life,, i don't know all he had seen.. i don't know all that he had experienced.. but i know the bad stuff lurked... then came out at night...
my nightmares are made of seeing him small and sick on the recliner sleeping with his mouth open... but his hands and feet are twitching because i know he is having a morphine induced nightmare... or i see him hallucinating and seeing bungs on my aunts kitchen floor.. so afraid he is holding the wheels to his wheel chair so that i can't push him into the kitchen.. and all i told him was to not look down... i see him staring off into corners.. and i ignored it... i was so afraid to see my dad afraid that i blocked it all our... or at least tried to... i didn't comfort him... i didn't want to pity him.. i kept on trucking hoping that he would follow.. and he did...
and i feel so much guilt now.. i have so many "should of" thoughts left over.. i should have played games with him at night.. maybe took a walk around the block. anything to help keep his thoughts and hallucinations at bay.. and i didn't... so maybe it's my punishment to lay awake and try to cry as quietly as possible... i try not to live with regret but instead learn.. what what lesson was there to learn here?
after nights of sleeplessness my mind starts to wander in the day... running watter can send me into a panic attack when i think of the look on his face when he washed his hands.. like water was the best feeling in the world after not showering for days... when i cook. i think i could have tried harder to come up with things he could,would eat.. and worse.. i secretly wonder pretending to be so strong led me to this...
all of these thoughts keep me from the good memories... and i start to avoid him all together.. i don't want to talk about him or hear about him.. because i know what is hiding in the shadows of my brain...
these are the demons that i live with.. and i don't know how to get rid of them... except to release them.. here.. or maybe to talk about it...but how is that going to happen when i work to avoid it all?
it's a cycle... and one that has to be broken for my own sanity...

Friday, March 18, 2011

through his eyes

i love this photo... take a good look at it... at first my my brother and i laughed because we thought it was silly for our dad to take a photo of his rodeo gear... you see a saddle, boots, hat and duffel bag.... and a chipmunk! if you saw the chipmunk right away then good for you.. cause it took us a while...
this photo also makes me think of my dad.. not just because it is his stuff... and a memory from his past but because we get to see something through his eyes...
my dad had eagle eyes, which is baffling because i have keratoconus (a disorder having to do with the cone shape of my corneas), i don't see much detail... i don't see depth... like the edges of curbs.. it is a frustrating issue that i am going to be seeing a specialist about very soon concerning possible permanent options including a cornea transplant....
so much of my life... even before i knew i had this issue.. my dad would spot a deer or other animal and i never got to see it... i just thought there was a bit of magic in him.. some left over native american intuition with nature that i didn't have... but it was just the way he "saw" things.. ok so maybe he was more in tune with nature than most of us.. but there was no trick to it... it was just quietness and patience... the man could sit with a fishing pole for hours before recasting... and came back hunting season after hunting season without a trophy.. but plenty of stories of what he saw
as i try to continue to learn from him i have begun to practice patience more intensely... i listen harder.. i do my pit bull jump at your throat less... it is the part of me that gets me into the most trouble... and what i have learned is that life is much easier if i just let it happen. it meaning life... i can enjoy my life (without being completely content with my situation).. i can enjoy the beauty life has to offer...
the snow is quickly melting as mu yard has turned green in a matter of a day... soon my bleeding heart bush will come out of hibernation and spring will be here... spring is the ultimate sign of renewal.. and if i don't watch patiently i might miss it...
my dad very clearly was in love with life... it was apparent in how he chose to live his life... i want that... i don't want to just see the rodeo gear anymore.. i want to see that chipmunk in everything i do

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Natalie ... why we walk

This is my mom and i.. at the end of one of the many walks we did... can you he how thrilled i was to be there? haha

when i was younger i was "dragged" to walks of all kinds... cancer walks, hands across america... i was the cute little chubby girl coming in last as volunteers were cleaning up.. i still am that cute chubby girl.. i just don't come in last anymore..but i wasn't ever able to understand why i was walking.. what it meant... other than my mom promised mcdonald's after we were done...
as an adult who has been affected by cancer i can understand and appreciate the kinship of the cattle heard heading to the finish line...

to read "why i walk"- a past blog entry click here:

this past weekend was the Climb to Conquer Cancer in Phoenix... my cousin Natalie was able to get a team together, for the 2nd year, in honor of my papa...

the back of the team shirts

when i see this picture of the group i don't just see people walking for my dad.. i see some cousins who lost another cousin to brain cancer last year.. i see another cousin who lost an aunt to a long battle with cancer.. i see yet another cousin whose mom is a breast and kidney cancer survivor and whose father is battling lung cancer..and of course i see my mom and my brother, making my daddy proud...

i asked Natalie to blog about the uphill 10k for me, as i obviously couldn't be there.. but i also wanted to read what she had to say as i know papa was going to be weighing heavily on her mind while she walked... Natalie took such amazing care of my dad from his first appointment with his oncologist, to dressing him before the funeral... she is also able to get me to release when she knows i need to, when no one else can... i love you Nat, thanks for writing this:

“He left us quietly, His thoughts unknown, but He left us memories that we are proud to own”

As young children we would participate in the cancer walk not really knowing the reality of what cancer could do and those it could affect. As we matured and continued to participate in this annual walk, we began to understand just exactly what cancer was and why so many people continued to walk every year. However, never in a million years did we ever think our lives would be changed so drastically by this disease in such a short time and that we would be walking today in memory of our loved one, Uncle Robert.

As the day approached, we were ready to go, with a smile on our face and so many mixed emotions. Our team was made up of family and friends and each one of them had a special connection to our Uncle Robert. The shirts we wore had a special loving message printed on the back to let others know that we were walking in memory of our loved one.

During our walk we would share stories with one another about how he had touched our lives, things he would say or do and how we missed him dearly. We all survived the 5.5 mile walk, even the kids did great! We all met at the top of the mountain and signed the large American Cancer Society banner with a special message about Uncle Robert. As we continued to hike down, we continued to share stories of our camping trips, vacations and time we spent with him and how he would take us on hikes and point out every plant, or bird or even rock! He paid so much attention to each individual, young or old and made you feel so special and loved.

What an awesome day we shared and we are truly blessed to have had Uncle Robert in our lives and his memories live on in each and every one of us.

“We walked today for those who survived, we walked today for those who are battling and we walked today in memory of those that we have loved and lost much too soon.”

editor comment- who is uncle robert? haha nat.. to you he will always be robbie... the only one who could get away with that.. :)