Meredith


…because I do not have a mullet.

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Is it okay to be angry with God? Is it okay to feel crushed under the weight of responsibility that He has placed on my shoulders?

I went to church with my family yesterday and by the time we got there, I was ready to explode in a fit of rage. I brought my wife and children into the sanctuary where the service had already begun and promptly turned around to find a quiet place to “vent” only to be pursued by my screaming three year-old son. When I got to the chapel, I held him in my arms and cried. Throughout the 10 months of Meredith’s struggle with a brain tumor and subsequent brain injuries, I have refused to ask God why. Why Meredith? Why me? Why us? Who am I to ask the God of the universe such a selfish question? Other than these musings, I still will not ask Him why. He will reveal that to me when it’s time.

Yesterday, however, I did have the audacity to tell God that I couldn’t take it anymore. I cried out that the burden is too great and I don’t know what to do. I wept openly with my son in my arms and telling God that it was too much for me to handle. Malcolm asked me what was wrong and I stuttered through and explanation of the truth in a language that a three year-old might understand. He empathized with me but did not understand. He brought me back to earth (and the responsibility of being a husband and father) by telling me that he was upset because the brass quartet combined with the organ and choir were too loud and hurt his ears. He led me back to the now quiet sanctuary and our family.

I don’t think I’ve finished my prayer of anguish. I know that God is not finished with me. He is sovereign and I remind myself often that I live to love Him and keep His commandments. That isn’t always comforting when you’re caught between a soiled diaper, a great deal of whining and crying, dinner boiling over on the stove, a hemiplegic spouse needing assistance to the table, and an ungrateful dog scratching at the door. God’s plan for us is unfolding and I have marveled at some of the miracles along the way. I know that He has given me strength to handle everything; otherwise I would have been crushed months ago by the weight of it all.

Am I angry at God? No, not really. Am I frustrated? At times, yes. Who am I to complain about burdens?  He sent His son to die in order that I might live.  Jesus bore the weight of the world on his shoulders. My burden is insignificant in comparison. More poignant to me than ever before is Handel’s setting of Matthew 11:30 in The Messiah, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In my distress, however, I’m not sure I am altogether aware of how to pick up His yoke and rest from my own burdens. God willing, awareness is not the only thing I’ll have when the God appointed time comes; I will be yoked with Christ and all of the glories and blessings that entails.

MW

Below is a random sampling of Handel’s The Messiah. If I had hours of time, perhaps I could find one that I liked more, but this performance is certainly adequate for my spiritual musings.

Good Monday Morning and Happy December.

I keep meaning to write a little something especially for those people who we may see while Meredith is out and about.

It occurred to me that some of you may be nervous, or tentative, when approaching Meredith because you aren’t sure what to say or how to say it. Let me see if I can help you out a little bit.

The first thing is don’t be worried about talking to Meredith. She enjoys meeting people and talking with people. She may be shy, but I think it helps her to feel “normal” to talk to people who aren’t with her 24/7.

Secondly, be sure to introduce yourself. If I’m with Meredith I try to casually let her know who is coming to talk to her. This works fine except, um, when I can’t remember a name. Besides, it would be a good opportunity to get your conversation going. The reason for the introduction is that she can’t see very well and even though she recognizes voices, she isn’t likely going to remember everyone’s voice.

Third, act normal. If you would normally talk about the weather, then talk about the weather. If you would normally talk about music, then talk about music. If you’re normally a dingbat, then talk like a dingbat. (Did I say that last one out loud?)

Fourth, she has a brain tumor, not stupidity. While you may not feel comfortable talking about the tumor, try to avoid dancing around the subject. She is sharper than you might be inclined to think and she will pick up on things. Besides, the stupidity is reserved for me. It is okay to talk to me like I am stupid.

Fifth, she is a stroke victim, not deaf. There is no need to shout, unless you are in fellowship hall at church and competing with the volume of the echo chamber.

Sixth, her memory is improving, but not perfect (like many of us). This will most likely come into play when you see her more than once. Don’t expect her to remember visiting with you. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if she does remember visiting you. Her memory problems will be most obvious in a prolonged conversation. It is not uncommon for her to ask the same question repeatedly. Try not to be exasperated and simply answer the question again.

Seventh, as I mentioned before, don’t be anxious about talking to Meredith. If you feel like you’ve made some silly remark, or spoken inappropriately to her, then you will be quickly forgiven. I know that the people that she sees on the street (so to speak) are not going to converse effortlessly with Meredith and I don’t think you should worry about what you say.

She does appreciate the encouragement that comes from people telling her how far she has come since February. Now that we are out and about more, you may even notice some of the improvements without having to get updates from me or her parents. If you notice something, don’t hesitate to point it out.

I hope this helps give you some ideas about what you can do to interact with Meredith when you see her. Mostly, I want you to keep in mind that she is loved by God no matter what her current condition and because of that, she is deserving of our love as well.

Take care and God bless.

Marc

Good morning.

I wanted to give you a brief update about what’s been going on here on 10 Harvard Street. For some of the exciting goings on, I’ll refer you back to my Thanksgiving Eve post. There is one story that I haven’t shared because I’ve been trying to find the most exciting way to tell it. I haven’t found an exciting way of telling it, so you’ll get the boring, ho hum version of the story and I’ll let the facts be the excitement.

First, Meredith is doing well. I was able to get to her therapies on Friday for the first time since she started as an outpatient at the hospital (Rutland Regional Medical Center). It has become clear to me that Meredith is able to do more than we “allow” her to do. I know from my perspective I don’t have her do things because of time and expediency (with two little kids running around that isn’t hard to understand why). But she is probably able to do more and should do more, so now I just need to figure out a way to make that happen when I’m home. Of course, in order to facilitate Meredith doing more things on her own she should be doing a regular exercise routine. Again, not a problem for Shannon (her aide) during the week, but it is a problem for me when it’s just me.

That brings me to a little aside. I am very grateful for all of the help many people have given me throughout this ordeal, especially my mom, my family and my in-laws. I certainly would have many more gray hairs if I didn’t have the help that they have provided. I am also very grateful for the community of cookers that Marty Barclay has been arranging for us. They’ve provided me two nights a week of delicious food (and more importantly, time not to worry about what to make for dinner).

Well, the sewage continued to spill out of the trap in the basement floor. Greg finally called the drain service people for me while we were visiting my Dad and step-mom (which was a great visit). I was reluctant to call them because, well, probably because I’m stubborn, but also because they’ve been to the house twice already back in August and the problem has not gone away. I was also hoping to time it so that I didn’t have to pay double time for their services on a holiday or weekend. No such luck. I haven’t used the toilet since he was here, but I’m not holding my breath.

Maura is very congested, but she seems to be otherwise fine. Malcolm is still whiny, but I still love him ( (I never stopped, in case you doubted). Merlin, well…

Enter two little visitors that showed up on my door. Literally, my chest and my arm. Oh, a couple of weeks back, I noticed something on my chest right below my left collar bone. It looked to me like a blood blister that had ballooned up from my skin. I didn’t think much of it because when I wrestle with the kids I get pinched and poked and pounced on all over. I just figured it was one of those pinchings that resulted in a blood blister. A few days later I noticed another one on the back of my right arm (actually, Malcolm is the one to have discovered that one for me).

(Too much information warning)

So, I’m sitting on the toilet one afternoon after school, minding my own business (doing my business if you prefer) and I felt something fall down my back. Huh? I thought to myself, I wonder what that was. I proceed to wrap up what I’m doing (not literally, of course) and I spot something on the toilet seat. Huh? What is that? I picked it up and to my curiosity I discovered that it was the “blood blister” that was from my chest. After looking at it up close, my curiosity turned to horror as I realized that it was no blood blister. It was a tick! A TICK!

Of course, out of a morbid curiosity (and an overwhelming desire to squish the little monster) I looked closely at the creature and squeezed it. Sure enough, the sack of my digested blood explodes violently and splatters all over my face. Well, the rest of the story is a little fuzzy, but it went something like this:

I exclaimed disgust.

I squirmed.

I exclaimed disgust.

I took of my shirt and inspected the other tick. I carefully removed the tick, took pictures of it, and put him in a plastic bag to die a slow death of suffocation.

I squirmed.

I called my father-in-law, the dentist. Not really sure what he was going to tell me, I figured he would have advice for me as my skin was crawling with imaginary ticks.

Reassured, but not satisfied, I called my sister-in-law, the physician’s assistant and woods dweller (i.e. tick connoisseur). I asked her to assure me that I wouldn’t die, I told her my story. I realized that I didn’t need to go to the emergency room (even though I very much wanted to so that I could take a hazmat bath).

I squirmed. My skin continued to crawl with imaginary ticks sucking my very real blood. In fact, I didn’t don another shirt for at least an hour. I was constantly looking over my shoulder and in the mirror, convinced that the ticks had bred like rabbits and I was covered with them. I squirmed some more.

I have since visited the doctors and we are pursuing a course of blood screening before we try any antibiotics. If I do have Lyme disease, then because we caught it early (and crushed and suffocated the little buggers) it is very treatable with a three-week course of antibiotics. That is very reassuring, of course, but I’m still squirming.

I have posted a picture of my little friend on my other blog. Follow the link at it at your own peril. It will cause your skin to crawl as it did mine.

Happy first Sunday in Advent!

Take care and God bless.

Marc

Well, well…there was something I was supposed to wish you all, but I can’t remember what it is. It’ll come to me. In the meantime, here are some more goings on in the Whitman house.

The day started off well enough, that is unless you count the broken picture frame above Malcolm’s bed. I’m not sure how it happened, and I decided right away that it wasn’t going to bother me, but an 8×10″ picture of Malcolm, Mommy, and Daddy on Malcolm’s first birthday (compliments of the Dinnany’s – thanks guys!) was off the wall, glass smashed, picture torn, and lying in Malcolm’s crib. Obviously, the most frustrating part was that the picture itself was torn (pretty much beyond repair) and that we have no duplicate of that image. I did check to make sure Malcolm wasn’t hurt and proceeded to spend the next 10-20 minutes cleaning up the mess he had made while he and Maura ran around downstairs.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we ran out of diapers and the only thing we had was pull-ups (which for you uninitiated folk are diaper-lites: good transition to underwear but weak on the absorption, and definitely not poop conducive). No problem, right? After all, we’re trying to train Malcolm to be diaper free and potty trained so what a perfect excuse to promote using the toilet for our peeps and poops. Stayed tuned…

So after I clean up from the picture fiasco, I proceed to make breakfast. Keep in mind, it’s gotten rather late. Blast, no more cereal that the kids like! Now what? Well, thanks to Grandma, we’ve got some cinnamon bread in the house and it appeals to young taste buds quite nicely. Everyone has breakfast and walks away content.

Mommy and I rush to get ready because I have a doctor’s appointment at 11am and by the time breakfast is cleared up it’s getting rather late. I brought Meredith over to her parents’ house and left the kids with Stephanie (who was eager to see them on break from school) and then headed to my appointment. (I should say that the kids were excited to see Stephanie, too.) I managed to get to the doctor’s appointment within a half an hour of the actual time (and you know the way the doctor’s office works…that means I was actually early for my appointment!).

Well, the rest of the day proceeded in relative calm. Meredith got to visit with two of her friends from high school, Cara and Rachel, and I was told they talked “girl stuff” and that I wouldn’t understand. I told her that I’m a father of a girl and to try me for understanding, but I could get no more information. Oh, and remember the potty training thing I mentioned earlier…well, let’s just say we’re still working on it.

Enter bed time…

Maura and I ventured upstairs for bath and bed time. She seemed a little out of sorts and possibly a little warm, but we proceeded as usual with our routine. When I took her out of the tub she was shaking and shivering so much that she made the changing table rattle, so I decided to take her temperature to see what it was. Well, little Miss Maura does not like the rectal thermometer (can’t say I blame her). She cried, and cried, and squirmed, and cried. After the thermometer revealed that her temperature was 102.5, she proceeded to vomit on the changing table. I was dodging chunks of Clementine oranges while trying to minimize the collateral damage and provide some degree of solace for my poor little girl.

I cleaned her up, gave her some Tylenol, and proceeded to get her ready for bed. By this time, Malcolm was most interested in why Maura was throwing up. So, he had to come upstairs with us to read stories to Maura before she went to bed. Well, Sir Malcolm smelled a little ripe, but when asked if he had something in his diaper (it was a real diaper at this point, because I managed to get to the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving which is almost as stupid as trying to shop for Christmas presents the day after Thanksgiving) Malcolm claimed not to have anything in there. Yet when he jumped up to my lap to read a story with Maura and me he refused to sit on his bum. Sure there’s nothing in there, buddy.

Anyway, Maura went to sleep fine, and as I listen on the monitor, I don’t hear her making any unusual sounds (like fish tap dancing on marble floors). Now we shift our focus to Fruit One. He does well right up until the point where I take out the nail clippers. He does fine with his fingers and after a considerable amount of coaxing, cajoling, and outright threatening, he managed to get all but the big toe on his right foot cut. Sadly, I had to resort to brute force to subdue the squirming foot long enough to get two effective snips. He calmed down, but neither one of us was terribly pleased with the exchange.

I went downstairs to finish cleaning up after Maura’s vomiting episode only to discover a gurgling sound coming from the shower after I flushed the toilet. That could mean only one thing: our drain pipes were backing up. Slowly I made my way downstairs unsure of what I would find. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the third step before I realized there was water on the basement floor. Sure enough, the drain pipe had indeed backed up, poop and all. (There is more to the story of seeping sewage and perhaps I’ll get around to writing about it…If I haven’t already…)

So, after about an hour of sucking up the water with a wet/dry shopvac (which arrived at our house during the great basement flood of the spring of ’08 – thanks Dad!), I moseyed upstairs to get ready for bed. Of course, I couldn’t sleep so here I am, remembering what it was that I was supposed to wish you at the beginning of this note…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good afternoon.

All is well in the Whitman household. At least if you believe the headlines.

Seriously, Meredith is doing well and is progressing nicely. Her therapies are yielding dividends that are encouraging. Her memory, while not perfect (let’s face it, who’s is), is improving. Her health is good (minus the whole tumor and paralysis stuff). So, in that respect things could hardly be better.

Enter the three-year-old. (I’ll do my best to be kind here, because after all he is my son and I love him dearly.) If anyone needed proof that sin is a sickness all humans are born with, then spending time with a typical three-year-old should clear up that up for you right away. I’m told Malcolm’s behavior is typical. I read it in the books and I hear it from my parenting peers. Either way, it isn’t a whole lot of fun dealing with the whining and crying that accompanies the selfishly-motivated desires of a little boy who isn’t getting his way.

What has proved to be the most challenging aspect of this contest of wills is getting through the initial onset of the whining and crying and identifying the source of the whine and/or cry. Once I am confident that the cry is not a result of something sad, or painful, and is most likely selfish in nature, then I am able to assume the role of father and help him work through it (without giving into his demands). Of course, that takes an amazing amount of will power on my part because the whining is so piercing and aggravating that I can barely think straight. And I confess to not always being strong enough to overcome my own selfish behaviors in order to focus on correcting my son’s.

When all is said and done, however, if I’ve been able to keep my cool while standing firm and if Malcolm stops crying long enough to listen to my correction, then we will have formed a stronger relationship because of it. I might even argue that he loves me more because of the correction (especially if I’ve done well with the delivery of the correction). And as importantly is that I am helping (with a large dose of God’s workmanship) to shape Malcolm into the type of man that he will ultimately become. Malcolm, along with his three-year-old peers, may be a selfish little boy, but with every course correction I see him take I see a mighty fine individual emerging. That’s what I try and set my eyes on when caught in the thick of the battle.

Praise to God for your health and take care.

Marc

Good morning.

It has been almost a week since Meredith had her shunt removed, and praise God she has had no symptoms indicating a regression of any kind. It is still possible for swelling to occur but God willing that won’t happen. Everything seems to be headed in the right direction.

When compared to the progress she made when she first came home the progress that she’s making now seems to be in larger strides. She is still a long way off from where we all want her to be, but between the therapies, time at home in a “normal” environment, and a lot of blessings from God she is moving in the right direction.

We are also in the process of tapering the last of her medications. She has been on some form of steroid for about 9 months. I don’t know a whole lot about steroids and their effects on the human body, but from people who know more than me they say it is not a good thing to be on steroids if you can help it. So, hopefully by early December (if not sooner), she will have weaned off of the steroid and she will essentially be medication free.

Considering that she still has the tumor (as of the last MRI scan in August) and she still has a long road to neuromuscular recovery, I think that it’s pretty darn amazing that she doesn’t need any medication.

On another note…Malcolm has developed a fever that got as high as 103.8 last night. The good news is that it responds to Tylenol, so I haven’t panicked yet (I was considering an ice bath instead of medication, but thought better of it).

Maura continues to learn words at a typical almost-two-year-old pace. So, if you happen to see her, be sure to watch what you say. Or, if you prefer a challenge, I would love for my children to have a rich vocabulary and an inquisitive mind, so use plenty of multi-syllabic words with complex meanings. Of course, if you do that, be prepared to do a lot of explaining to an attention-challenged 21-month-old.

Merlin…well, he and I went to the dump yesterday. He loves the dump (who doesn’t?). He scored because not only did he get a treat when we brought our trash, but he got another one when we brought Papa’s office trash. Lucky dog.

Your prayers, thoughts, and generosity have been tremendous and I pray that God will bless you each in a mighty way. Take care and God bless.

Marc

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