Chris and I were dating for about five months when I got the job at "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." I called to tell him the good news at the exact moment he was calling to tell me he'd been laid off from his job. We’ve been managing the good with the bad from the jump so we’re kind of pros at figuring out the fucks we need to give when we need to give them.
Yesterday, on my 40th birthday, I got the news that my dad was being transported to a hospice hospital. If you’re familiar with the end of life procedures, then you’ll know that things aren’t looking great. Today he was given less than a week to live.
The cliff notes version is that he’s been suffering from the painfully slow mental decline of Alzheimer's disease for the past five or six years. Several months ago, doctors discovered that the prostate cancer he’s had three times before had returned. This time, the cancer was pissed off and ready to do real damage and due to my dad’s mental state, treating cancer with traditional methods (surgery, chemo) wasn’t an option.
Four weeks ago we visited with him and the rest of my family in Florida, not sure if it would be our last time seeing him alive or not. I made a point of saying goodbye to him, for good. Just in case.
Almost as soon as we returned to California, we learned how badly the cancer had spread: Everywhere. He had months, if we were lucky, left to live.
I started writing about it as I tend to do. We’ve been talking about it a lot with the kids already. I’m prepared. I guess. We’re lucky that we know it’s coming.
But nothing prepares you for the actuality of death until death is actually there.
I Don’t Give A Fuck About My Birthday
Birthdays have always been pretty important to me. I was the kind of birthday girl that could temper tantrum with the best of them. Even to the point of rivaling the queen of birthday’s, Stassi from Vanderpump Rules, who is famed for saying nearly every season, “It’s My Fucking Birthday!”
But I don’t give a fuck about my birthday this year. I mean I do, sort of. I am doing some specific things to honor my birthday, but in a traditional sense, there are too many other things I give fucks about that are taking the place of making a big deal out of my birthday.
Shifting My Mentality
A good friend left me a message yesterday wishing me a happy birthday and telling me that being in my 40’s means that I’m far more polished than I’ve ever been. That I’ve been through the highs and the lows and I know how to handle shit with grace now.
She’s right. On the outside, I’m handling my business. I’m going through the motions. I’m dealing with the shit as best as I possibly can. But on the inside, I’m a puddle.
I'm more concerned for my mom and for my brother who are and have been on the front lines. I have the luxury of not seeing just how bad things have become.
The stuff with my dad would be plenty. But that’s not how shit works with us, I guess.
As it turns out, my mother in law is also in poor health, having gone through three major surgeries in three weeks (the second two to repair mistakes from the first surgery).
We have some drama with our daycare that requires my giving a certain amount of attention and becoming a bit of a high maintenance parent.
We’re getting ready to potty train Sammy in a few weeks because he’s ready and it’s a good time to start and also there is never a good time to start.
Let’s not even begin to talk about the work stress and joys and highs and lows. (They’re there, people, they are there!)
I’m not sharing any of this to conjure up a pity party. I’m just sick of feeling sad about all of the shit that I have to feel sad about, and besides, I’ve been navigating all of it for months and moving forward one step at a time as best as I can and I’m tired, and I needed to write to know how I feel. (As Joan Didion has famously said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”)
But this is just how shit is when we get older, I guess.
I am in the mid-life in-between where things are happening with our kids, and things are also happening with our parents, and we’re stuck straddling the two trying to manage the drastic swings in emotions and also be good parents and good children and good husbands and good wives to each other.
So, planning a big birthday to-do seemed stupid, amidst all of this.
Also, Jack turns four in a few days, and I am planning a big birthday party for him.
Also, I’m fucking sick AF. (A virus that mimics the flu. Sweet.)
The Fucks I Have To Give:
Not really in any order but sort of…
Spending quality time with my kids
......and my husband,
….and good friends,
Doing work that I love and that feeds my soul.
Eating healthfully and mindfully.
Having fresh flowers on my desk every week.
Spending time being creative.
….learning and growing in my craft and my chosen field.
And that’s it, people. The rest? Fuck it.