Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This horrible, heinous, awful, painful grief . OR , ('I want You Back' my Micael Jackson song)

The last two weeks have followed the same pattern. I suppose it's the new normal. I wake up with a tugging in my chest. I shuffle, semi-paralyzed, to the shower, and splash awake with the water. I make breakfast, tend the children and offer Scot my best smile. The rest of the day continues in a similar manner. I can laugh, but am quicker to cry. I was unpacking groceries today and noticed a fresh, unopened bag of peanuts in the pantry. I thought of Norm, and the silly fact that peanuts were his favorite food. I tossed the nuts into the corner, cursing the surgeon that butchered my father.

Grief is not linear. Just when you think you've moved into another stage, you circle around for another pass. What breaks it up is a little levity and humor. I picked up Norm's ashes this morning, with four children in tow. After buckling in the kids, I did the same to Norm, seated in the passenger seat. I told him to hang on, and peeled out of the parking lot. I'd like to think he would have liked it. If Norm was here, he would only want these mopey shenanigans to go on for so long.

Here's hoping the days to come have more humor, and less tears.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Did a Bad, Bad, Thing

Ya know how you always want to throw out a "dead aunt" comment to shut someone up, but think better of it cause karma is such a kick in the pants?

Yeah, well, I got my chance today. I was in the line at the grocery store. I had gone to purchase a few items, notably, the newspaper containing my father's obituary notice. I threw the merchandise on the belt, which included not one paper, but six. I want those babies laminated. The bagger, a woman in her 40's with hearing aids, glanced at the papers, and then at me.

"Why in the world do you have so many newspapers?!"
she shouted. Only it didn't sound so succinct and biting. More panicky and warbley, as if Marlee Matlin was yelling at William Hurt.

I had to do it. I knew I was playing the death card, but I couldn't resist. It was the one time in my life I would not be condemned to hell for invoking a loved one's name and death in the same sentence.

"I bought so many because my father's obituary is in there today."

The cashier, who until now had been silent, turned tomato red. Her eyes rolled, and I saw the words "I'm sorry" silently pass her lips. I'm pretty sure she thought Ashton Kutcher would round the corner any moment and let her know she'd been punk'd. But it didn't stop there. The mental midget bagging my groceries went on to ask how old my father was, and what he had died of. I answered all of her questions graciously, remembering she was doing a job my five-year-old could do. The cashier vocally apologized as I steered my cart out of her lane. I wasn't put-off, or offended by her co-workers questions. Death in interesting. But death in America is taboo. As a society we don't talk about it, and God forbid we bring a beloveds name into a death joke. Norm would have appreciated it. I walked away, smiling.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A return to "normalcy"

When I started this daily blogging thing some months back, Jen T. said I'd never be able to keep up the pace. She was right. Life got in the way.

The last 4 weeks have been a time warp, a strange continuum of grief. It has been absolutely exhausting, stressful, and hell on earth. Stress and grief do weird things to your body. I would recline on my bed for an hour every day, unable to control the children, who were stuffing 40 Oreos in their mouths. But frankly, I didn't even care. Losing someone makes you see what's important, and what's not. My mother chewed gum relentless for two weeks, breaking down a tooth.

But our minds still function. Sort-of. Things might be fuzzy (that must be self-protection) but you soldier on, making the coffee, running to the supermarket. Hence why I am back. I'm missed you all.

Today, I share with you my father's obituary. It will run tomorrow in the Arizona Republic. The original, longer version was much better, but I had to trim it to keep it under $500!!! It's become clear to me why newspapers are failing.

Helber, Norman Leslie

Norman Leslie Helber embarked on his next journey June 18, 2009. Norm was born August 6, 1940 in Bay City, Michigan. At thirteen years old , he took the opportunity for grand adventure and higher education and left Michigan for the seminary in Mt. Saint Francis, Indiana. For his Master's degree in theology, he attended Assumption Seminary in Chaska, Minnesota. At the age of 27, Norm was ordained a Franciscan Friar. (OFM Conv. ) He was assigned to Saint Anthony's Parish is Grand Rapids, Mi. where he served the church proudly for two years. In 1969, Norm changed life paths, when he met and married Mary Therese Meeter DeDinas. The couple relocated to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where Norm built a career in criminal justice. He began working as a probation officer in Camden County, New Jersey. During this period, he obtained an MBA from Central Michigan University. In the 1980's, Norm served one term as President of the American Probation and Parole Association. In 1989, Norm accepted the position as Chief of Maricopa County Adult Probation. During his tenure here, "Chief" was respected for his innovative probation practices, and hand-off management style. In addition to being clever and capable on the job, Norm was also regarded as fair and downright funny. A testament to this was that many of Norm's lifelong friends were former colleagues and employees. In 2000, Norm retired. With no career to keep him stateside, Norm spent the last nine years traveling with Mary and dozens of friends. Recently, he became a group organizer for Grand Circle Tours. When at home, Norm enjoyed local theater, serving as an adjudicator for the Arizoni Awards. Norm was preceded in death by his mother and father, Noreen and Frank Helber, and a sister, Fay Helber. He is survived by his best friend, and wife of almost 40 years, Mary Therese; children, Tim DeDinas (Cindy), Julie Whelihan (Stephen), and Toni Therese (Gregory). He is also survived by his brother Daniel, sisters Connie and Barbara, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and his precious mutt, Annie. Norm was never without a positive idea, whether it be as mundane as a dinner suggestion or as grand as a planned family cruise. He leaves behind many who were inspired by his intoxicating appreciation of life. We will miss his enthusiasm and sweet nature. Next month, we will gather to talk about the man who had passion for so much; his family, his friends, St. Francis of Assisi, and accruing frequent flier miles. The celebration will be held at Blue Adobe Grille, in Scottsdale, on July 13th, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Please RSVP by July 10th to (480) 314-0550. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I' ve always been able to write. In happiness, and when trouble is deep. I can't do it now.
I can't put down the words to explain how deep my grief is right now.

My dad is hanging on. He has toxic amounts of amonia in his system. The amonia has essentially poisoned his body, and made his brain crazy. He's being sedated, as when he's awake, he tries to pull out all his cords. Since he's been in a prone position for five days, fluid is starting to gather in his lungs. If Norm gets pneumonia, he will not have a fighting chance. Today, they placed him on a ventilator to help expand his lungs and discharge the fluid. It did help. Once he passes the amonia (by pooping) his head will clear and his body might be more likely to take on any lung issues. In the meantime, I watch a man who six short days ago was vibrant and pain free now suffer and fight to hold on to his life. Birthing two children and enduring layoffs weren't as tortuous and painful as supporting my mom last night. We stood over my dad, and told him he loved him and to turn back if he saw a light.

We knew there were risks, and potential complications, and we got 'em all right! We have known for eighteen months that my dad is sick. I thought I was preparing myself, but nothing has prepared me for feeling this damn sad. And helpless. And out of control.

We sit, pray, and wait. I am so grateful for my ladies on the right. Every one of you taught me something, and I'm looking to you now for some words of wisdom. Darcy, I still can't post on your darn blog. But, I'm reading. I'm reading all of you. You bring me comfort.

Love to my mom, one tough lady. I love you mom. Also to sister Julie. You brightened my day with your insane, cherry personality. And Scot, you are a saint. I love you.

More tomorrow. I made it through this without crying. Maybe I can do this.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day 109

A rehash of a letter sent out today. We are tired, fat (pizza, Chinese, too many beers) and emotionally spent. Tim leaves tomorrow. I will miss my brother. He is a good person who sees the good in everyone (unlike his caustic, suspecting sister.) On to a new week. Oh yeah, tomorrow is my anniversary. Happy 11, honey. NIght all. More later....

HI All,

Here we are on Friday night, and it's been about 28 hours since Norm came out of surgery. As a refresher, a mass was seen on Norm's last MRI, which was taken as a follow-up after a bout of pancreatitis. During yesterday's seven-and-a-half hour procedure, he had 1/2 the pancreas, 1/3 his stomach, part of the small intestine, and all of his gallbladder removed.

Tim, Mary, and I were allowed to see him four hours after he woke up from the sedation. The nurses thought he was still feeling the effects of the anaesthesia, but we know Norm better than that; that's just how he always is. When a tech told him he wanted to test his blood sugar, Norm said, "He called me 'sugar'." Then, when the nurse advised him to push a button on a cord for morphine, he pushed the bandaid on his nose repeatedly. His spirits were amazing.

Today, they had him sitting in a chair. He attempted a walk, but grew too excited and tired after standing for ten minutes while his forty-billion wires were being made mobile. My mom and Tim are visiting him now, and I will give you a further update tomorrow. On Monday, the pathology will be back from the surgery. The results of that will determine what the next course of action will be.

Please continue to send good thoughts and prayers to my dad, and my mom. Their strength and humor during this time is admirable. It was fantastic having Tim out; he provided support and laughs despite how fragile and rotten we all felt.

We thank you for all the calls and emails. We are lucky to count all of you as our friends.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 108 - There will be Mountains to Climb

Lifted from my facebook page updates.

7 1/2 hour "difficult" surgery. Removed 1/3 stomach, gallbladder, 1/2 pancreas, part of liver. Cancerous tumor the size of a large orange. Holy sh*t. He's been moved to recovery, can't see him yet. Thanks for all of your concern. It really DOES mean a lot.:)

just saw dad. My heart broke for him. It'll be touch and go the next couple of day. But, his humor hasn't been removed. He told the RN who wanted to draw his blood sugar, "hey, he called me 'sugar'", and he told them he would pay extra to have his lips wet. He pushed the badaid on his nose for his morphine button. I alternated between laughing and crying. Thanks to Tim and Scot. And my true friends.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 107 - Working all the angles, calling on all the angels

O God, the source of all health.
Fill my heart with faith.
Be near me in times of weakness and pain. Although I know You are in control, I am apprehensive about what faces me. You made me, loved me, and have provided my surgeon with needed skill to perform a miracle in my behalf. Sustain me by Your grace that my strength and courage may not fail; Heal me according to Your will.

Buddhist:May all that have life be delivered from suffering - Gautama Buddha


  1. All is suffering (dukkha).
  2. Suffering is caused by desire/attachment.
  3. If one can eliminate desire/attachment, one can eliminate suffering.
  4. The Noble Eight-fold Path can eliminate desire. Extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification should be avoided.
More important than anything is to say that we love you dad. Sleep tight and we'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 107 - Up by Eight

"So yeah, I've put on about eight pounds."
"I don't know exactly what's done it, I'm not eating any more for breakfast or lunch than I was before."
"No, I don't think it's dessert." (I can't fit in dessert after dinner)
"Stress is a huge part of it."
"If anything, it's the drinking. About 2-3 beers a night lately."
"Well, maybe a little more dinner than usual, too."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 106 - Shut the GOP up

You had to see it coming, didn't you?

This morning, FOX Noise was all ablaze about The President and Michelle's Date Night. Barack opened his wallet for dinner and theater tickets. However, the three jets and helicopter necessary to ferry the couple cost taxpayers $25,000. No small sum, but when you consider that the Prez must use The Secret Service and White House transportation, it kind of comes with the territory.

How many times did Bush fly to Crawford Texas, to only sit on his porch rocker, whittling wood figures? Obama was working on getting lucky with the lady. And a president who unloads his own weapon seems a little less likely to show off the U.S.'s big guns to the rest of the world.