How are the Kids? Lauren Edition

Lauren was just 15 months old when Mike was removed from the house and only 20 months old when he died. I don’t know how much she remembers about her dad or if she has any memories at all. Mike was pretty far gone into the spiral of alcohol at the time she was born.

Today, Lauren is a happy, giggly little girl. She adores her brother. She loves her dog. She is a cuddler and a hugger and blows kisses 24/7. Lauren is fearless and repeats everything her brother does. She loves dancing, playing with “babies” (dolls), reading books and building with Legos and wooden blocks. She is a terrific eater – she’ll try anything and gobbles up things most kids won’t touch (broccoli, raw onions and peppers, spicy guacamole).

But she doesn’t talk. She makes noises, usually the first letter sound of a word. She uses several baby signs and has developed her own signs for some words. She has her own way of communicating with us – there just aren’t words.

Her new doc was worried about speech during Lauren’s 24 month check up. Babies at that age should be saying SOMETHING. I had ignored some of my concerns about her speech. Afterall, she was the second child and Ethan talks “for” her. But new doc arranged for an evaluation.

Over the course of a month, Lauren was evaluated by child development experts, speech therapists, occupational therapists and doctors. At the end, Lauren tested off the charts for almost everything. Brag moment: the coordinator said that Lauren’s scores were the highest they had ever seen; Lauren tested a full year ahead of her age in several categories. Except for her speech.

Lauren had the speech of a 9 month old – she was 25 months old at the time of the evaluation.

At the time of the evaluation, she did have one word: “dad” (said while pointing to a photo of Mike).

Lauren is going through “baby speech therapy.” Every two weeks, a speech therapist visits the house for a 40 minute session. Lauren loves it. In just a few sessions, I can tell a difference. She now has a distinct label for her brother (“Eth”) and has been more “vocal” with making sounds. She seems to really be trying.

I think I’d be dealing with Lauren’s speech issues regardless of whether Mike were alive or not, regardless of whether or not Mike and I were still together. But it’s very difficult being the only one to make treatment decisions for an issue this big. Still it’s nothing like what’s going on with Ethan…

“How are the Kids? Ethan Edition” to come at a later date…

I’m a Good Quitter

I did it.

I was finally able to get in to see The Boss right after an impromptu group meeting on Friday to recognize two well-deserved promotions. Everything was worked out in my head. I knew exactly what I was going to say, and how I was going to say it.

“Jackie, I have 20 minutes if you still want to meet,” she said as the meeting was breaking up.

It’s awkward to quit after two colleagues/friends were just promoted. “Um, coming from that meeting makes what I have to say even more difficult,” I started as we were walking into The Boss’ office.

“I think I know where this is going,” she said, settling into her chair.

I started to cry. I hate crying at work, especially in front of The Boss. Suddenly, my entire speech was jumbled in my head. I started the discussion – between sobs – in the middle of what I wanted to say. I tried to get it back on track, but kept slipping back into a snotty, sobbing mess. It wasn’t how I envisioned having the discussion. My elegant, well-thought out speech turned out to be a barely intelligible rambling.

By the end of my explanation for leaving, her eyes appeared to be watery. She seemed almost human in that moment.

She said she understood, but encouraged me to think about it more. She said I could change my mind anytime before my last day. She asked me not to tell anyone until we have aligned on a transition plan, which is my assignment next week.

The unofficial offer is still unofficial, but I anticipate hearing from them early next week. In fact, they’ve already given me some projects to start thinking through, so I know the offer is coming. But, it’s good to know that I quit so well that I could always “take it back” if I needed to.

But I’m not going to take it back. August 10 will be my last day – even if I don’t have an official offer.

I Quit!

I’m resigning from my job tomorrow.

I do not have an “offical” offer for a new job yet.

I’m reminded almost daily by my boss that I am a “bonus eligible, stock optioned executive at a fortune 500 company.” I’m walking away from a salary I will NEVER make again, with a bonus package that pays more than most people make in a year.

I am not crazy. I’ve given this  A LOT of thought.

I’m working about 80 hours a week – I’m in the office by 7:30 a.m. and leaving around 7 p.m., then back on-line by 8 and working until 10 or 11. Then there are the weekends…oh, the weekends.

I do not see my kids. And when I do, I’m grouchy because there’s always an URGENT email. That’s a problem.

I don’t know if things would be different if I wasn’t a single mom, or if I wasn’t widowed, or if Mike wasn’t an alcoholic, or if pigs could fly. But I know that this isn’t working for us right now, and as Ethan continues to struggle, I need to be there for him. As Lauren starts to ask questions, I need to be there for her. As my mom’s health continues to be a mystery, I need to be there.

I’m fortunate. I can take a 50 percent pay cut and make it work. The basement remodel will have to wait. We won’t be going to Europe or Disney next year. I won’t be driving a brand-new car next month. But I’ve realized that I can’t put a price on my happiness, my kids’ health, or our sanity as a family.

Let’s just hope the unofficial offer becomes official soon…

Check’s in the Mail – Still Not Yet

A follow-up to this post and this one about the life insurance check. I still don’t have it.

I finally received the form, though. And I sent it to Mike’s last-known doctor. About three weeks later, I received a call from the doctor’s office. The doc refused to complete the medical form because he hadn’t seen Mike in more than 6 months prior to his death. (Question that will never be answered: how was Mike getting his meds?!?! Or was he?)

I called the life insurance company – and talked to the same dingaling. A conversation snapshot:

PERSON: Well, if he won’t fill it out, maybe one of your husband’s other doctors will.

ME: OK, but I don’t know of any other doctors. I have no medical bills from other doctors and there are no records of Mike seeing anyone else.

PERSON: That doesn’t make sense.

ME: Look, I don’t know when Mike saw the doc. He was LYING to me about everything. I have no idea when he went to the doc and when he didn’t.

PERSON: Well, a sick person sees a doctor.

ME: Yes…

PERSON (I could hear her rolling her eyes): So he must have had a doctor.

ME:  Well, he didn’t.

PERSON: Well, he was sick.

ME: And now he’s dead.

PERSON: So he must have been sick, right?

ME: He didn’t have cancer. He had liquor. He didn’t have chemotherapy. He had vodka. I don’t know if, when, or how he went to a doctor, but his last known doctor refuses to fill out the paperwork you sent.

PERSON: Fine. There’s a general form you can fill out and sign to give us access to Mike’s medical files.

ME: I filled that out already. When I first contact you. You have a signed copy with a list of the docs and hospitals he visited for the last five years.

PERSON (rustling papers in a file): Oh, we do have that form. I’ll have to see if it’s any good.

ME: Why wouldn’t it be good? Does it expire?

PERSON: No, it’s just highly unusual for us to use it. Usually people who die see a doctor first.

ME: Then why did I fill it out?

PERSON: It’s our standard practice.

Hand to forehead. This is what I’m dealing with. Stupidity.

Arrangements

Mike sits on the top shelf of my closet. I’ve moved him a couple of times – to get suitcases down, to rearrange where I put my sweaters, to hide birthday presents for the kids behind the box that holds his cremated remains. I decided last week that he needs to go. Find a permanent resting place. Get out of my closet. Give us some closure.

I’ve had the last five days off work (work? yeah, that’s another entry for a later time…) and by today, my last vacation day, I had crossed everything off the to-do list, except one thing – calling the cemetary in our college town. Mike and I lived in Indianapolis, St. Louis, and southern Illinois in the last 10 years. My parents have lived in a couple of places and his parents…well, Mike hated the town in which he grew up. So I decided to have him placed in the town in which we met and went to college.

I don’t know why I’ve been putting off making the call. How hard could that be? “I’d like a final resting place to put an urn of human ashes, please. Preferably with a scenic view, but that’s negotiable.”

I called the cemetary today. I was sobbing so much I wasn’t sure my phone number was clear on the answering machine. (Answering machine? Hello, 1997!) When the return call came an hour later, I was sure I was okay to talk through what I needed.

Wrong.

As soon as the cemetary guy introduced himself, my eyes filled with tears. My nose started running. I felt my throat closing up. I started rambling about how I wanted to bury my husband somewhere that we would visit often. Where  we had a connection. Somewhere that would be special to him, and to me. I don’t think cemetary guy cared.

He walked me through what I needed to do to arrange for a burial of the remains. The “Disposition of Remains” form. The urn measurements. The cost. Getting a grave marker. He told me I could just mail the remains if I didn’t want to come down. That didn’t seem right. I don’t want a big service, but I think there’s benefit for closure for the kids and I to “see” the urn going into the ground. Cemetary guy said he knew a nice spot in the “single section” – close to the river, by some big, old trees, near a walking patch that is close to the college, in a section that is about 100 years old. (“Single section” since they only sell individual plots, still, it was kind of weird – and strangely amusing – to think of a “singles” section, or a M@tch dot com for human remains.)

I just need to send a few things to cemetary guy then he can arrange everything – probably when I’m back on campus for alumni board meetings in August.

My tears are dried, and while I feel a little relief, closure is sort of sad.