Monday, September 27, 2010

I've Never Been So Scared - Part Two

Read Part One here...

Zach gave the nurse all his information then, she pulled out a wheelchair to haul him back to an emergency room. He refused and walked instead, still carrying his backpack. He isn’t grimacing in pain. He’s smiling and being polite. I’m wondering to myself, what is wrong with this child? We settled ourselves in a room, talked to the doctor and waited for the x-ray technician. Soon, I could see not one, but two doctors sitting at what looked like a television screen staring at x-rays. They had to be Zach’s. It was at this point things moved into warp speed.

Before I knew it, six to seven people were lining up against the walls of our room. I could hear mumblings about a procedure. One person told me they didn’t often get a chance to watch this.

I’m thinking, “Watch what?”

Someone pulled out a tray, shining stainless steel instruments were lain out nicely and the two doctors entered our room.

“He has a collapsed lung. We’re going to try to inflate it,” one said to me as he gowned up and pulled on those awful rubber gloves.

“Right here? Right now?”

“Yes, do you want to stay or go?”

“I’m staying,” I replied as I looked into Zach’s eyes and watched the color drain from his face.

I held his hand tightly as they gave him the shot to numb his chest, then tighter still as the scalpel cut into his skin before they pushed a tube into his side. I could now plainly see all the pain my son had been hiding. He had been in more denial than I ever had.

“Classic case,” I heard someone say, “Tall, thin, and male.”

Another x-ray and the lung looked good. I could breath. Afterwards, I walked out into a hallway trying to reach Zach’s father, who lives in Beijing. Hearing voicemail in a language so foreign to me, I hung up and immediately called my stepson. At this point, my voice broke and the tears began to flow. I’d been more tense than I realized.

“Please have Bob call me,” I explained.

While Zach was being admitted to the hospital, my phone rang.

“Should I fly home?” he offered.

“No, I don’t think it’s necessary. They way they talked this is a classic case. They keep him 24 hours, take another x-ray and probably release him to go home. I just thought you should know,” I told him because I honestly believed this was the worst of it. I was wrong.

Twenty-four hours later, the lung had deflated. Forty-eight hours passed and it was looking like surgery was in order. Not again, I thought. Bob kept calling but still, I told him he needn’t come home. They way the doctor talked, this is pretty common. He did over 155 surgeries like this in the last year. Things should be good, I tried reassuring myself as well as Bob.

Zach almost died as an infant. He’d been born with a hole in his diaphragm. His kidney and all of his intestines were shoved up into his chest cavity and only one lung had expanded. A nurse came into my room to take his foot prints. When she pulled back his blankets, he was blue. Time warp number one. He’d had surgery within two hours of his birth and spent weeks in the neonatal unit. In the middle of the night, I could hear him crying and calling for me. I’d rush to his side at all hours. This could not be happening again. All of the memories weighed heavily on my heart.

Seventy-two hours later he was getting a CT scan. Five hours after that, I was face to face with the surgeon. They’d found a mass in Zach’s chest. It wasn’t going to be the simple “attach the lung to the rib cage” surgery any longer. They wanted to saw open my son’s sternum, just like open heart surgery, and remove the mass. I didn’t hear the “80%” chance of not being cancer, I heard the “20%” chance it could be cancer and “six month recovery period.” Zach heard “school might not be an option this semester” and felt his life coming to a complete halt.

“Come home now, Bob,” I cried into the phone, “It’s more serious than we thought, please, come home now.”

It’s a twenty-four hour flight from Thailand, where Bob had been vacationing. He was home the next day and surgery was the day after that. I wanted my mother, who passed two years ago. I wanted to go back in time and change what had been. I wanted a miracle.

It’s been one month since Zach’s surgery. His biopsy showed no cancer. He’s back in school getting his Master’s and TAing a class. His father stayed with him for the first two weeks helping him get back on his feet. Zach has yet another scar on his chest to add to his collection. He’s telling people he got it wrestling tigers in India.

I want to thank all my friends and family and all of Zach’s friends and professors who prayed and showed support for us while we were going through this ordeal. You are my miracle!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

I've Never Been So Scared In My Life

My son almost died last month. My only son, whom I love with every breath I take, almost died in my arms for the second time in his life. He is twenty-four years old now. The first time was at birth. He was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, had surgery when he was a little over an hour old and has a foot long scar on his chest to prove it. His father and I divorced almost eight years ago. He moved to Asia and has lived there ever since. I stay in the city where I was born and raised, taking care of my father and providing a home base for our children.

A month ago my son called from Chicago around 7 PM in the evening, “I don’t feel right. Can you come and get me?”

“What’s wrong? Zach! I am three hours away! If it’s that bad get your ass to Northwestern!

“I don’t have a car, Lois, remember?” He has always called me Lois. Lois, Loey, Lobo, Lo Lo… anything but Mom.

“Dear God, Zach, call one of your cousins. They both have cars.”

“But, I want you to come and get me. I want to see my doctor.”

“Let me repeat, I am three hours away. What is wrong with you?”

“I’m not sure. This morning I was tying my shoe, then… I jumped up and threw my hands in the air and it felt like I pulled something in my chest where my pec muscle is.”

“You think you pulled a muscle and you want me to drive three hours to Chicago, then three hours back to Peoria so you can see a doctor?”


“No!” I hung up the phone in disgust. He had to be kidding, right? My thoughts were muddled. What if he were really hurt? He couldn’t be. He runs five miles a day. He plays basketball four times a week. He rock climbs at the gym a couple of times a week. He lifts weights. He eats healthier than anyone I know.

My phone rang again, “Please, please come and get me, Mom.”

I didn't think twice. He called me Mom. This was serious. I grabbed my purse, jumped in my car and headed north to Chicago. The sun was barely setting as I drove past cornfield after cornfield until I reached I-80. By the time I was rounding my way onto Lake Shore Drive, the city was lit with a million flickering lights. I pulled up in front of my son’s apartment and there he stood, my 6 foot tall, slender and strong boy child, his backpack slung over his shoulder, waiting for his Mommy with a smile on his face.

I got out of my car, threw my arms around him giving him a huge hug. He seemed fine. He seemed really fine. He was smiling and joking and happy. He didn't seem to be in any pain. Why was I here, exactly? I didn't question him. We headed back to Peoria down interstate 55, him sleeping most of the way. The closer I got to home the more I thought... a twenty-four year old man doesn't call his mommy at 7:30 on a Friday night to come and get him unless something is seriously wrong. I drove straight to the emergency room. It was 1:30 AM.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

She Used To Be a Backseat Bumpkin

Reading A Persistent Muse's blog, I couldn't help but be reminded of my own precious daughter's wandering ways. When Paige was little, she kept a pink and purple backpack with her name embroidered on the front tucked away at the back of her closet with her favorite books, toys and other essentials she thought she might need to make her escape. She toted the bag on her back the first time she ran away to the corner. Standing apprehensively at the doorway, allowing her to spread her wings, I was thankful when she finally turned homeward.

"Where did you think you were going," her father questioned her.

"Anywhere!" Paige replied adamantly, "Away from here!"

Many times she traveled with me as my backseat bumpkin, like the times I took her to Chicago and told her we were in Ireland. We sang Irish songs all the way... "Too-Ra-Loo- Ra-Loo-Ral" and "I'll tell my ma when I get home, the boys won't leave the girls alone!" Then, there were the trips to St. Louis when I told her we were in Italy. I'd take her to the park and over to The Hill for spaghetti. A simple trip across town could be to France!

"Bonjour!" we'd say to people in the park.

"Bonjour," they'd reply. Granted, when she finally took geography in grade school it posed a small problem, but nothing she couldn't get over.

When she was in sixth grade, our family was transferred to Switzerland. Her dreams came true as we toured castles, skied the Alps, climbed the Eiffel Tower and pretended we were Monet in the South of France. I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience, and for me, it was. Soon, we were back home in the United States and she was attending football games and proms, but little did I realize her wandering ways had only been magnified.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, she was packing for freshman year at college. I entered her room and noticed her shelves were practically empty. She dragged every suitcase from the basement and there they were, spread out all over her room, filled to capacity with books, trinkets, and every essential she thought she needed to make her escape.

"WHAT are you thinking?" I questioned.

She turned on a dime with tears in her eyes, "You don't get it, do you? I am NEVER coming back!"

"Of course, you are! Don't be ridiculous. You'll be home all the time and after school's over I'm sure you'll come home and look for work." I retorted.

I could not have been more wrong. Her senior year of college, she applied for the Peace Corps and moved to West Africa within three months of graduation. There, she lived in a hut with no running water and no electricity for over two years. After her stint in the Peace Corps, she traveled to Bali, Angkor Wot, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore with her brother. I thought, now.... now she has seen the world and she'll come home for awhile. I reminisced about the travel games I played with her while she was growing up and realized they were a curse and a blessing. Soon she was engaged, stayed home long enough to plan a wedding and then she was off to California with her husband. Paige had been right, she was never coming back, not to stay anyway, again.

I assure you her wandering ways have not stopped. Paige and her husband traveled to China during the Olympics. After that, they flew to Germany for a rock climbing trip with his brother. Now, almost every weekend she can be found carrying an even larger backpack hiking or rock climbing in the mountains outside of Los Angeles or Las Vegas. This August, she and her husband are meeting her brother at Glacier National Park to hike for eight days.

I often wonder if Paige had a sixth sense about the path her life was going to take. I question if our travel games caused her wanderlust and if I would have changed them if only I had known. Yet, when I think of that little four year old girl standing on the corner with her pink and purple backpack, I know in my heart she had a plan and she stuck to it.

Paige called me last week from California. She's a little homesick and wants to come back the 2nd weekend of August. So, I will be waiting apprehensively in my doorway once again, thankful for the moment she walks up my driveway and turns down the sidewalk, homeward.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hang Ten, Baby!!!

My nephew, aka The Stud, flew out to Los Angeles last week
to visit my daughter and learn to surf!

Here's her brother-in-law, my nephew, her husband
and a high school friend of my nephew. (cute, huh?)
Can you tell he was a line backer in college?

Getting ready to go!

And...... He's up!!

Then, drinking!
(that gorgeous blond is my daughter!)

And.... more drinking!

Which leads to this...

Next day, lunch at the same restaurant where Mel Gibson drank a wee bit too much,
just before he asked the nice policeman if he was a Jew.

And my personal favorite!!!
Diddy Riese!!

He flew back on a red eye flight Sunday night and arrived in Chicago safe and sound!

My daughter said they didn't sleep all weekend!

I love having kids! And I love that they have cousins they still play with, even as adults!

Many thanks to my sister for having such great sons!

I love you all!!

Monday, July 12, 2010




Ex-husband: "I'm buying a condo in Florida, then heading back to Beijing."

Me: "Really? (wheels spinning) What are you going to do with it while you're in Beijing?"

Ex-husband: (looking at me like, oh God, here we go) "Yes, you can use it."

Me: (happy, happy, happy) "Cool! Thank you, can I go for two months? I can do some oil painting while I'm down there."

Ex-husband: "Yes, I'd rather have someone living there than have it sit empty."


So, three weeks later, my son and his father head to Florida in a U-haul taking all of his earthly belongings that had been in storage for over a year waiting for him to retire. I cannot wait to take a vacation. Two years ago, my mother died. I've been helping to take care of my father, who has dementia, ever since. My son finally graduated from college and I am free! My sisters will help take care of Dad and I am so ready to blow this pop-stand! The real estate market has taken a crap so, I started tutoring at the local grade school, finally putting my degree to use. I have the summer off. What luck! Destiny! Serendipity!



Phone rings...

Ex-husband: "Lois?"

Me: "Bob!" (still in hog heaven about going to Florida!)

Ex-husband: "I'm sitting at the closing and I can't close on the condo."

Me: "Why not?" (thinking, this can't be good)

Ex-husband: "I got married after I made the offer and they need my wife to sign papers."

Me: "You got married?"

Ex-husband: "Call Michael (my cousin the Real Estate Attorney) and have him call me."


Well, needless to say, things went south. Yes, my 67 yr old ex, Bob, married a 40 yr old Asian woman, who is sitting back in China waiting for a Visa. The builder allowed Bob and Zach to move his things into the condo before closing. During closing, the agent called a locksmith to change all of the locks. All of his earthly goods now sit in boxes in the garage and the living room waiting to be unpacked and he couldn't get back in to do so. Bob takes the papers back to Beijing, makes an appointment at the American Embassy to have them notarized and mails them to the closing agent.



E-mails... "Well? Did you get the papers signed?" "Yes, we got them signed and the closing agent has received them." (end of message????) "Great, then I can go in August after I get Zach moved into his new apartment in Chicago. Thanks!" "No, you can't. I want to unpack everything first before anyone goes down there." "Uh, you couldn't tell me this before? When are you coming back from Beijing?"



Who would have thought it would come to this?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Graduation!!

He did it!!!

DePaul University

Bachelor's of Science


Dean's List

Continuing on to get his Master's in none other than


Congratulations Zachary!

I am so proud of you!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hang On In There, Baby!

I have a sister who is eight years older than myself. She was graced with a private school education, while I was not. Apparently my parents didn’t think it worked out so hot for her so, I was placed in public school. She wore a cool uniform with pleated skirts, jackets with emblems on the pockets and wore saddle shoes. I, on the other hand, looked like an orphan in dresses that seemed to need ironing and hair that went every which way. She had her own bedroom with a HUGE full-length mirror, a stereo and posters of Elvis. She would sit in front of that mirror for what seemed like hours and tease her hair until it stood up on end and then style it into a beehive. I was in awe. I had to share my bedroom with my two younger sisters. My sister walked a few blocks from home to catch the bus to her school. When it rained, my mother would get in her car, drive downtown and collect her. She did this faithfully. I took notice.

One particular day I remember staring out of the windows of my classroom watching it become more and more dark outside. By the time the bell rang for school to let out wind, rain, thunder, and even lightening filled my world! For whatever reason, I remember distinctly standing in the lobby of the school watching as other children’s mothers pulled up onto the playground then, their sons or daughters would make a made dash for the safety of their cars. My rescue never came.

Teachers walked by, “Lois? Why aren’t you going home?”

“My mom is coming to get me,” I assured them.

I heard snickers and talking behind my back, “She thinks her mother should come pick her up.” Giggle! Giggle!

I was not happy. I stood there until one of the teachers told me I absolutely had to go home. My reality was that my mother was not coming to pick me up and I was sent out into the storm alone. I ran. I ran like the wind as fast as I could. I was hurt. I was embarrassed. I remember crashing through the front door and into the living room. By this time, I was mad, so mad! My mother was sitting on the floor holding my youngest sister. I began yelling at her.

“Why didn’t you come get me! Can’t you see it’s raining! You always pick up Sandy! Everyone else’s mom’s came to get them, but you left me standing there!” Tears were pouring down my cheeks while I blurted the words out at her in a rage. The look on her face was one of shock.

“But, Lois,” she said, “you only live across the street.”

This was true. I only lived one house away from the school. Why I thought I should have been picked up is beyond me, but I remember the entire incident as if it were yesterday. Why? Did I think she loved Sandy more than me? Did I want to be like the other kids whose parents cared enough to drive up to the school to get them? Was I that spoiled or was being the child in the middle making me crazy?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but lately I feel I am back in that same position again. I need help getting across the street. I haven’t posted for awhile. I’m busy taking care of my father whose mind is slowly leaving him. He talks to his brother Dale, who has been dead for fifteen years. He doesn’t remember taking his morning pills that I stood there and spoon-fed him. He doesn’t want to eat. My older sister is housebound now, unable to drive anywhere. I check on her, too.

My ex-husband recently remarried, something I didn’t think would ever happen. He’s 67 and his new wife is 42 and waiting for her visa from China. He didn’t have the nerve to tell me, even though I saw him face to face just a week after his nuptials. He’d come home to settle his mother’s estate. The gutless SOB left it up to my son to give me this news. While he was in town he had a doctor appointment to see if he could get his vasectomy reversed. He can’t. I’m thrilled.

I went back to work for the first time in years. I’m tutoring at the school across the street from my father’s home where he lives alone now since my mother’s death two years ago. The same school where I stood fifty years ago, waiting for her to come pick me up in the rain. I visit my father every day for lunch and after school. Some days I still have trouble crossing the street.