Our Portrait Without Her

It has stayed in its envelope.

We move it about.

“Put is somewhere.” he says, “It will get bent.”

It is our church directory portrait without Rose.

She was away at the university.

We three went to pose for our family portrait.

But our family has four.

It is a photo of my worst fear.

The three of us with no Rose.

This photo is lovely,

but it will never find a frame.

 

Flower

 

Story #34: Down in the Band Room

When Rose started to middle school, Mama went, too. There was an eighth grade science teacher opening which I applied for and got. There was a collective sigh of relief from all of our family and friends. The middle school was too far away from our house. I could not get there fast enough if there was an emergency. The route there was all two lane roads. What if there was a tractor, a train, a wreck…?
So Rose’s mama went to middle school. It was a good thing I did. There were sicknesses and seizures that had to be dealt with. The entire staff knew that Rose’s mama was only an intercom call away. I would hear my name followed by “Get to the gym.” or “Go the nurse’s office.” I would take a deep breath and run toward Rose as someone met me in the hallway heading toward my classroom to watch my students during my absence.
Adjacent to my classroom, I had a storage room for science equipment. We kept a fold-out cot with pillows and blankets in it for Rose to sleep off her seizures after being rolled to my room in the closest available rolling chair. It was a comfort to Rose and me that I could peek through my back door and check on her without missing a beat teaching my students.
This is how we handled her emergencies during those years. We were still searching for the perfect combination of medications. She had some learning issues and hearing issues. Then there were several surgeries. Rose needed support. I was the “mama in residence” again, there to make sure she was taken care of.
On a particularly hectic Friday, I was called over the intercom to the band room. There was a band concert. Rose played the trumpet in it. I ran to the band room to find her unconscious on the tiered floor among scattered chairs and music stands.
(Please pause here to envision this setting. A stair step type floor plan, rows of chairs on each level and tall, black, metal music stands everywhere. Lord, could we not have this seizure somewhere else?)
Two other staff members stayed with us in the band room until Rose woke up. Instead of her normally docile self, she woke up swinging. I could tell she did not know where she was. Sometimes she is blind after a seizure. I kept trying to talk calmly to her, but it was as though she did not recognize my voice. I tried not to panic as several music stands were knocked down, which caused more to fall. There was a domino-effect. More crashed to the floor. It took quite a while to get Rose calmed down. The band students were waiting outside the door. They needed to put their instruments back in their cases. It was time for school to let out. They needed to come in and get ready to go home.
Rose’s dad and brother came to help us. I made a call to the our neurologist. Drug 8K dosages would be increased. No one lost her head. The show must go on.

Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

I was very fortunate to get to work at Rose’s school. It got us through those years. They were not easy for any of us. I was a trained high school biology teacher with community college experience. I would not have chosen to teach middle school. I loved my students and my peers, but the stress slowly took its toll on my health. I knew this was not going to end well, but I had to make it through seven years.
The high school was right across the road from the middle school. If I did not get a job there when Rose went to high school, I would just remain the sentry across the street, only a phone call away and a quick drive across the road. The drive over would be followed by a panicked run to a designated location. I could endure seven years in eighth grade to save Rose. I could do that. I thought…
So what does this mean to you? There will be many sacrifices made for your fragile child. Do not let your own health be one of them. I lived through my time in middle school, but damage was done. I am better now, but there were times when I was truly terrified for my own well-being. I am very protective of myself now. I have to survive Rose’s seizures, too. Rose needed me whether she liked it or not. We were tethered together by her epilepsy. If one of us went down, we both went down.
Take care of yourself, too. United we stand.

Walls Work Two Ways

I ordered this shirt for Rose. She has hit a rough patch.

When she called several days ago she was upset.

Someone she trusted had hurt her.

She said she had put some walls back up.

I have been thinking about those walls.

She has had to protect herself from harm more than most.

It’s a fact of life for her.

Like someone saying they were putting on a raincoat when it rains.

She just does it when it needs to be done.

But those walls work two ways.

What keeps others away from you, also keeps you away from others.

Rose knows this. She went and had words with this person.

Some of those walls will remain. Rose is savvy about some things.

Trust must be earned.

Some walls need to stay where they are.

I was just glad to hear that she had torn down some old walls while off at the university.

Watching Rose Rise make me proud.

Seizure Mama

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Story #33: Bike Wreck in South Dakota

Our family took a three-week trip across the country to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Our son was in high school and Rose was in middle school. It was the perfect time to take such a trip. Our children were mature enough to handle the long hours on the road. I will always remember things about this trip that shaped our future. It really was a defining time for our family. There were obstacles. We handled them as a family.
We drove our truck and tent-camped most of the time. When we arrived at our first camping spot, Flagg Ranch, we got out of the truck to see the most vivid double rainbow I have ever seen. We thought we had lucked in to the perfect campsite. We had two tents, one for sleeping and the other for all our supplies. We did not enjoy a restful time here, however. First, it was hard to sleep due to a park ranger’s loud truck circling the campground all night on bear patrol. When a rain storm came during the second night, we realized that our prime site was a gully. Both tents filled up with water. We were forced to move camp in the dark during the rain. We spent most of the night in the laundry building drying our sleeping bags. Other campers doing late-night laundry let us use up the remaining time on their dryers. This was on my birthday. It was amazing. We were an invincible team.
We moved around quite a bit during this three-week-long trip. I kept hauling an especially heavy bag of Rose’s in and out of the truck. Finally, I asked her what was in there. “ My shoes” she replied. “ How many pairs of shoes did you bring?” I asked. “ seven” she said. “ Why on earth did you bring seven pairs of shoes?” I asked. Her response was “ You told me to.” While she was packing for the trip she asked how many pairs of shoes she should take, I replied “ several,” but Rose heard “ seven.” This was one of those times when we suspected that a hearing aid was in her future.
Our family toured around Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Badlands and Devil’s Tower. The only health issue Rose had for most of the trip was hiccups. The hiccup spells would last for long periods of time. It was a side effect of one of her medications. Epilepsy did not show up until we got to South Dakota. We camped at Custer State Park after visiting Mount Rushmore. It was a lovely place, but nowhere near a hospital, or anything else.
Rose and her brother were riding bikes around the campground while my husband and I fixed supper. We saw our son speeding toward us alone and knew that Rose had just had a seizure.
(Pause here. We are in South Dakota, near nothing, letting our daughter with epilepsy ride her bike. Were we crazy? Were we foolhardy, negligent, stupid?  No. We were living our lives. Epilepsy is like a terrorist waiting to attack. You can’t hide from it. It will come when it comes. We refused to keep sitting around waiting for the next seizure. Been there, done that.)

We jumped in the truck and drove to Rose. We hauled her and her bike back to camp. We waited for her to come to. We were concerned about broken bones. She was wearing a helmet, so probably no concussion. She had gravel in her knees. I was scared to do anything until she regained consciousness.
When she came to, we assessed the damages. No broken bones. Then it was time to deal with those knees. This part of the story always gets Rose a little mad. We had to carefully pick gravel out of her knees and bandage them. It was a painful process. She was upset with us that we had not taken care of this task while she was unconscious.

Seizure Mama speaks to parents:

We could have stayed home and waited for the next seizure. We could have forbidden Rose to ride her bike. She could have sat around the campsite watching her brother whiz past. But this is our life. Our family needed adventure and joy. We were going to live our lives to the fullest despite our fears. In those three weeks of wonder, we had one seizure and a lot of hiccups. That could have happened at home, but instead we got to see a spectacular double rainbow, Old Faithful, Mount Rushmore, a grizzly bear, and thousands of bison.
Get out there. Pack this damn epilepsy and go. But leave those seven pairs of shoes at home.

Crunch Time for Rose

I have learned not to worry about Rose.

After twenty-four years of being Seizure Mama, it’s a necessity for my own survival.

I am very aware of the stress level of college students right now.

I used to teach college biology, so I understand that this part of the semester

is a race to the finish line for students.   Actually, there are four or five finish lines.

Add in spring fever, plans for summer trips and  a summer job

and you have a tornado of stress.

We know what that means.

I am thankful that Rose is an experienced student who does not procrastinate.

I count on her to make good decisions.

She is in charge of herself. My worrying will not do anything but harm me.

Still.   I plan to keep very busy these next four weeks.

Just in case I try to wander into the “Worry Maze.”

(That’s what I call it when the “What Ifs” try to sneak into my thoughts.)

STUDENTS with seizures: Take care of yourselves until the semester ends.

Good sleep, good food, good exercise, study in spurts. No 24 hour marathons.

PARENTS:  This is their ball game. Stay in the stands.

Seizure Mama

Blog or Bottle?

I used to feel like I might as well write my Seizure Mama posts on a note,

put it into a bottle and toss it into the sea.

But I knew better than this, so I have to share a story with you.

My other blog, floweralley.org, was a slow starter. That was almost four years ago.

I kept posting to myself for months.

I pretended my best gardening buddy was out there waiting to hear what I was planting.

I pretended they needed to know how to plant and tend their gardens.

I pretended that somebody out there needed me.

Then it happened, ever so slowly.

There were real gardening buddies waiting. They appeared from everywhere.

Every day I shared numbers and locations with my family, when they got home from their busy lives. I mattered. I was a gardening somebody. I was not alone.

Now, there are hundreds of followers.  I know them. I love them.

Now,  “The Flower” hums along with likes and comments. I hear from friends every day.

I am telling this for those of you that I follow who only have a double digit of followers right now. (Seizure Mama only has 16.)

DO NOT GIVE UP!

I read your words. You are saying something important. Really important.

Way more important than gardening.

You are doing a good job. I am sincere in this.

I am older. I have been where you are.

It will get better. You will get noticed.

Folks will hear your words, if they are true and heart-felt.

If I am following you, I consider your posts are worth my limited time.

No bottles needed.

Keep posting Amanda, Yaelle, Laura, Alec, Charlotte, Maria, Emma, Kevin, Clare, Dave and David.

(If I left out your name, forgive me. I haven’t finished my coffee yet.)

We are a team. Epilepsy people need us. We got this!

Everybody’s Mama/Flower